Sony's entry-level NEX-C3 was recently updated with the NEX-F3, so it was only a matter of time before the company's mid-range mirrorless model scored a successor of its own. Keeping in line with its familiar naming scheme, the NEX-5R includes a new 16.1-megapixel sensor that's based on the version packaged with the 5N, and boasts low-light sensitivity through ISO 25,600. The new model offers a bevy of new features, however, with many stemming from its new-found ability to connect to the web, as Sony's first mirrorless camera with built-in 802.11 b/g WiFi. Standard remote functionality is included, via the Smart Remote Control app that lets you use an Android or iOS device to snap photos, as is Direct Upload for sending media to the web, and a typical suite of sharing features, including PC and DLNA access.
The 5R takes connectivity leaps further with PlayMemories Camera Apps, letting you download applications directly to the device, including tools that assist with retouching and sequential shooting. (Sony hasn't confirmed whether firmware updates will be pushed wirelessly as well, but it's a possibility.) With the 5R, the camera maker is targeting current DSLR users who are ready to upgrade but would consider a switch to mirrorless. Digital SLR-like controls will help ease the transition, including a new dial near the shutter release. There's also a new Fast Hybrid AF, which pairs 99 phase-detect AF points with a 25-area contrast system, resulting in noticeable improvements with any lens. There's also 1080/60p video, along with a 10 frames-per-second continuous shooting mode (with AF tracking!). If you were fond of the front-facing self-portrait LCD mode on the F3, you'll be happy to know it's here as well, complete with the downward-facing option included with previous-gen NEX models, but notably absent from the F3.
We took Sony's latest ILC for a quick spin, and noticed improvements immediately, especially when it came to the focusing system -- going side-by-side with the C3, the newer camera was able to focus much more quickly and accurately in low-light, even with the standard (and generally unimpressive) 18-55mm kit lens. Touchscreen functionality was present as well, just as it was on the 5N, though you can navigate all of the menus with dedicated controls, should you wish. We weren't able to test WiFi functionality, but it sounds promising in theory, especially considering the optional apps. We'll be taking a much closer look once Sony releases its NEX-5R in mid-October -- the camera will ship in black, silver or white for $650, or $750 with the standard 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens. For now, you can take a closer look in our gallery below, or the hands-on video after the break.
Sony NEX-5R hands-on
New Sony NEX-5R Camera Delivers Professional Imaging Power and Wi-Fi® Convenience in Lightweight, Stylish Package
New Compact System Camera Introduces Fast Hybrid AF and Downloadable PlayMemories Camera Apps™
SAN DIEGO, August 29, 2012 – Combining a stylish, lightweight design and the freedom of interchangeable lenses with large-sensor image quality, speedy AF and the introduction of Wi-Fi capability, the new Sony α NEX-5R compact system camera offers all the benefits of DSLR-style imaging in a more convenient, portable package with added connectivity.
The NEX-5R camera features a newly-developed 16.1 effective megapixel Exmor® APS HD CMOS sensor - identical in size to sensors found in traditional DSLR cameras - combined with a powerful BIONZ® processor to assure richly detailed still images and crisp Full HD videos in all types of lighting conditions.
In a first for Sony's line of interchangeable lens cameras, the new NEX-5R model features "Fast Hybrid AF" autofocus technology, combining phase-detection and contrast-detection methods to ensure speedy, accurate autofocus in any shooting situation. It is also Sony's first interchangeable lens camera with integrated Wi-Fi capabilities for easy image sharing, saving and viewing, and introduces the new concept of downloadable Camera Apps for adding creative, fun features that can be personalized to fit a photographer's needs.
"With the NEX-5R camera, Sony brings the core strength of our consumer electronics business into play to fully support our digital imaging business. This unique combination of technology and style results in a compelling new product that strikes the ultimate balance between size and performance." said Mike Kahn, director of the alpha interchangeable lens camera business group at Sony Electronics. "With a host of exciting, innovative new features and the same outstanding image and HD video quality that our E-mount line has become known for, the NEX-5R is an ideal choice for step-up point-and-shoot users or more serious photo enthusiasts who don't want to compromise on image quality and connectivity while traveling light."
Fast Hybrid AF
The intuitive new "Fast Hybrid AF" autofocus technology utilizes 99 phase-detection AF points arrayed on the image sensor to detect a subject's distance and quickly lock focus on it, and then utilizes contrast-detection AF to confirm extremely fine, precise details. In Speed Priority Continuous shooting mode, the camera will switch automatically to phase detection tracking AF and can track fast-moving action accurately in each frame up to 10 frames per second.
Wi-Fi Sharing and New Camera Apps
The added connectivity of the NEX-5R camera allows photos and videos to be transferred wirelessly to a smartphone or tablet running Sony's free PlayMemories Mobile app, available on both Android™ and Apple iOS platforms. Additionally, content can be directly uploaded from the camera to Facebook® using a Wi-Fi connection and the new "Direct Upload" application, part of Sony's new PlayMemories Camera Apps platform.
This new concept of PlayMemories Camera Apps is the world's first application download service in an interchangeable lens camera that allows consumers to install new functions on demand, tailoring their cameras to fit their personal shooting needs. The service can be accessed over Wi-Fi or when the camera is connected directly to a PC via USB.
Available apps at launch, outside of "Direct Upload" as mentioned earlier, will include "Picture Effect+"; "Bracket Pro"; "Multi Frame NR"; "Photo Retouch"; and "Smart Remote Control. A variety of other apps including "Time-Lapse" and "Cinematic Photo" are also planned for release.
Shooters can also utilize the family of PlayMemories applications to transfer content directly to a networked PC, streamlining the image back-up process and avoiding the need to connect cables or transfer memory cards between devices. Additionally, they can transfer photos to any DLNA® compatible TV either through a wireless access point or any TV supporting Wi-Fi.
Added Flexibility and Functionality
Aesthetically, the new NEX-5R features a new fully programmable control dial and function button, a versatile combination for photographers accustomed to the flexibility and direct control of a DSLR camera. It also has a switchable on-screen digital level gauge that helps keep horizons level with landscapes and architectural shots.
Additionally, the new α NEX-5R model features an intuitive touch-screen LCD with a Touch Shutter function for added convenience. The clear, bright touchscreen can also flip upwards 180 degrees for easy arm's length self-portraits.
Full HD (1920x1080@60p) movie shooting is enhanced with a new Auto Slow Shutter feature, adding extra detail to low-light clips. The camera detects dim interiors and night scenes, automatically switching to a slower shutter speed to brighten footage.
New Sony α Accessories
On the α accessories front, the stylish new LCS-SL20/B soft carrying case will be compatible with the new Sony NEX-5R model as well as other E-mount camera bodies. It features four internal dividers for easy storage of camera bodies and lenses, as well as a dedicated space for a tablet. The new LCS-SL10/B soft carrying case offers two internal dividers and multiple storage pockets in a compact size.
Also designed for Sony's E-mount line is the new LCS-EME/BL, a modern, innovative sling bag. With space to accommodate an NEX and two additional lenses, the LCS-EME/BI is a perfect accessory for active photographers. Additionally, a new Screen Protect Semi-Hard sheet (model PCK-LM13) will be available that will help protect both the camera and lens of the new NEX-5R camera.
Pricing and Availability
The NEX-5R compact system camera will be available this October in silver, black and white for about $750 with an 18-55mm kit zoom lens as well as body-only for about $650.
The new camera and all compatible accessories will be available at Sony retail stores (www.store.sony.com) and other authorized dealers nationwide.
Please visit www.blog.sony.com/nex5r for a full video preview of the new NEX-5R compact system camera and follow #SonyNEX on twitter for the latest α NEX camera news.