The camera's noise profile is quite good up through ISO 400. Photos still look good at ISO 800, though you can start to see some mottling from the noise-reduction algorithms; by ISO 1600, detail degradation becomes visible.
Caption byLori Grunin / Photo by Matthew Fitzgerald/CNET
Since I'm still waiting for software raw support, I can only comment on the camera's built-in noise reduction. It does a solid job at ISO 3200--not clean, but still usable in many circumstances.
(1/30 sec, f4.0, AWB, spot metering, 18-55mm lens at 18mm)
The latest iteration of Sony's Handheld Twilight mode automatically combines six exposures to obtain better exposures in low light than you might otherwise get. It does a nice job, and there's less performance overhead than with the older algorithm, making it a lot more useful.
(1/60 sec, f3.5, AWB, evaluative metering, 18-55mm lens at 18mm, ISO 5000)
The kit lens distortion is so conspicuous I thought I'd botched the shot. Then I went back to my shots and comments on the lens from the NEX-5 review: "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."