Sony NEX-5 review

Price when reviewed

Instead of employing the existing Alpha mount from its range of SLRs, however, Sony has chosen to introduce a new E-mount with the NEX range. Adapters are available for Alpha lenses, but autofocus doesn’t work – a missed opportunity to capitalise on the existing Alpha user base. The only other lenses available right now, aside from the kit lens that came with our review sample, are a 16mm f/2.8 pancake lens (£219 inc VAT) and a rather expensive 18-200mm f3.5-6.3 (£699 inc VAT).

And while the NEX-5 is an excellent choice for novices, with pop-up tips and easy-to-understand on-screen explanations of what the various features do, enthusiasts will find the controls and menu system a cumbersome compromise. The rotating five-way control lets you navigate options quickly, but with buttons elsewhere relatively thin on the ground, adjusting ISO, metering or focus modes can be done only by diving into the menus. Worse, the features you’re looking for are more often than not two clicks or more deep, and with context menus changing from one mode to the next, it can all get rather confusing.

So there are niggles, but luckily none surrounding performance or image quality. Power-on time isn’t anything special – it takes just over four seconds from cold to first shot – but once you’re there, the contrast autofocus system is snappy and shot-to-shot times are good. In standard continuous mode the NEX-5 fired off ten frames in 7.6 seconds, and in its Speed Priority mode it managed a highly impressive seven in a fraction over two seconds before hitting the buffers.

Sony NEX-5 rear

Image quality is excellent, with good dynamic range and plenty of detail capture, but it’s the low-light performance of the NEX-5 that really impresses. Noise becomes noticeable at ISO 3200 and above, but shots are reliably printable at both ISO 1600 and 3200 and even 6400 at a pinch. A detachable flash is included with the NEX-5, and it’s a very good one at that, but as the low-light performance is so good you’ll find yourself leaving it in its plastic case most of the time.

Video capture isn’t quite as impressive, but still ranks as the best movie mode we’ve seen on a camera in this price bracket. Autofocus is continuous and almost silent (you can just about hear it if you listen through headphones), and the SteadyShot stabilisation is effective. It isn’t for video enthusiasts, though, lacking advanced features such as subject tracking, 5.1 audio and a 3.5mm microphone input (Sony offers a proprietary external mic).

Manual controls are limited and the internal mic isn’t very directional, picking up a little too much background noise for our liking. But the NEX-5 shoots in AVCHD format at 1080/50i and all the films we shot on it looked crisp, smooth and well balanced, with realistic colours, even in low light.

That makes the NEX-5 the most accomplished SLD camera we’ve yet seen. Its stills are on a par with good mid-range DSLRs and better than the Micro Four Thirds cameras we’ve tested at high ISO, build quality is sumptuous and the HD video capture is far better than that of its main rivals. And with a price of fractionally under £500, it’s a bargain. If you’re in the market for a do-it-all camera with interchangeable lenses, this is our current pick of the crop.


Image quality 5

Basic specifications

Camera megapixel rating 14.2mp
Camera screen size 3.0in
Camera optical zoom range 3x

Weight and dimensions

Weight 508g
Dimensions 111 x 38 x 59mm (WDH)


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

Other specifications

Built-in flash? yes
Aperture range f3.5 - f5.6
Shortest focal length (35mm equivalent) 28
Longest focal length (35mm equivalent) 85
Minimum (fastest) shutter speed 1/4,000
Maximum (slowest) shutter speed 30s
Bulb exposure mode? yes
RAW recording mode? yes
Exposure compensation range +/- 2EV
ISO range 200 - 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 rate 7.0fps
Exposure bracketing? yes
White-balance bracketing? no
Memory-card type SD, SDHC, SDXC, Memory Stick Pro Duo
Viewfinder coverage N/A
LCD resolution 921k
Secondary LCD display? no
Video/TV output? yes
Body construction Magnesium Alloy
Tripod mounting thread? yes
Data connector type Mini-USB

Manual, software and accessories

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

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