The release of the A5100 marked an official move by Sony to leave the NEX series behind. It is a follow-up to the NEX-5 series and designed as an upgrade of the predecessor, A5000. The Sony Alpha A5100 combines the compact designs of the NEX-5T and NEX-3T with the guts of the A6000. This means that the A5100 comes with Bionz X processor, 24MP CMOS sensor, WiFi connectivity and on-chip phase detection with 92% coverage. While there are many similarities between the A5100 and A6000, it’s important to note that the two cameras are designed to different consumer groups. This Sony Alpha A5100 review seeks to examine whether the camera stands out from other models in the Alpha pack.
What are the best features of the Sony Alpha A5100? Here is a quick look at the camera’s general specifications and features.
Type: Rangefinder-type mirrorless camera
Resolution: 24 megapixels
Optical zoom: 3x
Photosensor size: APS-C (23.5 x 15.6 inches)
Native ISO: 100 – 25600
Shutter speed: 1/4000 seconds
Continuous shooting rate: 6 frames per second
Size: 1.42 x 4.33 x 2.48 inches
Weight: 0.62 pounds with batteries
Media storage: SD, SDXC, SDHC, Memory Stick Pro Duo, PRO HD Duo
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The Alpha A5100 was probably the most awaited camera by Sony in 2014. It lacks some of the advanced features like 11 fps burst shooting, electronic viewfinder and extended ISO range found in the A6000. And while that’s a bummer, it’s important to remember that it is $100 cheaper than the A6000 (you can read more about the Sony A6000 in our review). When compared to the A5000, the Sony Alpha A5100 offers a variety of improvements including higher resolution and 60p videos. It also comes with a 24.2-megapixel APS-C sensor and a Fast Hybrid AF that ensures quick and precise autofocus points. The 100 – 25600 sensitivity range is quite reasonable considering the design and price of this camera.
Image Quality & Performance
When it comes to performance, the first thing to consider is the sensor and processor combination. The Sony Alpha A5100 inherits its sensor and image processor from the A6000. It is also equipped with a hybrid autofocus system that combines the best of phase and contrast detection techniques to achieve fast focusing speeds of 0.07 seconds. The result is tracking speed as well as accuracy, even when shooting in low light conditions.
The ISO range is quite extensive, with 100 – 800 being noise free and 1600 – 6400 producing more acceptable results. RAW samples are considerably noisier at all sensitivity levels compared to JPEG shots taken with the Sony Alpha A5100. The built-in flash performs well enough indoors with good overall exposure and no red-eye. You can take advantage of the Dynamic Range Optimizer function to extract more detail from highlight and shadow areas of an image without introducing unwanted artifacts. The availability of 13 Picture Effects allows you to spend more time being creative and less time post-processing.
Design & Controls
If you have worked with older Alpha/Nex cameras, there is a lot that will surprise you when you get your hands on the Sony Alpha A5100. It is one of the smallest interchangeable cameras you’ll find and the body is made of mostly composite materials. The camera offers a nice mix of manual controls, creative modes as well as high-resolution still and video shooting modes. The A5100 borrows its selfie screen from the A5000 and the Smile Shutter feature eliminates the need to click the shutter release.
You also benefit from instant sharing thanks to the inbuilt WiFi and NFC. Simply download the PlayMemories Camera app and utilize it to share your favorite photos on social media or transfer them to a mobile device. At the back of the camera is a control dial, directional controller, and other standard buttons. You will find the I/O ports on the left side concealed by a plastic cover. The 3″ LCD screen can tilt upwards by 180-degrees when you need to take a selfie.
Sony Alpha A5100 offers several benefits, some of which are listed below.
- Small and compact design
- Great ISO sensitivity performance
- Amazing image quality
- Fast and accurate hybrid autofocus system
- Reasonable ISO range to work with
- Has built-in WiFi with NFC connectivity
- Manual focus peaking
- Allows for Full HD 1080p video in XAVC in 5Mbps
- Comes with 3.0″ 921.6K-dot tilting touchscreen LCD
- Has electronic viewfinder that allows you to view final image before capture
- Offers 5-axis in-body image stabilization
There are several disadvantages associated with the Sony Alpha A5100 and some of them stem from the fact that this is a mirrorless camera.
- Half-baked touchscreen controls
- Lacks microphone socket
- Battery life is very short
- Start-up lag
- Only has one SD card slot
- Lack of budget lenses
Sony’s range of A7-series mirrorless cameras has remained popular due to their ability to shoot pro-grade videos and full-frame sensors. The company’s lineup of budget interchangeable cameras is just as impressive. The Sony Alpha A5100 is a perfect example, offering the compactness and maneuverability of the A5000 as well as the stellar performance of the A6000. And while it doesn’t have everything a pro would want in their equipment, the combination of features makes it a great option for upgrading from a point-and-shoot model. It is also a good investment for beginners and anyone with their eyes set on more advanced photography who don’t have a lot to spend.
If this Sony Alpha A5100 review has taught us anything, it’s that looks can be deceiving. Despite looking like the A5000, the A5100 is more capable when it comes to focus as well as recording video. It’s also more compact than the pricier A6000, particularly since it has a lot of the same features. The fast Hybrid Autofocus System is a favorite feature as it delivers fast and accurate tracking in less than a second. Combine that with the 6 fps burst shooting rate and what you have is an affordable and compact camera that’s very capable of capturing fast moving objects.