PW

Sony A5100 versus Panasonic L1

The Sony Alpha A5100 and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-L1 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in August 2014 and February 2006. The A5100 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera, while the L1 is a DSLR. The cameras are based on an APS-C (A5100) and a Four Thirds (L1) sensor. The Sony has a resolution of 24 megapixel, whereas the Panasonic provides 7.4 MP. Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their size, their sensors, their features, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison: Sony A5100 vs Panasonic L1

The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Sony A5100 and the Panasonic L1. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter. You can also toggle the display to switch to a percentage comparison if you prefer that the measures are being expressed in relative terms (in this case, the camera on the left – the A5100 – represents 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Compare Sony A5100 vs Panasonic L1
Compare A5100 versus L1 top
Compare A5100 and L1 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Panasonic L1 is considerably larger (83 percent) than the Sony A5100. Moreover, the L1 is substantially heavier (114 percent) than the A5100. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the A5100 nor the L1 are weather-sealed.

The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete since they do not consider the interchangeable lenses that both of these cameras require. A larger imaging sensor will tend to go along with bigger and heavier lenses, although exceptions exist. You can find an overview of optics for the two cameras in the Sony E-Mount Lens Catalog (A5100) and the Four Thirds Lens Catalog (L1). Mirrorless cameras, such as the Sony A5100, have moreover the advantage that they have a relatively short flange to focal plane distance and can thus use many lenses from other systems via adapters.

The following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, just select a new right or left comparator from among the camera models in the table. Alternatively, you can also move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible camera comparisons there.

Camera Body Specifications
  Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(yes/no)
Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
Sony A5100» 4.3 in 2.5 in 1.4 in 10.0 oz 400 n Aug 2014 549 i i Sony A5100
Panasonic L1« 5.7 in 3.4 in 2.5 in 21.4 oz 750 n Feb 2006 999- i Panasonic L1
Canon XT« » 5.0 in 3.7 in 2.5 in 19.0 oz 400 n Feb 2005 899- i Canon XT
Leica Digilux 3« » 5.7 in 3.4 in 3.0 in 21.4 oz 750 n Sep 2006 1,499- i Leica Digilux 3
Olympus E-330« » 5.5 in 3.4 in 2.8 in 22.5 oz 750 n Jan 2006 999- i Olympus E-330
Olympus E-300« » 5.8 in 3.3 in 2.5 in 22.0 oz 750 n Sep 2004 799- i Olympus E-300
Panasonic L10« » 5.3 in 3.8 in 3.1 in 19.6 oz 450 n Aug 2007 599- i Panasonic L10
Sony RX100 IV« » 4.0 in 2.3 in 1.6 in 10.5 oz 280 n Jun 2015 999- i Sony RX100 IV
Sony A5000« » 4.3 in 2.5 in 1.4 in 9.5 oz 420 n Jan 2014 449- i Sony A5000
Sony A6000« » 4.7 in 2.6 in 1.8 in 12.1 oz 360 n Feb 2014 599- i Sony A6000
Sony RX100 III« » 4.0 in 2.3 in 1.6 in 10.2 oz 320 n May 2014 799- i Sony RX100 III
Sony A3000« » 5.0 in 3.6 in 3.3 in 14.5 oz 470 n Aug 2013 329- i Sony A3000
Sony NEX-3N« » 4.3 in 2.4 in 1.4 in 9.5 oz 480 n Feb 2013 499- i Sony NEX-3N
Sony RX100 II« » 4.0 in 2.3 in 1.5 in 9.9 oz 350 n Jun 2013 749- i Sony RX100 II
Sony NEX-F3« » 4.6 in 2.6 in 1.7 in 11.1 oz 470 n May 2012 599- i Sony NEX-F3
Sony RX100« » 4.0 in 2.3 in 1.4 in 8.5 oz 330 n Jun 2012 649- i Sony RX100
Sony NEX-3« » 4.6 in 2.4 in 1.3 in 10.5 oz 330 n May 2010 599- i Sony NEX-3

The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The retail prices at the time of the camera’s release place the model in the market relative to other models in the producer’s line-up and the competition. The A5100 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 45 percent) than the L1, which puts it into a different market segment. Normally, street prices remain initially close to the MSRP, but after a couple of months, the first discounts appear. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down.

 

Sensor comparison: Sony A5100 vs Panasonic L1

The imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors of image quality. A large sensor will tend to have larger individual pixels that provide better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixel-units in a sensor of the same technological generation. Furthermore, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more possibilities to use shallow depth-of-field in order to isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Sony A5100 features an APS-C sensor and the Panasonic L1 a Four Thirds sensor. The sensor area in the L1 is 39 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.5 and 2.0. The sensor in the A5100 has a native 3:2 aspect ratio, while the one in the L1 offers a 4:3 aspect.

In terms of underlying technology, both cameras are build around CMOS sensors.

Sony A5100 and Panasonic L1 sensor measures

With 24MP, the A5100 offers a higher resolution than the L1 (7.4MP), but the A5100 has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 3.91μm versus 5.51μm for the L1). However, the A5100 is a somewhat more recent model (by 8 years and 5 months) than the L1, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixels.

A5100 versus L1 MP

Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. This service assesses and scores the color depth ("DXO Portrait"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports") of camera sensors, and also publishes an overall camera score. The adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.

Sensor Characteristics
  Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Camera
Model
Sony A5100» APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p23.812.7134780Sony A5100
Panasonic L1« Four Thirds 7.4 3136 2352-----Panasonic L1
Canon XT« » APS-C 8.0 3456 2304-21.810.863760Canon XT
Leica Digilux 3« » Four Thirds 7.4 3136 2352-----Leica Digilux 3
Olympus E-330« » Four Thirds 7.4 3136 2352-----Olympus E-330
Olympus E-300« » Four Thirds 8.0 3264 2448-----Olympus E-300
Panasonic L10« » Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736-21.310.842955Panasonic L10
Sony RX100 IV« » 1-inch 20.0 5472 36484K/30p22.812.659170Sony RX100 IV
Sony A5000« » APS-C 19.8 5456 36321080/60i23.813.0108979Sony A5000
Sony A6000« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.113.1134782Sony A6000
Sony RX100 III« » 1-inch 20.0 5472 36481080/60p22.412.349567Sony RX100 III
Sony A3000« » APS-C 19.8 5456 36321080/60i23.712.8106878Sony A3000
Sony NEX-3N« » APS-C 16.0 4912 32641080/60i22.812.5106774Sony NEX-3N
Sony RX100 II« » 1-inch 20.0 5472 36481080/60p22.512.448367Sony RX100 II
Sony NEX-F3« » APS-C 16.0 4912 32641080/60i22.712.3111473Sony NEX-F3
Sony RX100« » 1-inch 20.0 5472 36481080/60p22.612.439066Sony RX100
Sony NEX-3« » APS-C 14.0 4592 3056720/30p22.112.083068Sony NEX-3

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. The A5100 indeed provides movie recording capabilities, while the L1 does not. The highest resolution format that the A5100 can use is 1080/60p.

 

Feature comparison: Sony A5100 vs Panasonic L1

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. For example, the L1 has an optical viewfinder, which can be very useful when shooting in bright sunlight. In contrast, the A5100 relies on live view and the rear LCD for framing. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Sony A5100, the Panasonic L1, and comparable cameras. If you need more detail on the specs, you can find comprehensive listings, for example, in the dpreview camera hub.

Core Features
  Camera
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec))
Build-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Camera
Model
Sony A5100»- n 3.0 922 tilting Y 4000 6.0 Y n Sony A5100
Panasonic L1«optical n 2.5 207 fixed n 4000 3.0 Y n Panasonic L1
Canon XT« »optical n 1.8 115 fixed n 4000 3.0 Y n Canon XT
Leica Digilux 3« »optical n 2.5 207 fixed n 4000 3.0 Y n Leica Digilux 3
Olympus E-330« »optical n 2.5 215 tilting n 4000 3.0 Y n Olympus E-330
Olympus E-300« »optical n 1.8 134 fixed n 4000 2.5 Y n Olympus E-300
Panasonic L10« »optical n 2.5 207 swivel n 4000 3.0 Y n Panasonic L10
Sony RX100 IV« »2359 n 3.0 1228 tilting n 2000 16.0 Y Y Sony RX100 IV
Sony A5000« »- n 3.0 461 tilting n 4000 3.5 Y n Sony A5000
Sony A6000« »1440 n 3.0 922 tilting n 4000 11.0 Y n Sony A6000
Sony RX100 III« »1440 n 3.0 1229 tilting n 2000 10.0 Y Y Sony RX100 III
Sony A3000« »202 n 3.0 230 fixed n 4000 2.5 Y n Sony A3000
Sony NEX-3N« »- n 3.0 460 tilting n 4000 4.0 Y n Sony NEX-3N
Sony RX100 II« »- n 3.0 1229 tilting n 2000 10.0 Y Y Sony RX100 II
Sony NEX-F3« »- n 3.0 920 tilting n 4000 5.5 Y n Sony NEX-F3
Sony RX100« »- n 3.0 1229 fixed n 2000 10.0 Y Y Sony RX100
Sony NEX-3« »- n 3.0 920 tilting n 4000 7.0 n n Sony NEX-3

One differentiating feature between the two cameras concerns the touch sensitivity of the rear screen. The A5100 has a touchscreen, while the L1 has a conventional panel. Touch control can be particularly helpful, for example, for setting the focus point or for making menu selections.

The A5100 is a current model that online retailers, such as amazon, will have in stock. In contrast, the L1 has been discontinued (but it can be found pre-owned on eBay). As a replacement in the same line of cameras, the L1 was succeeded by the Panasonic L10.

Review summary: Sony A5100 vs Panasonic L1

So what conclusions can be drawn? Which of the two cameras – the Sony A5100 or the Panasonic L1 – has the upper hand? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.

ilogo

Reasons to prefer the Sony Alpha A5100:

  • More detail: Offers more megapixels (24 vs 7.4MP) with a 84% higher linear resolution.
  • Better image quality: Features a larger and more technologically advanced imaging sensor.
  • Broader imaging potential: Can record not only still images but also 1080/60p movies.
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.0" vs 2.5") for image review and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (922k vs 207k dots).
  • More flexible LCD: Has a tilting screen for odd-angle shots in landscape orientation.
  • Fewer buttons to press: Is equipped with a touch-sensitive rear screen to facilitate handling.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (6 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More compact: Is smaller (110x63mm vs 146x87mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
  • Less heavy: Is lighter (by 323g or 53 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
  • More legacy lens friendly: Can take a broad range of non-native lenses via adapters.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (45 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Reflects 8 years and 5 months of technical progress since the L1 launch.

ilogo

Arguments in favor of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-L1:

  • Easier framing: Has an optical viewfinder for image framing and settings control.
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (750 versus 400) out of a single battery charge.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in February 2006).

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the A5100 is the clear winner of the match-up (13 : 3 points). However, the relevance of individual strengths will vary across photographers, so that you might want to apply your own weighing scheme to the summary points when reflecting and deciding on a new camera.

A5100 13:03 L1

In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the handling experience and imaging performance when actually working with the A5100 or the L1. User reviews that are available, for instance, at amazon can sometimes shed light on these issues, but such feedback is all too often partial, inconsistent, and inaccurate. This is why expert reviews are important. The adjacent table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog). The full reviews are available by clicking on the site logo in the table header.

Review Scores
  Camera
Model
cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
Sony A5100»Rec-4.5/54.5/55/5 Aug 2014 549 i i Sony A5100
Panasonic L1«85/100Rec-rev3.5/5 Feb 2006 999- i Panasonic L1
Canon XT« »80/100HiRecrevrev- Feb 2005 899- i Canon XT
Leica Digilux 3« »----- Sep 2006 1,499- i Leica Digilux 3
Olympus E-330« »-Recrev3.5/5- Jan 2006 999- i Olympus E-330
Olympus E-300« »-Recrevrev4.5/5 Sep 2004 799- i Olympus E-300
Panasonic L10« »85/100Rec3.5/5rev4/5 Aug 2007 599- i Panasonic L10
Sony RX100 IV« »HiRec85/1004/54.5/54.5/5 Jun 2015 999- i Sony RX100 IV
Sony A5000« »Rec-4.5/5rev4.5/5 Jan 2014 449- i Sony A5000
Sony A6000« »Rec80/1004.5/55/55/5 Feb 2014 599- i Sony A6000
Sony RX100 III« »HiRec82/1004.5/54.5/55/5 May 2014 799- i Sony RX100 III
Sony A3000« »Rec-4/54.5/54/5 Aug 2013 329- i Sony A3000
Sony NEX-3N« »--4.5/54/54.5/5 Feb 2013 499- i Sony NEX-3N
Sony RX100 II« »HiRec79/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Jun 2013 749- i Sony RX100 II
Sony NEX-F3« »-74/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 May 2012 599- i Sony NEX-F3
Sony RX100« »HiRec78/1004/55/55/5 Jun 2012 649- i Sony RX100
Sony NEX-3« »-70/1004.5/55/54/5 May 2010 599- i Sony NEX-3

The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date have little meaning. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.

 

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you would like to check on the differences and similarities of other camera models, just make your choice using the following search menu. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored. If the camera you are interested in is not available, please contact me, and I will try to add information on that model to the database.

~

    You are here  »   »