Sony NEX-5 review Sony NEX-5 review

Categories: Cameras & Camcorders Reviews   Tags: ,
We love
Tiny size, solid build, superb screen
We hate
Lack of buttons sometimes a problem, battery drains quickly, flash prevents use of other accessories
An impressive debut in the new camera market, that really delivers
Launch Price
£c.600 with 18-55mm lens
6 Pages

Sony NEX 5 review

For reasons of space we won’t delve too deeply into the Sony NEX-5’s performance or the way in which it squares up to its Micro Four Thirds rivals in this round-up review: you can read about these in detail in our the Shooting skills and Micro Four Thirds beater Sony NEX-5 review sections. What we will concentrate on is the build quality and usability, and how these work together with performance, to give you an overview of the camera.

Read the rest of our Sony NEX-5 review
Sony NEX-5 review: Micro Four Thirds beater?
Sony NEX-5 review: Shooting skills

First up, build quality. The Sony NEX-5 is a tiny camera, but it feels incredibly tough and sturdy. The body is made from magnesium alloy and the lens mount and lenses, constructed from tough metal, lock together incredibly snugly. And despite the dinky size, the grip provides plenty of purchase, so holding the camera steady isn’t a problem.

On the back is the articulated, tilting 3-inch screen. This is sharp (921,600 dots) and its anti-reflective tech reduces glare effectively, so it can be used in bright sunlight. It can be angled up to 80 degrees upwards or 45 degrees downward, which helps when framing shots above your head (i.e. at a gig) or close to the ground.

And next to the screen? Well, very little else: three buttons, one of which has a control wheel around it. And on top there’s a shutter button, video record button, power switch, playback/capture toggle button and space to hook up the detachable flash.

Sony’s aim has been to keep the Sony NEX-5 simple and clean. That means that the majority of the controls are accessed via the three buttons on the back, then adjusted using the control wheel. So if you flip the camera into aperture priority, the wheel changes the aperture setting.

There’s no physical mode dial, or quick buttons to tweak ISO, metering mode, focus mode or anything else – all these things can be changed via the menu screens (which are crisp, colourful and quite well laid out), but things take a little longer than they should. We’d like a button to quickly change the ISO, definitely, and the annoying thing is that one of the rear-mounted buttons is often free – or at least would be if not for Sony’s built-in photo guide.

The photo guide contains loads of useful hints and tips that help newbie snappers learn the tricks of the trade, and it’s pretty useful if you’re one of them. But seasoned shutterbugs won’t ever use it, and yet it’s always there – why doesn’t Sony let you switch it off and re-assign that button to another function?

This is probably the Sony NEX-5’s greatest weakness, as its performance and general build quality is excellent. The battery life is another slightly disappointing aspect: we found it tumbling down pretty rapidly, especially if you like reviewing your photos on the screen – and of course given the lack of physical controls you find yourself browsing on-screen menus quite often too.

There’s no built-in flash, but Sony includes a small flash unit that can be attached to the accessory port for free. It’s not particularly powerful but does the job for indoor and other low light work. It does throw up a problem in that you can’t use other accessories (optical viewfinder, stereo microphone etc.) while it’s attached.

Aside from a couple of design issues, there’s little to dislike about the Sony NEX-5. It’s tiny and it takes DSLR quality pictures, and throws in a number of special shooting modes and very decent HD video capture. The price is reasonably competitive and Sony seems very serious about the future of the E mount lens system, which should mean more lenses soon. Overall we’re massively impressed by this first gen model, and hopefully the next NEX line will iron out the few kinks.

Read the rest of our Sony NEX-5 review
Sony NEX-5 review: Micro Four Thirds beater?
Sony NEX-5 review: Shooting skills

  • Juni

    Agree with the verdict. The camera is really impressive in an equally impressive small size.
    Batter drain is quite alarming. A charged battery left turned OFF will completely drain in 3 days so you have to constantly charge it and keep the battery out of the camera.

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