Hands on: Sony NEX5

June 14, 2010

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For all of you that were waiting eagerly for more news on Sony’s E-mount based NEX3 and NEX5 I was lucky enough to attend the launch roadshow here in Australia. This event was held at Luna Park and enabled the attendee’s a proper play with these cameras. There were plenty of NEX5’s to go around, each equipped with the 18-55mm lens. There wasn’t a single 16mm pancake in sight though.

What did I think? My first impression was that this thing is pretty well built. It feels solid and reassuring with its generous grip and metal lens body. However as you started to dig deeper and try to use the camera it’s flaws really start to show.

Main Menu of the NEX5

As someone what uses DSLR I naturally was interested to see how Sony had delivered the promise of control. Quite simply they didn’t. The external controls were not ideally positioned with the rear real estated dominated by the nice 920K dot 3″ LCD, leaving the main controls to sit on the far right, right where your thumb rests. This meant that whenever you went for a secure grip (especially in portrait orientation) you inadvertently pressed some buttons. As for actual manual controls….they were frustrating. Using the CyberShot style D-pad to control aperture and shutter speed is neither comfortable, nor easy as unlike most systems scrolling up does not do the opposite of scrolling down when you are trying to switch between shutter and aperture. I definitely prefer the implementation on the Lumix LX-3 and similar compact cameras, or better still, the SLR-like controls found on the EP1/EP2, NX10 and G1/GH1/GF1.

The NEX5 screen when shooting in P mode

The accessory flash is a nice touch, being small enough to be attached permanently, but at the same time it is incredibly fiddly to mount and remove, and there is no option to mount a larger flash unlike the NEX3/NEX5’s competition. The availability of a dedicated microphone (for video) is a nice touch, as are the lens converters for the 16mm pancake.

Unfortunately we didn’t get the chance to take home any photos taken with the NEX5 so I cannot comment on image quality. However, with it’s 14.2MP Exmor CMOS sensor it should be close to that of the Alpha A550 (which is the most likely source of this sensor).

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