Camera

Review: Sony Alpha NEX

Finally got down to share my views on the NEX-series camera.

The Sony NEX-3 with 18-55mm lens and optional flash.

As an imaging device, the NEX-3 and NEX-5 deliver clean images at extraordinary ISO levels, something that Sony should be very proud of. The design, as I already mentioned in my May post, is futuristic and certainly offers a unique positioning in the mirrorless market. The build quality is good and the materials look like they can take some rough handling.

I must also commend that the menu interface is driven with the general consumer in mind – consumers who have no idea about the fundamental exposure controls of photography, i.e. shutter, aperture. To these group of people, the NEX offers a very user-friendly way of allowing these users shoot images. Minimal hardware buttons ensures non-confusing controls. Shooting modes like 3D panorama and HDR enhances the fun factor.

To an advanced photographer who desires more than low-noise image, it appears the NEX fails to work effectively. Here’s why:

– The viewfinder blackout after every shot is very long.
– The zoom ring on the 18-55mm is very tight and requires greater turning radius, so it’ll be hard to do quick zooming.
– Too many steps to adjust camera settings. For instance, in “M” mode, adjusting shutter and aperture is somewhat confusing because the same navigation dial is used to change both, which is differentiated by “user-friendly” icons instead of a clear “A” or “S” letter.
– No standard hot-shoe to use hot-shoe accessories.
– Noisy shutter mechanism, might I say the most annoying for any digital camera I’ve experienced. An SLR shutter sound may be loud, but it’s quick like a snap. The NEX shutter sound is draggy.
– The 18-55mm lens is the largest kit lens among all the mirrorless brands. An irony, considering the NEX body is the smallest.

Conclusion: The Sony NEX is a fantastic camera, built with the prosumer user in mind who needs DSLR quality without understanding the technical jargon. But advanced users may have to settle for the inadequacies of managing exposure controls quickly. The user interface defies convention, so much so that it is hard to use the traditional method of guiding an NEX user on photography. It is probably better to leave the camera in “Auto” mode, relegating to manual controls only at times when time is a luxury, than to risk getting frustrated by the inability to make adjustments promptly to capture the moment, resulting in the moment slipping by. Besides, from my experience, the NEX is already optimised to capture pretty images without requiring manual controls, thanks to Sony’s decades of consumer imaging expertise.

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