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Sony Alpha NEX 3 / 5 (firmware v2) Gordon Laing, September 2010

Sony Alpha NEX-5 results : Real-life resolution / lens sharpness at 18mm / lens sharpness at 55mm / High ISO Noise / HHT / AMB

Sony Alpha NEX-5: Anti Motion Blur mode versus Program mode (at 2500 / 1600 / 3200 ISO)

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The Sony Alpha NEX-5 inherits two modes from the Cyber-shot range which are designed for use in low light conditions. The Handheld Twilight and Anti Motion Blur modes both fire-off six frames in quick succession and stack them to deliver a single image with claims of better protection against noise and camera shake.

On this page we've put the NEX-5's Anti Motion Blur mode to the test. This automatically selects the sensitivity so we've compared it against the closest manual ISO setting in traditional modes.

Since the cheaper Sony Alpha NEX-3 shares the same sensor and imaging pipeline as the NEX-5, not to mention the same kit lens option, the results below are also representative of what you'd achieve with that model.

In our tests with Anti Motion Blur, the NEX-5 automatically selected high sensitivities in order to support as fast a shutter speed as possible to avoid camera-shake. The question of course is how well these composite shots at high sensitivities stack up against a traditional mode using the same (or similar) ISO value. Note: the shots taken with Anti Motion Blur matched the exposures and subject brightness of those in Program mode, so there was no need for any compensation. As a consequence though the images below appears darker than those on our High ISO Noise page, where +1EV of compensation had been applied.

In our first example, the Anti Motion Blur mode automatically selected a sensitivity of 2500 ISO. As explained on the previous page, the NEX-5 doesn't let you manually choose sensitivities in less than 1EV increments, so we've compared it against Program shots taken at 1600 and 3200 ISO, with the latter being the closer value.

The crops from the Anti Motion Blur sample are the cleanest of the three: they're a small improvement over the 1600 ISO Program shot, and a more noticeable one over the 3200 ISO version. It's far from the difference of night and day, but there's definitely a benefit to the version taken with Anti Motion Blur: a cleaner result as if noise reduction had been applied, but without the smearing of detail as a result.

So in this particular situation, Anti Motion Blur has effectively given us the speed benefit of shooting at 2500 ISO, but with quality roughly similar to half that sensitivity in Program. As such it's a no-brainer to use it in conditions when you need high sensitivities to avoid camera-shake.

Now scroll down to see another low-light example in Anti Motion Blur mode.

Sony Alpha NEX-5: Anti Motion Blur mode at 2500 ISO
f4, 1/250, 2500 ISO
f4, 1/250, 2500 ISO
f4, 1/250, 2500 ISO

Sony Alpha NEX-5: Program mode at 1600 ISO
f4, 1/125, 1600 ISO
f4, 1/125, 1600 ISO
f4, 1/125, 1600 ISO

Sony Alpha NEX-5: Program mode at 3200 ISO
f5.6, 1/125, 3200 ISO
f5.6, 1/125, 3200 ISO
f5.6, 1/125, 3200 ISO

Sony Alpha NEX-5: Anti Motion Blur mode versus Aperture Priority (at 6400 ISO)

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In our second example, Anti Motion Blur automatically selected a sensitivity of 6400 ISO, which finally allowed us to select a matching value in one of the traditional modes for an exact comparison. We've also included comparisons taken with the Olympus E-P2 and Nikon D90 moments later under the same conditions.

In its single-minded attempt to achieve the fastest shutter speed, the NEX-5 automatically selected the largest available aperture value here, and as such the image doesn't share the same depth of field as our version in Aperture Priority. The third crop on the far right side is a tad out of focus as a result, but that aside, it's once again clear how the Anti Motion Blur sample is noticeably cleaner than the one taken with Aperture Priority without any compromise in detail. Like our other Anti Motion Blur (and Handheld Twilight) samples, there may not be any extra detail recorded, but the noise is successfully ironed-out without any losses.

As seen on our High ISO Noise results page, 6400 ISO is a step too far for the Olympus E-P2 with its smaller sensor, and the suffering is once again quite apparent here. The E-P2 sample is considerably noisier than its arch rival from Sony at this sensitivity even before the NEX can perform its clever image stacking tricks.

Finally, the Nikon D90 turns out a respectable image considering the sensitivity, but it's still a little below what the Sony NEX can deliver in its normal shooting modes.

Ultimately the NEX-5 (and NEX-3) already delivered excellent high ISO performance, which makes the Handheld Twilight and Anti Motion Blur modes the icing on an already tasty cake. They'll enhance what's possible, taking a decent performer even further. As discussed above and on the previous page, these two modes won't perform miracles by recording higher levels of detail, but they will iron-out most of the noise without negative consequences. They're like a noise reduction system which operates without compromise.

Indeed we're so impressed by the results we'd recommend anyone shooting at higher sensitivities just forgets the standard modes and opts for these instead. When shooting above 400 ISO, go for Handheld Twilight if the subject is static, and Anti Motion Blur if the subject's in motion. Obviously there'll be times when neither is appropriate, such as when the subject is moving significantly, like sports shots or a child playing, but for general photos they can prove remarkably effective.

As we said in our Cyber-shot HX5 review, these modes show Sony understanding the issues facing photographers and exploiting their technology in unique ways to deliver genuinely superior results to the competition. They're key selling points for the NEX, but we just wish they were easier and more consistent to access – for example, why is Handheld Twilight in the scene presets, when Anti Motion Blur is alongside the main modes? Likewise you'll find the similarly innovative HDR option in a different section still. There's also the argument the modes are so successful, they should be integrated into the fully automatic mode. Selection issues aside though, we're pleased to see them implemented on a large sensor camera like the NEX and hope other manufacturers follow-suit with similar stacking modes in the future.

Now check out our Sample Images Gallery for more shots taken throughout the HX5's sensitivity range (albeit in Program), or if you've seen enough, head straight to our Verdict!

Sony Alpha NEX-5: Anti Motion Blur mode at 6400 ISO
f3.5, 1/160, 6400 ISO
f3.5, 1/160, 6400 ISO
f3.5, 1/160, 6400 ISO

Sony Alpha NEX-5: Aperture Priority at 6400 ISO
f5.6, 1/60, 6400 ISO
f5.6, 1/60, 6400 ISO
f5.6, 1/60, 6400 ISO

Olympus E-P2: Aperture Priority at 6400 ISO
f5.6, 1/40, 6400 ISO
f5.6, 1/40, 6400 ISO
f5.6, 1/40, 6400 ISO

Nikon D90: Aperture Priority at 6400 ISO
f8, 1/13, 6400 ISO
f8, 1/13, 6400 ISO
f8, 1/13, 6400 ISO

Sony Alpha NEX-5 results : Real-life resolution / lens sharpness at 18mm / lens sharpness at 55mm / High ISO Noise / HHT / AMB

All words, images, videos and layout, copyright 2005-2017 Gordon Laing. May not be used without permission.

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