Sony NEX-5 review
A beautifully made camera with great image and video quality, and the price is tempting too
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.
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.
|Price ex VAT||£420|
|Price inc VAT||£494|
|Features & Design||5|
|Value for Money||5|
|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|