This was an overnight trip to introduce my 17 year old son to Pattaya and Walking Street, places he’s only read about until now and he’s been in Thailand every summer for 5-6 years now.  We’ll look at some images through the lens of the Sony NEX-5 small pocket size camera and I’ll discuss the different modes and why they’re useful as we go along.  These images will all be unprocessed jpegs unless otherwise noted.

 

This is a shot of the front of the Mecure where we stayed.  Notice that we can clearly see the inside of the windows are well exposed?  Perfectly exposed actually.

Sony NEX-5, 16mm F2.8, Auto HDR, Jpeg Output  ISO 1600

 

This is a shot of the front of the Mecure where we stayed.  Notice that we can clearly see the inside of the windows are well exposed?  Perfectly exposed actually.

Look at this image below:

 

Notice how the interior is completely blown out?  This is how most pictures would look from most point and shoots using an automatic exposure mode.  But with the Auto HDR function enabled the picture above is much better exposed.  A nice feature that took no extra work other than setting a menu function.

Sony NEX-5, 16mm F2.8, Aperture Priority, Jpeg Output  ISO 1600

 

Notice how the interior is completely blown out?  This is how most pictures would look from most point and shoots using an automatic exposure mode.  But with the Auto HDR function enabled the picture above is much better exposed.  A nice feature that took no extra work other than setting a menu function.

 

This image of the hotel lobby was also captured using Auto HDR.  No processing involved.

Sony NEX-5, 16mm F2.8, Auto HDR, Jpeg Output  ISO 1600

 

This image of the hotel lobby was also captured using Auto HDR.  No processing involved.

 

This lady had fallen asleep at her stand and made for an appealing image.  Notice that as the ISO climbs to 1600 detail falls off sharply?  This is common with all cameras, but seems a bit excessive with the Sony NEX-5.  I attribute this to the early version of firmware and jpeg processing.  I can’t wait until the raw files are supported in the regular programs such as Lightroom 3 and ACR.

Sony NEX-5, 16mm F2.8 Auto HDR, Jpeg Output  ISO 1600

 

This lady had fallen asleep at her stand and made for an appealing image.  Notice that as the ISO climbs to 1600 detail falls off sharply?  This is common with all cameras, but seems a bit excessive with the Sony NEX-5.  I attribute this to the early version of firmware and jpeg processing.  I can’t wait until the raw files are supported in the regular programs such as Lightroom 3 and ACR.

 

These converted micro-buses are found throughout Bangkok and Pattaya and are essentially mobile bars.  A great idea really, stop the car, set out a few barstools, and start serving what appeared to be rather expensive drinks!  The auto HDR feature of the Sony NEX-5 lends itself well to these scenes.

Sony NEX-5, 16mm F2.8, Auto HDR, Jpeg Output ISO 1600

 

These converted micro-buses are found throughout Bangkok and Pattaya and are essentially mobile bars.  A great idea really, stop the car, set out a few barstools, and start serving what appeared to be rather expensive drinks!  The auto HDR feature of the Sony NEX-5 lends itself well to these scenes.

 

We all know this view.  But notice in this one the outside is well exposed and you can see well inside the windows as well?

Sony NEX-5, 16mm F2.8, Auto HDR, Jpeg Output  ISO 1000

 

We all know this view.  But notice in this one the outside is well exposed and you can see well inside the windows as well?

Now look at the image below.

 

Notice inside the windows?  All blown out.  If I’d bothered to process the Auto HDR image above the difference would be even more dramatic.

Sony NEX-5, 16mm F2.8, Auto Exposure, Jpeg Output, ISO 1000

 

Notice inside the windows?  All blown out.  If I’d bothered to process the Auto HDR image above the difference would be even more dramatic.

 

Another Auto HDR shot, notice the well balanced exposure and highlights?  Straight out of the camera!  Bright lights in the signs are well handled, the bright lights of the cars subdued, a much nicer picture than the one below.

Sony NEX-5, 16mm F2.8, Auto HDR, Jpeg Output  ISO 1600

 

Another Auto HDR shot, notice the well balanced exposure and highlights?  Straight out of the camera!  Bright lights in the signs are well handled, the bright lights of the cars subdued, a much nicer picture than the one below.

 

My what a difference!  Signs blow out, not much contrast, pretty much the type of scene you’d expect with a regular point and shoot camera.

Sony NEX-5, 16mm F2.8, Auto Exposure, Jpeg Output, ISO 1600

 

My what a difference!  Signs blow out, not much contrast, pretty much the type of scene you’d expect with a regular point and shoot camera.

 

My son looking up at the gawd awful Samsung Walking Street sign.  Nice well balanced exposure thanks to HDR.

Sony NEX-5, 16mm F2.8, Auto HDR, Jpeg Output  ISO 1600

 

My son looking up at the gawd awful Samsung Walking Street sign.  Nice well balanced exposure thanks to HDR.

 

Another dramatic difference.  It’s becoming obvious that for night scenes the Auto HDR works quite well.  I hear you asking “but, doesn’t it take more time, don’t you need a tripod, isn’t it a lot of work?”  Not with the Sony NEX-5.  It’s 7 frames per second frame rate makes taking the shots as easy as taking a single shot, and the in camera CPU does all the heavy lifting.  If you like you can process the HDR by changing the toning if you don’t care for how the camera processes the image.  I’m just using the standard settings so you can get a feel for how this camera handles this environment.  It also helps that I use a very fast SanDisk 32gb SD card that can write at 60mbps so I NEVER have to wait for this camera to write to the card before taking another shot.

Sony NEX-5, 16mm F2.8, Auto Exposure, Jpeg Output, ISO 1600

 

Another dramatic difference.  It’s becoming obvious that for night scenes the Auto HDR works quite well.  I hear you asking “but, doesn’t it take more time, don’t you need a tripod, isn’t it a lot of work?”  Not with the Sony NEX-5.  It’s 7 frames per second frame rate makes taking the shots as easy as taking a single shot, and the in camera CPU does all the heavy lifting.  If you like you can process the HDR by changing the toning if you don’t care for how the camera processes the image.  I’m just using the standard settings so you can get a feel for how this camera handles this environment.  It also helps that I use a very fast SanDisk 32gb SD card that can write at 60mbps so I NEVER have to wait for this camera to write to the card before taking another shot.

 

A common view of walking street with the exposure well handled, all the signs readable, very nice actually.

Sony NEX-5, 16mm F2.8, Auto HDR, Jpeg Output  ISO 1600

 

A common view of walking street with the exposure well handled, all the signs readable, very nice actually.

 

What a difference!  Blown out signs, blown out exposure.  Sure, this is in auto and with a bit of negative EV I would have yielded a better image, but not with the balance of dynamic range using the Auto HDR feature.  I should mention, that the Auto HDR feature allows you to easily set the amount of ‘stops’ between the three images it captures and processes.  For a less heavy scene I used a mere .7 stops, for other scenes a full 2 stops, and some extreme scenes 3 stops.  I do which Sony would have gave us the option to add more than 3 images into our HDR. 5 and 7 and 9 images would be excellent.  Perhaps in a future firmware upgrade.

Sony NEX-5, 16mm F2.8, Auto Exposure, Jpeg Output, ISO 1600

 

What a difference!  Blown out signs, blown out exposure.  Sure, this is in auto and with a bit of negative EV I would have yielded a better image, but not with the balance of dynamic range using the Auto HDR feature.  I should mention, that the Auto HDR feature allows you to easily set the amount of ‘stops’ between the three images it captures and processes.  For a less heavy scene I used a mere .7 stops, for other scenes a full 2 stops, and some extreme scenes 3 stops.  I do which Sony would have gave us the option to add more than 3 images into our HDR. 5 and 7 and 9 images would be excellent.  Perhaps in a future firmware upgrade.

 

Many times with the Sony NEX-5 the most difficult part of making a capture is deciding which mode to use.  HD movie, Intelligent Auto, Auto HDR, High DRO, 16:9, or in this case Sweep Panorama.  Hold down the shutter button and sweep the camera across the scene and the camera automatically makes the captures at a fast 7fps and then in-camera processes and stitches the images together in a 8000 pixel very side image.  A full size peek at this image is incredible, but an 8000 pixel image is way too big for this column.

Sony NEX-5, 16mm F2.8, Sweep Panorama Mode, Jpeg Output, ISO 1600

 

Many times with the Sony NEX-5 the most difficult part of making a capture is deciding which mode to use.  HD movie, Intelligent Auto, Auto HDR, High DRO, 16:9, or in this case Sweep Panorama.  Hold down the shutter button and sweep the camera across the scene and the camera automatically makes the captures at a fast 7fps and then in-camera processes and stitches the images together in a 8000 pixel very side image.  A full size peek at this image is incredible, but an 8000 pixel image is way too big for this column.

 

Another Auto-HDR from Walking Street.  I won’t bore you showing you the regular images from this point on unless the difference is more profound than what you’ve already seen above.  I should caution you that a 16mm lens takes some experience to use with competence and most amateurs would be better served starting out with the excellent 18-55mm F4 image stabilized lens which I also have and like very much.  It’s a bigger lens so it’s not a “pocket” camera when it’s attached like with the 16mm.. but it is a very useful lens.

Sony NEX-5, 16mm F2.8, Auto HDR, Jpeg Output  ISO 1600

 

Another Auto-HDR from Walking Street.  I won’t bore you showing you the regular images from this point on unless the difference is more profound than what you’ve already seen above.  I should caution you that a 16mm lens takes some experience to use with competence and most amateurs would be better served starting out with the excellent 18-55mm F4 image stabilized lens which I also have and like very much.  It’s a bigger lens so it’s not a “pocket” camera when it’s attached like with the 16mm.. but it is a very useful lens.

 

Inside a bar the camera acquits itself very well and the Auto HDR function helps quite a bit.  No flash, no special techniques, I did use the table top to set the camera on to stabilize it, flipped up the articulating LCD so I could see to frame the image, and that was it.

Sony NEX-5, 16mm F2.8, Auto HDR, Jpeg Output  ISO 1600

 

Inside a bar the camera acquits itself very well and the Auto HDR function helps quite a bit.  No flash, no special techniques, I did use the table top to set the camera on to stabilize it, flipped up the articulating LCD so I could see to frame the image, and that was it.

 

The Sony NEX-5 is packaged and comes with a very tiny (about as big around as a quarter) external flash unit that mounts and lays flat out of the way which is how I leave it attached, and when you want it to “fill” or whatever mode you want to use it in, you simply flip it up and it’s active.  In this case all the ‘mood’ lights of the bar goes away and you see it as it is.  You’d think ISO 1600 wouldn’t have that much detail, but with the proper light it’s actually quite decent, look at the image below, a 1:1 crop of the keyboard player

Sony NEX-5, 16mm F2.8, Auto Exposure, Jpeg output, Flash, ISO 1600

 

The Sony NEX-5 is packaged and comes with a very tiny (about as big around as a quarter) external flash unit that mounts and lays flat out of the way which is how I leave it attached, and when you want it to “fill” or whatever mode you want to use it in, you simply flip it up and it’s active.  In this case all the ‘mood’ lights of the bar goes away and you see it as it is.  You’d think ISO 1600 wouldn’t have that much detail, but with the proper light it’s actually quite decent, look at the image below, a 1:1 crop of the keyboard player.

 

Notice the finer detail you wouldn’t normally expect at ISO 1600?  And you really wouldn’t expect this tiny flash to provide so much light in so big an area.  Very impressive!

Sony NEX-5, 16mm F2.8, Auto Exposure, Jpeg Output, Flash ISO 1600

 

Notice the finer detail you wouldn’t normally expect at ISO 1600?  And you really wouldn’t expect this tiny flash to provide so much light in so big an area.  Very impressive!

 

Another crop using the flash, catching the bar hostess standing on a stool adjusting a fan for a customer.  Again, ISO 1600 using the tiny included flash.

Sony NEX-5, 16mm F2.8, Auto Exposure, Jpeg Output, Flash  ISO 1600

 

Another crop using the flash, catching the bar hostess standing on a stool adjusting a fan for a customer.  Again, ISO 1600 using the tiny included flash.

 

This is quite the blurry shot, but this chap primping his hair in the mirror before going back to dance with a bar hostess is probably a great reason to regulate your intake of alcohol.. ;o)  My son had a good belly laugh at this guy.. and I suspect so did everyone else in the bar.

Sony NEX-5, 16mm F2.8, Auto HDR, Jpeg Output  ISO 1600

 

This is quite the blurry shot, but this chap primping his hair in the mirror before going back to dance with a bar hostess is probably a great reason to regulate your intake of alcohol.. ;o)  My son had a good belly laugh at this guy.. and I suspect so did everyone else in the bar.

 

Another image using the table top as a tripod and the articulating LCD as a viewfinder.  No one was the wiser with me taking pictures in this manner.  However, I did ask and obtain the bar managers permission and I wouldn’t recommend you try sneaking shots (or worse yet, HD Movies) with this camera without the proper permission.

Sony NEX-5, 16mm F2.8, Auto HDR, Jpeg Output  ISO 1600

 

Another image using the table top as a tripod and the articulating LCD as a viewfinder.  No one was the wiser with me taking pictures in this manner.  However, I did ask and obtain the bar managers permission and I wouldn’t recommend you try sneaking shots (or worse yet, HD Movies) with this camera without the proper permission.

You’re probably thinking these are “DSLR” quality images.  Yes, they are.  The Sony NEX-5 has a DSLR sized APC-S sensor like you’d find in a Nikon D300 or Canon 50d.  It’s not a full frame sensor like the Canon 5d Mark II and the 16mm F2.8 lens sure isn’t a Canon 35mm F1.4L lens, but then it’s only a $600 total package vs. over $5000 for the pro gear.  AND you can carry it in your pocket!

 

The next morning my son and I visited the Sanctuary of Truth and I had a chance to try the Auto-HDR feature in the bright sunlight.  I’m still quite pleased, we achieved a nice sky with detailed clouds and fine detail of the carvings.  Look at the crop below:

Sony NEX-5, 16mm F2.8, Auto HDR, Jpeg Output  ISO 200

 

The next morning my son and I visited the Sanctuary of Truth and I had a chance to try the Auto-HDR feature in the bright sunlight.  I’m still quite pleased, we achieved a nice sky with detailed clouds and fine detail of the carvings.  Look at the crop below:

 

This is a 1:1 crop of the image above.  Obviously the 16mm lens holds its own quite well and I could easily print this image at 20x24 inches and have tons of eye catching detail!  Perfect for vacation shots.

Sony NEX-5, 16mm F2.8, Auto HDR, Jpeg Output  ISO 200

 

This is a 1:1 crop of the image above.  Obviously the 16mm lens holds its own quite well and I could easily print this image at 20x24 inches and have tons of eye catching detail!  Perfect for vacation shots.

 

My son on the staircase landing.  Again the detail from center to sides is exceptional with this lens (stopped down to F5.6 or better).  Look below for another 1:1 crop.

Sony NEX-5, 16mm F2.8, Auto Exposure, Jpeg Output  ISO 200

 

My son on the staircase landing.  Again the detail from center to sides is exceptional with this lens (stopped down to F5.6 or better).  Look below for another 1:1 crop.

 

How is that for exceptional detail!  And from a jpeg to boot!  I’ve only had this 16mm lens for four days now but I’m really loving it.  Especially at its price point. I have much more expensive wide angle lenses which can’t do as well.

Sony NEX-5, 16mm F2.8, Auto Exposure, Jpeg Output  ISO 200

 

How is that for exceptional detail!  And from a jpeg to boot!  I’ve only had this 16mm lens for four days now but I’m really loving it.  Especially at its price point. I have much more expensive wide angle lenses which can’t do as well.

 

Not a bad interior shot at ISO 1600, not an HDR shot, but decent.

Sony NEX-5, 16mm F2.8, Auto Exposure, Jpeg Output  ISO 1600

 

Not a bad interior shot at ISO 1600, not an HDR shot, but decent.

 

Another interior shot.  You’ve probably noticed that I haven’t taken advantage of the Sony NEX-5’s higher ISO capabilities of up to 25,600.  I’m saving “special features” for another time.  So far these are all automatic modes anyone can take advantage of with ten minutes of instruction.

Sony NEX-5, 16mm F2.8, Auto Exposure, Jpeg Output  ISO 1600

 

Another interior shot.  You’ve probably noticed that I haven’t taken advantage of the Sony NEX-5’s higher ISO capabilities of up to 25,600.  I’m saving “special features” for another time.  So far these are all automatic modes anyone can take advantage of with ten minutes of instruction.

 

Here the hundreds of skilled artisans carve out each small piece of the temple.

Sony NEX-5, 16mm F2.8, Auto Exposure, Jpeg Output  ISO 250

 

Here the hundreds of skilled artisans carve out each small piece of the temple.

 

With the articulating LCD you can easily get a much lower perspective than with a regular DSLR and I think this gives a very nice perspective with an uncommon ease.

Sony NEX-5, 16mm F2.8, Auto Exposure, Jpeg Output  ISO 200

 

With the articulating LCD you can easily get a much lower perspective than with a regular DSLR and I think this gives a very nice perspective with an uncommon ease.

All in all I’m pretty impressed with the Sony NEX-5.  I still plan on covering a “Part II” to my original review, but only after considerable use.  I’m taking the time to publish these images and the techniques I’m using because I think this is a great camera for the money which will fit the needs of a good many of our readers. 

You can make HDTV movies in 720p, panorama’s, HDR’s, and much more.. there is a lot to like about the Sony NEX-5, and there is also a lot of room for the camera to mature.  The big question is will Sony help the NEX-5 mature via firmware, or will they slight all their early adopters by incorporating improvements they could do in firmware, into a new model.  Sony has blown it lately when it comes to taking care of the customer and customer loyalty is at an all time low.  I hope they wake up with the NEX-5 and take care of the customer.