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Light and reliable

Sony’s first interchangeable lens camera has spectacular image quality and is compact in size.

india Updated: Feb 01, 2011 13:31 IST
Nikhil Hemrajani

Sony’s first interchangeable lens camera has spectacular image quality and is compact in size.

Looks and design
The NEX-5 is surprisingly light and compact. The body itself is the smallest in its class of interchangeable lens cameras. The same cannot be said about its big lenses though, as these are built larger to accommodate for the bigger image sensor. Though build quality seems sturdy and the device is well-designed, the plastic body is a bit of a turn off. Similarly-priced cameras such as the Canon Powershot G12 or the Panasonic GF2 have higher quality builds.

To make it easier for those moving up from compact models, you won’t find buttons littered all over the camera. This can be a good or an irritating thing depending on your level of proficiency or enthusiasm, for that matter. The top panel has a tacky on/off switch, dual mics for recording stereo audio and a playback button for viewing photos and videos. The power button seems as if it might break after repeated usage — so be a bit careful when switching it on and off. The back panel has a large and sharp 3-inch screen with nearly 1 million pixels. It’s very sharp and packs in accurate colours and good contrast. There’s no sort of mode dial to change from manual shooting to shutter or aperture priority. All settings are handled via the menus – this can be a big bother and time-consumer if you want a particular setting when taking a photo. The combination rotary dial and five-way controller makes navigating the menus or performing other operations a piece of cake. Finally, the flash can be detached to save space.

The NEX-5 sports a 14-megapixel sensor that will let you shoot photos in the RAW format (in addition to JPEG) and allows for high definition 1920x1080i video recording. The camera accepts both — Sony memory stick and SD card formats making it quite convenient to use. The LCD screen is of the tilt variety — meaning it can be angled upwards and pulled outwards to assist in tricky angles. The camera is available in different lens configurations — the one we tested had a standard 18-55mm zoom with f3.5-5.6 aperture.

Photo quality on the NEX-5 is excellent as long as you’re shooting in the RAW format. JPEG photos are very smudgy at high ISO levels like 3200 and beyond because of the heavy noise reduction applied. Full HD video is sharp with accurate dynamic range even in low light. Some additional features like Sweep Panorama make taking panoramic shots a simple affair. Just pan the camera from one side to the other to get a 180-degree photo.

What we Like
Excellent image quality
Very compact and light
Sharp and clear screen

What we don’t
Very few buttons
Only three lens options

Photo and video quality are very impressive in this interchangeable lens camera. However, you only have three lenses to choose from at the moment – an 18-55mm, a 16mm wide angle, and an 18-200mm zoom. Pricing of the NEX-5 with the 18-55mm lens is R 34,990, which is quite expensive. That you can only change settings and parameters from the menu is quite frustrating too. What you do get is best-in-class photo quality from a camera that is something of a point-and-shoot. If you don’t mind paying a big sum for it, you will be satisfied.

Rating ***1/2