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Sony NEX-5N 16.1 MP Compact Interchangeable Lens Touchscreen Camera with 18-55mm Lens (Black)
Overall score: 79%
See review summary and sample images
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- DSLR quality in your pocket
- Up to 10 fps shooting to capture the decisive moment
- 16.1 MP Exmor APS HD CMOS image sensor
- Full HD movie shooting 60p/24p
- Photo Creativity Touch provides easy access to image adjustments
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|Auto Focus Technology|
|Battery Average Life||460 Photos|
|Continuous Shooting Speed||10 fps|
|Display Fixture Type||Tilting|
|Display Resolution Maximum||920,000|
|Display Size||0.12 inches|
|Effective Still Resolution||16.1 MP|
|Expanded ISO Maximum||25,600|
|Expanded ISO Minimum||100|
|Exposure Control Type|
|External Memory Included||Yes|
|File Format||RAW, RAW+JPEG, JPEG|
|Flash Memory Type||SD/ SDHC/SDXC, Memory Stick Pro Duo/ Pro-HG Duo|
|Flash Sync Speed||1/160_sec|
|Focus Description||Contrast Detection|
|Focus Type||automatic with manual|
|Form Factor||Rangefinder-style mirrorless|
|HDMI Type||Mini Type C|
|ISO Range||Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400, 12800, 25600|
|Image Aspect Ratio||3:2, 16:9|
|Item Dimensions||2.32 x 1.5 x 4.37 inches|
|Item Weight||0.59 pounds|
|Lithium Battery Energy Content||7.7 Watt Hours|
|Lithium Battery Voltage||8.4 Volts|
|Lithium Battery Weight||57 ounces|
|Material Type||Metal top/front plate, Polycarbonate|
|Maximum Shutter Speed||1/4000 of a second|
|Maximum horizontal resolution||4,912|
|Metering||Multi, Center-weighted, Spot|
|Minimum Shutter Speed||30 seconds|
|Optical Sensor Resolution||16.1 MP|
|Optical Sensor Technology||CMOS|
|Photo Sensor Technology||CMOS|
|Remote Control Description||Yes, by optional RMT-DSLR1|
|Sensor Cleaning Method||Charge protection coating on low-pass filter|
|Shipping Weight||2.05 pounds|
|Style Name||With 18-55mm lens|
|Supported Battery Types||Lithium-Ion NPFW50 rechargeable battery & charger|
|Touch Screen Type||Yes|
|Video Capture Format|
|Video Capture Resolution||1920 x 1080 (60 fps), 1440 x 1080 (30 fps), 640 x 480 (30 fps)|
|Viewfinder Type||Electronic (optional)|
|Water Resistance Level||Not Water Resistant|
Review summary from DPReview
The NEX-5N is great little camera with big camera image quality. If you are looking to transition into enthusiast photography and want DSLR image quality in a small size, the 5N is definitely worth a look.
Scoring is relative only to the other products in the same category.
Sample images from DPReview
Sample images for Sony Alpha NEX-5N
From the Manufacturer
The performance of a DSLR, in about half the size and weight. The NEX-5N is the interchangeable lens camera that fits in your pocket. Enjoy Full HD 1080/60p or 24p movies, astounding low-light pictures, continuous shooting up to 10 fps, incredible panorama shots, and 3.0-inch tiltable Live View touch screen LCD.
|DSLR quality in your pocket |
This is the world's smallest interchangeable lens digital still camera using a large APS-C size sensor (as of Aug 2011). The removal of the conventional mirror box and viewfinder results in a camera body that is about half the size and weight of a standard DSLR camera.
Up to 10 fps shooting
Capture the decisive moment in sports and get the ideal baby photo. Up to 10 fps continuous shooting at full 16.1 MP resolution. Standard continuous shooting speeds vary based upon shooting conditions and memory card speeds.
|16.1 MP Exmor APS HD CMOS image sensor |
You get incredible detail and gorgeous enlargements. Thanks to the APS-C sensor size and Sony Exmor APS HD CMOS technology, the camera achieves high resolution with no penalty in low-light sensitivity or sensor noise.
BIONZ image processor
The brain of the camera is a refined version of Sony's BIONZ image processor. Its chroma noise reduction delivers high-resolution, low-noise photos even at ISO 25600 sensitivity. Also enables fast processing for up to 10 fps continuous shooting of data-intensive 16.1 megapixel images, 2D/3D Sweep Panorama modes and 6 image layering.
Full HD movie shooting 60p/24p
Record Full HD 1920x1080 video in a variety of frame rates from 60p for super smooth action to 24p for a more cinematic feel. The NEX-5N utilizes the AVCHD codec, the industry standard for high quality HD video capture, as well as the MP4 codec for easy upload to the web due to it's smaller file size.
|Photo Creativity Touch |
The Photo Creativity interface enables you to easily enjoy the creative expression through direct photographic control in an easy to use interface. Changes can be combined/removed and viewed in real time on the LCD making it a breeze to make adjustments.
Tiltable 3.0" Touch LCD
Sony's 3.0" Xtra Fine LCD monitor has 921K dots for superb resolution. The TruBlack screen includes a special resin layer to suppress internal reflections, increasing contrast compared to conventional LCDs. Sunny Weather mode boosts visibility even further in bright sunlight. Tilts down 45° and up 80° to frame high- and low-angle shots that would otherwise be hit-or-miss.
Object Tracking AF via Touch LCD
Object Tracking AF can lock onto a specified object and maintain focus even as the subject moves. This hassle-free mode allows unpredictable subjects to stay in focus even while zooming. Letting you concentrate on the scene and composition without having to worry about focus. The subject on which to lock focus is easily selected via the touch screen or the center button of the control wheel.
|World's shortest release time lag (0.02 sec) |
In photography, shutter lag, or release time, is the delay between triggering the shutter by fully depressing the shutter button and when the photograph is actually recorded. By initiating the exposure electronically instead of with the traditional shutter mechanism, release time on the NEX-5N is reduced to just 20 milliseconds - helping you to capture the decisive moment.
Optional XGA OLED viewfinder
The optional FDA-EV1S OLED Tru-Finder offers a large, bright and wide-view of the scene. With high resolution 2.395K dot, and unprecedented speed, contrast and color accuracy, the FDA-EV1S provides an extraordinary view.
11 Picture Effect modes
There are 11 picture effects modes to choose from: Posterization (Color, B/W), Pop Color, Retro Photo, Partial Color (Red, Green, Blue, Yellow), Soft High-key, High Contrast Monochrome, Toy Camera (Normal, Cool, Warm, Green, Magenta), Soft Focus, HDR Painting, Rich-tone Monochrome, and Miniature. Each is unique and each gives you a new and exciting way to make your images and videos pop.
|Peaking AF display |
The Peaking AF display makes precise manual focusing much easier by highlighting the edges that are in focus in your choice of three colors ( white, red, or yellow). This is especially helpful during macro or portrait photography where your focal plane can make or break your shot.
3D Sweep Panorama Mode
Capture vast scenic vistas and 16:9 shots in spectacular 3D. As you sweep across the panorama, the camera records separate right-eye and left-eye images that make landscapes come alive on your 3D television. Records both JPEG and MPO file formats.
Sweep Panorama Mode
Capture expansive landscapes automatically. Press the shutter, sweep vertically or horizontally. The camera does the rest, continuously shooting images and stitching them together. Up to 23 MP image size. Up to 202 degrees maximum sweep angle (16mm focal length).
|6-image layering |
The camera leverages the large, APS-C image sensor and captures six images in a fraction of a second. The camera then combines the data from the 6 different images to create a single image. This method is used to control blur in Anti-Motion Blur mode or to get cleaner, sharper nighttime pictures in Hand-held Twilight mode.
High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography captures more scene contrast than a single exposure can handle by combining the best highlight detail from one shot and the best shadow detail from another for one incredible shot. Until recently, you needed a computer and editing software. Sony builds HDR in. Handles severe backlighting and other high-contrast scenes. Captures in a split second. (Recommended for still subjects.)
P/A/S/M operating modes
The NEX-5N offers a full range of controls for video and still shooting from the beginner's iAUTO mode to P/A/S/M: Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and Manual. On-screen prompts help you refine your skills, build your confidence and exercise greater creative control.
Intelligent Auto Focus
Pre-focuses as you compose the shot, further reducing focusing time to a bare minimum.
Unifies and simplifies Sony intelligent technologies. Takes advantage of Intelligent Scene Recognition, Face Detection technology, and Optical SteadyShot image stabilization without leaving auto mode so you always get the best shot.
|Dynamic Range Optimizer (DRO) |
Dynamic Range Optimizer improves results with backlit subjects and recovers details hidden in shadows. Settings include Auto, Level with a choice of five operating levels and Off.
Accepts Sony E-mount lenses
Compatible with Sony's E-mount series of smaller, lighter lenses designed specifically for a compact interchangeable lens cameras. Opens up a world of creative options.
Phase Detect AF for E-mount bodies w/ adapter
Both the LA-EA1 and EA2 adapters (sold separately) allow you to attach A-mount lenses to your E-mount camera. However, the LA-EA2 is the world's first adapter to leverage Sony's exclusive Translucent Mirror Technology to provide super fast and accurate Phase Detection AF as well. The LA-EA2 adapter has a translucent mirror built-in between the two mounts that directs a small portion of the light to the phase detection AF sensor in the bottom of the unit.
|25-point Auto Focus |
25 sensors cover a very wide area of the scene, for accurate focusing even when the subject is far from the center of the frame.
Enjoy HD movies and stunning still images on a compatible HDTV. The camera includes an HDMI output.
Stamina battery power for up to 430 shots
Take up to 430 shots on a single charge with Sony lithium ion Stamina battery power. Sony's InfoLITHIUM battery system enables you to see the percent of power remaining, so you can keep shooting in confidence.
Top Customer Reviews
Update 2 : Sony finally admitted the flaw of the issue and they offer a fix/upgrade according to them here : [...]
(Original review) : First of all i just gotta say that I'm extremely satisfied with the NEX 5n, If you are like me you will spend hours/days researching about Camera samples/reviews/etc before buying a new Camera, problem is many websites are biased or contradict each other, many fans of a system whether it's Micro Four thirds/Sony NEX series and others might say our system is the best but in reality none of these 2 are the best, M43 can be the best for you or NEX series can be the best for you, some even prefer Fuji X100 etc there are plenty of mirrorless cameras right now, i have just gathered all the facts about each system for you here so the final call is yours and i wont be biased i assure you my fellow photographers :)
*NEX 5n advantages over NEX 7 (I will speak about NEX 5n vs M43 and NEX5n vs previous Sony NEX Cameras in a second)
1-If portability and size is your biggest concern NEX 5n is actually smaller and fits much easier in your pocket, It's also lighter
2-Price wise, It cost about half the price of NEX7, and cameras advance so fast now, Investing in a body is not the best option if your budget is limited, Invest in better lenses is much better idea, like the Zeiss 24mm F1.8 E-Mount lens, you will get better results with NEX5n+CZ 24mm over NEX7+Kit lens, so if your budget is limited this can be a huge advantage
3-The external Viewfinder of the NEX5n have 2 advantages over the one in NEX 7 first it can be titled, so you can shoot while looking at your feet instead of looking at what is front of you (good for stealth shots) and the second it's more comfortable to use in my honest opinion because it's placed in much better position
4-Sensor Quality, Ignore the Mega pixels marketing race, Sony 16MP sensor is being used by Nikon D7000 which is a 1200 dollar camera yet the Sony NEX5n use an advanced 16mp sensor (better than the one in D7000) While the NEX7 got a 24mp it really lose to NEX5n performance in high ISO SO if HIGH ISO is a huge issue for you NEX 5n will win this round (It doesn't mean NEX7 performance is bad, It's just the NEX5n perform better at High ISO)
5-The TouchScreen, First thing in your mind now is properly Touchscreen = Toy camera and useless, Well it's not and here is why, You can access ISO/Shutter/UI/etc much faster with the touch screen, we are talking about cameras with bare minimum set of buttons here the NEX7 got 1 more button only over the NEX5n, you can customize your buttons as you wish too, That's not the only advantage of the touchscreen, Sony is using a new "track focus" you can basically touch your target on the screen and he will be AF Tracked, much faster than moving to track a target via none-touch methods, the Focus track combined with the touch screen deliver amazing results really.
6-NEX5n max ISO is 25.600 and MAX 16.000 ISO for NEX7 (for those who care about maximum ISO available)
*NEX 7 advantages over NEX 5n
1-24MP Sensor, this can be an advantage depends on your use, Do you do a lot of prints and low ISO? then this is the best option for you (over NEX5n) while NEX5n beat it at high iso, the NEX7 beat the NEX5n in low ISO, you will get more details,easier to crop/edit your photos due the higher details.
2-NEX5n External viewfinder cost 350box.... so you are already near NEX7 price Territory if you plan to get NEX5n EVF
3-With the NEX5n you can't use an external flash+EVF at the same time because both use the same propriety input slot, the NEX7 has a hot shoe (For Sony flashes) and Built in EVF so you can use both at the same time, even if you don't plan to use the hot shoe for a flash there is a built in flash which the NEX5n lack
4-The NEX7 got this new TRI dial UI (there are 3 dials on the NEX7 versus 1 only for the NEX5n, there is a second virtual dial though in the touchscreen but i don't count it as real dial) The UI for the NEX7 will be more professional while the NEX5n UI is mostly for amateurs,
So in Short it depends on the advantages of each camera, NEX7 might be better for you, however for me even after ignoring the price different a side the NEX5n is the better camera for me due the better high iso performance and portability mainly (I got access to a DSLR when needed but i want a smaller system for certain uses) if you want a more professional UI/hot shoe for flash/shoot in low ISO mostly and you want an EVF the NEX7 sounds like the better deal
About the NEX C3 ignore it and get NEX 5n because for little more you can get much better camera NEX 5n
-Touchscreen and option to use EVF (Nex C3 CANT use EVF)
-Faster AF+shutter lag speeds /AVCHD 2.0 1080p60 28MBPS video instead of 720p30
-AF track via touchscreen is amazing if you shoot kids, it will keep them on focus always
-IR R.control / 10FPS which is much faster than nex C3
-Better HIGH iso performance and range/ Much better Grip / Better battery life
NEX5n get better sharper corners with any previous lenses compared to the older NEX3/5, sony have used Offset microlenses for the sensor so the older 16mm lenses which was soft in the corners will be sharper now and using manual lenses will get you better results with NEX5n over older NEX5 in the corners, which is similar to latest Lecia high end cameras, in short if you use manual lenses upgrading is a must your pictures will look much better believe me i have already tested it and the results are improved over my older NEX 5
Shutter sound is quieter now when shooting if you set up electronic shutter through the menu, there is full manual control for video now which is not available in the old NEX 3/5, AF Micro Adjustment for up to 30 a-mount lenses with the LA-EA2, plus Auto-Correction of chromatic aberration/Vignetting/distortion with all Native E-mount lenses which can be turned on/off via menu settings
About NEX VS M43 i already own EPL1 and i will properly upgrade to EPL3 soon, i will not talk about M43 vs Sony cameras bodies because the advantage is clearly "mostly" for the NEX5n (bigger Dynamic range/ISO/etc)
Sony NEX lenses have 2 issues as of September 2011
1-They are limited in numbers specially compared to M43
2-Most of them are made with no portability factor in mind whatsoever
I will speak more about lenses now, If you want an ultra wide angle zoom lens for the E-MOUNT it doesn't exist (That's my favorite lens) with the M43 you actually got more than 1 Utra wide angle lenses so not only you can get 1 but you can chose which to chose, if you want a fast pancake? none exist for the Sony E-mount lenes for now and none in the future roadmap sadly, the only small sony lens that exist is the 16mm F2.8 but it's too wide for a main lens for most people and it's not as sharp as i like until stopped down so not very friendly to use at night, the Panasonic 20mm F1.7 is great lens (not the best but for Size/performance it's great) if you want a pancake zoom? this might sound crazy but Panasonic is making a Pancake zoom lens with image stabilization too and so on,
While it seems in theory that Sony can just release smaller lenses and win the best of both worlds, it doesn't seems like this is a concern for Sony right now, their 2012 lenses road map include 3 more huge zoom lenses and zero prime let alone a pancake lenses, the Sony upcoming 50mm F1.8 OSS while being very sharp from the samples i have seen (sharper than nikon/canon 50mm primes) it's actually BIGGER than both nikon and canon 50mm lenses for their DSLR which is puzzling to create a tiny body and never release tiny lenses for it at least as an option for those who rather use smaller lenses, Sony Officially unlocked their E-Mount to other lenses companies though so anyone can make Native E mount lens if they want, i only knows of Sigma upcoming E-Mount lens which is 30mm F2.8 small prime
So in short again depends on your use you might prefer m43 because of lenses choices over NEX, i can't get rid of m43 because wide shots is a MUST for me and none is available for sony as of now.
About Samsung Mirrorless system, while the sensor size is the same as sony it's not as good as sony sensor (not even close) Samsung support is nowhere near sony or M43 too so I'm not interested in it
For manual lenses users NEX offer the best possibilities for you, you can adapt almost every lens using an adapter for manual focus lenses, using the Focus peaking/zoom functions make focusing a breeze and easy, the Offset microlenses is a huge bonus too, and lets not forget the crop factor (1.5X for NEX versus 2X for M43)
Overall i recommend NEX 5n for anyone, it's hard to find anything similar in the market for the price right now (Amazing sensor/small camera/tilt LCD/shoots 1080p60 video/touchscreen/easy to use/etc), it does beat any Entry/mid range nikon/canon DSLR "IF" you are type of a person who just sticks to the zoom kit lens, NEX 5N got a better zoom Kit lens and the better sensor.
I hope my thoughts about the mirrorless market for now was fair enough and i hope that my review was helpful :)
The Sony NEX-5N uses a Sony 16mp APS-C sensor that is very similar to the sensor used in the Nikon D7000 and the Pentax K-5, both excellent performing dSLRs. In all respects, my initial testing showed that the sensor in the Sony NEX-5N is almost at parity as my Nikon D7000, e.g., excellent dynamic range at base ISO 100 and excellent S/N performance at ISO 1600, 3200 and even the occasional foray to ISO 6400.
SIZE, WEIGHT, HANDLING AND POCKETABILITY
As a long-time dSLR user now used to the size and weight of a dSLR with its fairly large and heavy weight lenses (e.g., Nikon D700+MB-D10 and 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II lens), the NEX-5N's most startling aspect for me was its small size and light weight. Holding the NEX-5N without any battery and lens, the NEX-5N is so light and compact that it is practically like holding a point and shoot camera, only that it comes with a hefty hand-grip that makes it possible to hold the camera more securely and quite comfortably.
Adding on the battery and the pancake 16mm f/2.8 prime lens adds substantially to its weight and heft but not to the extent as to be objectionable as a light carry compact camera. This combo however is no longer what one would consider as a camera that can comfortably carry in a pocket unless the pocket is in a jacket or cargo/tactical pants pocket. The Sony 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 is substantially an even bigger package but still fairly light weight.
Despite its decent grip, I highly recommend that one buys a wrist strap for use with this camera. While this camera comes with a shoulder strap, the light weight of this camera makes it very easy and comfortable to carry with one's hand and/or wrist. The wrist strap also ensures that the camera is immediately available for use. A shoulder strap is normally use to distribute the heavy weight of a camera over a bigger area but the light weight of this camera makes a shoulder strap unnecessary. Moreover, a shoulder strap allows the camera to sway and dangle dangerously unless one holds it down. This makes a wrist strap more ideal and convenient.
The NEX-5N does not come with the many dedicated buttons common to dSLRs but it functions well enough given its compact size and limited buttons. The NEX-5N is controlled primarily either through the touch screen, the rear-rotary dials or a combination of both. The touch screen lags a bit while the rotary dial is fast and instantaneous.
As someone who shoots primarily on Manual Mode and on Aperture Priority, it was fairly easy to set the camera on this preferred mode. Pressing the button above the rotary dial or touching the upper right hand corner of the touch-screen LCD will bring the user to the Menu Option. From there, the Shoot Mode is accessed.
What took a bit longer to find was where the controls are for the shutter and the aperture on manual mode. It is obvious that the documentation that Sony provided with the camera was not designed for an experienced dSLR user but once I figured out where the shutter and aperture mode was on manual mode, it was very easy to set and use.
On Manual Mode, the rotary dial controls the shutter setting. Pressing on the "Down" button shifts the rotary dial control to Aperture and turning the rotary button allows the user to change the aperture setting.
On Aperture Priority Mode, the rotary dial controls the aperture setting and pressing on the "Down" button allows the user to adjust the exposure compensation function.
On both modes, pressing the "Left" button allows the user to change the Shooting Mode (single, continuous, timer, remote, bracketing).
The ISO, White Balance and Metering Mode are easily accessed through the more ponderous menu option. For whatever reason, Sony chose to group these functions under the "Brightness/Color" menu instead of under the "Setup" menu.
Under the "Setup" Menu, there were a few goodies that are worth mentioning. This camera allows the user to choose from 3 grid lines in the EVF. The options available were: Rule of 3rds Grid (3 x 3 grid) , Square Grid (6 x 4 grid) and Diagonal + Square Grid (6 x 4 grid plus an x-grid). In addition, the NEX-5N has an AF Micro Focus Adjustment function. This is a very useful function when using prime lenses - something that the NEX-5N is well suited for.
The NEX-5N has several buttons that can be programmed for various uses when in P A S M Shooting Mode. I used 2 of these for ISO and White Balance. Under the "Setup" Menu", one can proceed to the Custom Key Settings. I then used the Right Key Setting on the rotary dial for White Balance, and the Soft Key B Setting for ISO. I used Custom for Soft Key C and was able to add Metering Mode, AF Mode, Autofocus Area, and AF/MF functions. Ignoring all these details on how to proceed with the setting, suffice to say that under my current setup, I have fast and very easy to shutter, aperture, ISO and WB - the minimum essential controls when using a dSLR.
As an aside, one reason why I have easily adjusted to the NEX-5N's controls is that I currently use different camera models. In contrast to my early experience when I used 2 cameras with similar controls (Nikon D300 and D700) which made switching between one camera to another easy and convenient, I have since sold my D300 and acquired a D7000 to use with my D700, as well as a Nikon D3100, Fujifulm X100 and Panasonic GH2. This change has made me more willing to learn and adopt to the different sets of controls in these cameras. My mindset is essentially that of learning and adopting to the different camera controls rather than one wanting to maintain a consistent set of controls among the different cameras. This background will help the reader to understand why I have no specific objection to the controls of the NEX-5N which is contrary to what a significant number of dSLR owners have complained of.
One can take photos with this camera in 3-ways. The first way is handheld, and using its rear LCD screen. The second way is handheld, using an optional viewfinder. The third way is on a tripod, using its rear LCD screen.
Having previously owned several point and shoot cameras (e.g, Panasonic LX-3, Canon S-90, etc.), I am acutely aware of the limitations of the limitations in aiming, composing and focusing while using the camera's rear LCD screen with the arms extended forward. This limitation eventually made me sell these cameras and made me choose the Fujifilm X100 and the Panasonic GH2, both of which features an integrated viewfinder.
So what makes the NEX-5N different? For one, an NEX-5N owner would have the choice of getting the optional electronic viewfinder for this camera. Expensive but otherwise excellent, the EVF gives an owner an alternative of brining a small compact camera with an external EVF, or an even more compact package without the EVF. Moreover, unlike cameras with built-in EVF (such as the X100, GH2 or the Sony NER-7), the optional external EVF in a Sony NEX-5N gives the owner an option to shoot with the EVF oriented 90-degrees upward.
Even without getting the optional external EVF, the NEX-5N has the added advantage vs point and shoot with fixed rear LCD screen because the NEX-5N has an articulated rear LCD screen of the NEX-5N that can be positioned to approx. 80-degrees upwards so that one can aim, compose and focus while looking down and while holding the camera with two hands and with both elbows firmly tucked to one's side. This is an eminently much more stable shooting position than a regular non-articulating LCD screen that requires the user to stretch out his arms, an inherently unstable shooting stance.
Finally, using a tripod, the articulating rear LCD screen makes it easy to aim the camera with no need to activate live view button or switch or periodically pressing live view as the camera automatically shut this down sooner than one would want. The camera can easily be positioned to the level of one's eye or at a lower position and flipped the camera screen upwards.
As a side note, anyone wishing to install a quick release tripod camera plate need to be aware that the NEX-5N may require a specialized adapter plate. Unless the quick-release camera plate is also narrow and slim, the quick-release plate will extend and unnecessarily enlarge the dimensions of this diminutive camera and thus sacrifice one of its advantages and attraction. For now, I am using the same Arca-plate that I am using with the Fujifilm X100 but a customized plate which will conform to better hold and support this camera may be a more ideal setup.
USING 3rd PARTY LENSES
Except for the Sony/Zeiss 24mm f/1.8 and the recently released Sony 50mm f1/.8 OSS (and possibly the Sigma 19mm f/2.8 and the 30mm /2.8), there aren't currently (as of this time of edit, 2012 May 20) many good native E-mount lenses available for use with the NEX System. For this reason, it is inevitable and also advantageous to use one's dSLR lenses on the NEX-5N through an adapter.
I am able to use my Nikon F-mount lenses on the NEX-5N through an adapter. The adapter is almost as large as a Sony 16mm f/2.8 prime lens so using 3rd party lenses on the NEX-5N as I have done with my Nikkor lenses will result in a substantially bigger package than when using Sony's native designed for NEX E-mount lenses.
The bigger package aside, I find it easy to manually focus my Nikkor lenses on the NEX-5N. Sony has two features in the NEX-5N which makes manual focusing easy. The first is "peaking" and the second is through image-magnification. One has a choice of white, yellow or red to indicate which section is in sharpest focus. The ability to choose the color to indicate "peaking" or the area with the sharpest focus is very helpful. In addition to peaking, I also double check my manual focus accuracy by magnifying an image either by touching the touch screen at the point I want magnified or through one of the programmable buttons and using the scroll wheel. My procedure is to use magnify first and rely on the peaking second once the image is magnified (1st level magnify). In short, manual focus is easy, convenient and accurate.
The bottom-design of the NEX-5N does not lend itself well to the mounting of a quick-release Arca plate. While the lens mount of the NEX-5N is metal and quite sturdy, the NEX-5N is not particularly suited for use with bigger and heavier 3rd-party lenses without additional support. What I have done thus is to use the same support I currently use with my GH2 when mated with Nikkor lenses with the NEX-5N. This support makes use of an Arca plate supporting both body and lenses and thus relieving any pressure that would otherwise hang on the lens mount and the very thin tripod mount surface when using big and heavy lenses. Mounted on a tripod and using live-view to compose and to focus-manually, I am able to capture superlative photos. In this manner, I have no problem using my bigger Nikkor F-mount prime and zoom lens with the NEX-5N such as the Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8, Nikkor 180mm f/2.8 or Zeiss 100mm f/2.0 despite these lenses not having any dedicated lens collar.
I have started testing the NEX-5N using my Nikkor lenses and comparing the image I captured using the same lens but mounted on the Nikon D7000. This is not easy as it may seem because of the different mounting point when both cameras are mounted on a tripod. It is early days yet but I would say that the images the NEX-5N produces are very close and is practically as good as the Nikon D7000. Surprisingly, the images from the NEX-5N post-processed from is slightly sharper. There may be several reasons for these ... such as a more stable tripod mount using the Arca-rail setup, a weaker AA filter, etc.
Clicking sound during video: I typically use a tripod when taking video so this has not been an issue for me. I do not foresee this becoming an issue unless I use the NEX-5N as a salt shaker while taking video. =)
Video is very good and is the closest in performance to my Panasonic DMC-GH2. I would however still give the edge to the GH2 in terms of video quality. Regrettably, the NEX-5N does not have the equivalent of the GH2's ETC which is essentially a 2mp 2.6x crop of the center-portion of the sensor. The GH2's ETC essentially transforms a single focal-length prime lens to 2 lenses.
The NEX-5N allows manual controls of the shutter, aperture and ISO setting during video. The best video quality is still at 1080 24 with a write-speed of 24Mbps which translates to about 1GB for every 5 minutes of video. 1080 60p with a write speed of 28Mbps is useful for slowing things down and translates to about 1GB for approx. 4 minutes of video.
Vibration free during shutter release: Despite the absence of a mirror that needs to flip out of the way, the shutter release of the NEX-5N is fairly loud and is nowhere as silent as the Fujifilm X100. The shutter release sound of the NEX-5N is similar to that of the Panasonic GH2 - metallic sounding and kludgy. The Nikon D7000 shutter sounds sounds better despite having have to flip up the mirror before shutter release. With mirror-up, the D7000 was virtually vibration free during shutter release. Beyond my concern for the sound, I am concerned as to how vibration free the NEX-5N is when mounted on a tripod during shutter release. All my test shots showed however that this is nothing to be concerned about. Then I learned about the electronic first curtain shutter of the NEX-5N. With this activated, all fears about any vibration during shutter actuation was completely eliminated. Very nice Sony!
Battery: Any dSLR owner will likely need an extra battery (or even two) for extended shooting with the NEX-5N. Unlike a dSLR which consumes very little energy when using the optical viewfinder, viewing and composing the NEX-5N drains the battery and any bit of extended use will require a spare battery or two.
Aspect Ratio: this camera allows the user to choose between a 3:2 or 16:9 aspect ratio for still photos. Video is always in 16:9 ratio.
ISO: The NEX-5N has ISO 100, and goes all the way to ISO 12,800. With fast lenses, I mostly stay at ISO 1600 and below but do go up to ISO 3200 and even 6400 when needed. In both cases, some delicate fine-tuning with noise reduction during post-processing will yield very good images still. Auto ISO is available as an option. I should add however that ISO adjustments can only be made in increments of 1-full stop instead of the usual 1/3-stop found in most dSLR (with the exception of my D3100 where ISO can be incremented only in 1-full stops like the NEX-5N). I found this a bit disappointing initially but like my Nikon D3100, I learned to cope with it and it became less of an issue.
WHITE BALANCE: What Sony takes in terms of limiting the ISO increment adjustment it gives back in the WB setting. I prefer to set my WB manually using the Kelvin setting and here, the Sony NEX-5N has smaller increments in its Kelvin setting adjustment than my dSLRs, including the Nikon D7000 and D700. Live view and manual WB Kelvin adjustment is a wonderful combo which allows finer WB adjustment where a custom WB may not work due to the fast changing light condition. I am very happy with this feature in the NEX-5N - which makes me wonder why the dSLRs do not have this capability.
16mm f/2.8 pancake prime lens: With a 35mm equivalent FOV of 24mm, it would have been nicer if this lens had a wider-opening aperture. Despite being a pancake lens, this prime lens is big enough that it actually is wider than the NEX-5N both at the top and at the bottom. Its center section is very good while the borders and corners require stepping down before these become acceptable. Due to its 24mm FOV, one needs to exercise a bit of care in aligning the horizontal and vertical axis of the image to minimize distortion when shooting people, specially those at the edge of the image. I personally would have preferred a faster 18 to 20mm pancake prime than 16mm lens to minimize distortion as the NEX-5N with a pancake prime would likely be carried and see a lot of action in many people gathering.
Integrated EVF: I also have a NEX-7 on pre-order but the 16mp sensor of this NEX-5N in a NEX-7 body would be an even better camera. The ability of this camera to shoot excellent photo at low ISO and clean images at ISO 1600-3200 would make it a much more versatile all-purpose camera (like the Nikon D7000) than a NEX-7 with its current 24mp sensor which is more than 1-stop lower in S/N at high ISO.
It is of course understood that the 24mp image from the NEX-7 down-sampled to a 16mp image like the NEX-5N would yield almost the same noise performance but one would first have to allocate more resources for a 24mp file size then downsample it to 16mp to get the same yield. I would much prefer to just stay with 16mp from the start as it is unlikely that I will be printing large files. When I do, I can just take several 16mp photos and merge these and get the high resolution image I need.
Moreover, the high pixel density of the NEX-7 sensor means that lens diffraction occurs earlier at practically a little past mid-aperture settings. The NEX-7 disadvantages means that one can use the NEX-5 more than 1-stop higher in ISO setting for low-light and/or 1-stop lower in aperture setting for greater DOF in landscape photography without hitting the lens diffraction zone.
While one can use the optional EVF and get the same image and functionality of the NEX-7, the fragile mount of the external EVF will require greater care in its use. An integrated EVF would be better. Nonetheless, I ordered the external EVF and will include a review of it here once I have more hands-on time with it.
The NEX-5N provides a dSLR owner with capabilities that is generally not as easily accessed with a dSLR. A small, compact and light body plus a small compact and light prime lens is an attraction in itself but is perhaps best appreciated when I can pack 3-4 of these in a bag that would normally accommodate only one dSLR with zoom (Nikon D7000, MB-D11 and 17-55mm f/2.8). It makes a very nice supplement to a dSLR but it will not and cannot replace a dSLR.
As a dSLR owner and using the NEX-5N without an electronic viewfinder (EVF), I see the he NEX-5N as best used for tripod-mounted live-view shooting where its articulating screen, peaking, image magnify in one-button push or a light touch on the touch-screen really plays to the NEX-5N strength. Its ability to mount larger zoom lenses that are without integrated lens collars is easily addressed using an Arca rail. So equipped, it is even more stable than a large dSLR for tripod shooting as it can be mounted at its center of gravity rather than the typical below the camera butt plate when using a dSLR. I regularly use my Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 and my Nikkor 180mm f/2.8D with the NEX-5N in this manner and the images are simply superb.
Without an EVF and shooting handheld, I typically hold the NEX-5N at waist level with both my arms tucked to my side to steady the camera. With the screen articulated to face up, taking photos is quick and easy. It's not as easy, fast and as intuitive when using a dSLR with an optical viewfinder but it works out pretty well after some degree of practice.
With an EVF and shooting handheld: I will be getting my EVF in 2 days and I will update this review. (To be continued)
Update: Feb. 11, 2012
I have been using the NEX-5N and the Zeiss 24mm f/1.8 with the Sony FDA-EV1S EVF for over a month now and it is a joy to use. The EVF is bright and clear and its ability to articulate to 90 degrees allows me to get low-angle shots without too much exertion in bending down. A little leg-bend is often enough to do the trick without need for me to get down on my knees to shoot low. For those times when I do get down on one knee to take a shot, I can take an even lower angle in my shots.
Coming immediately from using a dSLR, I do notice a short lag when compared to the optical viewfinder of a dSLR. But after a few minutes of use, I quickly adjust and hardly notice the lag. The EVF can be used for low-light shooting but there is room for improvement. But in comparison to the other EVF-equipped cameras I have (GH2 and X100), this is the best EVF I have used and have no qualms in rating the EVF performance a 5-star.
What makes me a bit more concerned is that the EVF is mounted rather precariously on the NEX-5N. This is a concern when carrying the camera on a shoulder strap. A hard side-swipe on the EVF could easily damage this rather expensive EVF. I have thus acquired a binocular strap for the NEX-5N that prevents swaying and keep it in my front and center just below my chest to better protect it.
The EVF also protrudes rather prominently from the NEX-5N and makes storing the erstwhile diminutive and compact NEX-5N a bit more difficult. I have had to rearrange the storage paddings in my Lowepro backpack and Pelican Bag and because of the EVF, the NEX-5N now needs a much bigger space than it did for storage.
This handling, carrying and packing concern notwithstanding, I still rate the EVF a 5-star because of its performance. Not being an integrated EVF, I accepted some of the fragility and difficulties that comes with using an EVF as this is easily outweighed by the benefit of being able to articulate to 90 degrees.
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