Shooting JPEGs, the NEX-5 pulls an impressive 14LPH vertical by 16LPH horizontal on our resolution test chart, comparable to the Olympus PEN E-P2, Panasonic G2 and Nikon D5000 cameras. ISO performance is impressive; at ISO800 noise begins to show with the G2, while the NEX-5 remains clear. Noise is apparent with the NEX-5 at ISO1600 but still usable. At ISO3200 and beyond, pictures are too noisy for comfort. All this means the NEX-5 outperforms most compact cameras on the market, which rival it in size but not performance.
The NEX-5 packs a wealth of features to help you with your photography. Take HDR Auto, it auto-brackets a shot and combines them in-camera to recover details in shadows and highlights. Sweep Panorama lets you sweep a scene and auto-generates a panoramic shot. Hand-held Twilight and Anti Motion Blur combine multiple exposures to produce a single shot with noise and shake respectively reduced. In general, each feature works better with still subjects, as moving subjects produce ghosting effects, and Sweep Panorama will sometimes cancel out half-way while shooting if you're going too fast or too slow.
All these features unfortunately, are buried underneath the menu, which means a few clicks of the button to get to them before you can start shooting - another reason why leaving the NEX-5 on iAuto is so attractive.
If you shoot heavily, the NEX-5 is quite a battery drainer, going flat on us after only 373 shots and approximately two minutes of video. It tends to get warm after extended use although a disclaimer on the body says it's nothing to get worried about.