Jul 262010
 

The Sony NEX-3 and NEX-5 Digital Camera Review

By Steve Huff


 

My Fave Shot With The Nex System – My son Brandon with the Sony Nex 3 and 16 f/2.8. Some PP in CS4 but yea, this is good enough for me.

You know, I have taken a long time to evaluate these new Sony cameras, the Sony NEX-3 and NEX-5 and the main reason for that is that I have been unsure about them, even after shooting with them every day. One day I will love them, and on the next I will hate them but after some time with them, my overall felling on them is positive.

I have had the opportunity to shoot with the Nex-3 in silver and the Nex-5 in black, along with both lenses currently available for these cameras. The Sony 16 f/2.8 and the Sony 18-55 Kit Zoom. Sony has taken a chance with these, and by doing so they have created a really unique camera that goes head to head against the other smaller high quality cameras on the market today. I’d first like to say BRAVO to Sony for creating something “different”.

The Sony NEX-3 with 16 f/2.8

and the NEX-5 with the 18-55…click for large version

Sony Design

The first thing that struck me when I received them is the size of the bodies. THEY ARE TINY, especially the NEX-5. The design takes me back quite a few years to when Sony were one of the most innovative companies out there making digital cameras. Anyone remember the Sony F-505, the F-707 and F-717? At the time, those were some AMAZING digital cameras with their “shotgun” swivel lenses.

The legendary Sony F-505 – At the time, this was an amazing digital camera with its swivel front lens and small body. The sensor was tiny, but I see some of the same design elements in todays NEX series. NOt with the swivel lens, but the body style and overall breakthrough design.

 

 

The New NEX Series Design and Concept

When the NEX-5 arrived, I was pleased with its metal build and size. It was slightly smaller than the NEX-3 and felt better in the hand. If I were to buy one, it would be the 5 just for its size, build and feel. The image quality between the two is exactly the same as they use the same “innards” and sensor.  Here are a couple of videos I made, one on the 3 and one on the 5.

This was my 1st look at the Sony NEX-3

and one for the NEX-5…

The concept of the Sony NEX series is to have ONE camera that will offer you quality, size, and features in one small, take anywhere sturdy body. The cool thing about the NEX cameras is that they have the larger APS-C sensor, which is bigger than the micro 4/3 sensor cameras. What does this mean? Well, the bigger the sensor, the better the image quality, ISO noise, and dynamic range!

The Sony, on paper at least, looks like an amazing camera and the ONE to beat in this small camera rat race. My question was, how does it really perform? Does it beat my Olympus PEN? The Leica X1?

Here are a few shots of the NEX 5 so you can get an idea of how big that kit zoom is!

The Sony NEX-5 with Silver Kit Zoom 18-55

So while the Kit Zoom is rather large, in practice it is not so bad. It’s light and make it easy to hold the camera. No issues with the weight, as this camera is small and light.

The NEX 3 in the car with the 16mm f/2.8

The Sony NEX -5 Features

The feature list is LOOOONG!

Smallest in Class

This is the world’s smallest interchangeable lens digital still camera (as of April 2010). Removing the conventional mirror box, AF sensor and viewfinder, and reducing the “flange back” distance enables image quality of a DSLR in a camera that’s 48% smaller and 49% lighter than Sony’s compact DSLRs.

APS-C Size HD Image Sensor

The NEX-5 contains the same sensor format that Sony builds into the full-sized DSLRs. With 13 times the area of the typical image sensor, APS-C makes the difference between “snapshots” and “photographs,” delivering an exceptional combination of high resolution, high sensitivity and gorgeous, blurred backgrounds.

Interchangeable Lenses

Compatible with Sony’s E-mount series of smaller, lighter lenses designed specifically for α compact interchangeable lens cameras. Opens up a world of creative options.

First in Class with 1080/60i Video

This is the world’s first interchangeable lens still camera with 1080/60i AVCHD Full HD, exactly the same resolution and frame rate as most broadcast and cable HDTV channels. Records in 1080/60i AVCHD format, 1080/30p high definition in PC-friendly MP4 format and standard definition 480/30p in MP4 format.

14.2 Megapixel Resolution

You get incredible detail and gorgeous enlargements. Thanks to the APS-C sensor size and Sony Exmor APS HD CMOS technology, the camera achieves high resolution with no penalty in low-light sensitivity or sensor noise.

Up to 7 Frames-per-Second

Capture the decisive moment in sports and get the ideal baby photo. Up to 7 fps continuous shooting at full 14.2 MP resolution with exposure and focus fixed at the first frame. Standard continuous shooting at up to 2.3 fps.

ISO 12800 Sensitivity

Incredibly clear low-light pictures without sacrificing detail. As of April 2010, this is best-in-class performance, made possible by low-noise Exmor APS HD CMOS image sensor and refined BIONZ image processor.

Ultra-light Magnesium Alloy Fascia

The camera combines high strength with low weight, thanks to the Magnesium alloy front fascia.

Sweep Panorama

Capture expansive landscapes automatically. Press the shutter, sweep vertically or horizontally. The camera does the rest, continuously shooting images and stitching them together. Up to 23 MP image size. Up to 226 degrees maximum sweep angle (16mm focal length).

AntiMotion Blur Mode

Corrects for subject movement to capture amazingly clean and sharp images in low-light. The camera leverages the large, APS-C image sensor and captures six images in a fraction of a second. Combining the data from all six creates a single image that minimizes subject blur.

Hand-held Twilight Mode

Get cleaner and sharper nighttime pictures-beyond the capability of traditional cameras-without using flash or a tripod. The camera leverages the large, APS-C image sensor and captures six images in a fraction of a second. Combining the data from all six creates a single image of extraordinary detail and low noise.

Auto HDR Built into Camera

High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography captures more scene contrast than a single exposure can handle by combining the best highlight detail from one shot and the best shadow detail from another for one incredible shot. Until recently, you needed a computer and editing software. Sony builds HDR in. Handles severe backlighting and other high-contrast scenes (Recommended for still subjects).

Live View LCD

The LCD monitor is active full-time for composing shots. Provides a what-you-see-is-what-you-get preview of white balance, focus, depth of field, exposure and 100% framing accuracy, plus informative on-screen displays.

Tiltable 3″ LCD Screen

Empowers your photography with a different point of view. Tilts down 45° and up 80° to frame high- and low-angle shots that would otherwise be hit-or-miss.

920K Pixel TruBlack LCD Screen

Sony’s Xtra Fine LCD monitor has best-in-class resolution (as of April 2010). The TruBlack screen includes a special resin layer to suppress internal reflections, increase contrast compared to conventional LCDs. Sunny Weather mode boosts visibility even further in bright sunlight.

Fast Auto Focus

Some cameras in this class are slow to focus. That can make you miss the shot on fast-moving subjects like sports and unpredictable subjects like pets and babies. Sony’s fast Contrast Auto Focus system typically takes just 0.3 seconds. Also offers continuous Auto Focus when shooting movies.

Intelligent Auto Focus

Pre-focuses as you compose the shot, further reducing focusing time to a bare minimum.

iAUTO (Intelligent Auto) Mode

Unifies and simplifies Sony intelligent technologies. Takes advantage of Intelligent Scene Recognition, Face Detection technology, and Optical SteadyShot image stabilization without leaving auto mode so you always get the best shot.

On-screen Help Guide

Provides ready reference, explains the camera’s modes and settings. Walks you through camera operation so you get the best shot. Helps you advance from basic operation to greater sophistication.

Control Wheel + Soft Keys

Unlike cameras that bristle with knobs, buttons and dials, the NEX-5 features a simple turn-and-click Control Wheel and context-sensitive Soft Keys. It’s elegant, uncluttered and intuitive.

BIONZ image processor

The brain of the camera is a refined version of Sony’s BIONZ image processor. Its chroma noise reduction delivers high-resolution, low-noise photos even at ISO 12800 sensitivity. Also enables fast processing for up to 7 fps continuous shooting of data-intensive 14.2 megapixel images. Sweep Panorama and 6 image layering.

Accepts DSLR A-mount Lenses

Using the LA-EA1 adaptor (sold separately), you can attach the full selection of α A-mount system lenses, which includes 28 current models and an installed base of millions of lenses worldwide. Operational restrictions apply.

25-point Auto Focus

25 sensors cover a very wide area of the scene, for accurate focusing even when the subject is far from the center of the frame.

Multi-Segment Measuring

Optimizes exposure based on 49 segments. Choice of Multi, Center and Spot metering accommodates a full range of shooting situations.

Manual Focus Assist

Greatly magnifies the viewfinder image when you touch the focus ring, making it easy to get razor-sharp images. Works with E-mount lenses only.

RAW Image Capture

The NEX-5 saves your pictures as compact JPEG files or ultra-high quality RAW files. RAW files save images prior to de-mosaicing, white balance, sharpness and color enhancement. This retains maximum latitude for enhancing the image on your PC.

“Background Defocus” Control

Cameras with APS-C sensors take beautiful pictures because they can blur the background. That helps make your subject stand out as the center of attention in portrait photography. But you’ve had to know about aperture f-stops and shutter speeds. Now Sony makes it easy. Simply turn the Control Wheel one way for backgrounds in focus, the other for background defocus.

Accepts Image Stabilized lenses

Selected E-mount lenses incorporate Optical SteadyShot image stabilization to combat the effects of camera shake. Building stabilization into the lenses enables the camera body to be remarkably thin and light.

Powerful Supplied Software

To help you refine and manage your images, the camera is equipped with computer software including Image Data Converter SR, Image Data Lightbox SR and Picture Motion Browser (PMB).

Face Detection technology

The camera can automatically detect up to eight individual faces and adjust focus, exposure, white balance and flash to help deliver crisp, properly lit images of family and friends. Can prioritize children or adults.

HDMI Output for HD Viewing

Enjoy HD movies and stunning still images on a compatible HDTV. The camera includes an HDMI output. In addition, the BRAVIA Sync system works with compatible Sony BRAVIA HDTVs enabling you to control camera playback using the television’s remote.

8 Scene Selection Modes

These help you get the shot by optimizing the camera for specific shooting situations. Select from Portrait, Sports, Macro, Landscape, Sunset, Night View, Night Portrait and Hand-held Night Shot modes.

6 Creative Style Settings

Control how the camera processes your images with six finishing styles: Standard, Vivid, Portrait, Landscape, Sunset and B&W. You can even fine-tune contrast, saturation, and sharpness to your personal taste.

P/A/S/M Operating Modes

The NEX-5 offers a full range of controls from the beginner’s iAUTO mode to P/A/S/M: Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and Manual. On-screen prompts help you refine your skills, build your confidence and exercise greater creative control.

Anti-Dust Technology

Anti-Dust Technology helps keep the CMOS sensor clean, resulting in consistently clear pictures. First a static-free coating on the sensor’s low-pass filter helps repel dust. Then vibration automatically dislodges dust from the sensor.

Up to 300 Shots of Battery Life

Take up to 300 shots on a single charge with Sony lithium ion Stamina battery power. Sony’s InfoLITHIUM battery system enables you to see the percent of power remaining, so you can keep shooting in confidence.

Supplied Detachable Flash

To help you shoot more effectively in formal portraits, the supplied flash has a Guide Number of 7.

Dual Media Slots

For cost-effective, convenient storage and sharing of your images, the camera accepts Memory Stick PRO Duo/Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo and SD/SDHC media (Class 4 or higher recommended). (Memory card is required. All are sold separately.)

PhotoTV HD Compatibility

Optimizes compatible BRAVIA televisions for gorgeous display of digital pictures.

Index and Slide Show Display

Quickly review your photos using 6- or 12-frame index views, or as an automatic slide show with fade-in/fade-out effect.

Camera Tests and Full Size Images

Part 1 – Full size OOC JPEGS

I always have loads of real world images in my reviews but for the NEX series I wanted to also put up some full size downloads so you can see some straight from camera JPEGS. Due to limited RAW support, I only shot these cameras in JPEG mode so all tests and images you see here were shot as JPEGS!

Yes, a boring cat shot but you can click the image to see the FULL size, straight from camera JPEG of this shot. Taken with the NEX-3 and 16mm lens. f/2.8 1/30s

Another straight from camera JPEG – f/3.2 with the 16mm. When the focus is spot on (sometimes the camera misses) the image can be plenty sharp. Click image for full size JPEG file.

Part 2: High ISO Performance

These days, people like cameras that can shoot in low light at high ISO without too much image degradation. Cameras keep getting better and better in this regard and the Sony NEX cameras go up to a staggering ISO 12,800, which has been unheard of in ANY compact camera body. So, how does the high ISO hold up? Here are a few sample “real world” images at various ISO as well as a test image at the higher ISO’s.

I was able to get a few shots when I was shooting SEAL and the NEX-5 was cranked up to 6400 and in camera B&W with contrast boosted as well as sharpness.

Shot this at ISO 6400 with in camera B&W mode. NEX-5 with kit zoom.

Another at ISO 6400, B&W in camera JPEG, straight from camera!

Click image below for larger version with a 100% crop at ISO 6400

Another at 6400

How about a full size, straight from camera ISO 12,800 JPEG?

 

High ISO is damn good and better than on my E-P2 and yes, dare I say, the Leica X1?

How about a comparison…The Leica X1 at its max ISO of 3200 vs the NEX-5 at ISO 3200. What do you think? Click each image below to download the full size OOC JPEG of each.

First, the Leica X1 – Just judging ISO noise out of camera with JPEGS here. ISO 3200 – Click image for full size OOC file.

Now the Sony NEX-5 at ISO 3200 – click image for full size OOC file.

Part 3: Handheld Twilight Mode

Sony has a feature with the NEX cameras called “Handheld Twilight Mode” which allows you to shoot in low light, handheld while getting a sharp colorful image. How do they do this? Well, when you set the camera up to Twilight Mode, the camera take a succession of 6 shots and “stacks” them together to reduce noise. All automatic in the camera, and it works great in every situation I have tried it in!

This was shot in very low light at ISO 5000 with Handheld Twilight Mode

ISO 3200 – Shot in handheld Twilight – click image for FULL size out of camera JPEG. IMPRESSIVE!

ISO 400 – Handheld Twilight Mode – Click image for full size OOC image

Part 4: Sweep Panoramic Mode

The Nex-3 and Nex-5 have Sony’s cool “Sweep Panoramic Mode”. It’s simple to create pano’s automatically. Just set the camera to pano mode and press the shutter while “sweeping” the camera from left to right. An on screen guide will show you how far to “sweep’ and when it is done the camera automatically stitches the Pano together. Sometimes it doesn’t work to well, but sometimes it works well.


Part 5: HD Video

My Final Word On The Sony NEX 3 and 5

The Sony NEX series cameras, at first, were not my cup of tea. I liked the build, looks and features but hated that there were no dials or buttons on the camera anywhere. In order to make changes, one had to dig in to the menu system and dig deep at times. BUT, after using these cameras for three weeks, I learned that once I had the camera set, I never really needed to get into the menu system anyway, and if I did, I learned where everything was in the first day or two.

The NEX-3 and NEX-5 will give you the SAME exact image quality as they share the same sensor, software and processing. The only area where they differ is with the body build and video. The NEX 3 comes in at $549 with a 16mm kit lens and the NEX-5 comes in at $699 with the 18-55 Kit Zoom. If you want a little smaller of a camera with a little bit better build, and 1080i HD video capability, you may want to spring the extra $149 for the 5. If you do not need, nor care about these features, the 3 at $549 is a great price for what you get.

The NEX-3 comes in three different colors. Black, Silver or Red.

The NEX-5 only comes in Silver or Black.

The NEX 3 and 5 are actually really good cameras for ANYONE. If you are an amateur but want great pictures, the NEX will be a tool that you can grow with. It’s super easy to pick up and start shooting and it’s super cool features like sweep panorama, twilight and iAuto make the NEX camera great for mom, or even Grandmom!

For those who like the manual control of a good mechanical camera, the NEX series may leave you a little cold, but maybe not. It’s just one of those cameras you have to try yourself. Some will love it, some will hate it but the reality is that at the end of the day, it provided some fantastic photos for me, and I only shot JPEG! Can’t wait to see what the RAWs will be like when we get some full blown support for them. Also, its AF is fast, and it shoots 7 Frames Per Second which is pretty impressive for this class of camera.

The Pano feature is cool, the HD video is great, and the LCD’s swivel feature is fantastic.

So I can recommend the NEX 3 and NEX 5 as it’s a pretty fun camera, but it is NOT perfect!

The lenses are a little soft, have plenty of distortion, and are not the most resolving things in the world but if you keep the price in mind, you are indeed getting quite a bit for your money with these. Plus, the video is fantastic! I am sure there will be better lenses coming. There are already adapters to use other lenses on this camera..Leica lenses anyone?

You can see the distortion easily at 18mm with the 18-55 Kit Zoom

Sony is even releasing a full blown camcorder that will take the NEX mount lenses.

The Sony NEX-VG10 Interchangeable Lens Camcorder – Will mount all of the NEX lenses! - $1999 (pre-order at B&H here)

There is also a fisheye adapter and microphone attachment for the NEX cameras. I have tried out the fisheye and it seems like a great little attachment that gave great results.

So yea, if you like the look of these little guys you should hop down to your local shop to hold one. You can buy the NEX 3 and NEX 5 at B&H Photo or Amazon, but they have been out of stock lately and have proven to be very popular little cameras. Im just waiting for some better lenses with less distortion, and then I may jump. At the price, you can buy yourself a Nikon D3000 or D5000 if you want a DSLR, but for those who want quite a but of power in a small package, the NEX series cameras are something to consider. It does give better high ISO performance than the M4/3 cams, better video and its smaller. IQ would be better if there were better lenses available.

If anyone has a Leica adapter with some images, send them my way!

UPDATE 07/31/10 – Sold off my last m4/3 camera to buy the review sample NEX-5 I have here with the 18-55 and 16. Just love the versatility and future possibilities and the video is fantastic.

PROS & CONS

PROS:

  • Size, size, size!
  • HD Video is superb with 18-55 lens
  • Swivel LCD screen works out well for creative angles
  • High ISO up to 12,800
  • 7 Frames Per Second shooting
  • Nice build on both, with the NEX 5 being slightly better
  • Sweep Panoramic mode works well
  • Handheld Twilight Mode also works well
  • FAST Auto Focus

CONS:

  • AF sometimes misses, though says its confirmed
  • Lenses have distortion and are a bit “lackluster” in detail and oomph
  • Only 300 shots per battery charge
  • Menu system is sort of deep and required for some settings
  • Built in mic for video does not handle loud music well

Buy the Black Sony NEX-5 at B&H Photo – Kit Zoom or Kit with 16MM

Buy the Silver Sony NEX-5 at B&H Photo – Kit Zoom or Kit with 16mm

Buy the Sony Black NEX-3 at B&H Photo – Kit Zoom or Kit with 16mm

Buy the Sony Silver NEX-3 at B&H Photo – Kit Zoom or Kit with 16mm

Buy the Sony Red NEX-3 at B&H Photo – Kit Zoom or Kit with 16mm

Also, Amazon sell the NEX series as well.

NEX-3 and 16mm at 2.8

NEX-3 and 16,, at 2.8

NEX-3 and 16 at 2.8

Nex-3 with 16 at 2.8 – B&W using Silver Efex Pro

Sony NEX-5 and 18-55 Kit Zoom – F8 at 18mm

Sony NEX-5 and 18-55 – F5 at 18mm

18mm, wide open at f/3.5 – distortion is clearly evident

Love the color here…taken with the NEX-5 and Kit Zoom

NEX-5 with kit zoom at 18mm

NEX-5 with 16

NEX-3 with 16

 

NEX-5 with 18-55 – Shot RAW, processed in Aperture 3.03

UPDATE – August 11th 2010
As many of you know, the Sony NEX- 3 and NEX-5 cameras are now fully supported by Aperture 3.03 as well as Lightroom 3. I have been using Aperture 3 lately but may switch to Lightroom as the demo seems pretty fast on my Imac, faster than Aperture. In any case, I ran out back this morning to take a couple of quick test shots to see how the RAW files stack up against the JPEG files of the NEX-5. The JPEGs from this camera have been known to be somewhat soft, so I was hoping the RAW conversion would have a bit more “POP”. At first glance, there did not seem to be much difference but upon closer inspection, with the 100% crop, the RAW is better, no question! So, now I cant wait to get out and shoot some real photos with the NEX-5, shooting RAW only and then see the results. Here are my quick test results from this afternoon…

Here is an image I took in my yard, using the spot metering of the NEX-5 so I exposed for the leaf. I shot this in RAW and JPEG and  processing the RAW in aperture gave me plenty of detail with the 18-55 kit lens. Shot at f/5.6. You can click the image for a large 1800 pixel wide version.

and a 100% crop…

and one more. This one was shot with the 18-55 as well at f/4.5 at 4omm

and the crops!

So, like I said, I cant wait to get some real photos with this combo! I think I need a 1-2 day photo trip soon :) BTW, Sony still tells me that the NEX-5 is sold out WORLDWIDE and it has been one of their most popular cameras. Ever! Demand is high for the 5 but for some reason no one seems to want the NEX-3? Same image quality, slightly larger body and 720 video instead of 1080, but its cheaper so also a good buy if you are someone looking into the Sony NEX system.

The images below were all taken with the NEX-5 and 18-55 Kit Zoom!

 



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  85 Responses to “Sony Nex-3 and Nex-5 digital camera review”

  1. Great review Steve. Have you got any Leica M glass lying around gathering dust? If you do, it would be great to see you try the NEX-LeicaM adapter as I believe this will be the ultimate budget-friendly M9 :)

    • Got a Kipon Leica M to NEX adapter from Hong Kong. Did Need some fine tuning as the adapter was too thick at first, preventing focus to infinity. Once done with my beveling work, I set out and took shots with my Summicron 35mm and 50mm lenses. The results are fantastic (sent two examples to Steve). The anti-aliasing of the NEX is quite okay, and so sharpness is fantastic. Colors/contrast anyway. A true budget and fully versatile M8 (1.5x crop). With the fold out display, you get Rollei style shooting with Leica lenses. Does not get much better than this.

  2. [...] Systemkameras von Sony. Kollege Steve Huff hat diese beiden Kameras einem ausführlichen Praxistest unterzogen. Wie immer stehen bei ihm die Praxiseigenschaften im Vordergrund. Der Testbericht ist [...]

  3. Steve, you wrote that the AF is fast, if you use E-P1 or E-P2 as baseline, how much faster is the NEX?

  4. Is the Firmware updated to 02? The 02 firmware improves the start-up time
    http://support.sony-europe.com/dime/DSLR/DSLR.aspx

  5. Great review Steve, the NEX is indeed a unique camera. I am using all my Leica lenses with the NEX and the image quality is great (much better than the kit lenses of course, Leica lenses work great with the NEX). It’s also great to be able to actually see through a Leica lens and use filters like polarizers and ND grads, plus focus is very easy even without the Manual Asist function !!!

    • Would you be able to share any of these photos? I’m wondering if the NEX3 would be a better body for my M glass than the E-PL1 I’m using currently…

      • I have seen some wide angle M lenses with bad magenta corners on Nex. Some lenses work fine. There are samples posted on various forums and flickr (search flickr), The following forum has a bunch of M mount lenses + Nex images
        http://www.hklfc.com/forum/?o=topic&act=show&id=48414&page=2

        • Thanks Zep, exactly what I wanted. The 35 lux looks like a dream on the NEX5! I was contemplating buying a viewfinder for my E-PL1 to make focusing easier, but maybe if I just get a NEX…

        • Zep

          Thanks for the link. I have gone through all of the images on the 6 pages 9at the time I looked) and I might be sold on getting a NEX5 with adapter.

          Paul

  6. Hi Steve,

    Great review, as always! I guess I’m gonna wait for my first Leica anyway though… :-)

    BTW, what’s that piano music underlaying that HD video sample? Gotta have it!

    Thanks,

    David

  7. Nice review Steve. Good to hear the AF is quick–at least usefully quick. BTW, what is the shutter sound like? Loud/soft, metallic/damped, etc.?

    • For such a small camera the shutter distinctive metallic sound is rather surprising.
      At first I thought that this will cause some camera vibration, but it didn’t.
      So be prepared. In my opinion the sound is more distinctive than in Nikon D90.

  8. I’m not sure if I missed the mention, two lens kits with the nex 5 are also available, saves I think about $100. Fwiw. Thanks for another great review Steve.

  9. [...] One of our preferred reviewers Steve Huff tested the NEX cameras! 2) Systemkameraforum.de posted a NEX3 and NEX5 review available in german [...]

  10. I had the Sony F-505 back in the day :-) It was actually fun to use and I enjoyed it alot.

    • I had one of those too, i loved it! I actually think it made great photos too – compared to similar at the time.

  11. Steve, Would this be a step up from the Leica D-Lux 4 or would they be similar in IQ? Did you like the zoom lens or the fixed lens better on the cameras? I see that you can change lenses. Can you put on lenses other than Sony? If so, which brands? This would be a perfect camera for my sister.

    Also, the hit or miss with the focus, was that with the zoom lens or fixed lens?

    Thanks for the reviews. I have a friend who also wanted to know about this camera.

  12. Fair and balanced review. You really need to try it with some Leica lenses, even the old Rokkor 40/2 just shines on this and creates images reminisent of the CLE. The images are better than the images I got on the M8 with the same lens. As others have pointed out you also needed to upgrade the firmware which makes startup time fast and fixes a few other minor issues.

    I too have been blown away by handheld twilight. You get ISO 6400 images that are virtually noise free at any practical print size up to 13 x 19. Once a couple of fast small primes with high quality are available this will be a tough camera to beat when everything is factored in.

    • Thank you Steve for your review, and John for your additional comments.

      The high ISO capacity of this camera seem very interesting. I would be interested to get the Nex5 with the 16 mm lens. I do street photography and will have to get closer to the people. Hence, I have a question regarding the shutter. Is it loud ? (I have a Lumix GF1 and think that it is loud)

  13. Shutter is loud. Louder than my ep2.

    • Thank you very much. I might wait until the end of the year when the new cameras will be announced at Photokina (nex7, GF2, ep3…and perhaps one of the big players (Canon, Nikon))…

      By the way, There is a lot that I love in your site. Would love to see more of your pictures (the one you make to have fun (not necessarily the one that you have to take for your reviews)). I am also impressed by your post-processing abilities…would love to see more of your tutorials.

      You might be interested by this book. Part cartoons and photographs (very original). It tells the story of the establishment of a field hospital by Medecins sans Frontiere in Afghanistan during the war against the russians in the 80’s. The author has 4 Leicas.

      http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/24/books/review/Hedges-t.html

      • I just saw this book at the bookstore, and have read about it online too. Funny! It looked like an interesting book; incorporating drawings and photography.

  14. I have the Leica M 35/1.4 on the nex 5 and like it alot. You can check out my write up here: http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/readflat.asp?forum=1042&thread=35897569

  15. [...] The Sony NEX-3 and NEX-5 Digital Camera Review Join the forum discussion on this post Alpha Nex [...]

  16. So putting it all together this has the same sensor size as the X1, better high ISO, better colour rendition imo, and is as sharp if you put a leica lens on it. Oh and you can put different Leica lenses on via the adapter. On the downside no EVF, autofocus can miss on the sony lenses, noisy shutter, and possibly the biggest issue but not mentioned no in body stabilisation when using adapted lenses.

    Seems like this is a worthy contender that should push Olympus, Pansaonic and Leica to come up with better products but as I recently bought the EP2 I’ll stick with it for now. If I was starting from scratch though this would be a serious alternative to the others.

  17. A note on the shutter sound. Yes it is louder than an X1 or GXR A12 and in a quiet environment it might be noticed but because of the camera’s small size it might not draw more than a glance. On a street, the street noise is sufficient that the shutter is not really noticeable and no worse than the original M8. It is different than the m43s cameras in a way that I prefer. It just seems more solid and less like something i about to break.

    • I agree, in a street setting it will most likely go un-noticed. Ill make a video and have it up by tomorrow with the shutter sounds of all cameras I have here. Should be fun.

  18. It looks like a nice camera. Thanks for the review !

  19. By the way, Sweep Panorama, Handheld twilight mode, Anti-motion blur mode, all still work with adapted Leica/third-party lenses on Nex.

  20. Very nice review.
    Unfortunately I found that NEX-5 shutter is rather noisy (one would expect a silent P&S shutter in such a small body).
    The grip should be more protruded like in Canon S series or GH1, there is not enough space for midsized fingers between the grip and the lens.
    Sadly , the flash is not built in and occupy valuable socket, especially when EVF will be available.
    I find the GH1 video at 720p @ 60 to be smoother than this.

  21. You start off your review with: “how does it really perform? Does it beat my Olympus PEN? ”

    But you never ever “answer the mail”

    Your “hook” is exactly the reason I came to this review and I left very disappointed. I had hoped to get comparisons between the $500ish cameras reviewed by this site such as the E-PL1, Pentax K-X, EP2. How did working with the different video formats, RAW formats etc compare?

    Other than a comment about the ISO (bigger sensor = better high ISO) I did not find out any thing about how this camera compares to it’s competition. Is the start up faster? AF better? AF in video better? Full auto mode more intelligent? Shot to shot speed better? JPG engine better? RAW? Egonomics? Size difference? How about the “wife factor”.

    While the X1 comparisons are interesting; for someone shopping for a $500-$1000 camera they are a total waste of space.

    BTW I’m not even concerned about side by side pixel peeping or feature list comparisons. I can get those anywhere. What would be valuable is your gut reaction to all of the above. More importantly, if you had $500 to $1000 to spend on a coat pocket camera which would you buy?

    Thanks!

  22. Thanks for all of the comments! I will be adding a few things to this review today – shutter sound video of 5 cameras WITH the NEX included, more comparisons with the E-P2 and even Pentax Kx, and even a side by side video sample with panning between the NEX and the E-P2…check back later this evening!

    Steve

    • Steve, thanks for your review. Have you had a chance to the effectiveness of the 7 fps in capturing action? I’d also like to know the artist/song in the HD video! Thanks.

  23. [...] 3 & 5 Reviews at Steve Huff Photos Site Sony Nex-3 and Nex-5 digital camera review | STEVE HUFF PHOTOS Reply With [...]

  24. The camera in the background is an A900, but it doesn’t take M lenses. That is a Leica R lens.

  25. So how about the video? if let’s say compared to the 550d? not on a tripod!

    And do you have any idea if the new Sony SEL-18200 will be any better in terms of distortion?

  26. What is the difference between the NEX-3 and NEX-3A or does the A not mean anything?

    Cheers

  27. I like the camera except the size of the 18-55 zoom. I see there is a digital zoom feature in the camera for use with non zoom lenses. This would be ideal as the 16 pancake lens size is OK. The question is What lesser quality of image can I expect using the digital zoom with the 16 as compared to what I would get with the 18-55 ?

    • Ted,
      Take into consideration that 16mm lens is rather soft, so don’t expect too much from this lens.

      Adam

  28. nice review
    and myself i will get NEX-5 and its 2 lenses
    I have been around for a while and i had to admitt that Sony has the best after sales servise
    they have fully deidicated shops for Sony products andthis is true in many parts of the world
    also they have good service team

    as for the other camera companies , it would be so hard to find Leica or Canon specialised shops , and most of the time they have dealers tha sell other products too

    if you need headache free after sales service then go for Sony

    Sony NEX-5 are actualy made for the mass market and for the people that dont need so much knowledge of a camera parameters as pro require , hence these cameras will make the people to look like pros but in reality they are just using it as point and shoot camera.

  29. Very interesting review. I have the NEX5 and both NEX lenses and use it along with my dSLR (A900) based stuff. I use the NEX mainly for HD video and as a light carry-everywhere camera that can take good pictures.

    One point that I was curious about was the performance of the NEX5 with the Voigtlander 35mm f/1.4 Nokton or the ZM Biogon 35/2. I believe Steve has these lenses and was wondering how they performed on the NEX, specifically at the edges etc. Any smearing or un-acceptable levels of vignetting ? The 35/1.4 in particular is of great interest to me, not least due to the small size, lightness and of course it being relatively cheap.

    Thanks in advance.

  30. Steve,

    new theme looks great. I must say, you make amazingly informative content. Everybody here should be thankful that you put some much detail into the posts…

    video, photos, great commentary really great stuff…

    thanks man!

    Keith
    dig the review above…might grab that camera…. looking to shoot cooking videos in HD that I can edit..and to have a small camera to replace my cannon eos rebel xsi when traveling..that thing is too big….but I need to take photos while traveling…and also videos so this cam might be a winner.

  31. How is battery life on this camera??

    • Well, I just got my NEX 5K yesterday and the first thing I noticed was the ever dropping battery percentage (It’s like a menacing timer and a pretty fast one.). Otherwise it seems to be a good camera but it drains battery very fast, even if you’re not taking photos/videos. I spent 15 minutes just checking out menus (notice: not taking photos/videos) and the battery had gone down 19%! Can it be… or am I doing something wrong?

      Steve, how’s your experience on this? Is there any way to minimize the battery consumption? I installed firmware ver. 2.0 already and over night with the power off the battery had gone down (JUST, I guess) 2%.

      Thanks for a great review by the way.

  32. Just wanted to say that your reviews ROCK!!!

    Keep up the good work dude!!!

  33. The lenses make the picture and therefore the NEXs are below standard. Buy the way the lenses are pretty expensive.

  34. Steve, please show us some pictures taken with Leica lenses on the NEX.

  35. i agree with Ian, Mr. Huff. Kindly show sample photos with M lenses :)

    Thanks for all you do.

  36. I recently bought the NEX5 and a Novoflex Leica M adaptor. Got the adaptor yesterday and did a quick test with my Leica M lenses 2,8/21 pre Asph., 2,8/28 pre Asph., 2/50 and 2,8/90 pre Asph.
    I was very impressed by the sharpness of the shots. The Summicron is a dream even wide open on the NEX. I ordered a Zeiss Biogon 2,8/35mm and hope it will arrive today, just to fill the gap between the M lenses. The 15mm Heliar is also on my wishlist but has to wait. The 1,5Crop is acceptable so M9 is not what I wish to buy now! Perhaps M10 some day???

    Thank You very much for all the real world test of the different lenses! What about 12mm Voigtländer on a digital body?

  37. Agree with others here in wanting to see how much my M mount lenses would improve the Nex5 images which look unimpressive to my eyes using their package lenses. I am shooting film generally but might want a Nex5 if a good lens could bring it to life. Also I would like to see a video or comments on how accurate and fast the manual focus works (it would be nice if one of these manufacturers made a simulated RF type split focus as well as their zoom focus system).

  38. Wonderful review thank for all the hard work. I’ve been very tempted by the NEX-5 myself. I’m an Aperture user and good to see the RAW conversion working well.

    BTW, I did a blog post myself called “In Search of an EVIL Camera” just my thoughts for now on this EVIL movement but from the post, you can tell I’m leaning towards the NEX-5 compared to the Olympus E-PL1.

    http://blog.atmtxphoto.com/2010/10/29/in-search-of-an-evil-camera/

    Thanks again for you review. It makes me want to get the camera even more.

  39. Steve, I wanted to let you know that I might of found the perfect small camera bag for the NEX-5. It will hold both kit lenses and some extra accessories.

    I have posted a short review with photos.
    http://blog.atmtxphoto.com/2010/11/18/the-perfect-small-camera-bag-for-the-sony-nex-5/

  40. Hey Steve, a while back you said you would be posting photos taken with the NEX5 and Leica lenses. Anything happening on this – was really looking forward to it. Cheers!

  41. very nice work, could you tell us how you did the nice color processing on the “brandonnex.jpg”?

  42. Love the pics of Seal in concert. I am close to buying this cam, but ALL the concerts vids I have seem, the audio is just crap…TOTAL crap. I have a point and shoot with much better audio! Do you have the external now? Have you shot music with it? Better? It might be a game changer for me if the audio is this bad as the norm for such a great cam…you would THINK that for Sony to put out a cam so geared to video that they would put some thought into audio! THANKS!!

  43. So, I own a Nikon D40 but im tired of the bulk it represents carrying the camera around. I am really thinking about buying a NEX model. Do you guys think is a good option in comparison with the D40?

  44. Question about NEX adapter.
    I’m interested in using other lenses using adapter.
    Tamron has USD VC (image stabilization) lenses that have stellar review in various review and retail website.
    Does anyone know if this USD and VC technology uses any power/electricity to function?
    Sony brand of that Tamron lens does not have VC, and I’m looking into Tamron lenses made for Canon or Nikon, but I worry if those technologies are useless because Canon-NEX, Nikon-NEX adapters don’t provide electricity to lenses.

  45. Hi Steve!! You’ve got great reviews here. I have decided to buy Olympus EP1 until I saw this. Thank you, really, for this.
    What I’m buying is NEX 5D (16mm + 18-55mm), is it really okay for amateurs like me? I want to enhance my photography skills, eh.
    And oh, btw, are you a professional photographer? Cause your shots are so awesome.

  46. “Exedra”?

    In architecture, an exedra is a semicircular recess, often crowned by a semi-dome, which is usually set into a building’s facade.

  47. Thanx for ur insights. I want to buy Sony NEX camera and am looking for some reviews. This camera has just been launched in India. Now I am exploring its use and other features and want its reviews from users. I saw some very nice sample photos posted by Sony India at http://www.flickr.com/groups/sonyindianex5/
    Just wanted to check if any users has posted some images taken from NEX5. I liked your pics. Overall, I feel good about this cam, what about u?

  48. Amazing review…….. I have read quiet a few reviews on sony nex series, but nothing better than this one. Really, it is going to help me in making some decision on buying my next cam. Thanks a lot for your insights

  49. wow. this review was AMAZING. seriously, thank you SO much for these detailed reviews. by far the BEST nex-3 & nex-5 camera review i’ve found so far. i’ve been thinking about purchasing this camera and this site gave me every info that i needed to know. keep up the great work steve!!!!

  50. The NEX with legacy glass is STUNNING!! I am using a 25mm f/4 voigtlander Sokpar and it is SO sharp!! I am currently using the 16mm f/2.8 which is pretty good but after using manual lenses images don’t look all that great with the kit lens. I’m thinking of getting the 18-55 kit lens as there’s no way i can afford the Zeiss 24mm f1.7 glass when it comes out.

  51. Hey, I would like to get myself a camera that can auto-focus and capture night scenery and sport well. Should I get a DSLR or sony Nex?

  52. Hi Everyone,
    I been a avid reader of this site for last two months , when Leica related search let me here.
    Steve, thanks a lot for being real world reviewer :) seriously no graphs,etc., thats wonderful.
    I would like to thank you for this post and the good people who commented: been trying to get an M8 within my budget for sometime, and when I was looking for my next cam, I googled to see any writings on Nex cameras.
    Voila here it is, and special thanks to the Good Soul who wrote the words ” budget M8″ , your comment was the turning point for me to go ahead with this purchase. So in future I hope to get a good Leica lens for portraits with an adaptor.
    Cheers
    Krishna

  53. Hi Steve, you have a wonderful site here! Have gone through a number of reviews and articles, and they are all good.
    Thing is, I’m about to buy a second cam for myself, moving up from a P&S – primary requirements are potraiture (Kids – have a 10 month one), Low-light, Landscape and good movie.
    I would be adding a 50 MM prime and a 55-250 MM (or equivalent) lenses going further.
    Now, I’m confused between NEX-5 & Canon T3 (1100D), i know these are very different formats but budget wise, they come into almost the same category.
    Issues with NEX seem the limited as well as expensive lens collection while T3 lags behind in video and form-factor.
    Taking into mind the local prices, the T3 with all three lenses (kit lens included) while cost around US$800 while NEX will cross 1000, so that is also an important factor.
    Please share your comments.

    Regards,
    Jaspreet Singh

  54. Can you zoom (like a regular digital camera does) without turning the zoom lens? I have trouble zooming in on objects from far away

    • Regular digital cameras use the lens to zoom :) That is how you zoom with the NEX series. Point and shoots use switches, but not the NEX. It is much easier and faster to zoom with the lens barrel.

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