The Sony A6100 is the natural successor to the incredibly popular Sony A6000, a beginner-friendly mirrorless camera that is still available five years after its launch. That is the sign of a popular, durable camera. Both cameras are the entry-level models in Sony’s range of mirrorless APS-C sensor snappers. APS-C’ refers to the camera’s sensor size, which is considerably larger than that of smartphones, but smaller than the full-frame chips in pro-friendly models such as the Sony A7 III. This is our Sony A6100 Review.
Many of the A6000’s core functions remain in the A6100: there is the simple body design, a sensor with the same 24MP resolution, a comparable EVF, and a tiltable rear LCD screen (although the A6100’s screen is now touch-sensitive), and an 11fps burst mode. However, there are also some very welcome improvements in the A6100. Overall, this is a much more user-friendly camera. The overall operation and performance have improved, mainly due to the excellent continuous autofocus system.
Sony A6100 Review: Design
All in all, we enjoyed our time with the Sony A6100. We connected the camera to a pair of slightly higher lenses – the FE 24-70mm f/4 and FE 35mm f/1.8 – both of which have a sensible size and weight. Depending on the lens, the A6100 is small enough to fit in a jacket pocket. This is due to its form factor – it’s only 67mm high and has a very flat profile without the pentaprism ‘bump’ you see with rivals like the Fujifilm X-T3.
The polycarbonate body feels solid, and the external controls are robust, while the textured hand and thumb grips ensure a firm grip. Praise the slightly larger grip than that of the A6000. Given the compact size of this camera, a large number of controls and functions are built-in. You get a pop-up flash that can be flipped back by hand for indirect fill-in light. There is a hotshoe to attach optional accessories, such as an external microphone, which is then connected via the microphone socket on the side. (It is not surprising that there is no space for a headphone jack).
There is also a built-in EVF, which is a plus for a camera at this price. It’s not the easiest to use, and the resolution remains an average of 1.44 million dots. To get the latest high-resolution EVF, you need extra fork out for the Sony A6400 or Sony A6600. The tilting LCD touch screen can be pulled out and up and then tilted vertically above the camera in selfie mode. By today’s standards, the 3-inch screen has a relatively modest 920,000-dot resolution. It is also a 16:9 screen, which means that 3:2 photos in full resolution do not fill the screen and therefore appear on the small side – a similar scenario also happens on the 16:9 screen of the Fujifilm X-A7.
Since the A6100 is an entry-level camera, it may be a bit counterintuitive that the touch screen functions are so limited. The screen can be used to select the AF points and track subjects, plus pinch to zoom and scan an image during playback. However, you cannot navigate menus or make setting selections. However, AF selection is perhaps the most useful touch function.
Sony A6100 Review: Handling
Small, fuzzy buttons are often a pitfall of such small cameras, but here they are not. All buttons are clearly labeled and reasonably large. There are two control buttons – both are located at the back and are operated naturally with the thumb. Another dial at the top of the front would have been very welcome to bring your index finger into play. The life of the 420-shot battery is very competitive at this level. We used the camera during the cold winter months and discovered that the batteries drained a little faster than expected. Charging via USB, however, is extremely useful.
It is worth noting that there is no battery charger included with the A6100, only the USB cable. With the camera continuously connected to a power bank, the battery is charged every time the camera is turned off, which has proven to be very useful during our winter trips. On-the-go charging for mirrorless cameras is a real solution for reduced battery life. The A6100 records images to a single SD card, but is not compatible with the latest UHS-II cards that offer excellent read and write speeds.
It’s no surprise, but a result is several functional delays when using the camera for continuous shooting. A notable problem – which is not unique to the A6100 but is quickly noticeable on a camera like this – is how ‘Auto ISO’ prefers a lower ISO setting over faster shutter speeds when shooting in aperture priority mode. For example, if the lens is set to a focal length equal to 24 mm, Auto ISO naturally selects a shutter speed of approximately 1/30 sec regardless of which scene is captured.
This is fine for static subjects, which remain sharp, but any movement of people will be blurred. We have often chosen to shoot in full ‘Manual’ mode with Auto ISO, to ensure the desired shutter speed and aperture. But put the camera in Auto mode, and the scene detection comes into play with more meaningful shutter speeds chosen.
It takes more time to get familiar with what the A6100 can do than most other entry-level cameras. That’s not bad, but we recommend that you do a little research into ways to set up the camera for quick control and make sure you get the most out of the camera. For example, adjusting the continuous AF settings and adding your most commonly used controls to the main menu of Function (Fn).
Features and Specs
- 24.2MP APS-C sensor
- 4K video at 30fps, 100Mbps
- Slow and quick motion Full HD videos
- Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and NFC connectivity
Sony sticks with a 24.2MP APS-C sensor, which is the same as those in the more expensive Sony A6400 and Sony A6600 cameras. The resolution is ready for the course and sufficient for an entry-level camera. While the A6100 can record 4K at 30 fps, it does so with a slight cutout – 4K recording at 25 fps, however, and it uses the full width of the sensor (meaning full pixel readout without pixel binning), and fills the 16:9 rear LCD screen. There is an S&Q (Slow & Quick Motion Video) setting that captures Full HD slow-motion video at up to 100fps (4x) or quick motion video at up to 1fps (25x).
With the Sony A6100, you get a lot for your money. The re’s the same EVF with 1.44 million points, hotshoe, and pop-up flash, all expertly squeezed into a very compact body. What’s more, that LCD screen is now touch-sensitive and can retract into a selfie position. Images can be captured and shared wirelessly using a smartphone or tablet connected to Wi-Fi via Sony’s ‘Imaging Edge Mobile’ app. A simple connection can be made using NFC, or the usual QR-code method.
Sony A6100 Review: Performance
Where the A6100 shines, the brightest is with its fast and reliable autofocus system for both photography and video. It has the same AF system as the flagship of the Sony A6600, a camera that is almost twice as expensive. There are different focus modes and focus areas to choose from. After playing with these settings, we have the ‘Tracking: Flexible Spot’ focus area expandable for almost all scenarios. With this AF setting in the play, focusing on general action – family photos, a specific subject within the frame – is exceptionally reliable.
To be honest, we sometimes forget that this is an entry-level camera because the A6100 is so reliable for sharp focus. An 11 fps burst mode is, on paper, robust. In practice, however, the reality of ‘continuous high’ photography is a bit disappointing. Our experience is that the length of the bursts does not quite match the claims of up to 67 images. Moreover, the camera needs the time to buffer those sequences before the full performance is available again.
Despite the Bionz X processor, the limitations of a UHS-I SD card slot are clear. We found the 6fps ‘Continuous Mid’ recording mode a wiser choice. The A6100 is still very competitive at this level, but the Olympus E-M5 Mark III is only slightly more expensive and offers UHS-II compatibility with unlimited burst shooting. The A6100 uses a 1200-zone evaluation system. In many circumstances – and this is, of course, for a taste – we found the exposure to be a bit bright and chose to set about -0.7EV exposure compensation.
For us, the Imaging Edge Mobile app provided a hassle-free connection and worked very well for uploading images and photographing remotely. That can’t be said for all brands, so kudos to Sony here.
Considering the design, price, and feature set, the Sony A6100 is perhaps the most seductive camera in Sony’s A6000 series at the moment. In the first place, the body design that is consistent in this series feels more suitable for beginners and people who want to increase their level of proficiency. The image quality and autofocus are also in line with the more expensive Sony A6400 and Sony A6600, which is impressive.
The essential handles that we have of all cameras in the A6XXX-series – especially the handling and performance limitations – are also less forgiving on the flagship models than is the case here. So what do the more expensive models have for them? Well, the flagship Sony A6600 has a much better battery life, in-body image stabilization (IBIS), a higher resolution EVF and a metal, weatherproof housing. But it’s almost twice as expensive.
Crucial for Sony is that the A6100 refreshes the A6000 and stands up to today’s growing competition. There is leading continuous autofocus, and in most other areas, such as battery life, the camera is very competitive. That’s it for our Sony A6100 Review.