Sony NEX-5T £600

4th Oct 2013 | 16:10

Sony NEX-5T

Mid-range NEX is replaced again

TechRadar rating:

4 stars

Like:

Touchscreen; Wi-Fi/NFC; Large sensor; Small size;

Dislike:

Non-standard hotshoe; Limited apps; Can't shoot filters in raw;

Introduction


Sony has taken to replacing its NEX cameras roughly once a year: sometimes with a big upgrade, sometimes with something relatively minor. This year's 5T replaces the 5R - and falls into the latter category.

It features the same 16.1-million pixel APS-C sensor and super-fast hybrid AF system as its predecessor. However, along with Wi-Fi connectivity, NFC has now been added.

Ratings in depth
Design 4
Features 4
Performance 4
Useability 4.5
Value 4

NFC has been a bit of a technology buzzword of late, with an increasing number of devices being equipped with it. Allowing for instant communication between devices without the hassle of having to enter in laborious Wi-Fi passwords, so far only Apple is conspicuous by its absence.

Last year's 5R was the first Sony CSC to feature Wi-Fi, with the big news coming in the shape of the downloadable apps that were available from Sony's PlayMemories store. Sony has upgraded some of the already existing apps and added new ones that can be downloaded to make this camera (and its predecessor) customisable as to how you want to use it.

The 921k dot resolution touchscreen on the back of the camera is a tiltable affair, moving through 180 degrees to face the front - handy for self-portraits. As before, there's no integrated flash, but unlike the NEX-3N, there is an accessories port on top of the camera for attaching one.

Last year's sensor and Bionz processor combination boasted an improvement in low-light performance, with the capability of shooting at ISO 100-25,600, something that's retained for the 5T.

Sony NEX-5T review

As standard, the NEX-5T comes equipped with a 16-50mm power zoom lens, which is much compact than the 18-55mm standard kit lens that used to be packaged with the NEX range. It seems Sony has listened to criticism that the standard lens made the camera seem a little unbalanced.

Features

Much of the headline features of the 5T remain exactly the same as its predecessor. An integrated flash still doesn't make an appearance, but there remains an accessory port for an external flash. There is no standard hotshoe on the 5T though, so you will need to use Sony-specific accessories.

The 5T retains the improved sensitivity range of the 5N and 5R; that is, offering ISO 100-25,600. Sony says that it has worked hard over the past few development phases to improve the quality of images at the higher sensitivity values.

Fans of self-portraits, or of shooting from awkward angles, will be glad to see the return of the 180-degree tilting touchscreen. You can also tilt the screen down by 50 degrees - which is useful, but of course doesn't match the full articulating screens that offer complete flexibility.

Sitting in the middle of Sony's CSC range, it competes with the likes of the Olympus PEN E-PL5 and Panasonic G6, although, of those, only the latter also features Wi-Fi and NFC. Probably the closest camera is the Samsung NX300, which includes Wi-Fi and NFC and also has an APS-C sized sensor.

Build quality and handling

Design-wise, the shape of the 5T also remains pretty much the same as its predecessor, which when paired up with a 16-50mm power zoom lens makes for a very small, neat package.

Even though it's got a larger sensor than its close rival, the Panasonic G6, it's a much smaller body, being sleek enough to fit into a large jacket pocket when using the bundled kit lens. The textured grip is chunky enough to give good purchase when holding the camera with one handed though.

Sony NEX-5T review

In use the camera is pretty much the same as the 5R too. When using the camera in aperture priority or shutter priority, or fully manual mode, it's quite a tactile experience - using the scrolling dial with your thumb to make changes makes it quick and easy, and perhaps a little more intuitive than the 3N, which sits below it as a beginner camera.

Key functions, such as AF mode, white balance and metering, can be accessed via a function button on top of the camera. As with many other Sony cameras, this button - along with others on the back of the camera - can be customised depending on how you like to operate. It's a very nice feature that makes Sony models a pleasure to work with.

One small bugbear we've found is that the on/off switch at the top of the camera is reminiscent of the zoom switch found on most compacts, so it can be easy to get mixed up, especially if you're stepping up from a compact model. If you're using the bundled 16-50mm zoom lens, you'll need to use the zoom lever on the side of the lens to switch between wide angle and telephoto.

Sony NEX-5T review

Having a touchscreen on a digital camera is very useful for changing the autofocus point, as well as using it to fire off the shutter release if you want to. Generally speaking, the touchscreen is pretty responsive - though it's not as slick when trying to type in something delicate such as an email address when using the Wi-Fi and apps settings, which can be a little frustrating.

The 5T is equipped with Wi-Fi and NFC, which means you can connect it to your smartphone or tablet to control it or send across images for sharing. Setting up the Wi-Fi is fairly quick, and once you've made an initial connection to the camera, your phone/tablet should remember it.

NFC is much quicker and easier to use though, if you have a compatible tablet (Apple is conspicuous by its absence here). All you'll need to do is tap the NFC logo on the 5T to the NFC logo on your device and the two should swiftly be hooked up.

Sony has made a number of apps available to download from its PlayMemories store, accessible via the camera itself. Unfortunately, these aren't very numerous, and most are relatively expensive. There's an opportunity here for Sony to up its game and make the selection more interesting: it's sadly lacking at the moment.

It's worth downloading the Direct Upload app to enable you to share directly to Facebook rather than having to go via your smartphone but, again, this could be improved to include other social networking sites such as Twitter and Instagram.

Another app facilitates adding different filters to your images, although these appear to be exactly the same as the ones that come with other NEX cameras, so we're entirely sure why this has been made into a separate app on the 5T.

You may find it beneficial to read the build quality and handling section of the NEX-5R review for a more in-depth look at the handling of this camera.

Performance

We have been very impressed with Sony's output of late, and the 5T is no different. We had, of course, expected this: we'd already tested the 5R, which shares the same sensor and processor.

Images are generally excellent, with vibrant and pleasing colours and plenty of detail resolved. Skies, which have been known to suffer in Sony and Minolta cameras previously, fare especially well, with beautiful blue tones.

Sony NEX-5T review

The 16-50mm kit lens, bundled as standard as part of the package, is a good all-round performer and an excellent option as a carry-around lens for every day usage. Zooming into the images at 100% reveals very little image smoothing, while images are sharp at both ends of the zoom ratio.

Thanks to its large sensor, you can create beautiful shallow depth of field effects, especially when shooting with a lens such as the 50mm f/1.8 optic. Drop off in focus is smooth, with out-of-focus areas rendered beautifully. Even when using the kit lens, which has a maximum aperture of f/3.5, it's possible to achieve some very creative effects.

Using automatic white balance produces mostly accurate colours, though the camera has a slight tendency to err towards warm tones when faced with artificial lighting conditions. Similarly, general-purpose metering does a good job of producing accurately exposed images, though it can sometimes be fooled by high contrast situations.

In these kind of conditions, it's a good idea to activate the Dynamic Range Optimiser, which works to help to even out the exposures and bring back detail in shadow areas. If that still doesn't help, it's usually possible to bring back details from the raw format files.

Autofocusing is generally quick and accurate, especially in good light, although it's not quite on a par with the ultra-quick speeds of Panasonic and Olympus Micro Four Thirds cameras. There were a couple of occasions during our testing period where the camera missed focus or hunted around for a while longer than we'd have liked. When the light levels drop, autofocusing speeds also drop, but it's on a par with other cameras of its kind.

Noise is very well controlled throughout the sensitivity range, only starting to become problematic from around ISO 3200 and above. But even then, these images would be fine at small printing sizes and for online sharing.

Normally, NEX cameras come with a number of pre-defined digital filters you can apply. For some reason, these are available both in the camera and via a free download on the PlayMemories app store for the 5T.

Sony NEX-5T review

A good range are available and they're definitely worth experimenting with; our favourites include the Toy Camera option. Unfortunately, you can't shoot in raw format when using a filter, so you'll be stuck with whatever you choose even if you decide you don't like it at a later date.

If you prefer, you can shoot with a different Creative Style, which includes the option to shoot in black and white. These are less abstract than the Picture Effects, but they have the advantage of being able to be used while shooting in raw format.

Processing speeds are generally quick, with shot-to-shot time being more than adequate and a reasonably quick boot-up time also boasted by the camera.

Image quality and resolution

As part of our image quality testing for the Sony NEX 5T, we've shot our resolution chart.

If you view our crops of the resolution chart's central section at 100% (or Actual Pixels) you will see that, for example, at ISO 100 the Sony NEX 5T is capable of resolving up to around 26 (line widths per picture height x100) in its highest quality JPEG files.

For a full explanation of what our resolution charts mean, and how to read them, check out our full explanation of our camera testing resolution charts.

Examining images of the chart taken at each sensitivity setting reveals the following resolution scores in line widths per picture height x100:

JPEG

Sony NEX-5T review

Full ISO 100 image, see the cropped (100%) versions below.

ISO xx, score: xx (Click here to view the full resolution image)

ISO 100, score: 22 (Click here to view the full resolution image)

Sony NEX-5T review

ISO 200, score: 22 (Click here to view the full resolution image)

Sony NEX-5T review

ISO 400, score: 22 (Click here to view the full resolution image)

Sony NEX-5T review

ISO 800, score: 22 (Click here to view the full resolution image)

Sony NEX-5T review

ISO 1600, score: 22 (Click here to view the full resolution image)

Sony NEX-5T review

ISO 3200, score: 20 (Click here to view the full resolution image)

Sony NEX-5T review

ISO 6400, score: 20 (Click here to view the full resolution image)

Sony NEX-5T review

ISO 12800, score: 16 (Click here to view the full resolution image)

Sony NEX-5T review

ISO 25600, score: 14 (Click here to view the full resolution image)

Raw

Sony NEX-5T review

ISO 100, score: 24 (Click here to view the full resolution image)

Sony NEX-5T review

ISO 200, score: 22 (Click here to view the full resolution image)

Sony NEX-5T review

ISO 400, score: 22 (Click here to view the full resolution image)

Sony NEX-5T review

ISO 800, score: 22 (Click here to view the full resolution image)

Sony NEX-5T review

ISO 1600, score: 20 (Click here to view the full resolution image)

Sony NEX-5T review

ISO 3200, score: 20 (Click here to view the full resolution image)

Sony NEX-5T review

ISO 6400, score: 20 (Click here to view the full resolution image)

Sony NEX-5T review

ISO 12800, score: 16 (Click here to view the full resolution image)

Sony NEX-5T review

ISO 25600, score: 14 (Click here to view the full resolution image)

Noise and dynamic range

We shoot a specially designed chart in carefully controlled conditions and the resulting images are analysed using DXO Analyzer software to generate the data to produce the graphs below.

A high signal to noise ratio (SNR) indicates a cleaner and better quality image.

For more more details on how to interpret our test data, check out our full explanation of our noise and dynamic range tests.

Here we compare the Sony NEX-5R with the Sony NEX-5R, Olympus PEN E-PL5 and Fuji X-M1.

JPEG signal to noise ratio

Sony NEX 5T Signal to Noise Ratio JPEG

Here we can see that the Sony 5T has performed very well, and as expected, extremely similarly to its predecessor, the 5R with which it shares a sensor and processor. It appears to have improved slightly at the very top end of the sensitivity run. It beats all of the other cameras on test for most sensitivity settings, although it does drop at ISO 1600 to be taken over by the Olympus and Fuji briefly, before returning to the top of the chart for the rest of the sensitivity run.

Raw (after conversion to TIFF) signal to noise ratio

Sony NEX 5T raw signal to noise ratio

In terms of raw files, the 5T is beaten by its rivals, the Olympus E-PL5 and Fuji X-M1 at every sensitivity setting, falling some way behind the Olympus. It does offer a broader range of sensitivity settings than both of the other cameras, offering ISO 100 at lowest end, for instance. Again, as expected, the camera performs very similarly to the 5R. A lower performance here than the other cameras may indicate that you have greater scope to control noise in post production.

JPEG dynamic range

Sony NEX 5T JPEG dynamic range

The NEX 5T puts in a consistent performance across the sensitivity range, but it is beaten at almost every setting by the Olympus PEN E-PL5, just taking over at the very top end of the run (25,600). It scores significantly higher than the Fuji X-M1 though, and even appears to beat its predecessor, the 5T, even though the sensor is the same.

Raw (after conversion to TIFF) dynamic range

Sony NEX 5T raw dynamic range

Here we can see that again in terms of raw files, the 5T is beaten by its rivals, the Olympus PEN E-PL5 and Fuji X-M1 at every sensitivity. It is very closely matched to the 5R, as is to be expected. A lower performance here may indicate that there is scope to bring out better colours in post production, with raw format colours being more accurate, if not necessarily as pleasing to the eye as the JPEGs.

Sample images

Sony NEX-5T review

Click here to view the full resolution image

Colours from the NEX-5T are well represented with excellent blue skies and nicely saturated tones.

Sony NEX-5T review

Click here to view the full resolution image

Lots of fine detail is captured by the 5T's 16.1 million-pixel APS-C-sized sensor.

Sony NEX-5T review

Click here to view the full resolution image

If detail is lost in shadow areas, you can use Sony's raw converter to pull back plenty of detail. If shooting in JPEG only, you can still use a program such as Photoshop to recapture the lost detail.

Sony NEX-5T review

Click here to view the full resolution image

The 5T's automatic white balance does a good job of producing accurate colours even in artificial and mixed lighting.

Sony NEX-5T review

Click here to view the full resolution image

Using Sony's Sweep Panorama mode is quick and easy but in some conditions, such as shooting into bright sunlight, it does suffer from light banding from flare. Generally, the image has been well stitched together though.

Sony NEX-5T review

Click here to view the full resolution image

A wide range of excellent lenses are now available in Sony's E-mount including a 50mm f/1.8 which is very sharp and allows for creative shallow depth of field effects to be created.

Sony NEX-5T review

Click here to view the full resolution image

Noise is well controlled at high sensitivities, such as ISO 3200. Detail meanwhile is kept well despite the high sensitivity.

Sony NEX-5T review

Click here to view the full resolution image

General-purpose metering does a good job of producing accurate exposures even in tricky or unbalanced lighting conditions.

Sensitivity and noise images

JPEG

Sony NEX-5T review

Full ISO 100 image, see the cropped (100%) versions below.

Sony NEX-5T review

ISO 100 (Click here to view the full resolution image)

Sony NEX-5T review

ISO 200 (Click here to view the full resolution image)

Sony NEX-5T review

ISO 400 (Click here to view the full resolution image)

Sony NEX-5T review

ISO 800 (Click here to view the full resolution image)

Sony NEX-5T review

ISO 1600 (Click here to view the full resolution image)

Sony NEX-5T review

ISO 3200 (Click here to view the full resolution image)

Sony NEX-5T review

ISO 6400 (Click here to view the full resolution image)

Sony NEX-5T review

ISO 12800 (Click here to view the full resolution image)

Sony NEX-5T review

ISO 25600 (Click here to view the full resolution image)

Raw

Sony NEX-5T review

ISO 100 (Click here to view the full resolution image)

Sony NEX-5T review

ISO 200 (Click here to view the full resolution image)

Sony NEX-5T review

ISO 400 (Click here to view the full resolution image)

Sony NEX-5T review

ISO 800 (Click here to view the full resolution image)

Sony NEX-5T review

ISO 1600 (Click here to view the full resolution image)

Sony NEX-5T review

ISO 3200 (Click here to view the full resolution image)

Sony NEX-5T review

ISO 6400 (Click here to view the full resolution image)

Sony NEX-5T review

ISO 12800 (Click here to view the full resolution image)

Sony NEX-5T review

ISO 25600 (Click here to view the full resolution image)

Verdict

The Sony NEX-5R was definite upgrade from the 5N, but the 5T only really brings NFC to the party - which is a valuable addition if you've got a compatible device, but certainly doesn't make it worth the upgrade if you've already invested in a 5R.

That said, if you're looking for a new compact system camera, the 5T is definitely worthy of your consideration, offering a lot in its diminutive package, including excellent connectivity, a tilting touchscreen, large (comparatively) APS-C sensor and the potential that comes with the PlayMemories store.

Unfortunately, that's one of the biggest let-downs of the camera: the store could be so much better. As it is, there's just a sprinkling of apps, most of which are expensive downloads. The free apps aren't particularly revolutionary, with one of them doing something the camera can already do. We hope Sony develops the app store a bit further in future to give this particular function real appeal.

Aside from that, the NEX-5T produces excellent images with vibrant colours and fantastic detail. It's also priced very competitively when compared to the Panasonic G6, despite its relative newness and larger sensor size.

We liked

There's plenty to like about the 5T including its small size and tilting touchscreen. The inclusion of Wi-Fi is fast becoming a must-have feature of a camera, but here it is implemented particularly well, making it easy to transfer images across or to take control of the camera remotely. The Smart Remote function on this camera allows you to take greater control of settings, including aperture and shutter speed when compared to some of the mobile remote controls out there.

We disliked

With the promise of apps, Sony has the chance to really deliver here, but unfortunately it doesn't. The 5T has to compete with the likes of the Samsung Galaxy NX, with its full Android operating system offering an incredible array of photographic apps. Sony seems to be stagnating with its PlayMemories store by only offering very basic or expensive apps for download. Hopefully the company can pick up the pace here and introduce some interesting new downloads.

Final verdict

Sony has once again delivered an excellent camera for it's NEX range. Sitting in the middle of the line-up, this would be a great choice for a wide range of photographers, including both beginners and those looking for something a little more advanced.

The touchscreen and customisable buttons and dial make it swift and easy to use, while the addition of NFC means connecting the camera is an absolute doddle if you have a compatible device. If you don't, hooking up via Wi-Fi is still pretty easy, but this is ostensibly the same camera as the NEX-5R, which you may be able to find for slightly cheaper than the 5T.

This camera is worth a look if you're in the market for an affordable compact system camera. Sony has a decent range of lenses available now, and this number is growing. The larger sensor may appeal to some over the comparable cameras from Olympus and Panasonic, while we live in hope that the PlayMemories store will become more useful in time.

First reviewed 4th October 2013

Sony Sony cameras Sony NEX camerascarousel-en-gb camerascarousel-en-us camerascarousel-en-au
Share this Article
Google+

Apps you might like:

Most Popular

Edition: UK
TopView classic version