Is the Sony NEX-5 the poor mans Leica M9?
Testing the Noctilux on both!
Many of you have been asking me for a quick test like this, and since I have a Leica M9, Noctilux and Sony NEX-5 on hand I decided to snap a few shots in my backyard to see just how much difference there is between the two cameras, when using the same 50mm Leica lens. I spent yesterday and this morning grabbing some quick shots with the Leica Noctilux ASPH f/0.95 lens on both the M9, and the NEX-5 with Adapter. The big question…Can the NEX-5 give results equal to or even close to the M9 when using the same lens? Many think that yes, it can. Some feel that the NEX can do better and others will say NO WAY, not possible! Others will say “WHO CARES!”. I would like to personally believe that the M9 would wipe the floor with the NEX-5 using the same glass because let’s face it, those of us with a Leica M9 have paid dearly for it and for some $600 camera to come along to match it would be kind of upsetting to some. Honestly though, It wouldn’t be to me as I love the whole RF shooting experience and the NEX doesn’t even come close to that experience when shooting with it. STILL! I have written quite a bit on the NEX-5 as it has been quite the popular little gizmo due to the fact that you can use almost any lens on it, when using the correct adapter.
I have seen some lovely shots with the NEX with Canon glass, Leica glass, Zeiss glass, etc. But still, when I look at these shots they all have the Sony NEX “look”. I do not mean this in a bad way, just that the NEX-5 has a certain feel to the images it puts out. The color, and overall smoothness of the file always tells me what was shot with the NEX-5. When I shoot the M9 and nail focus, the files still make my jaw drop to this day. Gorgeous.
So what I wanted to do was take some random test/snapshots with each camera using the $10,495 Leica Noctilux lens. The Sony has a 1.5 crop factor so the 50 will become more like a 75mm. That means that these images will not be exactly the same in regards to the focal length appearance, but hopefully you can get an idea. I have to say that when going over the images I was surprised how well the NEX-5 did, but at the end of the day, the M9 pulled ahead and it is mainly due to the color signature, the lack of an AA filter and the fact that it is using a full frame sensor.
This also made me wonder if there is anyone out there who bought an NEX-5 and a lens like the Noctilux to use with it. IMO, it would be a waste as the NEX sensor can not take full advantage of this masterpiece lens. My money would be on something like a Zeiss 50 Sonnar or 50 Planar if I wanted to shoot M glass on the NEX-5.
Ok, onto the test snaps…
The first test snapshot – Just an image of a door handle. Actually, the NEX-5 did great here. It took me approx 3X longer to manually focus the NEX accurately than the M9 but it wasn’t so bad. Just takes some getting used to.
and now the M9 image. See how it looks a bit more dreamy and with what appears to be more shallow Depth of Field? This is the full frame sensor at work and we see some vignetting of the lens as well. Shot wide open as was the Sony shot above.
What I see in the two shots above is the NEX-5 shot is very sharp and looks like a crop sensor image to me. The M9 image is showing me the classic 50mm focal length and has the Nocti signature where the NEX really didn’t have it. BUT, the $600 camera did quite well I think! Some will probably even prefer the NEX-5 shot here with the more clean rendering. Hmmmm.
Here I had my friend Mike do a quick pose so I could shoot both cameras. First the NEX-5, pretty much straight out of the camera, converted from RAW…
and now with the M9. In this set, I much prefer the look of the M9, Just has that Nocti look and glow IMO. Again, straight out of camera RAW conversion.
NEX-5, shot at f1.4. Testing for color and DOF…CLICK IMAGES FOR LARGER
and now with the M9. Both are very good…which do you prefer the look of, or do you even see a difference?
More DOF – The NEX-5…
and the M9 – both shots were at 0.95
Here is an F2 snap and this one seems neck and neck. If you click the images you will see a larger version with a 100% crop. The NEX-5 seemed to equal the M9 here for detail…
and now the M9
So even with these silly test snaps from my yard we can see that the NEX-5 does fairly well when shot in good light against the M9. Still, for me at least, the M9 holds the edge with its full frame sensor and color signature and most of all, the shooting experience. When shooting the Noctilux on the NEX-5 it was sort of a pain due to me having t o magnify the screen, dial in exact focus, then un-magnify the screen so I can compose and then finally take the shot. It’s a lengthy process where you can forget about ANY sort of action shot when shooting like this. Even the M9 is slow when compared to the AF monster DSLR’s BUT I CAN get some action shots with the M and Nocti.
Also, the RAW files seem much more hardy from the M9 meaning I can push them farther before they turn in to a digital mess. The NEX files seem to break apart pretty quickly when pushed to the extremes. With test shots such as these some will say the $600 NEX-5 does just as well as the $7000 M, but in real world shooting I found the M9 to be much better for me and my style of shooting. But with that said, you can’t really argue about the results that the little Sony NEX can pump out. It’s more capable than I previously thought though it is cumbersome to use with manual lenses. Then again, it all depends on what you are shooting and your personal style. If this little NEX had a full frame sensor I think the results would be pretty damn similar to the M9. So imagine…a pro level NEX with a FF sensor and no AA filter coming in at $1199. Now that would be SWEET.
One more, out of camera JPEG. ISO 1600, B&W.
In the shots above, both were shot as in camera JPEG, ISO 1600, B&W mode. To my eyes they look pretty similar except for the fact that the M9 is using ALL of the lens. if you crop the M9 shot, the results would be similar to the NEX-5! Interesting!
Check back in the next day or two as I will be reviewing the Sony 18-200 Lens on the NEX-5. Think I will take a stroll to the Phoenix Zoo today and give the lens a workout. If any of you missed my NEX-5 review, you can take a look at that here. As always, thanks for stopping by!
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