Review: Sony NEX-5T

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The NEX 5 line has been refreshed again, this time to a T. Identical in size and shape to its predecessor the 5R, the 5T comes with NFC for transferring images to your phone. With 16.1MP on an APS-C sensor, the 5T has the same spec sheet as the 5R which means that it will produce the same high quality images. This is my first extended stay with one of the more mid-range NEX cameras, and it’s been swell.

Pros and Cons

Pros

-Very compact and light
-LCD is crisp
-Produces beautiful images

Cons

-Hinged LCD is a bit difficult to maneuver and smudges easily
-The kit lens’s zoom ring doubles as the focusing ring, more on this later
-The grip isn’t all that comfortable

Gear Used

I used the Sony NEX-5T with the Sony 16-50mm f3.5-5.6 OSS kit lens.

Tech Specs

Courtesy of Adorama’s listing

  • Large 16.1-megapixel APS-C image sensor in the ultra-compact body combines with a maximum ISO of 25600 to deliver superb image quality.
  • Fast Hybrid AF, which includes phase-detection AF to deliver highly responsive, DSLR-like AF tracking for shooting at up to 10 fps (In Speed Priority Continuous mode)
  • Control dial, Fn (function) button and touch screen (including touch shutter function) greatly facilitate operation.
  • 180° tiltable LCD screen makes self-portraits fun and easy.
  • The NFC function makes Wi-Fi connection easier!
  • One-touch sharing – Directly transfers a still image or movie to an NFC enabledAndroid smartphone or tablet with a single touch.
  • One-touch remote – Activates Smart Remote Control and links the camera with a smartphone or tablet by simply touching the devices while in a shooting mode (Only for smartphones or tablets with Android OS (vers.4.0 or after))(NFC has tobe activated on smartphones or tablets side)
  • Supports PlayMemories Camera Apps, the application download service that lets users install new camera functions as needed.
  • TRILUMINOSTM Color New Compatible with “TRILUMINOS Color*” so users can enjoy precious memories in rich, natural colors when viewing on TVs with a “TRILUMINOSDisplay”

Ergonomics

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If you’re familiar with the 5R, you can gloss right over this section, but for those of you who are not, join me.

Here you’ve got the fairly large grip that seems roughly twice the width of the other side. It’s textured, too, to give you extra traction, but for those of you with larger hands, your fingers will rub against the lens. There’s also the AF assist lamp and the kit lens. The lens is a bit of a curiosity. When you turn the camera on, the lens automatically extends outwards, but if you leave the camera inactive, the lens will retract. The textured ring you see up there controls both zooming and focusing.

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Here’s a view of the other side of the lens. When you’re in MF, that power zoom slider controls the zoom. Push it up to zoom in, pull it down to zoom out and rotate the ring to focus. The 5T has Manual Focus Assist which will magnify a portion of the frame. If you have the 5T set to Direct Manual Focusing (DMF), the ring doubles as both zoom and focus. Zoom to the focal length you want, half-depress the shutter to autofocus and adjust the ring to fine-tune your focusing. The slider-ring combination felt a bit strange and uncomfortable, so I often sided with autofocusing.

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Along the top, you have the pop-up flash, playback button, movie button, on/off ring & shutter, Fn button and an unmarked ring that controls aperture. You also have an area for placing the older Sony NEX accessories such as a viewfinder or a flash.

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The biggest player on the back is the hinged touch screen. The hinge is a bit awkward. You can flip the LCD all the way up 180 degrees which activates self-portrait mode, and it is set to a three-second timer by default. You can shut that off in the menu. The screen tilts down at roughly a 45 degree angle. Please pardon the smudges. Tap the screen to take a picture. Very simple to do, but I hardly used it. I like shutters.

On the right, you’ve got two unmarked buttons: one to the north and one to the south. Their roles appear onscreen. The north takes to the menu, and the south activates the Wi-Fi. The ring in the middle controls shutter speed. The left controls your burst mode and timer, the top changes what’s displayed on the LCD, the right handles ISO and the bottom handles exposure compensation. Click the center button to select your mode and to confirm choices in menus.

Build Quality

The 5T is compact and dense. There is no shortage of quality here. The body’s smooth all around, save for the textured grip. You’ll barely notice it around your neck, and its size lends itself to extra space in your bag for whatever else you may have sacrificed in favor of a bigger rig. It feels like it could survive a number of tumbles, but as with all of my equipment, loaned and otherwise, I take every precaution.

Autofocus

The 5T’s autofocusing is fair. During my time with it, the AF was on point for the most part, but it hunted in unfavorable conditions. In the best lighting, it was spot on, and I kept the camera in AF for most of the review period. If there was an EVF available during the review, I would have spent more time with manual focusing. Via the LCD, manual focusing feels a bit cumbersome. With a better lens, I’m sure the AF would have been faster. If only the kit lens was a 50mm f1.8.

Metering

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With the Sunny 16 test, the 5T underexposed minutely, so I had to pull the exposure up just a tad in Lightroom. This is easily fixed in-camera or in post, and this may be just my experience with this one unit.

Image Quality

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As stated previously, the 5T comes with the same sensor that earned the 5R accolades, so anything said about the 5R is applicable here. Colors pop, and the images are sharp. It goes without saying that better lenses will give you better images, but the kit lens is capable for what it’s worth. If you consider yourself a street photographer, rest assured that you’ll get images you can work with when you get home.

High ISO Images

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f/3.5 at 1/50 sec, ISO 3200

ISO 800 is safe, as is 1600. Here at ISO 3200, things start to get a bit noisy. Anything above it is very undesirable. If you’re out at night, you’ll get the shots you need providing you’ve got some light to work with. I don’t know how this would fare at concerts with all of the inherently erratic lighting, but I think you’ll be alright.

RAW File Versatility

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The 5T’s RAW files play nicely in Lightroom, and you’re afforded a good deal of information to work with. Shots you might otherwise gloss over can be salvaged. On the flipside, the JPEGS are, more often than not, ready for prime time. You can get solid results with the 5T. It wouldn’t hold up as a workhorse camera, but as a companion, it would do very well.

Extra Image Samples

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Conclusion

The 5T is not the camera you buy when you want to move up the ranks. Rather, it’s a camera that lends itself to street photography and time with friends. Hell, it’s even got a self-portrait mode. The hobbyist would have a good time with the 5T, whereas the professional would be left wanting more. What matters ultimately is your creative vision, and if the 5T will help you achieve that, then it’s definitely worth considering.

You can pick it up at Amazon and Adorama.

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