Sony NEX 5-R: A new Sony NEX-5N?

78
DxOMark Sensor

Introduction

Sony NEX-5R
Sony NEX-5R

With an overall DxOMark Score of 78, the NEX-5R places 28th in the DxOMark rankings. It beats its predecessor, the NEX-5N, by only one point, which clearly indicates that it uses the very same sensor.

The NEX-5R jumps 5 places ahead of the Sony SLT-A57, the DSLR equipped with the same sensor but somewhat handicapped in low-light sensitivity by its use of Translucent Mirror Technology. The NEX-5R also jumps ahead of the Canon EOS 1D Mark IV by 9 places as well as the Fujifilm X100 – a camera of reference – by 10 places.

For color depth, the NEX-5R scores 23.7 bits, so no improvement here with respect to the NEX-5N.

The NEX-5R delivers a maximum dynamic range of 13.1EV, a very honorable score that puts it into 15th place in the DxOMark rankings. However, as far as this precise criterion goes, the NEX-5R is still beaten by several other cameras equipped with apparently similar sensors, such as the Nikon D5100 and D7000, which measure 13.6 and 13.9EV, respectively, as well by as the Pentax K-5, currently in first place among APS-C cameras for dynamic range with a score of 14.1EV. We note a slight improvement of 1/3EV over the NEX-5N (a difference that is hardly noticeable on final print images).

For low-light sensitivity, the Sony NEX-5R achieves a score of 910 ISO, which puts it in 39th place in the DxOMark rankings. By comparison, the camera with the most sensitive APS-C sensor in this category, the Nikon D5100, racks up a score of 1183 ISO. This is a big difference in terms of absolute values, but translates into an improvement of only 1/3EV, which is scarcely noticeable on a print.

The Sony line of compact hybrids also includes the NEX-F3, which shares its 16Mpix CMOS sensor with the NEX-5R. The NEX-5R scores 5 more points on the DxOMark scale than the very consumer-oriented NEX-F3 — a difference is achieved thanks to the NEX-5R’s 100 ISO setting (the NEX-F3 starts at 200 ISO), which improves the maximum dynamic range that the sensor can deliver (2/3EV greater for the NEX-5R than for the NEX-F3).

Sony NEX-5R vs Olympus OM-D E-M5

comparison

During our tests of the Olympus OM-D E-M5, we found that the manufacturer’s new 16Mpix LiveMOS 4:3 sensor had largely caught up in every category, starting with a dynamic range that allows it to rejoin the field of APS-C compact hybrids in terms of image quality (though with the Sony NEX still ahead).

With a DxOMark overall score of 78, the NEX-5R’s APS-C sensor stays above the Olympus sensor results, but Sony’s lead has been somewhat diminished with respect to the micro 4:3 — only a half-stop better for color depth (23.7 vs 22.8 bits), 2/3EV better for dynamic range (13.1EV vs 12.3EV), and equivalent low-light sensitivity.

The differences between the low-light ISO, color depth, and dynamic range scores are principally due to the Sony’s newly-available 100 ISO minimum sensitivity, whereas the Olympus’s minimum is 200 ISO.

comparison
Olympus no longer needs to be embarrassed about having its sensor compared to Sony’s: the dynamic range at different sensitivities match until the very lowest levels (200 ISO for the OM-D). This characteristic penalizes the OM-D in its contest with the NEX-5R, which benefits from its minimum 100 ISO to achieve 0.6EV more for this last stop.

Olympus will also be using the same sensor used in the OM-D E-M5 for its recently-announced more affordable models, the Pen E-PL5 and Pen E-PM2, which we will be testing shortly.

Sony NEX-5R vs Panasonic G5

comparison

Pitted against the aging 4:3 sensor design of the Panasonic compact hybrids, the Sony NEX-5R sensor scores points.

The color depth of the NEX-5R sensor is 1.5EV higher, for slightly finer gradations. Its dynamic range is also more generous, with a gain of 1.5EV (13.1EV for the NEX-5R versus 11.6EV for the DMC-G5), or one and a half stops larger.

Finally, for low-light sensitivity, with 618 ISO for the Panasonic sensor versus 910 ISO for the Sony EXMOR sensor, the NEX-5R wins by half a stop.

comparison
The Sony NEX-5R sensor’s dynamic range is even greater at 100 ISO versus the Panasonic DMC-G5’s performance at 160 ISO. At its minimum sensitivity, the Sony offers 1.5EV additional exposure latitude than the Panasonic.

The Sony NEX-5R delivers good results with excellent dynamic range and elevated low-light sensitivity for a sensor of this size, thanks to its minimum sensitivity setting of 100 ISO. This Sony mid-range hybrid compact should enjoy the same kind of success as its predecessor. However, Sony cannot rest on its laurels: even though Sony maintains an edge over its competitors, the results for the Olympus OM-D and Pen lines show that the gap has been reduced.