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Sony Alpha NEX-5R Digital Camera Review$749.99
The new sensor's color accuracy will not be a distraction from your photography. The smallest uncorrected error value we detected in our test was 2.74. When errors did occur, they did so predominantly in the warm colors like reds and yellows, however dark blues were affected as well. We were a little worried about those off-color yellows and how they would impact portrait photography, but despite our tests, human subjects still looked natural and realistic in the field. More on how we test color.
The most accurate color mode is Standard, and we should also mention color saturation, which was over by about 13%.
NOTE: Because of the way computer monitors reproduce colors, the images above do not exactly match the originals found on the chart or in the captured images. The chart should be used to judge the relative color shift, not the absolute captured colors.
Although we found the 5R's color accuracy satisfactory, we've been a little spoiled by recent cameras. In fact, the 5R does improve upon its predecessor, the NEX-5N, but not much else on the market. Both the Pentax K-01 and the Panasonic GX1 offer superior color accuracy, as does Sony's own aging NEX-7.
Aside from the most accurate color mode, Standard, the 5R offers five additional color modes or "Creative Styles" in the main menu. Portrait is almost as accurate as Standard, but the rest of the modes don't behave quite like we expected. Sunset, for example, doesn't seem to emphasize oranges any more than Landscape does, or Vivid. Our advice, stick with Standard.
We hardly ever noticed outright white balance mistakes during our time with the NEX-5R, however our lab tests found both automatic and custom white balance features to be of only average accuracy. This camera's white balance algorithm should therefore be considered consistent and reliable, though not necessarily precise.
Automatic White Balance ()
As is always the case, this camera's automatic white balance has the most trouble with incandescent light, and under such conditions we measured white balance too warm by about 1400 Kelvin. That's not great, though we've seen upwards of 3000 K errors in the past. Under fluorescent light, color temperature is still too warm, but this time by only 400 K on average. Finally, under daylight, the camera earns its best white balance score—for both automatic and custom—by coming within around 60 K of ideal.
Custom White Balance ()
For incandescent and fluorescent light, your best option will be a custom white balance. Again, it's not perfect, but white balance errors will drop to approximately 200 K under both light sources. Under daylight, our tests claims you're actually better off sticking with automatic white balance, and based on our time shooting with the camera, we'd have to agree.
The NEX-5R picks up most of its points thanks to impressive automatic white balance performance under daylight, but other than that the results are mediocre. Clearly Sony has made few improvements to their white balance system, since the 5R scores only slightly better than the NEX-7, and still lags behind the NEX-5N.
White Balance Options
Other than custom and automatic, nine white balance presets are available in-camera, including no less than four fluorescent variations, plus one setting for use with flash. Direct entry in degrees Kelvin is available if you already know the color temperature of your light source and, conveniently, the custom set option reads out your new color temperature onscreen. So if you didn't know the temperature of your source before, now you do.