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Which Sony Mirrorless Camera Is Right for You?

Sony A6400
(Image credit: Future)

With the introduction of the A6100 and the A6600, Sony now has seven mirrorless cameras targeted at beginner-to-prosumer photographers. All have 24-megapixel APS-C image sensors, and all will work with Sony's range of E-mount lenses, but that's where the similarities end. Here's a rundown of each of Sony's mirrorless cameras, and who they're best for.

Sony A5100Sony A6000Sony A6100Sony A6300Sony A6400Sony A6500Sony A6600
Price (body only)$348$448$848$748$898$1,198$1,398
Sensor size (MP)24 MP24.324.224.224.224.224.2
Autofocus (phase/ contrast)179/25179/25425/425425/169425/425425/169425/425
AF featuresLock-on AF, Eye AFLock-on AF, Eye AFReal-time tracking, Eye AF, Animal Eye AFLock-on AF, Eye AFReal-time tracking, Eye AF, Animal Eye AFLock-on AF, Eye AFReal-time tracking, Eye AF, Animal Eye AF
Max video resolution1080p1080p4K4K4K4K4K
Image stabilizationNoneNoneNoneNoneNone5 axis5 axis
Electronic viewfinderNo1440K SVGA1440K SVGA2359K XGA2359K XGA2359k XGA2359k XGA
DisplayTilting LCDTilting LCD180-up/74-degree down touch screenTilting LCD180-up/74-degree down touch screenTilting touch screen180-up/74-degree down touch screen
Battery life (CIPA)400360420400410350810

(Image credit: Sony)

1. Sony A5100

The original

Sensor size: 24 MP | Autofocus points (phase/contrast): 179/25 | AF features: Lock-on AF, Eye AF | Max video resolution: 1080p | Image stabilization: None | Electronic viewfinder: None | Display: Tilting LCD | Battery life: 400 shots

Sony's first foray into mirrorless cameras, the A5100, is now very inexpensive, but it lacks a lot of features many have come to expect, including an electronic viewfinder, touch-screen display and 4K video. Still, at less than $400, it could be a good model for kids who want to learn more about photography.

Read our full Sony A5100 review.

 

(Image credit: Sony)

2. Sony A6000

A great mirrorless camera for beginners

Sensor size: 24 MP | Autofocus points (phase/contrast): 179/25 | AF features: Lock-on AF, Eye AF | Max video resolution: 1080p | Image stabilization: None | Electronic viewfinder: 1440K SVGA | Display: Tilting LCD | Battery life: 360 shots

The least expensive of Sony's mirrorless cameras, the major difference between the A5100 and the A6000 is that the latter has a digital viewfinder, which is helpful on bright days when the sun might wash out the rear display. Both have a tilting LCD, but neither has a touch screen. These are also the only two models with video-recording resolutions that max out at 1080p. At this point, we'd recommend the A6000; even though it's $100 more, the viewfinder is worth it.

Read our full Sony A6000 review.

 

(Image credit: Sony)

3. Sony A6100

Advanced autofocus features and 4K video make this a good step-up model

Sensor size: 24 MP | Autofocus points (phase/contrast): 425/425 | AF features: Real-time tracking, Eye AF, Animal Eye AF | Max video resolution: 4K | Image stabilization: None | Electronic viewfinder: 1440K SVGA | Display: 180-up/74-degree down touch screen | Battery life: 420 shots

In the midrange are the Sony A6100, A6300 and A6400; ironically, the A6100 was the last of these cameras to be released. While we have yet to test it, the A6100 looks to be the best deal of the three. At $848, it falls in the middle, pricewise, but has real-time tracking, Eye AF and Animal Eye AF, as well as a touch screen that can tilt both up and down. 

The A6400 costs $50 more, but with that you get a magnesium body that's dust and moisture resistant as well as a sharper viewfinder and a display that can tilt so that you can see yourself while you're shooting.

 

(Image credit: Sony)

4. Sony A6300

An older, less sophisticated model with 4K video

Sensor size: 24 MP | Autofocus points (phase/contrast): 425/169 | AF features: Lock-on AF, Eye AF | Max video resolution: 4K | Image stabilization: None | Electronic viewfinder: 2359K XGA | Display: Tilting LCD | Battery life: 400 shots

The A6300 came out a few years before the A6100, so it lacks the same number of contrast-detection points and has a less-capable subject-tracking autofocus. And, while its LCD can tilt, it's not touch sensitive. The A6300 is about $100 less than the A6100, but it's probably worth skipping this model unless it goes for a steep discount.

Read our full Sony A6300 review.

 

(Image credit: Sony)

5. Sony A6400

This mirrorless model was made for selfies

Sensor size: 24 MP | Autofocus points (phase/contrast): 425/425 | AF features: Real-time tracking, Eye AF, Animal Eye AF | Max video resolution: 4K | Image stabilization: None | Electronic viewfinder: 2359K XGA | Display: 180-up/74-degree down touch screen | Battery life: 410 shots

The A6400 was Sony's first mirrorless camera with a display that could flip 180 degrees vertically, which makes it easier for those taking videos or photos of themselves to compose a shot. It also has real-time motion tracking.

Read our full Sony A6400 review

 

(Image credit: Sony)

6. Sony A6500

Image stabilization built in

Sensor size: 24 MP | Autofocus points (phase/contrast): 425/169 | AF features: Lock-on AF, Eye AF | Max video resolution: 4K | Image stabilization: 5 axis | Electronic viewfinder: 2359K XGA | Display: Tilting touch screen | Battery life: 350 shots

The A6500 was Sony's first mirrorless camera in this series with built-in image stabilization, which greatly helps when shooting video as well as photos in low-light conditions. However, its battery life — just 350 shots — is a lot lower than it is on other models.

Read our full Sony A6500 review. 

 

(Image credit: Sony)

7. Sony A6600

Headphone jack, image stabilization and a long battery life

Sensor size: 24 MP | Autofocus points (phase/contrast): 425/425 | AF features: Real-time tracking, Eye AF, Animal Eye AF | Max video resolution: 4K | Image stabilization: 5 axis | Electronic viewfinder: 2359K XGA | Display: 180-up/74-degree down touch screen | Battery life: 810 shots

Both the A6500 and A6600 have in-body, five-axis image stabilization, which is great not just for low-light handheld photography but also for shooting videos. They also come with magnesium bodies that can withstand dust and moisture. However, the A6600 has a more robust autofocus system, so it's better able to track moving subjects, and its battery life is more than double that of the A6500. Additionally, the A6600 has a headphone jack, so you can hear what the camera's audio is recording.