Arriving on launch as the world’s smallest interchangeable-lens camera, the Sony A5100 was also one of the first to depart from its manufacturer’s formerly NEX branded series to its more universal ‘Alpha’ branding, a naming convention at one time reserved for its DSLR and SLT cameras.
Coming after the A5000 and A6000, the palm-sized A5100 offers a viable alternative or complementary option. It's big on features despite diminutive proportions, including a high-resolution – at least for its class – 24.3 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor.
For those photographers into ‘selfies’ as much as still life, this portable compact system camera also comes sporting a tilting LCD that can be flipped upwards through 180°. Not only that, but, falling into line with its rivals, the monitor here is usefully a touch screen, thereby providing users with a best of both worlds operational approach.
Convenience and ease of use is further extended by the fact that the camera naturally features Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity options, whilst accuracy and swiftness of performance is enhanced via a whopping 179 focal plane detection AF points to truly allow the camera to strut its stuff.
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Feeling solid in the palm, and in spite of its slightly utilitarian appearance and design, this Sony also handily finds room to feature a pop-up flash. Plus, what has remained consistently praise worthy across each iteration of ‘Alpha’ cameras is that results are colour-rich and contrast-y, requiring little if any alteration straight out of the camera. Battery life is also good for 400 shots from a full charge.
Given the above, this is a good option for beginners, or those upgrading their image capture device from a smartphone. On the Sony A5100’s launch there were originally both body-only and kit lens bundle options available to purchase. Small cameras like this often look a little top heavy with larger ‘glass’ affixed to their front plate, but a sound companion in this case in terms of both versatility and portability is its maker’s retracting 16-50mm power zoom.
A plus for anyone sizing up this option for video use is that the mechanically powered zoom ensures a steady jerk-free motion when filming video, which otherwise requires skill to achieve by hand with a manual lens; again making for a sound starter option.
What was, at its conception, the smallest Alpha CSC in Sony’s range, the jacket-pocket-friendly A5100 is more than capable of competing with the big boys.
Sony A5100 Key Specs:
Tiny, cheap and compatible with a fast-developing lens line
Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 24.3MP | Lens mount: Sony E-mount | Screen: 3-inch tilting touchscreen, 921,600 dots | Viewfinder: na | Max burst speed: 6fps | Max video resolution: 1080p | User level: Beginner/Enthusiast