Sony NEX-5T Review - The NEX-5T is Sony's latest mid-range compact system camera, and it looks to build on the success of recent models. Find out how it fares in the What Digital Camera Sony NEX-5T review...
Sony NEX-5T Review
The range includes entry-level, mid-range and high-end models, and Sony has kept things fresh with regular launches of new models. This month it’s the turn of the mid-range model to get a fresh coat of paint, with the launch of the Sony NEX-5T, a feature-packed 16.1-megapixel camera with a sub-£600 price tag.
Sony NEX-5T Review – Features
The NEX-5T is a fairly minor update of last year’s NEX-5R, which in turn was an update of the NEX-5N, and before that the original NEX-5.
Sony’s NEX range has four model lines; the 3-series cameras are the entry-level models, the NEX-6 is aimed at advanced enthusiasts, while the superb NEX-7 is the 24-megapixel flagship for professionals. The 5-series holds the middle ground in both price and specification, with the NEX-5T falling between the £300 price of the NEX-3N and the £800 price of the NEX-7.
In terms of specification the 5T is a lot closer to the 3N than to the NEX-7, sharing the same 16.1-megapixel Exmor APS-C CMOS sensor, but most of its other features are carried over from its immediate predecessor the NEX-5R. In fact the only notable difference between the 5T and the 5R is the addition of NFC (Near Field Communication) technology.
This offers additional short-range connectivity with suitably-equipped smartphones and tablets, alongside the Wi-Fi connectivity that is rapidly becoming a standard feature of new cameras.
Like the 5R, the 5T has the ability to run proprietary in-camera apps. There are several apps pre-installed, to do with sharing photos to connected devices and controlling the camera from an Android or Apple smartphone, but more apps can be downloaded and installed from Sony’s PlayMemories website.
Some are free, others cost money, and they can add features such as lens distortion compensation, additional image processing options, time-lapse imaging or multi-frame noise reduction.
It’s an interesting idea, and allows the camera to be periodically updated with new features, but the paid apps are a bit expensive compared to the usual price of smartphone apps.
Hybrid AF system
Most of the other features are inherited from the 5R, most notably the innovative hybrid autofocus system. Most compact system cameras have only contrast detection autofocus using the main sensor, which is fast and accurate in good light with high-contrast subjects, but which can run into problems in difficult conditions, while DSLRs have special separate AF sensors, and use more dependable phase detection focusing.
The NEX-5T uses both contrast and phase detection AF, by means of special sensor cells built into the main sensor, a very clever technology which is unique to Sony. It’s an impressive system, and works extremely well in a wide variety of conditions.
Also carried over from the previous model is the excellent 7.5cm, 921k dot touch-screen LCD monitor. This is partially articulated, allowing it to flip up vertically for use when shooting “selfies”, or tilting downwards for over-head shots in crowds. Unlike the NEX-6 and 7, the 5T has no viewfinder, but the monitor is clear and bright with a good anti-glare coating, and works well even in strong sunlight, not that there’s a lot of that around at the moment.
The NEX-5T has a decent video recording mode, but it’s not one of the camera’s particular strengths It shoots full HD 1920 x 1080 at 25fps, with stereo audio recorded by two built-in mics on the top plate. Automatic wind cut is available, but as is often the case it’s not terribly effective. There is HDMI output, but unfortunately no socket for an external microphone.
One of the most useful and impressive features is perhaps the most subtle. The NEX-5T has the option of “effects preview”, which shows the effects of exposure adjustments and filters live on the monitor. This includes aperture setting, so you can get a live preview of the effect of the aperture as you adjust it, making precise control over depth-of-field very simple.