It’s the old travel photography dilemma: digital SLR or compact point and shoot. You want the best pictures (and that means SLR plus lenses and other paraphernalia as above,) yet you also don’t want to
a) Lug around all that extra weight
b) Mark yourself out as a rich, flashy tourist and virtually encourage locals to rob you
c) Spend so much money to begin with
d) Lose that money when the bulkiness of the camera body and lenses throws you off balance in a steep icy war tunnel and you slide for metres sustaining the odd injury but narrowly avoiding much worse. Not that I’m speaking from personal experience, of course.
But you do want those great pictures. Sigh…
Well, Sony think they’ve found the holy grail with their flagship SONY NEX5, the smallest and lightest camera with interchangeable lenses to date. They asked me to give it a trial run and here’s what I thought…
Independent Review of the SONY NEX5
Well, we hit it off straight away. The Sony NEX 5 is small and it is light and after a day wandering around the city, my usually aching shoulder felt as carefree as ever. I understand SONY describe it as a camera you can put in your pocket. This is something of a stretch, unless you happen to be wearing a kangaroo costume, but it certainly fits into my handbag. Huge points for this.
The menu and setup stages are intuitive and easy to use (plus, I have a soft spot for the clean, sweet noise it makes as you scroll through options and take a photo.) As a tiny point, I prefer buttons to dials on a camera: once you know what you’re doing, you can change settings much faster as you don’t need to look at the screen.
Manual Settings & Gadgets
The Sony NEX5 gives you all the manual control you could want. The DMF (where the camera autofocuses the first part and then you fine-tune the rest) is a great idea for saving time.
Detachable flash…I’m not entirely sure why they’ve done this. Presumably on bright sunny days, the thinking went, you leave the flash at home to cut down on weight. However, if you’re travelling for more than a day or suddenly realise you need a shot of canned sunshine then this isn’t going to work.
Cool SONY NEX5 Features
Video and panoramic shooting – I’ll explain more about those in later posts. (Update! Sony NEX5 Video Tips & Review Now Here)
The shooting tips will be hugely helpful if this is your first journey out of the safe “auto” mode – and the explanations given for aperture and what’s more commonly labelled Tv are some of the clearest I’ve ever seen.
Image composition takes place on a screen, not through a viewfinder. Indoors, or perhaps in Britain and other grey and sludgy climates, this isn’t a problem. In snow, ice and sunshine, it definitely is. The NEX-5 has plenty of great features – but they fade away if sunlight blocks the view of what you’re taking a picture of.
The interchangeable lenses are incredibly hard to find! By the end of this trial, I honestly was ready to retire my old SLR and give my back and shoulders a break by switching to the SONY NEX5. And maybe someday I will. But until I can find a zoom lens to go with it, I’m chained to my old setup. Let’s hope that changes in the future.
So, does the SONY NEX-5 solve the travel photography dilemma and should you buy one?
Depends on who you are. The SONY NEX5 is a fantastic choice if you’re stepping out of the point and shoot and auto world for the first time and you travel a lot. Its lightness, image quality and helpful layout make it an absolute pleasure to use.
If you’re a more serious travel photographer, it doesn’t quite do everything you need. Weigh up (ho, ho) the limitations against reducing the strain on your back.