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Sony A5100 review

Ben Pitt
21 Oct 2014
Our Rating 
549

A stylish camera, but the Sony A5100 has an odd mix of advanced and beginner-oriented features.

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Specifications

Sensor resolution: 24 megapixels, Sensor size: 23.5x15.6mm (APS-C), Focal length multiplier: 1.5x, Viewfinder: None, LCD screen: 3in (921,600 dots), Optical zoom (35mm-equivalent focal lengths): 3.1x (24-75), 35mm-equivalent aperture: f/5.2-8.4, Lens mount: Sony E mount, Weight: 385g, Size (HxWxD): 63x119x67mm

Sony's CSC have an enviable track record in our reviews. The old NEX brand was retired, but the cameras, unchanged in concept, continue coming under the Alpha brand. The A5100 has all the usual traits: big APS-C sensor, interchangeable lenses and a slim body that's much closer in appearance and operation to a compact camera than an SLR.

The A5100's features and price place it between the Sony A5000 and A6000 in the line-up. That means it can be seen as a replacement for the old NEX-5T (or the almost identical 5R), though it's far closer in most ways to its current-generation siblings.

The 24-megapixel sensor with 179 integrated phase-detect autofocus points comes straight from the A6000, and that bodes well for both image quality and autofocus speed. Externally, it's much closer to the A5000 than the NEX-5T. There's an integrated pop-up flash, which is much neater than the NEX-5T's clip-on unit, although it also means the A5100 can't accommodate an optional viewfinder. The side-mounted card slot is an improvement, giving easy access when the camera is tripod-mounted.

Sony A5100 side

We’re disappointed that the NEX-5T’s command dial and Fn button have disappeared. As with the A5000, there are five customisable buttons on the back of the camera. However, four are assigned by default to shooting mode, drive mode, ISO speed and exposure compensation – sensible choices that we'd be inclined to leave as they are. The remaining one accesses the In-Camera Guide, which more experienced photographers won't need. However, we had a tough time choosing between the long list of options, eventually settling on AE lock. For other functions including white balance, JPEG/RAW, focusing mode, flash and metering options we had to go into the main menu, which is spread across six tabs and 23 pages. This is a big step back from the NEX-5T, which gave quick access to any six functions via its Fn button.

Sony A5100 back

One advantage over the A5000 is that screen is touch-sensitive, which makes it easy to move the autofocus point. However, it took us a while to get to grips with the various autofocus-related options, which are spread out over five parameters in the menu. It's not possible to specify the autofocus area in the automatic shooting modes – only to enable a touch shutter option that focuses and shoots when the touchscreen is prodded. The touchscreen isn't used for menu navigation.

Sony A5100 selfie

The screen is articulated, tilting up by up to 180 degrees for self-portraits. We really appreciate being able to tilt the screen by 80 or 90 degrees to shoot at elbow height. The screen's strong reflections are less appealing, making it virtually impossible to use in direct sunlight. Thankfully, setting its brightness to a Sunny Weather mode in setup menu made the image much brighter. 

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