Apr 082014


Year of the Alpha – 52 Weeks of Sony Alpha Photography

by Toni Ahvenainen


My name is Toni Ahvenainen and I am a 37 years old photography enthusiast who works as a graphics and web designer in Finland. I bought my first own digital camera, Sony Nex-5N, about two years ago and was immediately bitten by a photo bug. During my first year I took over 26,000 pictures, but as much as I liked it, after year and a half I found myself going in circles. I felt I was taking same pictures repeatedly and that there wasn’t anything new to shoot. I could take a couple of interesting shots every now and then, but never found a real reason to do it, because I didn’t have any meaningful place to put them – even in my hard drive I never found appropriate folder name for them. In short, I had locked myself inside my own perception and I needed to find a new direction to my photography.

Late 2013 I decided that the year 2014 would be my year of photography, in which I would concentrate in developing my own photographic eye and also get some publicity to my work. With some planning and inspiration from various ‘365 days’ projects I decided to put up a similar photo blog. After couple of months of hard work Year of the Alpha – 52 Weeks of Sony Alpha Photography’ was born and I started my year of photography at January 1st (and will end it at 31st December). So far it has surpassed all my expectations. In first month my photo blog gathered over 40,000 page views, which is quite nice considering that couple of months ago I was just taking pictures on my own and never sharing them with anyone. I’ve also received so much encouraging and positive comments from friendly photographers that it has really affected me deeply. Starting a photo blog has really been a magic carpet ride for me and my photography.

In this article I will introduce my photo blog and share some of the photographs I’ve taken during the first three months. I will also discuss some methods and ideas I’ve found useful while trying to develop my photography. I hope it will be an inspiring read because one of my goals has been to share inspiration with others.

What is Year of the Alpha?

Year of the Alpha – 52 Weeks of Sony Alpha Photography’ is a photo blog where I share my work on a weekly basis at least two images per week and often more. Name of my the blog refers to Sony Alpha brand (no affiliation with Sony corporation) and with this conscious choice as I’m searching for followers who use Sony Alpha photography equipment – but as photography is pretty universal I believe anyone can enjoy it. Chronologically Year of the Alpha is divided into five seasons. With every season I will explore a different theme, all of which are attached to my subjective taste and perception of photography. So far only the first season has been completed. Season of Blackness concentrated on lo-key photography with creative edge and most of the photographs you see here are from that season.

You can find my photo blog here: http://www.yearofthealpha.com

As I said earlier, Year of the Alpha has surpassed all my expectations. I’m mostly surprised about the way it has triggered my creative spot and make me take photographs I never dreamed of before. It’s been a good start and since it’s all about sharing inspiration, here’s what I’ve learned so far.

1. Being able to create photographs continuously is a state of mind 
When I started my endeavor the first thing came to my mind was, how I’m going to find something meaningful to shoot every week continuously for full year. It takes a fair bit of commitment to keep on working with your photography for full year and that’s what the most people are afraid with similar photography projects. Before I started I had, like everyone else, different concerns regarding why it might be difficult to find anything to shoot. You know the story, it’s the lack of ideas and inspiration, bad weather and lighting conditions, mundane close environment, not enough time, bad camera gear etc. Now when I look back after three months of shooting, I’ve come to realize that these reasons are not really about circumstances, they are about state of mind.

If there is one lesson that I’ve learned so far, it is that active photography creates new opportunities and great photographs by its own weight. If you just take your camera everywhere you go and keep on shooting even when circumstances don’t seem fruitful at first sight, you’ll be amazed how much there is good photography to be made. It’s not about ‘finding good subjects or circumstances’, but expanding your own consciousness regarding what you think is good photography. Learning to find new creative possibilities is a process which will happen in one’s mind, not by acquiring new gear or just wandering about in hope of a good situation. Limitations are good, because creativity happens if it has framework which it can challenge. If there is no framework, in other words limitations, there is no creativity either. It’s a self-strengthening process, first you just need to let go of perception that there isn’t anything to shoot – there is, you just have to shoot to see it.

2. Finishing your photographs will close the feedback circuit
The second thing I’ve learned with my project is to finish my photographs. With today’s digital cameras and their massive memory storages, it’s easy to keep on shooting actively but never sit down to really look what you have done. The problem with unfinished photographs is that you are not truly engaged with your photography. Not selecting the best shot, not cropping it for best composition, not post processing it and not declaring it ‘ready’ is same as leaving your work halfway. Half-cooked pictures will not provide you enough feedback neither will they guide your learning process, because they will leave backdoor of your mind open for all kinds of excuses. 

Once I started my photo and was forced to finish my photographs properly, I quickly learned that finishing them will essentially close the feedback circuit of my own mind. After I’ve selected my shot, post processed it and declared to myself ‘it’s ready’, I can evaluate my success and failures more clearly. I would also recommend to put your finished photographs in a special place where you can see them all at once. When you see them there next to each other, you can finally start asking questions. ‘Why I like these shots better than those ones’, What’s common with most of my photographs’, etc. This kind of evaluative view over your own work will help you build up understanding of yourself as a photographer. But it requires that you have engaged with your photographs, which rarely happens if one doesn’t them finish in the first place.

3. Develop your photographic eye with goals and limits
The third thing I’ve learned with my photo blog is that I can develop my photographic eye by setting myself different tasks with goals and limits. My tasks are related to five different seasons which I’m carrying out, but they can obviously be anything from single photographs to total body of work. Setting yourself goals and limits will greatly benefit your photography. First of all, they will give you a guideline which to follow. Persistently diversified paths of endless possibilities will narrow down to something meaningful one can actually hope to realize. Having a goal makes it possible for you to plan your photography and planning means that photographs are something you make, not just randomly take from your surroundings. Secondly, the limits you impose will determine if you are succeeding or not. It’s soothing to have at least to some extent a clear indicator for succeeding. Of course you can make great pictures without limits too, but it’s easy to shoot too diverse stuff and not have a clear understanding of what makes them great in the end. Thirdly, the goals will make your work ready. They will define the stage when you’ve done your job. Without the goals defining the limits, one will easily splash across different objectives and nothing gets done to an end. And finally in the end, how you solve these tasks will shape you as a photographer. Starting a 365 days or 52 weeks project is great way to concentrate on developing your photographic eye, but one still needs to guide it with goals and limits to make most of it.

4. Anyone can do it
If I would have to raise up one thing from this lengthy article, it would be that anyone can do it. Internet opens up a new ground for creative ideas and it’s not meant just for big software developers like Flickr or 500px. It’s also a playground for single individuals who want to find new ways to refresh their photography. With all the diverse services available, one can build up their ideas and get them running very fast with very little costs. It’s been quite fascinating to see what I’ve achieved with my photo blog so far, but it’s not anything unseen before – others have done it before me and with much larger scale. In fact my photo blog was very much inspired by Italian photographer Luca Rossini, to whom I need express my gratitude for all the inspiration and help. But the bottom line is, anyone can do it.

What’s next?
I’m currently running my second season, Season of Tilt, in which I will try to guide my photography to more personal realms. Season of Tilt could be described as a psychologically tilted season which merges things from my dreams, memories and inner feelings. Name of this season also implies to Lensbaby which has been kind enough to support me with their most interesting lenses. With Season of Tilt I’ll be using exclusively Lensbaby Composer Pro with three of their most sought after optics: Double Glass, Sweet 35 and Edge 80. If interested, you might want to follow it through just to learn more about them. 

Thank you for reading my article.

Now, get inspired, create your own project and enjoy doing it!

Sony Nex-5N, SEL50F18, ISO400, f/4.0, 1/1250sec


Sony Nex-5N, SEL50F18, ISO200, f/2.8, 1/13sec


Sony Nex-5N, SEL50F18, ISO3200, f/4.0, 1/400sec


Sony Nex-5N, SEL50F18, ISO640, f/1.8, 1/80sec


Sony Nex-5N, SEL50F18, ISO100, f/6.3, 1/800sec


Sony Nex-5N, SEL1855, ISO1600, f/11, 1/4sec


Sony Nex-5N, SEL50F18, ISO200, f/2.8, 1/30sec


Sony Nex-5N, SEL50F18, ISO250, f/4.0, 1/80sec


Sony Nex-5N, Lensbaby Edge 80, ISO400, f/4.0, 0.8sec


Sony Nex-5N, Lensbaby Edge 80, ISO100, f/2.8, 1/80sec


Sony Nex-5N, Lensbaby Edge 80, ISO100, f/5.6, 1/1250sec

Image-11Sony Nex-5N, Lensbaby Edge 80, ISO100, f/5.6, 1/1250sec, Raw


Nov 132013


Burning Man Portrait Report

by Jordan Blackman – His website is HERE

I was riding shotgun in a pickup truck for twelve hours, biting my nails as we lumbered across the American West. Between the bed of the truck and the U-Haul trailer hitched up to it, there was easily a two bedroom apartment’s worth of stuff with us. But we weren’t headed to an apartment. We were going deep into the dust of Nevada’s Black Rock Desert.

Burning Man 1

Now, you’ve probably heard about Burning Man, and maybe you’ve even been. But I never had, and I was anxious about going. I’d heard stories about dangerous dust storms, outrageous orgies, deviant witchcraft and more. Obviously, I’d need to bring a camera and the biggest memory card I could get my hands on.

Unfortunately, my OM-D EM5 had just been stolen. I had shot with that little Olympus for over a year, and paired with the Panny 20mm it really knocked my socks off. I love that camera. But still, I decided I’d try something different. After an obscene amount of internet “research” I picked up a Sony NEX-6. I liked the video quality and price, and I felt that it would be fun and educational to work a new sensor size. Burning Man was going to be my first chance to really use the Sony and I really wasn’t sure what to expect… from the event or from the camera.

Now, one of the big differences between the two cameras is the weather sealing. OMD has it, NEX doesn’t. Burning Man is famously dusty, and so I rigged a plastic bag to keep out those tiny sensor demons. It worked really well, especially with the EFV exposed, as you can see from the pic. The downside was that I was committed to a single lens for the entire week. I chose the Sony SEL35f18.

Burning Man 2

Upon arrival at Black Rock City, the name of the temporary town erected in the desert each year for Burning man, I was completely overwhelmed. The expanse of light and art, the creativity on display, the diversity of color and costume… it was more than I could take in. Burning Man defeats one’s power’s of perception, let alone observation. I quickly decided to focus on portraiture for the following reasons:

1. It would keep me focused, preventing overwhelm.

2. It seemed a reasonable task for the 50mm equivalent lens I had.

3. Portraits could be gifts, and gifts are an important part of Burning Man culture.

4. Everyone else would be shooting the giant art installations anyway, and who needs another picture of the man burning?

And so, every day I walked across the dust and invited strangers to have their portraits taken. Here are some of those photos. Below the pictures, I’ll share some thoughts about the NEX-6, some 2000 captures later.

So, what did I think about the NEX-6 compared to the OM-D? They are both great cameras, and I recommend them both. With the NEX-6, when you nail the shot, you get an amazing RAW file, better than the OMD’s. But, it’s harder to nail the shot and then it takes more adjustments to get the image you want from the RAW. With the OMD I had more keepers and less work to do in Lightroom. I think the keepers come from the stabilization and the better focus system. The NEX-6 forces me to slow down and think more both during exposure and development phases. I consider this a good thing for my growth as a photographer. And when you take the time you get some remarkable results.

If you shoot video, the NEX-6 can produce absolutely stunning footage, albeit without the OMD’s excellent stabilization. I consider 60fps a must for video since the conformed footage looks so great at 24fps. If the community is interested I am happy to write up a long comparison with the pros of each as there is much more to be said on this. The short version is, I’m planning to stick shooting with the NEX-6 until a camera arrives with 5-axis stabilization and the video features I want.

As for Burning Man, I’m no longer nervous. I’ll be heading back whenever I have the chance. My overwhelmed feeling has turned to gratefulness. My anxiety into anticipation. I hope to continue my portrait project for many years to come.

Burning Man 3

Burning Man 4

Burning Man 5

Burning Man 6

Burning Man 7

Burning Man 8

Burning Man 9

Burning Man 10

Burning Man 11

Burning Man 12

Burning Man 13

Burning Man 14

Burning Man 15

Burning Man 16

Burning Man 17

Burning man 18

Burning Man 19

Burning Man 20

Burning Man 21

Burning Man 22

Burning Man 23

Burning Man 24

Burning Man 25

Burning Man 26

Burning Man 27

Burning Man 28

Burning Man 29

Burning Man 30

Burning Man 31

Burning Man 32

Aug 222013

Rhinocam with NEX7 and Hasselblad Distagon 40mm

170 Megapixels with a Sony NEX camera and Vizalex RhinoCam

by Dierk Topp – His flickr is HERE

Hi Steve,

today I have a very special topic again, the “Vizelex RhinoCam for Sony NEX E-Mount Cameras“.


The Rhinocam is more or less an adapter for medium format lenses on NEX cameras – but much more than just an adapter! When I read about it, I ordered the next day and got it about 4 weeks ago – and I am very exited.

But let my start from my beginning more or less.

My very beginning was in 1956, when I did my first photographs with the Agfa Box of my mother and I got exited the first time. To make this long story short, my analog time ended with 6×6, 4×5 and the panorama cameras Horizon 202 and the last one was the ultimate Seitz Roundshot, shooting up to 360° (and even more).

Then I switched to digital. After some Nikon Coolpix I got the Nikon D70 with 6 Mpix. I love big prints but the resolution was very low for big prints. So I got a Panosaurus panorama head, adjusted it for the nodal points of my lenses and started shooting and stitching panoramas (with PTGui and TPAssembler) and printed and sold 150x50cm panorama prints. That was great!

When Gigapan offered a beta program for their Epic pano head, I participated and used the tiny Leica D-Lux3 with 10 Mpix. and stitched up to 200 images giving up to 800 Mpix images:) You may see them at gigapan.com (search for -dierk-)

During the last years I was shooting many stitched landscapes with Leica M9 and M Monochrom and the NEX7 and now the NEX6. Prints are now up to 1x2m on my wall:) Allmost my landscape and nature images are stitched images. Going out with the Leica and one or two lenses (most of the time 21mm and 35mm) I can get any angle of view by just shooting one or even two rows hand-held.

As sad, I love big prints. I stitched also from shifted images of the Nikkor 24mm PC-E and lately with the Canon 17mm TS-E for higher resolution and wider angle of view, especially with the 17mm TS-E. But that is a new story.

When I saw the Rinocam, I ordered it the next day and bought two Hasselblad lenses, the Zeiss Distagon 40mm and the Zeiss Makro-Planar 120mm. I want to do landscapes and architecture and stills with the macro lens. For the resolution of up to 140 Mpix the best lenses are just good enough and these Hasselblad Zeiss lenses are very big glass value for the money! For the price of the Sony Zeiss 24/1.8 you get the excellent 40mm Distagon, like about 21mm on 24×36 FF. Finally I bought the superb Zeiss Sonnar 150mm/4 for less than 400€, a collector’s item like new!

How does the Rhinocam principle work?

On the front part you find the exchangeable adapter for the lens with the tripod foot, I have the Hasselblad V adapter. Adapters for Mamya 645 and Pentax 645 are also available.

On the back of the Rhinocam is the mount for the NEX E mount cameras. This part can be rotated by 90°. For “Panorama” taking 2 rows of 3 images with the NEX in landscape orientation, and for so called 645, taking 2 rows of 4 images with NEX in portrait orientation.

The camera is now positioned within the images circle of the lens and where the film plane used to be in 6×6 or 645 cameras. For the pictures you move the back with the camera to any position. For guidance there are marks for the horizontal and vertical movements. But as said any position is possible. Sometimes I use additional positions, when for example the unstructured background of stills or the sky will make problems for the stitching. Additional pictures can connect those areas for the stitcher.

You will find more explanations an a movie on the page of Fotodiox Inc. or you can see it below:

Some thoughts and comparison of the Rhinocam/NEX versus digital medium format DMF.

Besides the price the obvious difference is, with stitching several images together, you can only shoot more or less static objects. Witch is obvious and normal for anybody, who used stitching before.

I would like to look at the resolution (there are many more aspects – besides the price :) ). The Rhinocam technique uses 6 to 8 (or more with more overlap) stitched images of 24 MPix/image of the NEX7 or 16 MPix/image of some other NEX models.

  • The effective sensor size results in 4.5×6 mode of the Rhinocam is about 58×48 mm compared with 48×36 mm of the Leaf Aptus 75S for example (there are bigger and much more expensive ones)
  • the resulting resolution is about 11700 x 9300 = 108 MPixel with the Rhinocam and the NEX6 versus 6726 x 5040 = 34 MPixel of the Leaf 75S – the NEX7 even higher (140+).
  • ich made a test with NEX7 and shooting 10 instead 8 images (in 4.5×6 mode) and got 17.000×11.300 pixel = 192 MPixel.
  • If you downsample the NEX6/7 files to the resolution of the 75S, you must get some very good IQ (if you start with a good lens like Zeiss glass of course)
  • another aspect is high ISO: the high ISO of the NEX cameras is good and getting better. What I read and see, the high ISO on DMF seems to be very limited
  • and one more: my NEX7 is converted to infrared and I can use it on the Rhincam as well. That gives me IR images with this impressive resolution of 140+ MPixel
  • by using the big image circle of the 6×6 lenses you don’t get any problems with parallax and foreground, as you may know from stitching images by moving the camera. You move within the same image and “simulate” a much bigger sensor
  • shooting the Rinocam is fast! Setting up the picture is the same as with any other tripod shooting, and the shooting of the 8 images does not take more than about 15 seconds (or even less). Moving clouds and changing light is not a big problem. Shooting large format takes far more time and preparation
  • stitching is like any other stitching. On my 3 years old AMD quad core WIN7 with 16 GB using the free MS ICE takes about 20 seconds.


There are really strange arguments in some post and “reports”:

  • you need a good tripod – wrong! no problem, for stitching images you even can shoot hand-held. The stitcher takes care
  • even Fotodiox says: shoot auto WB and auto exposure: shooting RAW auto WB is unimportant, auto exposure give you big problem with light and shadows. Experienced pano shooters use manual exposure (or even bracketing)
  • focusing on the ground glass is a problem: wrong! The ground glass is just for first framing. I control the exact framing of the final image and the focusing with the perfect liveview of the NEX.

Last, but not least: who needs this high resolution?

  • not for the Web, life could be easier!
  • but for real big prints, where you can walk around with your eyes on the picture and enjoy the details
  • you don’t have to be Andres Gurski! My prints are up to 1x2m and I love them :)
  • with all these pixels you can use parts of the image like a shift lens

Please, all the PROs making money with DMF cameras out there, don’t kill me, I make fun – not money with my gear :))) I bought the Rinocam like anybody else and don’t get payed for my typing.

You find more information and a movie about the Rhinocam on the site of Fotodiox Inc.

You may find my images with the Rhonocam here or on my flickr album: www.flickr.com/photos/dierktopp/sets/72157634801332367/

Amazon sells the RhinoCam HERE

Too many words, here are some examples:

First, here is the “monster” on location

With my special NEX7-IR (converted to infrared) and the Zeiss Distagon 40mm/4. You see the ground glass for the first rough framing and the old-fashioned focusing aid in the center. It works for the first focus but for exact focus you use the NEX with the magnification. For the exact control of what you will get on the image you also use the liveview of the NEX and slide the camera to the outer positions.

Rhinocam with NEX7 and Hasselblad Distagon 40mm

NEX6 with Hasselblad Zeiss Distagon 40mm/4 

stitch of 10 images (2×5) from Rhinocam = 14.000×9.300 pixel. A higher resolution of about 6000×4000 pixel is here

Rhinocam with NEX6  and Hasselblad Distagon 40mm@f/16

a crop (the real 1:1 is here)

Rhinocam with NEX6  and Hasselblad Distagon 40mm@f/16

NEX6 with Hasselblad Zeiss Distagon 40mm/4 

stitch of 8 images from Rhinocam about 110 MPixel. A higher resolution of about 6000×4000 pixel is here

Mail Attachment

NEX6 with Hasselblad Zeiss Sonnar 150mm/4

 stitch of 2×4 images from Rhinocam about 110 MPixel. A higher resolution of about 6000×4000 pixel is here. If you look at the upper right part, you will find, that this part is blurred, as the image for this part was blurred. But I had only this shot.

Mail Attachment

NEX6 with Hasselblad Zeiss Sonnar 150mm/4 

stitch of 2×4 images from Rhinocam about 80MPixel. A higher resolution of about 6000×2700 pixel is here. The distance to the houses is about 200m

80 MPixel with Rhinocam with NEX6  and Zeiss Sonnar 4/150mm

NEX7-IR infrared with Hasselblad Zeiss Sonnar 150mm/4
stitch of 2×4 images from Rhinocam about 123 MPixel
a higher resolution of about 6000×2700 pixel is here

123 MPixel with Rhinocam with NEX7-IR  and Zeiss Sonnar 4/150mm

170 MPix – 
NEX7-IR infrared with Hasselblad Zeiss Distagon 40mm/4

stitch of 10 images from Rhinocam about 170 MPixel
a higher resolution of about 5700×4000 pixel is here

170 MPix - NEX7-IR and Rhinocam with Hasselblad Zeiss Distagon 4

NEX6 with Hasselblad Zeiss Makro-Planar120mm/4
stitch of 2×3 images from Rhinocam about 80 MPixel
a higher resolution of about 6000×2700 pixel is here (here on the big image on flickr you see, what is on the picture with your mouse over for “who is who”)

yes, I know, but I was too lazy to clean up the dust :)

a real picture of a 1:1 crop is here

Rhinocam with NEX6  and Zeiss Makro-Planar 4/120mm

NEX6 with Hasselblad Zeiss Makro-Planar120mm/4
stitch of 2×4 images from Rhinocam about 100 MPixel
a higher resolution of about 5000×4000 pixel is here 

on this one I “invented” another trick: focus stacking :)
the camera and Rhinocam was on a macro rail. After shooting the two vertical shots I moved the rail by three cm to the back
this makes the whole picture like focus stacking and sharp from front to back. 
Normally you do focus stacking with the whole picture and let the software find the sharp ares for stacking. Her I just took only the sharp areas and let the stitcher put it all together.

Uff, hard to explain, I hope, somebody will understand, what I mean :)

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NEX6 with Hasselblad Zeiss Makro-Planar120mm/4
stitch of 2×4 images from Rhinocam about 95 MPixel
a higher resolution of about 4000×4000 pixel is here 

a real picture of a 1:1 crop is here

95 MPix - NEX6 and Rhinocam with Hasselblad Zeiss 120mm Makro-Pl

NEX6 with Hasselblad Zeiss Makro-Planar120mm/4
stitch of 2×4 images from Rhinocam about 95 MPixel
a higher resolution of about 4000×4000 pixel is here

95 MPix - NEX6 and Rhinocam with Hasselblad Zeiss 120mm Makro-Pl

NEX6 with Hasselblad Zeiss Makro-Planar120mm/4
stitch of 2×4 images from Rhinocam about 95 MPixel
a higher resolution of about 4000×4000 pixel is here

85 MPix - NEX6 and Rhinocam with Hasselblad Zeiss 120mm Makro-Pl

a real picture of a 1:1 crop is here (it is still 2600×2200 pixel)

85 MPix - NEX6 and Rhinocam with Hasselblad Zeiss 120mm Makro-Pl

I hope, you enjoyed it and have some neu ideas for your/our passion photography :)

Amazon sells the RhinoCam HERE

Mar 082013

The Sony NEX F3 and SLR Magic Hyperprime 23 1.7 by Vernon Lim

I do not consider myself as being anywhere near a pro-photographer. Only two years back, I was still using a regular point-and-shoot. However, during one of my holidays in Taiwan at the end of 2011 with my girlfriend, I started wanting better shots after reviewing the photos I took, especially in low-light conditions.

I did a bit of research before deciding on Sony’s Nex-C3. I enjoyed using the camera so much that when I (sadly) misplaced it back August 2012, I immediately purchased Sony’s Nex-F3 as a replacement.

As is (probably) the usual story, whilst I was happy initially with Sony’s kit lenses, I began finding the lenses lacking in portrait-taking capabilities. Don’t get me wrong, Sony’s 16mm is pretty decent and very wide-angled, but I’m quite a sucker for bokeh and the F2.8 Aperture just didn’t produce enough of it.

I started looking around for cheap alternatives since I had a limited budget, and found SLR Magic’s range of 35mm toy lenses. I bought the 35mm f1.7 and the lens taught me a lot about manual focusing (which is really pretty easy with Sony’s focus peaking), but I personally found the effective 52.5mm FoV somewhat narrow.

Unfortunately, Sony’s wide-angle E-Mount prime (the Zeiss 24mm) retails at a rather ridiculous price here in Singapore (and probably everywhere else?), so that would never work for me. When SLR Magic launched their 35mm F1.4 late last year, I seriously considered trading up. Unfortunately, budget constraints prevented me from doing so, since I knew I would really want SLR Magic’s 23mm F1.7 which would eventually be launched as well.

When I emailed SLR Magic to discuss trading in my toy lens, they found out that I was heading off to Taiwan again in April this year for a wedding photography session with my fiancé, and the crew very nicely allowed me to purchase one of their 23mm F1.7 lenses pre-launch.

I was very pleased with SLR Magic’s offer, and took it up immediately. I have to say I am very happy with the new lens. This second-generation 23mm F1.7 is built very well, and has solidly-manufactured and smooth focusing and aperture rings. Photos taken are certainly way better than SLR Magic’s toy lenses, and I’ve not removed this lens from my Nex-F3 ever since I received it in my mailbox (shipping from Hong Kong to Singapore was a very quick affair too). I’d be happy to share some of the photos I’ve taken with you.

Note: All of the following shots were taken wide open at F1.7.



The above 2 shots were taken quite close to the lens’ minimum focusing distance of 15cm. Such a short distance does offer a fair mimicry of macro photography, though I guess it probably can’t replace a real macro lens.


Since I had the pleasure of using this lens during the Chinese New Year period, I managed to take this when I was being served one of usual local customary dishes during the festive period. This was snapped (rather luckily) as the final crackers were falling onto our appetizer.



Night landscape photography still proved somewhat of a challenge, as I don’t bring a tripod around very often. Having a pair of rather shaky hands, I either have to get lucky whilst in Aperture-priority mode, or move to Shutter-priority and set a shutter speed of 1/30 sec or faster. The above two photos were taken at Clarke Quay and Collyer Quay respectively.



On the rare occasion that I get to pig out (no pun intended), I would naturally bring along my Nex-F3. Food photography is a bit tricky wide-open, and I’m still learning how to take good photos with food.


Lastly, here’s a photo of my fiancé and I. With the F3’s flip-up screen, self-portraits are really easy, especially with the wide-angle 35mm-equivalent FoV.

To summarize, this has been a really great lens to match the Sony Nex-F3. Considering its price and Sony’s rather limited selection of lenses, it is really well-built and produces excellent photos in my opinion. Also, together with Sony’s focus-peaking, manual focusing isn’t too difficult and with practice, it really becomes easy and natural to focus quickly.

I’d also like to thank Andrew at SLR Magic for letting me get my hands on this great lens before its official launch, and for his company’s excellent service levels.

Best Regards,

Vernon Lim


Feb 122013


Amazing DEAL on Sigma NEX Lenses – $199 for BOTH the 19 and 30mm 2.8 together, $99 each!

The most amazing deal is still going in at B&H Photo and they have these IN STOCK. Both excellent Sigma lenses for the NEX Sony E Mount system – the 19 2.8 and the 30 2.8 (which you can see my review of HERE)  – both of them for $199 total, for both together! This is a STEAL. At $199 the 30 2.8 was already a deal. At $199 for BOTH it is a VERY crazy deal. These are good lenses and even come with cases. To be clear, you get BOTH lenses with cases for $199. Amazon has each lens for $149 which comes out to $100 more, so this is a great buy everyone!

Don’t miss out. If you want to take advantage of this deal, B&H Has them listed HERE. Last time they did this they sold out quick.



Aug 292012

This is the official word from Sony on the NEX-5R release. What is super cool is that next Friday Sony will be flying out to my house with ALL of their new goodies for me to preview. For now, this is an update to the excellent NEX-5n which adds faster AF with phase and contrast detection,  WiFi and apps so you can transfer photos directly to your smartphone (Android and iOS) and much more, a touch screen with touch shutter firing and a new Auto Slow Shutter feature for low light video that brightens up the scene. I AM HOPING the camera will not overheat when shooting video but we shall see. The 5R is another update to their best selling NEX camera line, the 5. Should be superb as I loved the 5n. October release at $750 for the body and kit lens and $650 for body only.


New Sony NEX-5R Camera Delivers Professional Imaging Power and Wi-Fi® Convenience in Lightweight, Stylish Package

New Compact System Camera Introduces Fast Hybrid AF and Downloadable PlayMemories Camera Apps™

SAN DIEGO, August 29, 2012 – Combining a stylish, lightweight design and the freedom of interchangeable lenses with large-sensor image quality, speedy AF and the intros ction of Wi-Fi capability, the new Sony α NEX-5R compact system camera offers all the benefits of DSLR-style imaging in a more convenient, portable package with added connectivity.

The NEX-5R camera features a newly-developed 16.1 effective megapixel Exmor® APS HD CMOS sensor – identical in size to sensors found in traditional DSLR cameras – combined with a powerful BIONZ® processor to assure richly detailed still images and crisp Full HD videos in all types of lighting conditions.

In a first for Sony’s line of interchangeable lens cameras, the new NEX-5R model features “Fast Hybrid AF” autofocus technology, combining phase-detection and contrast-detection methods to ensure speedy, accurate autofocus in any shooting situation. It is also Sony’s first interchangeable lens camera with integrated Wi-Fi capabilities for easy image sharing, saving and viewing, and introduces the new concept of downloadable Camera Apps for adding creative, fun features that can be personalized to fit a photographer’s needs.

“With the NEX-5R camera, Sony brings the core strength of our consumer electronics business into play to fully support our digital imaging business. This unique combination of technology and style results in a compelling new product that strikes the ultimate balance between size and performance.” said Mike Kahn, director of the alpha interchangeable lens camera business group at Sony Electronics. “With a host of exciting, innovative new features and the same outstanding image and HD video quality that our E-mount line has become known for, the NEX-5R is an ideal choice for step-up point-and-shoot users or more serious photo enthusiasts who don’t want to compromise on image quality and connectivity while traveling light.”

Fast Hybrid AF

The intuitive new “Fast Hybrid AF” autofocus technology utilizes 99 phase-detection AF points arrayed on the image sensor to detect a subject’s distance and quickly lock focus on it, and then utilizes contrast-detection AF to confirm extremely fine, precise details. In Speed Priority Continuous shooting mode, the camera will switch automatically to phase detection tracking AF and can track fast-moving action accurately in each frame up to 10 frames per second.

Wi-Fi Sharing and New Camera Apps

The added connectivity of the NEX-5R camera allows photos and videos to be transferred wirelessly to a smartphone or tablet running Sony’s free PlayMemories Mobile app, available on both Android™ and Apple iOS platforms. Additionally, content can be directly uploaded from the camera to Facebook® using a Wi-Fi connection and the new “Direct Upload” application, part of Sony’s new PlayMemories Camera Apps platform.

This new concept of PlayMemories Camera Apps is the world’s first application download service in an interchangeable lens camera that allows consumers to install new functions on demand, tailoring their cameras to fit their personal shooting needs. The service can be accessed over Wi-Fi or when the camera is connected directly to a PC via USB.

Available apps at launch, outside of “Direct Upload” as mentioned earlier, will include “Picture Effect+”; “Bracket Pro”; “Multi Frame NR”; “Photo Retouch”; and “Smart Remote Control. A variety of other apps including “Time-Lapse” and “Cinematic Photo” are also planned for release.

Shooters can also utilize the family of PlayMemories applications to transfer content directly to a networked PC, streamlining the image back-up process and avoiding the need to connect cables or transfer memory cards between devices. Additionally, they can transfer photos to any DLNA® compatible TV either through a wireless access point or any TV supporting Wi-Fi.

Added Flexibility and Functionality

Aesthetically, the new NEX-5R features a new fully programmable control dial and function button, a versatile combination for photographers accustomed to the flexibility and direct control of a DSLR camera. It also has a switchable on-screen digital level gauge that helps keep horizons level with landscapes and architectural shots.

Additionally, the new α NEX-5R model features an intuitive touch-screen LCD with a Touch Shutter function for added convenience. The clear, bright touchscreen can also flip upwards 180 degrees for easy arm’s length self-portraits.

Full HD (1920×[email protected]) movie shooting is enhanced with a new Auto Slow Shutter feature, adding extra detail to low-light clips. The camera detects dim interiors and night scenes, automatically switching to a slower shutter speed to brighten footage.

New Sony α Accessories

On the α accessories front, the stylish new LCS-SL20/B soft carrying case will be compatible with the new Sony NEX-5R model as well as other E-mount camera bodies. It features four internal dividers for easy storage of camera bodies and lenses, as well as a dedicated space for a tablet. The new LCS-SL10/B soft carrying case offers two internal dividers and multiple storage pockets in a compact size.

Also designed for Sony’s E-mount line is the new LCS-EME/BL, a modern, innovative sling bag. With space to accommodate an NEX and two additional lenses, the LCS-EME/BI is a perfect accessory for active photographers. Additionally, a new Screen Protect Semi-Hard sheet (model PCK-LM13) will be available that will help protect both the camera and lens of the new NEX-5R camera.

Pricing and Availability

The NEX-5R compact system camera will be available this October in silver, black and white for about $750 with an 18-55mm kit zoom lens as well as body-only for about $650.

The new camera and all compatible accessories will be available at Sony retail stores (www.store.sony.com) and other authorized dealers nationwide.

Please visit www.blog.sony.com/nex5r for a full video preview of the new NEX-5R compact system camera and follow #SonyNEX on twitter for the latest α NEX camera news.


Jun 252012

Quick 1st Look Video: The Sony NEX-F3 and New 18-200 E Mount Black lens

Hello to all! Just received these two Sony products in the mail today – the new Sony NEX-F3 and the new Sony 18-200 E mount lens, the new black re-design version. The F3 is the replacement for the previous C3 (which I did not even review) and it is quite a bit bigger and it seems Sony copied the body design from the NEX-7. YES, the F-3 looks like a NEX-7 without the try-navi controls and built-in EVF.

The F3 brings the new design, a built-in pop up flash (like the 7), external EVF capability, iso 16,000 and a new sensor though the megapixel count stays the same at 16. They did make the charger a bit irritating though as you now have to plug-in the camera via USB to a wall wart to charge the battery. I much prefer the external chargers but at $600 for the APS-C body and lens I guess we can’t complain too much.

The F3 is more like a refresh than a new camera so those who have a NEX-5n or 7 will not want the F3 but to those who have yet to make a decision on a camera, this is another one to consider.

The new 18-200 came about because Sony tells me that the old one was really designed for the VG-20 camcorder and not really so much for the NEX camera bodies. The new lens is slimmer, feels solid, and is all black which IMO, looks much better. I took a few quick snaps in the year to test for AF speed and it seems to operate like the old 18-200 beast. I will be reviewing the NEX-F3 along with the 18-200 over the next week or two so stay tuned! Until then, take a look at the 1st look video below. Enjoy!

You can order the Sony NEX-F3 at B&H Photo using the links below:

Black NEX-F3
Silver NEX-F3
Sony 18-200 Black

Jun 112012

My New Glass Paintbrush – The SLR Magic 50 f/0.85 for Sony NEX – By Keith Lickteig • www.ScutFish.com

I’ve recently been spending a lot more time in Hong Kong where I have no plane to fly, no hangar to maintain, no giant smoker to sacrifice many tasty chickens upon. There’s few house chores, no gardening, no Jeep to crush shopping carts and sea shells with. I can work, do paper work, make calls, cry about money, but concentrating on nothing but work has truly made Jack a very dull boy. It’s time for a few healthy new hobbies.

What is there to do? It’s another day in Hong Kong with my beautiful Donna who flies me around the globe almost weekly. This alone is incredible. There’s so much to see and share with my family and friends back in the US and UK but the iPhone being my favorite camera doesn’t always cut it. So why not explore proper photography? Hong Kong must be the capital of camera ownership and sales. You can’t walk a minute in any public space without seeing a camera, a camera ad, a camera shop, being in someone else’s photo, or seeing my favorite, the ubiquitous “no photo” sign. The “no photo” sign is everywhere in Hong Kong and China. Heaven forbid someone should take a photo and steal a shops ideas of what are likely pirated goods.

Donna has always been a bit of a photography buff. By that I don’t mean she likes photography in the nude (a man can dream can’t he). Just that she enjoys old cameras and taking pictures, especially with film or mildly unusual formats. She’s helped fund a minute portion of the Impossible Projects instant film redevelopment and did they ever get the marketing name right on that one. It truly is just about “impossible”. She has a few fancy DSLRs with some type of fat fancy lenses that people on the street seem to ‘ooh and ah’ over, but her favorite digital is a small Ricoh point-and-shoot that has a lovely native square format. Of course I mentioned her antique Polaroid which I thought was going to be the coolest thing since, well, the last time I saw a real instant Polaroid in 1979. The black-and-white films currently available give mildly usable results when they don’t get stuck in the cartridge, but the color film is just pure crap. It’s my fault for getting her started on that one. I should have listened to the companies most honest marketing as it was never sold as the “Works Perfect Project”.

One of Donna’s latest acquisition is another giant anvil of a camera made by Fuji that uses near full format film of some sort, 6×6 maybe or something of the nature. Perhaps it is 120mm film judging by the pile of film rolls next to me all with the number 120 plastered on the canisters. Although a very nice camera that takes incredible photos, it’s not what I would say is a great journeying machine. It actually draws more attention than the average DSLR with a monster telephoto cannon of a lens. Whenever she takes it out for a photo people turn and look at her as it seems she’s replaced her head with a giant brick shaped camera. Really, it’s that big … the camera. She’s also begun playing with a few very old Rolleiflex twin lens cameras but we have no results from these as yet. I thought they would make really interesting bookends and had no idea anyone would bother using them. As it turns out the Rolleiflex’s are worth a pretty penny too. I’d have never guessed it by the number of them I see in the dusty old shops around town.

So now it’s my turn to get into the photo game. It’s something Donna and I can participate in together, and it will give me a much-needed mental escape from work. I read a good bit on the web and develop an interest in the smaller interchangeable lens cameras that seem to be really fueling a portion of the market. As we travel an insane amount I want to travel light. I want to be able to use little more than an iPad to edit and publish and would enjoy a camera that weighed-in a little less than Donnas Hubble like instruments (which was 24,000 lbs before it left earth). In the following days while Donna and I are on walkabout we step into a few shops and have a look at the makes and models available. Of all the incredible offerings we come across a little Sony number that seems to have really made quite a “Huff” on the web. It could hardly be any smaller, it supports assorted lenses, and oddly has the same sensor as one of Donna’s monster DSLRs. After a bit of Cantonese debate and haggling Donna hands over her debit card and it’s ours. Notice I said “her” debit card. Women’s liberation is marvelous gentlemen. I highly recommend we sit back and enjoy!

A few days go by with the new little camera and I’m enjoying taking photos while doing my best to not use the talented and more accurate automated modes. However, as hard as I try it’s just not all that exciting. The kit lenses perform very well and make it incredibly easy to capture what was in front of me, but essentially that is all they do, capture what I had no problem remembering in the first place. It quickly becomes time to step it up. It is after all an interchangeable lens machine, there must be options. Time to try out something else.

A quick comment regarding Sony menus (or any camera make for that matter) as I’ve read such horrible things about them. I’m guessing there are only so many buttons and options that can be fit into one square inch. Upon spending a mere six minutes with the cameras user manual I was able to place eight options of my choosing at my finger tips, with all now being less than two “clicks” away. Amazing. I didn’t have to rely on what a Sony engineer deemed to be the best workflow for me, I could choose my own. It was easy and no fuss at all, with no more need to click-through lists of menu options.

Off we go back to the shops to search out a lens that’s more interesting for the little cam. There aren’t many native options until we come across a Zeiss that was very well reviewed and apparently quite “fast”, whatever that meant. Apparently it wasn’t fast enough to get away so we took it home, plugged it in, and headed off to Thailand the very day. Why not?

The Zeiss performed remarkably well. The Zeiss focus was quite fast and the results were for the most part quite bright, colorful, and perfect. Almost too perfect. Perfect to the point of being clinical. I’ve had enough of clinics and “clinical” for one lifetime so upon returning to Hong Kong Donna and I visited more shops and started trying out filters, polarizers, super quasar numerator electron fluctuations among other devices. Again the results improved markedly and now every single pixel was in its exact and proper place, dimension, and hue. All with almost no effort on my part. Lovely, except of all the great works of art I’ve been so fortunate to behold, not one do I ever remember at a pixel level. Donna and I once climbed to the upper rotunda of the Basilica of St. Peters where I didn’t use just my eyes. Trembling, I put my hand against the gorgeous mosaic walls as I walked along and felt more than six-hundred years of history, passion, enlightenment, and sacrifice flown beneath my finger tips. To this day I cannot believe we were given access to such places. Amazingly we had little choice but to touch the mosaics as to step more than a few feet away would have us perched on a ledge with almost 300 feet between our feet and the floor below. It’s was an amazing experience. Grazie Papa!

In order to share my travel photos and journal with friends and family, and being one of a handful of people on the planet not using Facebook, I began studying WordPress and learned how to build a scratch website. After about a week I could load photos into my iPhone and iPad, edit, and publish to my newly created site without ever touching a desktop. Perfect, now I never have to leave my hammock.

As much fun as I was having with my new camera and lenses, there was still much missing. I was able to frame and capture moments to share beautifully, but without a little editing they lacked punch, life, or any character at all. There are times when I enjoy playing with a photo, and other times where I feel it’s important for the moment to speak for itself. No editing, no in camera processing. Just available light, a subject, and the moment. I had no idea how as a novice I could learn to capture such magic in a photo but articles across the web spoke of such things being possible.

Enter the “magic”. Although here in Hong Kong they say “Enter the Dragon”. I had been browsing the web more than ever before, reading about photography, available kit, techniques, reviews and such. Heaven knows there’s nothing worth while on television and I haven’t watched any form of televised news media in more than eight years (hence my great smile and cheerful demeanor). I began discovering images and write-ups of vintage lenses being adapted to smaller cameras like the Sony I’ve been studying. However, I was certain there was no way I’d get positive results from a fully manual lens with my novice skill level. I’m only a few weeks into this. The concept kept eating at me and I continued scouring the web for more information.

While back at work in the States I read a very “Huffed” up article about a company from Hong Kong of all places making native Sony mount lenses that seemed oddly interesting. The lenses were fully manual, very “fast” (that word again), and the demonstrated photos looked really interesting. Over the past weeks Donna and I had become really good at shopping for new camera kit and I knew there wasn’t a lens yet that was “fast” enough to out run me. Immediately upon returning to Hong Kong Donna and I headed out to find the sorcerers shop that made this magical lens. Of course after a hot shower and long nap, Orlando to Hong Kong is a long 24 hours in a seat.

Not long after beginning our search, Donna and I had discovered a handful of shops that carried or could source the lens. (I told you we are really good at the shopping part.) Wandering further we discovered one of the smallest shops in the entire arcade where there they sat, many different well sampled models of the much “Huffed” SLR Magic lenses. After a bit of Canton small talk with the shop owner and many “oohs and ah’s” over his beautiful baby (a real baby not the lens) I was ready to snap on SLR Magic and give it a whirl. I stepped into the hall, switched the cam to on, opened the aperture thingy (making the hole bigger), twisted the focus ring and finally began to grin. “This is absolutely amazing” is all I was thinking. I pointed at any and every thing playing with the dials while letting a kaleidoscope of imagery appear before my eyes. This went on for nearly ten minutes before Donna stepped into the hall and reminded me there was a button on the upper part of the device I was holding that when pressed would cause the images to be captured for later viewing. “Oh, that’s right” I exclaimed rather excitedly. I was having too much fun discovering aperture to remember anything else. I played around for many more minutes and checked out the other SLR Magic offerings. Then Donna asked me, “well honey, are you going to get it?” to which I replied, “Captain Donna (it sometimes helps if I call her captain), make it so!” And yet another lens came home to play.

The next day we of course departed for another adventure with new photo kit in tow. Well, Donna’s kit was in tow, mine easily fit in my shoulder bag. We headed out that night snapping away. The new SLR Magic lens was so cool, and amazing, and really just too much fun to put down. Even for a complete novice as myself there was so much to enjoy. Rather quickly I stopped thinking of it as a mere lens but more of a giant wet paintbrush. The effects, colors, drama one could create was endless. Do I want to capture a single subject, if so, just spin the dial. Do I want the world to appear, spin the other way. Make something glow, turn it a little more. Or how about miss the moment and shot all together in a giant swirling blur, way too easy. Walking down a very dimly lit street I eventually discovered this little dragon could see in the dark, at low ISO, and fast shutter speeds. This was the moment I finally comprehended what a fast lens was, while all this time I had thought I was so young and spritely. What was there not to love about this little lens. I recalled an article I read from a “Rockwell” engineer or photographer. He lambasted the SLR Magic company for even thinking of developing such a lens. According to the article, the author had never even laid his hands on the product, met the company founder or development team, yet found little to like about the company or product. Now that sounds like a magical review and talent to boot. Think of the money saved by reviewing without ever touching. What an amazing business plan.

With camera and lens in hand, I soon began to chat with other photographers on the street that would curiously check out my new kit as both my camera body and lenses were not easy to find on shop shelves at the time. l even became bold enough to take my gear into camera shops along my way and show it off to shop owners and their most curious customers. I’d let their customers try it out and watch them grin just as I did. Then I’d loudly say “talk to Mr. Lee (reading off the shop keeps name badge as if we were old friends), he can find you one I’m certain”. Meanwhile the shop manager hurriedly began researching on his smart phone. Salesmen are fun to play with. Especially in China.

Sitting in a cafe looking at the evenings photos I was questioned by a fella named Gary Tyson who claimed to know a thing or two about how cameras worked. He also mentioned he too was enjoying the Leica version of the same lens which is really not the same at all. The M-mount SLR Magic is a whole new barrel of a beast. Gary shared some of his remarkable photos and commented that there was a bit of “controversy” surrounding the SLR Magic lenses and brand. Once again I thought back to that “Rockwell” fella and so many forum comments from people bashing products that they had never seen, touched, explored, or even attempted to understand. Often only due to product price. It is then that I realized many “forums” can be as bad as news media outlets and not nearly as valuable as parting ones hind quarters from the couch, while getting out and exploring for oneself.

After two months with my SLR Magic I have thoroughly enjoyed every challenging minute with the lens. I don’t seem to care if the company stole the concept from a Happy Meal, painted it pink, and marked it up 500%. The fact is, whatever they did, they built it, they built it well, and made it available for me to purchase, saving me the trouble of building my own. It fits my camera (amazingly as a native lens), it functions beautifully for my tastes and needs, and I thoroughly enjoy the challenge and results. And if I didn’t like it, I didn’t have to buy it. If it was too expensive I could have easily chose something else. Fortunately I don’t live in a one size, one price fits all world. If I wasn’t happy with the available product I’m free to search out other offerings. Free markets are amazing. What’s more amazing is how fast products like this are selling in Asia. High-end products of all genres are selling like hot cakes. I’ve recently watched people buy watches that were more than $60,000 usd. Things in these price ranges are flying out of shop doors. To many in this part of the world a $5000 camera body or even a $10000 lens is a mere toy. Something just to have because someone said it was good or “the best”. It’s likely it will rarely be used if ever to the degree of its design. I see it in aviation all the time. People spending hundreds of thousands on aircraft and sometimes millions just to have a spare or say they have “one of those” too. It’s very interesting to witness what motivates different people to spend.

To me texture and grain in a photograph are character. They are the flavor and smell of one-dimensional world.

So now I have a few new paintbrushes to choose from, and I’ve got an entire planet before me to explore along with my great partner in crime. Donna and I are having way too much fun searching out places to shoot. I recently spent more than five hours climbing the back halls, stairwells, and alleyways of one Hong Kong’s most notorious buildings. I observed all facets of life, vice, and underground activities. I met drug dealers, tailors, cooks, traders, you name it. I did my best to capture photos of it all with less than a handful being anything exciting or even remotely sharable. All poor photos due strictly to my lack of skill. The best part is that bodged photos no longer bother me. I’ll happily pack up my iPad, all my new paintbrushes, and head out for another adventure. Each time I try I learn a little more and my technique improves. I get better at choosing my settings, learn to focus faster, and are really learning how to work an area to compose the best shot while not disturbing my subjects. When I get a great shot it really makes me smile and I want to share the moment with my friends. When I don’t, I’m happy to have had the chance.

So where to go next? We never really know. Today we are in Japan and I’m certain our next destination will be as equally exciting. Maybe there will be something worth photographing, or maybe we’ll find one of those stunning spots better quietly enjoyed and remembered within the greatest canvas one has. Wherever Donna and go I know we’ll make the most of it. But perhaps a little more shopping first. I heard something about some “Voigtlander” people I really must explore.

Manual lenses like those from SLR Magic and Voigtlander are turning out to be a real treat for me personally. I enjoy how they help me get more involved with the moment I’m trying to capture. They are in no way easy lenses for a novice to use but that’s all part of the fun and enjoyment of the equipment. Day or night the wide aperture coupled with the appropriate filters and patience makes for great adventure.

Above my bright yellow airplane looked equally interesting in black and white and the old Buick below turned out much too sharp so I had to muck it up a bit. Both taken with the SLR Magic in very strong daylight.

Wide open the SLR Magic delivers great results in very dim light. Days after picking up the lens, George was more than happy to pose quietly for my practice as we waited for our whiskeys to come up to the perfect sipping temperature. Further below Trish tries to hide her cute, tiny, very round cheeks from a shot. The picture here is actually life-size, she’s super cute and tiny.

Although the new paintbrushes I have are more than capable of capturing beautifully clean photographs, it’s still a lot of fun to mess around with the results on iPad with a few editing apps.

Once again practicing wide open is a lot of fun. If I had only remembered that thing called ISO taking this photo would have been so much easier. By raising it I could have had a much cleaner shot without the motion blur and didn’t even recall the option until hours later. It’s of no worry, I’ll just have to head back to Dubai and get a few more shots of my friend Dave.

Shooting through grease splattered glass around the corpses of many fried fowl was a bit of a challenge. But patience gave me interesting results in a great part of town.

I could have spent hours taking photos in this tiny little work shop. It’s located on one of the lower floors of one of Hong Kong’s less than desirable buildings. If you didn’t know it was there you’d never believe it existed. I’m told that most of their customers don’t want to physically visit their shop, but I personally love it. It has great character. Past the double security doors in a room a room only a few meters long and wide, they are turning out some of the highest quality and renowned custom jewelry in the region. The shop has been here since the 1960s I’m guessing and the shop owner was more than happy to let me take photos of the jewelers working away at their work benches. After all, I’m a very good customer. Women’s liberation seems to be a two-way street … Damn.

Feb 102012

USER REPORT: The Sony Nex-7 with Zeiss ZM lenses.

By Dirk De Paepe 

Hello Steve,

First of all, I’m not a photographer. I’m a publisher (living in Belgium, so pardon my English language mistakes) of a trade magazine for the music business (that’s really a niche market). Besides that, I’m a photography enthusiast for more than 50 years, since my late father (who was nothing more than an enthusiast himself) learned me how to shoot with a Zeiss Ikon. Beside that, I never had any photography education what so ever. My education was music, and maybe (I hope) I got a sense of aesthetics from there.

Because I wrote some comments to some articles on your website before, maybe you know that I love your site very much, because of your real life and “human” approach that really appeals to me.

The reason why I write you this time is double. First of all, I use the Sony Nex-7 (one of the most anticipated camera’s of the last year) now for quite some time, since December 30 to be precise. And I think that I’m probably (one of) the prototype(s) of the Nex-7 user: a real enthusiast who wants to enjoy shooting pictures as much as possible.

Second reason is that I’m also a huge Carl Zeiss fan. And with the Novoflex adaptor, I can use my ZM lenses on the NEX-7 body. I use three lenses: the Biogon 2,8/28 ZM, the Planar 2/50 ZM and the Tele-Tessar 4/85 ZM. When I bought my previous camera, a NEX-5, it came with the Sony E 3.5-6.3/18-200 OSS. I’m keeping this lens, because of its 200mm capability, but I have to say that up till now, I never felt the need to use it, because I find shooting with the Zeiss glass to be so much more fun!

Why am I not a Leica fan? Well, in fact I am, but more in the sence that the Leica M9-P is my dream camera. But it’s simply to expensive for my kind of use. It’s simply not justifiable. So I guess it will remain a dream. But hey, isn’t it nice to have a dream?!!

In my opinion a photography enthusiast is somebody who’s not taking pictures as a profession (although in my job I regularly use my own pictures), as such he doesn’t take as many pictures as a pro, but he nevertheless tries to use his equipment to the fullest and is always looking for the best possible shot. So he’s definitely not a point and shoot photographer. We both now that many of your site visitors are enthusiasts, so what I write about my NEX-7/Zeiss ZM experience is probably very relevant to many of them. When I look at the “Daily Inspiration” publications on your site, sometimes I see pictures that really “Waw!” me. They are shot by great pro photographers, who can do things with their camera that I simply can’t. Maybe they shoot in better light circumstances, most likely they know better how to process the image afterwords and surely they use different material (the Leica M9 sensor for instance is clearly superior to the NEX’s). Not to forget that they developed “a better eye” than most enthusiast ever will. So many of your site visitors will, like me, never be able to reach that level. The more relevant I guess it is, to see what an average, but nevertheless serious enthusiast can realize with this material.

I know you did some testing of the NEX-7 with Leica glass, but honestly, I don’t think that this combination is really relevant for enthusiasts. When I’d want to spend that kind of money for my lenses, I wouldn’t doubt for a second to by an M9. But I simply can’t justify to spend Leica kind of money for my “on the road” camera. Nevertheless the idea is good: the NEX body can easily work with M-mount lenses. To me it’s almost as if the NEX-7 was conceived to be used with M-mount glass. And luckily there are other brands then Leica that make this glass for a considerably lower cost. Amongst them, Zeiss has always been my favorite, being of the same brand as that fabulous first camera of mine, a Zeis Ikon Ikonta C, that shot so unbelievably sharp on 90x60mm film, although it had no light meter, and no focus system what so ever. But it learned you right away what the technique of photographing was really all about… :-)

From a budget point of view the combination of NEX-7 with Zeiss ZM lenses is about the best one can get. And I know that in some circumstances there is a magenta color shift on the NEX-7 with M-mount glass. But really, when I consider that I just took shots as always, I must say that as far as now, it has never bothered me. And I even shot the Biogon wide open sometimes. But, probably like many enthusiasts, I don’t ALWAYS shote wide open. I recently visited the NAMM show, a big music trade show in Anaheim, CA, for my job and took quite some pictures there for our publication and just for fun. (Unfortunately the skies were grey during our visit.) When I shoot the exposition booth of our clients, it’s important that one can see as much as possible, so the DOF must be as large as possible. Also when I want to give a general impression of the fair, I think one must see as much as possible. In those pictures, my goal is probably different of yours. When I want to paint the atmosphere – I don’t want to focus on only one particular detail, but I need to show everything that’s going on there. This is important for our readers and our clients as well. Coming from that background, I always have been oriented towards an as large as possible DOF, with as much as possible detail. And that’s where the Zeiss lenses (in my opinion) outshine.

It’s only since buying the NEX-7 and finding the SteveHuffPhoto website, that I also targeted towards shallow DOF and that I tried to achieve this very beautiful 3D effect, just for fun. How come? Well it’s undoubtedly thanks to the NEX-7/Zeiss combination. To me the camera size and weight is perfect. I can have it around my neck permanently, without being bothered by it in the slightest way. Yet it’s just a little bit bigger than the NEX-5, that a found just too small to be practical. And of course the wonderful view finder (I NEVER AGAIN want to shoot with a camera without view finder!) and the extra control knobs make it such a tremendous joy to work with. I have never shot that much pictures just for fun! I can do everything manually again, but now in a very easy and smooth way. And this brings me the real joy of photographing.

You know, I’m an enthusiast. My goal is not to shoot “The Picture of The Year”. My goal is to enjoy shooting pictures, and at the same time trying to take nice pictures and to continue improving. The NEX-7 gave me already so much more inspiration and ideas to improve my photographic skills, mainly about where to look at while focussing, and how to do this fast. I believe that if one is really trained in manual focussing, he will focus almost as fast as an automatic focussing system, surely when using the ingenious focus peaking, and a good lens like the Zeiss ZM. The focus peaking allows you to immediately and purposefully focus on any point in the view finder. In my opinion (correct me if I’m wrong) this beats any automatic focussing system – surely in joy of use (and remember, that’s my #1 motivation!). To me this opened a new world. Where I used to really take time for every shot, thinking about DOF, pointing, focussing, holding the release knob half ways and reframing, I now enjoy instant shooting, but still framing and focussing in the best possible way. Only now I can do this instantly. What a joy! Many of you will think that it’s pretty remarkable that I only begin to shoot in this way in my late fifties, but hey, I’m just an enthusiast! Of course, shallow depth of field is something I’ve known for whole my life. But I never achieved it in my pictures so much until recently. Nevertheless, I don’t get why anyone would ALWAYS want to achieve THE MOST shallow DOF possible. Sometimes, like in my waitress picture, I want it to be 3D with a shallow background, but I believe it’s better for the atmosphere of the picture to still have some notice of the surroundings, instead off just having some light stains “to make a nice bouquet”.

Do I have other remarks on the NEX-7? Yes. Well, everybody must communicate to Sony that in a future software update, they must provide that the camera can stay in standby while hanging around your neck. “Waking it up” by touching the release knob seems a good idea to me. When I’m out to take fast shots, I’d want it in the on-position all the time. Now this drains the battery in a few hours time. (I measured around 3.5 hours, but maybe that depends on the light circumstances.) Luckily, the battery is small and I have three of them, thanks to my NEX-5. So it’s not a big deal to me. But still…

And yes, I sometimes accidentally start filming. So I delete those. That’s about it guys, and it really doesn’t spoil my joy of using this camera. For the rest, the balance and the feel of the camera is superb. And with the ZM lenses on it, my hand just doesn’t get tired. Ever!

Do I have other remarks on the Zeiss ZM lenses? No. I’m utterly pleased by them. They are sharp, nice bouquet, great 3D, fairly lightweight (without feeling cheap), so easy to use, beautiful and offer the best quality for the money, by far. I told you, I’m a fifty year Zeiss fan. I’m probably not the most objective person, when it comes to Zeiss (after a love of 50 years, who can blame me), but you know, I’m no photography reporter, nor a professional photographer, so I think I can permit me more… :-)

Do I have special comments on the NEX-7/Zeiss ZM combination? Yes. To work with, it’s just a perfect combination. The joy of use is tremendous. Never experienced that in my 50 years of shooting! (I owned more than 10 different camera’s.) Also, the price is right. Lenses and body “play in the same league”. They seem to be meant for one another.

And then there is the magenta color shift. I can’t deny that it’s there. It is. Sometimes. Very rarely in my use. And only with the Biogon. With large aperture. But even then not always, or not noticeable. And when it appears, sometimes it’s only very slightly. Which doesn’t bother me. You know I don’t shoot wide open all the time. From the about 1000 pictures I took up till now, the magenta really bothered me only a very few times – two or maybe three, I already forgot it… Would I want to get rid of it? Sure! Will I buy another camera for it? No way!! Maybe Sony can fix it in a later software update, although I doubt it and I don’t hope for it. But if they do, I surely want the update. If the don’t I stay happy as it is.

My only real comment and regret on the NEX-7 is it not having a full frame sensor. I really would like to get rid of the cropping factor! So maybe the last camera I’ll ever buy will be a full frame NEX-10?? ;-)

I hope you still can enjoy the pictures of a non-pro, who, I’m sure, sometimes will do things that “are not done” in a professionals opinion. If you can give critic of any kind, that can improve my shooting, you are so very welcome! Besides that, I guess the pictures can be very relevant for all those enthusiasts, who want to see what quality they can expect from this NEX-7/Zeiss ZM combination for themselves. Me being one of them!

The pictures shown here are all taken out of hand, without flash, as jpg’s and often slightly processed with Photoshop Elements. I find the Shadows/Highlights function to be very effective, I sometimes somewhat skew and of course sometimes crop a little. Also I sometimes use a very small amount of Unsharp Mask. Oh yeah, also the Adjust Color for Skin Tone sometimes works very effectively. Those functions make it possible to work very fast, being designed to process photo’s and some of them are not available in the regular Photoshop. That’s why I prefer Photoshop Elements for my “normal” pictures, and Photoshop CS Extended for pictures that need to be printed in the magazine.

Have fun shooting!

Dec 102011


The Sony 50 1.8 E Mount Lens review on the NEX-7

By Steve Huff

I have been shooting with the Sony NEX-7 for a couple of months now and sadly I have to pack it up and ship it back to Sony next week. I will (hopefully) soon have my own “7” though as I did in fact order one. It should be in my hands by mid January sometime. The new Sony 50 1.8 lens will also be mine when it is available because after using it for the past few weeks I have realized that at $299, it is a no brainer MUST OWN lens for any NEX shooter. NEX-3, NEX-5, NEX-5n, NEX-7, all of them would benefit from this lens being on the end of the camera. OK, review over! Well, not really. While the lens is indeed a no brainer purchase due to the price and quality, the lens may not float everyones boat. This review will basically go over the details of the lens, the size of the lens, and the quality of the images that the lens (and the photographer) can create.

Before I get into that let me say this. IT’S ABOUT TIME SONY! Just about a year and a half after Sony released the first NEX cameras and lenses (the 3/5 and 18-55 and 16) Sony has finally stepped up the game and released a couple of superb lenses. The Zeiss 24 1.8 and the 50 1.8 are both lenses that mostly all NEX owners will want. The Zeiss is a 35mm equivalent on the NEX cameras and many of my 1st shots with the NEX-7 were taken with that lens and shown in the full review HERE. The 50 has not been used as much because the lens when mounted will give us a 75mm equivalent focal length, and 75 is not one of my favorites. Still, you gotta love a fast 50 and I have been shooting fast 50’s forever it seems. I have shot and owned all the Nikon and Canon fast 50’s, all of the Leica fast 50’s, the Olympus 50s, and a slew of other 50s. The 50mm is a lens that just “feels” right. When you say it, when you see it, and when you shoot it.

But on a camera that is NOT full frame, like the NEX-5n and 7 you will not get a 50mm field of view due to the 1.5 crop of the APS-C sensor. This is all fine but just want to make sure all of you knew this up front. Not everyone that reads these reviews is a total camera geek like me. Even still, the lens is light, has a fast 1.8 aperture and has image stabilization built into the lens, which helps dramatically with shooting at slower shutter speeds.

NEX-7, ISO 1600, 50 1.8 at 2.5, 1/30s

The 50 1.8 Specs

The Sony 50 1.8 “E” mount lens for the NEX system is a pretty inexpensive lens. When you compare it to something like a Leica 50 Summicron at $2000 the $299 price tag of the Sony looks insanely cheap. This is no 50 Cron, but it is also not $2000 and it is a SUPERB quality lens. After many weeks with it I have grown to really enjoy the lens, and it has actually become my favorite lens on the NEX-7, just due to its speed, rendering and IS. Here are the features of the lens:
Built-In Optical SteadyShot Image Stabilization
“The built-in Optical SteadyShot image stabilization system provides around a 4-stop shutter speed advantage, making it significantly easier to achieve crisp, blur-free images and video” – I agree with this statement. The OSS works great in this lens. 
Large f/1.8 Circular Aperture
“Get beautiful, softly blurred backgrounds thanks to the circular aperture of the large maximum aperture of this lens” – At f/1.8, you can get some nice out of focus background for portraits though at 1.8 the lens is a TEENY bit soft, which is normal.
Smooth and Quiet High-Speed Focusing
“A linear motor used for focus drive contributes to low-noise focus operation, while a stepping motor built into the lens, technology inherited from Sony’s professional camcorders, results in smooth, quiet aperture actuation ideal for recording movies” – The AF is QUIET and SMOOTH but will hunt in lower light. This is due to the contrast detect AF of the cameras, not the lens.
Aluminum Alloy Body
“An elegant aluminum alloy exterior blends beautifully with the graceful design of an E-mount” – Same build and look as the 18-55 Kit Zoom in Silver.
Direct Manual Focus
“Use Direct Manual Focus (DMF) to go directly to manual focusing after autofocus lock-on without having to switch modes to facilitate focus adjustments on the fly – it’s perfect for portraits where depth of field may be extremely shallow” – This is a plus and works well, allowing you to override the AF for perfecting the focus.

My son Brandon with the 50 wide open at 1.8 on the NEX-7

My Reviews and a word about the size of the Sony lenses

As mostly all of you probably know by now, my reviews are usually pretty different that other websites. Three years ago I decided I was tired of looking at charts and graphs and wanted to know how cameras and lenses performed in actual use. Real world photos! Not studio shots, not charts, not graphs…but using the product as it was BUILT and MEANT to be used! So many of us are hobbyists and enthusiasts and we do not shoot newspapers or care about the MTF charts, I know I never did. Some of you may, but for me, and for  this site, I like to show how a lens does when taking pictures. These pictures can be snap shots, professional shots or whatever. I know many of you out there are looking for cameras and lenses to take images of your family, your children and your everyday life. This is what I show you in my reviews. Simple, easy and fun!

When I started shooting the 50 1.8 I looked at it and thought it looked almost exactly like the 18-55 Kit Zoom lens. Same color, ,same size, shape, etc. This is not a bad thing, but many of you were hoping Sony would create lenses that are smaller. The reason the lenses are not as tiny as a Leica 50 Summicron for example in simple terms is that A: The lens has AF built in. B: The lens has image stabilization, and C: The thickness of the camera body is too thin for the lenses to be tiny. 

So with the NEX line we get tiny bodies and larger lenses but even still, the package as a whole is much smaller than even an entry level DSLR and even bigger SLR lens. I’d take a NEX-7 over something like a Nikon D7000 and lens ANY DAY. It’s sleek, it’s sexy, it’s usability factor is through the roof and the quality is REALLY REALLY good. At times it is amazing actually.

As always you can click on ANY image in this review to open up a larger and better version. 

Shot this in Vivid mode with the 50 at 1.8, wide open. 

This Kangaroo was posing for me :) The 50 at f/3.2

The Lens construction, look and feel

The lens in use feels good and light and is a joy to use. When I mounted it to the NEX-7 I realized that it was about the same weight as the kit zoom and felt about the same but the 50 was a tad bigger (length). The lens will not win any heavy duty build awards but thats not what the lens is about . It’s simple, it’s silver, and it is a basic 50mm 1.8 lens coming in at $299. There is not really much you can say about it so I will try to SHOW you what the lens did for me and talk about the AF speed, sharpness, etc.

The AF Speed of the 50 1.8

In use the 50 1.8 AF speed was very good. Not excellent or super speedy but very good. In bright light it was speedy but when the lights got low the combo of the NEX-7 and the 50 had a hard time focusing in many situations. It would hunt, even with the cameras AF assist lamp. BUT, I am talking low light indoors. No overhead lights, just soft low lighting. For example, if you were on a couch in your living room with one lamp in in the room and took a snap of your wife sitting next to you then the focus would hunt a but before locking in. This is not abnormal as most mirrorless cameras do this with their lenses. In fact, the only camera that did not do this for me in recent times is the Nikon V1, which had blazing AF in good light and fast AF in low light.

The Sony 50 focuses fast, but don’t expect blazing AF, especially in low light. With that said, I didn’t have any issues getting shots in lower light though I did have to shoot the image below a couple of times as the 1st one missed focus. These bearded dragons were in a huge display at the local Zoo. I find that by f 2.5 the lens is really sharp. To some, the Bokeh may be a little distracting but I think its great for the price point of the lens.

ISO 640 at f/2.5

This focal length will work well for portraits as well due to the 75mm equiv focal length. ISO 100 at f/2.8

ISO 1600 at 1.8

Is this a sharp 50?

Many shooters stress over the absolute sharpness of a lens. Me, I prefer “character” over sharpness which is why I still love my old Leica glass from the 40’s and 50’s. When you think about it and look back at old classic photos, not all of them were razor sharp. I also never really care what my photos look like at 100% view on my iMac screen. Why? Well, that is not how people will be viewing my photos! You guys view my review samples no larger than 1800 pixels wide. If I print something these days it is usually not bigger than 8X10. Pixel Peeping has gotten old for me and I just don’t do much of it anymore for my personal photos. If a photo is a bit off at 100%, so what! Unless I am shooting for some multi thousand dollar paying project then it’s not really that big of a deal.

So with that rant I bet you are expecting me to say the 50 is a softer lens right? Well, not really. The lens is somewhat sharp at 1.8 and gets sharper and sharper as you stop down. It never reaches  the razor sharp detail I see with my Leica M9 and always seems to have a slight softness to the files but this is slight. To some, this lens may look razor sharp. I think it is all down to what your expectations are. The lens is also slightly soft on the edges, even at f/2.8 but again, not something most people would even notice. Even though I do not pixel peep I know many of you guys do, so below you will find a series of photos with 100% crops embedded. To see the crops at the real 100% view you must click on the photos to see the larger versions.

Here is a shot at f/2.5 with the NEX-7 and 50 1.8. BTW, F/2.5 is the widest aperture of the $1400 Leica 50 Summitar. Here, the Sony provides PLENTY of sharpness for my tastes. 

In harsh AZ sunshine at f/3.5 – this is with default sharpening in ACR

The 24 Megapixel sensor makes for some larger files from the NEX-7. This one was shot at f/3.2

The lens at f/1.8. It renders beautifully in the right light

Once again, Wide open at f/1.8

The next two shots were both converted from RAW but the 1st one had some sharpening applied during the RAW processing, the 2nd one did not. When printing it is always best to add some sharpening…

Below is an image from my NEX-7 review using the 50 1.8. It CAN be razor sharp when sharpening a little – This one is at f/2.8

So there are some pixel peeping samples for  you. When you do not apply any sharpening the files seem a tad soft but add some sharpening and you can get a crisper file, but of course artifacts from sharpening. If I am going to make a print I sharpen up the images and they look great on paper. If I am posting to the web I do not really add any sharpening because I resize the files anyway. Overall, the lens performs great. About on par with other brands 50 1.8 lenses (NIkon, Canon, etc) but with better Bokeh IMO.

My last thoughts on the Sony 50 1.8 OSS Lens

Basically this lens is a must have for any NEX shooter who wants a medium telephoto with a fast aperture. The lens has great color, has a fast aperture for shallow depth of field or when the lights get low and the lens pumps out great color with rich saturated tones. The lens is sharp but not clinically sharp. On the NEX-7 it is a fantastic performer. It is not perfect though! The lens is a little slow to AF when the lights get dim and the camera will hunt for focus even when using the AF assist light. Overall though, for $299 I can’t complain one bit because you are getting a super lens with built in optical steady shot and a nice look and feel as well. The lens is scheduled for release in Jan/Feb 2012 and I expect it will be a huge seller for Sony along with the NEX-7. Sony needed a lens like this and I am happy they finally released this and the Zeiss 24. With these  two lenses, the NEX system is not only maturing, but is becoming a serious contender in the world of mirrrorless cameras.

The color is great when shooting RAW with the NEX-7 and shooting the 50 1.8

Where To Buy?

You can order the Sony 50 1.8 from B&H Photo HERE or Amazon HERE.

More samples from the NEX-7 and 50 1.8

Since the best way to judge a camera lens is actually using it, I will leave you with a few more samples from the 50 1.8 and the NEX-7. Enjoy!


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Dec 082011

The SLT Magic HyperPrime 23 1.7 for Sony NEX – Coming Dec 2011/Jan 2012

Here you go! I expect this to be a great lens as the latest stuff coming from SLR Magic and their HyperPrime series has been damn good. I will be reviewing this lens soon. It is a 35mm equivalent on any NEX camera and has a fast aperture of 1.7. Many have asked and this is NOT a rebranded CCTV lens. It is a SLR Magic designed lens and it is manual focus. Here are the details:

Estimated introductory price is $379
Our lens is a beautiful design.
SLR Magic HyperPrime 23mm F1.7
8 elements 7 groups
5 x Tantalum


NEW: THE SLR Magic HyperPrime 23mm F1.7
SLR Magic expands its E-mount lineup with a new wide angle lens

Hong Kong, China (December 8, 2011)  – SLR Magic expands the E-mount lens lineup with the new SLR Magic HyperPrime 23mm F1.7 wide angle lens. With this latest addition, the portfolio of lenses for the E-mount system is now comprised of three focal lengths. The world’s fastest interchangeable camera lens with APS-C coverage in this focal length, the SLR Magic HyperPrime 23mm F1.7 will be available in January 2012.

The field of view of this new HyperPrime Lens corresponds to a 35mm lens in 35mm format and this fast wide angle of view opens up many new creative composition opportunities, particularly in the fields of candid, street, and landscape cinematography and photography. A minimum focus distance of 0.15m allows for pleasing defocused backgrounds. Additionally, a fast max aperture of F1.7 makes the SLR Magic HyperPrime 23mm F1.7 ideal for available-light photography.

We place our highest priority in the development of all HyperPrime lenses to fulfill the demands of professional cinematographers and photographers. The design and build of the SLR Magic HyperPrime 23mm F1.7 is solid and reliable.

The SLR Magic HyperPrime 23mm F1.7 will be available from authorized SLR Magic dealers by the end of January 2012.

Technical Data    

SLR Magic HyperPrime 23mm F1.7

Lens Type:

Fast wide-angle lens with five Tantalum glass elements to ensure superior cinematic performance.

Compatible Cameras:

All E-mount cameras

Optical Design:

8 elements in 7 groups

Distance Settings:

Distance range: 0.15m to ∞, combined scale meter/feet


Manually controlled diaphragm, 12 aperture blades (circular), Lowest value 22



Filter Mount:

49mm; filter mount does not rotate.

Surface Finish:

Black anodized


Length to bayonet mount:

approx. 50mm (approx. 1.97in)

Largest diameter:

approx. 61mm (approx. 2.40in)

approx. 240g (approx. 8.47oz)

Sep 052011

The Sony NEX-5N Digital Camera Review

It’s a MONSTER full of features!

See my NEX-7 review HERE!

NOTE – EVERY image in this review was shot as a JPEG. At the time of this writing Adobe Photoshop/Lightroom does not support NEX-5n files. So every picture here was shot as a JPEG and all of the images here were shot with the 18-55 kit zoom, a few with the 16mm and some with a Leica lens via adapter. All Auto White Balance. Also, this is a long 7000 word real world review as I had quite a bit to say about the 5n. Enjoy and leave a comment below if you like!

Below: Video Overview

Ok, so the headline picture above is a break from the norm for my main title graphic but it DID grab your attention did it not? Haha. In fact that shot is a self portrait of yours truly taken with the NEX-5N and Leica 50 Summilux ASPH at 1.4. I was testing out my new $10 Halloween mask and was having some fun with the camera late one night. When I looked at the image and then looked at the specs of the NEX-5N it all made sense. There I was, looking like a monster and I shot this image with a camera that has so many features that it is an actual MONSTER of a tiny camera! A monster in the bang for the buck camera world. Yep, the Sony NEX-5N, after using it for a week or so has impressed me quite a bit with its abilities. This came at a time when I was almost ready to write off the whole NEX series after getting unsatisfactory color from my Old NEX-5 (after comparing with the Olympus E-P3).One thing is for sure,  these are Exciting times for us camera gear head nuts.

Now, without further ado, here is my MONSTER of a real world review!

Being a guy who loves photography AND the gear associated with it is a dangerous thing. A guy in my position gets to try out just about any camera gear I want. While I do not try everything (I AM only ONE guy and this site has a staff of ONE…ME) I do try what catches my eye. I am always aware of the new technology and new cameras. When I see one that gives me goosebumps I add it to my “MUST review list”. I admit, the 5n did not really give me goosebumps when it was announced but I was intrigued by Sony’s claims so I gave it a shot.

The NEX-5N and 18-55 Kit Zoom – out of camera JPEG – Vivid – ISO 2000 – Yes, 2000. Click for larger version.


When the original Sony NEX-3 and NEX-5 were released there was a ton of hype not only from Sony, but from users as well. Sony had a ton of press on these cameras all because of the super slim design and large sensor. Sony were the 1st to take the APS-C sensor and pack it into a very TINY body that was capable of great performance. They also broke new ground with High ISO performance and I remember the NEX-3 and 5 were pretty special in this area. I did buy a NEX-5 when it was released and owned one up until a few weeks ago. I enjoyed the camera for about a year but when the new Olympus E-P3 came out with its new lenses and super fast speed I went back to Olympus yet again. Even though the E-P3 has a smaller sensor than the Sony NEX-5 I loved it for its style, its design, its new found performance all the way around, and most of all, the new lenses.

Back to the NEX, but my heart belongs to the 7

So here we go, not long after the E-P3 is in my hands and paid for I see Sony announce the NEX-C3, 5N and 7. The NEX-7 was the camera that REALLY tugged at my soul. There it was. 24 Megapixels, a built in OLED EVF, pro build but still compact, more dials for easy control…super HD video quality and even a new Zeiss 24 1.8 lens announcement. THIS is the camera I have been longing for…and for YEARS (THE NEX-7). Yes, I have my Leica M9 and will always have my M9 but as a take anywhere snapshot camera the Olympus E-P3 which is so quick and easy to use has taken over as my daily shooter. Lift and fire..so quick! I finally decided to save my Leica M9P for special moments or when I actually do paying photo jobs.

Oh yea, where was I? The NEX-7…that camera seems to have it all so when the 5N was announced along side of it I had no real interest. Why would I? The 7 had everything I wanted while the 5N seemed the same as  the old 5. Well, after getting a hold of the 5N I can say if this is any indication of what will come in the 7, “hold on to your britches”!

Sony has somehow taken the great performance of the NEX-5 and made it quite a bit better in many areas. The body style of the 5N is almost exactly the same as the old 5 with a few new snazzy cosmetic improvements like the dual colored on/off switch in silver and black and the shutter button seems to look and feel a little better as well. But as Sony said, the NEX-5N has improvements under the hood.

Check out two out of camera JPEGS at higher ISO below shot with the kit 18-55 Zoom. Yea, those are higher ISO images and you can click on them to see larger versions. Then I will get on to what is new with the NEX-5n.

What is new in the 5N? Let’s take a look:

  • The new 16.1 Megapixel Sensor – This sensor is all new and is shared in the new C3, but let me state RIGHT NOW…if you are in the market for a new NEX camera, do NOT buy the C3 unless you strongly prefer it’s grip. For $100 more you can get the 5N which trounces it in many areas. With that said, the new sensor in these cameras is pretty astonishing. It gives us plenty of resolution with a 4912X3264 image size. This is plenty of resolution for almost ANY need. I used to know a guy who shot billboards with a 4MP camera. 16.1 MP is enough for almost anyone, and the target market of this camera is everyone from 100% amateur to enthusiastic photo nut. What do these people take photos of? Their kids, flowers, their pets, themselves, vacations, landscapes… Yep, 16.1 Megapixels is plenty!  What is really improved with this sensor though is the color rendition. Quite simply put, it is gorgeous. Look at the ISO 1250 shot above of the fruit bowl, which is an out of camera JPEG shot with the kit zoom. The high ISO capabilities of the 5n are ridiculous for  this size of a camera. ISO 25,600 can be used in a pinch of you absolutely need the shot. 12,800 even better and 6400, no problem. This is an improvement over the past NEX-5, no question. This new sensor is a WINNING even more than Charlie Sheen.
  • The new touch screen LCD Panel – Sony added a touch screen to the NEX-5N but they did NOT add it to the C3. Will I use the touch screen? Probably not while shooting as it does not work as slickly as the E-P3 touch screen. With the sony you have to do a double tap to take a photo, with the Olympus you touch once and it focuses super fast and snaps the shot. I may use the touch screen while reviewing photos as it works like my trusty iPhone. More from Sony: 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 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.
  • Improved HD Movie mode – From Sonys Web Site: Record Full HD 1920×1080 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.
  • Worlds shortest shutter lag – 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.
  • 10 Frames Per Second – 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.
  • Ability to use the new OLED EVF (The C3 does not allow  this) – 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.
  • New BIONZ Image Processing Power – 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.
  • Manual Focus Peaking (Also in old Nex-5 via firmware update) – 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.
So with all of these new additions the #1 thing to rave about (in case I did not already mention this) here is the new sensor. Even when shooting with the 18-55 Kit zoom, the output is wonderful. When shooting with my Leica 50 Summilux ASPH via an adapter, the quality I am seeing is better than what I used to get with the standard NEX-5, and it is breathtaking if the light is right.
To be honest, after shooting with this camera for a while I almost wish sony would have used this sensor for the NEX-7! I am a little worried that the 7 with its 24 megapixels will be more noise filled at higher ISO, but we will see, maybe it will be even better. Let’s be real for a second…Super high ISO past 3200/6400 is over rated anyway and no one I know ever goes past 6400.
From what I am seeing in the 5N, it appears to be the new king of the “Bang for the Buck” digital cameras on the market. No it is not cheap at $699 but for what you get it IS really a deal. But the NEX-5N is NOT perfect. Read on to find out what I do not like about the NEX system.
Sony NEX-5n with 16mm – not bad huh?
Kit Zoom – ISO 500 – Out of camera JPEG

16mm – the colors are pretty close to what I saw

The NEX-5N is not perfect. What are the negatives with the NEX system?

So you thought this was going to be a 100% rave about the NEX-5N? Well, as a camera I have mostly great things to say about it. Then again, I ONLY review and write about cameras that I like as I hate negativity and I hate whining. Be assured if I write about a camera here with a full review then I have used it and really liked it. I liked it enough to write about it because if I hate a camera I am not inspired to write about it and why should I? Crap cameras should not get publicity :)

So seeing that the 5N’s positives greatly outweighed it’s problems I am now sitting here writing about it. The NEX system as a whole is still fairly new. Basically, it has only been about a year since the very 1st cameras were introduced and because of this the main problem with the NEX system is there are no really good lenses available! Well, there are lenses, but not many. You would think that Sony, a GIANT among GIANTS would be able to whip out 4-5 new lenses..like..right now. BUT they have been slow going. The 1st year all we had for native lenses was the 18-55 Kit Zoom, the 16mm Pancake Kit Lens, and the 18-200 super zoom. There were no fast primes and the 18-55 and 16mm were very soft on the NEX-3 and 5. That was the one drawback to many who wanted to step forward with a NEX purchase. The lenses.

How long has the Micro 4:3 format been out now? 2-3 years? They are JUST now starting to get some great lenses for that system so maybe it is just a matter of time for the NEX system. This year we will get the new 24 1.8 Zeiss prime which is AWESOME. We will also get the new 50 1.8 lens which will be affordable as well as useful. This is good news but still, as of this writing, these lenses are NOT available.

As of now all I have to use natively is the 16mm and the 18-55. The great news is that the NEX-5N seems to work better with these lenses than the previous “5”. Maybe it is just my eyes playing tricks on me but the performance of these kit lenses seems to have gotten a little bit of a boost with the new sensor. So much so that I am now a fan of the 18-55 and I never thought I would say that about this lens. The 16mm still leaves a bit to be desired in the contrast/color/sharpness area.

The other negative of the NEX-5n is still all about the control. It has the same control scheme as the old 5, no added buttons. The buttons are customizable though so this is a step in the right direction (with the 7 being the ultimate NEX design). It is also VERY small and the lenses are a bit LARGE. Cameras like the Olympus E-P3 have SMALL lenses with a smallish body. The NEX-5N is about TINY body, LARGE lenses! Kind of odd but it is what it is due  to the larger sensor being used in the NEX system. Some will argue that the Leica M9 is a full frame and it uses small lenses. True, but the Leica lenses are MANUAL focus and aperture. They do not need AF motors or mechanisms inside the lenses, which in turn makes them bigger. Still, the NEX-5N and kit zoom or even the 24 1.8 is NOT as big or fat or bulky as a DSLR. Not even close.

Compared to the Olympus E-P3 the E-P3 feels more solid and better built and is also heavier. It also feels better and more comfortable in the hand than the NEX-5n and focuses quicker. The NEX-5n will hunt a bit in lower light when using Auto Focus. At least with the 18-55 kit lens it does. I am also getting more accurate focus with my E-P3 as it never seems to fail me. The NEX-5n did fail a few times when shooting in lower light scenarios, meaning the focus was off. But there are tradeoffs. The swivel LCD of the NEX and the better quality it is capable of may outweigh everything else for some.

There you go, those things are really about the only negative things I can say about this camera/system. The same things people have been saying for a year. What is interesting is the NEX-7 seems to have fixed almost all complaints. The body is a little larger, it has a built in EVF and control wheels up top and new lenses on the way. Mark my words.The 7 will be the superstar in the NEX line if the image quality is as good as it is in this NEX-5n, and on paper it appears it SHOULD surpass it. We shall see. I think the Zeiss 24 1.8 will be a GREAT pairing with the NEX-5N and 7.

Speaking of Image Quality

ISO 500 – NEX-5n and 18-55 – Click image for larger version

The image quality of the NEX-5 is absolutely killer and I have been using the cheap-o kit zoom lens and cheaper still 16mm! When I opened up my files I expected the somewhat dull, somewhat fuzzy results that I seemed to get from my old NEX-5 most of the time. Or even the sharper and more colorful results (but still a little “fuzzy”) that I got from the C3. WRONG! When I opened up the JPEG files from the NEX-5N I rubbed my eyes and said “WTF”?? Gorgeous color. Smooth detail. No fuzziness or softness anywhere. Sure I still saw the distortion from the 18-55 when at 18mm (until I enabled in camera distortion correction) but the image quality POPPED off of my screen. Sony has really improved the color and out of camera JPEGS with this camera.

Again, I will say that if you are thinking of a new NEX and are in this price range, do NOT even consider the NEX-C3! The 5N is now $100 more and you get so much more for  that $100. I can NOT recommend the C3 but will highly recommend the 5N just due to its new sensor and performance. C3 with Kit lens is $549 – NEX-5n with kit zoom is $699

NEX-5n with the 16mm at 2.8

Another with the 16mm. Remember you can click image for larger view.

Keep in mind though that while the high ISO performance is the best yet in a NEX camera, when you get to lower light and past ISO 1250 you will start losing a bit of color fidelity and things will start getting a little more dull. Not really dull, but not as vibrant and nice as if you shot low ISO in good light. Also, the 5n seems to underexpose a little when using their evaluative metering. I found using center weighted helped. Speaking of low light…

Shooting the NEX 5n in Low Light – The true test of High ISO

I took the NEX-5n out with me one day to the local Aquarium because I knew it would be a challenge due to the very low light and funky lighting. As I stated at the top of this review ALL images in this review are out of camera JPEGS as at the time of this writing Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop do not convert NEX-5n files. So everything you see here is all JPEG. When Adobe updates Camera RAW I will update this review at the bottom with some RAW conversions.

So at the aquarium I also brought along my Olympus E-P3 and can say without a doubt that the Olympus focuses faster in good and low light. It’s instant but the Sony hunts a bit when the lights go down. Still, both are fairly quick though the Sony has to use the assist lamp to nail it and I was not using the assist light with the E-P3. I also got quite a bit more image noise with the E-P3 files at LOWER ISO’s than I did with the NEX-5n files at higher ISO’s.  The NEX-5n’s images were also “richer” and had a little more depth due to the larger sensor. With the new image processing in the 5n, the JPEGS are much nicer than those from the old 5. Sharper, more colorful and they seem to pop out at you.

ISO 1250, 18-55 kit zoom – click image for larger version

ISO 3200 in VERY low light. Low light is where you can see the real high ISO performance. 

iso 3200 – click image for larger

I can say with confidence that the quality in REALLY low light and higher ISO was pretty darn good. I left the camera on Auto White Balance and Auto Focus. I shot with the 18-55 wide open as I could get it and I hoped for the best. No, these are not noise free with perfect tone and color but no camera will give you this at high ISO’s like 3200 IN super low light. For being handicapped with a slow zoom and not using any kind of flash, AND being in a dim and dark aquarium, this IS impressive.

Imagine if we had a time machine and went back to the days of the Nikon D2h and Canon D30 with a camera like the NEX-5n. ISO 25,600? CRAZY! We can get better quality today in a $700 camera set than we used to get from a $5000 camera body. Technology just keeps getting better and better. I wonder what digital will be like in 10 years from now? Hmmmm.

SUPER High ISO – Is it useable?

Yes, this camera goes up to ISO 25,600 (see the 1st shot below) but usually when you see this listed on a camera spec sheet you can laugh it off as a joke. The 5n at its maximum ISO, if taken in “decent” light, meaning, not bright but not dark, can yield pretty incredible results… and  the shots still hold detail which is pretty freaking cool. Take a look below at my SUPER HIGH ISO SHOTS and crops. You must click each image to see the lull size out of camera versions.

My conclusion? I have yet to see any camera beat this for high ISO..well, maybe the 100lb Nikon D3s, but maybe not? Still, the sweet spot for the 5n is between 100-1250 ISO.

Low Light HIGH HD Video

I also shot some low light and high ISO HD video at 3200 and even 6400 ISO. The results are below and I am impressed! Remember, this video was shot with the SLOW 18-55 and HIGH iso!

Shooting the NEX-5n with Leica glass – Let the focus peaking begin!


As 98% of you already know, you can shoot the NEX-5n with Leica glass just like  you did with the NEX-5. Just buy an adapter like THIS ONE and you are all set. Though if you want the BEST adapter I would buy THIS ONE. But why spend all of that cash when there are adapters available for 10X less? Well, I already have been through FOUR of the cheap M to NEX adapters and they all become loose over time and the lenses wobble. The higher priced model from Novoflex has not done that and it provides a very FIRM fit. Expensive but will last. I guess it is for those who like to buy one time and be done with it. There is a difference and after a year of use and four cheap adapters I decided it was time to bite the bullet for the Novoflex especially with my new found love for this system and manual glass with its EVF and focus peaking.

Old M mount glass, new M mount glass…they all work lovely on the NEX-5N and even better than they did on the old 5 it seems. The 5n comes loaded with the new Focus Peaking feature that allows us to easily shoot with our old manual lenses and get our shots IN FOCUS. I show an example of this in the video at the top of this page. When manually focusing using the rear LCD or the EVF you will see your in focus ares light up and that is when you know you are in focus. It’s quick and easy and works pretty damn good. The EVF worlds AMAZINGLY well with manual focusing using peaking. Spot on every time for me. I had the camera set to  HIGH for peaking and used the RED color. In bright sun it is hard to see the rear LCD but the EVF saved the day and made it a breeze.

Below are a few shots taken with the 5n and the Leica 50 Summilux ASPH. In my opinion the results speak for themselves and the quality is gorgeous.

The next four shots were all with the NEX-5n and Leica 50 Summilux ASPH at 1.4


and the next two were shot with the 5n and 50 Summitar at f/2 in Dynamic B&W mode

The NEX-5n Picture Effects & other fun features

Inside the “Brightness/Color” menu you will see the choice to choose a Picture Effect, if and only if you are shooting JPEG only. This area will be greyed out if shooting in RAW format, even RAW + JPEG. This seems to be Sony’s attempt at creating Art Filters like Olympus does in their cameras. Inside the NEX menu you will find the following choices:

Toy Camera, Pop Color, Posterization, Retro Photo, Soft High Key, Partial Colors, High Contrast B&W, Soft Focus, HDR Painting, Rich B&W (like B&W HDR), Miniature

There is also the old standby options like Hand Held Twilight and Sweep Panorama which I spoke of in my NEX-5 review almost a year ago.

Sweep Panorama works great and is super easy to use.

The NEX-5n VS the others

I am already getting the question “Which camera should I buy”? Again, I can not answer that for you and all you can do is look at reviews on various sites and judge for yourself. I will give my thoughts on a few hot cameras right now and how they compare though.

NEX-5n vs Olympus E-P3 – The Olympus looks cooler, feels better built, and feels better in my hand. It’s more expensive and has a smaller sensor that puts out more noise than the NEX-5n. The 5n is capable of higher resolution, more depth, and shallower depth of field to the photos but lenses are lacking for the NEX system at the time of this writing.

If you do not mind a smaller sensor, not as good low light performance, and paying a little more, the Olympus E-P3 will give you faster auto focus, super clean low light video (not sure how they pull it off but they do) and access to some cool lenses like the Olympus 12mm f/2, 45 1.8, Panasonic 20 1.7 and 25 1.4. BUT the image quality will be better with the 5n in lower light and high ISO. Also, the 5n has a swivel LCD which I used quite a bit and appreciated. The E-P3 has to be held level so you can see what you are doing (unless you have the EVF). Also, the Sony NEX 5n with the new OLED EVF is fantastic. Almost a must IMO.

E-P3 – Better build and feel but more expensive. Easier to control, faster AF, in body image stabilization and good HD video though lots of “Jello Effect” if IS is on. Noisy high ISO, less shallow depth of field.

NEX 5n – Better low light capability and cleaner high ISO images, better battery life, 24P and 60P manual control HD video, larger sensor and higher resolution with great color and more deoth. Also more HD video options (No Jello Problem) and swivel LCD screen. No in body IS.

NEX-5n vs The Fuji X100The Fuji X100 is a fantastic camera as well and is only hindered by it’s slow and quirky operation. Slower AF, slow write times, slow feeling when compared to other similar cameras. BUT the Fuji has a great fast prime lens that delivers rich and nice colorful images. It is great to hold and feels super good in the hand, more like a traditional camera. The beauty of it is that it has a built in hybrid VF and there is no need to buy an external. The X100 can not change lenses though so you must be happy with a 35mm field of view. The NEX-5n is a totally different camera than the Fuji but beats it in the HD video department and speed department. Also, the Sony can change lenses and use a multitude of glass using adapters. In my opinion, the Fuji feels like a camera and the NEX more like an electronic gadget. Which you choose is all down to taste and preference.

Fuji X100 – Nice design, built in hybrid EVF/OVF, great fast prime 35mm equivalent lens, beautiful files and great low light performance. Also silent in operation.

NEX-5n – Faster in focusing and write times, even better high ISO capability, better battery life, better HD video, smaller body but bigger lenses and louder shutter.

NEX-5n vs Ricoh GXR System – The Ricoh GXR system is a great little camera system that uses “modules” with the lens and sensor all built into one “Cartridge” that slides on to the body of the GXR. I loved this system while I owned it but sold it off after acquiring the Fuji X100 and Olympus E-P3. Why? Because it had shutter speed limitations that I did not like. The Fuji has them too but its built in ND filter solves the issues. I still love the GXR and what it does because it is a fantastic everyday shooter that gives wonderful and rich quality. There are only two lenses for the GXR system worth owning IMO, the 28 and 50 APS-C A12 modules. Their new Leica M mount module is arriving any day now so that should be interesting though 1st samples I have seen have been underwhelming to me.

In real use, the NEX-5n beats the GXR in focus speed, high ISO, HD video but the GXR wins in usability and build and has better lenses. Also, the GXR LCD does not swivel though you can buy an external EVF for it. This one comes down to personal preference as the GXR is a camera you will either LOVE or HATE.

Ricoh GXR – Built very well, versatile with the superb 28 and 50mm f/2.5 modules, snap focus for street shooters works well, high ISO is good up to 3200.

NEX-5n – Swivel LCD, high ISO capability, awesome HD video but lack of lenses right now hurts the NEX system.

NEX-5n vs NEX C3 and older NEX-5 – NO CONTEST. If you are going to buy a new NEX camera right now and are not planning on buying the super NEX-7 at $1199, then go for the 5N. It is the biggest bang for the buck and it makes no sense to buy the C3 when the 5n is only $100 more. You gain metal build, better grip, touch screen, quieter shutter sound and possibly better high ISO and JPEG sharpness. Also, the 5n is a better buy than the old 5 unless you are getting a GREAT deal on the old 5. This one is easy, if buying new, go for the 5N, no contest.

NEX-5n vs NEX-7 – Hmmm. Well, no one has held or shot with a working NEX-7 as of this writing so this is tough but on paper, the camera to choose would be the 7 if you r budget allowed. It’s the superman of the NEX series and I can not wait to get my hands on it. I am excited most about the OLED built in EVF and two control wheels on top. I am also happy that it is a little larger than the 5n. Finally, I can compose on a NEX, even with old manual glass and use the built in EVF to frame and focus AND use my fingers to control the Aperture without looking out of the EVF. Also, I won’t have a huge wart sitting on top if I want to use the EVF. From a design standpoint, the NEX-7 is perfect. WIll it have as good of high ISO performance of the 5n. Unllikely, but who uses ISO 12,000 in real life anyway? Not me, I usually max out at 6400 no matter what, and even that is rare. Im sure the 7 will be fantastic at 3200. Me, I am buying the 7 for my personal use for the reasons I described. It even has a built in flash unlike the C3 and 5n.

BUT, if you do not have that kind of budget, or prefer the design of the 5n then the 5n is the best of the NEX series for  you. Even if you do not need the NEX 7 features you could save some money and buy a 5n (or keep your old 3 or 5) and buy a new lens like the upcoming Zeiss 24 1.8 or Sony 50 1.8. This would be a great addition as glass is always more of an investment than a body. A NEX-5n and 18-55 and EVF will cost you $1049. The NEX-7 with no lens is $1199, with the kit zoom $1349. So $300 more for the NEX-7 body, design, features and higher res sensor. In reality, not bad IMO as it looks like a long term keeper.

NEX-5n vs Leica M9 – Ok, I had to do this comparison as I know I would have been asked. Leica M9P with 50 Lux vs NEX-5n with 50 Lux. Same light, same aperture. We all know these are different cameras but Sony, with the new Focus peaking and EVF is starting to really bridge that gap with the quality and user experience. This is where the new EVF shines and where the NEX-7 will really show its stuff.

Here is a full out of camera JPEG from the Sony NEX-5n with the Summilux 50 at 1.4 – Click image to see the full size

and now the same shot with the M9P and 50 Summilux, also at 1.4 – click to see the full size

The new Sony OLED EVF for the NEX-5n

I also have been able to use and try out the new EVF for the 5n and have to say that it is fantastic, but expensive at half the price of the 5n itself. Even with that being so, the view is huge, wide, and crisp. NO it does not look like an optical VF, it looks like an electronic VF but let’s face it, the EVF (Electronic View Finder) is the future of digital and I like seeing Sony push the quality up. This will be the same EVF that will be built in to the Sony NEX-7 and A-77 DSLR. Highly recommended for all NEX-5n shooters as this makes shooting the camera feel more natural and easier to compose for those of us who are more used to a viewfinder. Also, as I already hinted at, if you shoot with manual glass on your NEX I find this is a MUST own as the EVF combined with the Focus Peaking works SO well. I am sorry to say that this accessory is NOT compatible with the old NEX-5. Why? I have no idea but I think Sony should have supported the old 5 as well. Kind of crappy of them to do that.

This is the best EVF I have ever laid my hands on. Period. Not only in quality but also design and eye comfort. Below is a shot of the EVF on the black NEX-5n. Yea, it is a wart like all external EVF’s but it works and works well.

PROS and CONS of the Sony NEX-5n


  • Small size, improved sensor, super high ISO performance
  • Dynamic Range seems HIGH – dare I say better than a 5DII? Hmmm.
  • Longer battery life than the old 5
  • Faster AF than the previous 5 (but not by much)
  • Lovely color rendition when shot in good light, even good in lower light
  • Ability to shoot with third party lenses via adapter
  • Great quality HD 1080 Video with various options and manual control – no jello effect
  • New lenses finally on the way!
  • Price is right, great bang for the buck and beats the NEX-C3 easily.
  • Swivel LCD is great
  • OLED EVF is fantastic
  • 10 frames per second shooting speed is crazy fast
  • Low light twilight mode works very well as it did with the previous 5
  • Sweep panorama still rocks!
  • Focus tracking works well
  • Shutter lag is virtually non existent at 20 milliseconds.
  • Focus Peaking and EVF are a perfect match for manual glass
  • Hunts to AF in low light, even with assist lamp which is pretty bright
  • Lack of lenses right now! (at the time of this writing)
  • Lenses will always be larger than Micro 4/3 lenses
  • Still wish it had a better navigation and control system, feels more like a gadget than camera sometimes
  • EVF sticks out quite a bit (but it does lock down) and makes the camera less portable
  • Should come with a lens rear cap and camera body cap in the box but it does not
  • Should have in body image stabilization!!!
  • Touch screen does not have a touch shutter like the E-P3

My Conclusion

When the new Sony NEX-C3 arrived to me a few weeks ago I yawned. It was not enough of an improvement over the normal NEX-3  to warrant an upgrade IMO. When the 5n arrived to my doorstep I looked at it and almost yawned. It looked the same as the old 5 that I had shot with for a year but I know that looks can be deceiving. Regardless, I charged up the battery to see what it was all about expecting to write about it and say its a minor jump up from the old 5.

When I looked over my initial test shots I was amazed at the image quality coming out of the camera. The JPEGs have been improved dramatically and whatever Sony has done to the in camera processing, they did it right. The new 16.1 Megapixel APS-C sized sensor rocks and it is a huge step in the right direction to improve the NEX series of cameras. I only wish that they had a better lens than the 18-55 at this time because I know the sensor is capable of way more than the kit lenses give (even though things have improved in that area with the new sensor) after seeing the Leica glass on the camera.

The 1080 HD video is great on the 5n as well, giving you a plethora of options to choose from. I still like the 24P setting and many are in love with the new 60P option. You also have all manual control over video, which is also very welcome and appreciated. The Dynamic Range is improved as well and to my eye seems better than a Canon 5DII in that dept. Much better than Micro 4/3 in DR here guys.

Is it worth an upgrade if you have a normal 3 or 5? Well, tough to say. If you want the new features then it is worth it to you. If you do not need the extra resolution and feel you are getting what you need from the 3 or 5 already then I’d spend my money on a new lens like the Zeiss 24 1.8. The 5n does indeed up the ante in the IQ department but it is not CRAZY drastic better (though it is pretty damn good) and the old 5 is still a perfectly good camera. In use the camera feels the same though the shutter sounds better than the old clunky clunk of the old 3 and 5. When shooting with the EVF and you hear that slick sounding shutter sound you feel like you are shooting with a pro camera.

This baby also shoots at 10 frames per second though I admit I am not an action shooter. I remember when 7 FPS was a big deal on the pro DSLR’s. Now we have 10 FPS in a tiny camera that can fit into a coat pocket. Amazing. We also have some exciting new lenses on the way like the LONG awaited  Zeiss 24 1.8, also the Sony 50 1.8 and 35 Macro plus a zoom or two. S0 lenses are coming for those NEX’ers who have been patiently waiting.

I wish Sony would release a FAST pancake that is small, something like the 20 1.7 for Micro 4/3. THAT would be amazing but sadly I do not think they can do it due to the larger sensor, which is quite a bit bigger than the M4/3 sensor. The lenses have to cover the imaging sensor so I do not think we will see small AF lenses on the NEX. Manual lenses? Yes. AF lenses? No.

I like the NEX-5n and if it was not for  the NEX-7 coming out I would probably keep it. Hell, I may keep it anyway until the 7 arrives to do more Leica M glass experiments. I like what I see here so that just makes me even more excited to see the NEX-7 in action. The 5n is not perfect though as it could use better controls, a built in EVF, and a larger grip…WAIT, that sounds like the NEX-7, haha.

The bottom line is that Sony improved the 5 series and the 5n is an easy recommend as well as the best bang for the buck in the NEX line. At $699 with lens, I have to ask myself..” For the money does it get any better than this? The answer to that is NO!” 

Where to buy the Sony NEX-5N?

This camera is available just about everywhere. I buy my Sony gear from B&H Photo or Amazon. B&H has the Sony NEX-5n at the links below:


Buy the Sony NEX-5n in black, with 18-55 lens at B&H Photo HERE

Buy the Sony NEX-5n in Black, body only, at B&H Photo HERE

Buy the Sony NEX-5n in Silver with kit lens at B&H Photo HERE

Buy At Amazon!

Buy the Sony NEX-5n – Body Only – AMAZON

Buy the Sony NEX-5n with 18-55 Kit Zoom in Black – Amazon

Below are a few more images all shot with the 5n. Enjoy!


Remember, anytime you follow my links here and buy from B&H or AMAZON, this helps to keep my site going. If it was not for these links, there would be no way to fund this site, so I thank you in advance if you visit these links. I thank you more if you make a purchase! I have nifty search bars at the upper right of each page so you easily search for something at either store! I currently spend 10-14 hours a day working on this site and the only way that I can pay for it is with your help, so thank you! Currently my traffic has been increasing but my funds to pay for the site has been decreasing, so any help would be GREATLY appreciated!

Even if  you buy baby food, napkins or toothpicks at amazon it helps this site, and you do not pay anything extra by using the links here. Again, you pay nothing extra by using my links, it is just a way to help support this site, so again, I thank you in advance :)

If you enjoyed this article/review, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page and also be sure to join me on twitter or my new facebook fan page! Also, you can subscribe to my feed at my subscribe page HERE and read these posts in your browser or news reader!

Aug 312011

The Sony NEX-5N First Look thoughts and video!

This is NOT my review. The full review will be up soon!

Here is  quick first look at the Sony NEX-5N, the replacement for the very popular NEX-5. So what does the new 5N bring to the table? First of all, more resolution. The NEX-5N ups the ante with 16.1 Megapixels versus the 14 of the 5 . It also adds the new BIONZ processing, a touch screen, and the ability to add an EVF much like the Olympus PEN series. It also has 10 frames per second shooting compared to the 7 of the NEX-5 and has the 1080P video mode with different frame rate options. The new 5N is sold as a body only or with the 18-55 kit lens for $699. Only $50 more than the old NEX-5 and also $50 more than the new NEX-C3 that does not have a touch screen, can not use the EVF and may not have as good high ISO performance. That begs the questions…why buy a new C3 if it is only $50 less than a 5N? The answer to that is, DON’T! I shot with the C3 for a few days and though it was about the same as the old 3 in regards to quality though it did seem to have better out of camera color and of course more resolution.

The 5N is the one to get though if you are deciding between the C3 and 5N or the old 5 for that matter. This one seems to give you the most bang for the buck with it’s sleeker body style, larger more comfortable grip, touch screen and better/stronger build as well as the ability to attach the EVF to the hot shoe. The C3 does not allow this. Maybe I am missing something but if anyone knows a reason to save $50 and buy the C3 fill me in. $649 vs $699 for the kit.

In use, the 5N feels just like the old 5 when shooting and it should as it’s basically the same body style and feel. Sony says the 5N has been hot rodded under the hood and I agree though it is not night and day from the old 5. The one thing I noticed when I started shooting the 5N is the color is greatly improved. With the old 5 I remember not being so happy with the color on many occasions. The 5N improves this quite a bit. Also, higher ISO all the way up to 12800 is improved with this new sensor so Sony has done it yet again in regards to low light performance in a tiny body. They also claim it has the worlds shortest shutter lag at 0.02 seconds, or 20 milliseconds. The shutter sound has improved and we now get a solid and quick snick compared to the sloppy thunk of the NEX-5.

The 5N seems like a great BANG FOR THE BUCK kind of camera.

I’m still holding out for the NEX-7 though as that is the one I have ordered for myself just due to the controls, the built in OLED EVF and crazy resolution sensor. It should be a monster with Leica glass and the new Sony/Zeiss 24 1.8.

Again, keep in mind, this is not my review! The review will be up REALLY soon!

BELOW: Some quick-n-dirty test shots at higher ISO…

Here is one shot I snapped as an out of camera JPEG at ISO 1600. This is STRAIGHT from the camera. Click on it to see the 100% crop. BTW, B&H Photo is now taking pre-orders for the NEX-5N.

Here is a full size out of camera JPEG at ISO 6400. Click it for full size. Untouched, and right out of the camera.

and one more at ISO 12,800

and why not? ISO 25,600

Jul 282011



WOOHOO! As I posted over a week ago, I am giving away a SLR Magic 28 2.8 Manual lens for the NEX E-Mount cameras (NEX-5, 3, C3, etc) and the contest is underway with some fantastic submissions already sent in to me. (see details below).

SLR Magic/NOKTOR donated the 28 2.8 lens for a giveaway and they wanted to sweeten the pot a bit so they sent me another super cool prize to GIVE AWAY for this contest and it is their top of the line E-Mount offering, the Noktor 50 f/0.95 Hyper Prime for E-Mount. I already announced that Noktor is releasing a 50 0.95 for Leica mount, which will be an ALL NEW Lens design but this one for the E mount is similar to the Micro 4/3 version. I did a few test snaps around my house with the lens and it looks pretty good so far. I did NOT get to take it out anywhere so I have no idea of the quality but I am going to do my best to review it before shipping it to the winner :) It would also be cool if the winner wrote up an article with some images shot with the lens…hmmmmm.

The lens is new, in box. It has the end cap and screw on metal lens cap. The lens is all metal, solid and heavy and seems to perform a bit better on the NEX than M4/3, probably due to the larger sensor. THANK YOU Noktor for donating this lens for the contest! Free stuff for the readers here is always VERY cool!

Here are a couple of quick samples shot with this lens around my house, at 0.95 on the NEX-5. I have NOT been able to take this lens out anywhere yet so silly house snaps is all I have!


2nd place prize, win an SLR Magic 28 2.8 E Mount lens! E

It’s contest time! This one is for all of you NEX camera owners. In addition to the 50 f/0.95 E-Mount Noktor, SLR Magic has also donated their newest creation for me to give away here on the site, the 28 2.8 manual focus lens. They sell this lens on their E-Bay page for $190 and it is a metal lens, well made, manual aperture and focus and gives a unique rendering. They also sell it with a cool MACRO adapter that works amazingly well (just got mine this morning)!

The lens is slightly soft in the corners, sharper in the middle. This is not such a good lens for landscape but can be a good choice for people, especially black & white. With the new focus peaking feature of the NEX, this lens is now much easier to use and shoot with. My review is coming soon but for now I decided to give away the lens t0 one lucky winner. My 1st look can be seen here.

To wet your appetite here are some shots from the lens on the NEX-5..

I believe this was shot in beautiful Tallinn, Estonia a few weeks ago. Click image for larger view. Wide open at 2.8.

In beautiful Amsterdam, 2.8


It’s simple! Starting today, NOW…you have until August 26th to gather and submit to me your BEST image taken with any NEX camera. I will choose the top 10 and post them on the site and YOU will vote for the winner in a poll.

The top pick will win the NOKTOR HYPERPRIME f/0.95 LENS, the 2nd prize will win the 28 2.8 lens, and the 3rd place winner will also win a nice prize, a Think Tank Retrospective 5 camera bag which is a GREAT bag for any NEX system!! 

So get to it! You can submit old shots, or a new one BUT the only rule is that it must have been shot with a SONY NEX camera! Submissions can start NOW but the deadline is August 26th 2011 at NOON (Phoenix AZ time). You can e-mail the images to me at [email protected].

RULES, follow them or else your image will NOT be entered!

  • Images must not be any larger than 1600 pixels wide horizontal or 1000 pixels wide vertical.
  • ONLY ONE IMAGE can be submitted. JUST ONE! If you send more than one you will be disqualified!
  • Post Processing is allowed but nothing so crazy that it changes the image. In other words, no “photo art” or additions to the image in PS. Just things like levels, contrast, color, etc.
  • Images MUST be shot with a SONY NEX camera. NEX-3 , 5, VG-10, 3C, etc.
  • Old or new images can be submitted but must be with a SONY NEX
  • EXIF data MUST be intact.
  • Submit image with your full name and mailing address.

ANYWAY, keep sending in your submissions to the contest! I have extended the deadline now to August 26th 2011 at noonAll other rules remain the same and the top ten will now be posted on this site on August 29th 2011. THEN you will vote for your favorites and the top three vote getters will win! Voting will last through September 4th and the winners will be announced in Monday September 5th 2011. 

1st place: Noktor Hyperprime E Mount 50 f/0.95 lens

2nd place: SLR Magic 28 2.8 E mount lens

3rd place: ThinkTank Photo Retrospective 5 Bag


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