CNET First Look
Sony Alpha NEX-5R: When it's good, it's very, very goodIt's a great camera choice for high-quality stills and a streamlined shooting design under $800, but the Sony Alpha NEX-5R falls short when it comes to sharing your shots online.
Generally, a better design version of the NEX-5N. The interchangeable lens Sony Alpha NEX-5R delivers similarly excellent photo quality and somewhat improved performance over that model. The look is about the same. The addition of the control dial and a function button make a big difference in usability and its streamline shooting for those of us who like direct access controls for everything. The menu system still gets a little annoying. And now it has the card submenu rolled into setup, which makes it quite tedious to find important options like card formatting and Wi-Fi set up. The Wi-Fi features are pretty basic. The most competitors offer the same. You can upload to Facebook or Sony's play memory service or you can transfer directly to your phone. There's also remote shutter app that lets you use your phone or tablet as a larger screen, but only can really do is snap the photo. Also is the ability to download and install proprietary apps, but the whole operation seems to offer more benefit to Sony than to camera owners. For instance, the free picture effects plus app duplicates the effect in the camera with the exception of adding watercolor and illustration. But of these are built in to the NEX-F3 so they took them out to put them into the app. The photo quality really is quite good with clean JPEGs as high as ISO 400, and for the most part, usable images as high as ISO 3200 depending upon the scene. Sony's image processing is so well done that I really couldn't get better noise reduction at any ISO level by processing the RAWS, though shooting RAW still helps for recovering highlights or shadow detail. Colors look relatively accurate. The Sony doesn't offer a neutral color option and the camera renders a nice tonal range. The video has some artifact notably aliasing in more ray, but the low light tonal quality looks better than average and there are lots of colored noise than usual as well. It's not the fastest camera in its class, but it's certainly fast enough. I find the interface feels a little bit sluggish though and the LCD is really hard to see in direct sunlight. It tilts, but you really need a flip out or AVF to compensate in bright situations. The design of the 5R feels especially suited to street photography and I like shooting with it. As long as you're considering it for reasons other than the app support or wireless capability, it comes highly recommended. I'm Lori Grunin and this is the Sony Alpha NEX-5R.