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, its entry-level sibling. The A6100 was launched alongside the A6600 and shares a lot of the premium features found in Sony’s flagship models, yet at a much lower cost.
It is designed as an entry-point in Sony’s Mirrorless Camera lineup, and aims at most casual shooters, even packing advanced technology enough to keep enthusiasts happy. Priced at a slightly higher premium than the A6000, is the A6100 worth buying as a starter mirrorless camera? Let’s check and find out.
Sony A6100 design
The Sony A6100 has smaller footprints than the A6600 and is lighter at 396g. This is due to the use of plastic instead of metal for the body. It still feels sturdy and well assembled but the slightly glossy finish easily picks up fingerprints and stains. The handgrip area has enough rubber cladding but the grip itself doesn’t stretch too much, so holding this camera comfortably with a big hand can be a little challenging.
Above, the A6100 offers a hot-shoe for external flash 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 on the front right side with a customizable (C1) button.
On the back, you’ll find an Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) but the A6100 is fitted with a lower, 1.44 million dot resolution one, compared to the 2.35 million dot resolution EVF on the A6600. You also get a proximity sensor to automatically turn the EVF on or off when you bring the camera close to your face. Behind us are some familiar-looking buttons, including a jug dial. With labeled buttons, it can be re-mapped to suit your shooting style. The buttons have a slightly more stylish feel, especially the directional ones. We would have preferred a more sensitive response.
On the left is a flap that covers a micro-HDMI port, micro-USB port and 3.5mm microphone input. There is no headphone jack, as you get with the A6600. The rear 3-inch TFT LCD display has a 921K dot resolution and can be tilted 74 degrees down or flipped 180 degrees from the top to take selfies. The display itself has a good touch response and is bright enough outside.
In the lower battery compartment is the NP-FW50 battery which we have seen in most other A-Series cameras. Currently, the only model in the A6600 series that uses a high-capacity Z-series battery. The A6100 has a single memory card slot and only supports SD cards at UHS-I speeds.
Sony is selling the A6100 body by itself or as a kit with a 16-50mm zoom lens, which we will test the camera. It has a compact lens that retracts when the camera is off, and a power-zoom toggle switch for smooth zooming in and out. There is no switch to toggle between automatic and manual focus and you will only get a controllable ring. It can also be used to zoom in, but in manual focus mode, the ring is used to adjust the focus. The lens doesn’t have a very large zoom range, and the aperture range isn’t too wide, from f / 3.5 to f / 5.6 at the end of the telephoto.
Overall, the A6100 has decent ergonomics and is well-designed for an entry-level mirrorless camera. Compared to the A6600, it seems less labor intensive, but it’s okay and shouldn’t be a big problem for most people.
Sony A6100 Specifications and Features
The great thing about the A6100 is that despite being an entry-level model, it shares many of the features of its more expensive siblings, the A6400 and A6600. 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 only 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 binding, and built-in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and NFC.
One way to distinguish the A6100 from the A6600 is the lack of 5-axis, in-body stabilization, which means you have to rely on the lens stability when shooting. The native ISO range is the same, which is 100-32,000, but it can only be increased to ISO 51,200, compared to 102,400 with the A6600. The A6100 also lacks advanced image profiles like the S-Log2, S-Log3 and HLG for HDR workflow. The buffer is also a bit smaller for burst shooting, as it can only hold 77 JPEG or 33 RAW files.
The A6100’s software is very similar to what we saw in our A6600 review. Photos, videos and networks are grouped in the Settings tab You can add your most used functions to a separate menu to make them easier to find. The touchscreen is still not used in the menu, but you can use it when previewing photos. It can also be used as a touchpad for shifting focus points when you are using 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 expected the Sony A6100’s ISO performance to be similar to what we got from the A6600, considering that they have the same sensor and ISO range. The details are sharp, the colors vivid, and almost 100 percent of the crop up to ISO 800 has almost no visible sound. As we approached ISO 6,400 we began to see a slight decline in detail, with some sounds appearing in colored parts. Of pencil
At ISO 25,600, the details become a bit blurry, the edges are no longer very distinct, and there are visible grains in the picture. At the most native ISO 32,000, the details are more vague, and it’s the same look we got from the A6600. If you must go higher, you can use the extended ISO range, but the image quality takes a huge hit.
Due to the low weight of the Sony A6100 it is easy to handle, and does not require much effort to get good shots. Focus is the perfect thanks to the always-face and eye autofocus system, which can quickly recognize and lock human faces. If you want the system to use IAF for animals, you need to manually change the system settings. Like the A6600, AI Tracking AF works great and we’ve been able to get some good shots of small moving objects like birds, even at high zoom levels. We initially used the kit lens with the A6100, but also shot some of our samples with the 18-135mm zoom lens we had.
Landscape and close-up shots looked great under natural light. We also got very good details in JPEG, with vivid and perfect colors as well as very good natural depth. The A6100 is capable of taking some really good burst shots, although the buffer isn’t very large and the camera only supports UHS-I speed SD cards, so you’ll have to wait a while before reviewing your photos. The display becomes bright enough when shooting indoors, but outside, under sunlight, we find it best to use EVF.
In low light, the A6100 looks a bit for focusing but it’s partly because of the lenses we’ve used that don’t have a very wide aperture. With enough bright light sources all around, the camera still manages to quickly lock the focus. Dark areas of a frame can look a little noisy, especially when shooting with a high ISO standard, and this cannot be avoided if you need a fast shutter in low light.
The A6100 is also very good for video. 4K videos look great with great details and color Focusing is fast and the touchscreen lets you easily shift focus between your subjects. 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 some prey when trying to change things, but we guess it can be improved using a wide aperture lens.
Shooting lots of video or burst shots takes a toll on the battery. Like most previous A6xxx series cameras (excluding the A6600), battery life is fairly average. The rated output is about 360 frames per charge, and with actual use, we’ve been able to build a slightly higher number of about 400 shots per charge, which is still not great. Fortunately, the battery can be charged using a power bank and you can continue using the camera while it is being powered by an external source. It still takes some time to charge the battery and again, the lack of a USB Type-C port is frustrating.
The Sony A6100 is priced better than the more expensive A6400 and A6600 models. The kit that Sony has sent us with a 16-50mm lens is officially priced at Rs. 75,990, though it is around Rs. 68,000 if you watch online. With this, you will get the best of Sony’s mirrorless technology without spending over one lakh rupees, which offers a very good price. The only things you’ll lose when compared to high-end models are in-body stabilization, longer battery life, improved image profile, and higher-resolution EVF. For most casual shooters who are targeted with this camera, none of these things should actually be a deal-breaker.
We liked a large buffer for burst shots, support for faster memory cards, a Type-C port, faster charging and better battery life. However, considering the key features of the offer, the A6100 is still a very good value because it brings some of Sony’s flagship-level technology to more affordable price points.
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