Complications aside, the NEX-5 is a reasonably versatile camera, with most of the features one would expect to find on an entry-level DSLR. It has the usual program auto, aperture and shutter priority and full manual exposure options (with shutter speeds from 30 secs to 1/4000th), as well as the iAuto scene recognition mode, a limited but useful list of scene mode programs, and Sony's clever sweep panorama feature. It also has a “3D Panorama” mode, however since it requires one of Sony's new Bravia 3D TVs to display the results I wasn't able to fully test this feature. The NEX-5 does have the ability to shoot in Raw mode, as well as Raw plus JPEG.
Menu options include the Creative Style settings, which offer a range of pre-sets for different colour styles, such as vivid colour, monochrome, portrait, landscape and sunset. Each of these can be manually adjusted for contrast, saturation and sharpness. Other options include single or continuous focusing, multi-zone, centre spot or flexible spot AF, and even manual focusing, with automatic screen magnification as soon as the focus ring is moved. The monitor is certainly sharp enough for accurate manual focusing.
One unusual feature of the NEX-5 is that instead of the sensor-shift image stabilisation system found in the Sony Alpha digital SLRs, both the current NEX system zoom lenses have optical image stabilisation. The results are very impressive to say the least. I was able to take night-time shots of a firework display with an exposure time of one second without using a tripod, and get good sharp results on most images. The image stabilisation also works well in video recording mode, producing rock-steady footage even when zoomed in.
For many potential buyers the stand-out feature of the NEX-5 will undoubtedly be its excellent video recording mode. It shoots at full 1080p HD resolution, with stereo audio recorded by two internal microphones, which are located on the top panel but are surprisingly directional. Video is recorded in the high-quality AVCHD format, and both sound and picture quality are superb. The highly effective image stabilisation system ensures largely shake-free shots, and of course the manually-operated zoom is silent.