Sony NEX-5R Preview

September 5, 2012

Sony makes some great Compact System Cameras, and the Sony NEX-5N was just one reason why many people were interested in looking at what Sony has to offer. The Sony alpha NEX-5R is the latest addition to Sony NEX Mirrorless lineup. The 5N is a mid-range NEX camera that is added to the NEX camera’s lineup. In this article I want to give you a better overview of the Sony NEX-5R features, and give you my own opinion about it.


Sony NEX-5R white

Sony NEX-5R white

Opening Words

Picking a Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens camera can be hard, especially if this is your first MILC. There are plenty of alternative, including some excellent offering from Olympus, Panasonic, Nikon and of course the new Canon EOS M. Sony NEX cameras are mature and proven products. People like those cameras because of the small size, slim profile, high image quality and a nice selection of high quality lenses. This of course can be said on other cameras, maybe not regarding the ‘slim’ part :]

When you buy a Compact System Camera, you need to think a bit differently on how you approach this purchase. You are buying yourself into a new camera system. That because you probably will be purchasing at least two lenses, and maybe buy a few extra accessories for it. The Micro Four Thirds system looks very attractive and its a direct and well worthy competitor to Sony NEX system.  With M43 you have a much larger selection of lenses, and you can still keep your lenses while changing the body to a different M43 camera manufacturer (ie. Olympus to Panasonic).

Picking up a new CSC can be a even harder when Canon entered the market with the Canon EOS M. People are waiting to see what will be the next model and want to see what new lenses will join the EF-M mount. But waiting can take forever so it seems, and you want a camera now, so which one should you get?

I personally think that when buying a CSC, you need to look a bit into the future and also look at the success of current models. Sony NEX cameras have proven to be of a very high quality. The camera’s built quality is great, hey are very compact cameras, Sony is the leader in sensor manufacturing, and we could see this with the NEX-5N sensor.  Sony already has a very nice selection of E-mount lenses, including 30mm f/3.5 macro, 18-200mm, 18-55mm, 50mm f/1.8, 16mm f/2.8 and some high quality Carl Zeiss brand lenses. There are also third party E-mount lenses from Sigma and Tamron.

All in all, Sony NEX cameras certainly give photographers the tools they need to get great pictures and know that they can rely on Sony to continue delivering great products in the future. Furthermore, if you ever want to upgrade to a flagship model, you have the NEX-7 to upgrade too, like the Olympus OM-D E-M5 is for Micro Four Thirds photographers.

So when it comes to choosing a new CSC, Sony NEX cameras are certainly a very good option.


Sony NEX-5R Key Features

In every camera category you can find entry-level cameras, mid-range and flagship models, all vary in terms of price and features. The Sony NEX-5R is a mid-range NEX camera.


Sony NEX-5R Image Sensor & Hybrid AF

The NEX-5R features a 16.1MP CMOS sensor, which includes Fast Hybrid AF that combines contrast detection with on-sensor phase detection sensors for more accurate and fast autofocusing. The sensor itself is a APS-C size sensor, which is approx. 13 times larger than a typical P&S camera sensor. This sensor is larger than Micro Four Thirds, which for some models we can already see that NEX cameras offer better IQ.

APS-C size sensor have several advantages over smaller sensors, that includes better low light sensitivity (but also depends on the pixel density), shallower depth of field (also depends on the lens aperture) and generally very low noise when shooting at high ISO sensitivity levels.

When it comes to sensors, you can trust Sony to deliver the goods. Sony makes sensors for many other camera vendors and in my opinion, Sony is the world’s leader in sensor manufacturing. When I so what the NEX-5N was capable of, it was just a tip of the ice of what we can expect from future cameras.  If you are like me, you care about image quality, and one reason why you considered picking up a CSC it’s because of the image quality. Sony NEX cameras will not fail, and the NEX-5R is another camera with a very high sensor engineering inside.

Sony NEX-5R sensor size comparison APS-C

Sony NEX-5R sensor size comparison

In the above sensor size comparison diagram (via you can see that the NEX-5R sensor is almost the same size as the EOS-M, a bit larger, but much larger than the Micro Four Thirds and Nikon 1 J2 sensors. already published some Sony NEX-5R highISO sample images (can be seen here), which you can see how good the image quality is, even at ISO 800, it has very low amount of noise, just amazing! – Telling you that I’m surprised, not at all, I expected Sony to continue delivering excellent products every time, and the Sony NEX-5R is not exception.

I also think that 16MP on APS-C sensor is a good balance between details and high ISO performance. I personally wouldn’t mind getting a 10MP with even better performance, but if I ask Sony to make me a custom camera it would probably cost me millions ;)

I also mentioned earlier the Hybrid AF system. The Hybrid AF system simply means that the camera utilizes both contrast detection AF with phase-detection information. The depth information collected by the on-sensor phase detection helps for faster focusing, because the camera doesn’t need to scan the whole range and knows the exact spot to focus at. This also adds another advantage and this is continuous AF during movie recording.

If you’ve seen some videos taken with contrast-detection AF based camera, you could see that the camera lost focus every now and then, which lead to very annoying out-of-focus effect when shooting moving subjects. This should vastly improve with the addition of phase-detection, which will lead to more accurate focusing system when you shoot moving subjects in videos. So in general, phase-detection brings speed, while contrast detection adds to the accuracey, like fine tuning the focus.


Sony NEX-5R Camera Body Features

Sony NEX cameras are small cameras and the NEX-5R is not exception. Just compare it to the Sony A77 DSLR and see what I’m talking about (see image below)

Sony NEx-5R vs Sony A77 size comparison

Sony NEx-5R vs Sony A77 size comparison


One of the reasons people buy CSC cameras it’s because of the small size. They want a compact camera that can deliver DSLR-like image quality. One thing to remember that the size of the NEX camera doesn’t tell us the whole story. Yes, NEX cameras are very compact, but you shouldn’t forget that you need to attach a lens to the camera, because CSC doesn’t come with a fixed lens.

In the next image you can see the NEX-5R without a lens and with the 18-55mm lens.

Sony NEX5R and A77 cameras

Sony NEx-5R with and without a lens, alongside the A77

Image courtesy of camera size website.

Now you can see what I’m talking about. If you mount a 18-200mm lens (you can do that on, the size would be even larger, much larger. So with Compact System Cameras you needn’t forget to add the lens into the size equation. The Sony NEX-5R can be pocketable, but only if you attach  slim pancake lens to it. Having said that, I would probably won’t get a CSC to be pocketable, I have my phone for that, I would buy it for the flexibility that comes with interchangeable lens cameras – the ability to shoot 1:1 macro, ultra wide angle, super telephoto and so on.


At the back you can find a 3-inch touchscreen (flips up 18–degrees for self portrait shots) with 920K-dots resolution. This is a high quality screen that plays a valuable part of any nex cameras, considering the fact that only the NEX-7 comes with an electronic viewfinder. That means that you will be composing your images and changing the camera’s settings via the rear LCD. Everything that you do with this camera will be done via the LCD – so it should be in a very high quality, and it is!

The Sony NEX doesn’t have lots of buttons. It was designed to be used with the touch-sensitive screen. The Sony NEx-7 on the other hand has more buttons and two dial wheels on top for fast access and control of popular camera functions and settings. The NEX-5R was designed for ease of use, and for those who feel a bit frightened using a more advanced camera. You shouldn’t be afraid of the NEX-5R, it’s very easy to use, even for total beginners.


NEX-5R Wi-Fi Connectivity

Wi-Fi connectivity is very useful for sharing images instantly from the camera to online photo sharing websites and social networks, even to upload files wirelessy to your computer. Of course you will need an internet connection with a wireless router or a hotspot which you can create using your mobile phone.

We will probably see many more cameras with wireless capabilities, but as for the present times, we don’t see many of them, especially not in CSC. This is a very useful feature, considering that many people want to upload their photos directly to social networks. With the Wi-Fi connectivity on the 5R you can direct upload images and videos to social media and also transfer your files directly to cellphones and tablet devices.


Full HD Video Recording

The Sony NEX-5R can capture beautiful 1080p60 or 1080p24 Full HD videos.  Sony is well known for its very high image quality videos. Now with the combination of the Hybrid AF, you can expect better looking videos when shooting moving subjects. APS-C sensors produce sharp videos with great amount of details. Add the tilting screen into account, and you get a very capable video camera that can produce very high quality movie clips.



As you can see from the key features, the Sony NEX-5R is a highly-capable compact system camera. Image quality looks awesome, even at high ISO. The Wi-Fi connectivity and Hybrid AF are useful features that many people will like to have. It’s also a camera that even beginners can use. The touch-sensitive screen makes it easy to operate the camera and understand what each function means. The camera was designed to be very user friendly. Sony has some excellent E-mount lenses which can answer all your needs as advanced photographers. It’s a highly recommended camera for beginners and enthusiasts alike.


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