Last Updated on May 13, 2023 by Photography PX
Initially released in the fall of 2019, the Sony a6100 is the long-awaited replacement to the original a6000. Since it’s release, the original a6000 has remained the cornerstone of Sony’s Alpha Six lineup. And it was the first camera to initially create new Alpha series, departing from their long-standing NEX lineup at the time.
Ever since its debut in the spring of 2014, it’s remained the best selling camera in the a6000 series. And even today, it’s an excellent starting camera for beginners and a profitable seller for Sony.
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But, since 2014, Sony’s taken a slightly different direction with the a6000 series. With each release, the lineup became ever more packed with features and the innovations at the time.
And, unfortunately, the starting price of entry gradually skyrocketed and slowly moved away from the original ideal that made the a6000 popular. Prices eventually soured over the $1000 mark, far out of reach of budget-conscious shooters. And up until now, both Canon and Nikon have dominated this segment of the market.
However, with the release of this camera, Sony aims to return to its original heritage. And that heritage was about affordable, well-rounded entry-level cameras. And with this camera, they now have a real entry-level offering that builds on the proven successes of its predecessor. It’s also a camera that Sony aims to take on Canon’s EOS M50, their M6 Mark II, Fujifilm’s X-T200, and Nikon’s Z50. In today’s post, we will cover its strengths and weaknesses and address whether this is the worthy successor we’ve long-awaited.
What are some of the goods, bads, and uglies of the Sony a6100?
It inherits the same 24.2MP APS-C sized CMOS sensor from the a6400 and a6600, along with the updated Bionz X image processor. However, Sony has made improvements to the sensor in this iteration. In this case, the upgrade comes in the form of better color science, processing, and rendering. And it now marks the second camera in the a6000 series to inherit this update, a feature initially taken from the a7 Mark III.
With that, the camera now produces exceptional color rendering, particularly in skin tones. The colors are both accurate and more faithful to real life. And, overall, the image quality this camera produces is outstanding. Images are sharp, accurately exposed, and provide a solid amount of dynamic range.
The camera also provides continuous shooting speeds of 11 fps using the mechanical shutter with continuous AF and exposure, a similar setup as the a6300. However, it does produce a slight viewfinder blackout at this frame rate. Dropping down to 8 fps offers live feedback. Nevertheless, these shooting speeds are impressive given its entry-level classification. And the camera’s buffer has also improved over the predecessor, now reaching 76 JPEGs or 33 RAW images before buffering, a 57% improvement. Thus, it makes a confident choice as a budget-friendly contender for sports and wildlife applications.
”Sony’s return to their heritage created the best entry-level mirrorless camera to date.”
In video, this camera represents a significant improvement compared to the predecessor. The updated processor now allows the camera to shoot 4K UHD video up to 30 fps with a full sensor readout and continuous AF. It also now supplies 1080p FHD video up to 120 fps, where both sound and AF are supported, which is a rare feature in this class. The a6000, by contrast, maxed out at 1080p at 60 fps. Both 4K and 1080p also record to the XAVC S or AVCHD formats using the MPEG-4 codec with a maximum of 100 Mbps.
Overall, these are the same capabilities as the a6400. And like the a6400 and several other recent Sony cameras, this camera also provides unlimited video recording. Finally, gone are the days of the dreaded 29 minutes and 59-second recording limits. Instead, you can now record as long as your battery and SD cards allow. Thus, this camera is a strong contender for those looking for a budget-friendly long format video tool.
The video quality itself is also excellent and mostly on par with the a6400. The camera shoots proper 4K video by downsampling from 6K, resulting in sharp and detailed footage. And like it’s stills, the color rendering and processing are both excellent.
- Like the a6400, it supplies a clean 8-bit 4:2:2 signal via the HDMI output for use with external recorders or monitors.
- The camera also offers zebras for highlight clipping indication.
It also inherits Proxy Recording from the predecessor, which simultaneously records a low-bit-rate proxy movie when recording higher XAVC S videos. This mode is perfect for transferring the footage to a smartphone for immediate sharing online.
It inherits the Slow & Quick (S&Q) Mode from the a6400, which creates in-camera slow-motion or quick-motion videos. This mode allows you to create timelapse movies or slow-motion videos that are five times slower than standard video.
When shooting in the XAVC S format, the camera doesn’t break up recordings into 4 GB segments. And, instead, it records the footage to a single file. However, shooting in AVCHD format will split movies into 2 GB chunks, which requires post-processing for seamless videos.
Low Light Performance
It features a native ISO range from ISO 100 to 32,000, which is further expandable to ISO 51,200. And low light performance is excellent and mostly on par with the a6400, despite its slightly smaller native range. Users can expect usable images up to ISO 6,400.
Autofocusing performance and capabilities have dramatically improved over the predecessor. It inherits the 425-point phase-detection AF system from the a6500, which brings along Sony’s latest technology and algorithms. In this case, that’s Real-Time Eye AF for both humans and animals.
Additionally, it also provides Real-Time tracking, which adds an element of AI to subject recognition, improving accuracy when tracking fast-moving subjects. Sony claims this system can achieve focus in as fast as 0.02 seconds. And while challenging to test individually, the focusing system is extraordinary and easily superior to the a6000.
The autofocus points also cover 84% of the imaging area, and the camera can focus accurately across virtually any lighting condition. And Real-Time tracking brings face recognition to another level. The camera seamlessly transitions from eye detection, to object tracking, and confidently focuses without ever needing to adjust settings. Incredibly, the focus on this camera rarely, if ever hunts before locking. And not only is fast and accurate, but it’s also incredibly tenacious. And like the a6500, Real-Time tracking makes continuous AF the best possible choice for every situation.
But, considering this is their entry-level camera of the lineup, not the pricier a6500, it’s AF is class-leading. And it officially brings flag-ship level performance to the entry-level price point.
Since the camera sports a touchscreen, it also offers both touch focus and touch shutter. And users can perform complex focus transitions or track subjects by merely tapping on the screen.
For those who prefer manually focusing, the camera also provides both focus peaking and magnification to ensure accuracy.
The camera uses the same long-standing NP-FW50 battery used on much of the a6000 range. However, recent software improvements, along with better processing, have led to increases in longevity. Sony now rates the battery to deliver 420 shots per charge and 125 minutes of video. These improvements now make the camera above average in this category.
Display & Viewfinder
It obtains the same screen from the a6400, which is a 3.0-inch TFT tilting touchscreen. And like the a6400, it has a resolution of 921K dots and tilts 180º upwards for front-facing selfies or vlogging and 74º downwards for high angle shots. And overall, while not the ideal articulation, it’s a notable improvement over the a6000, which only offered a 90º tilting non-touchscreen.
Plus, this articulation makes the camera more usable for this demographic, particularly among vloggers. The screen also now provides the Sunny Weather mode, which means it no longer dims during video recording. And, overall, the screen remains excellent. It’s sharp, bright, and offers superb viewing angles and accurate colors.
It features an electronic viewfinder with a resolution of 1.44M dots and 0.7x magnification, which is average for the class.
The camera inherits the same menus and user interface from the a6400. With that, it also offers the updated graphic interface that displays custom buttons and their available parameters. Along with the customizable My Menu, which allows users to add their favorite settings to a single menu page. But, otherwise, the menu and interface are unchanged to other recent Sony cameras. And it remains lengthy but reasonably easy to navigate and master.
It obtains the customizable Function Menu, FN, which allows users to access 12 most used functions for quick access, saving time digging through the main menus.
The camera offers two save states accessible with the MR (Memory Recall) position on the Mode Dial, allowing users to create custom shooting setups.
The camera provides five customizable buttons, which are fully programmable for more immediate access to the settings they provide.
Physical Layout & Ergonomics
Physically, the body styling, design, and dimension are mostly the same as the a6400. And the button layouts between both cameras are virtually identical. However, that does mean the camera has improved over the predecessor. Comparatively, it offers a larger and more luxurious grip, especially considering its rather small size. And it is quite comfortable to hold, though it’s still rather shallow compared to rivals.
Otherwise, the only other difference is the build quality is more of the entry-level classification. The build features more plastic than the a6400, but it is slightly improved over the predecessor. But, overall, it’s par for the course in the entry-level segment.
Like the a6400, it has two custom buttons, C1 and C2.
It has a microphone input, and you can adjust the audio levels using the menus. And, in this case, you can adjust the levels both before and during recording, nice.
- It has a built-in Interval Shoot Function to create time-lapses, though it doesn’t create the resulting lapse in-camera.
- It has HDR, which combines three images in-camera for a greater dynamic range, though limited to JPEGs only.
- It has a built-in pop-up flash.
- It has a built-in panorama mode.
- It offers USB charging, unlike the predecessor. Therefore, you can charge and power the camera from a battery bank, which is quite helpful.
It has Wi-Fi, NFC, and Bluetooth for wirelessly pairing the camera to a smartphone for image transfer or remote control. And Sony’s Imaging Edge app is quite fully featured and supports remote shooting in both stills and videos.
The camera doesn’t offer any advanced video-centric features like picture profiles or Sony’s S-log. If you want these features, you’ll have to look at the a6300 or higher.
Like most Sony cameras, this camera lacks 10-bit recording, limiting the amount of flexibility in post-production.
The articulation of the rear screen, while helpful, isn’t ideal. Mounting anything onto the hot shoe, be it an external light or a microphone, renders the rear screen useless. So sadly, it’s not much use when used in this configuration. And it remains second to a side hinge fully articulating screen. To avoid this, you’ll have to use a cage or adapter to reposition the hot shoe.
The electronic viewfinder doesn’t provide the same resolution as more recent Sony cameras in this lineup. Granted, it’s sufficient considering the camera’s for the entry-level market. However, if you’re an enthusiast who enjoys composing and analyzing details through the EVF, you may be slightly disappointed. At 1.44M dots, it’s not as sharp as that of Sony’s 2.36M dot (or higher) viewfinders. And it doesn’t provide the highest resolution playback image. Thus, this could be a potential dealbreaker for you.
Sony’s touch implementation remains limited and mostly unhelpful compared to rivals. The touchscreen still doesn’t support full menu navigation, reviewing images in playback, or adjusting the FN menu. Overall, the touchscreen isn’t as helpful as it could be, especially considering it’s an entry-level camera and a feature rivals capitalize on for the target audience.
Like several a6000 series cameras now, Sony kept the MOVIE button in that same awkward location recessed on the side of the grip. With that, starting and stopping videos is unnatural and quite uncomfortable.
Like most compact cameras, the SD and battery live in the same compartment underneath the camera. And, as always, this position makes quickly switching either tedious, even more so when using a tripod or monopod.
The camera lacks image stabilization. Instead, you will have to rely on optically stabilized lenses with SteadyShot if you desire stabilization.
It lacks a headphone input.
The camera doesn’t offer weather sealing. For this feature, you will have to go with the a6400 instead.
Is this a good beginner camera?
This is an excellent beginner’s camera. It’s a superior choice to not only the predecessor but also the a6300 as well. In raw performance, it matches the a6400. Yet, Sony offers this camera at a price point perfectly tailored towards the entry-level segment. And not only does it deliver industry-leading performance, but it also maintains the highly portable and compact form factor. If you’re looking for a starting camera, this is easily one of the strongest choices to date at this price.
Is this a good camera for you?
Current Sony a6000 users should seriously consider an upgrade. This camera delivers significant improvements in virtually every possible regard. It offers a better screen, 4K video, 120 fps at 1080p, a superior AF system, better color processing, and much more. In short, it’s a worthy upgrade.
For those looking for a photography-centric camera, this is an excellent choice with its class-leading autofocusing system. Nothing in this competing price range comes close in accuracy and consistency.
This camera is a viable option for those who shoot sports and wildlife, with its confident tracking, fast 11 fps burst, and reasonable buffer. Though it does only provide a single UHS-1 card slot, so the buffer depth isn’t quite as deep as dedicated sports cameras.
For videographers, this camera’s an excellent choice. It’s ideal for vlogging, with its powerful AF system, microphone input, and flipping touchscreen. Just bear in mind the hot shoe blocking situation. However, it’s an attractive option as a B camera and a second angle to an existing setup. Unlimited 4K recording and 1080p at 120 fps are surely eye-catching.
It’s also a solid contender for those looking to live stream, with its USB charging, unlimited video, and clean HDMI output. The only potential downside here is that this camera does pigeon toe videographers since it lacks picture profiles. So, unless you’re okay with shooting exclusively in the standard picture profile and forgo heavy post-processing, this may be your Achilles heel as a serious videographer tool.
This camera is also potentially a better purchase than the higher-end a6400. The only real reason to purchase the a6400 is if you desire its weather-sealed body, picture profiles, and updated electronic viewfinder. Otherwise, this camera provides far better value for the money.
In the end, Sony’s a6100 is a home run release for Sony and an excellent all-rounder that gives rivals at this price point some serious competition. It’s a substantial upgrade over the original a6000, and a worthy successor. While it’s currently the most affordable option in Sony’s newest Alpha Six lineup, it inherits most of the innovative features and functionality from its higher-end counterparts.
It brings about improvements in the form of better color processing, autofocusing, touchscreen, and video capabilities. And the result is a camera that’s confident in both stills and videos. Considering the performance and feature set offered, seeing an entry-level camera outpaces the flagships of other manufacturers is quite surprising. For the price, it provides exceptional value and a lot of camera for the money spent. And right now, Sony’s just released the best entry-level camera to date.
Sony’s a6100 is a hallmark release for the manufacturer that provides enormous value for money. It delivers substantial improvements over its predecessor, the a6000. And it inherits a feature set that makes it among the best entry-level cameras to date. It’s quite rare to see a camera in this segment come along in stride the way it does. But it’s very refreshing.