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Sony Alpha ILCE-5100 (A5100) Review

Sony Alpha ILCE-5100 (A5100) Review - We review the compact Sony Alpha A5100, with a 24mp sensor, high speed phase-detection focus and built in Wi-Fi.

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Category : Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera
Product : Sony Alpha A5100 (ILCE-5100)
Price : BUY NOW£727
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Sony Alpha ILCE A5100 (2)

The Sony Alpha A5100 is an update to the Sony Alpha A5000, and is one of the smallest APS-C sensor mirrorless cameras with a built in flash. The updated A5100 adds phase-detection focus, a touch-screen, as well as a new 24.3 megapixel sensor, instead of the 20.1 megapixel sensor on the A5000. The Sony Alpha A5100 is priced at £549 (RRP) with the compact 16-50mm lens shown here. The camera features a tilting 3inch touch-screen and ISO sensitivity is manually adjustable up to ISO25,600.

Sony Alpha A5100 Features

Sony Alpha ILCE A5100 (12)

The Sony Alpha A5100 has a 24.3 megapixel APS-C sensor. It has built-in Wi-Fi, and NFC, to allow it to connect to devices such as smartphones or tablets. There is a BIONZ X image processor designed to produce clear, detailed, low noise images shooting up to ISO25600. The camera benefits from 179-point phase detection focus built into the sensor, and uses the same sensor as the Sony Alpha A6000

Photos can be uploaded directly to Facebook (using the Direct Upload app) from the camera with other apps available as well, including one which allows you to use your smartphone as a remote control. There are plenty of apps to download on the PlayMemories Camera Apps website, some are free, and some cost money.

Sony Alpha ILCE A5100 (5)

To help take creative pictures there are a number of picture modes such as poster effect, miniature and selective colour. The camera will automatically crop portrait photos creating a second copy of the photo. Focus includes eye-AF which ensures the eye is the focus point in portrait photos. 

Videos are recorded in full HD with stereo sound, and using the power zoom lens can zoom in and out without losing focus. The Alpha A5100 is available with the 16-50mm Power Zoom lens, which is collapsible when switched off, making it extremely compact. The lens is the equivalent of 24-75mm in 35mm terms, and features optical image stabilisation. 
Sony Alpha ILCE A5100 (6)
Key Features

  • 24.3 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor
  • 3inch tilting touch-screen, 921k dot resolution
  • ISO100 to ISO25600
  • BIONZ X™ image processing engine
  • 179 phase-detection points
  • 6fps continuous shooting with AF tracking
  • Eye AF focus
  • FullHD Video recording
  • Built in pop-up flash (GN4)
  • 180 tiltable LCD screen
  • NFC + WIFI - One touch remote, One touch sharing
  • Sony PlayMemories Camera Apps
  • Available in black, or white

Sony Alpha A5100 Handling

Sony Alpha ILCE A5100 (8)

The Sony Alpha A5100 has a compact plastic body and a good rubberised hand grip, as well as a plastic square on the back for your right-hand thumb, and weighs just 224g without lens. There is a built in pop up flash that is activated with a small button next to the flash. The A5100 has an updated and slightly more professional looking texture when compared to the A5000.

On top is an on/off switch, as well as the shutter release button that is surrounded by a zoom-rocker lever, this can be used to control the power zoom, or zoom into photos in playback mode. The rear scroll wheel makes it easy to cycle through the menus, and the camera benefits from the Sony Alpha style of menus, rather than the Sony NEX menus, making the camera more familiar for other Sony users. Despite there being a touch screen, this can't be used for scrolling through the menus.

Sony Alpha ILCE A5100 (7)

The 3 inch screen is tiltable at up to 180 degrees, ideal for shooting with the camera low down or taking perfectly framed self-portraits. When tilted forwards the camera will automatically switch to self-portrait mode and countdown before taking the photo. The screen has a good resolution and is easy to view with a "Sunny Weather" setting available for when you are outdoors in the sun, this brightens the screen and makes it easier to see in sunlight.

Sony Alpha ILCE A5100 (10)

A memory card slot can be found on the left hand side under the HDMI/USB flap, and the camera will take either Sony Memory Sticks or SD memory cards. 

Sony Alpha A5100 App Screens (1) (Custom) Sony Alpha A5100 App Screens (2) (Custom)
Sony Alpha A5100 App Store Sony Alpha A5100 Text Input

When you've set the camera to connect to your Wi-Fi network you can access the applications where you can use any that are already installed, or download more. Some apps cost money including Time-lapse (£7.99), Multiple Exposure (£3.99), Lens Compensation (£7.99), and Multi-Frame NR (£3.99), with Direct Upload, Photo Retouch, Flick Add-on, Smart Remote Control, and Picture Effect+ free.

Sony Alpha ILCE A5100 (9)

Battery life is rated at 400 shots according to CIPA test results, with the camera using a Sony Info-lithium rechargeable battery, which means the camera is able to tell you exactly how much battery life is left as a percentage, for example, 51%. 

Speed - We took a number of shots to test the camera's responsiveness, from switch on to first photo, shot to shot, focusing speed etc. We take a number of shots and then use the average to ensure accurate and consistent tests, making it easy to compare with other cameras.

  Sony Alpha A5100
Shutter Response <0.05s
Wide - Focus / Shutter Response 0.2s
Full zoom - Focus / Shutter Response 0.15s
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo 2.1s
Shot to Shot without Flash 0.5s
Shot to Shot with Flash 1.0s
Continuous Shooting - JPEG
(shots before slow down)
5.8fps (119 shots)
Continuous Shooting - Flash 1fps
Continuous Shooting - RAW 5.8fps (24 shots)

Switch on speed is a little slower than expected for this class of camera, however that's due to having to wait for the power zoom lens to extend. Focus and shutter response is very fast, and continuous shooting is quick at 5.8fps with continuous AF active.

Sony Alpha A5100 Performance

The performance section is where we look at the image quality performance of the camera. Additional sample photos and product shots are available in the Equipment Database, where you can add your own review, photos and product ratings.

Sony Alpha A5100 (ILCE-5100) Sample Photos

Sample Photos - Photos have bright saturated colours, with reliable exposure. Portrait photos taken with the built in flash show good colour and skin tones, with very little to no red-eye, although occasionally the flash seemed to slightly over-exposure photos.

Sony Alpha A5100 (ILCE-5100) Lens test images

Lens Performance - The lens performs well in a variety of situations, although images are a little soft straight from the camera, and slightly sharper images would have been nice. Images become soft in the very far corners when shooting wide-angle. Macro performance is reasonable, although it can be difficult to get an extremely detailed sharp shot when focusing this close to the camera, and images are a little soft when using the full optical zoom of the 16-50mm kit lens. Distortion is low whether shooting wide-angle or telephoto shots. Purple fringing and chromatic aberration is well controlled. There are three settings to provide lens compensation: Shading / Vignetting, Chromatic Aberration, and Lens Distortion, with these being set to On by default. For the power zoom lens, it's not possible to switch off lens distortion correction. 

Sony Alpha A5100 (ILCE-5100) ISO test images

ISO Noise Performance - Noise is low from ISO100, all the way up to ISO800, with noise starting to increase slightly at ISO1600 with a drop in detail, and then again at ISO3200, although results should still produce usable results with good colour reproduction. Noise increases again at ISO6400, with a slight drop in colour saturation and a more noticeable drop in detail. ISO12800 and above shows higher levels of noise again although results may still be usable when resized. Noise reduction is quite strong, and this does appear to remove some fine detail, although it is possible to change the High ISO NR (Noise Reduction) setting from Normal to Low, which should produce more detailed photos. 

Sony Alpha A5100 (ILCE-5100) White-balance test images

White Balance Performance - Auto White Balance (AWB) performs well under tungsten lighting with a slightly warm result which will be pleasing to many, and for a more accurate result the tungsten preset performs extremely well. AWB does a good job under fluorescent lighting with the fluorescent presets giving a slight colour cast.

Panoramic | 1/160 sec | f/9.0 | 16.0 mm | ISO 100Panoramic | 1/160 sec | f/9.0 | 16.0 mm | ISO 100

Panorama mode - The camera features a panoramic sweep mode where you simply press the shutter button and pan the camera in the direction you want to take the photo. You need to move the camera from one direction to the other at a quite specific speed, otherwise the camera will fail to create the panoramic or alternatively produce a panoramic with a black edge, which will need cropping off later. Results are good, with good detail and a fairly high resolution result, although there is some ghosting noticeable with moving subjects.

Sony Alpha A5100 (ILCE-5100) Digital filters

Digital Filters - When using the picture effects, the camera records the altered JPEG but does not let you use this feature with raw enabled. There are also colour options available which can be customised, letting you set contrast, saturation and sharpness. There are a number of ways to improve dynamic range in harsh lighting conditions, and when in intelligent Auto or Superior Auto+ the camera will automatically use the backlight scene mode if it decides it's necessary. In program mode you can switch DRO (Dynamic Range Optimisation) or HDR (High Dynamic Range) on, with these featuring Auto or manual settings. The HDR mode combines a number of shots taken at different exposures. Setting the HDR mode to 6EV gives an unrealistic looking image.

Video - The Sony Alpha A5100 records full HD video with stereo sound, and when used with a power zoom lens provides smooth zoom during recording. Optical image stabilisation also helps keep videos smooth with the quality of videos looking good. You can use the zoom ring around the lens, and the lens zooms quickly, alternatively you can use the zoom switch, and this is slower and smoother at zooming in and out. Max ISO for video is ISO12800, and example videos recorded in low light can be found here and here.

Value For Money

The Sony Alpha A5100 is available for £535 with the 16-50mm Power Zoom kit lens, which makes it reasonably good value for money, and is up against the following compact mirrorless cameras with tilting screens:

Fujifilm X-M1, 16-50mm kit lens, 5fps, Wi-Fi, £349
Panasonic Lumix GF6, 14-42mm kit lens, 4.2fps, Wi-Fi, NFC, £339
Samsung NX3000, 20-50mm or 18-55mm kit lens, 5fps, Wi-Fi, NFC, £419
Olympus PEN Lite E-PL7, 14-42mm kit lens, 8fps, Wi-Fi, £449
Olympus OM-D E-M10, 14-42mm kit lens, 8fps, Wi-Fi, £529

You'll also need to buy a memory card and a case or bag to keep your camera safe and protected - have a look at our complete guide to camera bags.

Sony Alpha A5100 Verdict

The Sony Alpha A5100 is one of the more compact mirrorless cameras available with built in flash, particularly considering it has a 24megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor, and fast hybrid AF focus. For a smaller mirrorless camera you could have a look at the smaller sensor Nikon 1 series, or the Panasonic Lumix GM1 with Micro Four Thirds sensor, both feature smaller bodies and smaller lenses. The A5100 has impressive phase-detection focus and an improved appearance, although is let down slightly by the 16-50mm kit lens, which gives soft images at the telephoto end, and for the best results we would recommend a prime lens.

The Sony Alpha A5100 is comfortable to hold with a large rubberised grip, and produces excellent images with good colour and reasonable detail. It has a number of useful features including Automatic Dynamic Range Optimisation (DRO) and HDR modes to expand dynamic range, as well as good noise performance. The built in Wi-Fi and NFC is a useful feature and the capabilities of the camera can be improved through the installation of additional apps. The tilting screen makes it easy to take self portraits or shoot at different angles. For those looking for one of the smallest mirrorless cameras available with an APS-C sensor, built in flash and Wi-Fi, the Sony Alpha A5100 would make an excellent choice - although to get the best out of the 24.3 megapixel sensor prime lenses are recommended.

  The Sony Alpha A5100 delivers high speed focus, a high resolution sensor, built in Wi-Fi, all in a compact mirrorless camera body.

Sony Alpha A5100 Pros

Comfortable to hold
Compact with 16-50mm lens
Good image quality and colour
DRO and HDR modes
Quick focus and shutter response
Sony PlayMemories Apps available
6fps with continuous AF
Wi-Fi and NFC
Low noise

Sony Alpha A5100 Cons

Picture effects are JPEG only (raw not available)
Have to pay for additional features as "apps" that are free with other cameras: Time-lapse, Multiple-exposure, Multi Frame NR etc
Strong noise reduction
Kit lens not the best



Sony Alpha A5100 (ILCE-5100) Specifications

Image Sensor
Pixels24.3Mp (Megapixels)
Pixels (W)6000
Pixels (H)4000
Sensor TypeCMOS
Sensor SizeAPS-C
Sensor Size (width)23.2mm
Sensor Size (height)15.4mm
Aspect Ratio
  • 3:2
  • 16:9
LCD Monitor
LCD Monitor3in
Screen resolution921600 dot
Touch ScreenYes
Focusing modes
  • Autofocus
Exposure Control
Shutter speeds shortest1/4000sec
Shutter speeds longest30sec
Exp modes
  • Program
  • Aperture-Priority
  • Shutter-Priority
  • Manual
  • Scene modes
  • AB
  • Centre-weighted - Average
  • Multi Pattern
  • Spot
ISO sensitivity100 - 16000
White balance
  • Auto
  • Manual
  • Outdoors/Daylight
  • Cloudy
  • Incandescent
  • Fluorescent
  • Shade
Exposure Comp+/-3
Viewfinder ResolutionNo Data
Shooting Options
Continuous shooting6fps
Movie modeYes
Video Resolution
  • 1920x1080 FullHD
Video FPS25p, 50p
Stereo SoundYes
Optical Zoom with VideoYes
Other Features
Image StabilisationNo
Card Type
  • SD
  • SDHC
  • Memory Stick (Sony)
  • SDXC
File Type
  • RAW
  • JPG
  • RAW + JPG
Power Source
Battery TypeNP-FW50
CIPA Rating400
Box Contents
Box ContentsPower cord, Rechargeable Battery NP-FW50, AC Adaptor (AC-UB10), Shoulder strap, Body cap, Micro USB cable, Kit Lens Options: Power zoom lens kit (SELP 1650) or Zoom Lens Kit (SEL 55210)

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16 Nov 2015 11:39AM
it would be helpful to know what functions the touch-screen has ie; touch focus/shutter?
or just for selecting general menu settings?
first sony camera with touch-screen I"ve seen,
could be useful as a second (smaller/lighter) body to my a6000.

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