Noise

Both visually and by the numbers, the NEX-5 delivers excellent noise performance for its class. Photos are pretty clean up through ISO 800, and you don't start to see significant softness until ISO 1,600.
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Photo by: Matthew Fitzgerald/CNET / Caption by:

Noise, ISO 6,400

Sony has really gotten its act together on the noise-reduction algorithms; these are some of the best high-ISO-sensitivity images I've seen from a Sony camera, even the dSLRs. (1/50 sec, f4.5, evaluative metering, AWB, standard Creative Style, 18-55mm lens at 42mm)
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:

Handheld Twilight mode

Though the HHT photos look a little softer than their straight high-ISO equivalents (the EXIF data reports this at ISO 1,250), you can see how clean this looks. Still, HHT takes too long to shoot and record the photo to use it for anything but static scenes; good performance at high ISO sensitivities is not obsolete.
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:

Distortion, 18-55mm lens

At its widest angle, the 18-55mm kit lens displays some of the worst barrel distortion we've seen for a nonsnapshot camera in a while. Goodbye, straight lines. (1/100, f9, ISO 200, spot metering, AWB, Standard Creative Style)
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:

Distortion, 18-55mm lens

Even the narrow end of the kit lens displays pincushion distortion, which we rarely see. (1/100, f10, ISO 200, spot metering, AWB, Standard Creative Style)
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:

Distortion, 16mm lens

As you'd expect from a prime, the distortion characteristics are much better than the kit zoom. It looks pretty good, actually, although I think there's a bit of vignetting in the lower left corner. (Note 5/19/10: it turns out that Sony shipped out preproduction 16mm lenses, so it's possible the slight vignetting is a nonissue. I'll retest when I receive the production unit. Settings: 1/100, f10, ISO 200, spot metering, AWB, Standard Creative Style)
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:

Fringing, 18-55mm lens

The 18-55mm lens displays some chromatic aberration, even on not-so-high-contrast edges. (1/100, f5.6, ISO 200, spot metering, AWB, Standard Creative Style, 18-55mm lens at 18mm)
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:

Lens bokeh, 18-55mm lens

Bokeh, or the quality of out-of-focus details, makes a big difference in lens quality. Though the lens has a 7-blade aperture, I was surprised at how polygonal some of the out-of-focus highlights looked. (1/800, f8, ISO 200, spot metering, AWB, Standard Creative Style)
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:

Sharpness, 18-55mm lens

The lens does have nice center sharpness, and the camera's processing maintains a natural look without oversharpening. (1/250, f7.1, ISO 200, spot metering, AWB, Standard Creative Style)
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:

Color

A combination of the default Creative Style, with its unknown adjustments and an overly cool automatic white balance in sunlight, unfortunately shifts deep pinks, greens and purples. Still, if you don't care about accuracy, the colors are mostly pleasing and saturated.
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:

Creative Styles

These are your only real color style options, and none are quite right. I also had some problems with metering consistency. (1/100 sec, f6.3/7.1, ISO 200, spot metering, AWB, 18-55mm lens at 55mm)
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:

Sweep Panorama

This remains a fun feature, though not without its bugs. The detail level is a lot better than from the point-and-shoot models (right), but it still has a problem dealing with things moving through the scene (left). Thank you random stranger in the park. (16mm lens)
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:

Auto HDR

In a change from previous versions, the NEX-5's Auto HDR implementation saves an un-blended version of the image as well as the 3-shot-combined one. The Auto HDR version is lower contrast and a bit softer, but as you can see extracts a lot of detail out of the highlights and shadows. (1/100 sec, f4.5, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, AWB, 18-55mm lens at 39mm)
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:
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