Sony NEX-5R review

Sony NEX camera gets apps

Sony NEX-5R review
The Sony NEX-5R is a compact system camera with apps and a touchscreen

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Even with the larger APS-C format sensor, the Sony NEX-5R's body is smaller than some of the Micro Four Thirds offerings, such as the Panasonic GF5 and Olympus PEN E-P3.

Despite this, the pronounced textured grip enables good purchase in use, and handling feels more comfortable than on many other CSCs.

The build is also reassuring, with the quality of finish that you'd hope for and expect from Sony. All dials and buttons have a defined click that assures you they have been pressed or positioned correctly. It's a small thing, but one that's often overlooked with many of these smaller cameras.

Sony NEX-5R review

One really nice feature is the battery and card slot door on the base. This has been designed in such a way so that even when mounted on a tripod it can be accessed without having to remove the tripod's base plate. This is a design feature almost always overlooked on other cameras.

The only part that lets down the Sony NEX-5R's build are the small flap doors that cover the accessories and HDMI/USB port. While these match the body well, they feel a little flimsy and likely to break after a year or two of use.

The addition of the new control dial and function button really change the way this cameras feels and handles when shooting. We found that when shooting in aperture or shutter priority, the ability to quickly change settings with your thumb enables a more fluid experience, almost reminiscent of using a lens aperture ring.

Sony NEX-5R review

When using the camera in aperture, shutter or manual mode we found that the Sony NEX-5R's top control dial gives quick access to settings adjustments, increasing the speed at which a picture can be taken and enabling quick changes when needed to compensate exposure.

This new control dial offers a big usability enhancement over the Sony NEX-5N. Couple this with the new Fn button and most major settings can be directly accessed, giving this compact system camera a high performance feel more akin to a DSLR.

The top also sees a new Fn button, which can be clicked to access key features such as focus, AF mode, AF selection, white balance, metering and effects, again changing the settings using either control dial. The function of this and the control dials can be customised through the settings menu, but we found the default setup intuitive and easy to use.

Sony NEX-5R review

The updated 3-inch touchscreen has a 921k dot resolution, and while in shade it shows the image clearly, out in bright sunlight the high gloss finish of the surface makes it difficult to see what's going on. During the test, a lens cloth was put to good use, cleaning the screen to remove finger marks that made it almost impossible to see the image or settings.

As with the NEX-5N, there is an optional EVF available that will slot into the accessories port.

The Sony NEX-5R's touchscreen is pressure-sensitive, and worked well throughout testing. As well as being able to use the screen to select focus points and as a touch shutter, you can select options and scroll through settings.

Sony NEX-5R review

In use, this was all responsive, although the control dials offer a far more accurate form of navigation and selection than using the touchscreen.

App compatibility is the big new feature, and these apps can be accessed through their own section in the main menu. The camera ships with a selection pre-loaded apps, and further apps will be available in late October. We'll bring you an update at the time.

The effects app gives you a series of different visual effects that are applied to the image when shooting. Once the app is selected it takes about five seconds to load (this may just be due to early firmware) and then each of the effects can be selected, giving a similar selection to the Art Filters found on the Olympus PEN range.

Imaging Lab Manager

Ali Jennings is the imaging lab manager for Future Publishing's Photography portfolio. Using Imatest Master and DxO Analyser he produces the image quality tests for all new cameras and lenses review in TechRadar's cameras channel. Ali has been shooting digital since the early nineties and joined Future's Photography portfolio back in 2003.