Our first 'play' using the NEX-5 was at a Sony night event to celebrate its launch which saw models in outlandish fashions strut their stuff on the catwalk, and, despite the heady environment we came away feeling the camera's style, handling and performance were - when compared with what has gone before - somewhat underwhelming.
First off, the rectangular physique and blocky grip looked to our eyes nearer to the austere 'built in a Russian tractor factory' type of Ricoh's GXR system camera than the immediately appealing retro finesse of the Olympus Pen, or modernist rubber clad curves from the Panasonic G series.
With 18-55mmm package lens attached the NEX-5 also appeared and felt top heavy, and that's without fitting a current Alpha DSLR lens proper, compatibility provided with pre-existing optics via accessory adapter. We then struggled to gain access as fast as we want to the camera's key settings by way of its fiddly back plate scroll wheel - instead of traditional control pad, cross keys, or even short-cut buttons - while, in the inside evening setting, too many of our images arrived on the scene soft, despite optically stabilized kit move.
Our attempts at utilising the NEX-5's enjoyable Sweep Panorama feature, previously witnessed on Cyber-shot models but here debuting within the Alpha range and stitching together a single image from a number of shots taken in a 226° arc, were then met by having an error message, the NEX-5 unable maintain with our panning motion/s. Though the resultant image appears flat about the camera's LCD, Sony claims it could be enjoyed in 3D with one associated with its new Bravia TVs via small HDMI output.
We also felt how the 3-inch, very high 921k-dot resolution widescreen format display - in lack of optical viewfinder - lent itself to the touch screen operation, a la Panasonic's G2. The large friendly-looking icons detailing the different shooting options made us instinctively wish to press them, which would also conceivably have increased operation, but our inquisitive prods had been to no avail. Sony already utilizes the technology on several Cyber-shots, so something to feature about the next (NEX) generation model/s possibly.
A week and a bit later and also the NEX-5 hits the Photography Blog test slab for any second, more considered appraisal. And contentedly, in the cold light of day there are several positives to be found. We'll begin with the truth that the camera feels solid gripped within the palm, though with lens attached it's too big for most jacket pockets (so we weren't in a position to ferret one away for appraisal in the launch).
So, with provided make strap attached via side-mounted lugs, we headed this time around for the daylight. One thing we hadn't paid much focus on on initial inspection, but comes into its own when you begin to experiment, was the fact how the screen can be tilted back and forward - otherwise, unfortunately swung outwards at 90° - to permit for low and high angle compositions we might possibly not have attempted without. What Sony has additionally included here, again for the very first time on an Alpha camera, is Hd video shooting, at Full HD 1080i along with stereo sound. It even matches Panasonic G-series options and also the Olympus E-PL1 by featuring a devoted red camcorder-style video record button with regard to instant thumb-operated video access, which is advantageous.