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The Sony Nex-5 is a great camera that I would consider buying and carrying with me at all times as a very good, compact alternative to my dSLR. I could pretty much just leave it there, but I want to tell you some of the great stuff and, despite what I’ve just said, a couple of the things that annoyed me, too.
Just one thing before we go geeking out on this little camera, this isn’t by any stretch of the imagination a technical review (Read Barrie’s NEX-3 review) it’s more of a “how did this camera make me feel” review. There are many “technical specification reviews” on the web for this little guy… Today we’re all about if it’s actually any good despite its 14.2MP and its 12,800 iso rated sensor.
I had the Sony Nex-5 sent out recently, thank you Viv, to put through its paces, give it the good news and generally see how we got along. The perfect opportunity, I was going to Africa for 9 days, the length of my review time, and thought why not take it with me? and so I did!
What you notice right off when you open the box and pull out the NEX-5 is that it’s sort of an odd shape, that’s with the kit 18-55mm F/3.5-6.3 lens that I had. It doesn’t really fit in your pocket, though, I found it sort of too small to slip into a camera bag as mine are all set up to take my battery gripped 5DMKII’s and the sweet little Sony would have disappeared into the depths!… The Sony was just fine in the smaller front pocket of my Retrospective 20, it was also well at home in Michelle’s handbag. You could also purchase the Lens Jacket Case for Sony NEX Series Camera which is pretty plush, but it didn’t come with the review model. So, this isn’t really a gripe, I just found it hard to carry around with the 18-55mm lens attached…
The Sony NEX-5 also has an 16mm f/2.8 lens that’s available… faster, thinner and dead sexy! I didn’t get the 16mm but I did notice that the barrel of the 18-55mm that I did get with the review unit was plastic – it seemed to be sturdy enough, but when you’re paying a decent amount for a camera with a kit lens, you’d maybe expect slightly more than plastic? (Or, what felt like plastic, I didn’t do the bite test) The little NEX-5 can be used with most of the Sony a range of lenses, with the adapter – I’d love to see the NEX-5 with the Sony 300 2.8 on the front! I found the kit lens that was included to be more than sufficient for every day use – nice and sharp.
The viewfinder on the Sony NEX-5 Is a tilting 3″ lcd screen (XtraFine TruBlack) but it doesn’t just tilt up, it tilts down too – so you can hold the camera above your head when you’re in a crowd (who hasn’t done this at a concert, hands up?) or, you can shoot from the hip – which I personally loved doing whilst travelling – it made for great candid photographs. I found the lcd screen very easy to use and easy enough to see even in bright sunlight.
Most of the settings are chosen via the little jog dial and a limited number of buttons – when I first tried to find manual, it was a little tricky (men don’t read instructions until they really need to, right?) but once I’d familiarised myself, I was happily changing between modes and changing my settings on the fly. As with anything, it takes a little getting used to, especially when you’re a dSLR user and most things have a button right there under your fat thumbs! The multiple modes were fun, and some of them even worked quite well – but I was very happy with manual as it happens – I think that having a small, dSLR like (minus the mirror, erm) changeable lens camera and not using it in manual is a waste – it teaches you a lot about your photography (The Sony also shoots in RAW format… or, ARW, the Sony version, which I firmly believe is just a spelling mistake! ha) and how to control various aspects of a camera without having to lug around a big old dSLR. THat said, the camera in its auto-form works very well and is good at discerning a scene and capturing it with gusto!
I tried out Panorama Sweep mode – I looked like some guy with a remote control watching a fast electric boat go by, standing on the water’s edge, spinning from side to side and constantly being told “you’re spinning too fast man!” I got it in the end and sure enough, the camera produced a decent pano, stupidly on my holiday I didn’t take a laptop (holidays are sometimes actual holidays!) and I ran out of space, so I deleted my pano, but it does work after some fine tuning of your spinning around’ness (that really isn’t a word, but let’s pretend!)
I was really very happy with the little camera, until it came to the flash unit – the flash unit on the Sony Nex-5 is a “bolt on” you have to screw it into the top of the camera, which leaves you with no place to stick the optional stereo mic (very cool!) in if you’re recording video. It also means that, if you’re using a camera bag like the one I was using that the little unit can very easily disappear between the cracks and you’ll freak out and think you’ve lost it in the sand! (I didn’t) the flash isn’t all that powerful, with a guide number of 7mtrs at iso100 it’s just fine for the odd portrait and the camera, when in auto mode (I did pop it in iAuto etc, for the sake of this review) actually does its best to balance the ambient and the flash and it doesn’t do half bad. With very bright sunlight outside, you can see my little buddy Sebastian wasn’t too badly exposed when the camera did it all itself.
The battery performance is rated at 330 images – I used the camera on and off each day for nine days and didn’t charge it, but only shot about 151 images when all was said and done (and a couple of videos, too) which brings me on to my next point – video! Yes, you can film stuff, you can make nice little HD (1080i) videos, and, they’re very good quality. I found it easier to snap a quick video with the Sony NEX-5 and its bendy screen than I did / do with my Canon 5DMKII – just because of the screen tilt option, I shot from the hip and found recording very steady. I can’t comment on the sound as I didn’t have the optional mic, but for a quick moment capture, the on-board mic is fine.
So, the sensor, which is a CMOS APS-C sized sensor, is said to handle up to 12,800 iso (That means that like a bat, it can mostly see in the dark… err, a bat uses sonor… um, anyway) I didn’t bump the Sony up over 1000, but this is what happened when I did muck about with the iso – the photograph below (my great aunt, bless!) has had a filter applied in Lightroom, converted to jpg and uploaded here… The flash fired and I was about 3mtrs away – I took this photo as it’s the same as one (almost identical!) I took last time I saw my Gt Aunt over a year ago – same chair, same sitting position – she’s a lovely lady and I think the photo conveys the situation well. …I digress!
So, that was iso 200, how about iso 1000… This was inside the government shop in Tunisia, the shop was closed but we found a guy who let us in and made us tea – it was quite dark, and this is what the little Sony produced…
And here’s a crop of the image above – you can see noise, you can see a little shake – but in my hands at 1/40th of a second, I think it did very well!
The Not so highs!
So in summary… I really like this little camera, I think it’s a great step between compact and a dSLR and I’d recommend you pop to a shop and try it out! –no stars as this isn’t a real, in depth review, it’s my heart talking which I guess is where our love for photography comes from, right?
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