Sony NEX-5 review
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.
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.
|Camera megapixel rating||14.2mp|
|Camera screen size||3.0in|
|Camera optical zoom range||3x|
Weight and dimensions
|Dimensions||111 x 38 x 59mm (WDH)|
|Battery type included||Lithium-ion|
|Battery life (CIPA standard)||330 shots|
|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|
|Memory-card type||SD, SDHC, SDXC, Memory Stick Pro Duo|
|Secondary LCD display?||no|
|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|