Sony NEX-5 Review

 
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Sony NEX-5 Performance


Timing and Performance

The Sony NEX-5 is generally slower than average compared to most consumer SLRs, but as fast or faster than most other SLDs.

Startup/Shutdown

Power on
to first shot

~1.0 second

Time it takes to turn on and capture a shot.

Shutdown

~0.5 second

How long it takes camera to turn off before you can remove the memory card.

Buffer clearing time
8 seconds after 55 large/fine JPEGs*
Worst case buffer clearing time. -- This is the delay after a set of shots before you can remove the card.
17 seconds after 7 RAW files*
27 seconds after 7 RAW+ LF JPEG files*
*Note: Buffer clearing times measured with a SanDisk Extreme III 30MB/sec 8GB SDHC card. Slower cards will produce correspondingly slower clearing times. Slow cards may also limit length of bursts in continuous mode. ISO sensitivity and noise reduction settings can also affect cycle times and burst mode performance.

Startup and shut-down times are slower than those for most SLRs, but good for an SLD. The dust reduction system runs at each shut-down, or can be activated manually. Buffer clearing times are a bit slow, and will depend on the image size and type, as well as the speed of the memory card.


Mode Switching

Play to Record,
first shot

~1.0 second

Time until first shot is captured.

Record to Play

~1.0 second

Time to display a large/fine JPEG file immediately after capture.

Display
recorded image

0.9 second

Time to display a large/fine JPEG file already on the memory card.

Mode switching times are pretty good for its class.


Shutter Response (Lag Time)
Full Autofocus,
Single-area AF mode
Wide Angle
0.441 second
Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture, with the lens already at the proper focal distance setting. (Unless otherwise noted, AF timing performed with the Sony E18-55mm kit lens.)
Full Autofocus,
Single-area AF mode
Telephoto
0.444 second

Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture, with the lens already at the proper focal distance setting.

Full Autofocus,
Multi-area AF mode
Telephoto
0.461 second
Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture, with the lens already at the proper focal distance setting.
Full Autofocus,
Single-area AF mode
Auto Flash Enabled
0.745 second

Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture, with the lens already at the proper focal distance setting, TTL Auto flash enabled.

Full Autofocus,
Single-area AF mode
16mm f/2.8 lens
0.448 second
Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture, with the lens already at the proper focal distance setting. (Sony E16mm f/2.8 lens.)

Prefocused

0.115 second

Time to capture, after half-pressing and holding shutter button. There was about 7% variation between iterations on this particular measurement.

Continuous AF
0.441 second
This mode usually shows no speed increase with our static subject; we have no way to measure performance with moving subjects.
Manual Focus
0.257 second
For most cameras, shutter lag is less in manual focus than autofocus, but usually not as fast as when the camera is "prefocused".

The Sony NEX-5 showed full-autofocus shutter lag (with the subject at a fixed distance) that ranged from 0.411 second at wide angle to 0.444 second at full telephoto when using the 18-55mm kit lens in Single-area AF mode. Switching to Multi-area mode increased lag slightly to 0.461 at telephoto.

With the flash enabled, the NEX-5's full AF shutter lag increased to 0.745s, to account for the preflash metering. Shutter lag was 0.441 second in continuous mode AF, though your subject may not be in focus in this mode. When manually focused, the Sony NEX-5's lag time dropped to 0.257 second, which is a bit slower than most cameras in manual focus mode. The NEX-5's prefocused lag time 0.115 second, which is good, but not great.

While slower than most SLRs using an optical viewfinder, autofocus speeds and shutter lag are pretty fast for an SLD, which all use contrast-detection AF.

To minimize the effect of different lens' focusing speed, we test AF-active shutter lag with the lens already set to the correct focal distance. We also use the same Sigma 70mm f/2.8 macro with every camera (on all platforms except Four Thirds/Micro Four Thirds, Samsung NX, Sony E-mount, and Nikon consumer models lacking an in-body focus motor), to further reduce variation, and because our tests showed that focus-determination time with this lens was close to the fastest, across multiple camera bodies from different manufacturers. Being an older design with a non-ultrasonic motor, it wouldn't be the fastest at slewing from one focus setting to another, but that's exactly the reason we measure focus determination speed, which is primarily a function of the camera body, vs focus adjustment speed, which is primarily a function of the lens.


Cycle Time (shot to shot)

Single Shot mode
Large/Fine JPEG

0.77 second

Time per shot, averaged over 20 shots, 1 second to clear*.

Single Shot mode
RAW

0.77 second

Time per shot, averaged over 17 shots, 4 seconds to clear*.

Single Shot mode
RAW + LF JPEG
0.77 second

Time per shot, averaged over 8 shots, 4 seconds to clear*.

Early shutter
penalty?

No

Some cameras don't snap another shot if you release and press the shutter too quickly in Single Shot mode, making "No" the preferred answer.

Continuous Mode
Large/Fine JPEG

0.37 second (2.68 frames per second);
38 frames total;
8 seconds to clear*

Time per shot, averaged over 38 shots, then slows to an average of about 0.57s or 1.74 fps when buffer is full.

Continuous Mode
RAW

0.37 second (2.68 frames per second);
9 frames total;
7 seconds to clear*

Time per shot, averaged over buffer length of 9 frames, then slows to an average of about 1.15s or 0.87 fps when buffer is full.

Continuous Mode
RAW + LF JPEG

0.38 second (2.60 frames per second);
6 frames total;
9 seconds to clear*

Time per shot, averaged over buffer length of 6 frames, then slows to 1.64s or 0.61 fps when buffer is full.

Speed Priority Mode
Large/Fine JPEG
0.14 second (7.00 frames per second);
15 frames total;
6 seconds to clear*
Time per shot, averaged over buffer length of 15 frames, then slows to 0.56s or 1.80 fps when buffer is full.
Speed Priority Mode
RAW
0.14 second (7.00 frames per second);
7 frames total;
17 seconds to clear*
Time per shot, averaged over buffer length of 7 frames.
Speed Priority Mode
RAW + LF JPEG
0.14 second (7.00 frames per second);
7 frames total;
27 seconds to clear*
Time per shot, averaged over buffer length of 7 frames.

Flash Recycling

2.8 seconds

Flash at maximum output.

*Note: Buffer clearing times measured with a SanDisk Extreme III 30 MB/sec 8GB SDHC card. Slower cards will produce correspondingly slower clearing times. Slow cards may also limit length of bursts in continuous mode. ISO sensitivity and noise reduction settings can also affect cycle times and burst mode performance.

Single-shot cycle times are good for an SLD, at 0.77 second for all the file types we tested (large/fine JPEG, RAW, and RAW+ large/fine JPEG). Standard continuous mode is a bit below average for its class, at 2.68 frames-per-second for large/fine JPEGs or RAW, and 2.60 frames-per-second for RAW + large/fine JPEG. However, in Speed Priority mode, burst speed is excellent at 7 frames-per-second, though focus and exposure are fixed at the first frame of a burst.

Buffer depth for large/fine JPEGs is very good at 38 frames in standard continuous mode, and 15 frames in Speed Priority mode. When shooting RAW, buffer depth drops to 9 frames in standard mode and 7 frames in Speed Priority. For RAW + large/fine JPEG, buffer depths drop to 6 or 7 frames. That's still pretty good, though, especially for a 14-megapixel consumer model. Note that our test target for this was designed to be difficult to compress, so JPEG burst lengths should be longer with simpler subjects.

The flash was able to recycle from a full discharge in 2.8 seconds, which is also pretty good considering how powerful the flash is.


Download Speed

Windows Computer, USB 2.0

15,477 KBytes/sec

Typical Values:
Less than 600=USB 1.1;
600-769=USB 2.0 Low;
Above 770=USB 2.0 High

Download speeds were very fast, quick enough that you won't feel the need for a separate card reader, even with large memory cards. (Note that this test was performed with a SanDisk Extreme III 30 MB/sec SD card: Slower cards would likely show slower transfer times.)


Bottom line, the Sony NEX-5 performance is pretty good for an SLD overall. Full autofocus is a bit slow compared to most SLRs, but pretty fast for an SLD and on par with most digicams. Cycle times are good too, and Speed Priority continuous mode is very fast, making the NEX-5 suitable for capturing sports as long as the subject distance and lighting doesn't change much within a burst.

Battery and Storage Capacity

Battery
Average battery life for an SLD camera.

Operating Mode Battery Life
Still Capture,
(CIPA standard)
330 shots
Video Capture,
(CIPA standard)
Not published
Playback,
(CIPA standard)
Not published

The Sony NEX-5 uses a custom rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack for power, and comes with both a single battery and charger. The battery is rated for 330 shots per charge using the CIPA standard, which includes 50% flash shots with the detachable flash. Battery life is about average for an SLD, but we do recommend getting a second battery for your NEX-5 if you plan any extended outings.

The table above shows the number of shots the camera is capable of (on a fully-charged rechargeable battery), based on CIPA battery-life and/or manufacturer standard test conditions.

(Interested readers can find an English translation of the CIPA DC-002 standards document here. (180K PDF document))

Storage
The Sony NEX-5 accepts Memory Stick PRO Duo/PRO-HG Duo/PRO-HG HX Duo or SD/SDHC/SDHX memory cards, and does not ship with a card.

Image Capacity with
1GB Memory Card
Fine Normal RAW RAW +
Fine JPEG
4,592 x 3,056
Images
(Avg Size)
158
6.5 MB
224
4.6 MB
63
16.1 MB
44
23.0 MB
Approx.
Comp.
7:1
9:1
1.3:1
-
3,344 x 2,224
Images
(Avg Size)
253
4.0 MB
347
2.9 MB
-
-
Approx.
Comp.
6:1
8:1
-
-
2,288 x 1,520
Images
(Avg Size)
398
2.6 MB
496
2.1 MB
-
-
Approx.
Comp.
4:1
5:1
-
-

We strongly recommend buying a fast, large capacity Memory Stick PRO Duo or SDHC/SDXC memory card at least a 2GB card, preferably a 4 or 8GB one, to give yourself extra space for extended outings, or when shooting RAW or video files. (Check the shopping link above, memory cards are really cheap these days, so no reason to skimp.)

 

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Note: For details, test results, and analysis of the many tests done with this camera, please click on the tabs at the beginning of the review or below.

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