Sony Alpha NEX-5R Digital Camera Review$749.99
Kit Lens & Mount
We tested the NEX-5R using Sony's 18-55mm kit lens, which offers an unexciting aperture range of F3.5 - 5.6 maximum and F22 - 32 minimum. The barrel's exterior is sturdy and metallic, however the action of the zoom ring feels a tiny bit cheap and plasticky. The focus ring is much smoother, however this is a "by-wire" focus system, so manual focus doesn't have that perfect 1:1 responsiveness. Minimum focus distance with this lens is just shy of 10 inches, which can be limiting in certain situations, but will be sufficient for general photography.
The diameter of Sony's E-mount is actually longer than the height of the main camera body, creating the NEX series' distinctive "oversized" look. According to the company's plan, this lens family could have a bright future, but for now the E-mount isn't in the best shape. The most desirable lenses are prohibitively expensive (such as the $1100 Zeiss 24mm F1.8), and most of them are rather bulky too, save for the 16mm F2.8 which isn't regarded as a very sharp lens anyway.
Behind the E-mount is a giant APS-C image sensor, or "APS HD" if you prefer Sony's branding. This is a new design that weighs in at 16.1 effective megapixels, and features 99 phase detection autofocus points on the sensor, a capability that is largely unheard of in cameras of this class. The sensor also features a vibration-based dust cleaning mechanism, as well as a charge protection coating to prevent static attraction of dust.
Convergence areas of different sensor sizes compared
The omission of a viewfinder will probably be regarded as one of the camera's major disadvantages, however we're happy to report the 5R's rear LCD will be fully capable of supporting any of your photographic needs.
Initially we were very concerned about the panel's usability in bright sunlight, however a little menu exploration revealed a "Sunny Weather" setting for the LCD, which sets illumination to maximum and cranks up the contrast. The onscreen display is very responsive, so there's not much lag associated with framing action shots. We also liked the tilting capabilities of the screen, which can be rotated up to face the front of the camera (useful for self-portraits), or tilted about 45 degrees down (useful for framing overhead shots).
This is also a touch-sensitive panel, which might've been useful for features like tracking focus or one-touch capture, but instead it mainly serves to annoy the user after they accidentally thumb over the screen. Thankfully, touch operation can be turned off completely.
Without spending more time with the camera, it's hard to speak to the LCD's durability, however our test model arrived with a large scratch on it. Not a good sign.
While the NEX-5R has no built-in flash, the camera ships with an external flash emitter, model number HVL-F7S, with a guide number of 7. Flash exposure compensation is available out to +/- 2 full stops, and be aware that the rear LCD's tilt functionality will be limited while the flash (or any other accessory) is connected to the "Smart Accessory Terminal 2" on the top of the camera.
In addition to the so-called "Smart Accessory Terminal," you'll find two connectivity ports underneath a plastic door on the left side of the camera: a miniHDMI terminal and a Micro-B USB terminal, which is also used for charging the battery.
The included NP-FW50 battery pack is rated to only 330 consecutive shots on a single charge, a bit low for this segment of the market. Recharging is accomplished exclusively in-camera, by connecting both the USB cable and the AC power cord to an adapter. The battery may also be charged from a computer's USB port directly.
While we imagine most people will opt for SD, SDHC, or SDXC memory cards, the 5R is also dual-compatible with certain forms of Memory Stick media. Those are "Memory Stick PRO Duo" and "Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo" varieties. The card slot isn't as difficult to use as some dual-function slots Sony has offered in the past.