Photography Reviews

Photography Equipment Review—The Sony NEX 5 Digital Camera

It’s in the nature of many manufacturers (especially those known for their innovation, which is Sony, in this case) to try to find or create a unique niche for themselves in the marketplace, which it hopes results in a competitive advantage. This appeared to be Sony’s strategy when it developed its NEX series of digital cameras. The niche it created for the NEX 5, and the other cameras in the series, may initially be confusing to consumers. Sporting features and advantages of both compact/point-and-shoot and DSLR cameras, the NEX 5 may not be (after careful consideration) the camera for either type of digital photography.

Read real customer reviews of the Sony NEX 5 here.

The Sony NEX 5 is the size of a compact camera, so it conveniently fits in a pocket or small bag. Hidden inside, however, is the heart of a DSLR, with a high quality image sensor and the capability to interchange lenses. That would seem to make it the best of both worlds, but reality is not usually that perfect; and the NEX 5, for all its advantages, will still leave many camera buyers scratching their heads.

The Pros

  • Size: The NEX 5 has the same dimensions of an average compact camera (approximately 4” wide and 2” tall). It fits in a pocket when paired with the 16mm f/2.8 lens.
  • Weight: At 9 ounces (body only), it will feel as if you’re carrying nothing at all.
  • Construction: The all-metal body looks and feels substantial and durable. Characteristics the NEX 5 shares with the better DSLRs.
  • LCD Screen: Covering most of the camera’s back, the three-inch screen tilts and provides high-resolution views. The NEX 5 may not have an optical viewfinder, but many photographers will find the LCD screen more than adequate.
  • Image quality: The NEX 5 produces nothing short of spectacularly sharp images (with an excellent lens), given its 14MP APS-C sensor, with which most DSLRs are equipped.
  • Lens Versatility: You can use more lenses with the NEX 5 because of all the lens adapters in the market. The camera will accept Sony’s larger A-Mount DSLR lenses and, with the right adapter, lenses from Canon, Nikon, Leica and other manufacturers. Be aware that most of these third-party adapters allow only manual focus.
  • Other positives of the Sony NEX 5 camera are an incredible 7 frames per second (fps), remarkable results in low light, wide ISO range (200 to 12,800) and very good 1080i video.

The Cons

  • Price: To take advantage of the features and functions of the NEX 5, you’ll pay $650 (with the 16mm f/2.8 “pancake” lens) at the low end and as much as $799 at the high end, if you choose to bundle it with the image-stabilized 18–55mm f/3.5–5.6 zoom lens. That makes the NEX 5 comparable in price to some DSLR cameras, such as the Canon T2i or Nikon D3100.
  • Size: Yes, the size becomes an issue as soon as you pair it with a lens bigger than the 16mm f/2.8 “pancake.” That combination will fit in a pocket or small bag; but attach a bigger lens and you’ll have to carry it around your neck just like a DSLR. If you are planning on buying a camera that accepts interchangeable lenses and you’ll be using telephotos or telephoto zooms, then it would seem to make more sense to purchase a typical DSLR instead.
  • Lens choices: In the Pros section above, the NEX 5 was touted as a camera that could work with many kinds of lenses, when an adapter is added. That may be true, but there are only three Sony-brand lenses that can be attached to the NEX 5: The aforementioned “pancake” and 18–55mm zoom, plus an 18–200mm f/3.5–6.3 zoom. This is due to NEX 5 being designed with a new lens mount, designated as “E.” No doubt, Sony will expand the series of lenses for the NEX 5, but most of the other DSLR manufacturers (Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Olympus, Panasonic, etc.) already have broad and mature lines of lenses.
  • Fewer controls: To give the NEX 5 a small, compact look and footprint, Sony found it necessary to reduced the number of assigned controls, such as ISO, white balance, focus area, etc. You can designate two of these missing controls to the two custom buttons, using the latest firmware; but two is not enough.

The Sony NEX 5 is clearly in an unusual niche, considering that some of its positive features are also negatives. At its price point and with its limitations, it’s difficult to choose it over a fully-load DSLR. It may not be the best buy as your only camera. It would seem to be better suited as a second camera that is easier to carry and shoot than a standard-size DSLR, but one that also gives you comparable picture quality.

Learn more about Sony’s NEX series of cameras when you read the PhotographyTalk.com article, Digital Photography Equipment Review—The Sony NEX-C3 Camera.

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