Unveiled: Fast Focus and Fine Form with the Alpha a5100 Mirrorless Digital Camera


As if Sony didn’t have enough great cameras on the market right now, the company just announced a new mirrorless camera that will nestle perfectly among its mid-range E-mount shooters, providing consumers with a compact, Wi-Fi and touchscreen-enabled, APS-C format camera with the focus speed, image quality, and video format to match more advanced models. The Alpha a5100 Mirrorless Digital Camera, which replaces the NEX-5T in the Sony hierarchy, also represents the end of the NEX naming convention. Going forward, all Sony interchangeable-lens digital cameras, whether mirrorless or DSLR will be dubbed “Alpha” cameras.

The E-mount Alpha a5100 is available simply as a black camera body and also in two kits, one with the black body and black 16-50mm lens and one with a white body and black 16-50mm lens. Of course, a main draw of the a5100 is that it is a very compact camera, compatible with a wide range of E-mount lenses, offering DSLR-like versatility with point-and-shoot convenience.

To some degree it is easy to summarize the a5100―it offers the form factor of the Alpha a5000 with the sensor of the Alpha a6000. And this is great news because you now have a camera that is 4" long; weighs 8 ounces; and packs a 24.3MP APS-C CMOS sensor and the impressive Fast Hybrid autofocus system, which combines 179 Phase-detection AF points and 25 Contrast-detection AF points to reach focus in 0.07 second. Combine this AF system and high-resolution RAW capture with an ISO sensitivity range that reaches 25600 and a 6 fps continuous shooting rate, and the advantages of this camera take shape. The BIONZ X image processor, the same processor housed in Sony’s flagship mirrorless a7 cameras, enables the image detail, minimized noise, and performance speeds found in the a5100, including JPEG burst shooting up to 56 frames with continuous auto-exposure and autofocus.

Furthermore, the a5100 offers Full HD 1080p in the XAVC S format at 60, 30, and 24 fps, which is something that the a5000 and a6000 do not. Its Dual Video Recording feature allows you to record simultaneously in a high-quality format and an Internet-ready format. TRILUMINOS color and 4K stills output are supported on compatible televisions and for serious videographers, uncompressed 8-bit 4:2:2 clean-screen video files can be recorded to external recording devices via the camera’s HDMI connection.

The AF system is worth mentioning again. Not only is it fast and accurate, but it provides enabling features such as Lock-On AF to maintain focus on a moving subject and Eye AF for crisp, confident portraiture. The Hybrid AF system is supported for video recording, as well, and it offers settings to control AF tracking speed and duration during recording. Also, the camera’s 3.0-inch 921k-dot LCD monitor provides Touch AF for a simple tap on the LCD to place your focus. 

Encouraging a popular trend, this bright LCD screen can flip up 180° for self-portraiture and odd-angle composition. For simple selfies, the Touch Focus and Touch Shutter functions are also helpful, as is the self-timer, comfortable grip, and Soft Skin Effect, one of many available in-camera picture effects to enhance your images. Posterization, Pop Color, Retro, and Toy Camera are other effects available in both still and video modes. Also, Scene Selections such as Landscape, Sweep Panorama, Sunset, and both iAuto and Superior Auto modes are supported.

With built-in Wi-Fi, the a5100 enables one-touch sharing of its images to iOS and Android smart devices, computers, and even Wi-Fi enabled televisions; with NFC, a touch between camera and device simplifies the initial linking with Android mobile devices. The free PlayMemories Mobile app is needed for sharing and it also allows remote camera control from your device. Furthermore, twenty-four PlayMemories Camera apps are available to provide a wealth of additional functions from picture effects and retouching to lens-compensation control and time-lapse and multiple-exposure shooting.

Despite its small size, the a5100 provides comprehensive control over camera settings and functions including access to full manual exposure control. A rear-mounted control wheel allow quick selection of shooting modes and camera settings and seven customizable buttons can be assigned any of 47 functions, which is a huge benefit to those who get to know their camera and like to work it fast. A power zoom lever is ideally placed for smooth one-handed control of the lens’s zoom and a one-touch video button is placed right where your thumb rests. A built-in pop-up flash is provided to add light when needed, and the camera supports Memory Stick and SD, SDHC, SDXC media.

Included in the a5100 kits is the 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS E-mount Retractable Zoom Lens. Its retracting feature maintains the compact form of the camera when powered down and provides a versatile focal-length range equivalent to 24-75mm in the 35mm format. Optical SteadyShot Image Stabilization provides four-stop compensation to reduce the blur caused by camera shake and an internal stepping motor affords quiet and smooth autofocus. One ED and four aspherical lens elements correct for curvature of field and spherical and chromatic aberration for color-accurate, high-contrast reproduction across the entire image.

Whether you appreciate the compact size as you step up from a point-and-shoot camera, or the Hybrid Autofocus and gapless on-chip micro-lens design of the sensor as an alternate to your DSLR, it’s clear that with the Alpha a5100, Sony has put together all the right pieces to offer a camera that will rightfully appeal to all levels of photographers.

Lens Mount E-mount
Image Sensor APS-C (23.5 x 15.6mm) Exmor CMOS
Effective Pixels 24.3 MP
Total Pixels 24.7 MP
Maximum Resolution 6000 x 4000
Aspect Ratio 3:2, 16:9
Still Image File Format JPEG (DCF Ver. 2.0, Exif Ver.2.3, MPF Baseline compliant), RAW (Sony ARW 2.3 format), RAW & JPEG
Image Processing Engine BIONZ X
Digital Zoom 1.4x, 2x, 4x, 5.7x, 8x
Storage Media Memory Stick PRO Duo / PRO-HG Duo / XC-HG Duo, SD/SDHC/SDXC 
Viewfinder Type None
Shutter Type Electronically-controlled, vertical-traverse, focal-plane 
Shutter Speed Still Images:1/4000 to 30 sec. (30 sec. in Bulb mode)
Movies: 1/4000 to 1/4 sec. (1/3 steps)
AUTO mode: Up to 1/60 sec.
Auto slow shutter mode: Up to 1/30 sec.
Flash Sync Speed 1/160 sec.
Drive Modes Single, Continuous (High/Low), Bracketing (Single/Continuous)
Top Continuous Shooting Rate 6.0 fps for up to 56 (JPEG Fine L) or 23 (RAW) frames
Self-Timer 10 sec., 2.0 sec.
Interval Recording Not specified by manufacturer
Exposure Metering  1,200-zone evaluative metering
Sensitivity: EV -1 to EV 20 (at ISO 100 equivalent with f/2.0 lens) 
Metering Modes Multi-segment, Center-weighted, Spot 
Exposure Modes iAUTO, Superior Auto, Programmed AE (P), Aperture priority (A), Shutter-speed priority (S), Manual (M), AE Lock, HDR, Sweep Panorama
Scene Selection: Portrait, Sports Action, Macro, Landscape, Sunset, Night Scene, Handheld Twilight, Night Portrait, Anti-Blur

Dynamic Range Functions: Off, Dynamic Range Optimizer (Auto/Level (1-5)), Auto High Dynamic Range (Auto Exposure Difference, Exposure Difference Level (1.0-6.0 EV, 1.0 EV step))

Exposure Compensation Still Images: - 3.0 to + 3.0 EV in 1/3 EV steps
Movies: - 2.0 to + 2.0 EV in 1/3 EV steps
Exposure Bracketing Single, with 1/3, 1/2, 2/3, 1.0, 2.0, 3.0 EV increments, 3/5 frames (1.0, 2.0, 3.0 EV: only 3 frames) selectable
ISO Sensitivity Still Images: Auto, 100-25,600 in 1/3 EV steps
Movies: Auto, 100-12,800 in 1/3 EV steps
Autofocus System Fast Hybrid AF (phase-detection, contrast-detection) with Touch AF capability
Number of Focus Points Phase-Detection AF: 179 points
Contrast-Detection AF: 25 points
Focus Modes AF-A (Automatic AF), AF-S (Single-shot AF), AF-C (Continuous AF), DMF (Direct Manual Focus), MF (Manual Focus), Focus lock, Face detection

AF Area: Zone / Center / Flexible Spot (S/M/L) / Lock-on / Eye 

Built-In Flash Yes
Guide Number: 13.1' / 4.0 m at ISO 100
Coverage: 16mm
Flash Modes Pre-flash TTL, Auto, Fill, Slow Sync, Rear Sync, Red-Eye Reduction, Off
Flash Compensation From - 2.0 to +2.0 EV (1/3 EV steps)
Flash Bracketing 1/3, 1/2, 2/3, 1.0, 2.0, 3.0 EV steps, 3/5 frames (1.0/2.0/3.0 EV: only 3 frames) selectable
External Flash Interface None
White Balance Modes Auto, Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Warm White / Cool White / Day White / Daylight, Flash, Underwater,  Color Temperature <2500 to 9900K>, Color Filter <G7 to M7(15-step) / A7 to B7 (15-step)>, Custom

Bracketing: 3 frames, H/L selectable

Movie Recording Yes, including Dual Video REC function
Resolution and frame rate:
1280 x 720p / 120 fps, 50 Mbps
1920 x 1080p / 60 fps, 50 Mbps / 30 fps, 50 Mbps / 24 fps, 50 Mbps
1920 x 1080p / 60 fps, 28 Mbps, PS / 24 fps, 24 Mbps, FX / 24 fps, 17 Mbps, FH
1920 x 1080i / 60 fps, 24 Mbps, FX /  60 fps, 17 Mbps, FH
1440 x 1080 / 30 fps, 12 Mbps
640 x 480 / 30 fps, 3 Mbps
File Format XAVC S: MPEG-4 AVC/H.264
MP4: MPEG-4 AVC/H.264
Audio Recording Yes, with video via built-in stereo mic
Audio File Format XAVC S: LPCM 2ch
AVCHD: Dolby Digital (AC-3) 2ch, Dolby Digital Stereo Creator
MP4: MPEG-4 AAC-LC 2ch
External Microphone Input No
Headphone Jack No
Maximum Recording Time Continuous: 29 min.
Monitor 3.0" wide TFT Vari-Angle LCD Touchscreen with WhiteMagic technology (921,600 dots)
Tilt: 180 degrees up
Brightness Control: Manual (5 steps between -2 and +2), Sunny Weather mode
Histogram, Zebra, Peaking MF, Grid Lines
Interface HDMI micro (Type-D) Out (1920 x 1080 / 60p / 60i, YCbCr 4:2:2 8-bit / RGB 8-bit, BRAVIA Sync control), Multi/Micro-USB, PC remote
Wi-Fi Yes, 802.11b/g/n, 2.4 GHz band
View on smartphone/computer/TV
NFC Yes, one-touch remote, one-touch sharing
Remote Control Optional
Power Source NP-FW50 Lithium-Ion Rechargeable Battery Pack (7.4 V, 1080 mAh; included)
AC Adapter AC-UB10 (included)
AC Adapter AC-PW20 (not included)
Dimensions 4.3 x 2.5 x 1.4" / 109.6 x 62.8 x 35.7mm
Weight With battery and memory card: 10 oz / 283 g
Body only: 7.9 oz / 224 g

1 Comment

Where are the 7 programmable buttons located? Did Sony specify? It seems as if they just have the one mode dial and a trash can....and a menu button. They seem to be telling most markets about this and I wonder if that was an oversight, or I am missing something, or if all the pictures are just pre-production.