Thursday, August 5, 2010

Sony NEX-5 - Dad's new toy (review of sorts)

Mum and dad's love of new gadgets see no bounds. At one point, they owned 3 blenders, 1 food processor and 1 dessert maker at home. Of course the countless generations of iPods, iPhones, stuck somewhere in the bottom corner of a drawer. Until recently these gadgets would just pile up in the house until they discover the power of Asiaxpat where they just keep on selling their off-season gadgets. During the last few days, they have been trying to offload their old digital SLR cameras. They decided that they would no longer use these chunky cameras, after their experience with the new Sony NEX-5.

If you have been reading our blog, you might have noticed that there's a slight change in style for the photos posted. They pre-ordered the NEX-5 prior to official sale and took delivery of the camera about 1 month ago. Since then this camera has been in short supply in Hong Kong and even in a Japan (no stock in Tokyo's Sony shop when Auntie FF checked last week.) There are plenty of professional reviews available online, so we decided to bring you the perspective of a dumb amateur, dad.

To sum up the best thing about this camera - small with decent picture quality even under dim lighting conditions and really good video capture. The worst thing about this camera - the brightly lit LCD screen is the only medium with which you interact with the camera, so the battery runs out of gas if you have a long day of taking pictures ahead of you. The freshly charged battery ran out towards the end of the day when they wanted capture more sunset photos in Lake Mashu after using the camera intensively in Shiretoko which would be hard to imagine with traditional DSLR as you perform all your picture composition on the view-finder which is not battery intensive. Spare battery was not available when they took delivery of the camera but if you intend to travel with the NEX-5, get a spare battery pack.

One of the most respected digital camera review site,, made heavy weather on the way Sony squeezed all the controls into the 3 buttons, jog dial and on-screen menu. It's definitely true that if you are used to the controls on DSLR, NEX-5 controls take some getting used to but it's really not that bad considering how many options and functions they are squeezing into this camera. Of course if you are really professional and need to change settings on the fly, you lost precious few seconds fiddling with the dials and menu. But this is a dumb amateur review.

We like depth of field shown by the pictures that was taken during this trip and this is also highlighted as one of the strengths of the NEX-5.

Contribution from Auntie FF - Ginza Kyubey 銀座 久兵衛
Shiretoko Five Lake 知床五湖

Lake Mashu 摩周湖

Kushiro Shitsugen National Park 釧路湿原国立公園

Furano 富良野

And of course, we like those pictures taken under dim lighting conditions, bearing in mind these are taken without the help of tripods.

Contribution from Auntie FF taken next to Tokyo Tower とうふ屋 うかい
Otaru 小樽

Otaru Canal at night 小樽運河の夜

The panorama function is interesting but it takes a fair amount of practice to get the photo you really desire. Also you need a fairly steady pair of hands in order to minimize artifacts on the resulting pictures. But it's so much easier than painstakingly stitch the pictures yourself. The pan-cake kit fixed focal length lens is not suitable for doing panorama as distortion becomes a huge issue.

Another Auntie FF contribution Tsukiji Market 築地

Lake #1 in Shiretoko Five Lakes 知床五湖

Some artifacts are more obvious than others. Note the jagged water ripples in this picture.

The quality of the video captured is really a bonus. (Please check out youtube links in our other entries.) It's hard to imagine the camera getting any smaller as limited by the physical size of the optics, so improvements will probably come in the form of functions and sensor quality.

With the exception of the panoramas, all the photos were shot under the iA (intelligent Auto-focus) mode.

Update - to see more of the photos taken using NEX-5, please click this tag. Thanks.