Sony stands out as the long time leader for mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras (MILCs). They have released dozens of models since their first cameras in 2010. Since then, mirrorless camera bodies have become increasingly popular due to their compact size, smaller lenses and quieter operation.
The Sony Alpha A6100 is Sony’s follow-up to the very successful A6000, which was released in 2014. It is Sony’s current entry-level cropped-frame APS-C size sensor mirrorless camera. The A6100 makes significant improvements, including adding 4K video.
That the A6000 is still available and it has taken more than 5 years to update demonstrates just how well the Sonys perform. Despite many full frame MILCs selling now, the cropped-frame sensor market remains important and attracts people with compact, budget friendly options.
The Sony A6100 can be purchased as the body alone, or in two kit options. The standard kit pairs it with the tiny 16-50mm F3.5-5.6 OSS power zoom lens, and the second option adds the 55-210mm f/4.5-6.3 OSS lens as well. In the box there is also a body cap, eyepiece cup, AC power adapter, micro USB charger and the NP-FW50 rechargeable battery, plus shoulder strap.
The Sony a6100 at a glance
- Outstanding autofocus system with 425 AF points
- 4K video capabilities
- Shoots up to 11fps
- USB charging
- Touchscreen functions only to select AF points
- Straight edges and not super comfortable to use
- Confusing menu system
- Low resolution electronic viewfinder
- No in-body stabilization
The A6100 is not necessarily packed with headlining features, but it is good value for money and for most people it will do everything they need. It is very reliable and consistently delivers shots in focus and of high quality. The A6100 is compact and easy to take almost anywhere.
Despite being the smaller cropped-frame sensor this APS-C camera boasts 24 megapixels. It has a 23.5 x 15.6mm CMOS sensor which takes images to a maximum of 6,000 x 4,000 pixels. The focal length crop factor for APS-C cameras is 1.5x. So, a 50mm lens will give a view that is equivalent to a 75mm on a full frame camera.
Significant upgrades from the A6000 include the addition of a silent electronic shutter, which will fire at up to 1/4000s. It also gets the new BionZ X processor and faster processing thanks to a front-end LSI sensor chip. The image sensor and chip is the same as in the higher spec’d A6400 and A6600.
The body of the A6100 is plastic rather than metal like higher end Sony models, and it lacks any weather sealing. For image stabilization, it relies on the lenses.
The autofocus performance is top notch, and puts the A6100 camera in a class of its own. The A6100 has more AF points, and it is faster to respond than the older A6000 system. The burst speed remains at 11fps and works with the silent electronic shutter.
Sony has made some updates that also give the A6100 better color rendition. For shooting portraits, this is a very welcome improvement. The JPEGs coming out of the camera look great and there is less noise across the entire ISO spectrum.
There’s just a single UHS-I SD card slot, which is pretty standard for camera bodies in this price range. Battery life is decent and it can be charged via a USB cable.
Who is the a6100 for?
The Sony A6100 is a mid-level beginner or hobbyist camera. The target audience is primarily people who will take their first step up from a smart phone to purchase a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. The compact size is ideal for casual shooting around family and friends or for traveling. The front facing screen and 4K video is designed to appeal to content creators.
This camera allows people to take great images without too much effort, thanks to the great autofocus. Yet, there is enough control available to improve photography knowledge as well. For shooting people, animal or some action shots the A6100 is a solid choice.
The A6100 is ideal for people accustomed to shooting and editing on their phones, and who most likely won’t edit images on a desktop computer. In JPEG quality, a range of film emulations called Creative Styles can be selected. Filter effects, and also skin softening can be applied for fun and will keep family and friends happy.
If getting the smallest and cheapest mirrorless camera is a priority, then Canon’s tiny M200 is worth looking at as an alternative. On the other hand, Nikon’s Z 50 is a little more expensive, but attractive due to the better ergonomics and a more rugged build quality.
Now, let’s take a more detailed look at the A6100.
Key Features and Benefits of the Sony a6100 Mirrorless Digital Camera
The A6100 has a hybrid autofocus system which uses both phase-detection and contrast detection. It covers 84% of the viewing area and has an impressive 425 selectable focus points. Like all mirrorless cameras the sensors for focus are on the image sensor. This makes for quicker and more accurate autofocusing, which Sony does exceptionally well.
There are no shortage of autofocus modes. However, the tracking the continuous autofocus (AF-C) is excellent and many users can just stop right there. It intelligently selects the right target, and almost never requires any manual prompting.
If you are shooting people with the A6100, Sony’s superior face and eye detection is the key benefit. It just sticks. Even when subjects move in and out of frame, turn around or jump about, Sony’s AF is tough to fool.
The camera easily identifies people and will try to focus on one eye. When that is not possible, it will focus on the face. And, the small green frame in the viewfinder shows which it is tracking. For multiple people, or other subjects, a quick tap on the screen selects what you want the camera to focus on. This work just as well with the new animal eye AF.
For low light conditions, a red autofocus illuminator will come on.
Ergonomics & Controls
The A6100 has a similar styling to all of Sony’s mirrorless cameras. That is to say, not much style at all. The body is rather boxy and lacks the curves and comfortable grip shape of its competitors. The grip is covered in a rubber, and the size and shape is almost identical to the older A6000.
The button and dial layout is also essentially unchanged. There is no front dial, only two at the rear, and the buttons and controller on the back remain a bit cramped to reach. However, eight of the controls can be customized.
It is well known that the menu system on the Sonys is not that great. Everything you need to do is there. The trick is to find it when you require it. The menus are chaotic and going to be pretty intimidating to someone who is not already familiar with digital photography settings. It is easy to get lost even when you do understand what the settings mean.
That makes the inclusion the ‘My Menu’ option very welcome. The most used functions can be saved there for easy access. Many users will set the A6100 up once and then not change much. Start with locating the autofocus mode and setting up the facial recognition, plus adding silent mode to the ‘My Menu’. A dozen settings can also be configured to be quickly accessible via the Fn button.
Rear LCD and Touch Screen
The rear screen is one area where the older A6000 was ripe for a significant upgrade. Whilst the LCD screen on the A6100 is definitely an improvement, it lags a little behind current technology. The resolution remains a modest 922K dots on a 2.95″ screen.
The introduction of some touch screen capabilities is significant, yet it still feels like it should do more. You can select the focus point with the touch screen, however you cannot use it to navigate the menus. It also does not work to zoom into an image during playback.
The screen does manage to keep the vlogging crowd happy though. It now tilts up 180º, and will also tilt down 45º. With the screen flipped up, the camera goes into self-portrait mode and automatically activates the self-timer function. Press the shutter and it fires after a 3 second delay.
The rear screen has no auto brightness control, but can be adjusted manually in 5 steps. There is also a sunny weather mode controlled via the menu.
The electronic viewfinder (EVF)
The viewfinder on the A6100 is again the same as its predecessor and sits off to the side. The EVF covers 100% of the field of view, however its a low 1.44M dot resolution (600 x 800 pixels) and not super sharp. The A6400 and A6600 both have a higher resolution EVF.
There are options to use only the EVF with the display off, to swap to the EVF when the user’s eye is placed to the viewfinder, or have the screen on all the time. On the A6100 it is a toss up whether the rear screen or the EVF is more likely to be used. It may come down to personal preference.
The DISP button cycles through what information shows in the viewfinder. There will be a moment of black out when the shutter is fired, so it can be a little tricky to follow a fast moving subject. However, that is fairly standard on all but the top mirrorless models.
The viewfinder brightness is adjusted either automatically or manually. Color temperature is also adjustable in 5 steps.
Another big upgrade for the A6100 is the inclusion of 4K video. The A6100 captures oversampled video without any pixel binning, so the image quality is excellent. Video images also benefit from Sony’s color science improvements.
4K video (3,840 x 2,160) can be shot at up to 30fps at 100 Mbps. All the typical frame rates for NTSC and PAL are also there. For slow motion scenes Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) can be shot at up to 120fps. Still images can be extracted from video, in-camera using the Photo Capture function during video playback.
Sony’s brilliant autofocus system works just as well for video. That includes face and eye detection. Using autofocus for video can be a little problematic, as any focus hunting could potentially ruin a shot. However, A6100 users will likely find it indispensable and stress free for shooting family gatherings, kids or travel adventures.
The video record button is placed in a slight odd position. Sitting on the rear edge, it is right under where your hand usually grips the camera. When sitting on a tripod, this is not an issue, but handheld kind of annoying. The customizable Fn menu can also show different settings for video mode. Again, handy to avoid tackling the full menu system too often.
A couple of nice pluses is the removal of limits on the recording length. No more half hour maximum. Plus, the A6100 will give a clean HDMI output for streaming. That eliminates the settings and display info that clutter the screen when shooting is in progress.
What you won’t get is any HDR video, nor any 10-bit output or log modes. But, this is an entry level camera after all. The A6100 can also suffer from some rolling shutter at times.
The E-mount system and lens support
Sony’s E-mount lens system was released in 2010. It is not only used for the APS-C series of cameras, but also Sony video cameras and full frame mirrorless cameras. The E-mount has a short 18mm flange distance and like other mirrorless systems this allows very high quality and compact lenses to be developed.
For those people stepping up from a phone camera to a MILC, one key attraction is the ability to swap lenses. A plus for the A6100 is Sony’s well established E-mount which has lots of lenses across a wide spectrum of price points. There are enough at reasonable prices to satisfy a A6100 user.
The Sony E 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS retractable zoom lens that comes with the A6100 is not bad. But, it is not that great either. At a super slim 30mm when the camera is off, it is still understandably a good everyday lens. The second kit lens on offer— the 55-210mm f/4.5-6.3 OSS—covers the other end of the spectrum. Both include the image stabilization, which Sony calls Optical Steady Shot (OSS).
For more consistent and better optics across the full focal range it is worth going beyond the kit lenses. A good long zoom at a decent price can be found with the Sony E 18-135mm F3.5-5.6 OSS. For macro shooting, take a look at the Sony E 30mm f/3.5 Macro.
The full frame Sony FE lenses can also be used on the A6100, though not to their full advantage. Sony’s premium Gold and Gold Master series, are worth considering for anyone who plans to later upgrade to a full frame mirrorless body. More lenses can be found from third parties like Sigma and Tamron, and many adapters exist to take other lenses—though not always with full functionality.
Additional features to note
Access to the battery and the memory card is via a single door in the bottom of the body. It works well enough, but the SD card can be a little tricky to get in and out. It still uses the old NP-FW50 battery, but battery life is not bad for this class of camera.
Charging is via a USB cable, though not whilst in use, and no USB-C. It will also take power from a USB power bank which is very handy for traveling. Extra batteries and an external charger to let you keep shooting both need to be purchased separately.
Connections can be established via NFC, wifi or bluetooth. For remote camera control and transfer of images Sony offers its Imaging Edge mobile app for free download. Devices can be easily paired via a QR code displayed on the camera. Location tagging images can be done via Bluetooth.
A microphone jack is included and very welcome for movie recording. However, be aware that you will need an extra bracket to prevent a mic from blocking the flipped up screen if you are vlogging. There is no headphone jack for audio playback. There’s also a tiltable built-in flash.
How does the Sony a6100 stack up against the competition?
Sony’s technology is now very well developed because they entered the mirrorless game so early. This puts the A6100 at a distinct advantage. However, the selection of beginner level mirrorless cameras continues to change and there are several newer offerings giving Sony genuine competition now.
Here we look at how the A6100 stacks up against two other APS-C mirrorless cameras, and a Micro-four thirds Olympus. Where the Sony falls short is the lack of comprehensive touchscreen functionality, and its low resolution electronic viewfinder. The superior autofocus of the A6100 remains its biggest attraction.
Quick Comparison Guide
|Sony a6100||Nikon Z 50||Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV||Fujifilm X-T200|
|Sensor – pixels||24.2MP||20.9MP||20.3MP||24.2MP|
23.5 x 15.6mm
23.5 x 15.7 mm
17.4 x 13.0mm
23.5 x 15.7mm
|Maximum resolution||6000 x 4000 pixels||5568 x 3712 pixels||5184 x 3888 pixels||6000 × 4000 pixels|
|ISO||100 – 32,000|
exp. to 51,200
|100 – 51,200|
exp. to 204,800
|Low (~100) – 25,600||200 to 12,800|
exp. 100 to 51,200
|AF system||Hybrid AF|
425 point phase detect /contrast detect
|209 point hybrid phase detection/ contrast detection AF||121 point contrast detect AF||425-point hybrid AF|
|AF joystick||no||no||No, four-way controller||yes|
|Viewfinder (EVF) resolution||1.4M dots||2.36M dots||2.36M dots||2.36M dots|
|Rear Screen||tilting touchscreen|
flips up 180°
-flips down 180º for self portraits
flips down 180°
|Image Stabilization||lens only||lens only||5-axis IBIS||lens only|
|Maximum Frame Rate||11fps||11fps – electronic shutter|
5fps- mechanical shutter
|15fps – electronic shutter, fixed focus|
5ps – mechanical shutter, continuous AF
|Video Capture||4K up to 25fps full sensor width|
or up to 30fps, cropped sensor
Full HD up to 120fps
|4K up to 30fps|
Full HD up to 120fps
|4K up to 30fps|
Full HD up to 60fps
|4K up to 30fps|
Max. 15min record time
FullHD up to 60fps
|420 shots LCD/ 380 EVF||320 LCD/ 280 EVF||360 shots LCD||270 standard|
|Lens mount||Sony E-mount||Nikon Z||Micro Four Thirds (MFT)||Fujifilm X|
|Card slots||1 x SD card (UHS-I)||1 x SD cards|
|1 x SD card (UHS-II)||1 x SD card (UHS-I)|
|Dimensions (approx.)||4.72 x 2.64 x 2.32″|
120 x 67 x 59.5mm
|5 x 3.7 x 2.36″|
127 x 94 x 60 mm
|4.8 x 3.3 x 1.9″|
121.7mm x 84.4mm x 49mm
|4.8 x 3.3 x 2.2″|
121 x 83.7 x 55.1mm
with battery and card
Nikon Z 50 vs Sony a6100
The Z 50 is Nikon’s first APS-C cropped-frame sensor camera from its new Z series of mirrorless bodies. It is the entry level mirrorless body for Nikon, but shares the same lens mount as its bigger full-frame brothers. The Z 50 was released around the same time as the A6100, and is a little more expensive.
Where the Nikon Z 50 shines is in the build quality and ergonomics. The body is a little larger than the A6100, and features some dust and weather resistance. The grip is more prominent and comfortable, it sports both a front and rear dial on top and the menu system is far easier to navigate than the Sony.
The screen on the Z 50 flips down rather than up. It is intuitive to use and the touch functionality also works to playback images and control options in the easy access i menu.
Both cameras feature face and eye detection AF, but the Sony still wins for overall autofocus performance. Nikon beats the Sony with a higher resolution for both the EVF and display. It also offers some attractive kits which are targeted to content creators and worth looking at.
Check on the Z50 for a better build quality and comfortable, intuitive use.
Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV vs Sony a6100
The Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV has a smaller Micro-Four Thirds (MFT) sensor, yet still produces nice quality, vibrant 20MP images. It has a popular retro styling, and dials on top.
The AF uses contrast detection only, so it won’t keep up with the Sony A6100 for tracking moving subjects. However, the Eye AF function works well and is good for still subjects as well as portraits.
The OM-D E-M10 Mark IV has in-body image stabilization. It does very well in low light conditions and delivers smooth handheld movie recording. This is very welcome for casual users who often shoot in less than ideal conditions. The E-M10 Mark IV’s images are sharp and show less noise at higher ISOs than the A6100.
Like the A6100 it also has 4K video and a front facing screen for vlogging. Additionally, extra on-screen controls and a self-timer pop up when the display is front facing.
Focus point selection, and image playback including zooming can be controlled via the touchscreen, but not the menus. However, it automates and simplifies some controls, so it is not an ideal camera for learning about photography.
A wide range of nice compact lenses are available from Olympus, as well as Panasonic and others. There is no microphone jack, but the camera will charge via USB.
The OM-D E-M10 Mark IV is a stylish little package that is a pleasure to use.
Fuji X-T200 vs Sony a6100
Like other Fujifilm models, the impressive entry level X-T200 mimics the look of classic film SLRs, with the EVF positioned in the centre. It has a higher resolution than the A6100, but is a little small. On top there’s physical control dials which looks great and offer some direct control of basic settings, though they are not marked like on the X-T30.
The X-T200’s large, 3.5″ fully articulated touch screen is the stand out feature. It is more flexible, and also much more user friendly than the A6100. It is intuitive and really suits users coming from smartphones. Menus, image playback, focussing can all be accessed from the touchscreen. There is also a handy background blur slider.
Video capabilities are excellent, with uncropped oversampled 4K video. Though you will hit time limits unlike on the A6100. HDR video is supported, plus you get a jack for headphones, and a ‘digital gimbal’ function for smoother images.
The autofocus is pretty competent, but the A6100 is going to beat it for consistency and the inclusion of Animal Eye detection.
The X-T200 is great value for money, with extensive touchscreen controls housed in a stylish retro design.
Overall, the Sony Alpha a6100 is an excellent successor to the best selling A6000, and Sony has made some fantastic improvements. The better color, and addition of 4K video bring it in line with current technology. Sony’s impressive autofocus system remains the best the class, and many people won’t be able to go past that.
For beginner users who want a comfortable and stylish camera with a fully functional touch screen, the a6100 might disappoint. Pricing deals are aggressive in this mirrorless category, so compare the options. You may be surprised just how far your budget will stretch right now.