FIRST LOOK: Sony NEX-5R

    In Summary

    While the addition of Wi-Fi will excite snapshooters who regularly post images to social network sites, the new Hybrid AF system offers more to keen photographers. Through the integration of phase detection sensor on the CMOS chip, the new camera promises faster autofocusing, solving a problem that has hitherto plagued mirrorless cameras. Sony isn’t the first with this technology; that honour belongs to Nikon. However, the NEX cameras can claim significant performance advantages because of their much larger sensors, particularly at high ISO settings. On the Wi-Fi front, Sony has taken some worthwhile steps toward making photography fun with its collection of PlayMemories Mobile Apps that can be downloaded straight to the camera. Starting with Picture Effect+; Bracket Pro; Multi Frame NR; Photo Retouch; Smart Remote Control and Direct Upload, the apps collection addresses many of the function potential users will want now. The promised addition of Time-lapse and Cinematic Photo will provide further incentives for snapshooters with smart-phones to consider. And the NEX-5R is just the first of Sony's pre-Photokina announcements. Stay tuned for more between now and 18 Sept6ember when the show opens in Cologne.

    Full review

    Sony's latest E-mount camera, the NEX-5R has a very similar body design to the NEX-5N but includes the flip-up monitor from the NEX-F3. Equipped with a brand new 16.1-megapixel APS-C sized sensor with overlaid Phase Detection AF pixels, it introduces WiFi connectivity and application support that will allow users to upload images and movies to the Internet.

    Angled front view of the NEX-5R with the SEL 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens. (Source: Sony.)

    Although the 5R's body is similar to its predecessor's, there are a couple of changes that should be welcomed by most potential users. The power on/off switch on the top panel has been moved and now surrounds the shutter button.
     
     

    Front view of the NEX-5R showing the flip-up monitor positioned for self-portraiture. (Source: Sony.)

    Its place is taken by a new customisable dial control that can be set to handle a selected function.  The default in P mode is a choice between program-shift and EV compensation.

    A new Function (Fn) button is located in front of this dial, just to the right of the shutter button. Pressing it displays a line of camera functions along the lower edge of the monitor screen. Up to six functions can be selected at a time.
     Another minor upgrade is to the strap lugs, which carry plastic-lined D-rings like those on the NEX-7 instead of the simple wide, fixed loops found on other NEX cameras. The 3D Sweep Panorama modes provided on previous NEX models aren't included in the new camera.  

    Unchanged features from the NEX-5N include the accessory shoe, battery and memory card support. Like the 5N, the new camera has no viewfinder but can accept the optional FDA-EV1S XGA OLED accessory finder, which sells for AU$349. The NEX-5R will be available from 6 November in black, white and silver/grey at an RRP of $799 for body only or $999 with as a single-lens kit.
     
    Wi-Fi
    The inclusion of Wi-Fi is likely to garner the most interest, although this feature has become relatively commonplace in cameras released since the beginning of this year. Sony introduced it with its Bloggie Live 8GB camcorder in January and developed it further a month later in the Cyber-shot HX30V. The NEX-5RT takes it a step further with the ability to 'push' photos directly to online services and control the camera from a smart-phone.

    Before you can use the Wi-Fi functions you must set up the camera to connect to an access point and determine where images and movie clips will be sent. Access point connection can be accomplished through either the set-up menu or the Introduction button on the Application menu (shown below).
     

     The Application menu is a new feature in the camera's revised Menu display.

    Selecting the Application menu displays a six Wi-Fi-related options, as shown above.

    The camera includes a WPS Push setting that makes it try to establish a connection with a secure wireless network in the vicinity of the camera. If successful, you're asked to input the password for the network and provided with an on-screen QWERTY  keyboard (shown below), which is navigated with the directional buttons on the arrow pad.

     The WPS Push interface.
     
     

    The QWERTY  keyboard that is used for inputting the network password.
     
     If the camera can't establish a connection, the message below appears and you're given the opportunity to re-visit the network settings and look for a new hotspot.
     

    The screen that appears when the camera can't establish a connection to a Wi-Fi hotspot.

    Applications already programmed into the camera when it's shipped with several basic utilities (which are also available for free downloading from both the iTunes app store and Android Market). The Smart Remote Control enables users to operate the camera from any device running the Android OS.

    Direct Upload is used to send images and movie clips to websites like Facebook, YouTube and other popular social networks. The third utility, Picture Effect+, provides special effects, mostly involving selective colour adjustments, that can be applied to images.

    There's also a link to Sony's PlayMemories Camera Apps, which connects to the PlayMemories app store, where users can download apps directly to the camera. Some apps are free, while others carry a small cost (usually around $5). The Application Management sub-menu is largely self-explanatory. It enables users to sort, manage and remove apps and display account information.
     

    The Application Management screen.

    For the system to work you must be within range of a registered Internet network and the camera must be turned on. The time taken to transfer files will depend on the size of the files themselves and will be strongly influenced by network traffic. 

    Sensor and Image Processing
     The 23.5 x 15.6 mm EXMOR CMOS sensor in the NEX-5R produces the same image sizes as the sensor in the NEX-5N but is a new-generation chip with a built-in phase-detection array to provide fast autofocusing in live view mode.  The sensor is coupled to the latest BIONZ image processor, which underpins all camera functions.

    As in Sony's recent DSLRs, the low-pass filter in front of the sensor is coated with a dust-repelling layer and the filter is vibrated ultrasonically each time the camera is turned on or off. The new camera supports a wide sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 25600.

    Like its predecessor, the NEX-5R can record images as JPEG or ARW.RAW files, the latter being compressed losslessly and now providing 14-bit depth. Two compression levels are provided for JPEGs, while raw files can be captured with or without a large JPEG file.

    Two aspect ratios are selectable via the menu system: the normal 3:2 or widescreen 16:9. Typical image sizes for the still capture modes are shown in the table below.

    Image size

    Pixels

    Aspect ratio

    Approx. File size

    Fine

    Standard

    Raw

    4912 x 3264

    3:2

    18.96MB

    n.a.

    RAW+JPEG

    4912 x 3264

    25.6MB

    n.a.

    L: 16M

    4912 x 3264

    6.92MB

    4.97MB

    M: 8.4M

    3568 x 2368

    4.70MB

    3.53MB

    S: 4M

    2448 x 1624

    2.06MB

    1.54MB

    L: 14M

    4912 x 2760

    16:9

    6.17MB

    4.49MB

    M: 7.1M

    3568 x 2000

    4.23MB

    3.26MB

    S: 3.4M

    2448 x 1376

    1.76MB

    1.31MB

    Panorama (Standard mode, Horizontal)

    8192 x 1856

    4.4:1 (approx.)

    6.24MB

    Panorama (Standard mode, Vertical)

    3872 x 2160

    1.8:1 (approx.)

    4.34MB

    Panorama (Wide mode, Horizontal)

    12,416 x 1856

     6.7:1 (approx.)

    8.98MB

    Panorama (Wide mode, Vertical)

    5536 x 2160

    2.56:1 (approx.)

    5.33MB

    The NEX-5R appears to offer similar video capabilities as the NEX-7, with Full HD (1920 x 1080-pixel) recording and the ability to capture 50 interlaced frames off the sensor for PAL system TV viewing (60 frames for NTSC). Full HD recordings are made using AVCHD Version 2.0 compression, with Dolby Digital (AC-3) audio recording.

    The new camera adds an HD (1280 x 720 pixels) resolution to the options provided for shooting movies in MP4 format (with H.264 compression). But the frame rate is 30 fps, which means slow-motion movies can't be recorded. Movie settings are outlined in the table below.   

    Video format

    Movie
     Quality

    Resolution

    Bit rate

    Recording capacity 8GB card

    AVCHD

    50i

    24M (FX)

    1920 x 1080

    24 Mbps.

     40 minutes

    17M (FH)

    17 Mbps.

     one hour

    50p

    28M (PS)

    28 Mbps

    30 minutes

    25p

    24M (FX)

    24 Mbps.

     40 minutes

    17M (FH)

    17 Mbps

     one hour

    MP4 at 30 fps

    720

    1280 x 720

    not specified

    12M

    1440 x 1080

    12 Mbps.

    one hour 20 minutes

    3M

    640 x 480

    3 Mbps.

    4 hours 55 minutes

    Variable Bit Rate (VBR) recording technology automatically adjusts image quality depending on the scene. Recording times are reduced for fast-moving subjects because more memory is required to maintain image sharpness. (The above recording times represent rough averages.)

    Movie clips are restricted to approximately 29 minutes in both recording formats, with the maximum size for an MP4 movie limited to roughly 2GB. As with the NEX-5N, movies can be recorded in the P, A, S or M shooting modes. Tracking AF is available for keeping focus on moving subjects and you can use the touch screen to zoom slowly in and out while recording.

    All the Creative Style settings can be applied to movie clips and some Picture Effect modes are available. Manual focusing is also possible but focus-assist magnification isn’t available. No stereo microphone jack is provided and there are no audio level displays for monitoring audio recordings.

    Playback and Software
    Aside from the Wi-Fi display facilities (view on smart-phone, send to computer, view on TV and PlayMemories Camera Apps), nothing has changed since the NEX-F3. No details were available on the contents of the software CD-ROM but we suspect it will contain Sony's Image Data Converter and PlayMemories Home applications as well as copies of the Wi-Fi programs and a  user manual in PDF format.

     

    SPECS

     Image sensor: 23.5 x 15.6 mm 'Exmor' APS HD CMOS sensor with 16.7 million photosites (16.1 megapixels effective)
     Image processor: BIONZ
     A/D processing: 14-bit
     Lens mount: Sony E-mount
     Focal length crop factor: 1.5x
     Digital zoom: Max. 4x for stills and movies
     Image formats: Stills – ARW.RAW (v.2.3), JPEG (Exif 2.3), RAW+JPEG; Movies – AVCHD (V. 2.0), MP4
     Image Sizes: Stills – 3:2 aspect ratio: 4912 x 3264, 3568 x 2368, 2448 x 1624; 16:9 aspect ratio: 4912 x 2760,  3568 x 2000, 2448 x 1376; Sweep Panorama horizontal:  12416 x 1856, 8192 x 1856; Sweep Panorama vertical:  5536 x 2160, 3872 x 2160; Movies: 1920 x 1080 (50p/28Mbps/PS, 50i/24Mbps/FX, 50i/17Mbps/FH, 25p/24Mbps/FX, 25p/17Mbps/FH); 1280 x 720 (30 fps), 1440 x 1080 (30/25fps), 640 x 480 (30/25fps)
     Image Stabilisation: Lens based
     Dust removal: Charge protection coating on optical filter plus ultrasonic vibration mechanism
     Shutter speed range: 1/4000 to 30 seconds plus Bulb; flash sync at 1/160 sec.
     Exposure Compensation: Still images: +/- 3EV in 1/3EV steps; Movies: +/- 2EV in 1/3EV steps
     Exposure bracketing: 3 continuous exposures, in 0.3, 0.5 or 0.7EV steps
     Self-timer: 10 seconds delay plus Self-portrait with 0 3sec delay, Continuous with 10 sec. delay, 3/5 exposures selectable
     Focus system: Fast Hybrid AF (Contrast-detection  plus phase-detection) using Exmor HD CMOS sensor; 99 points phase detection AF,  25-point contrast detection;  Multi, Centre and Flexible spot selectable; eye-start AF, focus lock supported
     Focus modes: AF-S (Single-shot AF), AF-C (Continuous AF), Manual Focus selectable; Tracking Focus, Predictive focus, Face Detection (up to 8 faces)
     Exposure metering: 1200-zone evaluative metering with Multi, Centre and Spot modes
     Shooting modes: iAUTO, Superior Auto, Programmed AE (P), Aperture priority (A), Shutter-speed priority (S), Manual (M), Sweep Panorama, Scene Selection (Portrait, Landscape, Macro, Sports Action, Sunset, Night Portrait, Night Scene, Hand-held Twilight, Anti Motion Blur)
     Picture Style/Control settings: Standard, Vivid, Portrait, Landscape, Sunset, B/W (Contrast, Saturation, Sharpness adjustable in +/-3 steps)
     Special effects: Posterisation (Colour, B/W), Pop Colour, Retro Photo, Partial Colour (Red, Yellow, Blue, Green), High Contrast Monochrome, Toy Camera, Soft High-key, Soft Focus, HDR Painting, Rich-tone Mono, Miniature
     Colour space options: sRGB, Adobe RGB
     ISO range: Auto (ISO100-3200), ISO 100 to 25600 selectable in 1EV steps; ISO 100-6400 for movies
     White balance: Auto, Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Flash, C. Temp 2500 to 9900k, C. Filter (G7 to M7 15-step, A7 to B7 15-step), Custom; WB micro adjustment 15 steps G-M and A-B
     Flash: External flash supplied; GN 7 (meters at ISO100); coverage to 16mm; Pre-flash TTL control; Flash off, Autoflash, Fill-flash, Slow Sync., Rear Sync. modes; Red-eye Reduction available
     Flash exposure adjustment: +/- 2EV in 1/3 EV steps
     Sequence shooting: Max. 3 frames/second in Continuous mode or 10 fps in Speed-priority mode for up to 15 Large/Fine JPEGs, 11 ARW.RAW or 10 RAW+JPEG
     Storage Media: Single slot for Memory Stick PRO Duo / Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo or SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards
     Viewfinder:  No
     LCD monitor: Flip-up TFT touch panel LCD monitor with 921,600 dots; adjustable up by approx. 180 degrees, down by approx. 50 degrees (from the camera back); manual brightness control (5 steps), Sunny Weather mode; peaking display for MF
    Other features: Wi-Fi enabled with file transfer to smart-phones plus new PlayMemories Camera Apps; Eye-Fi ready, D-Range Optimiser (Auto, Level adjustment); Smile Shutter (3 steps selectable), touch shutter

    Playback functions: Single-frame, Index (6 or 12 frames), Enlarge (to 14x), Slideshow, Panorama scrolling, Picture rotation (auto mode available), Histogram (independent luminance/RGB available), Shooting information
     Interface terminals: USO 2.0, HDMI (Type C Mini); BRAVIA Sync (link menu), PhotoTV HD, Smart Accessory terminal
     Power supply: NP-FW50 rechargeable lithium-ion battery; CIPA rated for approx. 330 shots or approx 100 minutes of video per charge
     Dimensions (wxhxd): 110.8 x 58.8 x 38.9 mm
     Weight: Approx. 218 grams (body only); 276 grams with battery and card
     
     RRP: Approx. $899 (with 18-55mm kit lens)
     Distributor: Sony Australia; 1300 720 071; www.sony.com.au.

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