The idea of the Sony NEX-5
is a bit odd. Take a dSLR APS-C sized sensor and squeeze it into a
compact camera body, giving it compact camera controls, with the whole
layout geared toward novice photographers. The camera bodies are indeed
tiny, but there is no way to get around the amount of glass needed in a
lens to cover an APS-C sized sensor. What you end up is
disproportionate, a compact body with a hulking near SLR sized lens on
it. Even with the smallest 16mm pancake lens, I found that the camera
was not "pocket able" in a pair of pants.
Cons in detail:
For Nikon users an easy way to
get an idea of its size, the NEX-5 and 16mm f/2.8 next to the Nikkor
dSLR image quality
Small & light
Easy to adapt any SLR lens to
Rear LCD quality
No controls while shooting video
Physical controls. the lack of which
many reviews have bemoaned. On the initial release the controls were
simply terrible. Thankfully a firmware upgrade made it possible to
customize the three rear buttons. Even with the upgrade the menu driven
controls are slow and cumbersome for on the fly shooting. I'm ok with
this in the unique environment of kayaking, but would not want to shoot
full time with a NEX-5. As a kayaking only camera it can get by though.
Pros in detail:
No EVF: In bright sunlight, specifically on the river, it can be near
impossible to see the rear LCD at times, making it hard to frame a shot
well (or at
all). The NEX-5 could really use an electronic viewfinder, but alas
none is available nor will be due to the lack of contacts attach an EVF
No control while shooting video. The NEX-5 takes full 1080HD video at
60i and uses the AVCHD codec. The video coming out of
the camera is quite stellar. Unfortunately there is no way to lock
exposure while shooting video, and it will only shoot video in full
auto mode. This makes it useless for shooting whitewater with any kind
camera movement, going from shadows to whitewater it will always
No mirror. dSLR's use the mirror for quick phase detect auto focus.
Phase detect is not possible without a mirror, so enter contrast AF.
It's fairly quick on the NEX-5, but certainly not
even on par with the archaic Nikon D50. Plus there is no optical
trademark of an SLR.
dSLR image quality. With an APS-C sized
sensor the NEX-5 really can output dSLR quality images. I found it a
slight step ahead of the Nikon D200 image quality, and a considerable
step behind the incredibly more expensive full frame Nikon D700 when it
came to noise performance and dynamic range. The true limiting factory
of the image quality on the NEX-5 is the lack of quality Sony E lenses.
Seven frames per second. When taking a sequence of images with a
traditional SLR, the camera will focus and check exposure, life the
mirror, open/close the shutter, and return the mirror. All that for one
shoot. To achieve a high frame rate the camera is forced to do that
incredibly quickly. This results in expensive cameras. In the NEX-5
there is no mirror, so the camera achieves a very admirable 7fps.
The small size and weight are simply sublime, it's minimalist to the
core. Only 10oz and slightly larger than a compact pocket camera.
Easy to adapt any SLR lens to: The added benefit of no mirror and
a compact body is that the image sensor and rear element of the lens
can be closer together than on a SLR. This means slightly smaller
lenses, but the true benefit is that a simple $50 adapter (basically an
extension tube) will allow you to mount any SLR lens to the camera.
This is nice if you are already invested in an SLR setup, you can still
use your favorite lenses (granted without Auto-focus). With my
collection of old Nikkor AI-S lenses I loved this ability to transform
the NEX-5 into a backup emergency camera on an expedition.
The rear LCD screen is beautiful. It's possible to tilt it up and down,
but nowhere near adjustable as the Panasonic GH2's LCD, but it's not as
thick and bulky either. I wish all dSLRs had this, but for some reason
the big two seem to think that it would only be a useful feature for
amateurs. They need to pull their head out of the sand, a tilt-able LCD
is a blessing for shooting creative angles.
I loved the NEX-5, but wanted a camera to shoot video on too. A
simple firmware update from Sony could have fixed the lack of video
controls, but tragically that never happened. Sony did one last, very
odd update adding many novice "picture modes" and of all things, focus
peaking. Focus peaking is incredible for manual focus work, and
generally not seen until pro-level status is reached. So the latest
NEX-5 firmware update completes the strangest mix of pro and complete
amateur features into one camera. No EVF or future for one was a
hindrance I could have lived with, although it kept the camera from
being ideal in the bright, contrast rich environments I use it in. The
small size and weight are simply sublime, it's minimalist to the core;
nearly the perfect expedition oriented whitewater camera with a few
fatal flaws, I sold mine with minor regret.
The NEX-5 really shines with good lenses, gallery below.
Sony NEX-5, Sony 16mm
1/800s f/5.6 ISO 400
A quick 100% crop shows decent detail.
The high resolution rear LCD makes it easy to set up tilt/shift shots.
As long as it's not too bright out.
Sony NEX-5, Arsat 35mm f/2.8 Tilt/Shift
Sony NEX-5, Tamron
70-210 f/3.5 "19AH"
100% crop of the same. Amazing how you can see his whiskers. Note noise
from ISO 400.
On the river, Daniel Brasuell.
Sony NEX-5, Simga 18-200 @ ISO 1600.
100% crop with no noise removal or sharpening.