Sony NEX-5 Review

 
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Sony NEX-5 High ISO Noise Reduction

The Sony NEX-5 offers only two high ISO noise reduction settings: Auto and Weak, with Auto being the default. The NEX-5 user manual does not say at what ISO noise reduction kicks in, so we've included crops starting from the base ISO of 200.

See for yourself how the noise reduction works under daylight-balanced lighting. Click on any of the crops below to see the corresponding full-sized image.

High ISO Noise Reduction Comparison
Daylight-balanced illumination
Weak
Auto
I
S
O

2
0
0
Weak
Auto
I
S
O

4
0
0
Weak
Auto
I
S
O

8
0
0
Weak
Auto
I
S
O

1
6
0
0
Weak
Auto
I
S
O

3
2
0
0
Weak
Auto
I
S
O

6
4
0
0
Weak
Auto
I
S
O

1
2
8
0
0

The above crops show the effects of the Sony NEX5's two high ISO noise reduction settings, under our studio HMI lighting we use to simulate daylight. As you can see, the "Weak" setting does result in more chroma noise than the Auto, but it also smudges the detail in the red fabric at higher ISOs. (You can really see a difference at ISO 1,600 and above.)  At first, we though we had the filenames swapped, but we double-checked and they are correct. Then we remembered the Sony A500 and A550 had a similar oddity, where the Normal high ISO NR setting caused excessive smudging while the High setting did not.


How does the Sony NEX-5 compare to other recent SLDs? See the crops below.

High ISO Comparison with Sony NEX3,
Olympus EP-2 and Panasonic G2
(In-camera JPEGs, all default NR)
Daylight-balanced illumination
Sony NEX-5
Sony NEX-3
Olympus EP2
Panasonic G2
I
S
O

8
0
0
Sony NEX-5
Sony NEX-3
Olympus EP2
Panasonic G2
I
S
O

1
6
0
0
Sony NEX-5
Sony NEX-3
Olympus EP2
Panasonic G2
I
S
O

3
2
0
0
Sony NEX-5
Sony NEX-3
Olympus EP2
Panasonic G2
I
S
O

6
4
0
0
Sony NEX-5
Sony NEX-3
Olympus EP2
Panasonic G2
I
S
O

1
2
8
0
0
N/A
ISO 12800
not supported
N/A
ISO 12800
not supported
N/A
ISO 12800
not supported
N/A
ISO 12800
not supported
N/A
ISO 12800
not supported
N/A
ISO 12800
not supported

Apart from some minor exposure differences (even though the same shutter speed and aperture were used), the Sony NEX-3 performs the same as the Sony NEX-5. And, as you can see, they both outperform these Micro Four Thirds models at ISO 1,600 and above.

Let's see how the Sony NEX-5 compares to other cameras with APS-C sensors.

High ISO Comparison with Canon T1i,
Nikon D5000 and Samsung NX10
(In-camera JPEGs, all default NR)
Daylight-balanced illumination
Sony NEX5
Canon T1i
Nikon D5000
Samsung NX10
I
S
O

8
0
0
Sony NEX5
Canon T1i
Nikon D5000
Samsung NX10
I
S
O

1
6
0
0
Sony NEX5
Canon T1i
Nikon D5000
Samsung NX10
I
S
O

3
2
0
0
Sony NEX5
Canon T1i
Nikon D5000
Samsung NX10
I
S
O

6
4
0
0
N/A
ISO 6400
not supported
N/A
ISO 6400
not supported
N/A
ISO 6400
not supported
Sony NEX5
Canon T1i
Nikon D5000
Samsung NX10
I
S
O

1
2
8
0
0
N/A
ISO 12800
not supported
N/A
ISO 12800
not supported
N/A
ISO 12800
not supported
N/A
ISO 12800
not supported
N/A
ISO 12800
not supported
N/A
ISO 12800
not supported

Here, the Sony NEX-5 clearly outperforms the Samsung NX10 by a wide margin. It also does better than the Canon T1i. It's a bit of a toss-up versus the Nikon D5000. The Nikon does a slightly better job with fine detail in the red fabric, and it leaves a bit more chroma and luminance noise in return for slightly better detail overall. Still, amazing results for the ultracompact 14-megapixel Sony NEX-5.

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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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