Sony A5000 Review

Sony A5000 Review: Sony presents Alpha 5000 with 20 megapixel resolution

As announced Sony says goodbye to the name NEX and calls the mirrorless system cameras Alpha from now on and still using that name currently. The new A5000 is the successor to the NEX triple series and is currently the smallest and lightest interchangeable lens camera with APS-C sensor, built-in flash and WiFi. But not only the name is new, Sony has also drilled up the resolution of the CMOS sensor from 16 to 20 megapixels.

Brief assessment

Pros

  • Practical automatic functions
  • Expandability via Camera Apps
  • Excellent image quality (but lens weaknesses)
  • Set lens with motor zoom/zoom rocker on the camera

Cons

  • No EVF, low resolution display
  • Low serial frame rate
  • Program selector wheel and quick menu are missing
  • Weak on-board flash, no connection for external flash

 

The Sony Alpha 5000 is the successor of the NEX triple series and replaces the NEX-3N. So the name NEX is history at Sony since 2014. [Photo: Sony]

The Sony Alpha 5000 nominally follows the NEX-3N. Externally, the latest addition to Sony’s mirrorless system cameras is clearly borrowing from the NEX-5T. A lot has also happened under the hull. For example, the sensor, which now has a resolution of around 20 megapixels. Sony has thoroughly renovated the little-praised menu system of the NEX family. In addition, the A5000 is now capable of wireless communication, for example with a smartphone. And yet the Alpha 5000, including the motorised 3x zoom, costs no more than a classy compact camera. Is there possibly a catch? Our test does not only address this question but also I clarify how the A5000’s image quality is. For this, I try the camera myself and put it through the test software and retrieve the values from that analysis.

Sony calls the Alpha 5000 the smallest and lightest interchangeable lens camera with APS-C sensor, flash and WiFi. [Photo: Sony]

The APS-C sensor of the Sony Alpha 5000 is built in CMOS technology and achieves a resolution of 20 megapixels. [Photo: Sony]

The 7.5 cm screen of the Sony Alpha 5000 has a resolution of 460,000 pixels and can be swivelled up 180 degrees for self-portraits. [Photo: Sony]

The Sony Alpha 5000 will be available not only in black, but also in silver and… [Photo: Sony]

…  white. Since 2014, the Sony Alpha 5000 is available for just under 500 euros including a 16-50mm set lens. [Photo: Sony]

But Sony has not only drilled into the resolution, the image processor is also faster now, the same Bionz X as in the Alpha 7 and Alpha 7R is used. The continuous shooting rate of 2.5 frames per second is maintained despite higher sensor resolution, as is the NEX-3N’s maximum light sensitivity of ISO 16,000, and raw photos can still be stored. Videos are recorded in full HD resolution at the maximum, and SD/SDHC/SDXC cards or MemorySticks can be inserted in the memory card compartment. The lithium-ion battery is replaceable but is charged in the camera via USB cable.

Like the NEX-3N, the Alpha 5000 has a screen that can be folded up 180 degrees, with a resolution of 460,000 pixels and a diagonal of 7.5 centimetres. The Alpha 5000 is equipped with WLAN and NFC. It not only transfers photos and videos to smartphones, tablets or PCs, but can also be controlled remotely and expanded with its own apps, for example for new image effects or recording settings. The A5000 offers a wide range of scene modes, semi-automatic and manual exposure, creative filters, HDR and panorama functions, and face retouching if desired.

Since March 2014, the Sony Alpha 5000 including the set lens SEL-P1650 (16-50mm with motor zoom) is available in black, silver and white for just under 500 EUR. The set with the SEL-P1650 and SEL-55210 (55-210 mm telezoom) will cost just under 750 EUR. As accessories, Sony offers for example matching leather cases or a set of external charger including a second battery.

Ergonomics and Workmanship

The Sony Alpha 5000 follows the NEX-3N, the model name NEX has finally been dropped by Sony. In the future, all Sony cameras with interchangeable lenses will belong to the Alpha family. And so the Alpha 5000 also answers to the name A5000 as well as to α5000. To make it clear that the A5000 is a camera with an electric bayonet, there is another model designation: ILCE-5000. All right? Hopefully……

But why linger on the nomenclature?  The first look at the A5000 is far too promising for that. Compared to its predecessor, the case looks much more mature, and the design is unmistakably from the NEX-5T, which until now has ranked one class above it. But as chic as the dress of the A5000 presents itself: In the hand it cannot hide the fact that it is made of plastic. This is quite okay considering the camera’s low price, especially since the A5000 also has a firm grip.

Sony has thus saved itself a noble metal case on the A5000 – but not only that. Thus, the display can be folded up by 180 degrees, but not down – nice for “selfies”, impractical when shooting from the frog’s perspective. And with 460,800 dots the monitor doesn’t have a very fine resolution, especially the font in the menus looks a bit pixelated. In the bright midday sun, the display should gladly glow even more strongly, especially since the A5000 lacks an electronic viewfinder as an alternative.

After all, a neatly hinged flap for the interfaces and the memory card compartment was still in the developers’ budget – some other cameras only have a fiddly rubber cover. Sony has saved on the controls, though. On the back of the camera there is just a four-weigher and four more buttons. The upper side is even more spartan, especially lacking a program selector wheel. But the A5000 does not have a quick menu either. And so you dive into the camera menu of the A5000 much more often than with other system cameras.

At least Sony has reworked the menu structure considerably. Unlike the NEX cameras, it is now built in a classic way: All commands are neatly sorted into tabs, so that the A5000 can do without endless lists with a scroll bar. Gone are the unlabeled buttons of the NEXes, which take on a different function depending on the context. This was innovative, but also confusing. As not quite sufficient compensation for the missing quick menu, Sony at least allows three of the four buttons on the four-way rocker to be assigned a function of its own choice.

Apart from that, Sony does everything right: The A5000 sits well in the hand thanks to its wide grip boss and there is even a zoom lever, as otherwise only found on a compact camera (more on this in the “Features” section). The handle holds a battery from below, which supplies energy for 420 shots (according to CIPA) and has to be charged in the camera via USB. It’s also nice that Sony has placed the tripod thread in the optical axis despite the A5000’s compact dimensions.

Features

Contrary to what the spartan equipment with a control element might suggest, Sony has provided the A5000 with a lot of functions. For example, there are two fully automatic modes, one of which selects programs with multiple shots as required, which significantly improve the noise behavior or dynamic range. The corresponding programs can alternatively be entered manually, and the A5000 also offers a choice of various scene mode programs. It’s also nice that the fully automatic modes allow for intervention options – depth of field, white balance, image style and creative effects can be controlled individually, even if the camera otherwise takes complete control.

With the A5000, experienced photographers set the exposure parameters manually or let the camera control the exposure semi-automatically. For difficult situations, such as backlighting, the A5000 has clever special functions at the ready: the DRO function brightens shadow areas and its strength can be adjusted. And with HDR auto, the A5000 merges multiple differently exposed shots into one image with perfectly rendered shadows and highlights. As an alternative, the A5000 offers a small on-board flash, which serves well as a brightener against the light. However, the flash is too weak to illuminate a dark living room. It’s a pity that no external flash can be connected to the A5000. A new feature of the A5000 is the “Zebra” function, which has been available on film cameras for a long time, but is still unusual on photography cameras like this one. It hatches zones in the viewfinder image with a predetermined brightness, helping to expose the main subject very accurately.

The A5000’s autofocus focuses quite quickly, and according to the test lab, the shutter release delay including distance setting is around a third of a second. However, if the camera is to track the focus during continuous shooting, it only takes about 2.5 photos per second. At least there is now a “lock on” function for the AF: if it is activated, the A5000 automatically tracks the focus on a main subject once detected, no matter where it is currently located in the frame, this function is also known as tracking AF. This works even if you lose sight of the main subject for a moment – as soon as the main subject returns to the viewfinder image, the AF system will switch on again.

The A5000 is only offered as a set with lenses, in the standard kit of our test model it is the SEL-P1650. It zooms by motor and is electronically controlled. To do this, the A5000 has a zoom lever around the shutter release button that works just like a compact camera. Alternatively, the zoom can also be controlled with a rocker switch directly on the lens. If manual focusing is used, the focus ring transmits inputs to actuators in the lens, and the distance is ultimately also adjusted electronically.

The zoom drive by motor is especially interesting for filming. It allows very smooth zoom movements. What’s less nice, though, is that the A5000 only uses a part of the sensor area when shooting movies. Thus, one gains an apparently telephoto focal length, but on the other hand loses a lot in the wide-angle range. The A5000 films with a maximum resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels (Full HD), but only at a frame rate of 60i. It records the sound for the film in stereo.

Apart from a few detail improvements, the A5000’s equipment has been similar to its predecessor, the NEX-3N. But Sony has made good progress in terms of WiFi capabilities: The A5000 makes contact with a mobile device as needed and then transfers the recordings to a smartphone or tablet. It can also be remote controlled from the mobile device. All you need is the app “Sony PlayMemories Mobile” (free for Android and iOS. Discontinued for BlackBerry in 2018 and also discontinued for Windows Phone in 2019). A new feature of the A5000 is the ability to add new functions to the camera via Camera App. Sony offers some of these apps for free, others cost up to 10 euros.

Image quality

In terms of “equipment and features” Sony has saved here and there on the A5000. Does this also apply to the image quality? The A5000 cuts a good figure on paper: its sensor in APS-C format has a very high resolution of around 20 megapixels. In addition, the A5000 uses the same Bionz-X processor to process the sensor data as the top-of-the-line A7R.

As you would expect from Sony’s sensor, the A5000 shines with excellent input dynamics. Up to high ISO 3,200, it processes almost eleven aperture stops of contrast range – a top value! In general, the A5000 has hardly any problems with high ISO numbers: The signal-to-noise ratio is very good up to ISO 400, only at ISO 6,400 does it drop below the critical mark of 35 dB.

The measurement of the texture sharpness shows that beyond ISO 400, the noise reduction increasingly suppresses the finest details – but the loss of detail only becomes visible from ISO 3.200. All in all, image noise and loss of detail remain pleasingly low up to ISO 6.400 – one can easily forgive the A5000 for not being able to connect a powerful flash unit.

The A5000 reproduces colours finely differentiated and almost unaltered, but saturates them quite strongly. In combination with a steep tonal value transfer as well as a little bit strong resharpening, this provides a lively, crisp image impression. If you prefer a more reserved approach, set up the internal image processing accordingly or record in raw format.

There is nothing to criticize about the performance of the sensor and image processor of the A5000. Unfortunately this does not apply to the set lens E 16-50 mm 3.5-5.6 OSS PZ. Although its resolution is amazingly high in the image center with over 55 line pairs per millimeter (lp/mm), the loss of resolution towards the image edges is unacceptably high at over 50 percent, especially in the wide-angle range. The poor edge resolution is certainly partly due to the internal distortion correction, which cannot be switched off on the SEL-P1650. After all, it does its job so well that the lens is virtually distortion-free at all focal lengths. However, when it comes to chromatic aberration, the picture turns to the worse again: Over the entire focal length range, clear color fringes appear at contrasting edges.

Conclusion

With the A5000, Sony presents a quite compact mirrorless system camera in a quite nice design. The camera impresses above all with its image quality, which is more than impressive not only in its price range. However, this performance can certainly be improved with better lenses – the SEL-P1650 set lens struggles above all with a blatant edge drop in resolution. For this purpose, the lens offers a motor zoom that can be controlled directly from the camera with a rocker. Sony has especially saved on the A5000’s equipment: It lacks a flash connection, a program dial and a quick menu. If you don’t want to rely on the good fully automatic functions, you will be forced to perform unnecessarily complex operating steps in the camera menu. Apart from that, the A5000’s range of features is okay. In addition, the inexpensive system camera shines with the possibility of expanding the range of functions via Camera Apps. The A5000 is a tip for smart spenders who prefer to shoot with the automatic camera.

Profile

Profile
Manufacturer Sony
Model Alpha 5000
Price approx. EUR 450* EUR 450
Sensor Resolution 20.1 megapixels
Max. Image resolution 5.456 x 3.632
(aspect ratio) (3:2)
Lens Sony E 16-50 mm 3.5-6.5 OSS PZ (SEL-P1650)
Filter thread 40.5 mm
Viewfinder
Dioptre compensation
Resolution
Enlargement
Image field coverage
LCD monitor 3″
Resolution 460.800
rotatable
swiveling yes
as Viewfinder yes
Video output HDMI
Automatic programming yes
Automatic aperture control yes
Automatic timer yes
manual exposure yes
BULB long time exposure yes
Scene modes
Portrait yes
Children/baby
Landscape yes
Macro yes
Sports/action yes
More 5 additional scene modes
Exposure metering Multi-field, centre-weighted Integral, Spot
Flash yes
Flash connection
Remote release yes
Interval recording
Storage medium SD/SDHC/SDXC or Memory Stick
Video mode
Format AVCHD or MP4
Codec H.264/AVC
Resolution (max.) 1.920 x 1.080
at frame rate 60i
Sensitivity
automatically ISO 100-16,000
extended
manually ISO 100-16,000
White balance
Automatic yes
Sun yes
Clouds yes
Fluorescent lamp yes
Incandescent lamp yes
Miscellaneous Shadow, flash, underwater, manual color temperature selection
Manually yes
Autofocus
Number of measurement fields 187
AF auxiliary light orange
Speed approx. 0,3 s
Languages English
More 16 additional languages
Weight
(ready for operation)
210 g (body only) 385 g (with lens*)
Zoom
Zoom adjustment manually on the lens
One-hand operation
(zoom and shutter release)
yes (with PZ lens)
Triggering during storage possible. yes
Battery life approx. 420 pictures (according to CIPA)
– = “not applicable” or “not available”* with lens Sony E 16-50 mm 3.5-6.5 OSS PZ (SEL-P1650)

 

Brief assessment

Pros

  • Practical automatic functions
  • Expandability via Camera Apps
  • Excellent image quality (but lens weaknesses)
  • Set lens with motor zoom/zoom rocker on the camera

Cons

  • No EVF, low resolution display
  • Low serial frame rate
  • Program selector wheel and quick menu are missing
  • Weak on-board flash, no connection for external flash

Sony Alpha 5000 Datasheet

Electronics

Sensor CMOS sensor APS-C 23.6 x 15.8 mm (crop factor 1.5
)20.7 megapixels (physical) and 20.1 megapixels (effective)
Pixelpitch 4.3 µm
Photo resolution
5.456 x 3.064 pixels (16:9)
3.872 x 2.576 pixels (3:2)
3.872 x 2.176 pixels (16:9)
2.736 x 1.824 pixels (3:2)
2.736 x 1.536 pixels (16:9)
Panorama Sweeping panorama
8.192 x 1.856 pixels
3.872 x 2.160 pixels
12.416 x 1.856 pixels
5.536 x 2.160 pixels
Image formats JPG, RAW
Metadata Exif (version 2.3), DCF standard
Video resolution
1.920 x 1.080 (16:9) 24 p
1.440 x 1.080 (4:3) 25 p
640 x 480 (4:3) 25 p
Maximum recording time 27 min 50 sec
Video format
MPG4 [codec MPEG-4]

Lens

Lens mount
Sony E

Focus

Autofocus mode Contrast autofocus with 25 measuring fields
Autofocus functions Single AF, Continuous AF, Manual, AF Assist Light, Focus Peaking
Sharpness control Depth of Field Control

Viewfinder and monitor

Monitor 3.0″ TFT LCD monitor with 460,800 pixels, tiltable by 180° upwards

Exposure

Exposure metering Center-weighted integral measurement, matrix/multi-field measurement, spot measurement
Exposure times 1/4,000 to 30 s (Automatic
) Bulb function
Exposure control Programmed automatic, Shutter priority, Aperture priority, Manual
Exposure bracketing function Exposure bracketing function with a maximum of 3 shots, step size from 0.3 to 0.7 EV, HDR function
Exposure Compensation -3.0 to +3.0 EV with step size of 1/3 EV
Photosensitivity ISO 100 to ISO 3,200 (automatic
)ISO 100 to ISO 16,000 (manual)
Remote access Remote release, remote control via smartphone/tablet
Scene modes Auto, Landscape, Macro, Night Scene, Night Portrait, Portrait, and Sports/Action.
Picture effects Miniature effect, toy camera, soft focus, pop color, partial color (R/G/B/Y), tone separation (B/W), soft focus
White balance Automatic, Clouds, Sun, Shadow, Flash, Fluorescent, Incandescent, Manual
Color space Adobe RGB, sRGB
Continuous shooting 2.5 frames/s at highest resolution
Self-timer Self-timer with 2 s interval, special features: or 10 s (optional)
Recording functions Live histogram

Flashgun

Flash built-in flash (hinged) Flash shoe: not available
Flash code Guide number 7 (ISO 100)
Flash functions Auto, fill-flash, flash on, flash off, slow sync, flash on second shutter curtain, red-eye reduction

Features

Image stabilizer no optical image stabilizer
Memory
Memory Stick (Duo Pro)
SD (SDHC, SDXC)
Power supply 1 x Sony NP-FW50 (lithium-ion (Li-Ion), 7.2 V, 1,240 mAh
)165 images according to CIPA standard
Playback functions Highlight / Shadow warning, image index, slide show function
Face recognition Face recognition, smile recognition
Image parameters Sharpness, contrast
Connections Data interfaces: USBUSB type
:USB 2.0 High SpeedWLAN
: availableNFC
: available
AV Connections AV output: HDMI output Micro (Type D)
Supported direct printing methods PictBridge
Tripod thread 1/4″
Special features and miscellaneous BIONZ-X Image Processor25 AF points
(Contrast AF)
AF operating range 0-20 EV (F2.8 ISO 100)
Sensor cleaning function (anti-static filter and ultrasonic)
Dynamic Range Optimizer (1-5 steps)
Long-term noise reduction selectable from 1 secondNoise reduction
from ISO 1.600 and morewith
priority selection)
Contrast, sharpness and saturation can be changed in /-3 stepsFinder magnifier
6x and 12x for manual focusingAVCHD
and MPEG-4 video recordingPtP transmission protocolPrecise percentagebattery capacity displayautomatic
brightness adjustment of the screenAdditional
sunlight adjustment ( /-2 steps)
Remote control via Smartphone App

Size and weight

Dimensions W x H x D 110 x 63 x 36 mm
Weight 269 g (ready for operation)

Miscellaneous

standard accessory Sony AC-UB10C Charger for special batteriesSony
AC-UB10D Charger for special batteriesSony
NP-FW50 Charger for special batteriesMains/Charger for special batteriesUSB ChargerAC-UB10USB Connecting cableStretch

strapPicture

editing software

Picture Motion Browser for Windows

additional accessories Nikon HDMI Cable Audio / Video CableSony
NP-FW50 Special Battery Removable Memory CardCamera bag

 

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Peter Dench
I am Peter Dench. Digital Photographer, born in London 1972, currently living in Deerfield, near Chicago. I have numerous photography expositions and also working in model photography. In this website, PhotoPoint, I usually review cameras provided by local dealers in Illinois and by the manufacturers. Sometimes I, Peter Dench, review lenses too, but only when I have a suitable camera for them. Please let me know in the comments if I can improve any of these articles.