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Sony NEX-5 - Design and Features 2

By Cliff Smith



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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.

Sony NEX-5 back

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.

Sony NEX-5 lens

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.

Jamie Lawrence

August 12, 2010, 8:50 pm

Adobe made a "release candidate" of ACR and Lightroom available which supports the NEX raw files: http://nextended.com/blog/2010...

I'd expect a full release isn't too far away.


August 12, 2010, 9:46 pm

If only this was out before i bought my Nikond d3000....darn it.


August 12, 2010, 10:04 pm

This is a very good review. I really liked the camera before I saw this review, but now you have me sold... I have been looking for the best DSLR camera that will offer HD video as well; under £600 and the Canon 500D is the next in line. But the Sony offers more on the plate. One question though does the NEX-5 still offer the Manuel controls I would get on... the Canon 500D or Sony A450/550?


August 12, 2010, 10:40 pm

Very impressive!


August 12, 2010, 10:58 pm

Could you possibly tell me roughly how much space a 10 minute video shot at 720p takes?

Cliff Smith

August 13, 2010, 12:15 am

Zero - I feel there should be a joke about a Spanish waiter in there somewhere, but I can't think of one. The NEX-5 offers aperture priority, shutter priority and full manual exposure, but lacks some of the custom functions you'll get on the 500D.

J4ck1505 - The NEX-5 doesn't shoot at 720p, options are 1080p, VGA or 1440 x 1080.


August 13, 2010, 1:59 am

Great review. Are you likely to be getting a NEX-3 to review as well? I'm having one helluva time trying to choose a compact system, they're all so pretty.


August 13, 2010, 3:57 am

@ Cliff Smith lol thanks for the reply. What kind of PC specification would be needed to edit 1080p AVCHD codec? Surely this must demand quite a bit.

Cliff Smith

August 13, 2010, 3:05 pm

Zero - I was able to edit video from the NEX-5 on my PC, a fairly average 2.4GHz Pentium dual-core with 4GB RAM and Windows XP Pro, using the supplied Sony software to convert to AVI and Abobe Premier Pro CS3 for the actual editing (CS3 doesn't support AVCHD). To be honest video isn't really my area of expertise. The guy you need is James Morris, who does our camcorder reviews.

James Morris

August 13, 2010, 3:16 pm

Adobe Premiere Pro CS4 and above support AVCHD, and most consumer apps do too. A PC of similar power to Cliff's or even a bit less, will edit the footage. But you'll need something faster for smooth editing.


August 13, 2010, 4:34 pm

@Cliff Smith - The NEX-5 does NOT shoot 1920 x 1080p video, only 1920 x 1080i (in addition to VGA and 1440 x 1080). I guess you didn't bother looking at the specs properly...

BTW, any comments on real life battery performance?? Sony has listed 330 shots (CIPA standard). Which isn't too impressive, but pretty much on par with the competition.

Have a good one!


August 13, 2010, 5:57 pm

Hi Cliff, The NEX 5 does not shoot 1080p video please amend the review with the correct facts.In 1080i each frame of video is sent or displayed in alternative fields. The fields in 1080i are composed of 540 rows of pixels or lines of pixels running from the top to the bottom of the screen, with the odd fields displayed first and the even fields displayed second. Together, both fields create a full frame, made up of all 1,080 pixel rows or lines, every 30th of a second.In 1080p, each frame of video is sent or displayed progressively. This means that both the odd and even fields (all 1,080 pixel rows or pixel lines) that make up the full frame are displayed together. This results in a smoother looking image, with less motion artifacts and jagged edges. The NEX-5 is 1080i a deal breaker for some.

Nicholas Pires

August 13, 2010, 6:02 pm

Actually JK it lists it as 1080i but if you delved deeper online you'd find out that the NEX-5 actually shoots it at 1080p and saves it within a 1080i wrapper. When you go to import the footage into After Effects, Premiere etc it will detect it at it's native 1080p it was recorded in. Battery performance is as Sony has listed give or take a few pictures more (shooting without flash).


August 13, 2010, 6:06 pm

Great review, thanks. Looks like a great camera, definitely on my shortlist.

@<A88>: The NEX-3 is pretty much the same camera isn't it? Plastic body and 720p video aside, that is...

@JK: "I guess you didn't bother looking at the specs properly..."

Crikey, harsh much? Feel free to point out discrepancies, but it's not necessary to twist the knife. If you want them to answer your question on battery life, it's really not a good tactic...


August 13, 2010, 9:31 pm

@Chris - It might have sounded a bit harsh. But when I check out at a new product, I always look through the 'Specifications' on the manufacturer's website. And Sony mentions that the NEX-5 records in 1920 x 1080i on several occasions. So it became a bit irritating when Cliff talked about 1080p in the video review, the written review and here in the comments.

I don't know what 'Nicholas Pires' is talking about, I haven't read about that. But it sounds stupid to cover a "piece of gold" with "horse crap", even if you can wash away the "horse crap" with 'After Effets, Premiere etc.' to get your "piece of gold" back. As 'easyrider' says, 1080i might be a dealbreaker for some.

As for the question about battery life, it was just something that seem to have been completely forgotten. Cliff usually mentions it at some point in his reviews.

Have a good one!


August 13, 2010, 10:33 pm

@James Morris -- James, will Final Cut Pro or iMovie recognise and edit the footage as 1080p? I'm tempted. But I'm a Mac user...

Thank you /


August 13, 2010, 11:02 pm

I'm new to digital photography. Why would people need the 18mm-55mm lense when 18mm-200mm lense is available ? What the difference between these two lenses besides longer zoom ? How the NEX 5 compare with Panasonic FZ100 ? Is there any big difference in terms of image quality between these two camera ? To me, NEX 5 is pretty much a perfect camera but FZ100 is even better with more features and a big zoom.

John Price-Thomas

August 14, 2010, 12:01 am

I am so tempted to buy a NEX-5, I think its image quality (particularly at high ISO values)together with its overall design very attractive. I would like Cliff Smiths opinion on its operation particularly when using aperture and shutter priority modes(with compensation). I am not of the 'I phone ' generation and as such I little wary of delving into menus to obtain the shot I want


August 14, 2010, 1:34 am

I've had this camera for about a month now and am really enjoying taking photos with it. I started to find myself getting frustrated with the limitations of P&S cameras, especially if I wanted to take pictures in low-light conditions. After much umm'ing and arr'ing I opted for the NEX-5 and I haven't regretted it. Cliff mentions that this camera encourages creative photography and I have to say that I agree with him.

I think that the much criticized control system is, whilst far from perfect, nowhere as bad as some people would have you believe and I've found it to be perfectly usable. I would have prefered some sort of 'quick menu' option for the more commonly used functions, though.


August 14, 2010, 1:43 am

For another £100, I would be tempted to pick the Canon EOS550D with a bigger selection of lenses and accessories but then it's a personal choice for the prospective buyer.


August 14, 2010, 3:04 am

@JK: It's pretty well known that the NEX-5 shoots 1080p30, saved in an 1080i60 container. The reason, simply put, is that the AVCHD codec specification does not support 1080p30. As a result, the majority of cameras that shoot 1080p30 in AVCHD save it in a 1080i60 container (a few use their own custom, non-standard extensions). Most hardware and software that supports 1080p will recognise the video as native 1080p30 and let you play and / or edit it without deinterlacing.

Here's a thread from dpreview from a couple of weeks ago that explains things:


I think you might owe Cliff an apology.

leonid 82

August 14, 2010, 4:35 am

No matter how good these new EVIL cameras are, it'll always be hard to beat the optical viewfinder and Phase detection autofocus of traditional DSLRs.


August 14, 2010, 2:14 pm

Thank you Cliff, for an excellent review. I have been interested in this camera since it was announced. But I was a bit disappointed by the average reviews it got from many photography sites, mainly attributed to the menu system.

But I guess the point is, that this is not a camera for the professional user, but rather for a compact shooter like me, wanting a bit more quality in my pictures.

I was quite shocked comparing the Sidemouth Seaside shots of the G2 and NX10, there seems to be quite a big difference.

I also have to give the comments section a 10/10 for the debate about video quality. I must admit it is a bit funny that Sony only says this camera will do 1080i, when it actually does 1080p, but I guess it is fine as long as it is to the consumers advantage.

James Morris

August 14, 2010, 3:21 pm

@Timray I'm not generally a Mac user (although I have written for Mac User in the past!), but as the Sony AVCHD footage is stored within a 1080i wrapper it should be fully compatible with either Mac editing app.


August 14, 2010, 4:50 pm

The scores for this camera is higher than Canon 550D in every categories, does this means this camera is better than Canon 550D dSLR camera ??

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