The newest entry into the mirrorless interchangeable lens small camera club that until now has been dominated by the Micro 4/3 cameras from Olympus and Panasonic. The NEX bodies up the ante by giving you a 1.5x (APS) size sensor rather than the 2x sensor of the micro 4/3 cameras. Sony states this is 58% more surface area than a Four Thirds imaging sensor and provides 14 Megapixel resolution with ISO settings up to 12800 (notice we use the word setting, not usable ISO). Despite the larger sensor, the NEX is physically smaller by a noticeable margin than the others.
There are several other welcome features including a 3", 920,000 pixel TruBlack LCD that can be tilted downward 45 degrees and upwards of 80 degrees for composing still or video images from extreme angles and/or in tighter shooting quarters. The camera is capable of shooting 7 frames per second (again, we said capable of shooting, not capable of focusing), but Sony does claim the contrast-detection autofocus is reasonably quick, focusing in about 1/3 of a second using 25 autofocus points. There is also Manual Focus Assist mode that magnifies the viewfinder for clear focusing. It has a host of other cool features including HD (1080i) movie recording, Sweep Panorama mode (hold down the shutter and sweep across the landscape, the camera takes several images and stitches them together), automatic HDR, and others. The NEX-5 differs from the NEX-3 in its magnesium body and higher video resolution and capabilities.
The camera ships with the available 16mm f/2.8 lens. The camera requires SD cards which are not included. And, of course, copyright laws prevent us from sending software with the camera.
16mm f/2.8 lens
Tim’s TakeDon’t underestimate this camera. Yes the current selection of E-mount lenses suck, but that’s not where this camera shines. Put some Zeiss ZM lenses with the Leica M to Sony NEX adapter on this bad boy and you’ve got yourself a fantastic little machine. Yes, the Olympus and Panasonic M4/3 cameras are small and have a much larger lens selection. However, they don’t have a 14mp APS-C sized sensor that gives you actual usable results at ISO’s higher than 400. How usable? 20″ × 30″ printed images at ISO 1600 on a camera that fits in your pocket usable, and I’m a nitpicker.
I’ll be the first to admit I was obsessed with the m4/3 when they came out, but this little guy is different. The output quality is just that good, so much so that I myself bought one. I have D3x’s and 5D Mark II’s at my disposal, but I would still choose this little guy with a good Leica lens in front of it. Controls take a little to get used to, but they are manageable. Watch out for these guys. They’re gonna change the game.
But the lenses just aren’t there. The available lenses are, at best, adequate. Ok, I’m lying. They aren’t even adequate—they pretty much suck. At least I think it’s the lenses and not the camera, but until we can play with shooting some known lenses on adapters, I will assume it’s the lenses, because the signs are there: weak corners and edges, a bit of chromatic aberration, etc. that looks like cheap lenses. Until then, the NEX 3 and 5 are cameras I would only take out for experimenting, or on the “better than a point-and-shoot” basis.
Addendum: It seems that my initial assumption was correct. When we tried mounting some good Sony Alpha lenses via the NEX Adapter the images were remarkably better. Excellent, even. It requires manual focus, but the rumor is that the newest firmware upgrade will allow at least some lenses to autofocus, and Sony’s manual focus assist really is excellent. With a good lens in front of it, this really is a very good camera.
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