What we like What we don't
  • Excellent image quality in both JPEG and Raw
  • Class-leading AF tracking is especially good for photographing people
  • Good video quality
  • Strong feature set (including EVF) for the price
  • Extensive customization options
  • NFC makes image transfer simple
  • Good battery life for its class
  • USB charging is convenient
  • Large menu can be difficult to navigate
  • Both command dials need to be controlled with the thumb
  • No in-body stabilization makes it harder to shoot steady video
  • No in-camera Raw conversion to edit images
  • Bluetooth can't be used to speed-up Wi-Fi connection
  • Significant 'jello' effect in 4K/24p mode or significant crop in 30p mode
  • Touchscreen behavior needs to be switched between stills and video modes
  • No adjustment of Auto ISO thresholds
  • No external charger provided

The Sony a6100 is one of the best family or travel cameras we've ever used, once you know how to use it. We said something similar about Sony's RX100 VI and our reasoning is informed by the same thing: the simple and effective autofocus system. Combined with a touchscreen, there's no camera that makes it so easy to get so many of your shots in focus, whatever the situation.

Although the camera and its menus could initially appear daunting, with a couple of settings changes, much of this can simply be ignored: you can concentrate on your subject and the camera will do the rest. It's difficult, until you've tried shooting with the camera, to appreciate how simple the a6100 makes it to take consistently in-focus images, especially of people.

The a6100's simple autofocus system makes it easy to take grab-shots of family moments
Sigma 30mm F1.4 DC | ISO 100 | F3.2 | 1/200 sec
Photo: Brett Shell

As with essentially all modern cameras, the a6100 can shoot excellent looking images and does so with attractive color (though it doesn't offer the in-camera Raw conversion featured offered by most peers, if you decide you should have used a different color mode). These pictures can be readily shared to a smartphone, which is pretty slick if your phone is happy to use NFC and a touch more clunky if it isn't.

You can concentrate on your subject and the camera will do the rest

The a6100 is also a pretty capable video camera, with tracking autofocus giving it a distinct ease-of-use edge over its peers that can shoot technically better (more flexible, less jello-prone) footage.

As with all interchangeable lens cameras, one of the biggest considerations is which lenses do you plan to use. The kit lens is small, convenient and pretty flexible but it's not going to win any awards for quality so, if you want to really get the most out of the camera, it's worth thinking about whether a second lens will add to your experience.

We're not the biggest fans of Sony's kit zoom, but it does what it's supposed to: let you go out and start taking pictures.
Sony 16-50mm F3.5-5.6 OSS | ISO 100 | F4.0 | 1/500 sec
Photo: Richard Butler

But, even with that kit zoom, the a6100 provides a camera that can do a decent job in a remarkably wide range of situations, with minimal need of expertise on the part of the user, and in a body format that makes it easy to keep with you. That's a pretty powerful combination.

Our main concerns stem from how much clutter there is to potentially get in the way of the camera's underlying ability. A lot of the body and interface is shared with models aimed at more experienced users, meaning the experience isn't as straightforward as it could be. Ironically, for a camera whose main selling point is autofocus, it's this lack of focus that stops it getting our highest award, despite being capable of amazing performance.


Compared to its peers

Sony a6000 - The two cameras may look much the same, but the improved autofocus system, combined with a touchscreen for setting the AF point make the more modern a6100 a much easier to use, and much more dependable camera. This, plus the improved JPEG color of the newer model more than justify the price difference, in our opinion. The a6100 is simply more likely to get the photo you want, and to make it look attractive.

Olympus E-M10 Mark III - The E-M10 III is a camera that demands a lot more hands-on interaction than the Sony does, though some users may find that a more rewarding experience. The little Olympus also brings access to a wider array of affordable lenses, making it easier to put a small kit together. In-body stabilization aids steady video capture but the autofocus system requires more user attention and won't give the same success rate as the Sony.

Fujifilm X-A7 - The Fujifilm has no viewfinder, which may rule it out immediately for some photographers. That being said, its interface makes a lot more effort to welcome the new user and perhaps gives more room to grow into. Its autofocus system is good but requires more input from the user and more concentration on whether it's doing what you want. A decent range of lenses and good choice of JPEG color modes are worth factoring-in to any decision.

Canon EOS M50 - The M50 perhaps goes even further than the Fujifilm towards providing a simplified, easy-to-use interface. The autofocus and eye-detection are very good, but aren't quite as immediate or dependable as the Sonys' system. The copies of the Canon kit lens we've encountered have been better than the Sony, though.


Scoring

Scoring is relative only to the other cameras in the same category. Click here to learn about the changes to our scoring system and what these numbers mean.

Sony a6100
Category: Entry Level Interchangeable Lens Camera / DSLR
Build quality
Ergonomics & handling
Features
Metering & focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Low light / high ISO performance
Viewfinder / screen rating
Performance
Movie / video mode
Connectivity
Value
PoorExcellent
Conclusion
The a6100 is an entry-level mirrorless camera built around one of the best autofocus systems we've encountered (as of late 2019). With a couple of settings changes it can be one of the most powerful point-and-shoot cameras available, capable of taking good photos in a wide range of situations.
Good for
Travel and family photography
Not so good for
Someone that wants to take full creative control over their camera
82%
Overall score