Sony a6100 Review
The Sony a6100, released 5 years after the wildly popular a6000, is an upgraded version that has a variety of new features while still retaining all the desirable qualities.
The latest version has some major upgrades like a touch screen, selfie screen, and improved autofocus. As someone who loves to photograph outdoor adventure and travel, the a6100 has a special appeal.
This is one of the most compact yet powerful cameras available. I love that I can put this camera in a jacket pocket and take it almost anywhere!
The Sony a6100 is meant for the budget-conscious buyer who wants a high performing compact camera that will give them some professional-level features in a small package. To find out everything you want to know about this camera, read on below!
Table of Contents
Sony a6100 Camera Specs
- Excellent autofocus (tracking and eye AF)
- 4k video
- Flip screen
- Touch screen
- No front dial
- Low quality viewfinder and back screen
- Fast autofocus with 425 phase-detection AF points/425 point auto contrast
- 5-axis image stabilization
- 24.2-megapixel CMOS sensor
- FPS: 11 with continuous autofocus and exposure tracking
- 4K movie recording with full pixel readout/no pixel binning
- ISO for still images: 100-32000
- Eye AF available with AF-C
- Max resolution 6000 x 4000
- Lens Mount: Sony E
- Format: MPEG-4, AVCHD, XAVC S
- Articulated LCD: tilting up 180 deg for selfies
- Max Shutter Speed: 1/4000 sec
Build & Appearance
Upon holding the Sony a6100 for the first time, I knew it was different from the a6000. It retains a similar form factor with the same look but clearly has some upgrades.
The build quality appears to be just as tough with a similar polycarbonate body design. Although it doesn’t have the tougher magnesium body of its larger, more expensive siblings (the a6600 and a7 series), it does feel rugged enough to take a lot of abuse.
If the a6100 is anything like its predecessor, it will be very tough. I’ve taken my a6000 climbing and skiing in wet and dusty situations and never had a problem. It has taken a number of hits and even been dropped without issue.
I expect similar performance out of the Sony a6100.
In terms of looks, Sony has never been a leader. Their cameras are of a very simple looking design, however, the performance offered far outweighs any concerns over looks.
The Sony a6100 comes with a similar viewfinder and monitor as past models, so don’t expect major performance increases.
The one welcome feature is the addition of a selfie-capable monitor. This is very helpful if you film yourself or like to take better quality selfies than what your phone can offer.
Overall, the build and appearance are similar to the a6000 but improved in key areas.
Ergonomics & Handling
With the Sony a6100, you can immediately feel improvements in ergonomics. The deeper grip allows your fingers to get a better hold on the body giving you more control and security.
Additionally, the buttons feel a bit more responsive, although this could be due to the fact that my current a6000 has seen a lot of abuse. With each new generation, the Sony camera bodies seem to get a bit more ergonomic and user friendly.
The dial layout on the Sony a6100 is almost identical to its predecessor. Some people feel that the buttons are a bit too compact but I’ve only ever had issues when using gloves.
Once you get your buttons customized and setup the way you want them, this camera is very easy to use.
The level of customization you can make really allows you to get access to the functions that are most important with the least use of the menu.
Speaking of the menu, don’t expect much improvement here. The menu is nearly the same, keeping with the tradition of disorganized and complicated Sony menus.
My only other complaint about handling is the lack of a front control wheel. This has always been one of my complaints with the Sony a6 series of cameras.
However, I suspect most users of this camera will be using one of the automatic modes which makes having three independent control wheels for shutter speed, aperture, and ISO a bit of an overkill.
If you’ve used the Sony a6000, this camera will feel very comfortable. Despite the shortcomings of the Sony a6100 in terms of handling, I suspect it will be another very popular camera.
Focus performance is an area where the Sony a6100 makes big improvements. The inclusion of object tracking autofocus makes this camera stand far above the previous versions.
Object tracking is how I imagined autofocus to work when I first picked up a digital camera. I have always been somewhat disappointed until now!
The object tracking feature is a bit hard to access. You’ll have to turn on AF-Continuous then scroll all the way down in the focus area options.
Once enabled, it pairs really well with the touch screen to be able to touch and track an object in the frame. Regardless of where the object moves in the frame, the camera will do a great job of staying locked on and sharp.
Additionally, the eye autofocus feature can be combined with the tracking feature to seamlessly transition between a subject and a human eye when it gets close enough. This feature is so helpful in creating sharp images where the subject is in focus.
With each new generation, the Sony autofocus system improves. The difference between the a6000 and a6100 is substantial, so if autofocus is important to you, I strongly suggest an upgrade.
Lastly, I appreciate that some of the intelligent autofocus modes are also very effective for video. This is especially helpful for the YouTube creators out there.
Low Light Performance
When it comes to low light performance, the Sony a6100 does quite well. I was impressed with the performance improvements over the a6000.
I would argue that this camera can produce usable images up to ISO 6400 (ISO 12800 is a stretch) whereas the a6000 was limited to around ISO 3200. An extra stop of high ISO function is a welcome improvement with the new sensor.
If shooting in very dark scenes is something you expect to be doing, the biggest improvement to make will be getting a fast aperture lens. Sony and Sigma make some great options with minimum apertures in the f/1.4 to f/1.8 range.
Although it may not produce the most pleasing light, the Sony a6100 does still retain an onboard flash for dark scenes. Typically I avoid using on-camera flash when possible but it can provide some pleasing effects especially if you lower the shutter speed to bring up the ambient exposure.
Another option to get pleasing images with the onboard flash is dragging the shutter. This effect can create interesting looks especially if you have ambient lights in the background that will create streaks of light in your image. Aim for shutter speeds in the range of 1/4 to 1/30th of a second depending on the amount of light in your scene.
The image quality of the Sony a6100 is great for the price of the camera body. I found the images to be very sharp and have great color especially when I used a nice lens.
The kit lens that comes with this camera is not the best and you will see dramatic improvements if you upgrade to something slightly better. You can check out my recommendations for the best lenses for the Sony a6100.
At 24 megapixels, you are getting plenty of resolution out of this camera and the images look great in a variety of scenes.
As I mentioned above, the upper ISO limit is around 6400, so don’t expect to shoot in super dark scenes without a fast lens.
One thing Sony has always performed exceptionally well at is dynamic range. As expected, the Sony a6100 has great tonal range with more than 13 stops.
The JPEG files out of this camera look great thanks to the improved processor, and the RAW files are equally high quality.
I love the amount of detail and dynamic range that Sony files are capable of when edited properly in lightroom.
Lastly, a major upgrade in video quality comes with this camera. It can now shoot up to 4k 30p video, a big upgrade over the HD limit of the a6000.
Overall, the image performance of the Sony a6100 is a welcome improvement.
Performance has never been a limitation for Sony mirrorless cameras. The Sony a6100 is very quick with up to 11 fps mechanical shutter (exposure and focus controls enabled).
The buffer can hold up to 33 RAW files or 77 JPEG files. This gives you a full three seconds at max frame rate to capture the action (plenty of time in my opinion).
Startup and focusing are both very quick, ensuring that you never have to wait on this camera to capture images.
One thing to consider with this camera is that the kit zoom lens is a “power zoom” (PZ) meaning that it does require power to extend when you turn on/off the camera. This can lead to some wait time, so if you want a really fast setup, look at a non-PZ lens or even a prime.
I appreciate the efficiency of the Sony mirrorless cameras because nobody ever wants to wait on their camera.
Other Useful Features
The upgraded flip screen on the Sony a6100 is one really nice feature to have for people that like to take selfies or make vlogs. Although it isn’t a flip-out screen, it’s still effective.
Additionally, it offers a few other upgraded features from the a6000. It now features silent shooting, which is great for shooting outdoors in quiet places.
There’s also a headphone port which is very useful for monitoring audio when recording video.
Lastly, the camera now uses battery power more efficiently. Even though it still uses the same NP-FW50, it now allows over 400 images on one charge.
Additionally, the camera can be powered or charged via micro-USB port to extend shooting time.
Value for Money
For the impressive range of features and quality the Sony a6100 offers, it’s really great value.
The tricky decision now is deciding whether to get the a6000 for around US$400 or the a6100 for around US$850.
Both offer similar features but the main deciding factors for getting the Sony a6100 are the autofocus (eye and tracking), 4k video, touch screen, and flip screen.
If these features are important to you, the upgrade will be well worth it. Additionally, the a6000 is over 5 years old so it won’t hold its value nearly as well as the a6100.
If your budget allows, it might be worth looking at the upgraded features of the a6600 or a6400, but those cameras are both more expensive.
Regardless of the other options available, the Sony a6100 will remain a solid choice for someone looking for a great camera in a compact package.
Sony a6100 Review | Conclusion
Sony has been a leader in mirrorless cameras for quite a few years now and the Sony a6100 is no exception. It offers excellent value in a very compact yet functional package.
I’ve been using the a6000 for several years and am excited that Sony is bringing their improvements in features to this camera line with the a6100. The autofocus system, 4k recording, touch screen, and flip screen are all welcome features with this camera.
I’m excited to see how this camera performs for the next few years!
Disclaimer: All recommendations are impartial and based on user experience, with no bias to the products or the brand. The products in this post may contain affiliate links.