Sony A5000 Review - The Sony A5000 replaces the NEX-3N in Sony's growing Alpha range of CSCs. The 20MP APS-C CSC features all of Sony's characteristic bells and whistles, and looks to compete with the entry-level DSLR market
Last year heralded the cessation of production of NEX series cameras. That didn’t mean that Sony were abandoning their CSC line-up, but rather they would be dropping the NEX moniker in favour of the wider adoption of its ‘Alpha’ tag, as seen on the Alpha 7 and 7R.
The Sony A5000 is the part of this phasing out, taking the place of the Sony NEX-3N. The model sports a host of new features including the addition of Wi-fi functionality and the introduction of the Bionz-X processor previously featured in the Sony Alpha 7.
These features are added without the A5000 breaking the bank, as the model features a price tag that places it firmly in the entry-level category. Does it do enough to compete with entry-level DSLRs?
Sony A5000 Review – Features
The Sony A5000 inherits some of the same features that were present on its predecessor, although it combines these with a selection of new technologies.
One such inherited feature is the model’s LCD screen. Clearly aimed at those who have an eye for a selfie, the 3in 460k-dot LCD is capable of being flipped about 180-degrees so as to face the person taking the photograph.
The A5000 also inherits some of its features from other cameras in Sony’s line-up, and not all of them are entry level. For example, the A5000 sports Sony’s latest Bionz-X processor that first featured in the high-end Sony RX10 and Sony Alpha 7.
This chip produced some excellent results on those two cameras, and there’s no reason to think that it shouldn’t help do the same on the A5000.
The processor aids noise reduction and image processing, with Sony claiming that it delivers speeds around three times that of the previous generation processor.
The model’s sensor, meanwhile, is inherited from one of the A5000’s peers in the new Alpha line-up. The 20.1MP APS-C sensor first featured on last year’s A3000 and boasts a pixel count that should compete with entry-level DSLRs.
One of the eye-catching new additions, and one that’s sure to please the entry-level market, is the addition of Wi-fi and NFC connectivity as standard.
This enables photographers to simply share their images with smartphone and tablets through a Wi-fi network after installing the model’s Sony PlayMemories App.
This Wi-fi functionality also allows for a range of applications – both free and paid-for – to be downloaded to the camera including a Photo Retouch app and app tailored for Time-lapse capture.
Sony A5000 Review – Design
The Sony A5000 is certainly on the compact side, weighing in at a little over 250g with battery and SD card included, meaning that it’s not that much heavier than some compact cameras. Even when you attach the camera’s standard kit lens – the Sony 16-50mm F3.5-5.6 – the model will happily fit in to most bags and jacket pockets.
As you’d expect for a camera that’s targeted at the entry-level market, the A5000 places an emphasis on simplicity and making the shooting experience as straight forward as possible for those making the step up from either their smartphone or a compact camera.
As a result, in terms of physical controls the A5000 is certainly a touch sparse. In terms of accessing the camera’s shooting settings, most are arrived at from the camera’s control wheel and D-Pad along with one customisable button.
The D-Pad offers direct access to the more common shooting adjustments including ISO, Display mode, Exposure compensation and Drive mode. The centre of the scroll wheel, meanwhile, offers direct access to the camera’s scene modes which are most likely to be used for the target market.
The custom button meanwhile – which is denoted by a ‘?’ on the rear of the camera – can be assigned to a host of other commonly used settings including White balance, metering and Focus settings.
In terms of build quality, the A5000 does feel solid in the hand. Furthermore, a textured hand grip aids the handling of the camera and gives it a secure hold when shooting, especially when combined with the camera’s matt finish.
That being said, it’s certainly the case that the camera has been built with a view towards keeping cost down as opposed to winning any awards for a luxury and high-end finish.
Sony A5000 Review – Performance
Unlike some other recently released cameras that now sport Hybrid AF configurations, the A5000 is solely equipped with a contrast detect AF set-up. As a result, it’d be foolhardy to expect the A5000 to be able to keep up with the very fastest focusing cameras in its class, and that’s generally the case.
This is particularly noticeable when it comes to continuous focusing, as when trying to keep up with fast moving subjects the A5000 really struggles to keep pace. The focusing system also struggles in low light conditions, an affliction which isn’t aided by the fact that the camera’s AF light is placed very close to the natural resting position of the gripping hand.
In contrast, however, the fact that the A5000 sports some 25 AF points mean that the frame does have good coverage so once the camera have achieved focus it normally does so accurately.
In terms of the camera’s metering system, this is another area where the A5000 has inherited some advanced technology from further up the manufacturer’s camera line-up.
The model features the 1,2000-zone Evaluative multi-segment metering system first seen in the Alpha 77. As a result, it’s safe to say that you can rely upon the A5000 to deliver even exposures in a host of different lighting conditions.
It’s worth noting that the LCD screen found on the rear of the camera is of a lower specification than some competing model, at just 460k-dots. As a result, the screen can be a bit difficult to view in particularly bright lighting conditions (something that could be further evidenced by the presence of a ‘Sunny Weather’ brightness setting).
The screen does benefit from its tiltable design, however, and if you’re an avid selfie taker then it might pique your interest.
Sony A5000 Review – Image Quality
Colour and White balance
The Sony A5000 can be relied upon to deliver even colours accurate to the scene at which you’re aiming the camera. Of particular note is the depth of the vibrancy of the blues captured, although all colours appear with an even and pleasing saturation.
The camera’s auto white balance setting is also reliable, with very little noticeable bias to either end of the scale and in any lighting conditions. As ever, choosing from one of the many presets can deliver a more accurate colour setting, although you can rely on the auto white balance should the need arise.
As mentioned previously, the metering system inherited from further up the range delivers even exposures in both bright and dark conditions. If anything, there is a slight tendency to retain detail in the shadows by slightly overexposing, although the sensor is more than capable of retaining that highlight detail.
This is also a sign that the camera delivers a decent dynamic range, although closer technical inspection reveal that it’s not hugely ahead of other cameras in its class.
Thanks to the camera’s relatively high megapixel count, you can rely on the A5000 to resolve a reasonable amount of detail at the base ISO setting, measuring in at around 30 lines per mm (lpmm) on our test charts.
The level of detail resolved is fairly well maintained throughout the ISO range, as even at ISO 6400 the A5000 is still capable of resolving around 26lpmm
Thanks to the addition of Sony’s Bionz-X processor, the A5000 handles noise well throughout the ISO range. The processor is capable of applying area-specific noise reduction, so even at the higher end of the scale noise is noticeable by its absence.
However, this noise reduction does come at a cost, and towards the top of the scale fine detail can appear a little smudged and painterly.
Sony A5000 Review – Verdict
While the A5000 does feature a host of improvements on the camera it replaces – namely the NEX-3N – there are still areas at which it is slightly let down.
Although the addition of Wi-fi and NFC connectivity are certainly welcome, the rear of the camera could have done with some attention in the form of a higher-specified LCD screen.
However, the fact that Sony has paid some attention to improving the camera’s noise reduction performance, as well as the reliability of the white balance system, is certainly welcome.
On the whole, while it has its flaws the A5000 serves as a good entry point to the growing Sony E-mount set-up and is worthy of consideration as a first CSC.