Sony a6100: Much better than good enough.

Scroll down to content

Wrote a post about the a6000 last year entitled “When good enough is exactly what I am looking for.”

_DSC3114

If it were not for a wedding shoot trade where I was determined to have two matched bodies on hand I would likely still have it.

As time passed after the wedding I found myself looking for a great all-around APS-C body that could serve as a light and compact daily shooter and could also be used for video. Should have been another a6000, right? As I stated then, “On paper, a Sony E mount camera should be it for me since that is what is in my big boy camera time bag.” But instead, I decided to try the Fujifilm X-T 100. Why? Partly because it went on sale and its holiday price was amazing ($349 brand new at that time, $399 w/ a kit zoom).

X-T disappointment.

The X-T 100 was capable of creating beautiful images and had other strong points. Very compact and had good ergonomics.

Fuji La

My wife encouraged me to start creating Youtube videos again and thought the X-T 100’s swing around screen would do the trick. Lack of usable 4K did not bother me since I shoot 1080p. But for my intended uses, it had a crucial flaw. AF. Did not need the best of the best AF, but…

  • Stills AF. While serviceable in isolation Sony has spoiled me. Going back and forth from the stellar A7III, and less so the A7II, the difference is quite noticeable, however. Hard to acclimate to a beat slower AF speeds when using both systems. Oddly found that even the older X-E2 outperformed the X-T100 by a bit with less hunting before locking. Not terrible. But noticeable. Hoping they give customers a firmware update like they did with the X-Pro 1 I had.
  • Video AF. Slow is fine. But after a few attempts, I found it just about unusable. Not keen on selfies or vlogging. but even mounted to a tripod it was not capable of tracking a face successfully. I found myself pausing trying to help the X-T100 stay focused, which led to some awkward staring contests with the camera mid-video. Not horrible. But not optimal.

I am not saying that this is not a good camera. It is. It just did not meet my specific needs and repeated stills capabilities I already had.

The easy answer then. Get the newly announced X-T 200 with improved AF. They even added proper 4K. But at $699 it was quite a jump from the $349 I paid for the X-T100. Especially when…

Sale happened.

The $748 release price of the a6100 was more than I was willing to pay. But a recent sale price of $598 not only undercuts the X-T 200 by $100 it is also now only $150 more than a still on sale a6000. At that price point, and considering my X-T 100 experience I started rethinking my original issues with APS-C Sony cameras. One thing I never had a problem with on any of them, other than the original A7, was AF.

Why didn’t I use one of the A7 bodies I already have you likely did not ask, but I will answer anyway?

  • Size. Would rather a video body be smaller than even the already pretty small A7s.
  • No tilty-flippy screen. Sure I could monitor video remotely on my phone using an app, but I would rather not add an unnecessary level of complexity. I could purchase a screen to mount on top of my camera, but that raises the same where do I put the mic then issues of the a6100. And I would rather not add an unnecessary level of complexity.

a6xxx rethink.

Below I will list my a6xxx issues with a rethink where applicable.

  • Have unfortunate ergonomics.
    • Yep. Basically, I lowered my expectations and got over it.
    • But a friend and co-worker gave hope. His Small Rig grip felt very good in hand if I am ever inclined, especially with the wood grip. The a6100 is small enough that it would still be quite compact.
  • Have the same old sensor since the a6000 and it shows.
    • The a6100 brings a new processor which does make a noticeable difference.
    • The old sensor was no slouch.

Bikes

  • Have unsatisfactory screen articulation. I wanted at least one camera in my bag that had a 180 degree side swivel screen (like the X-T100 or EOS M50). The very expensive Sonys a6###s do have 180 vertical flip screens, but they either flip up blocking the hot shoe and limiting mic use (Sony a6100/64006600 for example) or down blocking the tripod mount (Nikon z50 for example).
    • As luck would have it the Rode mic I have does not completely obstruct the view of the screen. Not optimal, but it is enough to keep myself and objects in frame so it is usable as is.

00100lrportrait_00100_burst20200201162338863_cover

  • Have no good pancake solutions available. The 20mm f/2.8 and the power zoom pancake lenses are not good IQ wise. They both regularly disappointed hence the low gallery count for both. The good existing and newly released APS-C lenses are large and expensive and along with full-frame lenses defeat the whole purpose of having a compact camera.
    • No good “Sony” pancakes. I forgot about the 35mm f/2.8 and 24mmf/2.8 Rokinon/Samyang lenses. While both are full-frame lenses they work just fine on APS-C. The 24mm is what I will likely go to since it is a close spec match for the 27mm f/2.8 Fujifilm lens I liked. And I already know that the 35mm will do just fine on an a6xxx camera based on past experience.

Rokinon 35mm f/2.8 a6000

I’ll add another factor that led me to Fuji that I did not mention earlier. Aesthetics. Fujifilm cameras look the business. But in the end that was not good enough. Ultimately form follows function so Sony it is.

So here we go again with a crop Sony camera.

00100lrportrait_00100_burst20200131194224795_cover

Same strengths as the a6000.

  • Built-in pop up flash.
  • Great AF-C performance with 11fps makes for a great camera to capture action and sports.

Friday Night Lights

  • APS-C inherently brings a 1.5x crop extended reach to full-frame lenses. A great alternative to similarly priced factory teleconverters without the loss of light those bring. As an example, I am very much looking forward to 85mm f/1.4 on APS-C like the Samsung pairing I enjoyed so much.

Brother Art Portrait by request

I already knew what I would like the a6100.

But there were pleasant surprises also.

  • Autofocus
    • I was expecting AF to be good, but it is amazing. The a6000 was no slouch, but this a6100 is a whole other level. I am so glad Sony does not hobble its lower-priced bodies. It is every bit the match for the A7 III, the best AF of any camera I have ever used or owned, and is noticeably much faster than the A7 II. It absolutely destroys the X-T 100 and I cannot imagine the X-T 200 doing better.
    • Already did a quick Youtube test run and it performed perfectly. It tracked my face swiftly and smoothly with a demanding f/1.4 aperture. It quickly focused on objects held up in front of my face and just as quickly refocused on my face without issue. All while never drifting to the background or ever losing focus. A flawless performance.

Here is my Youtube test run. Also, my first time using Adobe Premiere Rush video editor that I was this days old when I found out it existed.

It has me actually considering selling on my A7 II. But with a full-frame sensor and IBIS it is safe for now.

Sidebar: The a6100 the best value option of the three recent a6xxx releases. For my purposes, the a6400 does not offer enough added features (weather sealing, EVF resolution, Video Eye AF) to justify the additional $300 cost. The a6600 has enough features to trigger a Gadget Acquisition Syndrome attack (a6400 features along with IBIS and larger battery) but at just above $1,000 I would likely be looking at a new or used A7 body. They did remove the flash which baffles me if I am honest. I really like built in flashes. I would think that weather sealing would be the cause, but the a6400 retains the flash along with weather sealing. But if you had to have one body and did not want or need full frame it is an excellent option.

Much better than good enough.

In conclusion, it is exactly what I was looking for in an APS-C body while expanding the use of lenses I already have. Here is an ongoing album.

-ELW

%d bloggers like this: