Sony NEX-5 review

Price when reviewed

There was a time when buying a camera was a simple affair. If you favoured quality over convenience, you bought an SLR; if you wanted quick, simple snaps, a compact was the order of the day. Now, there’s much more choice, with mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras becoming more and more popular.

Sony is the most recent big company to join the new wave of SLD (single lens, direct view) cameras with its NEX range, and we have the top-spec model on review here. The first thing you’ll notice about the NEX-5 is its size. It’s by far the smallest of the SLD cameras we’ve come across so far, the body measuring a mere 19mm at its thinnest point.

It has the effect of making the camera look faintly ridiculous with the large 18-55mm lens mounted, but a chunky grip makes it easier to handle than you might expect. Incredibly, Sony has also managed to squeeze in an articulated screen offering 80 degrees of upward and 45 degrees of downward tilt.

It’s more compact than the Micro Four Thirds cameras from Olympus or Panasonic, then, and it also beats those cameras in other ways. The sensor is bigger, for starters. As with the Samsung NX10, it’s the same APS-C size that’s used in mid-range DSLRs, with the potential for lower noise at high ISO that larger sensors bring. In the NEX-5 it produces 14.2-megapixel images and allows you to shoot from 200 right up to 12800 ISO.

Sony NEX-5

Another area where the NEX-5 beats the competition is in its handling of video recording. It’s able to shoot AVCHD footage at 1080i with continuous, near-silent autofocus and aperture control, and with very impressive image stabilisation too.

Elsewhere, it’s typical solid Sony fare, with a hatful of ingenious features. We particularly liked the direct manual focus mode, which combines auto and manual focus modes for maximum speed and accuracy. And there are a number of clever in-camera assist modes that can be applied. Sweep panorama takes a series of quick-fire exposures as you rotate the camera, and then combines them to produce a panoramic photo. The Handheld Twilight mode shoots many exposures and combines them together in an attempt to produce sharp handheld shots in dark conditions.

Lenses is one area in which the NEX-5 comes unstuck. Not in terms of quality – the 18-55mm kit lens that came with our review sample is perfectly decent. Build quality in particular is exceptional; the smooth, heavy action of the zoom and focus rings contrast nicely with the light, stiff, magnesium-framed body. Image quality is generally good, too, with little chromatic aberration to speak of and good sharpness, though there’s some some barrel distortion at wide angles.


Image quality5

Basic specifications

Camera megapixel rating14.2mp
Camera screen size3.0in
Camera optical zoom range3x

Weight and dimensions

Dimensions111 x 38 x 59mm (WDH)


Battery type includedLithium-ion
Battery life (CIPA standard)330 shots
Charger included?yes

Other specifications

Built-in flash?yes
Aperture rangef3.5 - f5.6
Shortest focal length (35mm equivalent)28
Longest focal length (35mm equivalent)85
Minimum (fastest) shutter speed1/4,000
Maximum (slowest) shutter speed30s
Bulb exposure mode?yes
RAW recording mode?yes
Exposure compensation range+/- 2EV
ISO range200 - 12800
Selectable white balance settings?yes
Manual/user preset white balane?yes
Progam auto mode?yes
Shutter priority mode?yes
Aperture priority mode?yes
Fully auto mode?yes
Burst frame rate7.0fps
Exposure bracketing?yes
White-balance bracketing?no
Memory-card typeSD, SDHC, SDXC, Memory Stick Pro Duo
Viewfinder coverageN/A
LCD resolution921k
Secondary LCD display?no
Video/TV output?yes
Body constructionMagnesium Alloy
Tripod mounting thread?yes
Data connector typeMini-USB

Manual, software and accessories

Full printed manual?yes
Software suppliedSony Image Converter SR 3.2, Sony Image Data Lightbox 2.2, Sony PMB 5.2
Accessories suppliedDetachable flash, USB cable, shoulder strap

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