The SPHERE extreme adaptive optics instrument was used to observe the central core of the Large Magellanic Cloud, R136, in the near-infrared. This challenging observation demonstrated the capabilities of SPHERE for imaging distant clusters. More than one thousand sources have been detected in Ks- and J-band images in the small field of view of IRDIS covering almost 2.7 × 3.1 pc of the core of R136. Based on isochrone fitting of the colour-magnitude diagram, ages of 1 and 1.5 Myr for the inner 3-arcsecond core and the outer core of R136 fit our data best. The mass function slope is -0.96 ± 0.22 over the mass range of 3 to 300 M☉. Using SPHERE data, we have gone one step further in partially resolving the core of R136, but this is certainly not the final step and higher resolution is still required.