The Sony NEX-5 is the smallest interchangeable lens system camera on the market, using a new APS HD CMOS sensor. Is the NEX-5 the new king of 'hybrid' cameras? The What Digital Camera Sony NEX-5 full review takes a look...

Product Overview

Overall rating:


Sony NEX-5

Overall score:90%
Image Quality:95%


  • Image Quality, small system


  • Slow start up time, options tucked away in menus, accessory port fiddly to use


Sony NEX-5 Review


Price as reviewed:


Image Quality & Value

Sony NEX-5 review – Image Quality

Sony NEX-5: Tone & Exposure

Exposure is accurate, with all exposure modes responding correctly and exposing images with fair bias between shadows and highlights. Far from flat images sit well off the LCD screen and more so when looked at on the computer. Turning on Sony’s D-Range Optimiser (DRO) sees shadow and mid-ranges lifted, with the highest setting often proving over-zealous, though is useful in the right circumstances.


The ARW Raw file type is very similar to its JPEG counterpart. Load up in the provided software and it’s possible to process Raw files as TIFF or JPEG with a variety of quality settings. Unprocessed the Raw files retain ever so slightly more sharpness detail, though this is negligible at lower ISO settings. The JPEG files have a slightly more accurate colour rendition and contrast is pushed to a pleasing level, all of which could easily be achieved in post-production from the Raw file. The option of shooting both is certainly a plus point for those serious about processing files for the best results possible.

Sony NEX-5: Colour & White Balance

Colour proved to be well-measured; punchy and bright where needed. Auto White Balance was very consistent throughout varying ISO settings and repeat shots, and there were no particularly over-caste scenes to shout about – the previous Sony DSLR models have tended to drift towards cooler, bluer tones, but this doesn’t seem apparent with the NEX-5.

Sony NEX-5: ISO Sensitivity & Image Noise

With a high ISO setting of up to 12,800 it’s impressive just how much clarity the NEX-5 retains throughout its image range. Starting at the ISO 200 mark (would like to see a lower ISO 100 setting too though!) image noise really isn’t an issue at all to around ISO 800 where the slightest traces of colour noise begin to appear in darker areas. However, right up to ISO 3200 images retain very low-noise and have a grain-like quality that lends well to printing. In short, the NEX-5 takes the lead against all the other Micro System Cameras out there in terms of image quality. Even ISO 6400 and 12,800 are entirely useable, though a variety of image noise does begin to limit quality and sharpness.

Sony NEX-5 sample image

Sony NEX-5: Sharpness & Detail

Using the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 lens delivered really exceptional results. Sharpness glistens and detail is exuded throughout, with the large APS HD CMOS sensor providing a pleasing depth of field, even from the relatively modest f/3.5 aperture. Detail will diminish at higher ISO settings due to noise reduction, though this has no bearing on what’s a quality kit lens.

Sony NEX-5 review – Value For Money

Whereas many Sony products may carry a premium price tag, the NEX-5 shrewdly aligns itself against the market competition. At £590 with the 18-55mm lens, it’s a shade less than Panasonic’s touchscreen G2, and around £90 more than both Samsung’s NX10 kit or Olympus’s E-PL1. Different kit formations will see different prices, with the forthcoming 16mm pancake lens kit around the £500-550 mark or the 18-200mm telephoto kit nearer the £1000 mark. At every level, however, the pricetag doesn’t exceed that of a DSLR price, nor is it beyond unreasonable for a considered purchase. The only comeuppance, at present, is the limitation to three lenses and, with Sony waiting for customer feedback and focus groups at a later date, the arrival of newer lenses won’t be especially rapid – an area that Micro Four Thirds currently dominates with its more significant portfolio of lenses that helps attribute greater value to the Olympus and Panasonic camps.

  1. 1. Sony NEX-5 review - Features
  2. 2. Design
  3. 3. Performance
  4. 4. Image Quality & Value
  5. 5. Verdict
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