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Sony Alpha a5000 Review

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The Sony Alpha A5000 was the fourth compact system camera from Sony to appear after the company decided to drop its NEX name for E-mount cameras. Instead, it uses the Alpha brand, often shortened simply to “A”.

[Update: The Sony Alpha A5000 was launched at the start of 2014 and has since been superseded by the The5100, while higher models in the Alpha range have since become more competitively priced. A good entry-level option, but if your budget will stretch to it, you’d be better off with the 24MP Alpha A6000.]

The first model was the Sony a3000, an entry-level mirrorless camera with a DSLR like design, more akin to the A-mount entry-level Alphas offered by the next company. The next two were the Alpha 7 and Alpha7R, two high-end, full-frame cameras.

Sony refreshes its range of compact system digital cameras, especially those at the lower-middle end of the ranges, roughly every 12 months. The a5000 was announced at CES and is a replacement for the NEX-3N. It sits below the NEX-5T, which is yet to be replaced, and the A6000, the camera which now sits at the top finish of Sony’s enthusiast APS-C range.

Whereas the A7 and A7R are aimed at enthusiast and professional photographers, the a5000 joins the a3000 at the entry-level end of the line-up. This camera, however, takes the familiar NEX shape we’ve been used to for some time now, with a flat, compact (body only) design.

That’s not to say it doesn’t feature some of the features from those cameras higher up in the range. Inside the Sony Alpha a5000 is an APS-C format Exmor APS HD CMOS sensor with 20.1 million effective pixels and the same Bionz X processor as found in the A7, A7R and the recently announced The a6000.

This combination allows the sensitivity to be set up to ISO 16,000, but the maximum continuous shooting rate is more modest at just 2.5fps or 3.5fps inside Speed Priority Continuous shooting mode.

Although aimed at novices, the Alpha 5000 has advanced exposure modes (program, aperture priority, shutter priority and manual) in addition to iAuto, Superior Auto, Scene selection and Sweep panorama for less experienced photographers. This means that users have room to grow as they learn about the camera.

Build and Handling

The a5000 is very similar in size, style and shape to the NEX-3N, which it replaces. Although the camera is in the flat, compact style of other NEX CSCs, it has a chunky grip which is textured and feels very secure in the hand. With heavy cameras, it’s fairly unlikely that you’ll often be using it one-handed, but the a5000 is quite light, so there’s a good chance you might – in which case that chunky hold makes it feel steady.

Additionally, almost all of the buttons on the a5000 are grouped about the right-hand side of the camera, making them easy to reach with the thumb, again a good indicator that the camera is designed to be used one-handed.

On top of the camera, around the shutter release button, is a switch for turning the camera on and off. There’s also a zoom lever which you can use when a power zoom lens is mounted to the camera, such as the 16-50mm kit lens – you can also use a switch on this zoom lens itself if you prefer. The zoom lever on the top of the camera is also used for zooming into images in playback to check focus.

Also on top of the camera (but at an angle to not accidentally knock it) is a dedicated movie record button. The only button not to be grouped on the proper hand side of the camera is the button that is pressed to lift the flash, which can be found on the left-hand part of the digital camera, next to the pop-up flash unit. On the back of the camera may be the tilting LCD screen. This is neither touch screen, nor fully articulated. It only tilts up, which makes it useful for shooting from above, or for self-portraits (it tilts so far as to fully face the front); but for shooting from above, or portrait format images, it’s less useful. As with most other Sony digital cameras, many of the buttons on the trunk of the camera can be customised to the settings you use most often, which is useful. There is a dial which doubles up as a four-way navigational pad, each of the directional keys here could be customised, as well as the button in the centre of the pad.

There’s also another button in the bottom right of the camera, which has a question mark on it, which can be set to a particular function. As there’s no dial anywhere on the digital camera to switch between different shooting modes, such as aperture priority, completely automatic, manual and scene settings, this can be done in one of two ways. You can either navigate to Shoot Mode in the main menu (via the menus button), or you can set one of the custom control keys to quickly access Shoot Mode.

The scrolling dial on the back of the camera is used for altering aperture or shutter speed, depending on the mode you’re shooting in. If you’re shooting in fully manual, you’ll need to press the down directional key (set to exposure compensation by default) to change between the two parameters. If you are capturing in shutter priority or aperture concern, push the down essential to access exposure compensation then use the dial once again to dial in or down however much compensation you need.

Performance

All of Sony’s recent cameras have impressed us a lot when it comes to image quality. Generally speaking, some of the quirks of handling are usually more than made up for by the fact that image quality is so good.

Happily, the a5000 has proven itself to be no different. Once again, images contain lots of fine detail, while colours are beautifully saturated.

We were similarly impressed by images from the NEX-3N and saw no reason why the a5000 would be any worse. In fact, including the latest Bionx X processor, should have a positive impact on results.

Bionz X processor

At ISO 3200, noise is apparent when zooming in to 100% – some areas of an image start to have a painterly effect, but, when viewing images at normal printing or web sizes, such as A4 or below, images are very good and more than acceptable to use. We’d happily use up to ISO 3200 for any images that weren’t going to be printed at a very large size.

The automatic white balance setting is very good, producing accurate colours even under artificial lighting in the majority of instances used it. You can alter the specific setting if you find it’s not quite matching up to the correct whites, but we found that this wasn’t necessary most of the time.

It’s great to see accuracy in this area, where previous cameras tended to err towards orange or warm tones under artificial lights. Similarly, all-purpose metering does a good job in nearly all conditions in helping to produce a well-balanced exposure. Although the A5000 doesn’t claim speeds as quick as its more advanced stablemate, the A6000, or indeed Micro Four Thirds digital cameras, it is still pretty quick to focus, especially in a good light. Focusing speeds drop a little in lower lighting, sometimes hunting around for a while before locking on, but it’s rare for a false focus to be presented. The kit lens supplied with the A5000 is a 16-50mm PZ zoom lens which we have seen before on other models including the 3N and the 5T. It’s a decent all-round performer, offering a flexible focal length that will suit a good variety of subjects. Even though the maximum aperture of this lens is f/3.5 you can still get some nice shallow depth of field effects, thanks to the camera’s large sensor.

Sony has some good additional lenses in its line-up, and while that number isn’t quite as large as the number of proprietary Micro Four Thirds optics, there are quite a few useful additions.

During this test, we also used a 50mm f/1.8 lens, which is great for shallow depth of field results, portraits, or if you’re shooting in low light, and would make a good second lens. We also used a 30mm f/3.5 macro lens, that is good for shots which require a lot of detail, such for example still life.

Several digital filters, such as Toy Camera, can be found on the A5000, which are worth experimenting with. It’s a shame that you can’t shoot these in raw format, so if you decide that you don’t like the filter down the line, then you’ll be stuck with it. If you want to be a little more flexible, then you can choose different Creative Styles. These allow you to shoot in a natural format and include settings such for example Monochrome, Vivid and Portrait.

Check Out: Best Sony a5000 Lenses 

Verdict

Another decent, well-performing camera from Sony here. The A5000 is a good buy for those looking for their first compact system camera, offering a decent range of options for both beginners and those who are a little more experienced.

Check The Sony a5000 Price 

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