Hands-on with Sony’s NEX-5

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Posted May 30, 2010 by Thomas Shambler in Featured

If there’s one thing we love here at Stuff, it’s powerful kit squeezed into slimline shells. Yes, smaller is better and thin is definitely in. That’s why we’ve fallen for Sony‘s Alpha NEX-5 hybrid-cam. Like its Micro Four Thirds cousins from Olympus and Panasonic, the NEX-5 (and baby bro NEX-3) pack DSLR-like skills in a pocket-friendly shell. But with the compact interchangeable lens market heating up faster than a camera in a microwave, can the NEX-5 stand up to the competition?

We had a brief sit-down with the friendly blokes at Sony Middle East today, who brought with them a gaggle of NEX-5s and accessories. After a brief play with these super snappers, and wiping up the dribble from our gaping mouths, we can tell you one thing – it’s the world’s most covetable camera.

Of course, we’ve seen Sony‘s NEX-5 before. In fact, on paper it’s one of the most highly-specced snappers out there. That’s why we’re happy to report it’s just as good off paper in our happy hands. Pick up the NEX-5 for the first time, and you’ll be welcomed with a magnesium alloy frame and lenses finished with brushed aluminum. It’s available in silver or black (the NEX-3 gets a red version, too) while the small-but-impressive 16mm pancake lens complements the cams slim stylings.

Speaking of lenses, you’ll have a choice between three at launch, the 16mm pancake, an 18-55 zoom lens or a brilliant-but-expensive 18-200mm version. It will also work with Sony’s Alpha DSLR lenses, but you’ll need a special adapter sold separately.

To keep the size down, the NEX-5 comes with an attachable flash in the box. There’s also a stick-on viewfinder compatible with the 16mm pancake lens and an exterior mic for movie junkies.

Unlike its Micro Four Third rivals, the NEX-5 packs a full-sized APS-C sensor (the same as Sony packs in its Alpha DSLR range). It’s 50 per cent bigger than Olympus and Panasonic‘s efforts, which means less noise at higher ISO levels and much better low-light performance. Sony has also stuck a load of killer software inside the NEX-5′s trim figure, making the snapper as user-friendly as possible. There are a few buttons on the back, with a simple scroll wheel for navigation. The menu system is more mobile phone than camera, with handy shooting tips available for any shot you might take.

There are a load of scene modes and effects also, varying from the regular ‘dynamic’ and ‘black and white’ to ‘background defocus’ which adjusts depth of field shots to give you nicely blurred scenes. The NEX-5 also benefits from Sony’s quality ‘Sweep Panorama’ mode, that lets you take 224-degree landscape shots in one burst. And this time around, it even supports 3D scenes.

Happily, the camera’s insides are just as good looking as its cool casing. This mega-cam packs 1080i HD recording (the NEX-3 gets 720p), 7fps burst mode and full manual controls. Of course, no camera can be perfect, and there are a few niggling flaws. First off, while the body is compact as can be, throw a lens on it and the NEX-5 is far from pocketable. We’ve also heard niggling rumours of a low battery life (hardly surprising for a power-packing camera that’s this small).

That said, its test photos were mighty impressive, the autofocus worked a treat and its low-light shots were crisp and detailed. On the outside, the NEX-5 looks like no other, which is a very good thing in our book.

The NEX-5 and NEX-3 will hit stores in the UAE around mid July, following a global launch in June. No word on pricing yet, but we’ve been told to expect prices below the US$815 mark.

Expect a full review soon.

[Props to Stuff.tv who got us the pictures]


About the Author

Thomas Shambler

Editor of Stuff in the Middle East. Known for his witty reviews and insightful comments on some of the world’s coolest kit, he is responsible for putting together the magazine, testing the newest tech, and writing features at the laser-cut edge of the gadget world. Thomas also makes regular broadcast appearances during which he gives friendly advice and warns the world of the impending robot Armageddon.

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