Sony Alpha NEX-5

      Photo Review 8.5
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      leadpic_NEX-5_16mm

      In summary

      A distinctively-styled, ultra-compact, interchangeable-lens camera that can record Full HD video clips with stereo soundtracks.Although Sony claims its new NEX-5 as the world’s smallest and lightest interchangeable-lens camera, this can only apply to the camera body itself, which is similar in size and shape to Sony’s H-series digicams. Attach the low-profile E 16mm f/2.8 (SEL16F28) ‘pancake’ lens and the camera remains just pocketable; fit the E 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 (SEL1855) zoom lens and you’d be hard pressed to get the camera into a jacket pocket. . . [more]

      Full review

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      leadpic_NEX-5_16mm

      Although Sony claims its new NEX-5 as the world’s smallest and lightest interchangeable-lens camera, this can only apply to the camera body itself, which is similar in size and shape to Sony’s H-series digicams. Attach the low-profile E 16mm f/2.8 (SEL16F28) ‘pancake’ lens and the camera remains just pocketable; fit the E 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 (SEL1855) zoom lens and you’d be hard pressed to get the camera into a jacket pocket.

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      NEX-5_TWIN-LENS-KIT

      The NEX-5 will be offered as a twin-lens kit with a ‘pancake’ 16mm prime lens and 18-55mm zoom. (Source: Sony.)

      This isn’t the first time Sony has produced a large-sensor camera based on a digicam design. However, there have been significant advances since the R1 was launched in late 2005 and the NEX-5 is quite a different beast – although its target market remains surprisingly similar.

      Like most other manufacturers of interchangeable-lens compact (ILC) digicams, Sony sees the main buyers of its NEX-series products as existing digicam users who only want the quality improvements a larger sensor can provide. (The fact that existing DSLR users aren’t seen as a target market could explain some of the camera’s quirks.)

      In essence, the NEX-5 is something of a mixture; while supporting P, A, S and M shooting modes, its user interface has been re-jigged to be more like Sony’s Cyber-shots, which are essentially LCD-based and designed for point-and-shoot picture-taking. In our opinion, the interface is disappointing.

      Build and Ergonomics
      The body of the NEX-5 looks rather like a stripped-down Cyber-shot H55. It’s a rectangular block with a moulded grip that is slightly larger than those on H-series models but nevertheless quite comfortable to hold. The mode dial on the top panel of the H55 is missing on the NEX-5 because shooting modes can only be selected via the Menu button.

      Most of the camera’s body is made from magnesium alloy, which gives it a solid, ‘quality’ feel. The grip is finely textured and the texturing runs around onto the side panel. The front of the camera is dominated by the lens mount, which extends slightly above and below the panel. (When the zoom lens is attached, it almost overwhelms the rest of the camera, making it look like a lens with a camera stuck on the back.)

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      NEX-5_FRONT-no-lens

      Front view of the NEX-5 body without a lens. The body cap has been removed to show the APS-C sized sensor. (Source: Sony.)

      The new E-mount has been designed specifically for the mirrorless NEX-series bodies and is totally electronic. It’s also incompatible with Sony’s Alpha DSLR lenses, although an adaptor is available for an RRP of $199. The short flange-back (the distance from the front of the mount to the sensor), which is less than half that of the Alpha lenses, is responsible for the narrow depth of the NEX-5’s body.

      Removing the lens exposes the NEX-5’s sensor to the environment – and your view – so it’s as well the camera comes with built-in dust reduction. The system consists of an anti-static coating on the low-pass filter that overlays the sensor chip plus high-speed vibrating to shake off accumulated dust particles. There were a couple of instances when dust settled on the sensor while lenses were being changed and subsequently showed up in shots. But otherwise we had no sensor-related problems.

      Image stabilisation is lens-based and not provided with the E 16mm f/2.8 ‘pancake’ lens. It’s only effective when the Steady Shot function is switched on via the Setup menu. Up to four EV of shutter speed advantage is claimed for the Optical SteadyShot system.

      A sensor for the optional remote controller is located near the upper edge of the grip. Near it – but on the main body itself – is an LED that is used for the AF-Assist, self-timer indicator and Smile Shutter warning. The only other control on the front panel is the lens-release button, which lies close to the lower edge on the grip side of the lens.

      The top panel curves gently downwards towards the front and back of the camera body. It is sparsely populated, with an on/off switch close to the right side and a large shutter button to its left, located towards the front of the grip. Behind the shutter button is a small Playback button, while a Movie button lies behind the on/off switch at the junction of the top and rear panels.

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      NEX-5_16mm-F2

      Top view of the NEX-5 body with the 16mm ‘pancake’ lens.

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      NEX-5_with_18-55mm-Lens_TOP

      Top view of the NEX-5 body with the 18-55mm zoom lens.

      Dual stereo microphone slots, marked ‘L’ and ‘R’ sit on either side of the ‘Smart Accessory Terminal’, to which the accessory flash (which is supposed to be supplied with the camera but wasn’t provided with the review sample) is attached. A notch at the front of the plastic cover to this terminal enables it to be raised to reveal a socket for attaching the flash.

      Another accessory that can be fitted here is an external stereo microphone (RRP $199) that’s specific to the camera. No viewfinder is currently offered. The terminal cover is flimsy compared with the rest of the camera. The only other features on the top panel are three tiny speaker holes just right of the R microphone.

      Most of the rear panel is covered by the 3-inch monitor, an attractive screen with a resolution of 921,000 dots, which is, sadly, quite prone to finger-marking. Twin hinges on the camera body and rear of the screen allow it to be tilted upwards through 80 degrees or down through 45 degrees to support low or over-the-head shooting.

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      NEX-5_BACK

      Rear view of the NEX-5 body. (Source: Sony.)

      To the right of the monitor are the main camera controls, which consist of a tilting control wheel with central button plus two ‘soft keys’. The operation of these keys is explained in the Controls section below.

      Tucked in behind two small plastic hatches on the lens side of the camera body are two interface ports. The upper is a USB Mini-B terminal for connecting the camera to a computer or printer, while the lower houses an HDMI mini-connector for connecting the camera to an HD TV set so users can view video clips and images from the camera. A separate cable (not supplied) is required to utilise this port.

      Between the two ports (and exactly half-way down from the top panel) is one of the strap lugs. The other lies roughly a third of the way down the opposite side panel. When the neck strap is attached, the camera hangs with the lens pointing down on the user’s chest.

      A combined battery and card compartment is located inside the grip and accessed via a locking panel in the base of the camera. The rechargeable InfoLithium battery is CIPA rated for approximately 330 shot/charge and the camera will accept both SD and Memory Stick Duo cards.

      The only other item on the base plate is a metal-lined tripod socket, which is located on the optical axis of the lens, mid-way across the depth of the panel. It’s nice and solid and its location is ideal for shooting panoramas when the camera is tripod-mounted.

      The electronically-controlled, vertical-traverse, focal-plane shutter in the NEX-5 operates with an audible double-click. The NEX-5 supports a shutter speed range from a fast 1/4000 second to the expected long exposure limit of 30 seconds. A Bulb setting is also provided in the Manual Exposure mode. It keeps the shutter open for as long as the button is held down and works with most settings, except Smile Shutter and Auto HDR. Bulb exposures are best done with the optional remote commander.

      Controls
      A number of modes developed for Sony’s Cyber-shots have been ported across to the NEX-5, including the multi-exposure Sweep Panorama, Anti Motion Blur, Hand-held Twilight and Auto HDR modes. In each of these modes, the camera defaults to automatic focus and exposure as it records a burst of shots and processes them to achieve the specified end result. We’ve covered most of these modes in our review of the Cyber-shot DSC-HX1.

      A new addition is the Background Defocus setting, which appears to work by selecting the widest available lens aperture – although the aperture setting displayed on the monitor doesn’t change. It’s only available in iAuto mode and accessed by turning the control wheel. This lets you adjust the degree of unsharpness in the background. It only works with E-series lenses.

      The dearth of button controls and the fact that most buttons have multiple uses makes the NEX-5’s interface relatively clumsy to use in the PASM shooting modes that appeal to serious photographers. Throughout the review period we were constantly frustrated by how long it could take to locate and adjust settings that can be changes with one or two button presses in most manufacturers’ cameras. Simply changing the ISO setting requires at least four button presses, while formatting a memory card requires you to locate the Memory Card Tool page in the Setup sub-menu and can involve up to 34 button presses!
      It’s clear Sony has designed this camera for point-and-shooters, who will operate the camera exclusively in iAuto mode, which takes care of everything. But that begs the questions: why include the PASM modes if you don’t expect photographers to use them? And, having provided them, why make them so frustrating to use?

      Like the arrow pads in other cameras, the vertical and horizontal edges of the control wheel access specific sub-menus. In shooting mode, these include (clockwise from top) Display Contents, Flash mode, exposure compensation and drive mode. For playback, only the vertical directions are used, the top handling Display Contents and the bottom Image Index. (The horizontal directions toggle between one displayed image and the next.)

      The rest of the camera’s functions are accessed via the two ‘soft keys’, which have different functions, depending on the other settings engaged. It can be difficult to keep track of their operations if you swap from one shooting mode to another and you often require the on-screen messages to confirm what to do next. The explanations in the on-screen help are easily understood, but reading them is time-consuming and may cause you to miss shots while you’re fiddling with camera controls.

      When the camera is first switched on, pressing the top key opens a Menu screen with ‘buttons’ indicating various sub-menus. You can move from one setting to the next by pressing down the edges of the control dial. Then, once a sub-menu of settings is selected, turning the control dial lets you select the setting you want. Pressing the button in the centre of the control dial engages the setting.

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      NEX-5-main-Menu

      The Menu screen that is displayed when the top ‘soft key’ is pressed.

      Inside the sub-menus, the menu design and presentation is similar to Sony’s recent Cyber-shot digicams. The Shoot Mode sub-menu contains the following settings: Intelligent Auto (iAuto), Scene Selection, Anti Motion Blur, Sweep Panorama, Manual Exposure, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority and Program Auto.

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      NEX-5-shooting-mode

      Selecting the Shoot Mode.

      The Camera sub-menu includes the Drive and Flash modes, AF/MF Select, AF area and mode selection, Digital Zoom, Face Detection, Smile Shutter, Panorama Direction, Shooting Tip list and Display Contents.

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      NEX-5-camera-mode-1

      The first page of the Camera sub-menu.

      The Image Size sub-menu lets you set the image size, aspect ratio and quality for still pictures, panoramas and video clips, while the Brightness/Colour sub-menu covers metering, white balance, ISO, exposure and flash compensation as well as the dynamic range corrections and Creative Style settings. The latter are similar to those in Sony’s DSLR cameras. Contrast, sharpness and colour saturation are adjustable for each Creative Style.

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      NEX-5-camera-mode-2

      The first page of the Image Size sub-menu.

      All the Playback functions for still pictures and video clips are covered in the Playback sub-menu, which includes delete, slide show, image index, folder selection, rotate, protect and enlarge images plus volume settings for playback of movie clips and DPOF tagging of images for automated printing.

      The Setup sub-menu contains settings for the AF-Assist light, red-eye reduction pre-flash, auto review time, grid overlays, histogram, MF assist, colour space, stabilisation and release without lens option. Noise reduction processing is also located here, with separate adjustments for long exposures and high ISO settings.

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      NEX-5-setup

      The first page of the Setup sub-menu.

      The lower soft key accesses a database of shooting tips, which are displayed on the monitor. You can scroll down or up the page by rotating the control dial or toggle from one tip to the next by pressing the horizontal edges of the control dial. In each case, an icon representing the selected mode is displayed on the screen to the left of the soft key.

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      NEX-5-tips-1
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      NEX-5-tips-2

      Examples of the shooting tips that are displayed when the lower ‘soft key’ is pressed.

      Video
      Unlike some competing cameras, the NEX-5 has no specific Movie mode in its shooting menu; instead you can record video clips at any time – and from any camera setting – by simply pressing the Movie button to start and end recording. The default resolution is Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels) and the default mode is AVCHD. All movie clips can be recorded with or without soundtracks.

      Shooting video clips limits the range of adjustments you can make to camera settings by setting the camera to fully automatic exposure mode. This means you can’t adjust lens apertures, shutter speeds or sensitivity settings and the AF area is non adjustable – although the autofocusing system continues to operate. Manual focusing is also possible when shooting video clips and little or no noise is recorded as focus is changed. However, you can’t enlarge part of the subject to help you focus precisely.

      The metering pattern is fixed at multi-pattern and the ISO at auto. Exposure compensation adjustments that were pre-set for still shooting carry over into movie mode. So do white balance settings. Scene pre-sets are inaccessible (although some will be applied automatically) and the camera defaults to the Standard mode. There’s no wind-cut filter to suppress noise when shooting outdoors.

      Before shooting a clip you can apply exposure compensation and white balance adjustments and select one of the Creative Style presets. You can also select the AF mode and autofocusing will function normally (and silently) with NEX-series lenses.

      The NEX-5 supports two movie file formats: AVCHD for Full HD video clips and MP4 for everything else. The camera uses the MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 High Profile compression system for recording HD video clips, which limits the range of devices that can be used for playback and editing. For all other clips, the MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 Main Profile system is used, which is somewhat less limiting. Typical clips sizes and bit rates are shown in the table below.

      Video mode

      Video format

      Image size

      Average bit rate

      Recording time on 4GB card

      FH

      AVCHD

      1920 x 1080

      17 Mbps

      28 minutes 30 seconds

      1080

      MP4

      1440 x 1080

      12 Mbps

      41 minutes 40 seconds

      VGA

      640 x 480

      3 Mbps

      54 minutes 30 seconds

      Regardless of the recording format you choose, you can only view movies recorded with the NEX-5 on a TV set if you have an HDMI cable. This is not supplied and will cost around $50. The NEX-5 is also compatible with the PhotoTV HD standard, which supports the highest quality playback of still images as slideshows. Owners of Sony’s BRAVIA TV sets may also be able to control certain functions of the camera via the TV remote control using an HDMI cable plus BRAVIA Synch.

      Sensor and Image Processing
      The sensor in the NEX-5 is a 23.4 x 15.6 mm Exmor APS HD CMOS chip with 14.6 million photosites that yields an effective resolution of 14.2 megapixels. It has the same specifications as the sensor in the DSLR-A550, which we reviewed in October, 2009. Just over 12 times larger than the sensor in the Cyber-shot DSC-H55 and other similar digicams, it’s coupled to a third-generation BIONZ image processor that underpins all the special shooting modes.

      The processor has been designed to work effectively with Sony’s Exmor sensors to provide high processing speeds, low noise and accurate colour reproduction. Being essentially the same processor as used in Sony’s DSLR cameras, it enables the NEX-5 to offer JPEG, ARW.RAW and RAW+JPEG quality settings.

      As in the DSLR-A550, the NEX-5 supports two aspect ratios; 3:2 and 16:9. Three image sizes and two Quality (compression) levels are available for JPEG files. Simultaneous RAW+JPEG capture is offered but the image size is fixed at 14M and the quality is set to Fine. Typical file sizes are provided in the table below.

      Image quality

      Image Size

      Aspect ratio

      Image size (pixels)

      File size

       

      Fine

      Standard

      ARW.RAW

       

      3:2

      4592 x 3056

      24.4MB

      ARW.RAW

       

      16:9

      4592 x 2576

      24.4MB

      RAW+JPEG

       

      3:2

      4592 x 3056

      30.16MB

      RAW+JPEG

       

      16:9

      4592 x 2576

      30.1MB

      JPEG

      14M

      3:2

      4592 x 3056

      7.6MB

      4.8MB

      12M

      16:9

      4592 x 2576

      6.6MB

      4.3MB

       

      JPEG

      7.4M

      3:2

      3344 x 2224

      4.6MB

      3.4MB

      6.3M

      16:9

      3344 x 1872

      4.4MB

      3.2MB

       

      JPEG

      3.5M

      3:2

      2288 x 1520

      3.1MB

      2.0MB

      2.9M

      16:9

      2288 x 1280

      2.8MB

      1.9MB

      Two types of noise reduction processing are provided, separately covering long exposures and high ISO settings. Long-exposure NR, which is available for exposures longer than one second, can only be switched on or off. It uses the dark-frame subtraction method, which roughly doubles image processing times.
      High-ISO NR kicks in automatically at ISO settings of 1600 and above and is applied automatically to both raw and JPEG files. You can choose between two settings – auto and weak – but can’t opt for no NR processing.

      Sweep Panorama images are only recorded in JPEG format and come in two sizes: Standard and Wide. Actual pixel sizes depend on whether the shot is vertical or horizontal but, in each case, the camera places a pre-determined limit on the amount of data in the final image.

      Once this is reached, image capture stops and the panoramic sweep is cut short. A section at the end of the sweep in the resulting image appears as black Typical image sizes and approximate data limits are provided in the table below.

      Panorama size

      Direction

      Image size (pixels)

      Max. file size

      Standard

      Vertical

      2160 x 3872

      5.3MB

      Horizontal

      8192 x 1856

      6.8MB

      Wide

      Vertical

      2160 x 5536

      6.2MB

      Horizontal

      12,416 x 1856

      7.5MB

      Playback and Software
      Playback options are pretty standard with the usual single and index displays (6 or 12 thumbnails) and slideshows without audio but with adjustable display intervals. The play mode defaults to the last file type recorded. If you shot stills, you’ll see only stills; if video clips, only movies will be displayed.

      When starting playback from scratch, you must choose whether to play stills or video clips via the Still/Movie Select setting in the Playback menu. You can move from one file to the next by turning the control dial. For still playback shot transitions are reasonably fast; for video clips, it takes a couple of seconds.

      Movies or stills can be played in sequence or in a continuous loop, depending on the mode selected in the Playback menu. Still images can be rotated, deleted, protected and DPOF tagged for automated printing. (Panoramic images may be cropped if printed this way.) Playback zoom of up to 13x is available. Eight steps of adjustment are available for setting the volume of the audio track when playing movie clips.

      Panorama shots are displayed as the full image against a black background. You can scroll across a panorama at full screen width by pressing the centre of the control wheel. (The direction of the panorama is detected automatically and scrolling starts from where the first shot was taken.)

      The software disk contains the complete user manual in PDF format (a very abbreviated version is provided as an 86-page booklet). Although it runs to 160 pages, it’s not particularly informative compared with other manufacturers’ user manuals. However, it’s adequate for showing you how to use most controls.

      Image Data Converter SR Ver. 3.2 is provided for converting ARW.RAW files into editable formats. Other bundled applications include Image Data Lightbox SR Ver. 2.2 and Picture Motion Browser Ver 5.2, a Windows-only program.

      The Kit Lenses
      The NEX-5 we reviewed was supplied with two lenses: the E 16mm f/2.8 (SEL16F28) ‘pancake’ lens and the E 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 (SEL1855) zoom lens. The NEX-5 body is also available with the E 18-200 f/3.5-6.3 zoom (SEL18200) for an RRP of $1699. This all-purpose lens supports 11x magnification and includes Optical SteadyShot image stabilisation with an Active Mode at wide angle for steadier movie shooting.

      Of the two lenses we received, only the 18-55mm zoom lens comes with image stabilisation. Both lenses are well-built with aluminium alloy outer barrels in gunmetal grey and metal mounting plates. The 18-55mm lens comes with a petal-shaped lens hood. No hood is supplied for the 16mm lens.

      The 16mm lens contains 5 elements in 5 groups with one aspherical surface. Covering an angle of view of 83 degrees, it is equivalent to a 24mm in 35mm format. Maximum aperture is f/2.8 with a minimum aperture of f/22. Seven diaphragm blades close to a circular aperture. This lens has a black plastic internal barrel that holds the optical components in place. It weighs only 70 grams without front and end caps and protrudes approximately 22mm from the mounting plate when it’s attached to the NEX-5. A narrow, ridged focusing ring is located just behind the front of the lens. All focusing is internal, enabling users to fit angle-critical attachments via the 49mm filter thread.

      Our Imatest tests showed the supplied lens to be a reasonably competent performer, capable of high resolution in the centre of its field. However, edge softening was obvious at wide apertures, although edges and corners of shots became progressively sharper as the aperture was stopped down. The graph below shows the results of our Imatest tests.

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      NEX-5_16mm-F2_Res-vs-FL-graph

      Lateral chromatic aberration was detected in our Imatest tests, which showed this lens to have moderate CA at all aperture settings, slipping into serious CA at the widest and smallest apertures. In the graph below, the green line separates ‘moderate’ from ‘low’ CA, while the pink line marks the boundary between ‘moderate’ and ‘serious’ CA.

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      16mm-lens-CA-graph

      Both coloured fringing and edge softening could be seen in test shots, as shown in the example below.

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      NEX-5-16mm_DSC00477

      Taken with the NEX-5 and 16mm lens; ISO 200, 1/125 second at f/8.

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      NEX-5-16mm_DSC00477_fringing-crop

      100% crop from the edge of the above image showing purple fringing and edge softening.

      The review lens showed evidence of wide-angle distortion in the form of corner stretching and a tendency to pincushioning from the corners of the frame. Interestingly, horizontal lines near the centre of the frame were seldom visibly affected. Vignetting could be seen in some shots but was not strong enough to be a major concern. Flare was relatively minor, which is surprising for a wide-angle lens without a lens hood.

      The 18-55mm zoom lens is a pretty standard kit lens that covers angles of view from 76 degrees to 29 degrees (equivalent to 27-82.5mm in 35mm format). Comprising 11 elements in 9 groups, it includes four aspherical surfaces and has a seven-bladed iris diaphragm that closes to a circular aperture.

      A black plastic internal barrel holds the optical components and this lens has a maximum diameter of 62mm, measures 60mm in length without its hood fitted and weighs 194 grams. A reasonably broad focusing ring is located close to the front of the lens, with a broader zoom ring just behind it. Both rings are finely ridged. Internal focusing enables use of angle-critical attachments like polarisers and graduated filters.

      Imatest showed this lens delivered its best performance in the middle of its focal length range and at apertures between f/5 and f/8. Edge softening was detected at most aperture settings but reduced as the lens was stopped down. The graph below shows the results of our Imatest tests.
      Lateral chromatic aberration was generally low and we found little evidence of coloured fringing in test shots. In the graph of our Imatest result below, the red line marks the border between ‘negligible’ and ‘low’ CA, while the green line separates ‘low’ and ‘moderate’ CA.
      Barrel distortion was evident at 18mm but gone by 28mm and replaced by slight pincushioning at 35mm, which grew progressively stronger. No vignetting was apparent at any of the focal length settings. The zoom lens was more flare-prone than the 16mm ‘pancake’ lens but overall performance was above average for a standard kit zoom lens.

      Performance
      Pictures taken with the review camera were colourful and bright. JPEG images were relatively contrasty and saturation was elevated to the degree commonly seen in small-sensor digicams. This was confirmed by our Imatest testing, which showed slightly elevated saturation in both JPEGs and raw files converted to TIFF format with the latest version of Adobe Camera Raw.

      Regardless of which lens was used, the review camera’s metering system tended to favour highlights over shadows and detail could be lost in some shots unless dynamic range optimisation was engaged via the Brightness/Colour sub-menu. Autofocusing was fast and accurate in most light levels.

      Imatest showed the review camera to be just capable of the resolution you would expect from a 14-megapixel camera when JPEG files were evaluated and well above expectations for ARW.RAW files. Resolution remained high throughout the camera’s sensitivity range, with a visible decline from ISO 1600 on. The graph below shows the results of our tests.

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      NEX-5_Res-vs-ISO-graph

      Low light performance was outstanding with little noise visible in shots right up to ISO 3200. Noise was also well controlled at higher sensitivities, although shots taken at ISO 12,800 were free enough of noise to be printable at A5 size.
      In contrast, digital zoom shots were noticeably artefact-affected and we would recommend avoiding this mode wherever possible. Close-up shooting was limited by the focusing range of the lens and the Macro scene mode was required to achieve the minimum focusing distance with both the lenses we reviewed.

      The multi-shot modes worked much as we had expected although there were a few instances where the Sweep Panorama failed to stitch the images together seamlessly. As these all occurred with close subjects, we don’t see this as a major problem.

      Auto white balance performance was similar to Sony’s Cyber-shots. The review camera failed to totally remove the colour cast of incandescent or fluorescent lighting and both tended towards over-correction. Manual measurement was required to obtain truly neutral colour rendition.

      Video quality was much as we expected, with the AVCHD clips having the best detail and most vibrant colours, although both deteriorated a little when we recorded fast-moving subjects. MP4 clips recorded at the highest resolution also looked good on a widescreen HDTV set and appeared to handle moving subjects slightly better. VGA clips were as you’d expect for their resolution.

      Autofocusing while shooting video was acceptably fast for a contrast-based system and the AF tracking was generally competent. Audio quality was above average and the microphones’ automatic gain adjustment did a good job of producing well-balanced soundtracks (which is reassuring as you can’t adjust sound levels). Unfortunately, the review camera captured the click of the shutter at the beginning and end of each clip, which had to be cut off during the editing process.

      The review camera took just over a second to power-up ready for shooting. Shot-to-shot times averaged 0.8 seconds, while a relatively constant capture lag of 0.4 seconds was eliminated by pre-focusing.

      With the normal continuous shooting mode, the review camera captured 10 Fine JPEGs in 3.4 seconds. The buffer memory can only accommodate seven raw files, which restricted raw and RAW+JPEG capture. In both cases, a burst of seven shots was captured in 2.2 minutes.

      When we switched to the Speed Priority Continuous mode, 10 JPEGs were captured in 1.3 seconds, while bursts of seven raw and RAW+JPEG shots were recorded in 0.8 seconds.

      Because no indicator light is provided, we were unable to measure image processing times accurately. However, the camera appeared to take 2.8 seconds to process each JPEG file, three seconds for each ARW.RAW file and 3.2 seconds for each RAW+JPEG pair.

      Conclusion
      Aside from a user interface that will frustrate serious photo enthusiasts and the lack of an optical (or electronic) viewfinder to assist shot composition in bright outdoor lighting, the NEX-5 has plenty to offer to everyday snapshooters who place equal emphasis on recording high-quality still pictures and video clips. It may also suit a more advanced stills photographer who wants to record the occasional video clip without having to carry a separate camcorder.

      We have yet to review a compact, interchangeable-lens camera with a user interface that makes key functions quick and easy to access. So far, the Samsung NX-10 has come the closest, with the Panasonic G-series models slightly behind. (Canon’s G10 and G11 models are the closest to ideal in our opinion – but the small sensors in both cameras place them out of contention.)

      The NEX-5 is competitively priced for the features it offers. It represents a brave departure from traditional styling that still requires some refinements. We look forward to seeing future models that Sony must surely have on the books.

      Buy this camera if:
      – You’re looking for a compact, large-sensor interchangeable-lens camera with PASM shooting modes plus support for raw file capture and Full HD video recording.
      – You prefer shooting with automated exposure control settings.
      – You would enjoy the multi-shot modes this camera provides.

      Don’t buy this camera if:
      – You require high burst capacity at high resolution.
      – You require quick access to key camera settings.
      – You want an optical viewfinder and built-in flash.

      IMATEST GRAPHS
      JPEG images

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      NEX-5_DSC00421_colorerror_JPG
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      NEX-5_DSC00421_YL73_ca_JPG
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      NEX-5_DSC00421_YAR36_cpp_JPG
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      NEX-5_DSC00421_YL73_cpp_JPG

      ARW.RAW images converted in Photoshop CS5 with Adobe Camera Raw

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      NEX-5_DSC00421_colorerror_RAW
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      NEX-5_DSC00421_colors_RAW
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      NEX-5_DSC00421_YL73_ca_RAW
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      NEX-5_DSC00421_YAR36_cpp_RAW
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      NEX-5_DSC00421_YL73_cpp_RAW

      SAMPLE IMAGES

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      NEX-5_DSC00398_AWB_tung

      Auto white balance with incandescent lighting.

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      NEX-5_DSC00402_AWB_fluoro

      Auto white balance with fluorescent lighting.

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      NEX-5_DSC00344_16mm-lens-normal

      16mm lens, ISO 200; 1/320 second at f/8.

      -
      NEX-5_DSC00347_18mm

      18-55mm lens at 18mm; ISO 200; 1/200 second at f/9.

      -
      NEX-5_DSC00351_55mm

      18-55mm lens at 55mm; ISO 200; 1/400 second at f/8.

      -
      NEX-5_DSC00345_digizoom

      16mm lens with digital zoom; ISO 200; 1/500 second at f/8.

      -
      NEX-5_DSC00410_night-ISO200

      18-55mm lens at 28mm; ISO 200; 30 seconds at f/4.

      -
      NEX-5_DSC00415_night-ISO1600

      18-55mm lens at 28mm; ISO 3200; 20 seconds at f/5.6.

      -
      NEX-5_DSC00418_night-ISO12800

      18-55mm lens at 28mm; ISO 12,800; 10 seconds at f/9.

      -
      NEX-5_DSC00389_distortion

      Wide-angle distortion with the 16mm lens; ISO 200; 1/500 second at f/7.1. 16:9 aspect ratio setting.

      -
      NEX-5_DSC00362_flare

      Flare with the Dynamic Range Optimiser set to Off. 16mm lens; ISO 200; 1/125 second at f/8.

      -
      NEX-5_DSC00363_HDR

      Improvements due to the multi-shot Auto HDR mode. 16mm lens; ISO 200; 1/640 second at f/6.3.

      -
      NEX-5_DSC00463_background-defocus

      Using the background defocus control in iAuto mode: 18-55mm lens at 18mm; ISO 200; 1/320 second at f/3.5.

      -
      NEX-5_DSC00464-sharp

      The same subject shot in Aperture-priority AE mode: 18-55mm lens at 18mm; ISO 200; 1/10 second at f/18.

      -
      NEX-5_DSC00493_SP_std
      -
      NEX-5_DSC00492_SP-wide

      Two examples of the Sweep Panorama mode; the upper shows the Standard setting, while the lower was taken with the Wide setting. 16mm lens, ISO 200.

      -
      NEX-5_DSC00471

      An example of a Sweep Panorama shot with imperfect stitching of images due to close proximity of subject. The thin black bar on the right hand side of the image results from a cut-off of recording before the sweep was completed. 16mm lens, ISO 200.

      -
      NEX-5_DSC00354_SP

      An ideal subject for a Sweep Panorama shot; 18-55mm lens at 35mm; ISO 200.

      -
      NEX-5_DSC00486_anti-shake

      Anti Motion Blur mode in dim indoor lighting; 16mm lens, ISO 1600, 1/250 second at f/2.8.

      -
      NEX-5_DSC00393

      18-55mm lens at 55mm; ISO 320; 1/100 second at f/7.1.

      -
      NEX-5_DSC00451

      18-55mm lens at 55mm; ISO 640; 1/250 second at f/5.6.

      -
      NEX-5_DSC00454

      16mm lens, ISO 200, 1/800 second at f/7.1.

      -
      NEX-5_DSC00590_close

      Close-up with 18-55mm lens and Macro scene mode; 18-55mm lens at 55mm; ISO 1000; 1/100 second at f/5.6.

      -
      NEX-5-AVCHD-movie

      Still frame from AVCHD high-definition video clip.

      -
      NEX-5-MPEG-4-movie-HD

      Still frame from MP4 video clip recorded with a resolution of 1440 x 1080 pixels.

      -
      NEX-5-VGA-movie

      Still frame from VGA video clip.

       

      Specifications

      -
      leadpic_NEX-5_16mm

      Image sensor: 23.4 x 15.6 mm Exmor APS HD CMOS sensor with 14.6 million photosites (14.2 megapixels effective)
      A/D processing: 12-bit
      Lens mount: Sony E-mount (accepts Sony α lenses via LA-EA1 lens adaptor)
      Focal length crop factor: 1.5x
      Digital zoom: Up to 10x
      Image formats: Stills – RAW, JPEG (Exif 2.21), Fine & Standard compression; Movies – AVCHD/MP4
      Image Sizes: Stills – 3:2 aspect : 4592 x 3056 , 3344 x 2224, 2288 x 1520; 16:9 aspect: 4592 x 2576, 3344 z 1872, 2288 x 1280; Movies: AVCHD: 1920 x 1080/ 60i MP4 HD: 1440 x 1080 at 30 fps MP4 VGA: 640 x 480 at 30 fps
      Image Stabilisation: 6-image layering mode plus lens-based Optical Steady Shot
      Dust removal: Coating on low pass filter, plus image-sensor shift
      Shutter speed range: 1/4000 to 30 seconds, plus Bulb
      Exposure Compensation: +/- 2EV in 1/3EV steps
      Exposure bracketing: 3 frames, 1/3, 2/3EV steps selectable
      Self-timer: 2 or 10-seconds delay, (single, continuous 3 or 5 frames)
      Focus system: Contrast AF with 25 AF points plus Multi-point, Centre-weighted, Flexible Spot area selection
      Focus modes: Single-shot AF, Continuous AF, Direct Manual Focus, Manual Focus
      Exposure metering: 49-segment Multi, Centre-weighted, Spot metering
      Shooting modes: iAUTO, Program Auto (P), Aperture priority (A), Shutter priority (S), Manual (M), Face Detection; Smile Shutter; Sweep Panorama (3D ready); iAUTO; Auto HDR; Anti Motion Blur Mode; Hand-held Night Shot plus 8 Scene pre-sets (Portrait, Landscape, Macro, Sports action, Sunset, Night portrait, Night View, Handheld Twilight)
      Dynamic range control: D-Range Optimiser (Auto, Lv 1-5), Auto HDR, Adjustable Exposure Difference up to 6EV between 1.0EV to 6EV in 1 EV steps)
      Picture Style/Control settings: Standard, Vivid, Portrait, Landscape, Sunset, B/W
      Colour space options: sRGB, Adobe RGB
      ISO range: Auto, ISO 200 to 12800
      White balance: Auto, Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Flash, Kelvin temperature, Custom
      Flash: External flash only; GN 7 (metres at ISO 100)
      Flash exposure adjustment: +/- 2EV in 1/3EV steps
      Sequence shooting: Up to 2.3 fps normal shooting for JPEG (unlimited to card capacity) RAW (8 shots) RAW+JPEG (5 shots); 7 fps in speed priority mode (AF/AE fixed)
      Storage Media: Memory Stick Pro Duo, Pro-HG Duo; SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards
      Viewfinder: None
      LCD monitor: 7.5cm (3-inch) Wide type XtraFine TruBlack LCD with 921,000 dots; angle adjustable 80 degrees up/45 degrees down
      Playback functions: Single (with or without shooting information, RGB histogram and highlight/shadow warning), 6/12-frame Index View; Playback Zoom L: 13x, M: 10x, S: 6.7x, Panorama Standard: 24x, Panorama wide: 34; auto rotate, slideshow
      Interface terminals: HDMI out (with PhotoTV HD and BRAVIA Sync); USB 2.0 Hi-Speed
      Power supply: InfoLitium NP-FW50 rechargeable battery; CIPA rated for approx 330 shots/charge
      Dimensions (wxhxd): 110.8 x 58.8 x 38.2 mm (body only)
      Weight: 229 grams (body only, without battery and card)

       

      Retailers

       

      CamBuy

       

      www.cambuy.com.au
      Digital cameras, lenses and accessories with 100% genuine Australian manufacturer’s warranties.
      Ph: (02) 9029 2219

      Camera House

       

      -
      CH_Logo120

      www.camerahouse.com.au
      Ph: 133 686
      The largest speciality photographic retail chain in Australia.

      Camera Pro

       

      www.camerapro.net.au
      CameraPro Pty Ltd
      Suite 607, 180 Queen St, Brisbane 4000
      Tel: 07 3333 2900
      Australian owned and run company based in Brisbane.

      Camerasdirect

       

      -
      CamerasDirect133

      www.camerasdirect.com.au
      Retailer of digital camera equipment and more.
      Secure online shopping and delivery across Australia.
      Ph: 1300 727 056

      Camerastore.com.au

      Camerastore.com.au
      Ph: 1800 155 067

      Camera-Warehouse

       

      -
      camera-warehouse120

      www.camera-warehouse.com.au
      Comprehensive range of digital cameras and accessories online (www.camera-warehouse.com.au) and an online print service (www.royalexpress.com.au).

      Digital Camera Warehouse

       

      www.digitalcamerawarehouse.com.au
      174 Canterbury Road 367 High Street
      Canterbury Northcote
      NSW 2193 VIC 3070
      Ph: 1300 365 220

      Electronics Warehouse

       

      www.electronicswarehouse.com.au
      1300 801 885
      Australian retailer of Vapex rechargeable batteries offering factory direct prices and fast, free shipping Australia wide.

      Greg Smith’s Photo Accessories

       

      www.dvdreamtime.com.au
      1800 50 80 82
      Big range of photographic accessories, Australia-wide shipping.

      Paxtons

       

      www.paxtons.com.au
      285 George St
      Sydney NSW 2000
      Ph: (02) 9299 2999

      Photographic Equipment & Supplies – Retail & Repairs. Click here for list of stores.

      Ted’s Cameras

       

      -
      Teds-Logo120

      www.teds.com.au

      1800 186 895
      Big range of cameras and photographic products with stores in most states and online.

      Rating

       

      RRP: Twin lens kit (as reviewed) $1199; body plus SEL1855 lens $1049

      Rating (out of 10):

      • Build: 8.5
      • Ease of use: 7.5
      • Autofocusing: 8.5
      • Image quality: Stills 8.8; Video 8.5
      • OVERALL: 8.5

      Buy