Expert Review of Sony NEX 5K
Sony, arguably the most stylish and elegant brand in gadgets, has brought out two new weapons from its arsenal, and so far the results have been good, for the sales have been sky rocketing. Yes, we are talking about the new tiny DSLR’s - Sony Alpha NEX 3K and Sony Alpha NEX 5K, which now, have become the first two cameras from Sony that have been able to squeeze in gigantic sensors and a pair of lens mounts that are interchangeable. The mirror and the optical viewfinder in this device are missing, which are something you would not find in a traditional DSLR and hence, the ergonomics of the devices are highly compact and small, and that leaves us with two DSLRs - bodies as sleek and handy as day-to-day Point and Shoot devices. Obviously, this is the same theory that was earlier put forward during the giant collaboration of Olympus and Panasonic to develop the revolutionary Micro Four Thirds standards, but then, rather than adopting this system totally, Sony has made a slightly different approach, both in terms of its physical body and sales.
The major difference here is that our two reviewed NEX cameras - Sony Alpha NEX 3K and NEX 5Khave employed the Micro Four Thirds standard, which in terms of the physical area of the sensors is almost 50% larger that is, highly detailed image quality. Indeed, the NEX sensors are sized exactly the same as those in rage with Sony’s range of cropped framed DSLRs. Now, instead of recycling an existing sensor, Sony has made a rather new development that resulted in a new and exciting CMOS model for NEX cameras that offer a huge 14.2 megapixels resolution alongside HD movie recording capabilities. The latter in these is probably the major difference between Sony Alpha NEX 3K and Sony NEX 5K, which the reviewed device shows with 720p and 1080i resolutions respectively. Apart from that, the image quality in both the devices is almost identical.
These NEX devices may be branded with the Alpha range but they make a showing of their shorter ‘lens to sensor distance’ and hence, a brand new mount has been developed. This new E mount makes use of three new lenses at launch, which are 18 - 55mm measure zoom, 18 - 200mm fantastic zoom and 16mm primitive model. The lens mount might be dissimilar from Sony's DSLRs, but by partaking of similar sensor size, the field-reduction has been left to be 1.5 times. Therefore, the standard 18-55mm kit lens brings about a comparable range that measures 27 to 83mm and the 16mm pancake works like what feels like 24mm.
Unlike the standard Alpha DSLRs, there is absolutely no Image Stabilisation available in the NEX bodies, so instead, Sony has really innovated this time around and has embedded two new zooms with Optical Stabilisation, while even this is absent in the pancake 16 mm model. Sony has also decided to offer an adapter that will allow the NEX bodies to make successful use of the Alpha lenses, but the limitation to this is that they are only Manual focus models. Now, irrespective of the highly compact dimensions for a DSLR, Sony has fitted both Sony Alpha NEX 3K and NEX 5K with highly detailed screens that tilt vertically, and sport easy composition at high as well as low angles.
Also, offered amidst all of these is the fast continuous shooting option that measures up to 7 frames per second, but that too, till such time you are willing to have the first frame exposure locked at the first time. Another key feature - the fast paced continuous shooting of this camera is also utilized in a number of very innovative and jaw dropping ways, which were first seen on the compacts from Sony like in CyberShot HX5. Like the prior ones, there is the availability of the Handheld Twilight alongside the Anti Motion Blur modes, which repeatedly amalgamate six exposures to diminish noise or the corresponding camera shake.
Design and Build Quality
Now, the key difference between Sony Alpha NEX 3K and Sony Alpha NEX 5K is that the body of the former is made of plastic whereas the body of the latter is made of magnesium alloy. Where Sony NEX 3K body is fractionally larger with different shaped grip, the other camera is a bit smaller. Sony NEX 3K’s best quality video is in HD 720p resolution with MP4 encoding whereas, Sony Alpha NEX 5K’s best quality video is in 1080i resolution with AVCHD encoding and lastly, Sony NEX 3K does not have an IR remote option whereas Sony Alpha NEX 5K does have an IR remote option. As mentioned before, both the NEX cameras employ entirely different body materials and along with that, a slightly different sort of styling. More affordable of the two, Sony NEX 3K employs a plastic body that measures 117mm x 63mm x 33mm and weighs a good 297 grams inclusive of the battery and cards.
The costlier of the two, Sony Alpha NEX 5K comes embedded in a magnesium body that measures a good 111mm x 59mm x 38mm and weighs 287 grams, again inclusive of the battery and cards. The build quality of both the cameras is simply amazing but then, Sony Alpha NEX 5K has an absolute edge. On deeper inspection, you would notice that Sony Alpha NEX 5K is slightly smaller and fractionally lighter. When you compare the two cameras side by side, it absolutely seems that Sony has filed down 3K’s body to the highest extent possible to sum up with 5K’s shape. The upper surface being lower makes the lens mount actually pop out a bit, while the sections can be easily removed from either sides of the tripod mount at the bottom. This makes the camera look even smaller, although the saving right at the bottom has resulted in a relatively smaller flat area all around the tripod thread.
Focus and Face Detection
Sony Alpha NEX 3K and Sony Alpha NEX 5K rely on contrast based AF, just the way it is done in Micro Four Thirds and conventional compacts. There are three modes, which are offered in these cameras for AF modes. They are:
25 Area multi mode
The Flexible mode allows you to position a small AF area which can be used almost anywhere on the frame and hence, considerately dedicates the lower soft key to readjustments only if required. In addition to that, you can also choose between Single Shot AF and Continuous AF modes.
Lens and Image Stabilization
Both the devices, Sony Alpha NEX 3K and NEX 5K embed in themselves Sony’s brand new E-mount for interchangeable lenses. In this system, the cameras have managed to bring relatively large APS-C sized sensors. The E-mount comes with large diameters wherein, the edge of its outer side touched the top and bottom on Sony NEX 3K and actually sets a little above and below the smaller Sony NEX 5K body. Any new system within this lives or dies by the selection of lenses that you choose. As mentioned before, there is a wide array to choose from, 18 - 55mm measure zoom, 18 - 200mm fantastic zoom and 16mm primitive model.
The lens mount might be dissimilar from Sony's DSLRs, but by partaking of similar sensor size, the field-reduction is left to be 1.5 times. So, the standard 18 - 55mm kit lens brings an comparable range that measures 27 to 83mm and the 16mm pancake works like 24mm. Also, offered with Sony is the pair of wide angled convertors, one of which is attached to the 16mm pancake model that easily converts into a 12mm, being 18mm at 35mm equivalent, and the other one converts into a wide angle fish eye.
Screen and Menus
Our devices - Sony Alpha NEX 3K and Sony Alpha NEX 5K are equipped with screens, which absolutely stand out in the competition and are clear winners in their respective segments. They are large, highly detailed and perhaps the most impressive of all, is that they are embedded in highly small sizes, and can vertically light up for easy composition at high or relatively low angles. The panel on this device measures a relatively detailed 3 inches screen which sports a highly detailed screen at 920,000 pixels that delivers a detailed image and ends up at fine edges.
The picture quality on this device is simply tremendous and looks absolutely stunning indoors although, soon enough, they become relatively harder to view when placed under the direct exposure of sunlight. Well, this is where Olympus has a clear lead. Yes, it is not nearly as detailed as the Sony devices but then, Olympus cameras are more easily visible under direct sunlight. When shooting under direct sunlight or bright conditions, there is an optional optical viewfinder. Although, this makes up a match of only 16mm pancake model, there is no EVF accessory in the device.
Sony Alpha NEX 3K and Sony Alpha NEX 5K uses a NP – FW50 Info Li-ion battery pack which, as per claims made by Sony, gives a battery that lasts good enough for 330 shots under CIPA conditions.
This is where the major difference between Sony Alpha NEX 3K and Sony Alpha NEX 5K lies where both offer a wide array of selection from the movie modes. Each of these cameras can be used to film in HD, although the cheaper of the two - Sony NEX 3K is limited to 720p, whereas the high-end Sony Alpha NEX 5K boasts of a highly detailed movie recording capability. The recording can be started at any time by pressing the dedicated Movie button that is available at the back of each camera, now, regardless of the quality selected, the maximum recording time given to you is around 29 minutes per clip.
Talking about the sensor - the heart of any camera, our reviewed cameras; Sony Alpha NEX 3K and Sony Alpha NEX 5K come packed with modest 14.2 megapixels CMOS sensors. The sensors measures 23.4mm x 15.6mm in dimensions and as such, deliver a default aspect ratio of 3:2 for the images that measure 4592 x 3056 pixels. This is almost exactly the same as given with APS-C sized sensors that are employed by a vast majority of cropped-frame DSLRs. And, this gives us a major advantage, which the NEX system has over Micro Four thirds system. Considering the latter employs sensors that measure only a modest 17.3mm x 13mm, it can be said that NEX sensors can boast a surface area, which is like over 50% larger.
Great build quality
Very comfortable size and weight
APS-C Size sensor allows for high quality images
Ability to record 1080i video with stereo sound
Fast and quiet Contrast Detect AF system using NEX lenses
Superb High Resolution LCD
Intuitive intelligent auto mode
Featured packed with Sweep Panorama, Auto HDR, Face Detection and more
Class leading performance at higher ISO speeds
Default metering settings give brighter than desired exposures in some conditions
Limited lens availability without using an Adapter (only 3 NEX lens models so far)
Limited external controls compared to some competing models
No Viewfinder (although the LCD visibility is very good in most lighting)