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NEX5 First Impressions

Discussion in 'Open Gear Talk' started by olli, Jan 5, 2011.

  1. olli

    olli Super Moderator Emeritus

    Sep 28, 2010
    Metro Manila
    On 1 January I bought a NEX5 while travelling through Heathrow airport. This was no impulse buy; I had read every review I could find and had handled the camera in store. Having finally decided I wanted one, it was just a matter of waiting for the price to start falling. On New Years Day it was waiting for me at a price I could not ignore. Having had the camera for a few days now I'd like to share my first impressions.

    The NEX5 looks, feels and sounds superb. Aesthetically, almost everything about this camera appeals to me. The build quality is excellent. Everything, including doors and buttons feel right - not too tight, not too loose. Like my LX3 the camera feels heavier than you would expect giving it a nice solid feel. The minimalist design with only a handful of buttons and controls is pleasing on the eye - on my eye at least.

    by ...olli..., on Flickr​

    If anything the lens is even more pleasing than the camera. The focusing and zoom rings are beautifully integrated into the overall design and work very effectively - tight enough to avoid being accidentally moved but very smooth in action when pressure is applied. I have all the electronic beeps and squeaks turned off and the lens focuses silently but I do like the efficient clunk of the shutter when I take a shot.

    Almost everything, I said. One minor annoyance is the location of the attachment hook for the shoulder strap on the right hand side of the camera.It sits about one third of the way down the side of the camera, just where my top finger naturally falls when I grip the camera. I was conscious of this for the first day or two but gradually I adjusted my grip. The other problem with this location is that when shooting vertically the strap naturally falls across the rear screen. I now use my thumb to keep it out of the way.

    Initially, when I first picked up the camera with the 18-55 lens it felt very front heavy - because it is. The camera needs to be held like a DSLR, not a compact, that is, with the left hand under the lens and body. This took me a little while to get used to since the camera body is so small that the fingers of my two hands were bumping up against each other. Now my hands have found their own space and it is no longer a problem. However, I can see how this could be more difficult for someone with large hands or long fingers.

    Many of the reviews I read reflected the reviewers' frustration with the interface, specifically with the need to access multiple menus and options to change commonly used settings. The use of a virtual dial on the screen for selection of options seems to have upset some people but I like it. Sony responded quickly by updating the camera's firmware to allow customisation of two of the buttons on the back of the camera. The lower button can be assigned one function and the central button can be assigned a further three. Taken together with the existing functions assigned to the four way controller I find that this is more than enough for my shooting needs. Certainly, the interface is very different from what I am used to on my A200 and my LX3 but I don't foresee any great difficulty in adjusting. I updated to the new firmware as soon as the battery was charged. I had no problems with the process though I'm aware that some people have encountered difficulties.

    There are many settings available that I have not used and may well never use so I cannot comment on iAuto, scene modes, smile detection, DRO and much else besides. I can say that the autofocusing appears to be accurate, is silent and is fast enough for me. The metering, which some reviewers noted had a tendency to overexpose, does indeed do so, though not consistently. On some images highlights are clearly overexposed, others are just a little brighter than I would expect, while others seems to be very accurately exposed. For the time being I have set the exposure compensation to -0.3 but expect in time to be able to anticipate the kind of scenes that will lead to overexposure and compensate when necessary.

    While I haven't used the camera much at slower shutter speeds yet the lens based OSS seems to be at least as effective as the sensor based SS in my A200. I also took a couple of shots of a church interior at 6400 ISO and having looked at them in Lightroom, both RAW and JPEG, would have no concerns about using this setting when necessary.

    A crop from a shot taken at 6400 ISO. In Lightroom, Luminance and Colour NR were both set to 25 with sharpening at 25 and all other settings at default. Click through to my flickr page to see the 100% crop.

    Finally, I also tried out the sweep panorama function. I didn't anticipate ever making much use of this but now I think I might. It is a little tricky to get right at first. The speed at which you sweep is important - too fast or too slow and the camera will stop shooting. Moreover, the optimal speed for sweeping is also affected by the focal length. It's just a matter of practice though.

    A panorama of Tbilisi taken today using the sweep panorama mode. Click through to my flickr page to see bigger sizes including the original (8000 pixels wide).

    110501-00112 by ...olli..., on Flickr​

    I will close by noting two excellent features one of which the camera has and one which is lacking. When selecting the focusing method the camera offers the option of Direct Manual Focus. What this means is that the camera autofocuses on the subject but manual fine tuning of the focus is also available. Turning the focus ring in this mode brings up the MF Assist screen which enlarges a portion of the image for more accurate focusing. In effect you can choose autofocus or manual focus without having to push any buttons or go into any menus. I can see this being useful for macro work, close ups and shots with the lens wide open.

    My only real complaint has to do with the flash capabilities of the camera - or the lack of them. I don't mind the absence of a traditional hot shoe or the slightly fiddly removable flash, but what does bother me is that the NEX cameras will not work with the Sony Alpha flash system. I cannot trigger my F42 flash with the NEX flash unit. This is one thing that Sony should fix (if it is fixable by firmware update). Either the NEX flash unit should be usable as a wireless trigger for external units retaining full TTL functionality or Sony should produce a separate wireless trigger that can work with the smart accessory terminal.

    In conclusion, I'm impressed with this camera. I won't be getting rid of either my LX3 or my A200 but I suspect that I will be taking most of my photographs with the NEX from now on. If you have any questions about the NEX5 or its functions feel free to ask - I'll try to answer or try to find the answer.
    • Like Like x 6
  2. wt21

    wt21 Hall of Famer

    Aug 15, 2010
    Nice review Olli. I too have become impressed with NEX, though I have a NEX3. I love some of the "toys" on this camera like sweep panorama, and I also like the 16mm lens w/fisheye attachment.

    I do agree, though, that the Flash is pretty much useless. I've tried so much to use it, but it's just too limited. It's not strong enough to overpower ambient lighting across the frame, so you end up with WB issues and many lenses block it.. But with good high ISO, the NEX is a pretty nice available light shooter, so the camera is quite useful even without the flash.

    Thanks for sharing your review.
    • Like Like x 1
  3. BBW

    BBW Administrator Emeritus

    Jul 7, 2010
    betwixt and between
    The more I see from this camera, or I suppose I should say from the NEX cameras, the more impressed I am. I've become quite envious when I have seen various photos here by different members with the NEXs. I keep telling myself that I don't need an interchangeable lens camera. I had one. I don't need one... (repeating silently to myself as a sort of chant).

    What are the differences between this NEX5 an its siblings? Panoramic sweep has a lovely sound and olli your view of Tbilisi is awfully compelling. Will that 16mm lens with fisheye work on the earlier NEX versions?
    • Like Like x 1
  4. wt21

    wt21 Hall of Famer

    Aug 15, 2010
    The NEX3 and NEX5 (the only two NEX cameras) are nearly identical.

    I believe there are only two differences: 1) The NEX 5 has a smaller overall body, but a deeper grip and is made with a stronger material. Many people prefer the deeper grip, though the negatives on the body are that some have claimed the grip interferes with some manual focus lenses, and that the tripod mount area on the NEX5 is inadequate to support the camera. 2) The NEX5 does AVCHD video, the NEX3 does not. I think the NEX5 also has infrared shutter release with a remote, and the NEX3 doesn't.

    Other than that, I think they are the same camera. Same LCD. Same sensor. Same control buttons (though a little differently placed on each one). Same lens options.

    It's a fun little camera, and I've found that my Oly EP1 and my NEX do different things better, so I've ended up with both! (drat!)
    • Like Like x 1
  5. deirdre

    deirdre Top Veteran

    Sep 26, 2010
    I've seriously considered getting a pink one to go with my GF1 -- just to give a different crop factor to my Leica lenses and my FD lens.
    • Like Like x 1
  6. I am stepping up from point and shots to the NEX, loving it so far. Love the size especially. I have wanted to get into better photography for a while, but the excessive bulk of camera equipment has put me off. When I am out on the town and already have a day pack the last thing I want it to multiple it with camera bags and accessories.

    As to the screen driven menus, I suppose having to relearn a system would be frustrating for experts and it would put them off. I for one have had no issues so far learning how to navigate the menus and enjoy the uncluttered feel of the camera.

    I wish there was a better flash system, but I am ok with it for now.

    I actually tried both the 3 and the 5 and the 3 felt better in my hand, each to their own.

    The lower video is not a huge deal, at least to me. I have a nice video camera for planned trips. I take the camera, my wife takes the video recorder.
    • Like Like x 1
  7. EasyEd

    EasyEd Regular

    Dec 22, 2010
    Hey All,

    I don't have a NEX but I'm told the best feature is the twilight mode ability in which it uses HDR techniques to give really nice images under low light. I know one person who uses his NEX 3 for basically that purpose only preferring his EPL-1 for full daylight due to the quality of the out of camera jpegs of the Olympus. I tried holding the NEX cameras but really didn't like the feel or menu systems that much. Really nice features though - no doubt about that.

    • Like Like x 1
  8. olli

    olli Super Moderator Emeritus

    Sep 28, 2010
    Metro Manila
    As wt notes, the NEX3 and NEX 5 are basically the same camera packaged slightly differently with video being the only major difference. Which you prefer comes down to how each feels in hand. I slightly preferred the feel of the NEX5 and I'm hoping there is some mileage in the more substantial metal body. That said, I did like the red NEX3 I looked at - unfortunately there isn't a red NEX5 so I went with silver.

    All the accessories, including the fisheye, work on either camera and I would assume on any future camera.

    I haven't used the Hand Held Twilight mode yet but I plan to when the opportunity arises. I'll report back when I do.

    Wylie, just keep in mind that even thought it is an interchangeable lens camera you don't actually have to change lenses. Even with the ability to do so my preference is to keep things simple. Looking at Sony's E-mount roadmap I would anticipate acquiring the Zeiss wide angle and the G standard (assuming this is something like a 16-55 2.8). That would do me nicely.
    • Like Like x 1
  9. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator Emeritus

    Jul 3, 2010
    Olli, thanks for sharing your impressions with us. I was very impressed with the NEX-5 and could be very happy with an NEX-5 and 18-55 zoom for most of what I shoot.

    Many times, forums can become an echo chamber. When the NEX-5 came out, I remember the DPR Micro 4/3 forum was full of posts about how huge the NEX zoom lens was and how poorly it performed. In use, I found it to be nicely compact and a good performer.
    • Like Like x 2
  10. Herman

    Herman The Image Stimulator

    Jul 11, 2010
    The Netherlands
    Congrats Olli on your NEX5 camera and thanks for the review !
    • Like Like x 1
  11. jankapp

    jankapp Regular

    Aug 28, 2010
    Thanks very much for the review.
    Did you intend to take a zoom lens? I think of your remark about the front heaviness.
    No EVF connection yet, I believe.
    It is a nice concept, I am interested too.
    • Like Like x 2
  12. olli

    olli Super Moderator Emeritus

    Sep 28, 2010
    Metro Manila
    Thanks Jan. I'm using the 18-55 lens. Partly because this was the setup that was going at the best price but also because I don't think the 16 offers much more. Effectively it offers 2mm and .5 of a stop over the wide end of the 18-55. Even at $99 this doesn't seem like a great deal to me. With the promise of a wide angle Zeiss to come in 2011 it seems better to wait and see what the specs for this lens (though whether I'll be able to afford it is another matter).

    I'm sure with the 16 it feels more balanced between camera and lens but even though the 18-55 is big relative to the camera body it is only a matter of adjusting the way you hold the camera. It only takes a little while to get used to the weight and balance of this combination.

    At the moment there is no EVF and no solid information on one from Sony, though there is an optical viewfinder available which works with the 16mm lens. At the moment the Smart Accessory Terminal (Sony's name for it) also takes the kit flash and a microphone. Sony have a larger flash in the pipeline but there is no release date as far as I know.

    I suppose it is possible that an EVF might be announced with a new higher level NEX camera sometime this year. MY expectation would be that Sony are going to introduce higher end NEX's since it's hard to see a market for Zeiss and G level lenses on the basis of the current bodies....just my speculation.
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  13. night time handheld

    Last night we went walking around the Fountain Hills fountain about an hour and a half after sundown, and I just had to try out the hand held night time feature on the NEX-3. I was very impressed with the outcome.:smile:

    While not framed ideally, you get the general idea. Not bad for a distant focus, night time, handheld shot. If you had a tripod and kept the lens open for a while, you could get a clearer shot, but I don't think that is the intent of the function.


    • Like Like x 1
  14. madmaxmedia

    madmaxmedia Veteran

    Nov 10, 2010
    Los Angeles
    That ISO 6400 crop is pretty impressive, considering 1) basic settings without much tweaking, and 2) you have chosen to show a darker part of the image. Seems like ISO 6400 would make for great B&W, the noise pattern is pretty good.
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