The Sony NEX-5R has overall excellent performance for autofocusing (issues aside), responsiveness, and image quality–though they’re still not up to Olympus’s autofocusing performance. The fact that the touchscreen was added in as an upgrade over the NEX-5N and it potentially makes operation even quicker. The Olympus EPM2 still bests it in both autofocus performance and responsiveness while Sony wins on image quality.
When it came to Wi-Fi connectivity performance, we tested it with an HTC One S and an iPad mini. Time and time again, the iPad mini proved to have a more reliable transmission ability. After that, the images were then edited in Snapseed and sent to the web. It was nearly a seamless experience and one that was much simpler than using something like an Eye-Fi card.
We tested this camera with three lenses: Sony’s 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 (which comes with the camera) 35mm f1.8 OSS, and the Rokinon 24mm T1.5 (a cinema lens designed for videography.)
Sony’s kit lens is sharp, contrasty, and fast to focus. For a kit lens, it is really amongst one of the best that we’ve seen and tested. We used it with an external flash at one point and were able to resolve lots of detail due to the specular highlights. However, the sharpness was all across the frame and we’ve seen that the lens is very much so worth the money on the wide end. When it came to the telephoto end, we’ve seen sharper results. Our only other complaints had to do with distortion–but one needs to expect it with kit lenses.
Sony’s 35mm f1.8 OSS was good, but nowhere as good as the company’s 24mm f1.8 or 50mm f1.8 OSS. Granted, the 35mm isn’t branded as being a Zeiss lens (nor is the 50mm) but we had very high expectations for the lens. It wasn’t as sharp as we expected–however it kept down distortion, color fringing, and aberrations very well.
The Rokinon 24mm T1.5 is a T-Stop lens designed to be used for cinematic reasons. Ergonomically speaking, it is best to use this lens when the camera is mounted on a tripod or a video rig of some sort. This is because of the all manual controls and the overall giant size of the lens–which by far dwarfs the camera.
The Sony NEX 5R records video at 24p or 60p. It also offers full manual control over the exposure when recording (which can be very important.) The quality of Sony’s video from their NEX series of cameras have always been quite good and the 5R is no exception.
During our testing period, we also partnered the camera up with an IndiePro EVF. In order to make this work, we needed to connect it to the camera via an HDMI cable. To our delight, the camera was able to output the monitor at 1080p–which made recording footage much more simple.
If you want to do anything besides casual video, we recommend trying to get all of the settings correct the first time in the camera. When we brought the footage into Adobe Premiere Elements, color grading introduced noise artifacts that weren’t there to start with. However, the footage from the camera is quite good as it is when the Vivid mode is selected.
Sony’s NEX line of cameras have consistently provided better image quality than Micro Four Thirds cameras but not as good photos as Fujifilm X series. The 5R is no exception–proving to still be a happy middle ground. For the best results, we often set our unit to the Vivid color mode and tried to shoot as wide open as possible to get some beautiful bokeh. Otherwise, images from the NEX sensor can tend to be a bit more flat than we’d like. When set to Vivid though, the images look like the old Kodak Ektachrome–which was quite a look!
The high ISO images that we shot retained lots of detail and managed to keep the noise levels down up to 6400. Anything beyond that was just painful to look at. When it came to editing the raw files, Sony’s NEX 5R produced images that were easy to manipulate to get the look that we wanted. Indeed, very little was needed to be done to the images to start with–so Adobe Lightroom 4 is more than enough for most users’ needs.
Something that must be commended is Sony’s ability to white balance an image very well. To date, Sony’s white balancing algorithms are some of the best there are.
Additional Sample Images