|When it was announced in January, the α5000 was claimed as Sony’s smallest and lightest interchangeable lens camera to date and while the NEX brand name may be gone, the new camera retains the characteristic styling associated with it. Designed to use Sony E-mount lenses, this camera also features an APS-C image sensor with 20.1-megapixel effective resolution and a tilting monitor that flips up for taking ‘selfies’.
The camera is supplied with the 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 PZ OSS lens, which was introduced with the NEX-6 camera in September 2012.
Effectively a replacement for the NEX-3N, the α5000 is targeted at entry-level photographers who want the advantages a large-sensor, interchangeable-lens camera can provide ““ but in a compact format. This is the main advantage the camera has over similarly priced and specified DSLRs from other manufacturers.
The user interface on the α5000 has been designed primarily for snapshooters and most ‘serious’ controls are buried in the camera’s menu. Menu diving is still required to change most camera settings, which may not trouble the target market but will frustrate serious enthusiasts.
There’s no viewfinder or mode dial; instead buttons can provide access to key functions. The lack of hot shoe or accessory port further limits more advanced shooting, although the built-in flash will be handy for most potential users.
The inclusion of Wi-Fi and NFC capabilities makes it easy for connected photographers to share images and videos, while the flip-up screen adds value for those who enjoy taking self-portraits. (The Soft Skin effect mode can help to make these as attractive as possible.)
Other convenient additions include Auto Object Framing function, Full HD movie capability and the easy availability of Picture Effects (13 of them) that can be applied to photos or movies. Packaged in a body that weighs only 269 grams with battery and card ““or 375 grams when the kit lens is included – and at AU$699 it’s an attractive option.
The top panel of the α5000 without a lens. (Source: Sony.)
The rear panel of the α5000 with the monitor in its ‘resting’ position. (Source: Sony.)
For an entry-level interchangeable-lens camera, the α5000 has a lot of advantages; it’s small and light, takes nice-looking photos and movies and comes with a reasonably competent lens. On the downside, the lack of a viewfinder is a big disadvantage for anyone who shoots still pictures or movie clips in outdoor environments. Point-and-guess shooting is imposed by the camera in such situations.
The issue is complicated by a lack of a hot-shoe, which means you can’t fit a viewfinder, even if one was available. Nor can you fit an accessory flash when the built-in flash isn’t powerful enough.
For photographers who have stepped up from point-and-press digicams or camera-phones these issues may present few problems. But for anyone who wants to develop their photography into a moderately serious pastime, they represent can impediments to progress.
Price-wise the α5000 isn’t really competitive with an entry-level DSLR from one of the major manufacturers, all of which include viewfinders and hot shoes. But, if having a small, lightweight camera is the main priority, sacrificing these advantages may be the only option if you want the largest sensor for the body size.
Lens options for E-mount cameras remain relatively limited. Sony currently offers eight prime (single focal length) and 10 zoom lenses. The range is not as comprehensive as the M4/3 line-up but includes both affordable and high-performance lenses.