Sony NEX 5 review

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Sony NEX 5 review

Postby James » Wed 29 Dec 2010 16:18

Hey all,

As some of you may be aware I changed systems from Nikon and Fuji to Sony full frame earlier in the year, and I've been looking for a camera that's small enough to fit in a coat pocket or bag for the last 2 or 3 years. I tried the Sigma DP1, I thought that it had an amazing sensor and lens combination but it was just too slow to be useful in most situations. I tried a few pocket cams including the ever popular Panasonic LX3 but I found them too noisey and there was not enough control over creating out of focus areas for what I wanted to do. Leica seemed pretty much perfect but I can't afford to run 2 camera systems that are both at that cost (I have done some professional work this year, but not that much!). So I settled on the Micro 4/3 G1, in some respects that was better than my a900 and the articulated screen was amazing BUT it was too big to fit in a coat pocket - so why take it over the Sony?

Then in the summer Sony launched the NEX system along with an adapter to use my existing alpha mount lenses... Brilliant :)

I finally decided to take the plunge in September and got the NEX 5 with the 2 lens kit, the alpha mount adapter and a spare battery.

Handling:
It is actually a much better fit that it looks like it is going to be - I'm a big guy with big hands but the NEX 5 grip still fits incredibly well. An added bonus I found the other week is that the minimalist controls let it have enough separation between buttons that you can use it whilst wearing ski gloves.

The tilting screen is a big advantage, and being able to zoom in when using manual focus lenses is a massive positive (it's one of the things I missed when I sold my Nikon D300).

It feels fairly robust and has been just dropped into a pocket by me quite a few times (with no signs of wear, YET!)

But that main thing that really strikes you is just how tiny this is, especially with the 16mm pancake lens on. I thought that the 18-55mm kit lens added a lot of bulk, but it still fits in a coat pocket easily so it's not that bad!

The real down side at the moment is that flash - there is a flash, it's a tiny bolt on thing that has no provision for a normal hot shoe and it's a new system so it's not compatible with any other existing system including Sony's :( I have got my Metz pseudo ring flash acting as a slave for macro which works for me but I would prefer that I didn't have to control everything manually as I will sometimes forget to change the power when I change the distance to the subject or the aperture of the lens.

Performance:
This is done in 2 parts really - the camera and the lenses. The camera imaging performance is incredible for it's size, it is proper dSLR quality, period. I am happy to use this instead of my a900 for most things. However I don't trust the autofocus very much and I despite it being able to AF with SSM lenses I tried it once and gave up it takes seconds to focus - not what you expect when you're used to Nikon AF cameras! I've not pushed the ISO of the NEX to it's limits but images are useable for printing 13x19inch prints at ISO 800 (I haven't tried larger yet) - I know that the bogue is to be able to shoot really clean colour accurate images in single candle light, but I am happy to not push that far yet, I prefer a fast lens :)

Also in the body there are some really great features that I thought of as just gimicks until I got using them. I thought that I would use the handheld twilight mode a lot but I haven't, instead I've used the sweep panorama, the 3D sweep panorama and the HDR functionality. You can get odd results with all 3 modes so make sure that you review them afterwards but they are amazing convenience features to me!

Lens performance
Whoa! The 18-55mm works - it's fine, just a bit slow but still pocketable - I'm not really a big fan of normal zooms - I only got the Zeiss 24-70mm because I needed a few lengths in that range for a job (and it was cheaper than buying 2 more primes) - so it's not seen much action.

The 16mm is horrible. Even stopped down to f8 the corners are still not sharp at 13x19, that's very disappointing as I am guessing that the main use for this lens is going to be landscapes. I do use it as the whole package is then so small and it's f/2.8 but they are the only reasons.

I've not used the 18-200mm so I can't comment - but there is the whole line up for this system...

However where the NEX really shines for me is when you use other lenses on the camera with an adapter - I am waiting for an adapter to use my Contax G lenses (and will post new images when I have it) but in the mean time I have been using my Sony f/1.4 50mm as a portrait lens and I really like this combination.

Conclusion:
Would I buy one again? Yes!! My father [url]terrytucker.zenfolio.com[/url] wants to get one instead of his a900 (those impressive looking images are nearly all shot on large format) after we were playing one evening and my uncle who wants to get back into photography thinks that it would be a great camera for learning due to some of the simpler features that I've not gone into personally.

Pros:
Image Quality
Size
Gimick modes
Ability to use almost any lens (with adapters)
Price

Cons:
FLASH!!
Current lenses

And now here are some of my favourite images taken with it over the last 3 months
Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Feel free to ask if you have any questions :)
James
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Re: Sony NEX 5 review

Postby pam.meier » Sat 1 Jan 2011 12:16

Hi James,
I agree with all of your findings. I bought a NEX 3 two lens kit in summer when they came out and ever since had the same issue: the 16 mm being a nice small lens doesn´t deliver whereas the 18-55 VR is better optically, but somewhat bulky.

By the way, I managed to scratch the screen very badly on my vacation in Thailand (images to follow in other thread). I also felt it would be nice to have another NEX 3 body only to carry in my backpack with the 16 mm, so I bought another one almost new for 180 Euros off of Ebay. On a trip to phi phi islands I met with other tourists using a NEX 5 and they asked me to take their picture which I did. Did not find the NEX 5 to handle better, so it was another NEX 3 for me, otherwise I would have bought a 5 to have both options.

What really suprised me was the fun I had with videos. Really nice and crisp little movies and I enjoyed taking them. As a matter of fact, I will start video editing in the new year - professionally - as a customer asked me to do that. I´m convinced the NEX 3´s videos will suffice for instructional videos on machinery as they will be put on websites mainly, so full HD is not needed.

Now I will have to choose from over 1000 images I took on my vacation (also partly with the S5) and show some in the gallery section of this forum.
pam.meier
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Re: Sony NEX 5 review

Postby James » Sun 2 Jan 2011 21:10

Looking forward to seeing your images :) DId you have a great time?

How did you scratch the screen? Mine just sits loosely in a pocket most of the time at the moment, you've worried me now!

Have you tried the Contax G lenses on the NEX yet? They are amazing, it's like a whole different camera! Let me know if you want some raw files to play with (most of mine are high ISO at the moment though as I've not really hada chance to play in decent light since the adapter arrived on new year's eve).
James
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Re: Sony NEX 5 review

Postby pam.meier » Sun 2 Jan 2011 21:51

Yes, it was a very nice vacation, lots of nice trips and people I met. I finished my galleries and will have a hard time choosing my favorites from a total of 500 images ;)

I really have no idea how it happened, somewhere in my backpack ... I would recommend using one of those Ebay snap-on plastic shields.
I might buy one, even though it´s useless now.

I tried a Leica Summicron 50 mm and my Nikkors on the NEX, I don´t own any Contax G lenses.
Yes, I am interested in RAW files, if you want, you can use my idisk.
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Re: Sony NEX 5 review

Postby James » Sat 8 Jan 2011 12:49

Hi Pam,

I am glad that you had a good time and met lots of nice people, that's always a big help with a holiday! Sorting that many images afterwards isn't so fun.

I will look out for the protector, thank you very much for the warning and I hope that yours is repairable.

I have some RAW images to send you (very test type images, sorry!) but don't have your idisk address to hand - can you tell me where it is again please and I will send them today as I am on a photo day. :)
James
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Re: Sony NEX 5 review

Postby pam.meier » Tue 11 Jan 2011 06:56

Hi James, I think it can be buffed out. A little pouch is on the way.

I´ll need to email you the access data for my idisk. I will see if I can find your email address.
pam.meier
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Re: Sony NEX 5 review

Postby James » Wed 12 Jan 2011 06:55

Hi Pam,

My email address is xxx, it's in enough places that one more won't hurt :)

I'm glad that you should be able to buff the scratch out - I know that the NEX is a (relatively) inexpensive camera but it is still nice to have it in perfect condition!
James
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Re: Sony NEX 5 review

Postby pam.meier » Thu 13 Jan 2011 09:01

Dear James,
you can erase your Email address now, if you want. I just sent you the access data.

I bought a second NEX 3 to have one in perfect condition and the scratchy one looks quite beat already. The lens and flash do have lots of scratches already.
Well it lives in my coat pocket and so that´s fine with me.

As for the other NEX, I´m waiting for the new primes, to either buy the Zeiss or the Macro and then keep the combo in that nice little pouch.
180 Euros really was a good price for a body only.

Here is one crop at 3200 ISO it was slightly dark as well, so ISO may be even pushed. I did slightly denoise with Topaz Labs:
Image
pam.meier
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Re: Sony NEX 5 review

Postby pam.meier » Wed 19 Jan 2011 16:29

Hi James, I reviewed your images and they have a nice tone rendering. I can´t wait for Sony to issue new lenses for e-mount.
I guess, there is a lot to be explored with capable glass. I heard that the next generation will have a 16 Mpix sensor.
Well, I really like the 14 Mpix output and will gladly buy a Sony G or Zeiss lens with normal focal length or moderate wide angle.
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Re: Sony NEX 5 review

Postby James » Sun 23 Jan 2011 14:35

Hey Pam,

Sorry I've not replied, been a bit busy again :) I was out buying some studio lights yesterday for some product photography (full length portraits of models wearing the clothes) that I can re-use later for portrait work. I just need to get a portable/pull down background sorted now and my home studio mark 1 will be ready to go :)

But back to the NEX, I agree it really is an great sensor, I also agree about the Sony G or Zeiss lenses as long as they keep the size small - in fact I am hoping that Zeiss just bring the Contax G lenses up to date for the NEX, that would be awesome!

Also thank you for identifying it was the tone rendering that was good. I couldn't put my finger on why the images looked like they should be B&W and then converted so well but that's it :)

I like your shot of the mouse - it's difficult to believe that is at ISO 3200 (and that a Nikon at that speed would look even cleaner) I'm still stuck in the film age when I think about ISO I'm afraid, I think that going up to 800 is pushing things a bit! :D
James
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The moon with Sony NEX 5, March 2011

Postby James » Sun 20 Mar 2011 20:20

James
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