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Sony Alpha NEX-5 Digital Camera Review

sony20100705.jpgDigital Camera Review by: Katrina Putker 

 

At the time of its Australian release (May 10, 2010) the NEX-5K was touted as the world’s smallest and lightest interchangeable lens digital camera body and indeed has proven to be both of those things.


The body alone weighs in at just 287g with both the battery and memory card on board and even when mounted with the 18-55mm lens, the entire unit remains remarkably lightweight. To compliment the ease of handling resulting in the minimal weight, the NEX-5K has a comfortable and meaty hand grip and a perfectly placed rubber thumb grip which, while small, proves very effective.

This little Sony powerhouse completely denies its size and stature by hosting a 14.2-megapixel CMOS sensor. On top of that, it's able to shoot full HD 1080i videos in AVCHD or MP4 format. Users can opt to shoot in either standard (3:2) or widescreen (16:9) format and a prompt autofocus system helps to track and capture all the action unfolding at a moment's notice in front of you.

An extensive ISO range of 200-12,800 is available and in a rarely noted breath of fresh air, Sony doesn't attempt to deny the unavoidable noise that will be present shooting way up at ISO 12,800, warning users that, “Image roughness becomes more apparent” at this setting. Fair enough and no surprises there however the honesty is certainly appreciated.

A nice background defocus effect is available in auto intelligent mode, which is a quick and easy way for users to select the level of bokeh present in their images i.e. how much of their image is in focus and the degree to which the background is blurry.

In essence, it acts an automated aperture control that alters the depth of field and offers users an on-screen preview of the result prior to firing the shutter. All in all a very simple yet effective idea that delivers on the promise of adding an additional dimension to images (as well as HD movies.)

Image quality is quite good overall with a couple of exceptions. The NEX-5K has a tendency to underexposed images, which is likely fixable with a little exposure compensation adjustments, and can occasionally block up skin tones so they appear somewhat patchy to a trained eye. Aside from these minor gripes, images were sharp, colour reproduced quite well and the defocus effect created some truly beautiful and appealing results

The NEX-5K's 3-inch widescreen format TFT TruBlack LCD provides a truly remarkable picture with some 921K-dots of resolution. It represents colour faithfully and offers one of the sharpest previews Buy-n-Shoot has even seen on a camera of this size.

The moveable slimline screen pulls out and away from the NEX-5K's body and allows for adjustable angles of approximately 80 degrees up and some 45 degrees down to allow for flexible and accurate compositions be they from above the head, at the toe or by the hip etc.

Smile detection with adjustable levels of sensitivity (slight, normal and big) is one of the most accurate and prompt systems of its kind trialled by Buy-n-Shoot and so is a feature that should be utilised where convenient.

The internal menu system is attractively and neatly laid out. Scrolling through the many options is fast and easy and helpful explanations/definitions of each available option are automatically displayed to help users understand and best control the NEX-5K.

Eight scene modes are available and include: portrait, landscape, macro, sports action, sunset, night portrait, night view and hand-held night shot. As users scroll through the options, a sample image is provided along with an explanation of what the scene mode does and/or when to best use it.

A separate anti motion blur mode is available to help minimise the effects of blur when shooting either indoors under low light or when photographing telephoto.

Useful shooting tips are available relevant to your current settings at the push of a button and include information on how to best hold the camera, position subjects off-centre, avoid blur, shoot group photos, make children smile, freeze motion and form light trails to name but a few.

An impressive seven frame per second 3D sweep panorama mode is also accessible and automatically (and promptly) stitches images together in camera for both horizontal or vertical panos in just a few clicks. Admittedly the user must have a steady hand in order to allow for accurate stitching and so some practice will be required for the best results but, particularly for those with a compatible Sony Bravia 3D TV, the practice will be well worth it.

Manual, program, aperture and shutter priority modes are available for those who don't want to rely on intelligent auto (despite its effectiveness) but prefer to have full creative control over their picture taking (either in RAW, JPEG or both formats simultaneously) instead.

It's important to note that the NEX-5K doesn't come with a built-in flash. An external flash unit is available for optional purchase and inserts into a proprietary accessory connector that accepts either the HVL-F7S flash, an optical viewfinder or an an external stereo microphone accessory.medal-gold-r.jpg

The flash unit has a guide number of seven meters at 100 ISO and when not in use is said to fold neatly down against the lens mount. As a result of being complimentary to the NEX-5K in terms of its compact size and weight, the coverage of the HVL-F7S is reported to be somewhat narrow (NB: a flash unit was not supplied for this review).


Overall, this affordable interchangeable lens system camera is no doubt aimed primarily at enthusiasts looking to upgrade from the compact realm but aren't yet ready or willing to leap into expensive and often bulky DSLR territory.

Sony suggests that professionals may also like to consider the NEX-5K as a compact back-up unit in their kit and given the solid standard of image quality, compact design, ease-of-use and versatility of an interchangeable lens camera of its size and for its price, we at Buy-n-Shoot agree.


 

Appearance rating 4.5 stars
Functionality rating 4 stars
Image quality
4 stars
Lens quality
3.5 stars
View finder / LCD screen 4.5 stars
Value for money 4 stars
RRP (AUD)

RRP $1,049 

SPACER.GIF  
Effective Pixels 14.2 megapixels
Image Sensor
APS-C type (23.4x15.6mm), "Exmor" APS HD CMOS sensor with RGB primary color filters
Image Sizes 3 Sizes
Resolution Settings (Aspect ratio 3:2) L: 4592 x 3056 (14M), M: 3344 x 2224 (7.4M), S: 2288 x 1520 (3.5M)
Resolution Settings (Aspect ratio 16:9) L: 4592 x 2576 (12M), M: 3344 x 1872 (6.3M), S: 2288 x 1280 (2.9M)
Manual Focus Yes
Auto Focus Yes
Aperture Priority Yes
Shutter Priority Yes
Shutter Speeds 1/4000 to 30 sec, Bulb
Exposure Metering System
Multi / Center / Spot selectable
Exposure Modes Programmed AE (iAUTO, P), Aperture priority (A), Shutter-speed priority (S), Manual (M)
ISO AUTO (ISO200-1600), ISO200 to 12800 selectable (in 1EV steps, Recommended Exposure Index)
LCD Monitor Yes
LCD Size 7.5cm (3.0-type) wide type TFT, Xtra Fine LCD with TruBlack technology
Viewfinder No
Hot Shoe Yes, External flash (supplied), attachable to Smart Accessory Terminal
White Balance Auto, Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Flash, C. temp./Filter (2500- 9900k with 19-step Magenta/Green compensation)
Self Timer 10/2 sec delay selectable, Cont.: with 10 sec delay, 3/5 exposures selectable
HD Movie Option Yes
Movie Sizes 1920x1080 (Full HD), 1440x1080 (MP4), 640x480 (VGA)
Video Out Yes
Storage Type Memory Stick PRO Duo / Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo, SD memory card / SDHC memory card / SDXC memory card
Still Image Format/s JPEG (DCF Ver.2.0, Exif Ver.2.3, MPF Baseline compliant), RAW (Sony ARW 2.2 format), RAW & JPEG
Movie Image Format/s AVCHD, MP4
Audio Format/s Dolby Digital (AC-3) / MPEG-4 AAC-LC
Connectivity

PC Interface - USB2.0 Hi-speed (Mass-storage, PTP),

HD Output - HDMI mini connector (Type-C), BRAVIA Sync (link menu), PhotoTV HD

Power Source Battery charger BC-VW1(supplied), AC Adaptor AC-PW20AM*5
Battery Options One rechargeable battery pack NP-FW50
Battery Life
Approx. 330 images (CIPA standard)
Dimensions 110.8 x 58.8 x 38.2mm (without protrusions)
Weight Approx. 229g Body Only

 


 


 

 

 

 
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