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Reviewed: Sony NEX-5N 16MP mirrorless camera

By dpreview staff on Oct 4, 2011 at 00:19 GMT

Just Posted: Our review of the Sony NEX-5N. The 5N is the second generation of Sony's more enthusiast-focused mirrorless models. It offers the well-respected 16MP APS-C sensor and the option to fit an external electronic viewfinder. Although the bodywork is near indistinguishable from the original NEX-5, the latest model gains a touch-screen interface and in-camera lens correction processing as two of the most obvious of its many changes. We've spent some time getting familiar with the 5N, to see if it delivers on the NEX concept's considerable promise.

Click here to read our Sony NEX-5N review

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Comments

Total comments: 195
12
Auke B van der Weide
By Auke B van der Weide (Oct 4, 2011)

impressive for its size, nice build, compact. Why cant Nikon do this with its FX sensors? The D3 sensor is now about 4 years old, still better then this Sony sensor. So go mirrorless compact with the F-mount Nikon!

0 upvotes
HowaboutRAW
By HowaboutRAW (Oct 4, 2011)

The Nikon D3 is full frame, and fewer MPs than this Sony, those are big reasons that the D3/D700 is better than most Sony cameras.

0 upvotes
Auke B van der Weide
By Auke B van der Weide (Oct 4, 2011)

I know, but still, four year old FX sensor still not beaten by current DX sensors......
So why not a FX sensor in a mirrorless compactcamera instead of the new CX sensor. Is it a matter of time?

0 upvotes
3dreal
By 3dreal (Oct 4, 2011)

Because Nikon wants to fullfill the needs of much more potential customers by introducing CX first. It will be much more successful-quantitywise) than other nikon cams. Lets be patient for the next surprise.

0 upvotes
Auke B van der Weide
By Auke B van der Weide (Oct 4, 2011)

So why not bring out the CX sensor with the F-mount instead of developing new cx-mount lenses. Make potential customers addicted to the F-mount instead of the CX sensor.... this way a later upgrade with a FX sensor seems plausible. I still remember the fullframe FM3a with a 45mm pancake. A mirrorless fullframe will be even more compact. Make it sturdy as a hammer, leave out the lcd and bring on a highres electronic viewfinder.

1 upvote
Green_Thark
By Green_Thark (Oct 4, 2011)

How good the sensor is remains to be seen, but without a doubt Nikon got one thing right; building phase AF on to it. Contrast AF sucks

0 upvotes
sufiblade
By sufiblade (Oct 4, 2011)

because the mount on the cx is apparently smaller, so as to create smaller lenses. u can use an adapter

0 upvotes
Rashkae
By Rashkae (Oct 4, 2011)

Why not the F-mount? FLANGE DISTANCE. It would make any mirrorless camera the size of a DSLR. Defeats the purpose...

0 upvotes
digifan
By digifan (Oct 4, 2011)

@ Green_Thark, E-P3 runs circles around the Nikon.
Contr.-AF is a winner and it will surely outdo PDAF at CAF, in the near future, as well.

0 upvotes
Green_Thark
By Green_Thark (Oct 4, 2011)

No, it wont, it can't tell how far something is out of focus and in which direction basic necessities for tracking a moving object.

0 upvotes
ianimal
By ianimal (Oct 4, 2011)

Full manual exposure control in video mode is also an upgrade worth mentioning compared to NEX5.

1 upvote
mediman30
By mediman30 (Oct 4, 2011)

Great review! Looks like the NEX5N eclipsed all the other mirrorless cameras in the market. This camera is very tempting...

0 upvotes
straylightrun
By straylightrun (Oct 4, 2011)

The e-mount system is in desperate need of pancakes. If Sony isn't going to do it, I hope Sigma make a fast 30/2 pancake or something similar. The current Sony 30/3.5 and 50/1.8 primes are bigger than their 18-55 kit lens! What a joke. Sure Sony have the best bodies out of Olympus/Panasonic/Samsung and Nikon mirrorless systems, but it's useless without a compact lens to go with it.

8 upvotes
Sosua
By Sosua (Oct 4, 2011)

Well, to be fair, that's only if you want to keep the camera in your pants pocket. I don't know about your pants, but I wouldn't want to keep anything bigger than my iphone in there.

That includes my old LX5 let alone even a GF3 with a 14mm F2.5.

There are benefits to having an overall lighter and smaller system which may not be pocketable.

0 upvotes
straylightrun
By straylightrun (Oct 4, 2011)

Samsung and m43 users have the options of mounting on a fast normal pancake (30/2 and 20/1.7) along with larger lenses. Sony has no such option. Their fast 'normal' lens, the 24/1.7, is 3x as large and 3x the price. I hope Sigma brings out something soon and fills in this huge hole in the current e-mount system.

5 upvotes
Rooru S
By Rooru S (Oct 4, 2011)

correction. Sony 30/3.5 is smaller than 18-55 kit lens.

But yes, Sony NEX series cameras is in need of smaller lenses (not necessarily pancakes, since many people care more about performance than compactness)

0 upvotes
straylightrun
By straylightrun (Oct 4, 2011)

The 30/3.5 is bigger than than the kit lens with it's lens hood.

Why does a pancake necessarily mean a poor performer (eg.Samsung 30/2 pancake)? Are you basing this on Sony's 16/2.8?

3 upvotes
Rooru S
By Rooru S (Oct 4, 2011)

Oh, so you're taking into account the hood? Then what about the kit lens hood? macro lens still smaller. Anyways.

There are good "pancake" lens performers, but most of them corrected with in-camera software. And if you put the a similar sized Samsung 30/2 + 7.5mm on NEX it will result in a longer lens and people will complain about it not being as small as Samsung's offering. So maybe if they instead of try to follow other manufacturers designing pancake lens and go after a bit longer (at least half the length of current macro lens) but good quality without having to use in-camera correction, it's better than trying to make it a pancake, increase R&D time/costs and ending with a not so good pancake when they have to work with a APS-C sensor and only 18mm of registration distance. (Yes, it's a pain to design small lenses when you have those initial conditions compared to other systems and formats)

0 upvotes
increments
By increments (Oct 4, 2011)

I thought one of things the review showed quite well was how good the in-camera correction was. Look at Pentax's limited range for an idea of quality pancakes.

For me at least, and YMMV, there is a world of difference in the convenience of carrying a compact mirrorless with a pancake compared to a dslr sized lens.

At the moment m4/3 is the only system with a near complete range of lenses. Though and this is purely personal, I haven't found a camera that I want. When the wide angle Samsung goes on sale they will have caught up and, depending on the nx200 review, that may be the way I go.

Sony are producing interesting cameras but there's a whole chunk of the market which won't buy into the NEX system until they have a range of good pancake lenses.

2 upvotes
Rooru S
By Rooru S (Oct 5, 2011)

Yeah, but Pentax pancakes are easy to develop given the long registration distance from their dSLR cameras.

Indeed, m4/3 got the lenses. Even on NEX Talk forum we know that they got the correct lineup, but on Sony NEX-series is very hard to achieve a similar lineup with similar performance and size because of the 18mm registration distance and APS-C sensor size. They can manage to get the same specs, but not the same compactness. It's all about law of physics (Larger sensor, bigger lenses unless you're willing to pay a fortune).

0 upvotes
increments
By increments (Oct 5, 2011)

Not going to argue that larger sensors will, all other things being equal, necessitate larger lenses.

However the idea that you can't make compact and affordable primes in the 16mm to 40mm range for the NEX is wrong IMO.

Samsung have 3 small, good, primes made or coming for the NX series. I expect Sony will eventually follow suit.

0 upvotes
Faisalee
By Faisalee (Oct 4, 2011)

Well Micro 4/3 is no longer quite Micro comared to this little monster ;-)

2 upvotes
pixel_colorado
By pixel_colorado (Oct 4, 2011)

The body is compact but when you throw on an 18-200mm lens it becomes very awkward and crazy expensive.

5 upvotes
Sosua
By Sosua (Oct 4, 2011)

18-200 lenses tend to do that!

4 upvotes
theswede
By theswede (Oct 4, 2011)

Yeah, the M43 with an 18-200 is much more compact! ;)

5 upvotes
TrojMacReady
By TrojMacReady (Oct 4, 2011)

Interestingly enough the 18-200 is similarly sized to and lighter(!) than the 10-100 for the new Nikon 1 series.

2 upvotes
pixel_colorado
By pixel_colorado (Oct 4, 2011)

A DSLR with a 18-200mm lens is not awkward to hold.

0 upvotes
RBaladiang
By RBaladiang (Oct 4, 2011)

Just got my new NEX-5N last Friday and attended a party over the weekend. Everyone is impressed. Here are some of the test shots, http://www.flickr.com/photos/rbaladiang/sets/72157627689521839/.

5 upvotes
forpetessake
By forpetessake (Oct 4, 2011)

pretty much what one would expect from point-and-shoot

0 upvotes
justmeMN
By justmeMN (Oct 4, 2011)

The Sony NEX-5N has a smaller body than a DSLR, but with the latter, you don't have to pay an additional $349.99 if you want a viewfinder.

4 upvotes
hippo84
By hippo84 (Oct 4, 2011)

Strange comparison...

0 upvotes
Rooru S
By Rooru S (Oct 4, 2011)

How much does an EVF cost for Olympus VF-2? Before answering, remember the Sony EVF has eye proximity sensor (to change from Main LCD to EVF without pressing a button), the 2.4M dot resolution and high refresh rate (almost same as A77 evf). Also take into consideration that NEX-5N EVF locks securely in place with a screw, to attach it firmly to the body (You can even grab the camera from the EVF if you want without problems like sliding off-place)

Now...The Sony approach with the NEX-5N is give user options to customize your camera depending on your needs. If you want the smallest combo possible with the NEX-5N, just take it with a lens and that's it. If you want to compose using an EVF like you would with a dSLR, then grab the EVF. If you want high speed AF then grab the LA-EA2 adapter that gives you PDAF. And then if you want to go small again, just remove the accessories and take the 5N only. This is like a modular camera. Depending on your needs, you put everything you need.

2 upvotes
psn
By psn (Oct 4, 2011)

You shouldn't be getting a NEX-5N if an eye-level viewfinder is one of your requirements...

0 upvotes
Rooru S
By Rooru S (Oct 5, 2011)

Yup, if your requirements is built in EVF or OVF, then get either a bridge camera, GH2 or a traditional dSLR.

0 upvotes
Taikonaut
By Taikonaut (Oct 4, 2011)

Have you ever been stopped or asked what you are doing when using your dSLRs at an event while hundreds of others using P&S and phone cameras don't get hasselled? This is the reason to go mirrorless.

2 upvotes
Maxfield_photo
By Maxfield_photo (Oct 4, 2011)

Ever tried to fire a studio strobe without a hotshoe or PC socket?

1 upvote
hippo84
By hippo84 (Oct 4, 2011)

Go bye NEX7 with hot-shoe

0 upvotes
Taikonaut
By Taikonaut (Oct 4, 2011)

@Maxfield_photo I'm talking about "events" type photos here not studio. Advantage of mirrorless are I can take it anywhere at shows, concerts, sports, etc, and don't face the same kind of attention or restriction a dSLR user might get.

1 upvote
Rashkae
By Rashkae (Oct 4, 2011)

Fully agree, I can bring the NEX into concerts and it doesn't get stopped. DSLRs have to stay at the gate.

0 upvotes
JWest
By JWest (Oct 4, 2011)

Interesting theory, but what sort of shots do you get at a concert or sports event without a long lens? And how much does a Nex look like a compact with an 18-200 attached?

1 upvote
Taikonaut
By Taikonaut (Oct 4, 2011)

A long lens with compact body you still have more chance than a dSLR body in not getting hasselled by concert organizers accusing you of making money from their show and trying to stop you.

0 upvotes
xinn3r
By xinn3r (Oct 4, 2011)

FINALLY! been waiting it for weeks, thx for this, it'll be really helpful for my decision

1 upvote
SDF
By SDF (Oct 4, 2011)

Thank you DPR for making my decision a lot easier.

3 upvotes
Mssimo
By Mssimo (Oct 4, 2011)

I wish they had some nice small and fast lenses to shoot with.

8 upvotes
thx1138
By thx1138 (Oct 4, 2011)

Yes, a 24 f/2 would be a good start

3 upvotes
Sosua
By Sosua (Oct 4, 2011)

How about a 24mm F1.8? But you ain't gonna like the price...

7 upvotes
straylightrun
By straylightrun (Oct 4, 2011)

or the size...

1 upvote
seki
By seki (Oct 4, 2011)

A message from Hong Kong.
I'm very disappointed.My nex5N & 16mm lens was taken to Sony's customer services last night that they said it's a bug of them it couldn't repair & improve.
The fact is for all the nex5N holder when we use 16mm lens it couldn't shot in panorama mode at night or a dim environment that it appeared a vertical dark & bright zebra cross condition.
They said it happened nex5 already but it didn't improve it.
So don't buy the 16mm lens for night shooting in panorama mode.
Is there anybody happened in same condition?
Can Dpreview check that problem for those nex5 users? And give pressure to Sony face that bug...

1 upvote
hippo84
By hippo84 (Oct 4, 2011)

Sony says this problem will soon be fixed with new firmware. Have a little patience :))
http://www.sonyalpharumors.com/sony-a77-bug-issue-and-nex-5n-click-issue-fix-and-firmware-news/

0 upvotes
Rooru S
By Rooru S (Oct 4, 2011)

Sweep Panorama is not intended for low-light / night shooting conditions because the camera must keep a considerable high burst of image to keep the image free of blur or shake while you sweep the camera (with a shutter speed between 1/250 and 1/500 at minimium). Try with a single shoot sweeping at the same speed you do with the Sweep Panorama function at 1/15 and see what happens. Motion blur everywhere. Then you realize that everything has a reason. Would suggest taking several pictures and join them all together in PP.

0 upvotes
3dreal
By 3dreal (Oct 4, 2011)

Take a tripod and shoot panoramas the normal way If you want to shoot panoramas with sweeppanorama-mode you are on the wrong track. This sweep(3d-panorama)-mode is for good light only. shutter will be set to 1/60(am i right ?)as slowest when using stabilized lenses. With genuine lenses its even worse. with 1/500 set one is very limited. a sony-man was curagous to state that in a next firmware-update this problem(too short exposure time when using genuine lenses) it will be solved. It cannot be solved since then the shots will be blurry. i tested this on a turntable with 34 secs. around. which is very slow. not one single 1/60 shot was sharp enough. thats why there are motordriven panoheads. do it the simple way, use a simple panohead. ask in panoguide.com which one is suitable. there are cheap solutions where one can shoot horizontal and vertical.

0 upvotes
Blargh
By Blargh (Oct 4, 2011)

Getting a weird password request on the body and design page o_O

0 upvotes
Kelcey Smith
By Kelcey Smith (Oct 4, 2011)

I've updated the links. It should be working properly now.

0 upvotes
jpr2
By jpr2 (Oct 4, 2011)

weird/screwed behavior in the a77 studio comments section - take notice of the bottom - no comments are possible since quite a time now:
http://www.dpreview.com/news/1109/11093005sonyslta77studioupdate.asp#comments

0 upvotes
TrojMacReady
By TrojMacReady (Oct 4, 2011)

Great review.
One thing I missed (also in the C3 review) is the notable edge/corner improvement compared to the previous models, due to what is suspected to be the addition of offset microlenses. This in combination with the software corrections really brings new life to the kitlenses, especially the pancake. But also legacy glass benefits a good deal as has been demonstrated many times in the Sony NEX forums.

0 upvotes
sensibill
By sensibill (Oct 4, 2011)

Look at the corners in these sample shots. They look just as bad as the earlier NEX models, and it doesn't appear to be a scene focus issue - there's heavy blue fringing in the checker reference markers.

I've heard a lot about 'now the native lenses will be better' but so far, I don't see it... Samples with bright highlights exhibit similar clipping and blue fringe as the original NEX models. Metering? Glass? But it still seems to be there.

1 upvote
TrojMacReady
By TrojMacReady (Oct 4, 2011)

Nonsens. For example DSC06651 shows exactly what I mean. Fine edge and even corner performance. The older cameras would never show anything near that top left corner and certainly not below F8 at the wide end. There's been comparisons in the NEX forum showing this too clearly to deny it with a simple "I don't see it so it's not there".
And as for the checker mark, do you know whether the CA corrections were even on for the studio shots?

0 upvotes
bdjalins
By bdjalins (Oct 4, 2011)

Glad I got one.. My DSLR is collecting dust as we speak. Love the NEX-5N!!

Now please SONY, bring on more e-mount lens!!!

2 upvotes
jpr2
By jpr2 (Oct 4, 2011)

lenses, lenses, lenses - WHERE are they, Sony???

4 upvotes
Sosua
By Sosua (Oct 4, 2011)

Which lenses would you like and how much would you like to pay for them?

0 upvotes
Eric Glam
By Eric Glam (Oct 4, 2011)

Sosua,
I would love a zoom lens with 24-85 f/2.5.
Plus, would be nice to have the zoom motorized (silent motor, of course).

0 upvotes
Eric Glam
By Eric Glam (Oct 4, 2011)

...But actually, I would really want a 18-125 f/2.0 motorized silent, with AF/MF switch on the lens itself. Don't care about size or weight, but price should be kept in check.

A lens like that would not come off my NEC-5N ever, simply because it would take care of all my needs!!

0 upvotes
Ivanaker
By Ivanaker (Oct 4, 2011)

how about 12-200 f/1.4 for 499$?

1 upvote
Eric Glam
By Eric Glam (Oct 4, 2011)

I think we all would like that, if it was physically possible.

1 upvote
chlamchowder
By chlamchowder (Oct 4, 2011)

Looks like a great camera. I would consider this if I were in the market for a mirrorless camera...

0 upvotes
amicah22
By amicah22 (Oct 4, 2011)

grat iq just need some pancakes

3 upvotes
Total comments: 195
12