The NEX-5 embodies the out-of-the-box thinking that gadget fans often admire about Sony. This camera brings together features from both point-and-shoots and digital SLRs. Its high-performance features, which include the 14.2mp, APS-C CMOS sensor, a 25-point autofocus system, and a 7fps burst mode, go beyond the world of compact cameras.
Yet, the NEX-5’s 285g body is so compact that the diameter of the 18-55mm E-mount lens barrel extends above the top plate. The three-inch LCD screen occupies most of the real estate on the back of the body, leaving just enough space for three buttons and a dial. And even though the NEX-5 is petite, it’s still comfortable to hold.
The LCD angles upward 80-degrees and downward 45-degrees. That means no matter which angle you want to hold the camera for shooting, you can adjust the screen to accommodate, which encourages you to shoot more creatively. Keep in mind there’s no optical or electronic viewfinder, though an optional electric viewfinder can be bought separately.
The NEX-5 has a total of six external buttons, including the shutter release. Sony pulls this off by using a clever menu system that’s graphical and easy to navigate. For example, instead of putting a physical mode dial on top of the camera, Sony creates a picture of one on the LCD that you can rotate using the multipurpose dial on the back. After about an hour of shooting, I was able to find all of the settings I needed using this unique system.
The NEX-5 performs like a digital SLR when it comes to image quality. Exposure, colour fidelity, sharpness and image noise are impressive – it out-performed other interchangable-lens cameras in our lab’s subject image quality tests.
I decided to push the limits and take the NEX-5 to a basketball game and shoot at ISO 1600 and 3200. The shots were solid with saturated colours and well-controlled image noise. Plus, shooting at 7fps enabled me to capture action that I would have missed with a compact. Raw capture is available too, but it limits burst mode to eight shots or five frames for Raw+JPEG. In Movie mode, both the video and the stereo audio quality are very good.
The NEX-5’s small body means that Sony had to opt for lens-based stabilisation instead of in-body. At the time of this review, a stabilised 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 zoom and 16mm f/2.8 prime lens in the new E-mount are available. Both are quality optics that also look handsome on the camera.
The Sony NEX-5 is an excellent camera for creatives upgrading from compacts who want to increase capability but not bulk.