Save & earn with MPB; trade-in and buy pre-loved

Sony Alpha NEX-5 Review with New Firmware

The Sony NEX-5 now feature the same digital filters as the new Sony C3, with a firmware update, we find out how it performs.

| Sony NEX-5 in Mirrorless Cameras

Sony Alpha NEX-5 Review with New Firmware: Sony NEX-5

The Sony NEX-5 has recently been given a new lease of life, with an updated firmware that adds creative filters introduced with the NEX-C3. We review the Sony NEX-5 to see how it performs.

Sony Alpha NEX-5 Review with New Firmware: Sony NEX-5

Sony NEX-5 Features

The Sony NEX-5 features a large APS-C CMOS sensor, the same size that you find in nearly all Digital SLRs (unless you go to full frame). This gives it the ability to offer theoretically the same excellent image quality as Digital SLRs, but at a significantly reduced size.

Sony Alpha NEX-5 Review with New Firmware: Sony NEX-5

New features introduced with the latest firmware, version: 04 (available here) are: Picture Effects such as Toy Camera, Red, Green, Blue, Yellow highlight, Pop Colour and more, as well as the the ability to set the Peaking level and colour in MF.

Key Features

  • 14.2 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor
  • Sony E Mount
  • 3 inch tilting screen, 921k dots (16:9)
  • Metal body
  • Seperate mini flash (included)
  • 7fps continuous shooting
  • 25 focus points
  • Dust removal
  • ISO200 - ISO12800
  • Full HD video, stereo mics

Sony Alpha NEX-5 Review with New Firmware: Sony NEX-5

Sony NEX-5 Handling

The Sony NEX-5 (3, and C3) are probably the mirrorless cameras with the least number of buttons and controls, especially considering they do not feature touch screens. Perhaps the Panasonic Lumix GF3 has fewer buttons (yes), but the GF3 tries to make up for this with a touch screen that works well.

Sony Alpha NEX-5 Review with New Firmware: Sony NEX-5
Sony NEX-5

The size of the camera is tiny! However, as soon as you add a lens to the camera, you realise that the DSLR sized sensor, also means that the camera needs DSLR sized lenses, and this significantly increases the weight and bulk of the camera. There are a few options to keep the size down, either use the 16mm pancake lens, or use an adapter to use an alternative old lens. 

Sony Alpha NEX-5 Review with New Firmware: Sony NEX-5
Sony NEX-5

Menus: You can press the middle button on the back to change the shooting mode, and with the scroll wheel this is quite easy. Alternatively press the menu button and you get a choice of 6 options: shooting mode, camera options, image size, brightness / colour options, playback and setup. The brightness / colour options are where you can also find exposure compensation, ISO, white balance, metering, flash compensation, DRO / HDR, and creative style (colour options such as vivid, standard, black and white etc), which is not where I expected the options to be. Image size is where you set the image size for still, 3D, and panoramic shots, as well as video size. Camera options are where you can set the drive mode, flash setting, AF/MF, Face detection etc. Setup is where you can customise the buttons you use, as well as set further shooting options, main settings, and memory card tools. Finding your way around these menus may get easier over time.

Sony Alpha NEX-5 Review with New Firmware: Sony NEX-5

Battery Life: Rated at 330 shots, we were able to take 330 photos before the battery was exhausted. The camera uses an Info-lithium ion rechargeable battery these are brilliant as they tell you precisely how many minutes are left before the battery will go flat.

Sony Alpha NEX-5 Review with New Firmware: Sony NEX-5
Sony NEX-5 Pop up flash

Speed - we tested the Sony NEX-5 and compared it to the Panasonic Lumix GF3 and Samsung NX11. You can also compare the results to the new Panasonic Lumix G3, and Olympus PEN E-P3 as well.

  Sony NEX-5 Panasonic GF3 Samsung NX11
Shutter Response 0.1 <0.05 0.1
Wide - Focus / Shutter Response 0.4 0.2* 0.3
Full zoom - Focus / Shutter Response 0.4 0.2* 0.3
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo 0.9 0.9 1.3
Shot to Shot (without flash) 0.8 0.6 1.0
Shot to Shot with Flash 1.0 1.3 1.1
Continuous Shooting
(shots before slow down)
6fps (18 shots) 4fps (13 shots) 3fps (15 shots)
Continuous Shooting (flash) 2fps N/A 2fps (infinite shots)
Continuous Shooting (RAW) 7fps (7 shots) 4fps (6 shots) 3fps (5 shots)

* 14-42mm Olympus M Zuiko 14-42mm II R lens used for both m43rds cameras, tested with the new Samsung Class 10 memory card.

Performance was good with quick focusing, shutter response, and excellent shot to shot time even with flash. Continuous shooting is excellent at 6-7fps, and the using a high speed card it's possible to take 18 shots before slow down.

Sony NEX-5 Performance

Sample photos from the Sony NEX-5 and the E 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS (Optical Steady Shot) lens can be seen below, with additional sample photos in the equipment database.

Sony NEX-5 Lens test images

The photos taken outdoors show good levels of detail and colour, with very little purple fringing, although some chromatic abberation is visible it wasn't too high. Images are slightly soft but nothing too concerning, although in shots detail was strongest in the centre, with the edges becoming softer. With the provided lens hood flare was well controlled and ghosting was not noticed. Barrel and pincushion distortion are also low, although slight pincushion distortion is visible at the telephoto end of the lens. The kit lens gives good macro performance with the subject 25cm away from the lens, using the full telephoto zoom.

Sony NEX-5 Sample Photos

Great background blur (Bokeh) is possible with the lens. The camera also deals with highlights well, maintaining detail in the sky. The provided flash performs well with very low red-eye.

Sony NEX-5 White-balance test images

White Balance Performance: The camera struggled under tungsten light but auto white balance was fine under fluorescent lighting, and the camera's presets have helped improve results, particularly under tungsten light.

Sony NEX-5 ISO test images

ISO Noise Performance: At ISO200 all the way to ISO1600 noise is very low. At ISO3200 noise starts to become visible, and images become slightly softer. ISO6400 shows more noise, but detail is still good and the results are very usable. Although at ISO12800 noise is the most prominant, and images may be best used resized on the web or processed further to reduce noise more.


Sony Alpha NEX-5 Review with New Firmware: Wide - 1/200 sec | f/10.0 | 18.0 mm | ISO 200
Wide - 1/200 sec | f/10.0 | 18.0 mm | ISO 200

Sony Alpha NEX-5 Review with New Firmware: Standard - 1/200 sec | f/10.0 | 18.0 mm | ISO 200
Standard - 1/200 sec | f/10.0 | 18.0 mm | ISO 200

The NEX-5 allows both vertical and horizontal panoramics. Options are wide or standard, depending on how much you want to capture.

Sony NEX-5 Digital filters

Digital Filters - the new firmware, v04 introduces Picture Effect - this gives you 11 creative modes that let you alter your photos when you take them. The Red/Yellow/Blue/Green highlight modes seem to only work on quite specific shades of each colour (needing quite bold colours), meaning that there is very little green or blue in the example shots. The Canon and Nikon implementation where you can select the specific colour tends to work better.

The camera features 8 scene modes, including a handheld twilight mode that takes a number of shots in quick succession and combines them for a better shot.

Lenses available: there are four lenses currently available (16mm, 18-55 OSS, 18-200 OSS, and a new 30mm Macro lens) with more on their way including a wide, portrait, and telephoto lens expected shotly. There are also wide-angle and fisheye converter add-on lenses available for the 16mm lens as well. Adapters to use Sony Alpha / Konica Minolta Alpha lenses are also available.


The NEX-5 gives you Full HD video with stereo sound. The new picture effects can be used on videos with very little or no noticeable drop in frame rate. The video options are: AVCHD 1920x1080, MP4 1440x1080 or VGA.

Value for Money

The Sony NEX-5 is available for £480 with the 18-55 kit lens with OIS, or £430 with the 16mm pancake lens (without OIS). Alternatively you can find the Sony NEX-C3 for £430 with 18-55 kit lens.

Alternatives include the Olympus PEN E-P3, Panasonic Lumix G3, Panasonic Lumix GF3, Samsung NX11, as well as earlier models, the Panasonic Lumix GF2, and Olympus PEN EPL2. Of these, the Olympus PEN cameras feature a built in anti-shake sensor, and both the Panasonic and Olympus models use the micro four thirds mount, with the largest range of lenses available. 

Sony NEX-5 Verdict

The Sony NEX-5 seems to have an over-reliance on the menus, and it can be a little time consuming trying to find some of the more advanced options. As the smallest mirrorless camera, it is very appealing, although the current lenses don't make the most of the small body as they are quite large. There are also a limited number of lenses, although new lenses are expected shortly. The improvements added with firmware v03 gave the ability to customise the buttons to provide quicker access to your favourite modes, and v04 adds creative modes bringing the NEX-5 up to date with the new C3 and mirrorless cameras from other manufacturers. The Sony NEX-5 produces DSLR image quality with extremely low noise, and Full HD video, performance is impressive with 7fps shooting, and this really is a camera that might make you think twice about taking your DSLR with you.

Sony Alpha NEX-5 Review with New Firmware:
The Sony NEX-5 offers DSLR image quality in an ULTRA compact body.

Sony NEX-5 Pros

Very low noise right upto ISO3200+
Accurate battery life information (Infolithium)
Ultra small camera... (but large lenses)
High resolution tilting screen
Large rubberised hand grip
7fps continuous shooting
Great build quality
Great colour

Sony NEX-5 Cons

Softer images than the competition
Non-standard flash socket
Menu system / controls (no touchscreen to make up for the lack of buttons)
Very few buttons on the camera (more on Cybershots)
Large lenses


Sony NEX-5 Specifications

Image Sensor
Pixels14.2Mp (Megapixels)
Pixels (W)4592
Pixels (H)3056
Sensor TypeExmor CMOS
Sensor SizeAPS-C
Sensor Size (width)23.4mm
Sensor Size (height)15.6mm
Aspect Ratio
  • 3:2
  • 16:9
LCD Monitor
LCD Monitor3in
Screen resolution921k dots
Touch ScreenNo
Focusing modes
  • Autofocus
  • Multi
Exposure Control
Shutter speeds shortest1/4000sec
Shutter speeds longest30sec
Bulb modeYes
Exp modes
  • Program
  • Aperture-Priority
  • Manual
  • Scene modes
  • A
  • Centre-weighted - Average
  • Multi Pattern
  • Spot
ISO sensitivity200 - 12800
White balance
  • Auto
  • Incandescent
  • Fluorescent
Exposure Comp+/-2
Viewfinder ResolutionNo Data
MagnificationNo Data
Shooting Options
Continuous shooting7fps
Movie modeYes
Video Resolution
  • 1280x720 HD 720p
  • 1920x1080 FullHD
Video FPSNo Data
Stereo SoundYes
Optical Zoom with VideoYes
Other Features
Image StabilisationNo
Wi-FiNo Data
Card Type
  • SD
  • SDHC
  • Memory Stick (Sony)
File Type
  • RAW
  • JPG
  • RAW + JPG
Power Source
Battery TypeLithium Ion
Battery Life (CIPA rating)330shots
Box Contents
Box ContentsQuick reference guide, battery charger, rechargeable battery, instruction manual, European warranty card, USB cable, CD-ROM, shoulder strap, case for flash, camera, lens cap, product registration CD, flash

View Full Product Details

Buy Now


Sell or trade used photo and video kit with MPB

With MPB you can get a free instant quote for the kit you want to sell, including a trade-in all-in-one transaction - no need for callbacks or waiting for an email quote. Then, if you decide to sell, MPB will pick up your kit with a free insured DPD collection and you’ll get paid cash into your account within days. MPB will also keep you informed about the status of your gear at every step of the way and the whole process is carbon neutral.

Sell your unwanted gear with MPB

Amazon UK Logo

We don't have the latest price however the link below will take you to the most relevant items.

Amazon US Logo

We don't have the latest price however the link below will take you to the most relevant items.

MPB Logo

We transform the way that people buy, sell and trade in photo and video kit.


Support this site by making a Donation, purchasing Plus Membership, or shopping with one of our affiliates: Amazon UK, Amazon US, Amazon CA, ebay UK, MPB. It doesn't cost you anything extra when you use these links, but it does support the site, helping keep ePHOTOzine free to use, thank you.


Photographs taken using the Sony NEX-5

Eastern garter snake, Riverview Park"...a beginning..."Fog over the valleypipingwall cornerBreakLast FlightSearching for the LostHeaven on EarthSunrise Sweetheartswindowridelearning the tread

Other articles you might find interesting...

Sony A7C II Camera Review
Sony A7C R Camera Review
Panasonic Lumix S5IIX Review
Leica Q3 Camera Review
Sony Alpha A6700 Camera Review
Fujifilm X-S20 Review
Sony A6700 APS-C Camera Announced
Canon R100 Review


User_Removed Avatar
User_Removed 19 17.9k 8 Norway
Good luck to anyone thinking of buying this...

That flash is useless. The shadow from that lens is going to be awful and a lot of people are going to be very unhappy.
franken Avatar
Not that I'm the least bit interested in buying one but the review says the following re the flash.

"The provided flash performs well with very low red-eye."
User_Removed Avatar
User_Removed 19 17.9k 8 Norway
But then use your knowledge (indeed photographic intelligence) and ask yourself... what is the bottom half of an image - taken with that flash - on that lens - going to show in the final image??

Answer - a black semi-circular 'nothing'!
joshwa Avatar
It depends how close the subject is, and for macro or ebay shots for example you do run the risk of a black shadow and an overexposed subject.
joshwa Avatar
elyharbour Avatar

Quote:But then use your knowledge (indeed photographic intelligence) and ask yourself... what is the bottom half of an image - taken with that flash - on that lens - going to show in the final image??

Answer - a black semi-circular 'nothing'!

Well, I bought a NEX-5 yesterday and have just tried the flash at both 18mm and 55mm focal lengths. For shots around the room at home...ABSOLUTELY FINE!! Haven't tried close-ups or anything yet.
maxxie Avatar
What a lot of ill informed comment about the Nex's flash!!
It works fine,even closeups,and I've taken a few since I got the camera!
Just remember to take the lens hood off for closeups,otherwise,no problems at all.
I leave the flash attached all the time,on Auto,and just pop it up when necessary,and it all fits in the case nicely.
Bottom line it's a solid performer,producing great images,and is certainly great to carry about.
As regards close-ups,use the 55mm end of the lens,as opposed to the wide angle end(like my Fuji Superzoom),and the results are really good.As the images are so good,enlargements are not a problem,so the 18-55mm is not as limiting as you might think.

You must be a member to leave a comment.

ePHOTOzine, the web's friendliest photography community.

Join for free

Upload photos, chat with photographers, win prizes and much more.