[Review] Sony Alpha A5000: Move over, NEX

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Sony Alpha A5000

Sony Alpha A5000

Sony’s compact system cameras (CSC) need little introduction – deceivingly small, lightweight prosumer cameras with DSLR-like performance. The Japanese giant’s NEX “mirrorless” range has been highly successful since its debut in 2010. At CES 2014 in January, Sony introduced the Alpha A5000 which sits in the upper entry-level range, slightly below the NEX-5T.

Sony Alpha A5000

Design and build

According to Sony, the A5000 is the world’s lightest interchangeable lens digital camera, weighing in at just 210g (without lens attached). That’s lighter than some modern smartphones! The A5000 is available in black, pink and white.

For those who own a NEX camera, the A5000 will feel familiar, as Sony has retained the much-loved form factor of the NEX series. I personally own both the first generation NEX-3 and NEX-3N. The compact body is pretty flat except for the chunky textured handgrip, which gives a reassuring grip when handling.

Most of the control buttons are positioned on the right side of the camera, naturally, making it within reach of the right thumb. On the upper deck are the on/off and shutter release buttons with zoom lever, stereo mic, flash toggle button and built-in flash.

On the back panel is the tactile Menu button, along with a four-way control wheel with a center OK button. The control wheels gives you instant access to Display, ISO, Exposure Compensation and Burst Mode. These buttons can be customised for fast access to different features. Below the control wheel are Playback and Help/Delete buttons.

Sony Alpha A5000 Sony Alpha A5000

A key feature is the non-touch 180-degree tilting LCD screen, rated at 461K dots. Performance in the Malaysian (and Indonesian) sun is commendable, with no major issues with reflectivity. The tilting LCD is fantastic for selfies, with the camera intelligent enough to re-adjust preview orientation when the screen is flipped.

Sony Alpha A5000

The left side door of the camera houses mini-HDMI and micro-USB ports, as well as a multi-format memory card slot supporting Memory Stick and SD formats.

Sony Alpha A5000

More photos of the Sony A5000 on Flickr.

A key improvement I feel to previous generations of the NEX series is the redesigned Menu System. The new Menu System is much more intuitive and logical.

Key features

  • World’s lightest body: only 210g (body only)
  • 20.1MP APS-C type, Exmor APS HD CMOS sensor
  • BIONZ X image processor
  • Continous shooting: max 2.5fps; Speed Priority Continous shooting: max 3.5fps
  • 180-degree 3.0-inch tiltable LCD screen and Soft Skin effect mode
  • Wi-Fi/NFC capabilities and PlayMemories Camera Apps
  • Built-in flash
  • 1200-zone evaluative metering
  • Built-in AF Illuminator, focus lock
  • micro-USB, micro-HDMI ports
  • ISO Sensitivity: ISO100-16000
  • Battery life: 420 shots (CIPA rating)

Performance

Being a current NEX camera user, adapting to the A5000 was pretty effortless although I needed to get used to the new Menu System.

While somewhat plasticky, the camera feels solid to hold and overall very well put together. The build quality also feels reassuringly durable.

Out-of-the-box, the A5000 takes high-detailed, crisp shots with beautiful blurred backgrounds using the supplied kit lens. Colours are rich, balanced and accurate especially in good light. The new 20.1MP Exmor APS HD CMOS sensor with BIONZ X image processor really impresses here.

What’s awesome about the A5000 is in low light, you’ll find low noise in images, thanks to its noise reduction technology. Even at ISO1600, noise is kept at a minimum.

What I like is the improved metering which makes it much quicker getting the right exposure.

I personally take a wide variety of shots from indoor and outdoor event-based photography, amateur portraiture (and selfies!), plenty of food shots, products and more.

I had the opportunity to test the camera with my f/4.5-6.3 55-210 Power Zoom OSS lens which I use primarily for events. I found overall performance good even in low light.

I do like the titling LCD screen, and made full use of this taking family photographs. I like that it orientates itself and has a self-timer for selfies.

Video quality is good with stereo audio capture quite accurate too. The A5000 uses the AVCHD format for movie capture, with a maximum resolution of 1080/60i. I personally opt for MP4 format for my captures.

While I like my NEX-3N, it lacks Wi-Fi/NFC so the A5000’s built-in wireless capabilities are much welcomed. Setting up is a stroll in the park and I easily got it paired to my Lenovo K900 and Lenovo Yoga Tablet 8 for photo sharing and remote triggers. Great for remote shots and selfies, although it lacks on screen autofocus capabilities.

Overall, a very full-featured camera without much gimmickry. Ultimately, the end results i.e. the photos and videos are most important.

In the box

  • Alpha A5000 body
  • f/3.5-5.6 16-50mm Power Zoom lens
  • AC adapter
  • Lens cap
  • Camera strap
  • Battery charger
  • Micro USB cable

Image samples

Sony Alpha A5000 sample shots Sony Alpha A5000 sample shots Sony Alpha A5000 sample shots

More sample shots below:

More sample photos from the Sony A5000 on Flickr.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Lightweight
  • Tilting display
  • Good build
  • Good overall image quality
  • Good low light performance
  • Wi-Fi & NFC for easy image transfers and remote triggers
  • Improved menu system

Cons

  • Slow burst speeds
  • LCD screen could be better

Verdict

Starting from just RM1,999 (SRP), the Sony Alpha A5000 is an excellent all-rounder producing highly detailed images. The lightweight body is much welcomed. The Exmor APS-C sensor with new BIONZ X image processor does not disappoint. Sony has more or less stuck to its winning formula and the A5000 is a natural choice for budget-conscious and entry-level enthusiasts alike. The new metering system is quicker and overall performance is spot on. What I really like is the re-designed Menu System and Wi-Fi/NFC sharing and remote control.

Overall, the A5000 is a good entry point to CSC cameras and an excellent introduction to Sony’s E-Mount family.

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