Sony A6100 Review

Camera Reviews / Sony Cameras / Sony Alpha i Hands-On Preview
Basic Specifications
Full model name: Sony Alpha ILCE-A6100
Resolution: 24.20 Megapixels
Sensor size: APS-C
(23.5mm x 15.6mm)
Kit Lens: 3.13x zoom
16-50mm
(24-75mm eq.)
Viewfinder: EVF / LCD
Native ISO: 100 - 32,000
Extended ISO: 100 - 51,200
Shutter: 1/4000 - 30 sec
Max Aperture: 3.5 (kit lens)
Dimensions: 4.7 x 2.6 x 2.3 in.
(120 x 67 x 59 mm)
Weight: 18.1 oz (512 g)
includes batteries, kit lens
Availability: 10/2019
Manufacturer: Sony
Full specs: Sony A6100 specifications
24.20
Megapixels
Sony E APS-C
size sensor
image of Sony Alpha ILCE-A6100
Front side of Sony A6100 digital camera Front side of Sony A6100 digital camera Front side of Sony A6100 digital camera Front side of Sony A6100 digital camera Front side of Sony A6100 digital camera

Sony A6100 Review -- Hands-On Preview

by William Brawley
Preview updated: 09/05/2019

Announced alongside the flagship A6600, Sony also unveiled an entry- to intermediate-level APS-C mirrorless camera that sports a similar list of specs, features and performance upgrades along with a competitive, budget-friendly price.

Much like its higher-end A6600 sibling, the new Sony A6100 centers around a 24MP APS-C sensor and Sony's latest BIONZ X image processor with front-end LSI technology. Autofocus performance is a stand-out feature of the A6100, with the sensor sporting 425 phase-detect AF points and a focus acquisition spec of 0.02 seconds, according to Sony. The A6100 also offers real-time tracking AF with Eye AF functionality. And, of course, the A6100 also provides lots of video features, including 4K UHD video.

The new Sony A6100 is decidedly a much more capable upgrade over the aging A6000. However, compared to the A6300, the A6100 offers some upgrades, but also lacks a few potentially important features.

Let's dive in and peer inside the Sony A6100...

Design & Build Quality

From a physical standpoint, the Sony A6100 is strikingly similar to the A6000, with an altogether similar design and styling, button and control layout, as well as construction. Control layout and button placement on the A6100 is identical to that of the A6000, but with the notable upgrade to a touchscreen rear panel for easy touch AF functionality. The LCD remains a 3-inch TFT panel with 921,600 dots but it offers more versatility now in terms of its tilting angles, with 74 degrees of downward tilt as well as a full 180-degree upwards/front-facing angle. (The A6000's upward tilt was limited to about 90 degrees and thus could not face the front.) In terms of the built-in EVF, the A6100 uses the same 1440K-dot SVGA electronic viewfinder as the A6000 rather than the higher-res OLED EVFs of the pricier models.

Another notable difference to the A6100 compared its higher-end model-line companions is its build quality. Like the A6000, the A6100 is constructed from sturdy polycarbonate plastic, or as Sony calls it, "engineering plastic." Higher-end A6000-series models like the A6600 utilize magnesium alloy construction and offer some degree of dust- and moisture-resistance. The A6100, meanwhile, is not spec'ed for any form of weather resistance, which is important to keep in mind should you find yourself regularly shooting out in inclement weather. In the hand, however, and although the A6100 doesn't have the same construction or fit-and-finish as the higher-end models, the body construction nevertheless feels robust, durable and solidly built.

When it comes to ergonomics, the size, weight and shape of the A6100 closely mimic that of the A6000. The A6100 uses the older, smaller W-series rechargeable battery, whereas the new A6600 uses the higher-capacity, larger Z-series battery packs (same battery as the A7R IV, A9 and the like), which requires a larger handgrip. The A6100's handgrip, nonetheless, is decently-sized with ergonomic contouring, and the camera fits comfortably in the hand, all the while maintaining a small, compact form factor.

Image Quality

Like all other Sony A6000-series cameras, the new A6100 uses a 24-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor which we believe has an optical low-pass filter, though a fairly weak one (Sony has been rather coy about confirming that). In general, we expect the imaging performance to be similar to other Sony 24MP APS-C mirrorless cameras, though with modest improvements over earlier models, especially the A6000. The sensor is paired with an updated BIONZ X image processor, with similar performance metrics to the A9 -- it's the same "latest generation" processor as found in the A6400 and A6600 models. The A6100 offers an updated ISO range, with a native range now of 100-32,000, and with an expanded high ISO of 51,200. The A6000, by comparison, had a native ISO range of 100-25,600 which could only be extended to 51,200 when using Multi Frame Noise Reduction. The A6100 doesn't require MFNR to reach ISO 51,200 which bodes well for improved high ISO performance in JPEGs, although it still offers that feature. Sony claims to have improved color reproduction as well, particularly with regard to skin tones, using updated algorithms from their full-frame cameras.

As with prior models, the A6100 captures images in both JPEG and raw, with raw capture using 14-bit compressed files; there is still no uncompressed or losslessly compressed raw option. Shutter speeds also remain unchanged compared to earlier models, with the mechanical shutter offering a range from 30 sec up to 1/4000s. There is a new electronic shutter mode on this camera (Silent Shooting), however the top shutter speed remains 1/4000s which makes the A6100 a bit limiting if you want to shoot out in bright or sunny conditions with fast lenses. In other words, you may end up needing to stop down your lens as 1/4000s may not be fast enough to prevent an over-exposed image, just like with the A6000.

Other upgrades include a new 1:1 aspect ratio image option popular with social media, a built-in intervalometer as well as auto white balance Ambience and White Priority settings.

Autofocus & Performance

So while the imaging pipeline might not have undergone radical changes or updates, the A6100's autofocusing system, on the other hand, offers a lot of improvements compared to the A6000, with faster speeds, improved tracking performance and lots more AF points. Overall, the Sony A6100 shares a vastly similar AF system and autofocus features as Sony's other more recent APS-C mirrorless cameras, such as the A6400 and new A6600.

For starters, the A6100 provides significantly more autofocus points than the earlier A6000. The A6100 offers 425 phase-detection points and 425 contrast-detect points, which is a significant improvement over the A6000's 179 PDAF/25 CDAF Hybrid AF system. With the A6100, autofocus points cover nearly the entire area of the sensor and phase-detect AF alone spans around 84% of the sensor area. Further, sheer AF acquisition speed has been improved as well, with Sony claiming a shockingly-fast 0.02s AF speed.

Further, the A6100 offers the latest-generation Real-Time Tracking technology as well as Real-Time Eye AF -- with support for Animal Eye AF. According to Sony, Real-Time Tracking technology uses updated algorithms that incorporate machine-learning-based artificial intelligence for improved object recognition and subject tracking performance. The Real-Time Eye AF is also Sony's latest-generation of Eye AF technology, and while the original A6000 offered Eye AF, it only allowed for eye detection in single-shot AF mode. Now, the A6100 allows for fast, precise Eye AF with subject tracking (continuous autofocus) in both stills and video modes.

The latest feature to be incorporated into Sony's Real-Time Eye AF technology is Animal Eye AF, and the A6100 gains this new improvement as well. It's a user-selectable feature in the menus, so you'll need to toggle between Human Eye and Animal Eye detection, but it's a convenient feature for those who often capture wildlife photos. Keep in mind though that the Animal Eye AF isn't as advanced as the human Real-Time Eye AF functionality, as it only works for photos at this time (no video) and does not work in conjunction with subject tracking.

The A6100 still offers burst shooting at up to 11 fps with AE/AF tracking, however buffer depths have improved over the A6000. Sony claims buffer depths are now 76 Extra Fine JPEGs, 77 Fine/Standard JPEGs, 33 RAW or 31 RAW+JPEG files. That's up from the A6000's claimed 49 Fine/Standard JPEGs (it didn't offer Extra Fine), 21 RAW or 21 RAW+JPEG files.

Video

In addition to photos, the A6100 offers a lot of upgrades to video shooting features as well. Unlike the A6000, the A6100 offers 4K UHD video recording with full pixel readout without pixel binning. 4K recording is offered in both 24p and 30p, and Full HD is offered up to 120p for excellent slow-motion videos. There is also a dedicated slow-motion video mode called Slow & Quick Motion, which captures Full HD video at up to 60p and then produces a slower or faster video, depending on pre-set playback frame rate, all in-camera.

4K and most Full HD video options are recorded in 100 Mbps XAVC S format, although the camera also offers Full HD video at 60i in AVCHD format. Further, the A6100 supports the Hybrid Log-Gamma picture profile for HDR video capture. Unlike the A6600, there is no S-Log offered on the A6100.

One of the big upgrades is that the A6100, like the recent A6600 and A6400, offers unlimited video recording time instead of the usual 29min, 59sec limit. This makes the A6100 much more appealing and useful as a long-form video recording camera.

The A6100 also features other video recording amenities such as focus peaking, zebras, clean HDMI output (8-bit 4:2:2) and a new 3.5mm external microphone jack.

Connectivity, Storage & Battery

In addition to the new external mic jack, the A6100 still features a Micro (Type-D)HDMI port, a Multi Micro-B USB (2.0) terminal, a Multi Interface hot shoe and a single UHS-I SD/MSDuo card slot.

Like the A6000, the A6100 has built-in Wi-Fi and NFC but adds Bluetooth 4.1, and it supports Sony's Imaging Edge mobile application.

As mentioned, the A6100 uses the same NP-FW50 rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack and is CIPA-rated for approximately 420 shots per charge (LCD monitor) or 380 shots with the EVF, which is a noticeable improvement over the A6000's 360/310 shot rating. The A6100 continues to support in-camera USB charging and ships with an AC/USB adapter.

Sony A6100 Pricing & Availability

Scheduled to go on sale in October 2019, the Sony A6100 will be sold body-only for a retail price of US$750, or in a pair of kit configurations -- the E 16-50mm zoom lens for US$850, or a two-lens kit (E 16-50mm & 55-210mm) for US$1,100.

 

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