Sony A5000 Mirrorless Camera Review

The Sony A5000 is a light and compact mirrorless camera, featuring interchangeable lens and a DSLR-class APS-C sensor. The combination of a small, pocketable design with the ability to use a range of different lens and such a large sensor, makes the A5000 an attractive solution for mobile photographers looking for more imaging power than that of traditional point-and-shoots or modern smartphones.
 
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Sony A5000
 
In fact, we believe the A5000 is among the smallest interchangeable lens cameras housing both an APS-C sensor and Wi-Fi. Despite having an almost identical design to Sony NEX-3N, the A5000 brings some valuable improvements over it's predecessor. These include the new APS-C CMOS Exmor sensor, boosting the megapixel count from 16MP to 20.1MP, and a new image processor, the BIONZ X. This processor is the same one used in Sony's high-end shooters such as the Sony A7 and A6000.

Pros

  • APS-C sensor
  • Excellent image quality
  • Sony E-mount computability with a wide variety of available lens
  • Tilt-able screen
  • Very good noise performance
  • User friendly controls and interface
  • Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity

Cons

  • Low-resolution LCD screen
  • Slow AF

Build quality and user experience

At this price range, it is not surprising that A5000’s body is made purely from plastic with a matte finish. There is no weather-resistance whatsoever, and while the camera feels solid enough for its class, we doubt it would survive a serious drop without damage.
 
Sony A5000 weighs merely 210g and measures only 117.3 x 66.6 x 41.3mm, making it a really compact camera. Nevertheless, the grip is quite solid, providing enough depth for a firm grip when held in medium sized hands. This achieved by a flat design on one side, and a chunky, highly pronounced grip on the other side. While we would rarely recommend shooting using only one hand, the A5000 might just be light enough for this to be a viable option.
 
Sony A5000
 
At the top right, you can find a shutter button, a turn on/off switch and zoom toggle (used with zoom lens) all tightly packed together. When we say tightly, we don't mean crammed. It’s a simple and smart design that works well. Sitting in the middle of the camera there is an integrated pop-up flash, which is passed on from the NEX-3N. To each side of the flash, there is a stereo speaker. The sound coming of these speakers is nothing spectacular but it serves it’s purpose well.
 
Moving to the rear of the camera, sitting on the very top right corner, there is a dedicated video recording button. It is seated diagonally, in between the top and rear control sections. Just below the video button there is a texturized thumb rest. Next, we have a dedicated menu button, sitting just to the left of the thumb rest. Moving further down, there is a control dial with double functionality. Rotating the wheel lets you choose a desired value in certain settings, and at the same time the wheel acts as a four-way navigation controller for accessing shooting options such as Timer, Burst mode, ISO and Exposure. Below that we have the standard dedicated buttons for media and image delete.
 
Finally, the 3-inch screen on the back is a 460k-dotted LCD, which is tilt-able up to 180 degrees. This is the same rotating capability we already had with the NEX-3N. It would have been nice to see a fully-rotatable screen but given that this is still an entry-level camera, we are not complaining. It is a great way to capture selfies as well as self-videos. Still, at the very least we expected to see a bump in screen resolution. 
Although the screen has no touch-sensitivity, the control buttons as well as on-screen menus are easy to understand and operate.
The left side of the camera has an openable compartment which houses an SD card slot, micro-HDMI port and Micro-USB port. The USB port is used for file transfer and battery charging.

Features and Performance

The Sony A5000 is quite feature-rich, both suitable for beginners and more enthusiast-oriented consumers. The Auto and Scene modes offer straightforward control over things such as color vividness and background blur (depth of field). Advanced users will be happy to know the camera can capture photos both in RAW and JPEG formats. We have found it very impressive that Sony decided to implement Manual Focus assist mode in form of focus peaking, which usually reserved for high-end DSLRs. 
 
Sony A5000
 
Connectivity-wise, both Wi-Fi and NFC are available, which is all that most users need. You can connect your smartphone to the A5000 to share photos or to control the camera remotely. All of this is done via Sony’s dedicated smartphone App. Overall experience with this is good but we have to note that the initial setup is somewhat complicated.
 
The Autofocus (AF) performance is okay but could be a lot better. Even though the A500 received a bump in the number of AF points, all points are still contrast-detect type which are limited in performance when it comes to challenging focusing conditions. You will be able to focus quickly in good lighting but as soon as the night drops the system does struggle a bit to acquire a reliable focus. Following the same pattern, continuous focus can keep a good track of moving subjects during daylight or in well-lit indoors, but in the dark it often tends to lose track of the subject.
 
Software performance is fluid but it does take a while to start it up and capture a photo – up to 2.5 seconds. The A5000 can capture photos at 3.3fps provided you set it fast-capture mode. At that rate, the buffer reaches its maximum as soon you hit five JPEG + RAW images. Continuous shooting can go for longer if you choose only one of image formats (35 JPEGs or six RAWs). For general shooting, we recommend sticking to the multi-area AF mode which seems to be most reliable, unless you are taking a portrait or a group photo, in which case you should use Face-detect AF feature.

Image quality

Image quality is probably the strongest point for A5000. Other manufacturers in the same class of compact mirrorless cameras may claim fancy imaging features and special processing algorithms, but none of that can go against the sheer size of the APS-C sensor. Images produced by this camera are very sharp, detail-rich and color-accurate. Coupled with the stabilized and capable 16-50mm kit lens, this combination gives you both versatility and quality in photography.  The sensor can capture 20.1MP photos, which is just enough pixels for sensor of this size to provide lots of details while keeping the noise at bay. 
 
ISO levels range from ISO100 – ISO16000. Everything up to ISO1600 will produce very good quality with negligible noise levels. Moving up to ISO3200 noise does start to creep in around the shadows but is still manageable. ISO6400 still shows surprisingly limited noise, but at the cost of detail smudging due to aggressive noise reduction. If you must shoot at ISO6400 or above, we strongly recommend shooting in RAW because this will allow for more non-aggressive noise-reduction in post-processing and may yield photos of good enough quality for social network sharing. 
 
Overall feel of the images produced by Sony Alpha 6000 is very pleasing. Dynamic range is quite good, white balance is mostly on-spot and colors are rich and accurate. Other than combating noise at high ISO levels, there isn’t really much need for any image editing. 

Video

When it comes to video, the options are limited, although sufficient. Sony lets us choose between AVCHD and MP4 format. In AVCHD you can opt for Full HD video at 24fps or 60fps. For MP4, we are only left with 1080p at 24fps. 
 
Video quality is as good as still photo quality. You will get crisp details and accurate colors. We haven’t noticed any performance-related issues in video such as frame stuttering or overheating which is known to happen with some entry-level cameras. 
 
There is no external microphone support, but the built-in microphone quality is excellent. It captures both voices and other sound effects with great clarity. Again, this will work great for video selfies. 
The Bottom Line: 

The Sony A5000 has its shortcomings, including mediocre AF performance, very limited manual controls and an outdated LCD screen. This is however more or less on par with what other manufacturers are offering in the same price range. You may find a camera for the same price with a better screen, but you can be sure they’ve cut corners in some other area.

On the other hand, the A5000 has something that is rarely seen for such a compact interchangeable lens camera; the APS-C sensor, which in turn means nothing short of excellent image and video quality. Take into account feature-packed connectivity with Wi-Fi and NFC, user-friendly controls and shooting modes and it becomes apparent that the A5000 offers a lot for a small price. If your primary concern is mobility; i.e. a camera that can fit almost anywhere, but you also care for image quality, than the Sony A5000 might be a perfect choice. 

List price: $448.00 Buy this Sony A5000 Mirrorless Camera on Amazon.com