First Impressions on NEX5 from a long time 4/3 User

Started Sep 1, 2010 | Discussions
burnymeister
burnymeister Senior Member • Posts: 1,586
First Impressions on NEX5 from a long time 4/3 User

"WOW".

That's my first impression after doing a head-to-head competition between my new NEX-5 with the 18-55mm kit lens and my Olympus EP-2 with a Panasonic 14-45 lens.

I should state something about me and my photography right up front. I am a LONG time 4/3 and m4/3 user. I've owned the following cameras with various lenses over the years:

Olympus E410
Olympus E420
Panasonic G1
Panasonic GH1
Olympus EP1
Olympus EP2
Panasonic GF1

Why so many 4/3 systems? Simply put, I do a lot of hiking, mountaineering and skiing (see http://www.explor8ion.com for details) and I am always looking for that perfect small system with great IQ to take with me. I have only been satisfied with the IQ of one of these systems - the GH1. I used it so much over a year that the 14-140mm lens started to lock up on me so I am recently in the market for another hiking / climbing camera and started looking around for something a bit smaller than the GH1+14-140mm lens.

I use a full frame system for other photography such as 'formal' landscapes and my kids and people shots. My point is that I've used and tried a lot of different camera systems over the past few years. Too many, but it does give me a lot of experience with different systems.

I only use Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop to PP my photos - and I love PP and make no apologies for this. I take my photos in RAW so that I can do PP. I've spent a lot of $$$ on Adobe products and I realize there are other solutions but I don't use them.

My disappointments with the 4/3 cameras was always the same:

1. Highlight clipping.
2. NOISE

3. Smudged details (usually in the foliage i.e. trees or grass on my mountain shots).

I love everything else about 4/3. The lenses are small, the cameras are light. The GH1 took amazing video. Usually the colors were pretty good (again the GH1 RAW files PP'd the best). When Sony introduced the NEX systems I was pretty excited.

Until I started reading the reviews. They were very harsh on the handling / menus and seemed to indicate that the camera had good IQ but was unmanageable and impossible to use properly.

After trying a NEX5 at TheCameraStore in Calgary I was excited again. The menu honestly didn't seem that confusing. I always shoot in "A" mode and always shoot RAW+JPG. I very rarely do anything else, other than the odd short video for fun. I bought the 18-55mm kit with a polarizing filter to try out.

After all the bad talk about the menu system on the NEX I found it very easy to use for my needs. I can easily switch aperture, exposure compensation, bracketing / self timer and display info. Contrary to what Micheal said in the Luminous Landscape preview, the review picture shows blinking highlights and I can shoot panoramas in RAW mode (as long as it's RAW+JPG - it uses the JPG settings). The screen is extremely usable in daylight and zooming in (to check focus) after taking the shot is very easy and intuitive. Sure - some things like formatting a memory card are annoying but not THAT bad. The camera also takes a long time to turn on after inserting a fresh battery for some reason, but after that it's quick enough for me (less than 1.5 seconds).

But what about the quality of the shots?

I set up a very informal, but relevant test in my backyard. I took the EP2 with the 14-45mm lens and the Nex5 with the 18-55mm lens and put a CPL on each lens to simulate my hiking setup. I then took various handheld shots (again, simulating hiking) of the yard, including polarized and non-polarized angles and sky, shadows and grass / flowers and panoramas. I took RAW+JPG shots and uploaded them into Adobe LR3.2. I then proceeded to do my regular PP on the shots, doing direct comparisons in LR between similar shots from the Sony and the Olympus.

The differences were obvious right away. The Sony colors were much more accurate than the Olympus (this is after checking the WB settings and using the RAW shots for comparison). But even more important to me, the details in the Sony shots were a LOT less smudged than in the Olympus shots. Both cameras were at their optimal ISO setting for DR (ISO 200). I was amazed at how good the Sony lens was - almost (but not quite) on par with my Canon primes on the 5D - and that's with a cheap kit lens! The only problem with the Sony lens was the lower left hand corner got pretty smudged - but no worse than the Panny lens. The Panasonic 14-45mm could not compare in any areas of the picture. It appeared much less sharp everywhere and paired with the EP-2 it smudged a lot of detail.

Another big difference was the noise levels in the RAW shots. The Sony didn't need any noise treatment until around ISO 800 while the Olympus needs it already at ISO 200 (especially in the shadows). This may be a Lightroom issue but that's what I use so... Even in bright daylight I find that the Olympus needs ISO treatment on blue skies while the Sony was smooth. The noise on the Sony shots was much 'tighter' than the noise on the Olympus shots which could result in the smudged detail I noted.

I am taking the Sony (and Olympus) on a hike this weekend so that should prove out the details what I suspect already. Sony's NEX cameras and their larger sensors are making the 4/3 cameras less attractive for folks like myself where quality of the landscape shot combined with size of the camera system is all that really matters.

If you're on the fence regarding the NEX, try it out for yourself. Don't believe everything the reviewers are saying about it being almost impossible to use effectively - I find it find it rather easy to use in most of my scenarios.
--
Vern Dewit
Calgary, Alberta Canada
http://www.explor8ion.com
http://verndewit.com/
http://twitter.com/verndewit

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Teski
Teski Forum Pro • Posts: 13,060
I agree Vern

Great write-up based on your experiences. I also own the GF1 and GH1 and have since they came out and I agree that the GH1 is the best of the lot. But then I picked up the NEX-5 before heading on International business travel in July, and although I also brought my GH1 and GF1 with me, the NEX did pretty much all of the shooting on these trips. I really am impressed by the quality of the output this thing brings to the table. People see my pics and then see the camera and they're amazed at what this tool can do!

Enjoy your hiking trip and be sure to post some pics!

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Thanks,

Teski
Photo-A-Day project - http://www.blipfoto.com/teski
Professional site - http://www.tedescophotography.com

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burnymeister
OP burnymeister Senior Member • Posts: 1,586
Re: I agree Vern

Thanks - I will! Good to know I'm not completely crazy!
--
Vern Dewit
Calgary, Alberta Canada
http://www.explor8ion.com
http://verndewit.com/
http://twitter.com/verndewit

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clail Contributing Member • Posts: 548
Wow!

I am one of NEX early adopters. I was eyeing the EP2 until NEX came along and immediately fell for it. To me, bigger sensor wins! But I am surprised by NEX color accuracy and ISO performance. However, i didn't expect m4/3 users to switch. I thought NEX is only marginally better. I did notice the EP1 wasn't that good in low light shots, it's not much better than a good PnS.

m4/3 users have been pointing out to us that NEX is the inferior product. Now i believe there are two main groups of "photogs" out there. One group buys to take photos, another buys a cam to compare tech and specs aka the pixel peepers. Tom Hoots is one of the first NEX users to ditch his EPL1 after comparing the results but he got a proper roasting in this forum.

So what if NEX is better. I am rejoicing in the fact that we have progress here. Better cams for a lower price. Hooray! Now just go out there and take good photos! LOL

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Jens_G Contributing Member • Posts: 709
Thanks for the write-up! (nt)

Thanks for the write-up! (nt)

burnymeister
OP burnymeister Senior Member • Posts: 1,586
Re: Wow!

You are absolutely right. Tom is the one who first made me question whether the reviewers were getting the whole picture or not. Now I realize that somehow most reviewers seem to be missing what was immediately obvious to me - the larger sensor of the NEX combined with a good kit lens (for the $$$) equals a better end result - i.e. better pictures - at least for some of us.

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AdamJRed Contributing Member • Posts: 545
Re: First Impressions on NEX5 from a long time 4/3 User

I've previously owned the E-P2, GH1, and E-PL1 and I partially agree with your findings.

I didn't think the image quality differences (smudging as you say) is as big, they were on par with the 14-140 and at times I liked the 14-140's corners better but the Sony E 18-55's center better.

I do like the overall image quality from the NEX better, but when you discuss colors I feel that is partially due to how much color profiling support Adobe provides for the u4/3rds system vs. Sony. I was always very happy with the colors I got from my u4/3rds camera.

The u4/3rds cameras still have the NEX beat in controls and lens options. The customization capabilities of the E-P2 and E-PL1 and controls of the GH1 are very DSLR like compared to the Sony. Yes, I can adjust to the Sony and I shoot no problem with it, but its something that must be kept in mind. And for that reason, I wouldn't hesitate to still recommend u4/3 to someone who is going to be a stickler over that type/ease of control.

Where the NEX shines (and what sold it for me) is its High-ISO IQ. ISO 3200 images from the E-PL1 were usually noisier than ISO 6400 images from the NEX (using the new Adobe NR processing) a 1+ stop improvement.

And while Sensor based IS has its advantages, I get a full stop of more use out of Sony's OSS in the 18-55.

Probably the big thing for me is that over time, I have found the NEX replaced my use of DSLRs as well. While there are plenty of areas I think Sony could improve upon, as a whole I'm extremely satisfied with my NEX-5 and lenses (more so than I thought I would be).

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Allan Senior Member • Posts: 1,041
Re: First Impressions on NEX5 from a long time 4/3 User

I'm also considering a NEX for similar reasons: less than stellar noise and clipping issues with the µ4/3 sensors.

My only hesitations with the NEX systems right now are dust issues (µ4/3 cameras have good dust busters) and lack of a hotshoe (because I do a lot of indoor bounce flash photography).

So if the next crop of NEX cameras can address these two issues a bit better, I might finally trade in my G1.

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burnymeister
OP burnymeister Senior Member • Posts: 1,586
Re: First Impressions on NEX5 from a long time 4/3 User

I would agree with you. The GH-1 didn't have nearly the 'smearing' that I got from my other m4/3 cameras. The GH-1 is what I consider the premium m4/3 camera and I would still highly recommend it for sure!

Happy shooting!
--
Vern Dewit
Calgary, Alberta Canada
http://www.explor8ion.com
http://verndewit.com/
http://twitter.com/verndewit

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itripod Junior Member • Posts: 28
NEX user interface

I waited a long time for a high IQ compact that I could comfortably carry while hiking. I avoided the 4:3 offerings because of the small sensor, preferring instead to hike with the additional weight and bulkiness of my APS-C, DSLR.

I was delighted when Sony announced the NEX series. However, I was taken back by negative reviews, mostly dealing with the user interface. I didn’t want to do a lot of menu-diving. I shoot M and like the OP, use RAW and PP in LR and PS.

I needed to try the camera firsthand so I and went to a store for a demo. I found the interface, for the most part, easy to use - at least for my shooting style. Sure, It doesn’t have the ergonomics of a large DSLR, but that’s to be expected with a tiny body. This camera cannot fill all my needs but the NEX will go places where larger cameras can’t, or are not practical.

I am very happy with my NEX-5, 18-55 MM kit. Planning on getting a lens adaptor so that it can be used as a backup body for my DSLR. This will save space and weight while traveling.

Bob Yanal
Bob Yanal Regular Member • Posts: 380
Weight and balance

Since the NEX5 has no viewfinder, you frame by holding it like a point and shoot, some inches from your eyes.

Does the 18-55 lens make it difficult to hold without shaking?
--
Bob Yanal
http://www.flickr.com/photos/16445975@N05/
http://web.me.com/ryanal

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headofdestiny Veteran Member • Posts: 9,226
Re: Weight and balance

Bob Yanal wrote:

Since the NEX5 has no viewfinder, you frame by holding it like a point and shoot, some inches from your eyes.

Does the 18-55 lens make it difficult to hold without shaking?
--
Bob Yanal
http://www.flickr.com/photos/16445975@N05/
http://web.me.com/ryanal

I rarely, if ever hold the camera like that. I flip the tilt screen up to near parallel with the ground, and I hold the camera against my body and look down like with a waist-level viewfinder. IMO, it is a standout feature of the camera.

Bob Yanal
Bob Yanal Regular Member • Posts: 380
Re: Weight and balance

headofdestiny wrote:

I rarely, if ever hold the camera like that. I flip the tilt screen up to near parallel with the ground, and I hold the camera against my body and look down like with a waist-level viewfinder. IMO, it is a standout feature of the camera.

Ah! I hadn't thought of that. Seems like it would shade the screen a bit too.

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SF Photo Gal
SF Photo Gal Senior Member • Posts: 2,228
What a Bunch of BS!

burnymeister wrote:
. I've owned the following cameras with various lenses over the years:

Olympus E410
Olympus E420
Panasonic G1
Panasonic GH1
Olympus EP1
Olympus EP2
Panasonic GF1

Why so many 4/3 systems? Simply put, I do a lot of hiking, mountaineering and skiing

My disappointments with the 4/3 cameras was always the same:

1. Highlight clipping.
2. NOISE

3. Smudged details (usually in the foliage i.e. trees or grass on my mountain shots).

First of all, I know nothing about the NEX other than what I've read. Not a Sony fan, but I don't have an opinion one way or the other on the NEX system. I can also say I've never owned an Olympus, because I like them less than Sony. Mostly a Canon chick I guess in terms of cameras over the years and total money invested, but recently I have bought a GH-1 and a GF-1 and a couple of lenses and I'm very happy with them.

Now to my point. First, a big red flag goes up when someone claims to have own so many cameras over a short period of time. Who really needs all that equipment? I can kind of see moving up from a G-1 to a GH-1, but an EP1 to an EP2 to a GF-1, all essentially the same camera, and then a 410 to a 420? Either he's an equipment freak who buys just for the sake of buying, or perhaps nothing can satisfy him.

Second, 4/3 m4/3 isn't perfect, but highlight clipping, noise, smudged details? Such broad statements are nonsense. If this were the case, they wouldn't be selling as well as they do.

So enjoy your NEX, but take these comments with a grain of salt.

SF Photo Gal
Canon 1Ds MkIII/Panasonic GH1-GF1-LX3

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burnymeister
OP burnymeister Senior Member • Posts: 1,586
Re: What a Bunch of BS!

LOL! Glad you are so cheerful today! Please check my galleries before judgement. I have 60,000 pictures on my hard drives to prove that I am an avid (amateur) photographer who actually uses my gear.

I am definitely an equipment freak! I love photography gear and I'm constantly searching for the best and most fun camera to use for a variety of things.

I didn't list all the other cameras I've owned:

Canon 20D
Canon 5D (still own this one)
Nikon D90
Nikon D200
Nikon D80
Nikon D700
Nikon D3
Sony A900
Sony A850
Leica M8.2

I'm sure I've forgotten a few. Do you want a list of lenses too? I happen to work a job that pays well and I get almost all my gear second hand (except the really new stuff). I live in a small house and take public transit to work which saves me enough right there to enjoy my hobby immensely!

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jorgenl Forum Member • Posts: 89
Re: What a Bunch of BS!

Do you miss the colours of the Olympus jpegs? Are you able to get the colours that you want from the NEX raw files? I have often thought of going to Olympus for the sharpness of their lenses and the jpeg colours but the NEX is giving me a rethink - with the 16mm it is not bigger than my LX3 and a lot smaller than my D90 - am mostly interested in landscapes - thanks for posting all the info.
Jorgen

burnymeister
OP burnymeister Senior Member • Posts: 1,586
Pics

I probably shouldn't do this but maybe it'll benefit some people so I'll give it a shot.

Here's two (very unremarkable) pics, the first with the EP2 and the second with the NEX. Both are shot at f/8 with the kit lenses (Olympus has Panny 14-45mm on it) at the widest setting. Both have CPL's and both are handheld (simulating me hiking). Both are PP'd in Lightroom using the techniques I like to use on most of my shots (bit of levels adjustment and some 'auto' color):

Personally the NEX RAW file processed better and had better color for my tastes. If you download the originals at http://verndewit.com/equipment you'll see what I mean about 'smudging'. At f/5.6 the results were no different.

This isn't something I've just noticed with the EP-2 photos. I really noticed it on the Panny G1 and the EP-1 as well. The Panny GH-1 doesn't have it nearly as bad but the 14-140mm lens is a very good one and the GH-1 is known for having the best sensor in a m4/3 system up to this point. I have some very large (24x36 inch and 24x48 inch) prints hanging on the wall from the GH-1+14-140mm combo so obviously it produced great results for me! Just to show a great shot from the GH-1, here's what's hanging on my wall at 24x48" (stitched panorama):

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nrgpill4 New Member • Posts: 22
Re: What a Bunch of BS!

I somewhat sympathize with burnymeister. My D700 had less than 1000 actuations before I sold it and I just recently decided to jump to Sony. I plan to keep my Pentax gear as I love their primes too much. If you think photography is full of gearheads, well, you haven't explored the world of A/V, cars, and gaming rigs.

I really did try to become that "purist" photographer at one point but I am really a gearhead at heart. Not all photographers w/ high gear turnover are unhappy. In fact, gear turnover is what often makes guys like me happy.

burnymeister wrote:

LOL! Glad you are so cheerful today! Please check my galleries before judgement. I have 60,000 pictures on my hard drives to prove that I am an avid (amateur) photographer who actually uses my gear.

I am definitely an equipment freak! I love photography gear and I'm constantly searching for the best and most fun camera to use for a variety of things.

I didn't list all the other cameras I've owned:

Canon 20D
Canon 5D (still own this one)
Nikon D90
Nikon D200
Nikon D80
Nikon D700
Nikon D3
Sony A900
Sony A850
Leica M8.2

I'm sure I've forgotten a few. Do you want a list of lenses too? I happen to work a job that pays well and I get almost all my gear second hand (except the really new stuff). I live in a small house and take public transit to work which saves me enough right there to enjoy my hobby immensely!

Tom Hoots
Tom Hoots Veteran Member • Posts: 6,073
Well said.

Vern wrote:

You are absolutely right. Tom is the one who first made me question whether the reviewers were getting the whole picture or not. Now I realize that somehow most reviewers seem to be missing what was immediately obvious to me - the larger sensor of the NEX combined with a good kit lens (for the $$$) equals a better end result - i.e. better pictures - at least for some of us.

I tend to think that "most NEX users" have been very satisfied with their cameras, whether they have used the kit lenses or have gone out exploring with whole bunches of other alternatives.

I would say most of the "bad reviews" have come from folks who haven't used the NEX cameras at all, and who have come in here with an agenda to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt about the NEX cameras, for whatever personal reasons dictated their needs to spend their time doing that. Thankfully, the most prolific one has finally been banned from this forum, and I can already see a return to honest, courteous discussions about these cameras.

Indeed, you have said it well -- the kit lens is really quite good for a "kit lens," the larger sensor can produce some awesome picture quality, and the menu system isn't all that difficult to manage. Sure, no camera is perfect, and there's always room for improvement, but in the end, the NEX cameras are great tools that we can get great results from. And that's what it's all about.

Tom Hoots
http://thoots.zenfolio.com
http://www.flickr.com/photos/tomhoots/
http://www.dpreview.com/galleries/4330317199/albums

jorgenl Forum Member • Posts: 89
Re: Pics

Thanks again - that is a remarkable photo comparison and frankly I am surprised to admit that I prefer the NEX in all respects except the colour palette - there is a definite warmth to the m43 pics (which I prefer) - do you think I could bring out a similar warmth with Lightroom(or something similar) ?- gorgeous panorama with your GH-1 - have you tries panorama mode on the NEX? - have you compared video between the two cameras?

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