REVIEW / Sony NEX-5R: An NEX-5N With Wi-Fi and Apps

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Franck Mée
Morgane Alzieu
Published on November 20, 2012
Translated by Catherine Barraclough
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  • Sensor CMOS 16 Mpx, APS-C (x1.5) , 4.3 Mpx/cm
  • Lens NAx 18-55 mm f/3.5 -5.6
  • Stabilisation Optical
  • Viewfinder Electronic
  • Screen 7.5 cm, not TN, 921600 dots, 16:9, Monopoint
  • Sensitivity (ISO range) 100 - 25600 ISO ext. 80 mm


Sony is continuing to take its NEX range of interchangeable lens compacts forwards. After the NEX-5N, which brought a new sensor and a touchscreen, the NEX-5R doesn't change much in terms of pure tech specs, but adds an extra settings wheel and Wi-Fi connectivity. However, this isn't just a bog-standard Wi-Fi mode, as it offers users access to the first app store designed specifically for digital cameras.


Anyone who's used to using a NEX camera will be at home with the NEX-5R. In fact, the camera body is very similar to the NEX-5N. The main change in design can be found on the upper face, where the on/off switch has been effectively moved to form a ring around the shutter-release button in order to make way for a settings thumb-wheel. The new thumb-wheel isn't a life-changing addition, but it does bring faster access to certain options, including the speed/aperture settings in manual mode.

One major change to the design is a little less obvious at first glance—the screen's hinges have been redesigned to allow the LCD to tilt upwards to 180°. The display can therefore be flipped up vertically on top of the camera (and thus ends up facing forwards), which can be really handy for self-portraits. It's also nice to see than unlike the NEX-F3, the screen hasn't lost any amplitude when tilting downwards—it still tilts down to around 45°, which is always useful for shooting over obstacles.

Note that there's still no sign of a built-in flash in the NEX-5R, even though that's something you now get with Sony's entry-level NEX.

Sony NEX-5R review - screen and controls

The screen in this camera isn't particularly well calibrated. In fact, it's the same story here as with the NEX-5N, with the same blue overtone. That's a bit of shame too, as this LCD is otherwise pretty comfortable to use.

The interface is largely lifted from previous models. The automatic mode is clearly the star of the show in this camera, but you do get a a few customisable options, as well as access to PSAM modes. On the whole, it's all very nicely designed—with the notable exception of the application store (see inset).


For DSLRs and mirrorless lens-switchers, the rule is simple—a start-up time of over two seconds is just too slow. The NEX-5R therefore drops straight to two stars in this part of our review, making users wait two and a half seconds before shooting its first photo. The start-up time here is twice as long as with the NEX-5N. And it's interesting to note that we measured the same start-up time here as with the NEX-6—the Wi-Fi generation of NEX cameras clearly seems to struggle on this front.

Sony NEX-5R review - speed, responsiveness

The NEX-5R is otherwise a responsive enough camera, with a photo-to-photo turnaround time of under a second in both Jpeg and RAW, an autofocus that works consistently at around half a second, and a burst mode at 10 fps (but limited to nine Jpeg shots or four RAW). However, the new hybrid autofocus system isn't really any faster than the previous one—not with static subjects, in any case.


We weren't expecting too many surprises here, as the NEX-5R has the same electronics as the NEX-5N. The only difference is the addition of phase detectors on the sensor for the "hybrid" autofocus system.

Sony NEX-5R review - ISO test, picture quality

There's been little change to the way noise is handled, although the NEX-5R gives a slightly lighter exposure than the NEX-5N, making noise more visible in dark parts of the picture. While some users may prefer the darker, denser-looking images of the NEX-5N, the result here is still very good up to 3200 ISO. In fact, 6400 ISO shots can still feasibly be used for small-sized images (onscreen viewing or 4" x 6" / 10 cm x 15 cm prints).

The NEX-5R mainly ships with Sony's basic 18-55 mm lens, which is known to vary in quality from one model to another. As it happens, the one we got with our NEX-5R was pretty good at wide-angle, but sharpness levels weren't even over the frame at telephoto. Thankfully for NEX cameras, the picture quality score we give to interchangeable lens cameras isn't affected by lens quality!


Here too, the specs are lifted straight form the NEX-5N, with 1080p video and stereo sound. Image quality is good, with flattering contrast levels that maintain bright, light parts of the picture effectively while making darker areas look denser, in turn limiting video noise. Audio quality is good but not extraordinary. Some models separate individual sounds more effectively but the overall ambiance is captured and rendered well with the NEX-5R. Voices also sound nice and clear.
Wi-Fi Mode with Apps
Like the NEX-6, the NEX-5R has been treated to Wi-Fi connectivity. The basic functions are pretty standard stuff, proving neither simpler nor more complicated than the systems seen in competitor models. While there's no sign of simple SMB shared folders and entering the password can be a bit of a pain due to the touchscreen's lack of precision, it's still nice to be able to transfer shots directly to an iOS or Android device. Note, however, that while Samsung Wi-Fi cameras come with a remote control system for piloting the camera with an external peripheral, here, you have to use Sony's PlayMemories store too add this function to the camera in the form of an app.

And PlayMemories is the real innovation in the NEX-5R. It's effectively an application store that lets you download all kinds of add-on apps that bring new features and functions to the camera (e.g. creative filters, direct uploading to Facebook, etc.). Unfortunately, it didn't quite live up to our expectations. To name just a few blips, the design and layout of the store really isn't great; you have to set up an account on a computer prior to use; and the long and complex passwords the system requires are a pain to type on the touchscreen. So while the idea of adding custom functions to a camera is certainly interesting, the store is nowhere near as accomplished as the likes of Apple's App Store or Google's Play Store. You can find out more about PlayMemories on the Sony website.


  • Compact design, good-quality finish
  • Vertical tilt screen (180° upwards for self-portraits or 45° downwards)
  • Noise is handled very well
  • Wi-Fi mode with application store for adding functionality


  • Slow start-up (2.4 seconds!)
  • No built-in flash (separate accessory supplied)
  • Sony's 18-55 mm kit lens varies in quality from one model to the next
  • Optional apps could be better integrated, installation interface isn't great


The Sony NEX-5R is a logical successor to the NEX-5N with a few improvements to design and handling and added Wi-Fi functions. Although it sounds great on paper, we weren't entirely convinced by the app store system. Plus, the slow start-up ultimately makes us prefer the NEX-5N or the lower-end NEX-F3, which is cheaper, offers the same kind of quality and comes with a built-in flash.
4 Sony NEX-5R DigitalVersus 2012-11-20 12:10:00
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