This is an in-depth review of the Sony NEX-5N mirrorless camera that came out on August 24, 2011 along with the Sony NEX-7 flagship mirrorless camera and three E-mount lenses. I had a chance to test the Sony NEX-5N, along with its kit 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS lens while reviewing the Nikon 1 camera system. My initial intent was to only use this camera for lab tests, to see how it would fare against the new Nikon mirrorless cameras. But after just a day of pleasant shooting with the NEX-5N, I realized that I wanted to take it for a real spin and do a full review instead. In this Sony NEX-5N review, I will talk about my experience with the camera and provide some feedback on its features and capabilities, along with comparisons to Nikon 1 V1 and Olympus E-PL3 cameras.
The NEX-5N is Sony’s fourth mirrorless camera, which replaced the Sony NEX-5 that was released back in 2010. While the added letter “N” might make it sound like a slight update, the similarities between the cameras are only in external appearance – the guts of the camera, as well as some of the functionality went through major changes. From a higher resolution superb 16.1 MP sensor, to touchscreen LCD and fast 10 frames per second shooting rate, the Sony NEX-5N is a whole different animal.
1) Sony NEX-5N Specifications
- 16.1 MP Exmor™ APS HD CMOS image sensor
- Updated BIONZ® image processor
- Full HD movie shooting 60p/24p
- Object Tracking AF via Touch LCD
- 11 Picture Effect modes
- Regular and 3D Panorama Modes
- HDR Capability
- Phase Detect AF for E-mount bodies w/ adapter
- Extended battery life for up to 430 shots
- Tiltable 3.0″ Touch LCD with 921K dots
- Optional XGA OLED viewfinder with 2.395K dots
- Intelligent Scene Recognition and Face Detection
- In-camera “SteadyShot” Image Stabilization
- Electronic First Curtain shutter
- Up to 10 fps continuous shooting at full 16.1 MP resolution
- World’s shortest release time lag of 0.02 sec
- Peaking AF display for precise manual focusing
- 25-point Auto Focus with wide coverage
- Dynamic Range Optimizer (DRO) technology
Detailed technical specifications for the Sony NEX-5N are available at Sony.com.
2) Sony 16.1 MP Exmor Sensor
One of the most important attributes in a digital camera is its sensor – the heart of the camera that is responsible for capturing images. The Sony NEX-5N features the excellent APS-C sized 16.1 MP Exmor sensor, which in my opinion, has a great balance of resolution and noise (the same sensor is also used on the lower-end Sony NEX-C3 mirrorless camera). While the latest generation high-resolution sensors on Sony A77, A65 and NEX-7 cameras have their advantages, sometimes less can be more. For the type of the camera the NEX-5N is, which is positioned as a mid-level mirrorless camera by Sony, 16.1 megapixels is more than plenty for most photographers that will be looking into buying it.
The biggest advantage of the Sony NEX-series mirrorless cameras compared to other mirrorless cameras on the market such as Micro 4/3 and Nikon 1, is the physical size of the sensor. The 23.5×15.6mm APS-C sensor is currently among the largest sensors used in mirrorless cameras, with the exception of the expensive Leica M9/M9-P rangefinder cameras that have full-frame sensors. Large sensor size means larger pixel size, which translates to better low-light (high ISO) performance and better dynamic range. Sony picked the same 1.5x crop factor APS-C sensor size that is used in their “SLT” camera line, which is bigger than Canon’s APS-C sensors with a 1.6x crop factor and about the same as Nikon’s DX sensors. Here is a chart that summarizes sensor size differences (courtesy of Wikipedia):
Another big advantage of a larger sensor is smaller depth of field, which translates to better opportunities to isolate subjects from the background – an important factor for many photo enthusiasts and pros out there. Coupled with fast prime lenses like the Sony 50mm f/1.8 OSS, one could capture creative photographs with beautiful bokeh – something that is hard to achieve on small sensor cameras.
From small sensor to large – Nikon 1 V1 vs Olympus E-PL3 vs Sony NEX-5N:
At the same time, a larger sensor requires a bigger image circle from lenses, which negatively impacts the size requirements of both lenses and the lens mount (read more on this below).
3) Camera construction and handling
Compared to the older Sony NEX-5 that only had its front protected with a magnesium alloy plate, the NEX-5N has a sturdier build with both front and top magnesium alloy plates. Sony did a great job designing the NEX-series cameras and the NEX-5N is no exception – I found it ergonomically superior than both the Olympus E-PL3 and the Nikon 1 V1. A big part of it has to do with the grip; the large, rubber-coated grip perfectly accommodated my right hand and made it easy to hand-hold the camera. The grip is designed to have your fingers wrap around it, with your finger tips in between the grip and the protruded lens mount. Here is the view from the top:
Needless to say, the grip is a world better compared to the little bump on the Nikon 1 V1. Looking at the neatly designed top view, you can see just how thin the Sony NEX-5N really is. If it was not for the lens mount and the grip, the camera is thinner than most point and shoot cameras out there, let alone other mirrorless cameras. The angled top panel has a simple, yet elegant design with only three buttons and the on/off switch. The shutter release button is positioned ergonomically well, just like the red video record button.
The back of the camera also has a simplistic design with a rotary dial + center button and two extra unlabeled function buttons. Why unlabeled? Because their functionality changes depending on where you are in the menu. The multi-purpose dial is similar to the one found on the Nikon 1 V1. While rotating the dial is pretty smooth, the camera might lag a little in playback and other modes. I saw a similar lag when using the touchscreen, which did not seem to be very responsive in some cases.
Speaking of touchscreen, I kind of liked using it for selecting focus in AF and MF modes (especially cool for selecting a particular area when using manual focus), but found it not so useful for anything else. For navigation, I mostly used the buttons on the back of the camera. Unlike the versatile swivel LCD on the Sony A77, the LCD on the NEX-5N only swivels up and down, like the Olympus E-PL3 does. Still better than not having it at all (Nikon 1 V1/J1).
Now let’s talk about the size and bulk. While the camera itself is thin and lightweight (it weighs less than both Nikon 1 V1 and Olympus E-PL3), it has a rather large mount, which translates to bulky lenses. The standard 18-55mm zoom lens that is shipped with the NEX-5N is a massive chunk of glass, as clearly shown the below image:
4) Camera Menu System
The simplistic approach with the buttons on the camera means that certain functionality can only be accessed from the camera menu system. This includes the PASM exposure mode selector dial, which is emulated inside the “Shoot Mode” menu. The menus are organized by large descriptive icons and you can navigate through them by rotating the dial on the back of the camera, or by touching the screen. The “Camera” menu contains many options, including Drive Mode (single, continuous, bracket, etc), AF/MF Select, Autofocus Area and Face Registration. The “Image Size” menu is for picking Image Size and Quality, Panorama Size and Direction, Movie Format, Aspect Ratio, etc. The “Brightness/Color” menu contains White Balance, Metering Mode, HDR, ISO, etc. Not sure why Sony decided to stick “ISO” into “Brightness/Color”, because it really should be under “Camera” menu instead. “Playback” menu is for configuring image playback for viewing images on the LCD. Lastly, “Setup” contains important camera setup options, such as Noise Reduction, Lens Compensation, in addition to “Peaking Level” and “Peaking Color” – two very useful functions for shooting with manual focus lenses.
While using the camera menu can sometimes be slightly laggy, I found it quite easy to use, especially when compared to the Olympus E-PL3 camera that has a horrid menu system. I still prefer the Nikon 1 V1 menu system, because it just feels less “cartoonish”, but that’s probably because I am just too used to Nikon cameras. At the same time, the Sony NEX-5N has a lot more menu features than the Nikon 1 V1 and definitely more customization options.
5) Features and Responsiveness
Unlike the Nikon 1 V1, the Sony NEX-5N has a rich set of in-camera features that can be quite useful for everyday photography. The “Lens Compensation” feature found in the “Setup” menu allows fixing len-specific issues like vignetting, chromatic aberration and distortion. Obviously, the amount of lens correction depends on each lens, so Sony included current lens profiles in its camera firmware. New lenses that come out in the future will also be supported via firmware upgrades.
6) Sony E-mount Lenses
Sony has been making more and more E-mount lenses for the NEX cameras during the last couple of years, including some fast prime lenses. While the selection of lenses is nowhere close to what Micro Four Thirds has got to offer today, the available lenses do cover a broad range from wide angle to telephoto. Here is a list of all current lenses for the E-mount by Sony:
- Sony 16mm f/2.8
- Sony 24mm f/1.8 Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* E
- Sony 30mm f/3.5 Macro
- Sony 50mm f/1.8 OSS
- Sony 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS
- Sony 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 OSS
- Sony 55-210mm f/4.5-6.3 OSS
With the sensor crop factor of 1.5x, you have to multiply the focal length of each lens by 1.5 to get an equivalent field of view of a full-frame camera. For example, the 55-210mm lens is equivalent to a 82.5-315mm lens, while the 16mm pancake is equivalent to a 24mm lens.
In general, the above Sony E-mount lenses have very good performance characteristics with great sharpness and colors – they perform similarly to Sony A-mount lenses, but without the weight and bulk. One thing you might have noticed from the above list is “OSS” (Optical Steady Shot) on the last 4 lenses, which means that the lenses are stabilized. This is a disadvantage of the NEX-series cameras – they do not have in-camera image stabilization. While it is understandable that in-camera IS might have resulted in a larger body and could have increased the cost of the camera, I still think Sony should have followed the same approach as in their SLT cameras, which is to use in-camera IS instead of lens-based IS. When working with short focal length lenses, in-camera IS is the way to go, especially when using LCD/EVF for framing shots. Those shorter focal length lenses also would have greatly benefited from in-camera image stabilization in low-light situations.
As for manual focus, unlike the Nikon 1 lenses, the Sony E-mount lenses feature a manual focus ring for smoother and more precise MF operation. Once you put the camera into manual focus mode through the “Camera” menu, you can configure the camera to automatically zoom in when the focus ring is turned. I found this feature to be quite useful, because you can combine it with the touchscreen. By selecting an area on the touchscreen to zoom into, you can quickly move the desired focus area.
The cool thing about the Sony NEX mount, is that you can use many different lenses with it, as long as you have an appropriate adapter. You can use the A-mount Lens to NEX Adapter, which will let you autofocus A-mount lenses for both stills and video, or the basic LA-EA1 adapter, which only allows MF operation. There are many other adapters available for using Nikon, Canon, Pentax and even Leica lenses on the NEX cameras.
8) Autofocus / Manual Focus Performance and Metering
Unlike the Nikon 1 V1, which uses both phase detect and contrast detect for focusing, the Sony NEX-5N only relies on contrast detect. Because of this, its AF acquisition speed is not fast enough for photographing sports and wildlife. While contrast detect works remarkably faster than most live-view contrast detect implementations on modern DSLRs, it still cannot compete with phase detect AF. In daylight conditions, the AF speed is quite good, but the performance definitely suffers in low-light conditions – the camera starts to hunt continuously, even with its bright AF assist lamp. In addition, the camera has a tendency to occasionally miss focus; you might see some out of focus images even when you thought the camera confirmed accurate focus.
9) Movie Recording
Every new camera that comes out seems to have impressive movie features and the Sony NEX-5N is no exception. It can record full 1080p HD movies at 60 fps (AVCHD 2.0) for smooth playback, which is very impressive (better than Nikon 1 V1 and Olympus E-PL3). You can also pick lower resolution MPEG-4 format and slower rates (down to 24 fps) for smaller movie files. Another advantage of the movie mode is that you can fully control the exposure while recording movies – you can easily adjust aperture, shutter speed and ISO when shooting videos in Manual mode. If the scene you are recording is too bright or too dark and you are in one of the P/A/S modes, you can also use exposure compensation to adjust the brightness level. The camera LCD will reflect these changes and you will see exactly what you are capturing. Autofocus and subject tracking both work when recording videos, but the AF speed and accuracy is not as good as on the Nikon 1 V1 camera. As for Sony’s Optical SteadyShot image stabilization, it works pretty well when recording videos, but you have to be careful when panning the camera with SteadyShot turned on, because it will occasionally bump the camera up or down. This is normal behavior and the same thing would happen if you were to pan while taking stills.
10) Dynamic Range / HDR / DRO
A big advantage of a larger sensor is its ability to produce images with more dynamic range. Compared to the Nikon 1 V1′s much smaller sensor, or the Olympus E-PL3′s Micro Four Thirds sensor, the Sony NEX-5N 1.5x crop factor sensor is capable of producing higher dynamic range. DxOMark ranks the Sony NEX-5N at #14 spot in dynamic range, which is higher than any other mirrorless camera on the market, except its bigger brother, the Sony NEX-7 (which is ranked #8). As with all digital cameras, increasing camera ISO also decreases dynamic range, so shoot at base ISO of 100 if you want to preserve the most amount of information on your photographs.
Overall, I am very impressed by the Sony NEX-5N – it is a high-quality camera with excellent image quality characteristics. As you can see from the previous page of this review, the Sony NEX-5N easily beats the Nikon 1 V1 and the Olympus E-PL3 in terms of image quality and high ISO performance. Despite having the highest resolution among the three, it provides cleaner images at almost all ISO levels, especially above ISO 1600 and that’s at 100% view! Once down-sampled to 10 MP, it blows the Nikon 1 V1 out of the water and puts the Olympus E-PL3 high ISO performance to shame. True, sensor size does play a huge role here, which at the same time results in a lens size disadvantage for the Sony NEX-series cameras. However, what is more important for you – higher image quality or smaller camera system size?
The Sony NEX-5N has its share of problems. Despite its impressive image quality and high ISO performance, the camera’s biggest weakness is its AF performance. While contrast detect has gotten better over the last several years, the Sony NEX-5N is just nowhere as responsive as the Nikon 1 V1 for fast-action photography. Occasional focus errors are typical, but the worst is its low-light AF performance, where in very dim conditions the camera seems to continuously hunt for focus, even with the AF assist light turned on. These AF issues might not be a big deal for landscape and portrait photography, but will definitely be problematic for sports, indoors and other fast-action photography. Lastly, the lag that is clearly noticeable when using the touchscreen or accessing some of the menu items is rather annoying, which I very much hope Sony will address with future firmware updates.
Despite these shortcomings, the Sony NEX-5N is a great camera for those that do not want the weight and bulk of a DSLR system. While it is not comparable to a DSLR in terms of features, autofocus, speed and versatility, it certainly is comparable to some of the best APS-C DSLRs in terms of image quality. Hence, if you already own a DSLR and would like to have a smaller and lighter stills & video camera for travelling and hiking light, the Sony NEX-5N is definitely a camera I would recommend to consider.
Where to buy and availability
If you live in Kuwait, then you can get Sony NEX-5N camera with its kit 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS lens for 249.900 KD and with extra Sony 55-210mm f/4.5-6.3 OSS lens for 320 KD, from the Sony Official Dealer in Kuwait.
Also you can find it online on Amazon for 700$ with its kit 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS lens and for 600$ without the lens.
It has been announced that InfoConnect will be taking place in International Fairs Ground, Halls 5, 6, 7 & 8 on 29th of January 2012 and till 4th of February 2012.
The timings will be 9AM to 1PM and 4:30PM to 9PM
It’s nothing compared to Gitex of course, but it will be a good gathering for the Geekz in Kuwait 😉
We shall be writing a small review about the event shortly.
2012 will see 3D technology and lot more cloud computing technology occupying the consumer mindspace, says Get Ahead reader Nadeem Taslim. Here is the list of 12 most amazing gadgets to watch out for in 2012.
Nadeem is a tech blogger and runs two technology blogs: techbung.com and aliengang.com.
1. Apple Ipad 3 / Ipad 4
Apple is likely to ship the ‘iPad 3’ in March and ‘iPad 4’ in October, according to reports attributed to component makers in Taiwan.
Apple will ship the so-called ‘iPad 3’ with a full HD display in March and then ‘iPad 4’ — named so by its component suppliers — with killer applications in October, according to industry sources in Taiwan.
The iPad 3 will come with a QXGA (1,536 X 2,048 pixels) display and longer battery life although its other hardware specifications may not be so amazing as expected, said these sources.
The 9.7-inch iPad 4 is expected to come with much upgraded hardware specifications and integrated applications so as to compete with an array of Android, Wintel or WoA (Windows on ARM)-based tablet PCs to be released in the fourth quarter.
2.Samsung Galaxy S III
Samsung Galaxy S III will have quad-core processor, Ice Cream Sandwich, 720p screen and 3D technology that might be an integrate part of the S III. Some other reports however suggest that the S III will sport a 1.8GHz, dual core processor embellished with a 4.65-inch SuperAMOLED capacitive touchscreen.
Sony is all set for the launch of its Play Station Vita with quad-core graphics processor. It will have touch controls as well as dual analogue sticks. Check out the official site for more info on Sony Vita.
PCs and laptops with Thunderbolt ports
According to DigiTimes, Intel’s super fast port will be available on Windows PC in April 2012. Thunderbolt port will enable the user to transfer data to and from the system and USB at a much faster rate. The transfer rate of this port will be around 10GB per second.
Lenovo has announced its first Thunderbolt-equipped laptop, the ThinkPad Edge S430. Apple too uses Thunderbolt technology.
Windows 8 tablet PC
After Android tablet we will see Windows 8 tablet PC in 2012. Samsung and HP will be the first movers to showcase a Windows 8-based tablet PC which will use the ‘Metro’ interface on tablets that presently enriches the user experience used on Windows Phone 7.
Reliance 4G Tab
After Aakash tablet being the cheapest tablet, Reliance Industries’ Mukesh Ambani will be entering the arena with another cheap tablet sometime in 2012. The group will roll out its 4G network first and give users a unique experience, super fast Internet speeds on the Reliance 4G Tab.
The Reliance 4G Tab could come for a price as low as 20KD with high speed 4G connectivity.
Apple will be coming out with iOS6 that will have novel features. Like: at-a-glance information, file system, a new map App, iMessaging to OS X, Facetime 3G, Voice Choice, multi-tasking App Store, more graceful app switching, app data backup and cloud computing, etc.
Android 5 or the Jelly Bean
Google’s next Android iteration is titled ‘Jelly Bean’. Android 5 is expected to have some game changing features like full chrome browser, file manager, Android 5 lite for fast technology, user interface on/off toggles and better keyboard, power efficiency and theme options.
Google Nexus Ultima, the first phone with Android Jellybean is likely to make its debut soon.
Sony’s portable HD TV
Sony is shrinking the TV screen into a size of a headphone. This Personal 3D viewer will give full HD experience. The user experience will be like you are watching a huge TV screen. This portable home theater will cost around 220KD.
This small, Brooklyn-based company isn’t very big but it’s very powerful. The company just raised $10 million and is working on better ways to get 3D printing to the masses.
The Makerbot technology will make 3D printing possible this year.
Asus Padfone: Tablet-Smartphone Hybrid
Asus Padfone is a first of its kind innovation created to fulfill the demand of both smartphone and tablet users.
It allows the user to toggle between pad and phone that best fits their activities. Asus’s Padfone will have a Tegra 3 chipset and four Cortex-A9 cores.
According Engadget Padfone is expected to lunch at Mobile World Congress 2012, in February.
An Ultrabook is a computer in a category of higher-end thin and lightweight ultraportable laptops, defined by a specification from Intel.
Lenovo has announced ThinkPad T430u Ultrabook for Business UsersLenovo ThinkPads, the T430u features the same soft-touch black matte design, but with an aluminum construction. It has a 14-inch display, 0.8-inch thin profile, and weighs less than 4 pounds. The keyboard is full-size, but Lenovo’s laptop keyboards are renowned for their comfortably sculpted keys.
Interested in an iOS-controlled model helicopter, but turned off by the Parrot AR.Drone‘s $299.99 price tag? Griffin has announced the Helo TC, a $49.99 helicopter controlled via an iOS app. It’s not nearly as fancy as the AR.Drone, but at 1/6th the price, it could be a fun toy for users looking to fly something with their iPhone.
Instead of using WiFi, the Helo includes a “case” that the iPhone slides into and plugs in via the headphone jack. The headphone jack sends tones to an IR transmitter which talks to the helicopter — so users need to have line-of-sight to the helicopter at all times. The case is powered by 4 AAA batteries.
The Helo TC Touch-Controlled Helicopter is available for pre-order for $49.99 from Griffin’s website and will be available at retailers for the holiday season. The Helo TC app is available for free on the App Store, but it won’t do much good until the helicopter actually starts shipping.
If you have dreamed of one day having a real Iron Man style suit to endow you with superhuman strength, the wait may not be too much longer.
We’ve seen lots of Iron Man style wannabees over the last few years, but the XOS 2 from Sarcos Raytheon looks like the closest thing to a real product so far.
This improved version of the original XOS is stronger, lighter, more damage resistant, and uses only half the power of its predecessor. It’s still tethered to an external power supply, which trades mobility for a lot more power and longer running time.
The good news is that Sarcos just announced that they expect to start shipping XOS 2 within about five years, and that an untethered version could be about 10 years out. Come to think of it, isn’t that what they said almost five years ago?
Obviously the military will be getting first dibs on the initial production, but eventually we should be able to get what would be the all time ultimate Halloween costume for ourselves.
The summer travel season is here and that means road trips, and nothing casts a pall over a road trip faster than getting lost, so an in-car navigation solution is the way to go. Not many cars have a fancy navigation system in the dash, so you can either pick up a dedicated gadget to handle the chore or use that fancy smartphone you already own. There are pros and cons to either method, and my preferred way to go is using my smartphone to light the way.
Read the full article here
If your looking for a way to help the environment (kinda) and listen to jams at the same time you should check out Trash Amps. Rather than wasting new materials, Trash Amps turn your old soda cans and carryout boxes into “ridiculously loud” portable speaker systems! Head past the break for more images and a video.
The part that goes inside the can is called an “insert” and that’s exactly what you do with it — insert it in your favorite can of soda and you’ve got a neat little custom speaker for your smartphone or iPod. The insert alone will set you back about 50 bucks and you can buy a separate “grill” to class it up a bit. The Trash Amps website even has pre-chopped cans for $4 if you’re too lazy to do it yourself.
Russian design company Art Lebedev created a disposable USB drive called ‘flashkus’, made from a cardboard.
The flashkus sticks come in sets of four, divided by perforations which make them easy to tear off and use. When you’re in need of storing or sharing data, just simply rip off one of the flash drives. They come in 4GB, 8GB or 16GB, the paper surface allows you to hand-write labels on the drives.