Sony NEX-5 18-55mm lkens - improving the camera results

Sony NEX-5 with 18-55mm lens.

I've had a Sony NEX-5 since it came out. Mine is the 14 mega pixel version. It came with the stock 18-55mm zoom lens. Bought because I wanted a simple camera that the whole family could use.

We never really got on with it. I was the only user. Why? Because of all the sub menus, plus when you tried to take a photograph, each and every time you had to re-set the amount of background blur you wanted. That's OK if you understand what background blur is, and have the time to faff, but totally pointless if you just want to point and shoot. The sub-menus just turn everybody off. People like little silver dials with pictures on; not forty or fifty settings via a single dial and screen.

Further the stock lens is pretty bad. Images never seemed particularly sharp. In the end it got left in a drawer unused. The other week I put it up for sale on eBay. Disappointed with the whole concept really. It was quite boring using the camera, mainly because it cost a lot of money and did nothing. My old Nikon F80 film camera was better, producing great images even with decades old film stock.

And then took it off eBay, as when I looked at my listing, there was another listing near mine for a NEX lens adaptor. I figured I'd buy one to try and use my collection of Nikon lenses. It was only £20, and the camera body itself would only fetch £80 used. Not a huge gamble.

I bought a KEF Concept Nikon adaptor, and it was easy to fit. The camera I set to manual focus with the yellow focus assist. Here the image on the viewing screen has yellow lines all over it when the image is in focus. I fitted an old 50mm lens, which equates to an 85mm prime with the Sony sensor.

Straight away the images were way better. Like twenty times better. For a start they were all sharp. That kind of helps. Secondly I had control over the background sharpness just by rotating a little dial - and could see the effect instantly on the screen. It really brought the camera to life, and I wish I'd done it years ago. The effect is almost like shooting in film; much more tactile. Partially I think the fault with the stock lens is the high f-number of 3.5. That is quite limiting. With the Nikon, that goes to f1.8. Most of my shots were taken at either f1.8 or f2.8 with the 50mm lens.

I'd been looking to buy a new digital do-it-all camera for a few months now. They're not cheap though, as good ones seem to be over £600. My little NEX-5 sells used for £90 on eBay. My 50mm lens was £60, and the adaptor £20. For £170 or so you, Dear Reader, could have a stunning little camera. One that takes great images, is easy to use, and unobtrusive when out and about. Personally I'd rather take a camera that I can afford to use, than one I feel is too precious to use. I'm tempted now to sell the Sony lens.

Here are some images taken recently with the manual focus Nikon lens:

Boy in Copenhagen airport

Shop dummies Copenhagen

Boy on Norwegian airlines flight

You have to agree, they are not too bad eh? All taken hand held in challenging lighting. Normally with this camera, I take 300 images on holiday, and print none off. This time I took 200, and have printed 90. Some I will enlarge.

The only negative being the viewing screen. In strong light you cannot see the image on the screen, let alone the yellow assist. Hence I guess why most of my images need the good f-stop? Personally that is not an issue for me. On holiday I rarely take landscape images, instead prefer the more personal street shots involving people. I'm not one for taking lots of photographs; that way your holiday is seen through a screen, not your eyes. Hence why I want a camera that does work when I want it to, not one to be carried around as an ornament.

The fun now is in changing the lens and trying different things.