Sony Alpha NEX-5 Overview
Reviewed by Dave Etchells, Shawn Barnett, Zig Weidelich, and Mike Tomkins
Review Posted: 05/11/2010
Update 06/08/2010: Production-level 16mm lens
As the fourth major manufacturer to enter the market for small, mirrorless digital cameras with interchangeable lenses, Sony had to make a big impression. We think they’ll do just that with the new Sony NEX-5 and NEX-3, two cameras they’re calling “alpha compact interchangeable lens digital cameras.”
The promise of mirrorless digital cameras has been high image quality without all the bulk, and the photographic versatility of interchangeable lenses. The Sony NEX-5 delivers that better than any model so far, and does it with style and a sturdy build.
There are so many interesting innovations in the Sony NEX-5 and NEX-3, that it’s difficult to know where to start. Easily the biggest news, though, is that the Sony NEX series is the first interchangeable lens digital camera system designed to tackle continuous autofocus and exposure adjustment while recording video, where all the components, bodies and lenses, support the feature. (Panasonic’s GH1 was the first to take on this challenge, but only Panasonic’s HD lenses support these advanced features, not every Micro Four Thirds lens.) Video is indeed the one major area, aside from size, where the two new cameras differ: The NEX-5 supports 1080i AVCHD video recording, while the NEX-3 is limited to 720p video capture.
A 14-megapixel Exmor APS HD CMOS sensor is responsible for the high quality we found in the images from both cameras, and a new Bionz processor is also hard at work in the two cameras.
Several hot features were brought over from recent Alphas and Cyber-shot digital cameras, including Sweep Panorama, Auto High-Dynamic Range shooting, Handheld Twilight, and Anti-motion-blur modes, each of which strategically combine and align several images into one seamless one. It’s pretty impressive stuff. As if that weren’t enough, Sony’s also announcing an upcoming upgrade (even before the cameras ship!) that will enable a special 3D Sweep Panorama mode that will work with several as-yet unannounced Bravia TV sets coming in July 2010.
Both the Sony NEX-5 and NEX-3 sport a wide, 3-inch LCD with 921,000-dot resolution. The surprise is that the super-slim LCD tilts up 80 degrees and down 45 degrees for easy viewing. With TruBlack technology borrowed from Sony’s picture frames, shooting in or out of doors is a pretty good experience.
Though by name the new cameras are Alphas, they no longer use the Alpha mount; instead Sony has christened a new E-mount, for which two lenses will ship right away, both as kit lenses. The first is a fairly standard 18-55mm f/3.5-6.3 lens with Optical SteadyShot, and the second is a 16mm f/2.8 pancake prime lens. Both have a beautiful aluminum barrel in brushed gunmetal gray.
An adapter is available for mounting Alpha lenses, but autofocus will be disabled with the NEX cameras. Two converters will also ship for use with the 16mm lens: an Ultra Wide Converter with a 12mm equivalent view, and a Fisheye Converter.
Finally, an 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 OSS lens is planned for shipment some time this year.
Both the Sony NEX-5 and NEX-3 accept both Memory Stick Pro Duo/Pro-HG Duo/Pro-HG HX Duo and SD, SDHC, and SDXC media.
The NEX-5A will ship in July with the 16mm lens for US$650, while the NEX-5K with the 18-55mm lens will sell for US$700. NEX-3A cameras with the 16mm lens will sell for US$550, while the NEX-3K cameras with the 18-55mm will sell for US$650.