Sony NEX-5R Camera Review

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Sony NEX-5R Camera
The new Sony NEX-5R addresses many of the 5N's weaknesses without diminishing any of its strengths. There's a new Function button and command dial for quicker access to photographic settings. Pressing the button reveals six customisable functions, which can be picked from a list of 15. With ISO speed, drive mode and exposure compensation available separately via the navigation pad, there's little reason to visit the main menu in normal use.

The old 5N can be configured to provide a similar set of controls, but only by reassigning the centre button on the pad, thereby losing quick access to the shooting mode. On the 5R, the centre button brings up a virtual mode dial on the screen, which is adjusted by spinning the wheel on the back of the camera. It's not quite as effective as a dedicated physical mode dial but it's a big improvement on the 5N. The 3in wide-aspect screen is tilts up and down as before, but now it can tilt up by 180 degrees for self-portraits. Doing so automatically enables a three-second self-timer, so you've plenty of time to steady your arm and gun before the shutter goes.

Various other CSCs have articulated screens but none are as petite as this one. The new articulated screen is great for self portraits Otherwise, the 5R and 5N are virtually indistinguishable – and that's fine. It's an extremely handsome camera, and surprisingly comfortable to hold and use considering its diminutive design. Our only lingering concern is the detachable flash unit, which isn't as tidy as an integrated flash and is likely to be left at home as a result. Then again, building a flash into the camera would inevitably make it bigger – as demonstrated by the Sony NEX-F3 . Sony has improved autofocus performance by incorporating phase-detect autofocus sensors into the main imaging sensor. It's an increasingly common technique, but as with previous examples, it only brings marginal improvements. Testing side by side with the 5N, we found that the average time between pressing the shutter button and taking a photo fell from 0.6 to 0.4 seconds in bright conditions. This improvement felt more significant than the numbers might suggest, though. This isn't the fastest CSC to focus but it's quick enough for it not to be a concern.

Burst shooting with continuous autofocus remains slow at 1.3fps, though. Meanwhile, the new sensor appears to take its toll on battery life. The 5R and 5N use the same battery but its quoted life has fallen from 410 to 330 shots. Start-up and shot-to-shot times are a little slower than on the 5N, taking 2.2 seconds to the first shot and 0.8 seconds between subsequent shots. These hardly count as bad results, though. One big improvement is that the 10fps burst rate now lasts for 13 frames before slowing to around 3fps. On the 5N it slowed after just four frames unless we delved into the Setup menu to switch off lens distortion correction first. The Sony NEX-5R includes the Wi-Fi functions that we first saw in the Sony NEX-6 . Having seen a glut of Wi-Fi cameras in the last couple of months, we're forced to conclude that this isn't our favourite implementation. Still, the ability to
transfer a photo to an iPhone for instant online sharing is enough in itself to make this a valuable feature.

The iOS app also has a remote shooting mode, complete with live view on the iPhone or iPad. Control over photographic settings in the app is extremely limited but it's perfect for group self-portraits. The equivalent Android app has been updated since we last tested it, but as before, it worked temperamentally on a Samsung phone and not at all on an HTC One V. Wi-Fi also brings the ability to download apps – see www.sony.net/pmca for details.

It's a novel idea but we're not particularly tempted to fork out between £4 and £8 for functions such as advanced bracketing and time-lapse when other cameras include them for free. Then again, it's packed with advanced shooting modes out of the box, so the apps are just an extra that people can take or leave. Ultimately, these Wi-Fi functions are welcome, and will hopefully get even better over
time. The superior 16-50mm lens kit looks like a good idea, but at present you could bag a NEX-6 for similar money Another significant change is the growing number of E Mount lenses, including two particularly fine examples. The 16-50mm lens (which is bundled with the NEX-6) is much smaller, lighter and sharper than the standard kit lens. The 35mm prime lens (part code SEL-35F18) is similarly small and light, has a useful 52mm equivalent focal length and excels in low light with its f1/.8 maximum aperture and optical stabilisation.

They aren't cheap lenses, though, with the 35mm currently selling for around £380. The 16-50mm makes an excellent alternative to the standard 18-55mm kit lens, but buying it with the NEX-5R (known as the NEX-5RL kit) will set you back around £670. The NEX-6 currently costs around with the same lens, and is much more appealing with its fantastic viewfinder. It's worth checking the latest prices before you buy, though.
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