Sony NEX-5 Review

 
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Sony NEX-5 RAW Image Quality

We've recently started looking at RAW files converted with dcraw, an excellent freeware raw converter. dcraw usually offers timely support for the latest cameras, but more importantly, it does not apply any noise-reduction, sharpening or other corrections such as geometric distortion correction to the output files. (We found that Adobe Camera Raw still applies some limited noise-reduction when its NR settings are set to zero, and it also applies other corrections depending on the make and model of the camera). There will always be differences between RAW converters, in terms of the sort of demosaicing algorithms they use (the processes by which they convert the separate Red, Green, and Blue data sets to an array of full-color RGB pixels), but dcraw seems to use a fairly generic algorithm that delivers good sharpness with relatively few artifacts, and can be counted on to not apply any noise reduction if you don't want it to.

Below are crops from Sony NEX-5 high ISO RAW files compared to RAW files from other SLDs such as Sony NEX-3, Olympus E-P2 and Panasonic G2, converted with dcraw.

High ISO Comparison with Sony NEX-3,
Olympus E-P2 and Panasonic G2
RAW files converted with dcraw, no NR, no sharpening
Daylight-balanced illumination
Sony NEX-5
Sony NEX-3
Olympus E-P2
Panasonic G2
I
S
O

2
0
0
Sony NEX-5
Sony NEX-3
Olympus E-P2
Panasonic G2
I
S
O

4
0
0
Sony NEX-5
Sony NEX-3
Olympus E-P2
Panasonic G2
I
S
O

8
0
0
Sony NEX-5
Sony NEX-3
Olympus E-P2
Panasonic G2
I
S
O

1
6
0
0
Sony NEX-5
Sony NEX-3
Olympus E-P2
Panasonic G2
I
S
O

3
2
0
0
Sony NEX-5
Sony NEX-3
Olympus E-P2
Panasonic G2
I
S
O

6
4
0
0
Sony NEX-5
Sony NEX-3
Olympus E-P2
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 white balance differences (dcraw doesn't seem to handle white balance very well for the NEX series), the Sony NEX-5 performs virtually the same as the Sony NEX-3. And, as you can see, they both outperform the Panasonic G2 above ISO 400, and the Olympus E-P2 above ISO 1,600.

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
RAW files converted with dcraw, no NR, no sharpening
Daylight-balanced illumination
Sony NEX-5
Canon T1i
Nikon D5000
Samsung NX10
I
S
O

2
0
0
Sony NEX-5
Canon T1i
Nikon D5000
Samsung NX10
I
S
O

4
0
0
Sony NEX-5
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 comfortable margin. It also does a bit better than the Canon T1i, but it's pretty close. It's a toss-up with the Nikon D5000, but keep in mind the 14.2-megapixel Sony NEX-5 has slightly smaller photosites than the 12.3-megapixel D5000, so the Sony NEX-5 really is performing well.

 

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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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