Being one of the top camera manufacturers for decades, comparing Sony cameras is a treat and an uphill task at the same time. And when you have options like the Sony a5100 vs. a6000, you can always expect a fierce but exciting battle. Our review will soon reveal that Sony remains unrivaled regarding mirrorless cameras and camera sensors.
If you’re familiar with cameras, one glance will reveal that the Sony a5100 and Sony a6000 cater to different groups of people. The Sony a5100 is designed for beginners and hobbyists, and you can see it in its compact size, front-facing screen, and autofocus features.
And while the Sony a6000 is also a newbie camera, it recognizes the hierarchy among beginners. As a result of this categorization, the Sony a6000 ranks higher than the Sony a5100. In addition, the a6000 includes a few appealing features for photographers looking to upgrade from cameras like the a5100.
Before we get to our detailed review of the Sony a5100 vs. a6000, let us start with the winner of the comparison.
Face off Sony a5100 vs. a6000
Our Pick: Sony A6000
The Sony a6000 came up as the winner for several reasons. This camera has several important updates from the Sony a5100, and it also comes with several brand new features that you can not find in any other Sony camera.
For starters, the Sony a6000 offers a more ergonomic build and grip. On paper, the Sony a6000 is heavier than its sibling, but you won’t feel much difference in weight when you hold both cameras in your hands. This means you get almost the same weight but an improved grip.
When it comes to autofocus, no one does it better than Sony. Moreover, the autofocus technology and facial detection features on the Sony a6000 are superior to those on the Sony a6000. Therefore, you get excellent focus for photos and videos even in low-light conditions. The a6000 also offers a faster burst mode, with 11 frames per second compared to 5.9 frames on the Sony a5100. This makes the a6000 more suitable for sports photography and other fast-paced settings than the a5100.
Aside from that, both cameras have a built-in flash, but the presence of a hot-shoe is what, once again, makes the a6000 a far better option. As you grow more experienced with photography, you’ll discover that pop-up flashes aren’t enough for the best quality shots. This is when a hot-shoe comes to the rescue and allows you to attach an external flash.
Although the Sony a6000 is relatively more expensive than the a5100, we recommend choosing it for its excellent specifications. Despite not being a pro-level camera, the a6000 can give you prolonged usage time with its durable build and exceptional features.
About the Sony Alpha a5100
Sony announced its a5100 on August 17, 2014, as an upgrade to its Sony Nex series. It was designed to be a scaled-down, daily photography option for those who want the a6000 but are not quite ready for it financially or skill-wise.
Nevertheless, don’t be too quick to look down on the Sony a5100. It packs all of Sony’s powerful technology and even has some areas where it beats the Sony a6000.
We find it particularly impressive that the camera has remained a favorite for beginners, even after seven years in the market. Well, that’s what you get when you pack powerful Sony camera features into a small body and slap on a competitive price.
Most people end up being surprised at the size of the Sony a5100. Sure, you know it’s small before you get it. But you don’t realize just how small it is until you hold it in your hands. Therefore, it may surprise some that the camera is compact enough to hold in one hand, allowing it to be more portable than the a6000.
So, if you’re in the market for a vlogging camera, this is it, guys. It’s almost small enough to put into your pocket, and it’s got a 3-inch LCD screen with touch sensitivity which is also great for selfies.
You can’t expect to avoid the plastic feel at this price point, but the build is pretty solid. Plus, the camera isn’t weather-sealed, which is an essential feature in any camera. But many photographers have testified to owning the Sony a5100 for years, which means that the camera is quite durable.
You’re probably wondering how an entry-level camera would do much in the image department? Well, you will be pleasantly shocked. The Sony a5100 produces brilliant images with sharp bokeh even with its entry-level kit lens.
About the Sony Alpha a6000
The Sony a6000 takes the crown as Sony’s best-selling mirrorless camera body of all time. That’s huge coming from a camera that Sony released in 2014.
Think about it. Technology has made many giant strides since 2014. Many photographers ditch a camera after its technology gets outdated by just one year. But it’s been seven years since the a6000, and it’s still getting a lot of love at the stores.
Considering what the camera brings to the table, it’s not hard to imagine why. Like the a5100, the a6000 is small and compact, which is a significant advantage when traveling or doing street photography. It also one-ups the a5100 when it comes to ergonomics.
The Sony a6000 comes with an LCD screen with a quality that must have been impressive when it was first launched but isn’t all that anymore in 2021, to be honest.
But it’s got an electronic viewfinder, which you won’t get in the a51000. Once again, don’t expect too many bells and whistles. The electronic viewfinder is just adequate at best.
Sony didn’t fix the cluttered interface it’s known for on the a6000. But the autofocus is sublime even for a 7-year-old camera. The autofocus system switches from a single shot to continuous autofocus like a dream. You don’t even have to press any buttons. The a6000 is clever like that.
Face recognition is another thing we loved about the a6000. It’s lightning-fast, and the camera can even store up to eight different faces in its memory. This way, you can get the camera to track any look you choose while it ignores other faces in the shot.
Suffice it to say that the Sony a6000 takes fantastic images of stellar quality. They might not be hi-resolution, but they are unbelievably good-looking.
Similarities Between the Sony a5100 and the Sony a6000
Mirrorless cameras are the perfect beginner camera for several reasons. Vloggers looking for a camera will benefit from a mirrorless camera as well.
For one, mirrorless cameras are light, which makes them easy on the hands of newbies who will be practicing a lot for the first few weeks. Mirrorless cameras are also less complicated than DSLR cameras. By the way, unlike mirrorless cameras, DSLR cameras come with mirrors and are used mainly by professionals.
Experts typically prefer DSLRs because they have more features that sophisticated photographers can play with. However, they can be overwhelming for someone who’s just starting. And that’s why mirrorless cameras are typically recommended for those just beginning their photography journey.
Besides, mirrorless cameras have evolved, and some can compete with DSLRs.
Wi-Fi and NFC
These wireless communication methods are found on the a5100 and the a6000: Wi-Fi and NFC. They make file transfer very seamless since you don’t have to deal with the inconvenience of wires and cords.
Both of these cameras feature RAW support, so you will get high-quality RAW images, which is something serious photographers would appreciate. If you’re a beginner, you’re probably wondering why shooting in RAW is such a big deal.
Well, first off, RAW images are just like they sound. They are almost as if your camera took photos: unprocessed and uncompressed.
For some perspective, let’s compare it with JPEG. JPEG, the standard image format most smartphones take photos in, is quite processed and compressed. As you probably know, compression also comes with a corresponding loss in quality, making JPEG photos no fun to edit.
But JPEG does have its uses. It is suitable for everyday, non-professional use as nearly every device can read a JPEG file. And JPEG files do not need any form of editing before anyone can use them. This is why we use this format for our social media uploads and for sending to our friends.
RAW files, on the other hand, are much larger since they are uncompressed. But they give editors greater leeway to get creative when editing. But then again, shooting in RAW is not for everybody. If you just want to take fire photos for the Gram, you’ll do fine with JPEG.
Both cameras come with a pop-up flash, which will do for most average situations. The built-in flash will serve if you’re not doing a highly professional shoot.
The Sony a5100 and the Sony a6000 have an HDMI output, which can be very useful in many situations. For instance, in specific settings where the articulating screen will not suffice, you can hook your camera to a larger display like a monitor or a TV. This will give you enough room to see correctly without moving around too much.
Also, there might be times when you’re covering an event or a conference and need to stream to a separate room. In such a case, a camera with HDMI output comes in handy. Simply connect the camera to a screen in the other room with an HDMI cable, and you’re good.
The Sony a5100 and the Sony a6000 are close siblings with the same sensor, which is why we won’t be making a sensor comparison. So, you can expect their image quality to be almost identical.
Image quality is pretty good with these two cameras. The cameras both have the same sensor, as we already mentioned. They also have the same processor.
The Sony a5100 and a6000 are interchangeable cameras, though. This means that the image quality you get from either camera will depend on the glass you mount on the camera.
Now, if you want sharp images, we’d advise you to get a fast glass. The faster the glass you use, the more brilliant the image quality. But then again, you can probably already tell that faster glass means more greenbacks. If you can afford it, though, it’s worth it. You will be able to shoot in low light and achieve fantastic bokeh.
Some people might recommend getting zoom lenses, and though lenses like this are typically flexible, they aren’t exactly fast. So, image quality won’t be as good as using a prime lens of the same price.
Differences Between the Sony a5100 and the Sony a6000
First, we have to point out that both cameras are compact, and the difference in size is almost negligible in use. The Sony a5100 measures 2.5 x 4.3 x 1.4 inches. The Sony a6000, on the other hand, is slightly bigger with a measurement of 2.6 x 4.7 x 1.8 inches. As we mentioned earlier, the difference in size is negligible. It almost doesn’t even exist.
Now, let’s talk about grip. The Sony a6000 has a much better grip when you compare it to the a5100. Because the a5100 is smaller, it might feel a little flimsy for photographers with larger hands.
Plus, these are interchangeable cameras, meaning you can mount different lenses on either camera. Since the a6000 is a little bigger, mounting a large lens means you’d still have a little more room for a good grip. You won’t get that leeway with the a5100.
In weight, the Sony a6000 comes in slightly heavier. The a6000 weighs 12 ounces or 0.34 kilograms. The a5100, on the other hand, weighs 10 ounces or .28 kilograms. Again, you’re unlikely to notice the difference when handling both cameras.
An articulating screen is a beneficial feature for amateur or expert photographers. With an articulating screen, shooting videos and taking photos from otherwise impossible angles becomes much easier.
To be honest, the screens on the Sony Alpha a5100 and the Sony Alpha a6000 are not the best we’ve seen. But that’s not a deal-breaker considering the age of these cameras.
We found it curious that the screen seems to have better features on the a5100 than on the a6000. For instance, the screen of the a5100 comes with touch sensitivity and can be tilted up to 180 degrees, making it a lot more convenient to work with.
The a6000, on the other hand, is not touch-sensitive, and the screen only tilts at a 90-degree angle. While this would be sufficient when taking waist-level or top-down shots, it becomes miserably insufficient when taking photos at more challenging angles, especially if the photographer has to be on the move.
Autofocus System and Continuous Shooting
Sony has always been known for its fast autofocus systems. Very few companies do it as well as Sony. The autofocus on both the Sony a5100 and the a6000 is simply sublime.
But, as expected, the Sony a6000 is the faster of the two cameras. You could pretty much say that the autofocus on the a6000 is instantaneous. Plus, it has more focus points. Again, we are considering the age of this camera.
Another difference between the autofocus system of the a5100 and the a6000 is that the a5100 has a touchscreen feature on its screen, as we mentioned earlier. What this means is that you get to do touchscreen focusing.
The efficiency this feature brings to taking photos is better experienced than explained. It just puts so much power in your hands that you get to determine what the camera focuses on to a large degree. And the many focus points make the focus even more accurate. Also, this will provide a familiar and intuitive upgrade for hobbyists and beginner photographers transitioning from smartphone photography.
In burst/continuous shooting mode, the a6000 also takes the crown. While the Sony a5100 comes with 5.9 frames per second, the a6000 boasts 11.1 frames per second. This makes the a6000 the better pick for continuous shooting.
Now, let’s not get too ambitious. Neither of these cameras would do for a sport or wildlife setting, not even the a6000. But the a6000’s continuous shooting feature would improve in such environments if it came down to it.
A viewfinder is vital for composing your shot when doing serious photography work. DSLR cameras typically come with optical viewfinders, while mirrorless cameras come with electronic viewfinders. But that’s, by the way, back to the a5100 vs. a6000.
On the Sony Alpha a5100, there is no electronic viewfinder. But the Sony alpha a6000 has one. This is another area where the a6000 edges out the a5100, becoming the more suitable choice for beginners who want to be a little more serious with photography.
Now, don’t expect too many bells and whistles. The a6000 was made in 2014, after all. Electronic viewfinders have evolved a lot since then. So, it still leaves a few things to be desired.
At best, you’d find the viewfinder just adequate. It’s not the most detailed viewfinder, nor does it provide the most expansive view. But at this price point, it seems unfair to complain.
Auto-exposure bracketing is often under-utilized among many photographers, and as a beginner or hobbyist, you might not even know what it is or where to look for it. But exposure bracketing comes in handy, especially in low-light situations when you need to get a perfect exposure.
With the exposure bracketing feature, you’ll get several shots with different levels of exposure—one that’s correctly exposed, another that is overexposed, and another that is underexposed. Similarly, with the a5100, you’ll get three different images, while the a6000 will give you five different photos.
Many cameras do not come with certain accessories, but they come with a hot shoe to mount an external one. Once again, the Sony a6000 outdoes the a5100 as it comes with a hot shoe.
Since the Sony a5100 does not come with this feature, you’d have to make do with the built-in flash, which doesn’t always serve. And you’d also have to manage without an electronic viewfinder.
But if you’re only pursuing photography as a hobby, you might not miss the hot shoe since you’d hardly need an external flash. Serious photographers might find the a5100 less than adequate without the hot shoe.
The absence of a dial on the top of the Sony a5100 proves again that the a5100 isn’t suited for advanced photography work. Even with a touchscreen feature, a dial at the top of a camera is still a feature that a photographer would need, especially in fast-paced settings.
A dial makes it easier to switch between modes super-fast. While the touchscreen is also helpful, it isn’t as fast. Before capturing the shot, you must first access the menu and the settings.
It only takes seconds, sure. But in those seconds, you could lose a perfect shot. So, if you’re getting the Sony a5100, know that you might not be able to use it when speed is essential.
That said, dial button or not, the fact that the a6000 lacks a touchscreen remains a downer, as far as we’re concerned.
Conclusion: Which One Should You Pick?
If you’ve read through this review, you probably already know which camera will be crowned the winner. Although the Sony Alpha a6000 has its downsides, it has more sophisticated features that would help you get much better and more dynamic photos than the Sony Alpha a5100.
Nevertheless, you must apply a detailed feature list when the question is about which you should pick. This is because the best camera for you isn’t necessarily the most expensive gear with all the bells and whistles.
If you’re reading this review, you’re probably a beginner picking your very first camera. But just before you jump on the Sony a6000, you want to ask yourself a few questions about your future goals as a photographer and your reason for wanting a camera.
You might just be a hobbyist photographer or a vlogger or just an average joe looking for a camera that’s super easy to use, pretty much like a point-and-shoot. If you detest too many controls, then the a5100 is 100% what you should pick. But if you want to get hardcore and push yourself, you’ll need something that challenges you without overwhelming you, and that camera is the Sony a6000.
These two cameras give excellent value for money, and we don’t think either camera is overpriced since none of them entails an extra cost for hidden features. So, you can be sure that you’re making a worthwhile investment with whichever camera you choose.