The Sony NEX-5N was a big
sleeper coming from Sony this year, they were much more excited about
hyping the A77 and NEX-7. For this review to make any sense, please
read my NEX-5
review first. The NEX-5N is
nearly identical to the NEX-5. It's the same body with a few minor trim
updates. What's inside is totally different. The sensor jumps
from 14mp to 16. Either is large enough to suit my needs. Frame rate
jumps to a blazing 10fps. The big change was that this time, Sony did
video right. 1080HD in 60p; very nice and it's what everyone else
should be putting in their hybrid cameras. Subtle changes to
the flash connection on top allow the NEX-5 to connect to a upcoming
OLED viewfinder. The rear LCD is now a touch screen. Reviewing my
gripes about the NEX-5 it would sound like Sony was listening to my
of the touch screen
No EVF - OLED
No controls while shooting video -
full manual control while
No mirror - faster auto focus and EVF
negate to some
Let's tackle the bad news first.
Apparently someone at Sony marketing decided the NEX-5N needed a touch
screen, so the engineers put one in. A good one too, it responds to
electrical current from touch instead of pressure. Too bad they didn't
bother talking to any photographers about how the touch screen would
benefit the camera. It doesn't. The touch screen is pointless. The only
things you can access via the touch screen while shooting are the same
exact controls you can push buttons for on the back. Two methods to
control the same limited options without going into the menu.
Shame on you Sony, the year old Panasonic GH-2 touch screen
the industry standard for real world usefulness and you have fallen
far, far below it.
I'm excited but waiting for the OLED EVF
It's rumored to be
very good, not quite as good as a true full frame 100% optical
viewfinder, but that's no surprise. The only surprise is the cost. At
$350 it's half the cost of the camera. At that price we can only hope
that Sony will stick with it for their future NEX cameras too.
Full manual controls while shooting video. Perfect, love it,
should have been on the NEX-5 and I'm happy to see it here.
Improved auto focus speed. In my limited use it seems to be
about as fast or faster than the GH-2, and a lot smoother while
shooting video. The update to 10fps is amazing. That's something you
don't see from Canikon unless you drop over $5,000. When I went from a
point and shoot to the Nikon D50 I was amazed at the speed. Same when I
upgraded to the D200, and once again when I updated to the D700 with
the battery grip. Amazingly I have that feeling again, even though the
NEX-5N is $2,100 cheaper than the D700. With the camera set to high
speed mode it's hard not to shoot bursts of three shots. Astounding,
but the buffer is small so the burst won't last too long, but it's good
enough for kayaking.
For Nikon users an easy way to
get an idea of its size, the NEX-5 with the 18-55mm kit lens next to
the Nikon D700 and Sigma 24-60mm f/2.8
Above it looks quite a bit smaller, but viewed from below vs the D700
and battery grip with 70-300VR attached the difference is immense. The
tiny body hides behind the small 18-55mm lens.
dSLR image quality
Small & light
Easy to adapt any SLR lens to
Rear LCD quality
Touchscreen only good for setting AF point
Could use more external controls
Slow turn on time of ~2 seconds
Small buffer, only 7 shots in raw
Center only AF while shooting video
Terrible tripod mount, not enough friction
Strange CA issues with legacy lenses
buck, the Sony NEX-5N is simply amazing. I can't say it's what I'd want
to shoot real work due to lack of external controls, but it seems to be
near perfect for expedition kayaking. Light & small with decent
image quality and a fast fps, if only for half a second. All that said
I have moved on from it, tired of the how long it takes to turn on,
small buffer, and slow controls. The NEX-7 solves all those problems
but I do miss the NEX-5N sensor.
The Sony NEX-5N image qaulity can be quite good. Yes DSLR
quality in the right settings. Unfortunately the right settings are
rarely with any of the current, very lacking lens options in the Sony E
mount. All are slow and soft in the corners, or faster and non-existant
in the corners. Yet for true image quality it's ahead of the
which was slightly
ahead of the Nikon D200
. A lot of people out
there are saying it's
better than the Nikon D7000 which may use the same sensor. Some also
like to say that the D7000 is better at high ISO than the D3/D700. What
really makes the D700/D3 sensor stand out is not just how little noise
it has, but how it renders the noise, in a very film like way thats
the eye way. Anyways in a quick and dirty test I shot my D700 against
the NEX-5N, at the same settings. I pushed both images up 1.0 exposure
in photoshop CS5 to really bring out the noise. No noise reduction
applied to either (outside of standard noise reduction from the
On the video side of things the NEX-5N is very competent
but rather confusing in the menu regarding how AF works. One of
the most attractive features to the Panasonic GH-2 is the ability to be
auto-focused on one point, then touch screen to another point and it
will change focus. Pretty handy for focus pulls, but unfortunately the
GH2 does it a little too fast to be pleasing to the eye. Initially I
was under the impression this wasn't possible with the NEX-5N. Then I
found it's possible if you have the camera in AF-C mode and press the
shutter release half way, but the lens will do a full focus hunt and
look terrible. Click
to see in video.
Thankfully there is a work around to alleviate
After more use I found that it is possible to get smooth
AF performance while racking the focus, but not straight forward. To
pull focus by touch all modes in the menu need to be set a certain way:
Autofocus Area Flexible Spot
Autofocus Mode: AF-C
Object Tracking ON
For some reason turning on Object Tracking changes everything. Now
while recording video a simple touch on the screen will change AF
points and it will make a nice smooth transition of focus. No need for
a half shutter press. Both videos shot with the Sony E 55-210. Click here to see
the quick clip.
A few kayaking shots to test out
still capability; Will Pruett on Zero to Hero of the South Fork San
Sony NEX-5N, Tamron 17-50 2.8 @ 1/1000 f/8 ISO 200
100% crop of the above.
How about some tough lighting?
Sony NEX-5N, Tamron 17-50 f/2.8 @ 1/800 f/2.8 ISO 800
100% crop no noise reduction or sharpening, no significant noise issues.
Sony NEX-5N, Tamron 17-50 f/2.8 @ 1/800 f/2.8 ISO 800
There has been talk about
the Nikon D7000 having similar high ISO performance to the D700/D3, and
the Sony NEX-5N being similar to the D7000 as they share the same Sony
sensor. On top of that it's interesting to see how different cameras
chose to deal with similar scenes. These two images were taken seconds
apart, with the Nikkor 24-70 f/2.8 at 50mm f/4 on the 5N and at 70mm
f/4 on the D700. Both images converted through ACR with no adjustments.
Sony NEX-5N, Nikkor 24-70mm @ 1/15 f/4 ISO 3200
Nikon D700, Nikkor 24-70mm @ 1/10 f/4 ISO 3200
A quick 100% crop from each.
Obviously the exposure choices
were slightly different. To my taste, the D700 noise is still
considerably better and less intrusive than the NEX-5N, but it's also
an FX sensor that costs $2,000 more and is 4mp less.
Once again the size is something else too. NEX-5N and D700.