Sony NEX-5R Review

Sony NEX-5R Review

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Now here’s another one: a deliciously tiny, mirrorless, interchangeable lens camera that can almost replace many DSLRs on themarket. Sony was one of the early entrants in this game and, in typical fashion, continues to refine the bloodline with this third generation product in the 5 series.

In a press release introducing the camera the company asked:

‘Are DSLR cameras too big and too hard?’

The NEX-5R attempts to make a reply and only NEX-5R users will be able to confirm the real answer.

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In looks the camera is tiny and appears further dwarfed by attaching the f3.5/16-50mm kit lens (supplied for this review) but the bulk, handling and overall weight is far from intimidating. With this lens attached it is only just pocketable.

Sony NEX-5R Features

If you’re looking for external controls, stop right now!

Top deck: on/off switch, replay and Function button that accesses a customisable menu and, depending on which shooting mode you’re in, alters aperture and/or shutter speed; there’s also a control wheel that sets aperture value and shutter speed in the appropriate modes. Set back a little is the familiar red video record button.

Rear: to the right of the LCD screen (which dominates this area) is a four way control wheel that accesses continuous shooting, exposure, ISO and screen display options. This is accompanied by two assignable soft key buttons that access menu options.

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Most camera controls can be accessed via the sensitive touch screen. Those who are thick-fingered amongst us will have trouble tho’!

A novel plus of the touch screen is the ability to take vertical format self portraits with the camera held at arm’s length!

For many the camera has an important add-on with its integrated Wi-Fi capabilities and in-camera apps. By installing the appropriate (Windows) app on your iOS or Android mobile device it allows you to transfer files from the camera to the device.
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I had little difficulty in transferring my images to Facebook and my own Wi-Fi network, aside from the tedious finger work involved in the necessary data input.

By installing the Smart Remote Control application, users can do a remote check on the image on their camera display, adjust camera exposure, and even take a picture — all from their Xperia smartphones.
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The 16.1 megapixel capture can shoot maximum 4912×3264 pixel images and make 42x28cm prints. The sweep panorama function will please many brave enough to search out suitable subjects and the patience and resourcefulness to take them to the print stage.

Full HD movies can be captured in either AVHCD or MPEG. Maximum res is 1920×1080 pixels. A good thing in one way is that you cannot capture a still whilst in record video mode, so no breaks in your movie!
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I know I’ve said it before but the switchable on-screen level gauge is a mighty help when you’re shooting in a hurry and likely to miss this important factor.

For many, the deal breaker when considering this camera is the vari-angle screen that tilts up, down and even forward for self-portraits; however, the latter will not work if you attach an optional flash unit to the camera’s top deck.

Sony NEX-5R ISO Tests

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Noise begins to creep in at ISO 3200. More so at ISO 6400. Images at ISO 12800 are useable. High noise level at ISO 25600.

Sony NEX-5R Review Verdict

Quality: above average.

Why you’d buy the Sony NEX-5R: compact, high quality picture maker.

Why you wouldn’t: too basic — you need more features.

Welcome to another in the NEX line!

Sony NEX-5R Specifications

Image Sensor: 16.1 million effective pixels.
Metering: multi zone, centre-weighted, spot.
Lens Mount: Sony E-mount.
Exposure Modes: iAuto, Program AE, shutter and aperture priority, manual.
Effective Sensor Size: 23.5×15.6mm CMOS.
35 SLR Lens Factor: 1.5x.
Shutter Speed (stills): 30 to 1/4000 second and Bulb.
Continuous Shooting: up to 10 fps.
Memory: SD/SDHC/SDXC, Memory Stick Pro Duo cards.
Image Sizes (pixels): Stills: 4912×3264 to 2448×1376.
Movies: 1920×1080 (AVCHD), 1440×1080 and 640×480 (MPEG4).
Viewfinder: 7.5cm LCD screen (921,600 pixels).
File Formats: JPEG, RAW (Sony ARW 2.2), JPEG+RAW, AVCHD, MPEG4.
Colour Space: sRGB, Adobe RGB.
ISO Sensitivity: Auto, 200 to 25600.
Interface: USB 2.0, HDMI mini, Wi-Fi.
Power: Rechargeable lithium ion battery, DC input.
Dimensions: 111x59x39 WHDmm.
Weight: 276 g (inc card and battery).
Price: Get a price on the Sony NEX-5R(Body Only) or the Sony NEX-5R with 18-55mm Lens.

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Barrie Smith is an experienced writer/photographer currently published in Australian Macworld, Auscam and other magazines in Australia and overseas.

Some Older Comments

  • P May 12, 2013 04:28 am

    which one is worth buying, Sony NEX 5R? or Samsung NX300? Thanks for the review!

  • Morgan Glassco February 13, 2013 03:43 pm

    Well I have got mine in the mail and WOW I am impressed. Packs a lot of punch for being so small. Touch screen is not that respnsive but there are enough spinning dials to make it through the menus really quickly.

    Love tha you can customize the function buttons to your liking, just trying to figure out the best setup.

  • Toni February 13, 2013 11:06 am

    Thanx Mic & Barrie! Very helpful info and I truly appreciate it. Your specifics will make shopping easier. I can't wait to go take a look at one!

  • Barrie Smith February 13, 2013 10:08 am

    Yes, this camera would take great sports and action shots. But, as I have said many times before … it's the driver not the car.

    You need to use the fastest shutter speed you can. Then, you need to use the highest ISO setting, say ISO 1600 or 3200.

    This will let you use a fast shutter speed and smaller lens aperture to provide sharpness over a wide field.

    Ideally, shoot in the brightest light possible.

    Take a look at

    it should help!

  • Krista February 12, 2013 12:07 pm

    I am looking for a camera that takes great shots while subject is in motion. My daughter competes in horse shows and my current camera takes blurred action shots. Would this camera do that.

  • Barrie Smith February 11, 2013 08:10 am

    If you shoot as many stills and video as I do then the vari-angle screen becomes a 'must'. Sure helps to get the camera away from the face.

  • Mic February 10, 2013 04:40 am

    I've had one of these for about 6 months and have to say it's excellent. Ease of use coupled with excellent picture quality means it more than holds its own against DSLRs.

    This review does not do the camera justice; there are more than enough features to make this anything but a basic camera and to say the vari-angle screen is a deal breaker really shows a lack of understanding of this cameras market.

  • Toni February 10, 2013 04:29 am

    I am looking to get a point and shoot that is not bulky or heavy for my trip this spring to Europe with students. I need something that has good zoom quality as well as a stabilizer for my shaky hands. Of course, I realize there are so many to choose from which is why I'm posting. I love this website! One of my students has a small Sony that takes absolutely amazing photos but does not have a viewfinder. I'm inclined to a Sony but I would love to hear from all of you especially if you own one. Thanks very much.

  • Bill February 8, 2013 04:59 am

    I use my nex3 with telephoto lens quite a lot (200mm f4, 80mm f2 canon fd ; zeiss 135mm f3.5 and tamron 90mm macro. With focus peaking it is quite easy to nail accurate focus with the depth of field indicated on screen (you will need to practice a little to get it right). I find it is a 'plus' to be able to hold the camera way from me using the tilt screen to get shots where an eye level view finder or a standard slr is useless. I also use an old film slide viewer - the type you hold up to the light and view using transmitted light. This is held onto the lcd with a fridge magnet and rubber band to act as a viewer (you pop off the screen part). it covers about 95% of the composing screen and can be used at any angle the view screen adjusts too. It is different to the electronic viewer in the you seem to be looking at something the size of a grainy tennis court rather than a small screen at the end of a tunnel. They also cost next to nothing and only weigh a few grams so don't stress the screen assembly. There are several u-tube vids of rather elaborate methods of constructing one of these that can get you started. Using the viewer at 45deg and cradling the lens in one hand means it is much more steady then having it at eye level. Hope this helps

  • Jay February 8, 2013 04:31 am

    Thanks Jason, that makes it an easier decision. On the tripod the tilt screen will, I hope, make it even more convenient. Thanks again.

  • Jason February 7, 2013 08:05 pm

    Jay, there is an attachable EVF viewfinder which is actually very very good. You can hold it to your eye just like a conventional DSLR for for traditional viewing, but it also adds stability. Otherwise with a long telephoto, use a tripod.

  • Jay February 6, 2013 10:55 am

    I wonder how this (or any camera without a view finder) will feel with a longer telephoto lens attached and the camera held away from face. Any feedback will be very welcome.

  • Jason February 6, 2013 04:59 am

    Features = size = weight. Barrie, are you sure you those missing features (what exactly?) is worth the tradeoff?

  • Morgan Glassco February 6, 2013 04:45 am

    Really excited to get mine in the mail. Though I don't have it, I have got some hands on time and love the feel of the camera with the small grip. The ISO performance is something I am really looking forward to over my D90.

    for those interested, there are a lot of great features not mentioned in this review such as Focus Peaking and Panorama, Bracketing/HDR. I would encourage further research to see all this camera has to offer. Great piece of kit!

  • Jens February 5, 2013 06:18 pm

    The NEX 5r in combination with the SEL 1650 is so far the most compact APS-C Camera available. I really like its ability to fit in my jacket pockets, so that i can have it with me all the time. The lens is a compromise and its not as feature rich as my A77 but picture quality and size are what you buy a NEX 5r for.