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Sony's A5100 combines super-fast autofocus and touchscreen controls for $699

Sony's A5100 combines super-fast autofocus and touchscreen controls for $699

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Six months after introducing the A6000, a mirrorless camera with a lightning quick autofocus system, Sony is back again today with the new A5100. Priced at $549 (or $699 with Sony's 16-50mm kit lens), the company's latest addition to its Alpha line effectively replaces the NEX-5T. And it's a nice middle ground between the entry-level A5000 and A6000.

The A5100 borrows the 24.3-megapixel APS-C sensor and revamped, speedy hybrid autofocus system from the A6000. They also share the same BIONZ X image processing engine. Basically, you're getting A6000 guts in a lighter and slightly more pocketable design. This one's really aimed at people upgrading to mirrorless from a smartphone; there's even a question mark button on the back to help owners navigate through menus and better understand the A5100's features.

There's no electronic viewfinder on this model, but it does carry over the NEX-5T's touchscreen. The ability to tap and focus is super convenient, and the A6000's lack of a touchscreen seemed like a crazy omission on Sony's part. But the A5100 has one, and it may convince some shoppers to actually step down rather than spring for the A6000. There's at least one reason to spend more, though: you won't find a single physical control dial on the A5100.

Sony A5100 embargo

Sony says the autofocus system isn't quite as super-quick as the A6000, but it should come remarkably close. It pairs 179 phase-detection AF points with 25 contrast-detection AF points, so the A5100 should be able to capture your kid's unpredictable movements without any trouble. Sony says it can lock on in as little as 0.07 seconds. Continuous shooting mode supports up to 6fps, and you can stretch that up to 56 shots — even more than the A6000 — before the buffer fills up. There's a built-in flash, and the 3-inch display tilts a full 180 degrees for easier selfie-taking.

if you're big on video, you'll appreciate the option of recording in XAVC S, which allows users to capture footage in 1080p at a bit rate of 50Mbps. Sony says the camera can optionally make two versions of clips: one in AVCHD for easier sharing, and the other in XAVC S with a greater focus on quality. There's no mic jack though, which shouldn't come as a surprise since even the A6000 didn't get one. Again, sometimes Sony makes weird decisions. But overall, the A5100 sounds like a great value if you can live without an EVF. It'll start shipping in early September, but you can place a pre-order beginning today.