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Sony A5100


In two months the A5100 will be a decade old! It was the last of the super small and lightweight E mount cameras, so had some of the most advanced features in something this size. Now that you can pick this up for around €200 is it still interesting?... 

Sony A5100 with Sirui AF 75mm f/1.2 (Sniper series)

Key Specifiations




DR Stops:



AF points:


Vid Qual:









6fps / 25 shots

9.9 (12bit)


30s - 1/4,000th

179 (??)


4:2:0 / 8bit

100 - 25,600


3" / 0.92m / Flip only



400 (NP-FW50)


The 4D focusing was probably the A5100's headline feature, but here are some other key specs:

  • 24.3 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor

  • Bionz X image processor

  • Hybrid AF (25 CDAF & 179 PDAF)

  • 6 fps with subject-tracking

  • 3-inch flip-up touch LCD (921k dots)

  • Built-in GN4 flash

  • 1080/60p (FHD) 24p with XAVC S support

  • Simultaneous 1080p and 720p recording

  • Wi-Fi with NFC capability

The A5100 is a spiritual successor to the NEX 5 range. Sharing the same sensor and processor upgrades as the A6000 gave the image quality and speed improvements a nice boost. I'm impressed that they found room for a flash, but a hot shoe with an optional viewfinder would have been nicer in my opinion. This model predates Sony having in body image stabilization (IBIS), but you'd never fit something like that into a chassis this small anyway. 


Small & Light

My main interest in the A5100 in 2024 is just how much lens performance (and by that I mean sharpness and subject isolation) can I get from the lightest camera and lens combo and for the lowest price. This is perhaps the star of my "Budget & Light Squirrel Gear" page, if you're curious. Since the camera weighs only 283g I went on the hunt for a small, light, fast and cheap auto focus lens. Just a few years ago this would have been a real challenge. You can probably guess that I am going to bring up a Chinese brand now. They do have some really interesting ones (see below), but I'm actually going for a Korean one here. The Samyang AF 75mm f/1.8 ticks all these boxes and not only that, but it's full frame too. This lens brings the whole package to a hair over 500g (1.1lbs) and I managed to pick up both for less than €400 with a kit lens too... yeah, holy wow!

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Sony A1 vs Sony A5100 (with f1.8 lenses)


Looking at these two cameras it's hard to believe that they are using the same mount. At one third of the weight of the full frame equivalent this is going to be much nicer to carry around with me every day. 

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Samyang 75mm - @ f/1.8, 1/160h, ISO 2000



One of the main subjects I wanted to try with the 75mm Samyang lens on this camera was friendly wildlife. We have a few subjects that we can get quite close to. My wife and I mostly like to spend time with and feed them. It's nice to take the odd photo of them, but a pro camera requires more attention and can't easily be held in one hand. The A5100 on the other hand is much easier to hold with animal food in the other hand, much easier to put down, throw under my arm or even shuv in a pocket.

Shooting such small creatures up close like this can provide some really impressive subject isolation, but when focusing a bit further away for larger or less friendly subjects you might be left wanting a larger lens (entrance pupil) to get a more pronounced effect.

Samyang 75mm - @ f/1.8, 1/400h, ISO 6400



The size of the A5100 is only really comfortable with a small and light lens. The Samyang 75mm is a great combination with the body being quite plasticy, but anything bigger or more metal than that is going to feel awkward. The Sirui 75mm lens is just about ok, but is pushing the limits I feel. 


The lack of a viewfinder will bother some people, but for me (shooting friendly wildlife at their level) this has not been an issue. The size, resolution and brightness of the rear LCD is decent (not vastly different to that of the A1). Since I never use flash I also don't mind the lack of a hot shoe, but an optional viewfinder would have at least been nice. The lack of a mic input or weather sealing is rather disappointing. I wonder if Sony could squeeze that into something this size today...

Image Quality

I have been very impressed by the image quality from the A5100 sensor, especially for being a decade old crop sensor. Being used to much newer full frame sensors, I do of course notice a drop in quality, but it's nowhere near as much as I was expecting and that's especially true once you combine it with a similarly good / fast lens like this.


I initially put the images through DxO PureRAW to reduce the noise, but that would have added over €100 to the budget here, which I really don't think is worth it. Also I noticed some negative effects to the colours, so I reprocessed all the original RAW files for the images you see here.

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Sirui 75mm - @ f/1.2, 1/800h, ISO 100



The biggest issue with the A5100 is it's lack of buttons and dials. Being used to manual or aperture priority, It took a lot of fiddling to get comfortable with this, but I was surprised that it was even possible. The most awkward thing that remained for me was switching to manual focus. There are just not enough buttons available (or the ability) to have a toggle assigned to a custom button. I had to use the delete button to go into the focus modes and then switch between AF-S and M.


Being no front or real control dial was a struggle considering I have been using a camera with them for a long time now. The rear wheel is not an ideal dial for controlling the aperture, shutter speed and ISO, but amazingly it can be done considering that it's also a four-way pad. Once used to that I didn't get too many problems, but it made me realize that I could be using my main camera a bit smarter than I do right now.

Sirui 75mm - @ f/1.6, 1/250h, ISO 1000


Auto Focus

Being used to the advanced focusing of the Sony A1 I assumed this would be a huge step down, but I was pleasantly surprised by the focusing is on the A5100. Despite only being one year newer than the Sony A7, it feels vastly better. Despite only having 179 phase detect AF points it does have reasonably good subject detection tracking. As long as your subject isn't too small in the frame it will be able to use some of the surrounding PDAF sensors to follow it around the frame. Don't expect miracles with that density and this old processor, but I thought it wasn't bad at all. Although the focus tracking is great it does fall down when subjects are slight facing away from you. Then it will drift to their shoulder or back simply because it's closer to the camera, which then feels less like actual tracking and more like closest subject priority.


Extreme Lens

Just after I bought the Sony A5100 and Samyang lens I discovered that Sirui had launched a 75mm f/1.2 in their auto focus "Sniper Series". When I saw the price (€300) I couldn't resist it, so you'll see a couple of samples here from that (above/below). If you want to see my review of that lens click here

Sirui 75mm - @ f/1.2, 1/250h, ISO 1000


Final Thoughts

I have been really impressed with what this camera can do for something so small and light. There are many interesting, reasonably priced, small, light and fast lenses coming out lately, which adds a lot of value to these smaller sensor cameras. After carrying this camera and a 75mm lens around for a few days I have been blown away by what it's capable of for being a decade old and the absolute bargain it can be with one of these lenses considering that size, weight and most importantly the image quality.


I wish that Sony could have kept the A5xxx series of cameras going, but considering the ZV-E10 has a 24mp sensor and no IBIS or EVF that is kind of what you get there. Plus is has two extra buttons, a control wheel and a flip-out screen, for not much more weight, so maybe that is the spiritual successor. The image quality of wildlife (friendly ones at least) and bokeh panoramas that I have been able to get from this little camera have really impressed me!


Bokeh Panos

To end this review I wanted to show what is possible with the Sony A5100 and a small lens for shooting bokeh panoramas. This technique (A-K.A. The Brenizer Method) is a great way to keep the shallow depth of field from your lens, while capturing a wider field of view.

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