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Sony Alpha NEX-5 (photos)

For an an interchangeable-lens model, the NEX-5 has an extremely compact design, yet remains comfortable to shoot. The interface has its share of annoying quirks, though.

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Lori Grunin
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1 of 8 Sarah Tew/CNET

Compact

The NEX-5 is so small that it gets visually overwhelmed even by its 18-55mm kit lens. Still, it feels balanced in your hands while shooting.
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2 of 8 Sarah Tew/CNET

Tiltable LCD

The tiltable LCD is a really nice feature to have, though it doesn't make up for the lack of an electronic viewfinder option.
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3 of 8 Sarah Tew/CNET

Top controls

A dedicated movie-record button is an essential control for any camera that shoots video. As you can see, there isn't much in the way of controls on top of the camera.
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4 of 8 Sarah Tew/CNET

Microphone

The NEX-5 has a stereo mic with more physical separation than most.
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5 of 8 Sarah Tew/CNET

Grip

The NEX-5 has a slightly larger grip than the NEX-3, and it's just large enough to feel comfortable, but a little insecure for one-handed shooting because of the limited places on the back for your thumb.
The flash comes off, and also tucks down flat on top of the camera.
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6 of 8 Sarah Tew/CNET

It's all lens

Sony developed a new mount system, the E-mount, for its NEX series. The company will offer an adapter for using its standard lenses, but won't support autofocus for them (as is common).
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7 of 8 Sarah Tew/CNET

Back controls

Though there are a few hardwired controls on the back, the bulk of the camera's operation uses a combination of the two blank buttons and the context-sensitive menu system.
There's not a lot of room on the back for a thumbrest; I frequently found my thumb sliding left to land on that top button.
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8 of 8 Sarah Tew/CNET

Contextual controls

If you look at the right side of the LCD, you can get a sense of how the contextual controls work. Pressing the indicated button will bring up the virtual mode dial, and scrolling the wheel will adjust aperture size. Notice how you get both a numeric aperture readout as well as the iconic closer-farther indicator. Also notice how low the battery's getting; the camera has pretty lame battery life.
Don't worry, you can make this display a lot less cluttered.

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