Sony NEX-5T Digital Camera Review
Last year's midrange NEX for $50 less.
By the Numbers
Sony's NEX-5T is a good pick if you're looking for a mirrorless camera. With its new kit lens and time-tested APS-C sensor, you can expect top-notch image quality, making this camera a good value for the money.
In our lab tests, we saw that the NEX-5T continues the legacy of its direct forbear, the NEX-5R. They are very similar cameras, and both utilize a great sensor that's flexible enough to crank out quality stills and HD video.
The NEX-5R doesn't aim to interpret colors in a very accurate fashion. Instead, it offers a bunch of color modes (in Sony lingo: Creative Styles) that give you a bunch of looks to choose from. The most accurate mode as we measured it is the camera's Standard mode, which has a minimum color error of 2.51.
Also on tap are Landscape, Portrait, Sunset and Vivid. There are also a number of fun Picture Effects you can shoot with, including a toy camera mode, selective color options and softening filters.
For such a compact camera, the NEX-5T offers up a full suite of shooting sensitivities. However, noise crashes the party when you make your way up the ISO range, which is combatted by the camera's fairly aggressive noise reduction algorithm. There's a noticeable drop-off in detail when you shoot with anything ISO 6400 and above.
The large, APS-C sized sensor means that you can truly expect DSLR-style noise handling, but with less granularity of control. The NEX-5T has two levels of noise reduction—low and normal. In standard mode, the 5T applies quite a bit of noise reduction to higher ISO images—we never saw our noise percentage go higher than 1.7%, which explains why poor Rosie's face up there looks soft at the two most sensitive levels. If you don't want to risk losing that much detail in low light shooting, switch to the low level, or, better yet, shoot RAW and take care of the dirty work yourself.
The NEX-5T's new 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 PZ OSS kit lens is pretty impressive given its squat stature. Cutting the fat of the previous E-Mount kit lens, this little guy is plenty sharp and ideal for shooting video with its power zoom functionality.
We have some good news for your JPEG shooters, too. We didn't measure a whole lot of oversharpening from the NEX-5T's, topping out at around 14%. While that might sound like a lot, keep in mind that we've seen cameras oversharpen as much as 30% in some cases. Of course, you can always shoot in RAW and apply your own sharpening to taste.
As a best-of-both-worlds proposition, the NEX-5T is a perfectly sound choice. If you're looking for good video, we can say that this midrange NEX can shoot HD in a pinch and that you'll be pleased with the quality. In bright light, we measured 615 lw/ph horizontal and 700 lw/ph vertical. In low light, visible detail fell off a bit, and our recorded numbers were 470 lw/ph horizontal and 575 lw/ph vertical. Even though we didn't think that video in low light was all that hot, we were duly impressed with the low lux required for minimum illumination—only 5 lux are needed to hit our benchmark of 50 IRE.
A weakness of the Sony NEX-5T is its auto white balance performance. In our lab tests, we measured less-than-stellar recognition of incandescent and fluorescent lighting—the fluorescent test wound up with a noticeable grey/green cast while the ever-tricky incandescent test shots were pinkish. The results we saw wouldn't look so bad if the most recent Panasonic Micro Four Thirds cameras weren't such stellar performers, turning in way better results without breaking a sweat. When it's all said and done, you'll get the best performance in daylight and if you're really concerned, shoot RAW and dial in white balance in post.
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