First Impressions: Sony A6100 (Flagship Level AF, Entry Level Price Point)

Real-Time Eye AF and Real-time Tracking make their way into the Sony A6100, the company’s updated entry-level APS-C mirrorless camera.

In addition to launching the A6600 flagship earlier this week, Sony also introduced the entry-level A6100 as well, essentially a refresh of the highly popular A6000, which is now a five-year-old camera. The Sony A6100 shares the same 24.2 Megapixel APS-C Exmor CMOS sensor and blazing-fast 0.02 second 425 point Fast Hybrid AF system found in the higher-end A6400 and A6600 models. With a MSRP of US $750 for the camera body alone, the A6100 is now the most affordable camera in Sony’s mirrorless lineup with Real-time Eye AF for both human and animal subjects, as well as Real-time Tracking. To keep costs down, the A6100 utilizes a plastic housing that lacks weather-resistance as opposed to the more robust and weather-resistant magnesium alloy housing used in the flagship A6600. The Sony A6100 also eschews the 5-axis in-camera image stabilization found in the flagship model. Additional cost-saving measures include the A6100 using a lower resolution OLED Electronic Viewfinder than the one found in higher-end Sony mirrorless APS-C cameras (1,440k-dot resolution in the A6100 versus a much higher 2,345k-dot resolution in the A6400/A6600), along with the continued use of the aging NP-FW50 battery as opposed to the newer, longer-lasting NP-FZ100 model that the A6600 is adopting, leading to significantly shorter runtimes. Shortcomings aside, the Sony A6100 is an interesting value proposition that shares much of the performance of the higher tier APS-C models, albeit at almost half the price of the A6600 flagship. We spent some time shooting with a pre-production A6100 unit during the launch event in New York City. You can read all about our first impressions after the jump.

Gear Used

We tested the Sony A6100 with the Sony E 16-55mm f2.8 G and the Sony E 70-350mm f4.5-6.3 G OSS.

 

Tech Specs

Highlighted tech specs for the Sony A6100 taken from Sony’s official product page.

  • Fast 0.02 sec3 AF, with 425 phase-detection AF points
  • High-resolution 4K movie recording
  • 24.2-megapixel10 Exmor CMOS sensor
  • Real-time Tracking, Real-time Eye AF, Eye AF for Animals
  • 180° tiltable LCD touchscreen for easier self-portraits and high- and low-angle shots
  • LENS COMPATIBILITY
    • Sony E-mount lenses
  • SENSOR TYPE
    • APS-C type (23.5 x 15.6 mm), Exmor® CMOS sensor
  • NUMBER OF PIXELS (EFFECTIVE)
    • Approx. 24.2 megapixels
  • ISO SENSITIVITY (RECOMMENDED EXPOSURE INDEX)
    • Still images: ISO 100–32000 (ISO numbers up to ISO 51200 can be set as expanded ISO range.), AUTO (ISO 100–6400, selectable lower limit and upper limit), Movies: ISO 100-32000 equivalent, AUTO (ISO 100-6400, selectable lower limit and upper limit)
  • BATTERY LIFE (STILL IMAGES)
    • Approx. 380 shots (Viewfinder) / Approx. 420 shots (LCD monitor) (CIPA standard)11
  • VIEWFINDER TYPE
    • 1.0 cm (0.39 type) electronic viewfinder (color)
  • MONITOR TYPE
    • 2.95 in (3.0-type) wide type TFT

 

Ergonomics

Aside from having a slightly thicker body, the new Sony A6100 looks practically identical to the A6000 that it is replacing. In fact, we’re sure that most folks won’t be able to discern the differences.

The Hot Shoe, built-in Pop-Up Flash, Mode and Control Dials, On/Off Switch, Shutter button, as well as one of the customizable function buttons are all located on top of the A6100’s body. The increased thickness of the A6100’s body contributes to the handgrip being slightly larger.

With the exception of the tiltable rear touchscreen, a feature inherited from the mid-tier A6400, the rest of the A6100’s rear remains identical to its predecessor. Above the touchscreen, you’ll find the 1,440k-dot OLED Electronic Viewfinder situated on the upper left, followed by the Diopter Adjustment Dial, Pop-Up Flash Button, as well as the Menu Button as you move rightward. The rest of the controls are laid out across the right side of the A6100’s rear, including the AEL/Enlarge Button, Function Button, Control Wheel, Playback Button, and Delete Button.

In terms of connectivity options, the A6100 sports a Micro USB port and a Micro HDMI port, and gains a dedicated Microphone jack not available in the A6000.

Moving to the bottom of the A6100, there’s not much to see besides the 1/4″-20 tripod socket and the memory card/battery compartment. The single SD card slot is UHS-1 rated. Unlike the flagship A6600, the A6100 uses the older and lower capacity NP-FW50 batteries, so you’ll want to pack a few spare batteries with you.

Here’s another look at the A6100 with the rear touchscreen tilted upwards to face the front of the camera, perfect for vloggers and taking self-portraits.

 

Build Quality

Although the Sony A6100 uses plastic housing instead of the dust and moisture resistant magnesium alloy body used in the top tier A6600, it felt reasonably solid in hand during our short time shooting with the camera. The A6100’s body is slightly thicker than the A6000 it is replacing, making the handgrip larger and easier to hold as a result. Due to the fact that the A6100 uses the smaller NP-FW50 battery and lacks built-in image stabilization, it is over 100g lighter than the flagship A6600 as well. While we would caution against using the Sony A6100 in inclement weather situations due to its lack of weather sealing, it should perform fine in most other shooting conditions. You’ll most likely want to attach the included neckstrap or a third-party wrist strap to the camera to minimize accidentally dropping the camera.

 

Ease of Use

Any photographer with experience of previous crop sensor Sony mirrorless cameras should have no issues using the Sony A6100. The upgraded tiltable rear touchscreen will be popular amongst vloggers and selfie-enthusiasts. While the A6100 doesn’t include the dedicated joystick found on Sony’s Full Frame Mirrorless offerings, the inclusion of a touchscreen makes selecting and adjusting the AF point much easier when compared to the A6000. With the A600, the process was much more cumbersome, requiring you to first navigating to the Focus Area option within the Function menu, and then having to subsequently rely on using the rear control wheel as a d-pad to move the AF point around. Aside from this functionality, touchscreen usability continues to be severely limited with the A6100. You still aren’t able to interact with the ever-growing menu system using the touch screen, having to rely on the rear control wheel to do so instead.

 

Autofocus

Sony is currently leading the digital imaging industry in terms of its autofocus technologies, and they’ve incorporated a lot of the AF advancements into the A6100. While the A6100 we were shooting with was a pre-production sample running non-final firmware, the AF performance was snappy and mostly accurate. We did notice rare instances of back focusing or hunting during low contrast conditions, particularly when zoomed all the way out with the Sony E 70-350mm G OSS. Our copy of that lens was also a pre-production unit though, so we’ll need to call in a final-production review unit once they’re available to test the A6100’s autofocus performance more conclusively.

 

Image Quality

Since the Sony A6100 preview unit along with the lenses that were provided to us were pre-production samples running beta firmware, camera profiles for it are not yet available for Capture One or Adobe Lightroom. As such, all sample images seen within this First Impressions article are straight out of camera JPEGs. As a matter of ethics, none of the sample images seen within this First Impressions article have been retouched so that you can judge the quality of the images produced by this camera for yourself. The only editing that some of the images were subjected to was cropping.

 

First Impressions

It’s been more than five years since the well-regarded A6000 was first announced. While Sony has since released multiple higher-end APS-C mirrorless bodies, it was nice to see them revisit the A6000 and upgrade it into the new entry-level A6100 by incorporating a lot of the autofocus tech they’ve been developing the last few years. With the Sony A6100, you now have access to the same Real-time Human and Animal Eye AF and Real-time Tracking capabilities found in Sony’s more premium offerings in an entry-level, crop sensor mirrorless camera body that costs just US $750. While there’s still no dedicated joystick, the touchscreen it inherits from the A6400 does help speed things up when trying to move the AF point around. Frequent selfie-takers and vloggers will appreciate the touchscreen’s forward-facing ability as well. We still would’ve liked to see Sony move away from the aging NP-FW50 batteries and move all of their cameras over the longer-lasting NP-FZ100 batteries. Perhaps we’ll see this with the A6100 Mk II? Only time will tell. We look forward to evaluating the final production version of the Sony A6100 more comprehensively once review units are available. Please stay tuned for our upcoming full review.