Sony A6100 review: a great camera under $ 1,000
“At almost half the cost of the flagship A6600, Sony’s entry-level A6100 has everything you need.”
Excellent value for money
Outstanding JPEG quality in the camera
Industry leading auto focus
Good 4K video
Dull menu system
Bad placement of the Rec key
Low-Res LCD and EVF
As much as we love getting our hands on expensive cameras with the largest sensors and huge amounts of megapixels, entry-level models typically deliver the imaging assets that most of us need – without exhausting our credit lines.
The Sony A6100, valued at $ 750 (case only), is a good example of this kind of affordability. Equipped with the same 24-megapixel APS-C sensor and the extended real-time auto focus functions as the Sony A6600 for $ 1,400, this seems like an obvious choice. While the A6100 makes some compromises to get this lower price, most novice to advanced amateur photographers will get along well with them.
Design and ease of use
Modern design is not an integral part of the A6000 series from Sony. This is a black stone that looks and feels like any other model in the range except the new A6600, which has a deeper grip and a more powerful battery. Familiarity does not generate contempt, since the A6100 is quite functional, unlike Sony’s usual idiosyncrasies, but it is certainly not as pretty as the Fujifilm X-T30. The camera measures 4.75 x 2.75 x 2.4 inches and weighs 14 ounces with the memory card and battery installed.
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The A6100 uses the same e-mount as all Sony mirrorless cameras, both APS-C and full-screen models. This gives you access to 54 native lenses from Sony and others from third parties such as Sigma, Tamron and Zeiss. The choice of the lens is a big advantage of Sony, because the e-bracket is relatively mature. It offers an easy upgrade path from APS-C to full screen in case you decide to make a later decision.
We are pleased that the A6100 has a 0.39-inch OLED electronic viewfinder (EVF). At only 1.44 million points, it’s not the best in the business, but it gives the Sony an edge over the Canon EOS M6 Mark II, which has no built-in EVF. The main LCD monitor has an inconspicuous resolution of 921,000 pixels, but can be tilted a full 180 degrees for selfies.
David Elrich / Digital Trends
The control layout is very simple and readable. There is a special mode dial, two dials and two custom buttons. For inexperienced photographers, this means that the A6100 has some room to grow when moving from automatic exposure to manual exposure. The A6100 has a built-in flash – something that was deleted from the A6600 – and a standard hot shoe for attaching external flashes.
To repeat our constant complaint about the A6000 series, there is a controller that just doesn’t work. The movie capture button is located on the right edge of the thumb grip where it is hard to reach. Yes, you can assign this feature to one of the custom buttons, but that seems like a big challenge for beginners. This is such a simple solution that we’re going crazy that Sony hasn’t updated it yet.
There are USB, HDMI and microphone ports on the left side of the camera. In particular, however, a headphone jack is missing (something you’ll find on the more expensive A6600). The battery and memory card share a compartment on the bottom of the camera. The battery is designed for 380 shots, which is appropriate for a mirrorless camera, but far from the A6600’s 810-shot battery life.
Performance and user experience
The Sony A6000 series has had 24 megapixel sensors since day one (5 years ago). They have been modified and improved over the years, and the Bionz X processor has also been optimized. It’s a little strange that Sony didn’t choose the 26 megapixel sensor of the latest Fujifilm cameras, but we can’t really disagree with this decision – the image quality is still very good and there is little that the target customer of the A6100 would notice the newer sensor.
The A6100 offers the latest autofocus systems based on Sony artificial intelligence, real-time tracking and real-time eye AF. We have praised this new technology since its release and it is getting better and better. We are happy to see it as an entry-level model. Other companies offer Eye AF, but Sony is still the best on the market and the biggest selling point of this camera.
The hybrid AF system uses 425 phase and contrast detection points, which cover 84% of the sensor with an alleged minimum focus time of 0.02 seconds. We cannot check this number, but it is enough to say that the autofoucs felt very quickly.
This corresponds to a continuous recording speed of 11 frames per second and a large image buffer, with which you can take about 75 JPEG photos in succession. The A6100 will have no problem keeping up with your children or pets.
Perhaps the biggest difference between the A6100 and A6600 is that only this one has image stabilization in the body (IBIS). The two lenses used by Sony for this test, the 16-55 mm f / 2.8 and the 70-350 mm f / 4.5-6.3, are both optically stabilized – as are many of the E-mount lenses from Sony. We’d love to see IBIS in a camera at this price, but since neither Canon nor Fujifilm offer it for their competitor models, we’re not surprised that it’s not in the A6100.
Note that none of the lenses we tested are the kit lens, and both are more expensive than the camera body itself. The 16-55mm is a premium zoom that sells for $ 1,400, while the 70-350mm It costs $ 1,000. So our entry-level camera was in the $ 2,000 neighborhood. The performance and image quality of every camera depend in part on the lens. As a result, our results may be better than what you can expect for the standard 16-50mm f / 3.5-5.6 kit (included with the camera for $ 850).
The Real-Time Eye AF from Sony worked perfectly with these lenses. It is trained to recognize both human and animal eyes, but it has even worked on statues that we photographed in a dimly lit church. We shot the Canon EOS M6 Mark II side by side with the Sony, and the A6100 was far better.
Real-time tracking also worked very well with runners, cyclists and surfers that we recorded on the beaches of San Diego. We shot a long train on a train that came to a station and every frame was sharp. We have never used such a reliable autofocus system. It is all the more impressive that it is a $ 750 camera.
But as good as it is, we still can’t get past the Sony menu system, which remains as dense and dull as ever. We have been using this interface for years, so we know the different hacks to make it work, but it’s a shame that Sony didn’t revise it. In comparison, the user interface of the Canon M6 Mark II was a dream. the one area where it outshone the A6100.
The sensor may be the same, but Sony has re-tuned its processing for more accurate colors and pleasant, natural tones. JPEGs in the camera look really good, and of course you can shoot in RAW if you want to edit your photos comfortably in the mail and want the best quality possible.
The camera has a native ISO range of 100 to 32,000, but can be expanded to 51,200. Our tests showed very little noise and digital artifacts with relatively high sensitivity. However, we recommend keeping them below ISO 6.400 for optimal results. Here, full-frame sensors that collect about twice as much light show a significant advantage, but the vast majority of photographers won’t be disappointed with the A6100’s results.
In video, the Alpha A6100 records 4K / 30p with the XAVC-S codec with full pixel display (3,840 x 2,160). You don’t have the advanced 10-bit HDMI output options you get for the Fujifilm X-T30, but most customers in this price range don’t. More importantly, video is incredibly easy to capture thanks to real-time tracking auto focus. However, Real-Time Eye AF is not available in video mode. If you want to, you need to sign up for the A6600.
The A6100 is hard to beat for a mirrorless entry-level camera. While image quality is not a dramatic advance, it has improved thanks to better JPEG processing, and real-time tracking and Eye AF are leading the competition. We can’t argue about buying the $ 850 kit, but the camera is much better than what the kit lens allows. Even for people looking at the A6600, it may be better to opt for the A6100 and put the money you save in a high-end lens. We can almost guarantee that you are a happy camper.
Are there any better alternatives?
Not at this price. The Sony A6400 for $ 899 offers better EVF and more video options, while the A6500 for $ 999 offers built-in 5-axis image stabilization (but lacks real-time focusing technology). The 26MP Fujifilm The X-T30 (just $ 899) is another option that delivers really good photos and videos, but its autofocus system is good, but not at Sony level.
Do you want more options? Check out our favorite cameras from 2019.
How long it will take?
Sony is constantly adding new models to the A6000 series, but the A6100 will be at least two years old. It’s not weatherproof like the high-end A6600, so you should treat it carefully, but it should give you years of use.
Should you buy it?
Yes. That’s a relative bargain price of $ 750. If you’re not a professional photographer, you really can’t ask for much more from a camera.