A few weeks ago, we tested the Sony A6600, the company’s latest flagship APS-C mirrorless camera. Now, it’s time to take a closer look at the A6100, which is its entry-level sibling. The A6100 was launched alongside the A6600 and shares many of the premium features found in Sony’s flagship model, yet costs much less.
It’s designed to be an entry-point to Sony’s mirrorless camera lineup, and while it’s mostly targeted at casual shooters, it packs in enough advanced technology to keep enthusiasts happy, too. At a slightly higher premium than the A6000, is the A6100 worth buying as a starter mirrorless camera? Let’s test it and find out.
Sony A6100 Design
The footprint of the Sony A6100 is smaller than that of the A6600 and is also lighter at 396g. That is due to the use of plastic for the body instead of metal. It still feels strong and well put together but the slightly glossy finish picks up fingerprints and blemishes easily. There’s ample rubber cladding in the handgrip area, but the grip itself doesn’t expand much, so it can be a bit challenging to hold this camera comfortably with large hands.
On top, the A6100 offers a hot-shoe for external flashes as well as a built-in pop-up xenon flash, a mode dial, and a control dial. The shutter button and power toggle switch sit up the right side, along with a customizable (C1) button.
On the back, you get an electronic viewfinder (EVF), but the A6100 has a lower, 1.44 million dot resolution than the A6100’s 2.35 million dot resolution EVF. You also get a proximity sensor to automatically turn the EVF on or off when you bring the camera closer to your face. We have some familiar looking buttons, including a jog dial. The functions of the buttons, including the labeled buttons, can be remapped to suit your shooting style. The buttons have a slightly meaty feel, especially the directional ones. We would have liked better tactile feedback.
There’s a flap on the left side that covers the micro-HDMI port, micro-USB port, and 3.5mm microphone input. There’s no headphone jack here, like you get with the A6600. The rear 3-inch TFT LCD display has 921K dot resolution and can be tilted down 74 degrees or flipped up to 180 degrees to take selfies. The display itself has good touch response and gets sufficiently bright outdoors.
The battery compartment at the bottom houses the NP-FW50 battery that we’ve seen in most other A-series cameras. Currently, the A6600 is the only model in the series to use the high-capacity Z-series battery. The A6100 has a single memory card slot and only supports SD cards up to UHS-I speeds.
Sony is selling the A6100 body by itself or as a kit with the 16-50mm zoom lens we’ll be testing the camera with. It’s a compact lens that retracts when the camera is turned off and also has a power-zoom toggle switch for easy zooming in and out. There’s no switch to toggle between auto and manual focus, and you only get one controllable ring. It can also be used to zoom in, although in manual focus mode, the ring is used to adjust focus. The lens doesn’t have a very large zoom range, and the aperture range isn’t very wide either, going from f/3.5 to f/5.6 at the end of the telephoto.
Overall, the A6100 has good ergonomics and is well built for an entry-level mirrorless camera. Compared to the A6600, it feels less rugged, but that’s fine and shouldn’t be a big issue for most people.
Sony A6100 Specifications and Features
The good thing about the A6100 is that it shares a lot of the features of its more expensive siblings, the A6400 and A6600, despite being an entry-level model. It uses a 24.2-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor with 425 phase detection autofocus (PDAF) points and the same number of contrast detection autofocus points. This gives it a claimed focus-acquisition time of just 0.02 seconds. The A6100 can shoot 11fps bursts with AE/AF tracking. You also get real-time eye autofocus for humans and animals, 4K video recording without any pixel binning, and built-in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and NFC.
One of the ways the A6100 differs from the A6600 is its lack of 5-axis, in-body stabilization, which means you’ll have to rely on lens stabilization when shooting. The native ISO range is the same, being 100–32,000, although this can only be increased to ISO 51,200, compared to 102,400 with the A6600. The A6100 also lacks advanced picture profiles such as S-Log2, S-Log3 and HLG for HDR workflows. The buffer is also a bit small for burst shooting, as it’s capable of holding just 77 JPEG or 33 RAW files.
The A6100’s software is more or less the same as what we saw in our A6600 review. Photos, videos, and network settings are grouped into tabs. You can add your most used tasks to a separate menu so that they are easier to get to. The touchscreen still can’t be used in menus, but you can use it while previewing photos. It can also be used as a touchpad to move the focus point when you’re using the EVF. The A6100 can be used with the Imaging Edge app on Android or iOS to transfer photos or control the camera remotely.
Sony A6100 performance and battery life
We were expecting the Sony A6100 to have the same ISO performance as we got from the A6600, considering they have the same sensor and ISO range. Details are sharp, colors are vibrant, and there’s barely any noise visible even at nearly 100 percent crop up to ISO 800. As we get closer to ISO 6,400, we start to see a slight drop in detail, with some noise showing up on the colored parts. of pencils.
At ISO 25,600, details become a bit fuzzy, edges aren’t too distinct anymore, and there’s visible grain in the image. At a maximum native ISO of 32,000, details are even more fuzzy, and it’s the same look we got from the A6600. If you absolutely want to go up, you can use the extended ISO range, but image quality takes a heavy hit.
The Sony A6100 is easy to handle due to its low weight, and it doesn’t require much effort to take good shots. Focus is accurate thanks to the always-on face and eye autofocus systems, which are quick to detect and lock onto human faces. If you want the system to use Eye AF for animals, it must be changed manually in the system settings. Just like the A6600, the AI Tracking AF works brilliantly and we were able to get some decent shots of small moving subjects like birds even at high zoom levels. We primarily used the kit lens with the A6100, but also shot some of our samples with the 18-135mm zoom lens we had on hand.
Landscape and close-up shots looked great in natural light. We managed to get very good detail with plenty of natural depth, along with vibrant and accurate colors, even in JPEG. The A6100 is also capable of taking some pretty decent burst shots, though since the buffer isn’t huge and the camera only supports UHS-I speed SD cards, there’s a lot of wait time before reviewing your photos. The display gets sufficiently bright when shooting indoors, but outside, in sunlight, we found the EVF to be the best to use.
In low light, the A6100 hunts a bit for focus but that’s partly the fault of the lenses we use, which don’t have very wide apertures. With a bright enough light source around, the camera still manages to lock focus quickly. Dark areas of a frame can look a bit noisy, especially when shooting with a high ISO value, and can’t be avoided if you need a fast shutter in low light.
The A6100 is also very capable of video. 4K videos look great, with excellent details and colors. Focusing is quick and the touchscreen lets you easily switch between your subjects with ease. The S&Q (slow and fast) mode is great for slow-motion and hyperlapse videos. Resolution is limited to 1080p, but you can go up to 120fps (in NTSC mode). Autofocus is slow in low light, and we noticed a little hunting when trying to switch subjects, but we think it could be improved by using a wider aperture lens.
Shooting a lot of videos or burst shots affects the battery. Like most previous A6xxx series cameras (with the exception of the A6600), battery life is pretty average. Rated output is around 360 frames per charge, and with actual use, we managed a slightly higher number of shots averaging around 400 shots per charge, which still isn’t great. Thankfully, the battery can be charged using a power bank and you can continue to use the camera as long as it is powered by an external source. The battery still takes a while to charge, and once again, it’s disappointing to not have a USB Type-C port.
Compared to the more expensive A6400 and A6600 models, Sony has priced the A6100 fairly well. The kit that Sony sent us with the 16-50mm lens has an official price of Rs. 75,990, although it is available for close to Rs. 68,000 if you look online. With this, you get some of the best mirrorless technology from Sony without spending over a lakh bucks, which is a great value proposition. The only things you lose out on compared to the higher-end models are in-body stabilization, longer battery life, enhanced picture profiles, and higher-resolution EVF. For most casual shooters this camera is aimed at, none of these things really should be a deal-breaker.
We would have liked the bigger buffer for burst shots, support for faster memory cards, Type-C port, faster charging and better battery life. However, considering the core features on offer, the A6100 is still great value because it brings some of Sony’s flagship-level technology together at a more acceptable price point.
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