Sony trickles down high-end guts to latest compact mirrorless, the Alpha 5100

Sony has unveiled a new mirrorless interchangeable lens camera, the Alpha 5100, a highly compact ILC (Sony touts it’s one of the world’s smallest). Slotted between the A5000 and A6000 (two cameras we love), the A5100 is the evolution of the NEX 5T, another DT-recommended camera that will be replaced (the A5100 also phases out the NEX name that distinguished Sony’s compact system cameras, or CSCs).

While the A5100 and A5000 target the same customers – entry-level users stepping up from a compact point-and-shoot or smartphone, as well as those moving from entry-level DSLRs – and share a similar form-factor, the A5100 has several higher-end featured trickled down from the midrange A6000. Besides using the same 24-megapixel APS-C sensor and Bionz X image processor as its bigger brother, the A5100 has the same hybrid autofocus system that uses both contrast-detection and phase-detection points to achieve focusing speeds as fast as 0.07 seconds (the NEX-5T also utilized hybrid autofocus, but it has fewer phase detection points). The camera also supports Eye AF and Lock-on AF (two functions trickled down from the A7/A7R flagship full-frame cameras), Flexible Spot AF area, and AF-A mode (auto switching between AF-C and AF-S). ISO remains the same at a max of 25,600. However, it does have a slower continuous shooting speed of 6 frames per second (versus the 11 fps in the A6000 and 10 fps in the NEX-5T), but has a higher max frame per burst (at JPEG Fine L setting). The sensor’s gapless on-chip lens design is optimized for corners, Sony says, allowing for very even light distribution from corner to corner and giving you sharper image results. The A5100 retains the 3-inch, 921k-pixel, selfie-friendly 180-degree-tilting touchscreen LCD – which both the A5000 and A6000 lack – and Sony has added a built-in flash.

If you like shooting movies, the A5100 has some features that will interest you. Besides Full HD 1080 recording at 60p, the A5100 also records in the XAVC S format. This codec allows you to record a higher data rate (50 Mbps) with compression that retains high video quality. Plus, the camera can record AVCHD or XAVC S along with a lower-res MP4 video at the same time, to the same card. (If you plan to do this or use the higher codecs, get yourself a good quality high-speed SD card.) Thanks to the Bionz X processor, “the camera is able to read, process and output data from all of the sensor’s pixels during video recording, ensuring that it produces the highest quality video possible by eliminating aliasing, moire, and false color artifacts,” Sony says. There’s also a zebra function if your filmmaking know-how is a bit more advanced.

The A5100 has Wi-Fi/NFC for the typical smartphone pairing for wireless photo transfers and remote view and shutter, but it also supports Sony’s downloadable PlayMemories Camera Apps, including the new My Best Portrait app. Being that this is a selfie-friendly camera, the grip has been optimized for self-portraits, as well. The camera comes in white or black, and will sell for $700 with a 16-50mm motorized zoom kit lens, or, if you are stepping up from the A5000, NEX-5T, or any previous Sony E-mount CSC, you can get the body for $550; both cameras hit stores in September 2014. There are also new cases and a remote shutter, all optional, that accompany the camera.

Although we haven’t had a chance to try the A5100 in person, judging from recent Sony cameras we have tested, we are going to come out and say that this will probably be another winner. We gave the A6000 an Editor’s Choice, and the A5000 our Recommended seal of approval; since the A5100 borrows the best from both and it’s a step-up from the well-liked NEX-5T, we’re sure we’ll give this camera high marks. Of course, final judgment will come after we’ve taken this small compact ILC for a spin.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: 1-handed drone control, a pot that stirs itself

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Product Review

With outstanding image quality, the ‘basic’ Sony A7 III excels in every way

Replacing the four-year-old A7 II as the new entry-level model in Sony's full-frame line, the A7 III is an impressively capable camera that gives more expensive models a run for their money.
Product Review

Fewer pixels, better camera? The Nikon Z6 shows the beauty of restraint

The Nikon Z6 is the sibling to the new mirrorless Z7 -- but for some photographers, the cheaper Z6 may be the better option. Read where the $2,000 camera beats the $3,400 one (and where it doesn’t) in our Nikon Z6 review.
Photography

Full frame or 4K for less than $1K? These 4 older cameras still have a lot to offer

Looking for a great camera deal? Sometimes, you might be better off buying one that's a few years -- last generation's professional models may not cost much more than today's entry-level models.
Mobile

Which smartphone has the best camera? We found the sharpest shooters

They say that the best camera is always the one you have with you and that makes your smartphone camera very important indeed. Join us for a closer look at the best camera phones available right now.
Smart Home

Picture this: The Aura packs thousands of photos in a single frame (for a price)

Are you one of those people who miss the good old days of flipping through photo albums to see each and every favorite photo? If so, you might love the Aura digital photo frame. We tested the device and came away impressed.
Photography

Get up close and personal with this telephoto lens for your phone

Moment is replacing its aging 60mm telephoto lens with a new 58mm tele lens, redesigned from the ground up for the latest iPhone, Pixel, and Galaxy phones. Mount it onto the phone via a case and get closer with 2x optical zoom.
Photography

Golf ball-sized Lume Cube Air is a pocketable LED for photos and video

Off-camera lighting for smartphones and GoPros just got even smaller. Meet the Lume Cube Air, a smaller portable LED light designed for photos and videos that weighs only about two ounces.
Photography

Edit portraits with A.I. and adjust focus in the new ON1 Photo RAW 2019 editor

ON1 Photo RAW 2019 now has a dedicated tab for portraits that automatically recognizes faces to help with retouching. The update also brings a new focus stacking tool, enhancements to layers, and improvements to local adjustments.
Mobile

Taking shots in the dark with Night Sight, the Pixel’s newest photo feature

The Google Pixel range has always been the home of some of the mobile world's best phone cameras. That performance is now getting even better with the introduction of the low-light Night Sight mode.
Photography

Alpha Female: Sony awards five women grants to support artisan diversity

Women can face several challenges in launching a photography career -- Sony's latest initiative aims to help propel women in the industry forward. Sony recently announced the winners of the Alpha Female program.
Emerging Tech

The best drone photos from around the world

Most of today's drones come equipped with high-end cameras, which are quickly revolutionizing the world of aerial photography as we know it. Here are some of the best drone photos from around the world.
Social Media

Build a wish list and shop videos with Instagram’s latest shopping update

Eyeing a product on Instagram? Now there are more ways to shop from the social network. Instagram just rolled out options to save products in a collection as users can also now shop from videos.
Photography

See the National Forests like never before in these awe-inspiring drone videos

What's the difference between a National Park and a National Forest? Drones. With no ban on drones in National Forests -- at least, not yet -- filmmakers have a way to capture the immensity of these locations with stunning results.