Sony Alpha NEX-3 and NEX-5 Digital Cameras
|November 22, 2010||Posted by admin under Sony|
The new polycarbonate NEX-3 and the even smaller magnesium alloy NEX-5 are very petite but they employ an oversized sensor. This allows for fine image quality even at high ISO and for very shallow depth of field effects when desired. The 14-megapixel cameras also boast the fastest available autofocus in Movie mode, available with 720p and 1080i resolution, respectively.
The two models are nearly identical in other aspects, including a tilting 3″ (921,000-dot) TruBlack LCD screen and an oversized lens mount. The new E-mount lenses – with fast/silent auto-focus and a gorgeous aluminum barrel – are not tiny because they must project an image circle that will fill the 23.4 x 15.6 mm Exmor HD CMOS sensor. The 16-mm f/2.8 “pancake” lens is very slim, while the 18-55-mm f/3.5-5.6 and the 18-200-mm f/3.5-6.3 zooms – with built-in stabilizer – are quite large. Add an optional adapter and the familiar Alpha-mount lenses can be used too, though only with manual focus.
There’s no hot shoe though a slot on the top of the body accepts the small flash unit (included) or the optional external stereo mic. Sony has installed some of the best high-tech features from its Cyber-Shot digicams plus some entirely new amenities.
Many NEX users will love the very intuitive Defocus feature that sets the best aperture for the user-designated effect: a blurred or sharp background. Other useful options include Anti-Motion-Blur, Hand-Held Twilight modes, and even Sweep Panorama with in-camera stitching and a 3D mode. The latter produces a realistic 3D effect when the panoramic photos are viewed with the special glasses on a new Bravia TV.
The NEX cameras were designed for simplicity in snap shooting so they feature only two buttons and an input dial. The menu employs a graphical interface with icons, a short description of each feature, plus a complete help guide. This arrangement is certainly convenient in quick picture taking, but advanced operation requires a lot of menu navigation. Experienced shooters will find that to be time consuming. Frankly, I wish that Sony had added an [Fn] button for quick access to the functions often used for serious photography.
Speed and Quality
A NEX camera powers up in under two seconds and can focus in 1/3 s outdoors or 1/2 s in low light. A D SLR is even quicker but I rarely missed a photo opportunity. The 2.3-fps drive mode was useful during a cycle race and the 7-fps mode – with AF and exposure locked at the first shot – is great for situations where the camera-to-subject distance is stable.
Thanks to the large HD sensor, 720p movies (in MP4) look fine and the 1080i full-HD videos (in AVCHD) are particularly pleasing.
Overrides are not available in Movie mode, a drawback when the NEX camera is compared to most D SLRs. Still, JPEG quality is also impressive. My ISO 200 to 800 JPEGs made excellent 13 x 19″ prints after a bit of sharpening in Photoshop; larger prints should look great too.
And that’s not a typo; ISO 800 quality is amazing. There’s a slight loss of detail by ISO 1600, but my best shots were fine for very nice 8.5 x 11″ prints; even ISO 3200 was suitable for very good 5×7 ” prints.
- Tiny/slim but with a tilting ultra high-res 3″ LCD
- Full-featured yet straightforward for novices
- Excellent image quality even at ISO 800
- No electronic viewfinder; does not accept large/powerful flash
- Zoom lenses are quite large due to the oversized sensor
- A more conventional interface would be better for serious photography
During the test period, I filed only a few complaints about the stylish/sturdy Sony Alpha NEX-5 system. The flash unit is small and a bit weak (with a GN of 7, in meters). The optional viewfinder is suitable only with the 16-mm lens, although the LCD screen is much better than average. But all of that was quickly forgotten while viewing the outstanding 13 x 19″ prints made from my best JPEG and Raw captures.
Similar Cameras from Sony
- DSLR-quality in about half the size and weight
- 16 MP APS-C sensor with fast up to 10 fps shooting speed
- Fast Hybrid AF includes phase-detection for DSLR-like focus
- Full HD movie shooting at 60p/24p with full exposure control
- Wi-Fi sharing and downloadable camera apps
- Pocket camera with professional-grade performance
- 24.3 MP for superb detail and amazing enlargements
- World’s first OLED electronic viewfinder; 2359K dots
- Up to 10 fps shooting to capture the decisive moment
- APS-C CMOS sensor for DSLR-class imaging
- 16.1 MP Exmor APS HD CMOS image sensor
- Full HD movie shooting 60i/24p
- LCD tilts down 13°, up 180° for low-angle and self-portrait shots
- Up to 5.5 fps shooting to capture the decisive moment
- Photo Creativity provides easy access to image adjustments
- 6-image layering: Anti Motion Blur & Hand-held Twilight
- Auto HDR captures more contrast than one exposure
- 3D Sweep Panorama Mode: incredible views to enjoy on 3D TV
- Intelligent Auto Focus
- iAUTO mode
- Control Wheel and Customizable Soft Keys for fast, simple use
- Exmor APS HD CMOS image sensor
- BIONZ image processor for high speed, low noise
- Dynamic Range Optimizer (DRO) elicits shadow detail
Sony NEX-5 and Sony NEX-3 Video Review