Sony NEX-5R


    Photo Review 8.5
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    Sony NEX-5R

      In summary

      Buy this camera if:
       - You're looking for a compact, large-sensor interchangeable-lens camera with Wi-Fi capabilities.
       - You could utilise the PASM shooting modes plus support for raw file capture and Full HD video recording. 
       - You'd like touch screen controls.
       - You would enjoy the multi-shot modes this camera provides.

      Don't buy this camera if:
       - You want an optical viewfinder and built-in flash.
      - You require high burst capacity at high resolution. 

      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.
       

      The various positions for the adjustable touch screen monitor on the NEX-5R. (Source: Sony.)

      Wi-Fi
      Wi-Fi is becoming a 'must have' feature in cameras like the NEX-5R, which has essentially the same wireless functions as the NEX-6 we reported on early this month. Like the NEX-6, the NEX-5RT is able 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 six Wi-Fi-related options, as shown above. 

      The WPS Push setting prompts the camera 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.

      Access points in the vicinity of the camera are displayed on the monitor screen. You select the access point that corresponds to the one you wish to use and enter the network password.
       

      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. 

      In our tests we found file transfer times to be similar to those measured with the NEX-6. It took one minute and 48 seconds to transfer 10 large/fine JPEGs (71.3MB of data) from the camera to a wireless-equipped laptop PC.

      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 options provided for shooting movies in MP4 format (with H.264 compression) are the same as in the NEX-5N, with the frame rate at 30 fps. 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

      30 fps

      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); playback settings don't appear to have changed since the NEX-F3. Sony didn't supply any software with the review camera and no details were available on the contents of the software CD-ROM. 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.

      Performance
       Note: With no software supplied and the latest version of Adobe Camera Raw unable to unpack raw files from the camera, all evaluations reported upon below have been made on JPEG files from the review camera. Sony also failed to supply the flash that is normally bundled with the camera, which means no flash tests have been included in this review.

      Our test shots were natural-looking across a wide range of subject types and shooting conditions. Colours appeared to be accurately captured, although saturation tended to be slightly high. This was confirmed by our Imatest testing, which showed saturation to be slightly elevated, particularly with warmer hues.

      Imatest revealed slight colour shifts in skin hues as well as with reds and olive green. Exposure metering was as accurate as we found with the NEX-6 and the D-Range Optimiser prevented highlight blow-out with moderate backlighting.

      Autofocusing was faster than we found with the NEX-5N, although the touch shutter (which focuses on the touch point and triggers the shutter release, was slightly slower than using the shutter button. However, it was more accurate and easier to use in low light levels. Autofocusing and focus tracking was slightly better than average when recording movie clips.

      Imatest showed the review camera to be capable of meeting expectations for the sensor's resolution. Both subjective assessments and Imatest analysis showed resolution declined gradually as sensitivity was increased. Interestingly, image noise was only just visible as granularity in shadows in test shots at ISO 6400.

      Short exposures at ISO 12,800 and ISO 25,600 had surprisingly low noise levels, although softening and granularity were obvious in two-second exposures at ISO 25,600. The graph below shows the results of our Imatest tests on JPEG files.
       

       

      The kit lens, which we covered in our review of the NEX-5, is an adequate, although not stellar, performer. We obtained the highest resolution figures around mid-way in its focal length range and at apertures between f/4.5 and f/6.3. Edge softening was detected at most aperture settings but reduced as the lens was stopped down. The graph below shows the results of our Imatest tests.

       

      Lateral chromatic aberration was mostly negligible and we found no evidence of coloured fringing in test shots. In the graph of our Imatest results below, the red line marks the border between ‘negligible' and ‘low' CA, while the green line separates 'low' and 'moderate' CA.

       
       Digital zoom shots were slightly soft and a little flat but could be printed at snapshot size. Backlit subjects were generally handled well although subjects with wide brightness range proved challenging for the D-Range Optimiser, even at its maximum compensation setting.

      The camera's close-up capabilities are limited by the focusing range of the lens. The kit lens can't focus closer than 25 cm but Sony's SEL30M35 macro lens will focus to 95 mm.

      Auto white balance performance was slightly better than the NEX-5N in incandescent, although it didn't remove the warm cast. It came very close to colour neutrality with fluorescent lighting. Both pre-sets over-corrected, the Incandescent adding a strong blue bias, while the Fluorescent preset shifted colours towards cyan. Manual measurement provided neutral colour rendition.

      Video quality was similar to the NEX-5N's in all modes for both AVCHD and MP4 clips. Saturation and contrast appeared to be boosted in movie mode, producing vibrant images.

      Autofocusing and zooming were similar to the NEX-5N's and transitions between near and far were often jumpy, despite the benefits of the wide zoom ring on the lens and effective image stabilisation. Soundtracks were similarly patchy and affected by camera movements (zooming, panning and slight camera shake), all of which produced noise in recordings.

      In clear sections of recordings, the stereo presence was slightly above average for a compact camera. The wind cut filter worked reasonably well in normal conditions but was unable to prevent some interference from wind noise in strong and gusty conditions.

      Our timing tests were carried out with a 32GB SanDisk Extreme Pro SDHC U1 card, which was formatted in the camera and is among the fastest available. The review camera took roughly one second to power-up and shot-to-shot times averaged 0.7 seconds, while capture lag was constant at 0.2 seconds but eliminated by pre-focusing.

      Because no indicator light is provided, we were unable to measure image processing times accurately. However, the camera appeared to take roughly two seconds to process each JPEG file, 2.5 seconds for each ARW.RAW file and 2.7 seconds for a RAW+JPEG pair.

      With the normal continuous shooting mode, the review camera captured 10 Fine JPEGs in three seconds, which complies with specifications. The buffer memory was able to accommodate 15 JPEGs at maximum resolution, 11 ARW.RAW files or 10 RAW+JPEG pairs.

      We estimate it took roughly five seconds to process the burst of JPEGs, seven seconds for the raw files and nine seconds for the RAW+JPEG pairs. In the Speed Priority Continuous mode, the review camera also matched specifications, recording ten JPEGs were captured in 1.1 seconds. If the camera was set to record raw files or RAW+JPEG pairs, capture rates defaulted back to  three frames/second.

      Buy this camera if:
       - You're looking for a compact, large-sensor interchangeable-lens camera with Wi-Fi capabilities.
       - You could utilise the PASM shooting modes plus support for raw file capture and Full HD video recording. 
       - You'd like touch screen controls.
       - You would enjoy the multi-shot modes this camera provides.

      Don't buy this camera if:
       - You want an optical viewfinder and built-in flash.
      - You require high burst capacity at high resolution. 
       

      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

       

      TESTS

       JPEG images

       

       

       

      SAMPLES

       

      Auto white balance with incandescent lighting.

      Auto white balance with fluorescent lighting.

       
      30-second exposure at ISO 160, 16mm focal length, f/4.

       
      13-second exposure at ISO 800, 16mm focal length, f/5.6.
       

       
      6-second exposure at ISO 6400, 16mm focal length, f/11.
       

       
      4-second exposure at ISO 12800, 16mm focal length, f/13.
       

      18mm focal length; ISO 250, 1/125 second at f/5.6.
       

       
      55mm focal length; ISO 250, 1/100 second at f/5.6.
       

      Digital zoom; 55mm focal length; ISO 100, 1/125 second at f/10.
       

      Close-up with the Macro Scene pre-set: 55mm focal length; ISO 400, 1/160 second at f/10.
       

      Close-up in P mode;18mm focal length; ISO 200, 1/125 second at f/11.
       

      Skin tones 55mm focal length; ISO 200, 1/20 second at f/8.
       

      Still frame from AVCHD video clip in the 24M (FX) mode.
       

      Still frame from AVCHD video clip in the 17M (FH) mode.
       

       
      Still frame from AVCHD video clip in the 28M (PS) mode.
       

      Still frame from AVCHD video clip in the 24M (FX) mode.
       

      Still frame from AVCHD video clip in the 17M (FH) mode.

      Still frame from MP4 video clip at 1440 x 1080 pixels.

       
       Still frame from MP4 video clip at 640 x 480 pixels.
       

      Rating

      RRP: AU$799, US$650 (body only); AU$999, US$799 (with 16-50mm lens)
       

      • Build: 8.5
      • Ease of use: 8.5
      • Autofocusing: 8.8
      • Still image quality JPEG: 8.6
      • Video quality: 8.8

      BUY

        No