Sony NEX-5 review

Sony NEX-5 review

T3 4
  • Given Sony likes to be at forefront of new technology, it’s no surprise it has introduced a mirror-less camera sharing ‘Alpha’ branding with its digital SLRs. The NEX-5 is closer in size to a compact, yet retains large APS CMOS sensor plus lens swapping ability.

    Sony NEX-5 review

    Love

    • Stunning performance

    Hate

    • Fiddly scroll wheel
    • Function access tricky


    The surprise is that Sony’s late to the party. Panasonic and Olympus arrived first with their Micro Four Thirds system in 2008, giving us the DSLR-styled ‘G’ cameras and retro ‘Pen’ models respectively. These likewise promised DSLR quality from smaller format and were well received.

    The 14.2 effective megapixel NEX-5 also hits stores after the similarly named yet SLR-shaped NX10 from Samsung, and the innovative yet similarly blocky-in-appearance Ricoh GXR, announced at the end of 2009 and which uniquely boasted a lens and sensor could both be swapped.

    Compared to such revolutionary thinking, the Sony is in danger of coming across as underwhelming. It’s OK to play catch up, but ideally you need a product that betters predecessors. So, for around £600 with 18-55mmm equivalent zoom, is the NEX-5 it?

    Features:

    For starters the NEX-5 offers one of the highest resolutions in its class, at 14.2 effective megapixels bettering Olympus and Panasonic’s offerings and matching that of the Samsung NX10. Size matters, of course, and constructed from lightweight magnesium Sony also makes the claim that the NEX-5 is the smallest interchangeable lens camera out there, at just 24.2mm in depth excluding grip and mount. However, with a kit lens attached it’s still too much of a squeeze for even a jacket pocket. A small flashgun comes included, clipping on via accessory port above the lens mount.

    Shooting modes are selected with a swivel of a loose-feel dial to the right of the angle-adjustable backplate LCD. While this falls under the thumb readily enough, summoning up a virtual dial on screen as it does so, it feels more fiddly than a physical mode dial – or even a selection button.

    Still, shooting options are legibly presented on screen as large button-like icons, their size prompting the thought that the NEX-5 must incorporate a touch screen. But it doesn’t. A shame, as this might have given it a point of difference over competitors, excepting Panasonic’s G2 which already boasts limited touch panel operability.

    Image quality:

    Perhaps the most unique among the NEX-5’s shooting modes is the Sweep Panorama feature – borrowed from Sony's Cyber-shots. As with that series, the user pans with the camera in the direction of the indicated arrow, the unit rapidly firing off a series of shots and stitching them together in camera. Effective and fun, this seems to work less well in low light or if the user pans too quickly – which will result in an error message.

    Though the image appears flat on your PC, Sony claims it can be enjoyed in 3D via its new Bravia TVs via mini HDMI output. Otherwise it’s downloading the contents of removable SD/SDHC card to your PC – compatibility helpfully offered here alongside Memory Stick – via USB port.

    Full HD 1080i movie recording also features, with stereo sound and auto focus ability in this mode. Another advantage here is that the NEX-5 is compatible with existing Alpha DSLR lenses, though an adapter is required and the resulting ‘top heavy’ combination will inevitably be bulkier than you might wish.

    The warmly saturated colours reminded us of the stunning performance of Panasonic’s G-series, with a soft sheen to images rather than an overtly digital crispness. It’s not a leap forward in quality however, and the NEX-5 sees Sony competently getting up to speed rather than offering any real innovation.

  • T3.com brought you news that the Sony has launched two tiny, interchangeable lens cameras, the Sony NEX-3 and Sony NEX-5. We've just been playing around with a Sony NEX-5 in Croatia – read on to see what we think of Sony’s answer to Micro Four Thirds.

    Sony NEX-5 review

    Love

    • Stunning performance

    Hate

    • Fiddly scroll wheel
    • Function access tricky

    Firstly, the Sony NEX-5 is small. Smaller than any other interchangeable lens camera out there. Whack on the dinky 16mm pancake lens and it’s actually getting on for pocket-sized – and that’s despite having a pretty sizeable lens mount (the all-new “E-mount”) and beautiful articulated LCD screen. There’s no built-in flash, mind you, and attaching the tiny accessory flash (which comes included with the camera) does add a little extra bulk.

    More on Sony digital cameras:

    Sony DSC-W380 review

    Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX1 review

    There’s also an 18-55mm standard zoom lens available, which is fairly sizeable and hefty compared to those featured on rival cameras like the Olympus PEN E-P2 and Panasonic Lumix GF1 series, but does look a feel a lot nicer in the hand. All the Sony NEX-5 and NEX-3 lenses (there’s also an 18-200mm superzoom on the way, although we didn’t get to try it out) are brushed aluminium and fit on the cameras incredibly snugly.

     

    Sony NEX-5 hands-on:  Build and ease of use

    The Sony NEX-5 is constructed from magnesium alloy, which feels nicely sturdy, but remains a very lightweight snapper with the 16mm lens on. It’s also in possession of the aforementioned hi-res, low-reflection screen which can be tilted up or down.

    So how is it to actually use? Well, Sony has shied away from bolting lots of buttons and dials on the camera, instead pushing most of the settings into the GUI and letting you access them via a wheel and three buttons. The mode dial, for instance, is graphical: you bring it up via the main menu, then spin the wheel to “turn” it, selecting your preferred mode by pressing the wheel’s centre button.

    In certain modes you can adjust the aperture via a “background defocus” setting, turning the wheel to open up the aperture and blur the background while keeping the subject in sharp focus. You can see the effect of this in real time. It’s a nice touch for users who might not understand what aperture and depth of field mean but want to shoot nice portraits.
    We’ve always been a tad dubious of GUI-based cameras, but after spending a couple of hours with the Sony NEX-5 we’re satisfied that it’s pretty user-friendly and doesn’t suffer much from its low button and dial count.

     

    Sony NEX-5 hands-on: Performance

    Performance-wise, it’s a very capable camera with a wealth of talents. As with other Exmor R Sony cameras, you can capture a Sweep Panorama by holding down the shutter button and sweeping the NEX-5 in an arc, but for the first time it stitches together proper photos instead of video stills – there’s much more detail and the joins between are often completely invisible.

    Using either of the available lenses, standard snaps are sharp with beautiful colours. The large sensor (it’s APS-C size, larger than a Micro Four Thirds sensor) means low noise and a shorter depth of field. 

    No news on pricing yet, but the Sony NEX-5 and NEX-3 will be available in June.

     

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