WishList – The Sony a5000

Sony hits a homerun with their a5000.

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I’ve always been a media enthusiast. Whether it’s print, photos, video, or the web, content creation has fascinated me as much as content consumption. There’s something about preserving memories to share with others that brings me great joy. I started when I joined the photography club in grade school and I took to it like a duck to water. I’ve been enjoying it ever since.

Recently, I’ve found a gadget that is versatile enough to cover a lot of bases when it comes to my photography needs these days: The Sony a5000.

These days, a lot of my life centers around my family. There are so many things happening that my daughter, Nixi, is still incapable of understanding at her tender age of eight months. But one of these days, she will want to know what it was like during the time she was an infant. I know this because I feel the same way. Thus my desire to document her antics, our travels, and our events as much as I can.

Unfortunately, my phone’s camera is not up to the task. Photos are often blurry, or dark, or grainy. It’s too slow to catch Nixi at her moments, and when it does, there’s often motion blur. Granted, a phone is always on hand, it’s light, and it can easily upload photos, or manipulate them using apps. But they can only go so far. There are many photos that even Photoshop can’t save, and that’s an application I consider to be one of my best tools.

So I’ve put the Sony a5000 on my wish list. I’ve been reading about it and it’s one heck of a camera!

Sony calls it the world’s lightest interchangeable lens camera. With the body at 210 grams, I’m inclined to believe that. A battery and lens increase the weight to 269 grams, making it easy to hold the camera with one hand.

The interchangeable lens enables me to use other lenses in the Sony E-series, from macro lenses, to zoom, to wide-angle lenses, and others. Some even include image stabilization for rock-steady shots. This will allow me to take close-ups of Nixi’s luxurious eyelashes in full detail or capture her winning the goal from the other side of the stadium in a future soccer game I imagine she would play.

The camera has an effective resolution of 20.1 million pixels, allowing for incredible detail. But what takes it to another level compared to a camera phone or even the average point-and-shoot camera is the Advanced Photo System Type-C (APS-C) sensor. The APS-C sensor is the chip that is used to capture the image when the shutter button is pressed. Most camera phones have sensors that are about 10 millimeters at the longest side. The APS-C sensor in the a5000 is 25.1mm by 16.7mm. The bigger size of the APS-C sensor allows for more light sensitivity, thus less noise, and better quality.

Why would this be important to me? In our home, I try to keep lights subdued or indirect so that Nixi doesn’t get eyestrain from looking at bright lights. She likes to stare at them as she finds the brightness attractive. And sometimes I like to take photos of how peaceful or funny she looks while sleeping. To get clear photos, you need enough light so photos don’t come out dull and grainy. The more light a camera can resolve on its own, the less need for an extra light source. I won’t have to rely on a flash as much with a more sensitive camera. Very big consideration there.

Now unlike the usual Digital Single-Lens Reflex (DSLR) camera, the a5000 is what’s known as a mirrorless camera. For brevity, they can be similar when it comes to the sensors, interchangeable lenses, and image processing technology. They are usually different in size, weight, moving parts, viewfinder, battery capacity, and speed. If you would like more information, I’ve included a link with more detail. For the purposes of this post, however, I’ll limit the details to what’s mainly relevant for my purposes.

From what you can see, a DSLR is bigger than the mirrorless camera. Because of the weight, size, and button placement, you need two hands to use it. In contrast, the a5000 is light, compact, and has most of the controls on one side, making one-handed use very easy. I can take photos while holding Nixi on the other hand especially when we’re traveling. And the screen flips up 180 degrees, making selfies a simple matter. You can compare the size of the a5000 with its bigger sibling, the a7 II, below.a5000 Front Viewa5000 sidea7 IIa7 II side

Speaking of the screen, this is where all of the images will be composed and viewed so keeping it clear is very important. I certainly can’t wipe it using my daughter’s onesie if it gets dirty. It’s a large 3-inch non-touchscreen so smudges can be kept at a minimum and there’s no need to worry about using the camera while wearing gloves.

Of course, talking about a camera should also include how it takes photos the way I like. The a5000 has 25 focus points to keep my subject sharp and in full detail. It has face detection, automatic exposure, white balance, and can even detect smiles. This last feature is particularly relevant to me because it can be difficult to get Nixi to smile when I’m trying to take photos of her. I can set the camera to take a photo the moment she smiles. Possibly even faster than I can ever press the shutter button.

It also compensates for different situations like being indoors or outdoors, if a sky is overcast or very sunny, and whether lights are fluorescent or incandescent. The built-in flash also helps when it gets dark and is movable so it can be aimed directly at the subject or upwards for indirect illumination. There will always be a way to photograph Nixi in most places.

It also has a feature called Auto Object Framing where it automatically fills the shot with the subject when taking portraits or group shots. It detects faces and tracks them to keep them in focus as well. And it has an anti-blur mode to help compensate for a moving subject. Thus it can make it easier to keep Nixi in the shot because she can barely stay still when she’s in play mode.

And since I also enjoy Nixi’s antics, the instant video function and built-in stereo microphones can help me capture her first words or first steps. The button for video is located beside the screen and starts recording the moment it is pressed. Microphones can capture the nuances of her learning how to speak and the singing of the guests when we have her intimate first birthday party at home in a few months. With the video at FullHD Blu-ray quality at a cinematic 24 frames per second, the blowing of her candle will get even more dramatic.

I’m glad that the battery can last long enough to take 420 shots. Needing to take that crucial photo towards the end of the party can make the difference and needing to switch batteries every few minutes can be a pain. I had a camera ten years ago that had this very problem.

And while being able to take beautiful photos in exquisite detail is something that the a5000 does with aplomb, being able to view said photos is the other half of the equation. The a5000 has several ways you can efficiently do so:

  1. You can simply review your photos and videos in the viewfinder. This is the most direct way to see them but you are limited to the space that your SD card can offer.
  2. It has a MicroHDMI socket so you can connect it directly to a TV that has the requisite ports.
  3. You can also connect a MicroUSB cable for direct connection and file transfer to your computer. This same connector can also charge the camera and control it using an application on your PC.
  4. It has WiFi that is used to transfer photos from the camera to your PC or smartphone. It can be manually paired with your device and it also has NFC for one-touch automatic pairing.
  5. It can use the WiFi connection to directly upload files to your favorite photo-sharing sites such as Facebook or Flickr.
  6. Lastly, you can remove the SD card and insert it into a card reader on your PC.

Another thing you can do with the WiFi capabilities is to control the camera with your smartphone using an app, including changing the exposure and aperture. That way you can place the camera a certain distance away and see what the image will look like on your phone before you remotely press the shutter. I can even view the photos on my phone without having to retrieve the a5000 in case I need to repeat the shots. It can surely lessen the need for arm’s length selfies.

To further blur the lines between the a5000 and your smartphone, you can also install apps for it from the Playmemories Camera Apps site of Sony. Some of them are free and they range from synchronizing photos with your smartphone to creating ID photos. The paid ones can help you make light paintings or create stop motion videos. At the very least, the apps can reduce the steps you need to take to get results you want. In my case, all I need to do is initiate the photo upload and then set the a5000 aside, letting it do the work while I play with Nixi.

It’s a great product, and an awesome way to kick off my new article series. It will stay in my wishlist for now though. At a recommended price of about Php22,999, it is still a bit beyond my means. But that doesn’t mean that it won’t be on my radar.

The a5000 is the first item in my new category, WishList, where I will talk about gadgets that grab my greatest interest. I’m hoping to do one a few times a month, depending on the workload. Thanks for taking the time to read my post. Do leave comments in the space below. I’d love to know your feedback on this or other articles. And if you do decide you want to buy the camera, I’ve included an Amazon link to it here.

Written by Dr. Ron Rosero, March 2017