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The Complete Sony NEX 5 Review

by Chris Gampat on 09/24/2010

The Sony NEX 5has been a rather odd camera to review in many ways. However, the pure image quality that comes from the sensor is just fascinating for something in the mirrorless interchangeable lens compact market. It hands down wins awards for best image quality over the G2, GF-1, and Olympus EP-2. Granted, it isn’t the holy grail of the segment.

Testing

Day 1- Trying to get a feel for the camera.

Day 2- Found slight problems in the sweep panorama mode.

Day 3- Tested the camera like a tourist in Times Square.

Day 4- Talked about my unique workflow in order to use the photos since Lightroom 3.2 wasn’t available yet.

Day 5- Testing high ISO performance on the Lower East Side of NYC.

Vs the GF-1’s lens- The GF-1’s 20mm F1.7 held its own fairly well against the NEX 5’s 16mm pancake lens.

Movie mode tests and words from a Minolta shooter- The review was passed onto Julius, a Minolta film shooter. He tested the video and gave his findings.

Autofocus

In my casual testings, the autofocus seemed speedy. In fact, it was very speedy. Still can’t beat the class-leading GF-1 but it is a smidgen behind it. Fast autofocus is great—but if it isn’t smart then it’s game over. The NEX-5’s autofocus is not very smart based on how a user may compose their photos. For example, when I wanted it to focus on the center area in multi-focus mode it would focus around the center. Vice versa also occurred.

The Face Detection tracking was very spot on and even faster than the GF-1’s. For users that just want to leave it in this setting, they’ll have no problems with the camera.

Manual focus users will enjoy the higher resolution LCD screen than its Micro Four Thirds competitors. It will allow users to ensure that focus on eyes are sharp for portraits, and that the intended subject is always perfectly in focus.

Image Quality

The NEX 5’s image quality is second to none in this segment of the market. In fact, I’d rate it right behind the Nikon D300sand Canon EOS 7D(reviews here). This is quite a feat as Sony DSLRs are right behind Nikon and Canon in the market. On the contrary, this isn’t a DSLR—but the sensor sure is DSLR technology. If it is any hint as to what may come from the A700 successor, then Canon and Nikon should be looking very closely at the results of this little powerhouse of a camera.

Couple the camera with some M Mount lenses with an adapter and the image quality will be even better. I tried this with Brian Smith’s camera.

High ISOs

The high ISO value of the NEX 5is better than its competitors. Part of this is because of the larger APS-C sized sensor and the processing engine. Overall though, I’d probably still want to stay away from the very high settings. The images are plagued with chroma noise that can be removed only with lots of smoothing over.

Ergonomics

The NEX 5is essentially a point and shoot with a big grip and a big lens. How the user holds it will give different experiences. For example, holding the camera like a point-and-shoot will actually make shooting very comfortable. However, you can’t help but pay attention to that huge grip and try to hold onto the camera like a DSLR. When trying to do this, it becomes slightly awkward. Add onto this the fact that there is a major lack of buttons and almost every setting needs to be changed through the menu, and you’ve got yourself an almost unwieldy camera. Granted, it isn’t intimidating. However, it could use some sex appeal.

Menus

They’re long. Not else really needs to be said about that. They’re not particularly intuitive, but the learning curve is short and after a while it all does seem to click into place.

Ease of Use

Considering the intended demographic that this camera aimed at, this should be left in total auto and never changed. People stepping up from a point-and-shoot will be very intimidated and confused by the menus but will be ecstatic when they finally do end up taking the pictures. Getting them onto your computer may be a bit more complicated.

To be honest with you, besides size I can’t really see why one would want the NEX 5vs something like the brand new Sony A55 (hands-on review here).

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