There are plenty of tech sites out there talking all about the
specifications of Sony's new NEX-5r but a camera is more than numbers.
These are my thoughts on the NEX-5r as a previous owner of the NEX-5,
NEX-5n and NEX-7. If the Sony NEX-5n was a sleeper (that has ended up
becoming an Amazon best seller) the updated NEX-5r was received with
even less hype but introduces significant, important changes. I think
it will be a best seller too. As the NEX-5r an update to NEX-5n and
shares the same sensor, it's best to read my 5n
first. This will be a shorter review as much of the
performance is covered in the 5n review. Let's look at my previously
listed Cons and see how Sony addressed them.
Touchscreen only good for setting AF point
Could use more external controls
Slow turn on time of ~2 seconds
Small buffer, only 7 shots in raw
Center only AF while shooting video
Terrible tripod mount, not enough friction
Strange CA issues with legacy lenses
The touch screen has not changed that much. I still don't use it for
much more than setting the AF point, it's faster to use the dials to
navigate the menu system.
added in a top control dial that feels just as good as the ones on the
NEX-7, and it has a nice slope to perfectly match the top angle of the
5r's body. A programmable function button has been added to the right
of the shutter release, also a welcome addition. Unfortunately there is
a fly in the ointment. For some reason Sony crippled the rear command
dial when they added the top dial. In Program, Aperture Priority and
Shutter Priority mode, the top command has control and the rear dial
down to activate Exposure Compensation control. In P/S/A modes the
camera handles more or less the same as the 5n despite the extra dial.
Let's hope Sony can do a firmware updates to fix this before the camera
is discontinued. For my personal taste, this is not a problem as I like
to shoot the Sony NEX series in manual mode. Here the extra dial is of
benefit, the top dial controls aperture while the rear manages shutter
speed, improving handling in a big way. The function dial is also very
useful, especially if you rely on the AF system of the camera. I
generally use manual focus on the NEX series, but find it handy to be
able to switch AF on and off with this dial instead of having to go
into the menu system. Sony has also put the on/off button in the
correct place, around the shutter release button. There are some slight
software changes to how the 5r handles over the 5n: Previously I was
able to set the button in the center of the rear command dial to ISO,
now it can only adjust the exposure mode. Pushing right on the dial no
longer has customizable options, it now controls ISO all the time.
retail value of Sony's FDA-EV1s has dropped from $350 to $260 making it
much more affordable. I like this viewfinder, a lot, despite it's
fragility and terrible supplied rubber eye-piece. Previous review of
Slow turn on time:
Sony, the NEX-5r is faster to power up than the NEX-5n and NEX-7. For
some reason the 5r powers up the slowest with the 18-55mm kit lens,
about the same as the 5n and 7. Switch to a manual focus or Sigma lens
and power on time improves.
Small buffer: The raw buffer has jumped from the NEX-5n's anemic seven
shots to eleven. It's worth noting these are Sony's claimed numbers for
raw file buffering. These cameras are strange. As ISO goes up, the
buffer goes down. With a fast SD card and ISO 100 I get a buffer of
eleven with one bonus shot right at the end thanks to the fast card.
ISO 6400 drops the buffer to eight shots. This is probably why I had
frustration with the 5n's buffer, which would drop to below half a
second of buffering at high ISOs. While not a huge difference, for
kayaking the larger buffer of the 5r seems to be just enough. Not as
good as the NEX-7 but not frustratingly small, and unsurprisingly it
clears to the SD card much faster than the 24mp NEX-7.
Center only AF while shooting video:
here have not changed, even when the camera is set to continuous AF and
a side focus point is chosen, the camera still focuses in the center of
the screen. Focusing has improved however, there is less hunting and
the movement is smooth (and slow) when switching from near to far
Terrible tripod mount:
tripod mount on the NEX-5r has seen no improvement over the 5 or 5n.
Just like the original there is a small hump on the bottom of the
camera, and just not enough surface area for a tripod plate to mount
securely. I'd take just a little more camera bulk to have the tripod
mount flush with the bottom of the camera.
Strange CA issues with legacy lenses:
I haven't shot the NEX-5r enough but assume this puzzling issue will
still be present from time to time. I saw it on both the NEX-5n and
NEX-7 and have come to believe it's from light bouncing off the sensor
and uncoated rear element of old lenses.
The NEX-5r is everything I liked about the NEX-5n with almost every
problem fixed. Sony has continued to improve each generation of the NEX
series. Hopefully some day we'll have the lenses to match the cameras.
One of the largest additions to the NEX-5r is phase detect auto-focus
sensors on the sensor itself. This is a great addition, but Sony's kit
lens is so poor I disdain using it, and third party lenses like the
great Sigma 19mm EX DN
anything from it. Sony needs to make some better lenses for the
system that aren't slow and poor optically or too fragile like the 50mm f/1.8 OSS.
Two small things are a step back however. The first is the connections
for a carrying strap are no longer the stationary, out of the way
connections used on the NEX-5n but are the dangling, potentially loud
affairs used on the NEX-7. Sony also decided to do some penny pinching
and expects NEX-5r users to charge their batteries by plugging the
camera into a USB cord. That's right, a stand alone battery charger is
no longer included. Two small problems mixed in with many great
Update: While it's a shame no charger is included, for international
travel it's nice to be able to charge the camera by USB. With battery
packs like Goal0
charging via USB hardly drains anything compared to using an inverter
and battery charger, and will be very nice for international travels.
There are still some things that could be better on the NEX-5r
still not very useful
Can't use EVF and Flash at the same
Controls still sub-par to NEX-7
The new silly dangling camera strap
attachment point, and new command dial that is perfectly matched to the
top camera angle.