With the introduction of the a5100, Sony has officially left the NEX brand behind. The a5100 is the follow-up to the NEX-5 series, and sits above the a5000 (formerly the NEX-3) and below a6000 (which replaced the NEX-6/7). Confused yet?

The a5100 combines the compact designs of the NEX-3N and NEX-5T and throws in the guts of the a6000, which means that it has a 24MP CMOS sensor, Bionz X processor, on-chip phase detection covering 92% of the frame and Wi-Fi with NFC. Both cameras have tilting LCDs, with the one on the a5100 flipping upward 180 degrees (for - you guessed it - selfies) and the a6000's tilting both up and down by 90 and 45 degrees, respectively.

Both cameras can record 1080/60p video, with the a5100 supporting the XAVC S codec, allowing for bit rates of 50Mbps. It also has the ability to simultaneously record 720p video while recording at higher resolutions.

While there are many similarities in terms of spec, the a5100 and a6000 are targeted toward two distinctly different audiences. With its EVF, hot shoe, and additional physical controls, the a6000 is more of an enthusiast ILC. The a5100 has none of those things, and the fact that it has a help button on the rear of the camera hints that this is a camera for entry-level photography.

Sony a5100 key features

  • 24.3 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor
  • Bionz X image processor
  • Hybrid AF system with 25 contrast-detect and 179 phase-detect points
  • 6 fps continuous shooting with subject-tracking
  • 3-inch flip-up LCD with 921,600 dots and touch functionality
  • Built-in GN4 flash
  • Full HD video recording at 1080/60p and 24p with XAVC S support
  • Simultaneous recording of 1080p and 720p video
  • Wi-Fi with NFC capability and downloadable apps

Most of the differences between the a5100 and its predecessor are internal. You get the 24MP sensor from the a6000 (up from 16MP on the NEX-5T), the latest Bionz X processor, a wider phase detection AF area, and much more promising video specs.

Externally, the a5100 now has a built-in flash, where the NEX-5T requires an external flash which connects to its proprietary shoe. Two things you can no longer do is attach an optional EVF or use a wireless remote control (though your smartphone can handle that).

Hybrid AF System

One huge improvement on the a5100 is its hybrid autofocus system. While the 25-point contrast detect part of the system remains the same as on the NEX-5T, the number of phase-detect points has increased from 99 to 179. All of those extra phase detect points give you a much wider coverage area: roughly 92% of the frame, compared to around 50%. The benefit? A wider area that lets phase detection autofocus do what it does best: track moving subjects.

Compared to a5000 and a6000

We've already covered some of the differences between the a5100 and the NEX-5T that came before it. Below you can see how the a5100 fits into the current Sony lineup.

 
a5000
a5100
a6000
MSRP (w/16-50mm PZ lens)
$499
$699
$799
Resolution
20.1MP
24.3MP
24.3MP
Processor
Bionz X
Bionz X
Bionz X
AF system (contrast/phase)
25 / 0 point
25 / 179 point
25 / 179 point
ISO range
100-16000
100-25600
100-25600
LCD design (tilt up/down)
Tilting (180° up)
Tilting (180° up)
Tilting (90°/45°)
Touch-enabled LCD
No
Yes
No
EVF type / resolution
None
None
OLED / 1.44M dot
EVF magnification (equiv.)
N/A
N/A
0.70x
Built-in flash
Yes (GN4)
Yes (GN4)
Yes (GN6)
Max burst rate
4 fps
6 fps
11 fps
Video resolution
1080/60i/24p
1080/60p/24p
1080/60p/24p
Video codecs
AVCHD, MP4
XAVC S, AVCHD, MP4
AVCHD, MP4
Clean HDMI output
No
Yes
Yes
Battery life (CIPA)
420 shots
400 shots
360 shots

The a5100 is a pretty big step up from the a5000, especially for subject tracking and video recording. The autofocus system that has proven itself on the a6000 has been carried over, which is good news for parents trying to capture fast-moving subjects. Video is considerably better, moving up from 60i to 60p, and adding the XAVC S codec and accompanying higher bit rate. Like its big brother, the a5100 supports clean HDMI output.

The main things you get by stepping up to the a6000 include the SVGA EVF, faster burst rate, and more powerful flash.

Kit options and pricing

The a5100 will be available in silver or black, at a price of $549 for the body and $699 for a kit including the 16-50mm F3.5-5.6 power zoom lens.

The a5100 is available in white or black

Accessories of note include a new wired remote control (RM-SPR1), a body case, and a kit that includes an external charger (which is not included with the camera) as well as an extra battery.