The Sony NEX-5N Digital Camera Review – A Monster full of features!

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 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 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!

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  1. Hi Steve,

    I have the NEX-5N with 3 lenses the 16, the 18-55 and the Sigma 30, but I want more, unfortunately I think the E mount lens range is quite small and pricey, as a investment I would like to get the LA-AE2, do you think this is a good direction?
    My second issue is the lack of viewfinder, I am considering getting the EVF also …

    My question to you is regarding the direction I should go:
    – should I get the 2 and go on with cheaper lenses or
    – upgrade to NEX6 or entry DSLR and get later the adapter.

    I want to mention that I am a amateur, I got the camera because of the form factor but the performance has taken me into the photographic area much more than anticipated, discovering a new hobby.


  2. Love your PICs I have a NEX-5N and am looking for a great telephoto zoom lens combo it does not need to be Sony NEX native not sure what is the best using EA1 EA2 Sigma Lens etc. figure you have great knowledge on the subject and can point me in the right direction. Just want to take amazing distance shoots with my NEX-5N like you have done with the regular lens


  3. Steve,

    How does the Sony NEX5N stack up today against say the NEX-F3? I’m considering buying say a good second hand example. I’ve spotted the a Sunday Times Photographer with one in London. 😉 Thanks once again for a great review.

    • “I’m considering buying say a good second hand example” – Have a good look around, I picked up a NEX-5NK (Zoom kit with case) for 199GBP two days ago as a unwanted return to a store.

  4. Steve,

    Thank you so much for this very comprehensive review.
    I have been looking to move to this format and everything I have been considering pales in comparison for my budget/wants/needs. Even considering the Nex-5R through Nex-7 models.
    I bought this today and got some great deals on 55-210mm and 16mm lenses. I am impatiently waiting for the battery to charge.
    I will report back and hopefully be even more excited after using it!
    Thanks Again!

  5. Just wanted to say thanks for the fantastic review. After reading it I went out and bought the NEX-5N. Very nice piece of equipment. Now I’m going to use your links to get some accessories! Thanks again Steve.

  6. I like this review in the way you compare EP3 and NEX5N. Because now I’m in a confusion in picking up one of these two. It would be perfect for me if there is such an EP3 with NEX5N sensor.

  7. How does the Sony Nex f3 compare to the Sony Nex-5N?

    (looking for something with close to dslr quality for shooting churches, architecture & landscapes that also travels easily)

    on a budget

    • F3 is VERY similar in IQ to the NEX-5n but it’s beefier body is bigger. Id take a 5n over the F3 easily. IQ is the same really but the 5N is built better and feels better to me.

  8. Bought one after reading your review. Like it a lot. The anti-blur setting is great. One drawback is the noise it makes when the shutter releases. It is loud and is a double sound. Sounds like it has taken 2 shots. I was surprised to find the camera actually has a shutter and this is not just an electronic sound. Makes it difficult to shoot pics without disturbing people.

    • Michael,

      Go into “Menu” then “Setup” and enable “First Curtain Shutter”.

      You will find the camera responds faster to the shutter release, and you won’t get the double clunk of the shutter, just a one.

  9. Dear Steve,

    Thanks for responding to my posts in the Pentax K-01 review.
    I have now come full circle and am back where I started at the NEX cameras.
    The irony is that the NEX cameras are actually more compatible with K-mount (no electronic contacts) lenses than are current model Pentax cameras.
    A NEX camera with a $30 machined (no contacts or moving parts) adapter allows stop-down metering, so with an EVF and peaking focus assist you get as good as it gets with a legacy lens of virtually any brand. The Pentax options won’t stop down, meaning minimal depth of field on a fast prime like the 50mm f1.4 I want to use. To be fair, the current Pentax DSLRs and K-01 offer the highest level of compatibility with all lenses sporting the KA mount circa 1983 and put Nikon, Canon, Minolta (Sony) and Olympus to shame; for the most part their lenses from that era won’t even fit on a current DSLR!
    The NEX 7 is still about $700 more than the NEX 5n, so the $300 EVF as an after purchase for the 5n still makes for a considerable price difference between the two, and is not even an option (yet?) with the K-01.
    The other option, the Olympus OM-D is drop-dead desirable (I used to sell cameras during the 70s and 80s and prefer the look of cameras like the OM-4 and LX), but looking to be pricier than the NEX 7 with questionable advantages and a real problem with legacy lenses, even OM lenses. Your opinion on Olympus M43 cameras accurately metering with non-M43 lenses would be an insight, as even the Olympus literature disclaims that ability. I always thought the M43 format would eventually be the market leader and new standard that 35mm was for decades, and the OM-D sensor is pretty much there and will continue to improve to the point that it just doesn’t matter anymore. I am buoyed by the introduction of 3rd party contributors like Tamron, Sigma and Cosina/Voigtlander and trust a whole new generation of Olympus OM quality lenses will follow (most of the Olympus and Panasonic zoom lenses thus far have been uninspiring). I further note that the 3rd party manufacturers appear to have chosen NEX and M43 as stayers, but not the smaller Nikon and Pentax mounts.
    I am a lifetime Pentax devotee seriously considering jumping ship; a crisis of faith as it were. I have held on to the original lens from my 1970s MX and every other lens purchased since. I have benefitted thus far from Pentax’s brilliant backwards compatibility policy that just hasn’t existed for any other brand. I would be happier if the current KAF mount had a mechanical aperture linkage, but you’ve probably picked up on that.
    I may very well just upgrade the K200D and wait for a happy medium between the too-small Q and the too-big K-01; but I may just bite the bullet and invest in a new format.
    I am still teetering on the precipice.

    Chris Jowett

  10. I am late to this party but just tried out the 5N. I was not expecting much different than from the C3 or 3/5 even after reading Steve’s review, because well why would the 5N be THAT different? (especially with the kit zoom which I am not so fond of.) I don’t really like Sony’s JPEG processing in general anyway (too much noise reduction or should I say ‘detail reduction’ for me.)

    Well, let me say when I first looked at the images even just magnified in the camera LCD, my reaction was the same as Steve’s! Everything POPS so much more, and while the noise reduction is there the images overall look fabulous right up to ISO 3200 (I was using auto ISO). Sony has cooked up some sort of sorcery for the JPEG processing here for sure. I haven’t done A/B testing or anything like that (nor have I even tried RAW yet), but I’ve never taken photos like this with the NEX-3- which I owned for awhile.

    When Steve says the 5N is the best bang for the buck camera right now, I am very inclined to agree. I’m looking forward to trying the 5N with some other glass!

  11. Hello Steve
    It would be great if you could update your impressions with the new firmware 1.01, especially for the AF…

  12. hello steve sorry for ask again
    is this camera sony NEX 5N have slow motion video ?? and how if it have


  13. hello first of all thanks for the revivew
    i just get one NEX 5nk but i find some deffeurent bettewen what you write and what i got
    the full HD video don’t have 60 fps its 50 fps and i don’t know why not 60 fps
    could you please tell me what better sitting to get best picture
    becuse with me some awesome some not just normal

    and the lens have 2 parts one for zoom and other for clear the picture so how i adjust the lens


    • You may not have the USA version of the camera. The video frame rates are different. Not sure what you mean by “the lens has two parts – one for zoom and the other for clear” but I assume you mean the focus ring – No need to adjust the focus ring if you are using auto focus. If using manual focus the 2nd ring is for that.

    • Abu, the US frame rate is 60hz to match the American NTSC TV standard. The 50hz model you have is based on the European PAL TV standard.
      Your NEX 5N needs to be the same as the TV standard in your region, that’s all. Otherwise, the cameras are the same.

  14. A very honest appraisal of the camera and its pro’s and cons. Thanks, Steve.

    For all you guys out there who appreciate a large sensor in a small package, a MANUAL zoom lens for which the physical size of the lens is a bonus, I’m with you. To get all this in a camera other than the 5N, you need a big, bulky and heavy dslr. NO contest.

    For those of you who seriously criticise the camera because it doesn’t fit in a shirt pocket, get real, this is a camera, not a handkerchief.

  15. Nice review, just leaves me with one question:

    When compared to C3 and old 5, you mentioned the old 5 could be reasonable buy with “GREAT deal”. I’m in europe and offered basic zoomkit of old 5 at 399€ and 5N with same kit 630€. Would you consider old model with this price difference ?`As far as i can google, both prices are pretty good at EU market.

    And once again, thanks for the GREAT review!

    • Clueless,
      Living in the UK and converting € to £ the price is not unreasonable for the old 5 plus the 18-55 kit lens. However, having owned the original 5, I was very pleased with it, but that is until the 5N hit the shelves.

      As Steve’s review reveals, it may look like a 5, but underneath it is a completely different beast. Image quality is significantly improved, and in-camera corrections can be set to correct chromatic aberration, vignetting and barrel distortion. High ISO noise performance is a revelation and first curtain shutter release makes picture taking virtually instantaneous and, incidentally, the shutter is quieter in this mode.
      Only the 5N can take the truly remarkable EVF, if your pocket can’t extend to a NEX7 and “focus peaking” is a real boon when using manual focus film camera lenses.

      If I were you, and funds permit, I’d go the extra mile and get the 5N.

  16. Great review as always Steve.

    I’ve had the NEX5N for a month now and couldn’t be happier. I ditched the twin lense kit that came with camera and have purchase some legacy glass.

    Rokkor MC PG 50mm 1.4
    Rokkor MC HG 35mm 2.8
    Rokkor MC Tele QD 135mm 3.5

    I’m enjoying them all with the 5N, especially the 50mm.
    Now to buy a nice legacy wide angled lense. 🙂

    • Can I ask you which adaptor you are using for the Rokkor lenses?
      Also, do you use the camera in aperture priority mode with these lenses.
      I have three Rokkor MC/MD lenses from my film SLR days and am considering buying the NEX 5n once it becomes available again in Canada.

      • Hi Gil,

        I purchased a “Pixoo MD-NEX adapter from Ebay. I typed in Minolta-Nex adapter and many options came up and just got the cheapest.

        As for Aperture Priority mode, I haven’t really used it much yet. I have used the SCN (scene selection) mode, and just scroll through and use landscape, portrait, macro etc as needed.


  17. Well I got the C3 twin lens kit for $500, so I’m happy with the price. Would need to double that price to get the 5N with both lenses. Next camera purchase can be body only.

  18. What adapter would you use on the 5n for old Minolta Rokkor lenses? The are manual focus and operate on A or S priority on my old Minolta XD film SLR. What do you do about exposure if they are mounted on the 5n?

  19. Hi,
    great website!

    I want to buy the best camera for taking long exposure pics, which one would you say it will have the best image quality is bigger I am assuming that this is the one to go for, but I have reading in your post that the nex-5n is the best for low light conditions even tho its pixel pitch is smaller than the x100.

  20. Glad I stumbled onto your site, I just purchased a C3 w/ 18-55mm lens on sale for $500, I won’t get much chance till the summer to really use it so I think I should just return it and save up the extra cash for the 5N.

    • Returned it today, 5n it is! (unless a newer Nex in the same price range is released before the summer)

  21. Great reviews, Steve. Are you related to the great line backer, Paul Huff?

    I bought the Nex-5N while waiting for my Nex-7. I’m very happy with it.

    I would like to see the firmware upgraded to allow turning off the shutter noise.

  22. Hello again (wrote a post on September 20, above)

    I changed my mind. Listen to this. I have sold my Nex-5N with a small loss of money and bought a Leica D-Lux 5.

    I’ll tell you why:

    First of all sizes. NEX-5N is not a small camera. The problem is the lens which is huge relative to the camera body.

    Just the camera, with the large sensor, is fantastic. However, I have come to myself that I do not care about all the technical possibilities of the camera. As someone wrote “I feel as if I operate a PC”.

    The lens (the kit was 18-55 mm) is not good enough. We need probably a Sony lens for about $ 900 to get quite sharp images. So, it pulls the perceived value. Being able to tilt the screen is good. But not necessary.

    The menu is very messy and big. To find where to format the memory card takes several minutes. Then it’s an incredibly clicking on the touch screen for a variety of settings.

    No, I would like to return to image creativity. Back to basic photography.

    Although Leican not have the same sensor, so it feels more like camera, if you know what I mean.

    So, goodbye Sony. Welcome Leica.

    best regards
    Jonas Hallström

    • I’m confused, about your reasoning. NEX-5N is NOT a big camera. Try to carry around Canon 5D or 7D with a 70-200 mm lens, and you will see what big and heavy is. Yes, if you go from a $100 Point and Shoot camera, then yes NEX-5N with the 18-55mm is larger, but in your terms, it comes with a HUGE sensor with HUGE advantage in picture quality. The only advantage that Leica D-lux5 may have (for the uninitiated) is the nice red logo in front of it, but the rest is just fluff. BTW, 18-55 mm Sony kit lens is plenty sharp, so is the 16 mm/F2.8 that can be had for additional $99. I took few night Christmas pictures over a week ago, and believe me all pictures are plenty sharp.

      • What is it they say? The taste is different.

        I fully understand that the camera (NEX-5N) is good. I have photographed throughout the fall with it. But if you, like me, want to shove it in the pocket of a winter jacket, which can be quite large (think a big down jacket). So, the camera is too big. Certainly it is very small compared to a DSLR camera.

        This has been my concern throughout the fall, really. I want a small camera as possible with the best performance possible. Canon S95/100 are worthy opponents. Actually, they are perhaps better from the aspect of performance and small size.

        Taking photographs is not only razor sharp images (although it is preferred). There is also a question of feeling in the composition and if you annoy yourself on the menu and size, like me, it is not fun. In fact, I wondered for a while to ignore a real camera and just use Hipstamatic on the iPhone. Which is almost a revolution for fun shooting 😉

        Agree that the camera takes great pictures even if you lose a little sharpness at 100% in the pictures with the kit lenses. Steve Huff has used a very expensive Leica lens on one of the pictures above. Then the “camera” is not so affordable anymore.

        Anyway. Enjoy your NEX. I do not feel at home. Sony has a lot to work with in terms of usability.

        The best

        • One thing that Sony could improve in NEX-5n is focus speed. There are still situation where the lens has problems in getting the right subject for focus. But…. in dark situations even my 7D with Tamron zoom lens will refuse to focus on a subject. Lens quality obviously comes to play. In the same lighting situation my 50 mm 1.4 prime has no problems what so ever.
          You are right, putting NEX5n in some small pockets could be a problem, but if you are a tourist and quality is your top concern Nex5n with a somewhat big zoom lens and extra 16 mm wide angle prime is not doable. Otherwise … why not use Iphone 4s? Pictures it takes with decent lighting are fabulous.

          • Boggy, I am with you completely. One thing I have found is to always go after the brightest cameras, in terms of point and shoot. Otherwise it is of course the lens you have to look at. Then it will be expensive. That’s a big difference in kit lens 18-55 mm f 3.5 and a camera lens that works with f.2, 0.


  23. Hi Steve, great website!

    Steve I want to buy the best camera for taking long exposure pics, which one would you say it will have the best image quality: x100 or nex-5n? Having in mind that the pixel pitch in the x100 is bigger I am assuming that this is the one to go for, but I ve reading in your post that the nex-5n is the best for low light conditions even tho its pixel pitch is smaller than the x100.

    Your thoughts?

    Thanks a lot

  24. I am a student and I am very interested to buy NEX-5n……. Due to my low budget, do I really need to buy the External EVF ? I ‘m not a very good photographer haha I just love to shoot pictures during my travel …

  25. Guys, can someone shed some light on the improvement of the NEX-5N over the cons mentioned for the NEX-5 below.

    -Built in mic for video does not handle loud music well (most important for me)
    -AF sometimes misses, though says its confirmed
    -Lenses have distortion and are a bit “lackluster” in detail and oomph

    Thank you!

    • Hey Eugene…

      The built in mic is most likely still weak…teh AF is faster than the 5 and i didn’t have any issues with it on the 5n. Also, the 5n has made the kit lenses perform better. They do very well on the 5n.

  26. Hello Steve,

    I have to make a decision, may you can help me. I like to photograph about 40 years. For every day use i need an new camera (street-photography, landscape, portrait). My Canon G12 is broken.

    Which one you would prefer; which one you think is better for this job:

    1. Olympus E-PL3 or
    2. Sony Nex 5N

    Thanks for help!
    Greetings from Germany,

  27. Fantastic job! I’m Italian and I was looking for a complete and clear review…and now I can say I’ve found it!Not as other famous sites commercially oriented.
    I suppose I’ll buy the nex-5n very soon and I’m very happy after that I ‘ve read this review…It’s the confirm that I needed.Thanks a lot!

  28. Fyi, if you have a Ritz or Kits Camera store near you then take a look at the Sunday ad. It shows the 5N with the 18-55 lens for $599. When i inquired in the store they said that it was a misprint and its actually the older Nex 5 that’s on sale. All of the ads they had in the store were corrected with black marker. They of course did not honor the pricing mistake as there is a disclaimer on the back of the ad that protects them from such mistakes.

    However, i had no problem using the ad across the street at Best Buy. The add also has the 16mm pancake for $99 if you buy it at the same time as the camera so for the regular price of the kit i was able to get both lenses.

    Check it out.

  29. Thank you for the review. Yesterday I made the decission and ordered one. I’m looking forward for the new lenses – and as you mentioned: A pancake similar to the Panasonic 20mm/1.7 MFT ist missing…
    As you mentioned: Maybe it is difficult to build such small lenses for the APS-C chip. But Samsung already has a 30mm/2.0

  30. Great review!
    I like the, “real world style” of your reviews.
    I linked directly to B&H and bought the NEX 5n kit and the 16mm lens for $99 extra.
    I await it’s delivery.
    Again, thanks for the review.

  31. Steve,

    Nice review. I’m about to go on a trip overseas and will be sight seeing. I considered the 5N with 18-55 (good price!) but am worried I will hate the controls after a while. I’ve already played with it at the Sony store and the ergonomics bugged me, and I have small hands.

    It didn’t seem like I could easily change the most common variables–shutter, aperture, ISO–but I am told that custom buttons really mitigate this ergonomic “issue.” I would prefer the NEX7 but it’s double the price of the 5N kit for just the body. Oh yeah, I’m a beginner but I’d like something to take with me in December. Also considered the PEN EP3, which looked freaking sweet, but worried about the high ISO vs NEX series.

    Quick thoughts? Thanks!

  32. I think they are pushing the sensor to get the high ISO performance. I see a lot of noise at ISO 1250 in the dark areas of the picture. The light areas (faces etc) are fine but dark tables and jeans show horrible noise .

  33. Thank you for this great overview.

    Could you confrim the following features while shooting video in AF mode?

    1 – Can you modify Aperture, ISO, Shutter while shooting and still retain AF?
    It does not seem to be a possibility on the NEX-7, a65 or a77.

    2 – Can you easily lock you exposure to prevent exposure creep due to scene change? and still retain AF?

    3 – Can you lock your focus while in AF?

  34. This camera may have the world’s shortest release time but that’s not the same as shutter lag. While looking at this camera today I noticed a substantial difference between it and the Olympus Mini.

    Another source says the Sony Nex 5n shutter lag is 235ms, that’s almost a quarter of a second. And I believe that is an accurate figure as the 5n is noticeably slower than the $499 Olympus Mini. Big surprising difference.

    I prefer the Sony Nex 5n as its screen tilts and it’s quality knocks me over, the Olympus Mini screen has a cloudy vagueness about it, like the lens is flaring or something. The Mini is a FAST little shooter though, so $200 price difference has to be considered based on what you want:

    Do you want a camera that can catch the decisive moment or do you want a camera that is easy on your eyes, neck and arms (the zombie shooting stance with fixed screens is something future generations may guffaw about! I mean it looks predatory and nerdy holding a camera like that. Sorry)

  35. As always, I love the review Steve. I finally got mine (NEX 5N) along with a Voigtlander 21mm f/4 Pancake Lens, and I’m loving it so far. I’ve been testing it for just over a week shooting jpegs only, from ISO 100-250, and the results a just outstanding. I will start shooting RAW as soon as I upgrade to Lightroom 3. The files are so nice, and the lens is so sharp, I can easily use it for a magazine photo shoot! Sold my E-PL2 and moved to Sony. Thanks again Steve for your great review.

  36. Such a great review. Just a small question for those of us who cannot afford a shirt full of Leica lenses no matter how much we might like them.
    BUT we do have a shirt full of good Pentax Primes DA21/DA35 Macro/ DA40 / FA77 … I know you liked the K5 and wonder if you had tried Pentax primes on the NEX5N or the NEX7 as they seemed a poor mans option …. also with the paucity of primes the NEX7 body becomes really worth buying with the 16mm for me as i can add in those other focal lengths. I will put this on the NEX7 review as well . hope thats ok.
    I must say i love a review which is about use of a camera / and look of the out put .. rather than pixel peeping With great thanks from Dartmoor UK … Tom

  37. I have only one major problem with this camera: No built in flash, nor standard hot shoe for one. I think that this is going to make me stop from buying. Will wait for something else. The occasional need for fill-in flash cannot be done without it. Maybe I am missing something. Would the built in HDR support eliminate the need for one? Any thoughts?

    • The NEX-5N comes with a detachable flash. An i bought this Awesome invention and its been working great for me. 😀

      • Yeah…. and if you start adding all of the other REALLY needed attachments you will end up with: 1) bag of different parts 2) the cost will hit or exceed the cost of a bigger brother NEX-7, which one may justify if the camera really hit the target.
        I thought that the reason for the existence of NEX-5 and others was to travel small. Anyway, I think it was a clear mistake by not including minimum the flash… IMHO, that is.
        So, now I have a REAL dilemma: go with this little puppy, which delivers amazing picture quality in a very small box, or go with Fuji X100 (or NEX-7, if the quality is just right), or….. wait for something else. I guess Will have to flip a coin 🙂

        • My 5N came with a flash in box so am not sure why mms_004 had to buy one separately. It also come with a little and I mean little (size of a book fo matches) case that attaches to the camera strap. Apart from the clicking, which to be honest it sounds like a lens cap clacking on the camera which I have with my DSLR all the time. I’ll send it back but for me it’s really a non issue I bought the camera for the quality of pics not for taking videos.

          • Oops sorry I think I misread mms_004 and thought he’s bought the flash when he was meaning he bought the camera.

          • For some reason I was under impression that the flash was an option. I almost bought an “extra” flash with my 5n. Only careful reading of the “What’s in the box” on bhphoto made me realize, that I didn’t need to (the money will go against the alpha lens adapter as it gets cheaper :))
            Can’t wait till the new camera arrives.
            Has clicking issue been resolved in the unites that are being shipped recently, or it is still something I will have to deal with?

          • OK…. I revisited B&H …again to clarify the situation with the flash.
            When one buys the NEX-5N kit ($599) it DOES come with the flash in addition to the lens. When you opt for a body-only version, it DOES NOT.
            So, for additional $100 you get both lens AND the flash. Good deal. Oh… and let’s not forget about the additional deals that Sony/B&H have till the end of November / December. For additional $100 one can get 16mm pancake lens…. Loving it!

          • What I’ve heard is that any unit you get between now and Christmas will be the clicking version the new non-clicking ones aren’t going to be available until the new year. I’m guessing this is because as they aren’t recalling it they don’t want a mass flood of people looking to exchange when it’s a fixable problem.

          • It is kind of silly, I am still going to send mine in to Sony for fix, since they did acknowledge the issue, and have the fix. Yeah, it will take 7-10 days, but still can be done buy having individual customers deal with it on one-bye-one basis. Wouldn’t it be cheaper to send the failing units to the repair center fix it, and be done with it? Again, silly.

  38. I just got my camera back from Sony (my new 5n) and they fixed the clicking noise. It took one week to to send, repair and send it back to you. Now it´s perfect.

  39. I enjoyed your review and it opened my eyes as to what is happening with this new digital camera’s technology.
    On the issue of November 2011, “Outdoor Photographer” magazine had an article on mirrorless cameras (Olympus, Panasonic, Pentax, Samsung and Sony). In your opinion which is the best?
    Last week I purchased a Sony XEX-5N and I am extremely happy with the results. Even in low light, the results have been impresive and very nice.
    Thank you for yoour review and keep up the good work.
    Tom P

  40. My 5N just arrived from B&H and I’m in the process of sending it back. I really like the camera a lot but the clicking during video recording is really annoying.

    I’m so disappointed.

  41. Great review. Glad you noticed the same thing with the 18-55 kit lens – I swore the one I got with the NEX-5N kit was better, so I switched it to my older NEX-5 and found it was as average as I thought it always was on the 5! You’re definitely right – the 5N somehow makes the 18-55 kit lens work better!

    I have the Sony LA-EA2 SLT adapter with the Sony Zeiss 16-80 lens and colour rendition is much nicer (to my eye anyway) with this lens than the kit 18-55 lens – I’m hoping the new NEX lenses (when we normal people can get hold of them!) will improve things once again for the NEX range.

  42. hi,

    I plan to use the Nex-5N only with M glass and I have a question regarding auto-exposure lock: If i have spot-focus enabled and use a manual lens, will a half press of the shutter button lock the exposure?


  43. Hi,
    particulary like the mirror in mirror photo you shot.
    Is that your sister shown?

  44. Great video review. I just received my 5N today, with two lenses. I ordered an adaptor for my old Canon FD lenses after seeing your review. These are really fast lenses that I thought I would never use again. I made plastic display boxes for them to retire in some time ago. If Ican indeed use these great lenses again I will be one happy camper: Larry

  45. Parabéns Cara, não conhecia o seu Site.Gostei da forma como coloca seus comentrios e opinioes.Sempre com emoção e transparencia ,aparentemente sem demonstrar ser tendencioso.
    Abraços e obrigado,

  46. I purchased the camera yesterday not known the it was defective with a clicking noise when making movies… the clicking is horrible, but most horrible is that Sony has not recalled the cameras and still selling them. I’m returning the camera to day to Best Buy.



  47. I was all set to buy the 5N and then heard about the “click of death” issue. It certainly sounds terrible in some of the video samples I’ve seen. Did you notice it when you were testing, Steve? What do you think of that issue?

    • I was also all set to buy this camera and the “clicking” noise issue is all over the place now and people are really upset about it. I asked a sony rep and they basically just said that sony is offering a fix to “reduce” the noise. Not sure how that is possibly their answer. Most people that buy this will use the video frequently and if this clicking sound is there, it makes this a total failure on sony’s part. Am i missing something here, how can you pay $700 for a camera that has a hardware malfunction and a company that is unwilling to provide a recall and fix the problem?

    • I spoke to Sony’s tech support, who claimed a ‘hardware update’ released Oct 3rd will fix the clicking sound. I don’t know the details of the update, but Sony is offering free premium shipping and repair, 3-5 day turn around time. Those who have this issue should call Sony ASAP.

  48. You yawned at the C3?

    Obviously you wern’t shooting much with CV wides—well specifically 35/2.5 28/3.5 25/4 21/4. Or the tastier ZM and lecia wides—with exceptions.

    The C3 was the first to deal with this issue, and is also the smallest and lightest, right? the 3 was only 1 year on the market—-jeez the c3 is fine.

    I just think you were lazy. You should have been shooting every legacy lens you could get your hands on with your nex-5, like the rest of us. And showing us what happened.

    Now the great 5n is in your hands, and least you are armed with the odd leica super lens. Despite my complaints you had maybe the best nex-5 review out there in terms of content, and this review is also excellent.

    Thanks for waking slightly 🙂

  49. Steve, great Nex-5 review. Have you shot with the sony 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 Zoom Lens? If so would you recommend it as an all in one travel lens?

  50. Thanks SO much! I was wondering whether or not I should spend the extra money on the NEX 7 instead of getting the cheaper NEX 5N, but I think I’ll save the money. Again, thank you, this helped so much! 😀 Can’t wait to buy it!

    • Hi Jack.

      You find it in the meny “lens correction”. I don’t have the camera in my hand right now so I can´t guide you. But it works. It corrects the failure in edges. Hope you find it.

      The best


  51. Hello Steve

    Writing from Sweden. Looking at your excellent site from time to time.

    Thanks for the review. I purchased the NEX-5N on Sunday after having had the camera anguish for many weeks (had not read your review, was out there?). Was a while browsing the Leica V-Lux 30, or a Panasonic Lumix TZ20 (same camera) or a Canon S95, then the S100 on its way (!). Looked at the Leica D-lux 5 (possibly a 6 on the way), then thinking about the Leica X-1 and was recommended a Fuji X100. Looked at the Panasonic Lumix G3 but was not sold.

    It is of course completely different cameras above in different price ranges. That was my big concern, what I needed.

    Then I felt the Sony NEX-5N … I had already woken up to it via Sony’s website.

    The big advantage, as more and more cameras today have, is to show what happens to the shutter and aperture on the screen before the photo is taken. This is a great advantage for me who can not bother to memorize the shutter speed and aperture. Taking photos blind. At Sony NEX-5N, I see the result before taking the picture and can vary this. Possibly it is that I will use Aperture and Photoshop less now if I get good results in the camera. That’s what you want. 😉 The camera seems to be very well built and feels solid.

    Your review helped me understand that my purchase was right. BEAUTIFUL! I went on my gut instinct, which tends to be the best 😉

    Best Regards

  52. Your excitement with NEX7 may be short. Reviewing samples posted on dpreview site (preview samples I take it) shows that laws of physics cannot be defied yet. NEX7 samples at ISO3200 and ISO1600 look so much worse than NEX5N or other bodies using that 16MP sensor, it is not even close. Quite disappointing actually comparing to NEX5N.

  53. I just bought the 5N. Am interested in using other brand name lenses and just want to know what you can do and can’t do with the adapters. Also what is the difference between adapters with aperture ring control and those without. Thanks

  54. Hey, great review!
    I have two question though: If i set the shooting mode, e.g. to 10′ Selftimer and I turn the camera off. Will it be back at that setting when i turn it on again? Same for the remote control?
    How useable is the screen in bright sunlight?

    Thanks & Regards Daniel

  55. If I may make what I hope you will take as a constructive suggestion: stop writing “it’s” when what you mean is “its.” Otherwise you come off as just another blogger of average intelligence. Smart people come to sites like yours. But when they see it’s written by yet another clueless schmo who can’t figure out his way around an apostrophe, they think, if this guy doesn’t know something as simple as the difference between its and it’s, how can I trust his judgment about cameras? You may say well sure I know the difference. And we say, then you’re not paying attention to what you’re doing.

    It’s = it is or it has. It’s a nice day. It’s been fun.
    Its = third-person possessive pronoun. The 5N’s positives outweighed its problems.

    • Ummm. I am well aware of the difference. Sometimes auto correct changes it and I do not even realize it. When I write, I do not take weeks to write an article, I am fast paced. Take it or leave it! BTW, this site has grown since day one when I started with HORRIBLE grammar mistakes every day. Only a teeny percentage really care about that as they know what I am saying. It’s all part of the reality as no one is perfect. Besides, I am just a blogger of average intelligence! I’m not perfect, just like you are not perfect. No one is. Chillllllll!

    • Thank You for another great Hands on Steve ! Your opinion is highly valued by all of your readers. I can only afford 1 camera so it will be the Nex-5n as soon as the clicking issue is addressed by Sony.
      I really like the Oly E-P3 , but it seems more logical to go with the Nex-5n if I can only have 1 camera.

      Its to bad that yet another clueless schmo (Dave 88.) has felt it necessary to waste your time with his comments that are not relative to the theme of this site.

      I guess I am just another blogger of average intelligence and hope I never get intelligent enough to go out of my way to treat people so poorly .

      Thanks again Steve and keep up the great writing !

    • Hey Dave, I am a grammar and spelling nazi. Having said that, if I saw you say that in real life I would punch you right away. Steve is more intelligent and more successful than you ever will be.

      Have a nice day!

  56. Again,this is done for fun. Its called “Crazy”. He compares whatever he wants to compare to because its his blog and his choice. If he wants to compare a Iphone 4 to a Leica M9 its HIS call. Free speech Free Will.

    Cmon Chill Out. Its not a professional review, its for fun. and the intention was made known
    its a “crazy comparison”

    If you guys cant read that… then…
    Good Luck!

  57. Steve how can you compare M9 with Sony nex?
    how can you compare full frame with 23.4×15.6 mm sensor? please
    i remember one review of sony alpha full frame blabla compared with the medium format hasselblad and mamiya
    the guy showed some s**t pictures showing sony in better or the same light as Hasselblad and Mamiya, wrote some tech rubbish about totally different cameras and said that SONY alpha is better and cheaper. That article was long for good 3 pages. Finally we find out he’s working for Sony.

    If you have been paid by Sony, lucky you but if you wanna compare them then do it properly not just by shooting 2 terrible portraits

  58. Would you consider the nex 5n a professional grade camera. I am new to photography and thinking of taking family and baby pictures on the side for extra money. Any suggestions? Thanks. J

  59. James has an interesting question.

    I don’t see Sony coming out with a full frame version of this, because it would eat into their “high end” market too much. Even at $1300, the NEX7 is still near the “middle” of the market. The Sony A900 is more than twice the price, and the lenses are pretty steep too.

    The e-mount lenses are way too small to use on a full-frame… unless you like to take circular pictures.

    But a man can dream, can’t he? Would you pay $3000 for a full-frame NEX? I have to say that I might.

  60. Hi Steve,

    I know it maybe a little premature but do you think Sony will release a full frame Nex camera within the next couple of years. They are nearly there with the Nex 7 and the prospect of a full frame sensor with the ability to use a greater number of lenses would be fantastic. It would be so disappointing to buy the Nex 7 only to find Sony launching a full frame version the following year. I have however read somewhere that the Nex 7 does almost reproduce the equivalent of 35mm film quality. Would the full frame version just allow use of more lenses or would you expect to see even better picture quality? I know this is all speculation but I would be interested to hear your thoughts on where the NEX camera may go!

  61. Hey Steve, would you reply my comment please? It seems no one with a NEX-5N cares to comment about the video crop -or the lack of-. Thanks.

    • I think you’ll find that there’s very few people currently using the NEX-5N as it’s not yet in stock in many countries. I’m still waiting on my order being fulfilled (Scotland) before I can enjoy using the camera.
      Hopefully someone will be able to answer your question very soon.

      • You are right, it’s a very new model. But it’s strange that I can’t find out whether the 5N does crop in video -I mean horizontal crop- or not, and I have visited many sites, including Sony’s, and have even downloaded a user manual. Oh, and I have asked in DPReview’s forums too, where there are already many people using this camera, but either don’t care about video or don’t bother to reply.

        And I can only buy this wonderful camera if it does not make a 28mm lens (equiv.) work like a 32mm (equiv.) just like the older NEX-5 does. So please Steve… you have used this camera… does it crop video? I understand that it has to crop vertically in order to get a 16:9 image from a 3:2 sensor, but what I’m asking is about horizontal crop. Thanks in advance.

        • No, 5N doesn’t crop the video like A77 does when electronic stabilization is on A77. There is some crpo from going to 3:2 to 16:9 though.

          • I see, thank you. I also finally got an answer from a 5N owner at DPReview and confirmed the same. I’m getting this camera then. Thanks to all that replied. Have been of great help. Regards.

  62. I just got my nex 5N and it works great! I was able to buy the 16mm pancake lens for $100.00 at the Sony store in NYC if I bought it at the same time as the 5N with the 18-55mm lens. I asked about the pancake lens and how much it costs and he said normally $249.99, but if you get it with the camera now, it is only $99.99. Kind of makes the bundle special they have for the old 5 a bit less appealing, but it doesn’t seem they advertise this and if I didn’t ask about the 16mm lens it would have never even came up. Be sure to ask if you buy one!!!!!!!

  63. This is incredible!!!
    (NEX-5n with 12mm Heliar – Rangefinder Forum)

    It seems from what I see on this thread that Sony has solved the problems faced by the M8 and M9 cameras! There is no cyan in the corners with super wide lenses, the image is sharp from corner to corner, and the high ISO is superior to any digital M. The NEX 7 is the 21st century successor to the great rangefinders of the past, that is what this is telling me. There is no question about it. If the rumors of a full frame NEX 9 come true, Leica has much to deal with, and maybe should seriously consider establishing a new partnership with Sony (they had a relationship with Minolta once, and Minolta is Sony today) to build the electronic guts of the M10. The price of the NEX 7 is almost free compared to the M9 and what the M10 will likely cost. Any NEX full frame will me more than a NEX 7, but not that much, and quite frankly, not enough to justify the thousands more for a future M10 unless Leica makes a major change as a company and becomes more realistic in the market place and assumes its past identity as a fine photo tool company and not a photo jewelry company. How much more can you justify charging if the only issue would be a rangefinder mechanism and the body shell? If Sony made the guts for $2000, Leica could add another $3000 for the metal shell and rangefinder and cash in. $7,000 and up no longer holds up. Their lenses are too high as well, but not as much as the cameras, especially when I see what Sony has done!

    • > The NEX 7 is the 21st century successor to the great rangefinders of the past,
      > that is what this is telling me. There is no question about it.

      And here I am merely hoping it is usable enough to spend 1,300 euro on. 🙂

    • It’s because you didn’t see s**t. Leica has got the best lenses in the world, that’s why prices are so high, my lenses are 30-40 years old and they work superb, sony lens not gonna last 1/4th of it properly ahh never mind fella there’s no point to explain it to you

      • Bartos, WHO CARES that a lens can last 30-40 years. in 10-15 a new mount standard is going to be developed, new electronics, and the “vintage” lenses build today are going to be worth s**t (as you so eloquently put). If I can get 90% performance for the 20% of the cost, guess what I am going to buy…? Does “good enough” sound familiar? Bill Gates probably will also follow the same logic. Yea, there will be a bunch of snobs that will always want to have something different, but the majority of the planet will not. There was a time that I was buying only SCSI drives for my computers, which cost me 100-200% more in comparison to other inferiour versions (performance was the excuse), and …. today? How much do you think 400 MB SCSI disk is worth today?

  64. I’m an amateur using a Canon point and shoot but have been seriously thinking up upgrading to a 4/3 or SLR. So far the Sony seems to be the best of the bunch (of 4/3) and am seriously considering it. My one question is if I should wait for the 1.8 50mm lens. Odds are I won’t be buying too many extra lenses anytime soon so I want 1 all purpose lens that will take great shots. Eventually I may buy more lenses but I’m not ready to invest yet.

    I’d love the opinion of other more experienced photographers.

    PS. I have been researching the NEX line for a while and so far this is one of the best reviews I have seen. Thanks for putting all this effort in.

    • Followup…. of course if you recommend one of the other lenses please let me know that too. 🙂

  65. Very thorough review. It seems like a good candidate for those of us who wish to lighten up their photographic gear. However, with that being said, I would caution “over enthusiasm”, for the following reasons.

    1) Steve is a very good photographer. He could take great photos with a disposable camera.

    2) This sensor seems to be a variant of the very good sensor used in the K-5, D7000 and D5100.
    Sony may have added some processing magic to their jpeg engine.
    I’d argue that similar results could be obtained with these other cameras.

    3) Not enough Sony lenses…! (yet…)

    I really want to like this camera (and I wish I had a stockpile of nice Leica lenses). Nevertheless, the lack of decent lenses seem to be the biggest bummer for both the NEX-5N and 7…

  66. Best camera review I have read yet ! ! …. I currently own a Panasonic GF1 and G3… the larger sensor of the NX5n has me licking my chops for a lower noise sensor. Now that I have read most of your review of the 5n, I must ask myself, are Nikon and Canon going to sit back and loose this market segment or will they come out with a similar camera platform ? I am going to hold off on buying a NX5n for now and see if Sony comes out with this format in full frame ??? I use Nikon glass on my Panasonic cameras and really love the results…..

  67. I hate to drop this bomb, and maybe I am wrong, but after downloading the shots of the gentleman regarding NEX-5N vs Leica M9, and enlarging the image past 100%, the NEX-5N photo appears to be sharper than the Leica M9 photo!!!! I remember testing the M9 3 times against my M8 and felt the M9 photos looked a little mushy.

    I know sharpness is not everything but for 7K USD this is very interesting to say the least!

    I know one thing: The NEX-7 review cannot come fast enough! I may pre order anyway as I am sure it will at least perform as well as what I see here from the NEX 5N.

    I wonder how the people at Leica feel seeing all of this? Getting burned by advanced technology and falling back on what they do best: Making excellent lenses and mechanical rangefinders. I really hope they (Leica) pick up the ball and start incorporating some of the technology Sony has developed in the NEX series. Isn’t it a little crazy when you see the digital M for the price, and realize its shortcomings? The Nex LCD is vastly superior in many ways. High ISO vastly superior. Ability to customize controls vastly superior, shutter lag is superior, price is superior, etc, etc,,, . On Rangefinder Forum, there is a thread asking Leica to please make the protect button on the M8 an ISO button with a new firmware update. With the Sony, you do not have to ask for anything!

    I have no problem buying Leica lenses, new or used. They are timeless in terms of physical quality and how they render the image. When I bought the M8 new in 07, there was hardly any other choice for M lenses, so I had to spend $4,700 (cheap now in Leicaland) in order to use my M lenses (unless I would use an RD-1). Today, we have the M9 but I cannot justify the price in terms of pure photo taking ability. Yes, it is built like a traditional M, yes, it is a rangefinder, yes, it is full frame, but I am sure a Nex-7 will be as capable if not more in some situations to provide really amazing photos. For me, I am eager to see the beautiful prints I can make (I print 17″x22″ and larger , My M8 does a tremendous job) as I am sure print wise, M8 vs. M9 vs. Nex-7 is not as important as the beauty and meaning of a wonderful photograph!

    • It’s a great camera Ed, and I think as many have said you have to pick the camera that you like best. There are going to be more cameras with possibly equal or even better sensor than the M9. I had a 5dII and with my L primes it certainly wouldn’t be possible to tell a significant difference in quality for 99% of people but I like the rangefinder shooting style. The NEX isn’t a rangefinder and will never be. That may be good or bad for you, and it sounds like that’s a good thing for you which is great!

      • Thanks Jonny for your thoughtful comments! I too like the rangefinder style of shooting (a more direct view instead of looking at a display or at a focusing screen), however with certain lenses, sometimes another method is better (the Noctilux I feel would be great on the Nex 7). I am glad other camera companies are stepping up to the plate and offering us more cameras that can mount Leica M lenses. In my case, I do not have the cash to replicate my system in a pro level DSLR outfit (I have M lenses, nothinig else) and want to get the most out of what I have. THe nice thing about the NEX-7 is I could add the SLR adapter and essentially have a DSLR.

        • If I could, I would buy one of these NEX cameras too. They are all so different and have their own personality. I love my Fuji X100 and every time I pick it up and use it with it’s quiet shutter and retro feel. The hybrid EVF/OVF is amazingly cool. I’d have all three of these but my wife would think I’m crazy. Maybe if I don’t tell her…. 🙂
          I can’t imagine not having a camera that does have some sort of AF and video mode now. I was too spoiled with the 5DII to not have that now, and the Fuji meets that need for me. I think these NEX cameras are fantastic. My brother is a big fan and follows the sony rumors site like a religion and seems to think the NEX-9 will be a FF camera. Not sure if that’s possible but that would really be fantastic!

          • Well I hope your brother is right! A full frame Nex 9 would be great, and would not be that much more than the Nex 7. Nice thing for me is if I get the Nex 7, the price is low enough that I would not feel as bad when the Nex 9 comes out. When you buy an M9 for 7K, and then find out the M10 is better for 10K or so, you get a sick feeling! Honestly, my cash is better invested in making great prints, frames, and once in a while a new lens!
            When I attend the Photo Expo Plus I will have a bag of M lenses to test when I go to the Sony booth and will ask them about a full frame Nex 9!

  68. Great Review. I agree with you that it is an exciting time for new gears. The NEX system is quite amazing, when one considers the size of the body with such a big sensor. The body is even smaller than the one from the current m4/3 offering. You have pointed out what is the Achilles’ heel of the NEX system: the size of the lenses. Although they are somehow smaller than those of equivalent APS-C cameras, they are much bigger than the m4/3. If you compare the announced Zeiss 36mm f1.8 equivalent with the 40mm equivalent of Panasonic, the Zeiss is more than twice bigger (considering that the 20 mm is a real gem, I don’t expect the Zeiss to be that much better). Now, try to imagine the equivalent of the 100-300mm from Panasonic m4/3 (200-600 equivalent!) in the NEX format! This is to say that, to me, the NEX system is interesting if you carry only a few prime lenses (still to come). As for the EVF, the NEX-7 is the only reasonable alternative. Put the EVF on the NEX 5N and you end up with a camera not much more practical than a DSLR (in term of form factor).

  69. Thanks for the review. But I really am interested how it will compare to the NEX-7 in the real world, and, more importantly, how the NEX-7 compares to the M9. Hopefully they will ship fast to you!

  70. Lets be adults here and admit 4 facts:

    1. Leica is a first rate Lens maker

    2. Sony is a first rate electronics maker

    3. Leica is not a first rate electronics maker

    4. Sony is not (in most cases, not all, remember they are Minolta) a first rate lens maker

    Knowing this we can conclude Leica’s digital cameras, although excellent, have major shortcomings that Sony has solved with its in house camera and sensor production at a fraction of the cost of Leica. We can also conclude Leica lenses in many cases are still superior and will be that way for many generations to come. We can also assume the value of Leica lenses both new and used will continue to go up due to more high quality cameras that can mount them at cheaper prices than the M9. So Leica’s cash flow will increase. In fact, I would bet their lens production will generate more income than camera bodies.

    If I were running Leica, I would try to rekindle the old relationship with Minolta (now Sony) and take advantage of their vast knowledge of electronics to produce cameras vastly superior to any digital M made at the moment. Sony could also offer Leica lenses in special kits, and even contract Leica to make the beautiful outer metal shells for the cameras and Sony would provide the electronic guts. Not to diminish what Panasonic has done, but lets be honest, Sony makes the best electronics in the world and absorbed one of the finest camera makers (minolta) of all time.

    We then could see a nice range of cameras and various designs and prices that could mount M lenses and be every bit as good as Nikon and Canon for pro use. To relegate Leica to non pro use (I am against the grain in that I actually use my M8 to make money) is too bad and runs contrary to their (Leica’s) history.

    For me , Leica is a tool, not a rich mans collectors dream. To survive, Leica must realize this and broaden its customer base.

    So I really hope Sony (Minolta) and Leica would consider working together again.


    Tell Seal maybe a partnership between Leica and Sony would work. Leica has a special place in my heart and I really want them to survive and compete on many levels. What you have shown us in the Nex 5n review confirms this, and I am sure your review of the Nex 7 will do the same!

  71. Hi, nice review, thank you! I saw your YouTube videos and left a question to you in one of them, but I’ll ask here too because what I want to know about the 5N will make buy it or not: does it crop in video mode? Of course it crops vertically (3:2 format to 16:9) but does it, just like the 5 does, crop it also horizontally? What I need to know is if it uses the whole width of the sensor when recording video and so the 18-55 still works as a 28mm (equiv.) or it is converted into something like a 32mm (again equiv.). Thank you so much in advance!

  72. Nice photos of Sedona, I was in Arizona for couple of weeks ago for vacation and work. Awesome review though, bet the NEX7 is gonna be awesom-er.

  73. I am sorry but did you look at least at the comparison with Leica M9 photo that Steve posted if you didn’t bother to check the work of photographers who use sony cameras professionally.

    It’s perfectly normal that some people prefer one camera over the other but blanket statements like this are without any merit. They are able to produce cameras that either equals or beat cameras that are from 4x to 10x more expensive and provide peoplem who have passion for photography with great photo tools but that’s obviously not enough for the snobery attitude. Btw people who bash sony here enjoyed Pentax K5 which actually has sony sensor?

    • I apologize this was meant to eb a reply to one of the above comments and not general statement, not sure how it ended up here, aplogies again

  74. There seems to be a quarrel brewing regarding the M9 sensor and the new Sony NEX sensor, but one thing seems to be forgotten and that is the M9 sensor was design a long time ago (in electronic terms) and this new Sony one is state of the art. Give it a few months, and we’ll see and hear news about next years M10 (or whatever it will be named). So, we can’t really compare them fairly as they are very different cameras design in different times for different purposes too. Given a choice, and money excepted, I’d still go for the M9 over the NEX-5n, but, I don’t have M9 money so the NEX-5N will suit my purposes — until the lottery win of course! 😉

    • Sony, the electronics giant versus Leica, the best optics and camera boutique. Still no contest for me. The newest generation Sony sensor without AA filter may produce some better test graphs in a scientific type of test, but this is where it ends. It’s like with US muscle cars, some have engines outpowering the ones in Ferraris and the likes, but the cars underperform on a track.

      • I am sorry but did you look at least at the comparison with Leica M9 photo that Steve posted if you didn’t bother to check the work of photographers who use sony cameras professionally.

        It’s perfectly normal that some people prefer one camera over the other but blanket statements like this are without any merit. They are able to produce cameras that either equals or beat cameras that are from 4x to 10x more expensive and provide peoplem who have passion for photography with great photo tools but that’s obviously not enough for the snobery attitude. Btw people who bash sony here enjoyed Pentax K5 which actually has sony sensor?

        • Mika, which comment were you replying too, mine or Retow’s? If it was my comment then yes! I did read the review and look at the photograph samples and I’ll stand by what I said. It’s simply my choice over the Sony, I’d buy an M9 any day over a Sony if I had the money, but that’s not a slight regarding Sony as I know they supply sensors to Nikon, Pentax etc. 🙂
          It better be good, the NEX-5N, as I’ve order it with the two lenses and sold my D90 to get it! 😉

  75. “Image Quality”? We don’t need more image quality than what can be produced with film and a 20 year old camera with decent glass. For 99.9999% of situations there is nothing that has been produced over the last 10 years that we really need – for photography (not video). We have had it all the time. The problem is we have been fed the line that technology, more mega pixels, larger sensor etc will solve our problems. It won’t. If a M6, a 50 cron, a roll of Portra, some creativity and patience can’t solve our problems… guess what, moving from 16 mega pixels to 24 isn’t going to either

    • Finally, someone who hasn’t fallen for the HYPE! All this technology is great. It really is. But does it make your photographs any better? Stephen has hit the nail right on the head: it’s not the camera, it’s the photographer.

  76. After reading this review, I was nearly ready to break a long-standing vow not to purchase anything Sony. Then, of course, Sony did its absolute best to push me back into my “don’t buy Sony” place. As I understand it, Sony has of course chosen to create lenses that can’t be swapped out with other brand’s bodies.

    Now, I know that Canon and Nikon have been doing this for years, but that’s not the point. In the 4/3 world, it seems like there’s a certain amount of cross-brand integration that makes this type of camera a lot more fun to own and use. And from what I’m understanding and seeing, this doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon.

    Sony, like always, has decided that working on its own, carving out its own standards, then charging a ridiculous premium for them is the way to go. Ya know… because it’s worked so well in the past… Minidisc, memory stick, UMD, etc.

    I’m very, very impressed by this camera, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to let Sony suck me into an incredibly expensive, incredibly proprietary system once again.

    • I wanted to explain further on my statement of the sadness of how Leica digital is not as advanced as the much cheaper Sony alternatives. Something is really wrong when one spends many thousands of dollars on a Leica digital only to find out a much cheaper camera can beat it out in image quality where rangefinders once ruled (very low light conditions). Emotionally, one feels jealous, envious of cameras that are a fraction of the price under certain circumstances (low light shooting). To feel this way after spending $7000 USD on an M9 (I cannot afford an M9) is CRAZY !

      I am sad in that Leica lenses, especially high speed lenses in the f.95 to f1.4 range, are being short changed by the lousy high ISO performance of the M8 and M9. Yes, I know some will answer even the digital sensors of the M8/M9 are much more capable than film, so what am I complaining about. With todays technology, why be satisfied with less, especially when you know lenses by Leica in the f.95-f1.4 range are capable of so much more if they were used with much more advanced technology than the M8/M9 can offer. This is why the Sony Nex series is so exciting. They (Sony) are using the latest technology and we can use that using adapters for M mount lenses. I plan on using my M8 into the future, but do not plan buying an M9. The Sony will be my low light camera of choice because of the superior high ISO performance, not the Leica.

      Steve, if you are reading this, consider doing an in depth review of high speed M mount lenses on the new Nex cameras. I would be very interested in the results under real world conditions under very dim conditions with high ISO’s .

      • So, you are surprised that Sony can develop a nice sensor 2 years later than the Leica?

        If you want low light performance, buy a camera with a CMOS sensor. I traded my 5dII which has superb low light performance for an M9 and miss that occasionally but I don’t do a lot of night shots.

        I think you should definitely stick with Sony because you sound like you need the latest techno-feature. If you like rangefinders stick with the M9. They are different beasts. I personally wouldn’t want to deal with the crop sensor regardless except as a backup camera. Why do you plan on using your M8 anyway?

        • Well, the 2 M8’s I have are the only digital cameras I use, and in bright conditions, a slightly bigger sensor, and especially with lenses like my Voigtlander 15mm Super Wide Heliar, the M8 is still a great camera. I have many M mount lenses that I have bought over the past 20 years, and I really do not feel like spending more money on a new system with lenses (I have a 15mm Super Wide Heliar, a 28mm Elamrit, a 35mm Summicron, a 35mm f1.2 Nokton, a 40mm Nokton, 50mm Summicron, a 50mm Noctilux f1.0, a 50mm Summatar (thanks to Steve’s nice review, I had to have one!!! and for $150!!!), a 90 mm Tele Elmarit, a 135 Elmarit with eyes, and a 280 mm Telyt complete with Visoflex). To replicate what I have in a DSLR with the same quality I have (Zeiss, etc,,,) I would have to empty a nice portion of my bank account!

          I may shock some here to state I use the M8 as a professional to make money if you can believe that, as well as a tool for personal work. I like the rangefinder in how it works, but not for everything. With high speed lenses, especially with the Noctilux, the rangefinder has its shortcomings. Calibration is a problem. Another is when a subject, like a child, is moving a few inches at a time. With a Noctilux, the subject can become out of focus faster than you can react with the rangefinder, hence missing the shot. With Sony’s new cameras, and by using the focus mode that highlights the subject in red, or other colors when in focus, with a lens like the Noctilux, this may be a superior solution to my problem. Yes, maybe not as good as an autofocus DSLR, but much better than a conventional rangefinder. And don’t forget, a Noctilux is what it is, and I happen to use it extensively and love its look, despite what Nikon, Canon, etc,, have to offer. So the Nex 7 is a Godsend to me, and at a wonderful price indeed!

          • Yes I agree for fast moving subject wide open, shots are difficult. I’ve got 5 kids so I know what fast moving kids are like. I purchased a Fuji x100 for a backup camera that has video, etc on it. I could also see using a Nex-7 or this one for a backup in place of that, and use my Leica lenses on it. I love landscape shots and the leica performs to my needs for this. I’ve also gotten some great shots of my children as well. I can see the need for both types of cameras. There are times when I just want something with auto-everything and the Fuji works well for it.

    • What are you talking about? ALL camera makers have proprietary lens mounts! Nikon, Canon, Pentax. m4/3 is a consortium. To say that Sony “has of course chosen to create lenses that can’t be swapped out with other brand’s bodies” is totally disingenuous. Plus, Sony bought over the Minolta camera business, which pre-dates m4/3 by many decades. And the m4/3 lenses do NOT cover APSC sensors which is what the NEX cameras use.

      (written by a Panasonic m4/3 user).

  77. Steve, pre-ordered the 5n and the 7 using the links on your site. I want to you to keep doing what you do and hope it helps out.

  78. Hi Steve, thanks for the great review… hard decisions EP3 or nex5n…

    If you enable af tracking and focus then recompose, is exposure locked as well or does exposure change after new composition is achieved?

    How about if af tracking is not enabled? if you use center af point to focus and press the shutter, will exposure be locked or only focus? Is it possible to set it up to lock focus but not exposure?


  79. Would love to see more shots with Leica glass Steve, especially wide angle lenses at full resolution!!

  80. Just saw that PC pop ran a comparison between the ep3, the Nex 5 and theg3 at high ISO, they confirm your findings…Untouchable

  81. Thanks for a well informed review. I really enjoyed it and will certainly point some friends to it seeing they are very much interested in the nex-5n…my question is not concerning the nex-5n however. I would like to get my hands on one of those mask for Halloween of the man and I would be most grateful if you can point me in e right direction. Thanks.

  82. Nice review as always! Problem I have/had with NEX-5 it never felt like an camera to me, sure the results were great with decent lens, but at the end of the day had no proper camera feel to me. Would like to see 5N vs X100 head to head!


  83. Good review. As a NEX-5 owner (M9 and Micro 4/3 too) I’m still waiting for Sony to get serious about it. The NEX-7 looks great but optics are still the issue with the E-Mount. I understand the system was started from scratch but it’s been out a year and a half and we still have the original 3 kit lenses. It the same time frame there were good Micro 4/3 lenses in the Panasonic 14-45 kit lens (one of the best kit lenses on any system,) the 20/1.7, the 7-14, the 45 Macro, 14-140 HD the Olympus 17 and the Olympus 9-18. I really hope Sony gets it together as I have a little money invested in the system and would like to see it succeed.

  84. Good review. I have already sold my NEX5, still considering which new Sony to buy. The 5N looks like a lot of bang for the buck, but it may be worth waiting to read the reviews on the 7.

  85. Talking about a very good pancake lens for mirrorless camera’s with APS-C sized sensor, look at Samsung NX 30mm F2 Pancake.
    See the reviews, it’s possible.

  86. What do you suppose is the probability of a Nex-7N in 2012? The NEX-3 and NEX-5 were both released in 2010, only to be greatly improved in 2011, will Sony try the same thing with the NEX-7?

  87. @Eric – $480 for the G3 body? I see it listed as $599…care to share what I don’t know? 😉


  88. Those images are beautiful, I love the color, sharpness and overall look. If the 7 can build upon the 5n’s capabilities it’s going to be fantastic. It’s going to be hard to wait until November for the 7.

  89. How sad the Nex-5N can beat the Leica M8 and Leica M9 in image quality. I really mean this. I have been using an M8 since 2007 in every conceivable situation, and tested the M9 3 times with most of my lenses. I am coming to the conclusion that the price of an M9 and even a used M8 cannot be justified. The only reason why I have an M8 is because I have a collection of Leica glass I have been using since 1990 and do not want to give that up. I am after maximum image quality and frequently love to shoot in dim light with my 35mm Nokton f1.2 and Noctilux as a dusk/ night street kit, and I feel the M8 and M9 do not do justice to what these lenses can really do in the dark. The Nex %n and hopefully the Nex 7 will give us all a much better way to use fast M mount lenses in low light. The price is hard to resist. Hell, even the Nex 7 at $1,199 is a great buy (less than I paid for a used M8) and when full frame comes as I feel it will, I will not feel as bad spending much less on the Nex 7 than I would have on the M9. As for Leica, I hope they keep ahead of the technology. Maybe they should let Panasonic or somebody else willing to do business (why not Sony? Leica can rekindle the old Minolta relationship again! Sony IS Minolta!) with them make the digital guts of the camera and Leica would finish it off with a nice solid shell. Even still, they have to be realistic. In truth, in my eyes, any future product is worth at the most $4,000 or so. Their glass is first rate, but they are far behind in camera electronics!

    • I currently own an m6 and an m8 and some Leica glass. I will never ditch my Leica for some toy camera from Sony. Of course it does not shoot well in low light but technology evolves. Come 2013, lets see how well the current genration cameras hold up.

        • What it comes down to is this:

          If you want a rangefinder, get an M9
          If not, get something else.

          The M9 was introduced in 2009. It’s a great camera. Other cameras since have great technological whiz-bang features. They aren’t rangefinders. If you don’t care about not having a rangefinder, then don’t get a Leica. Simple eh?

      • SONY – TOY CAMERA??? Get real!

        Are you trying to say that current Leica Digital products are in any way equatable with the (former) solid engineering excellence utilised in their FILM cameras?

        Watch the videos of the M9 production line if you think the product is constructed in any different way to the current output of Far East camera companies. The only real difference is Leica’s refusal to employ automated (final) assembly/testing of otherwise mass manufactured sub-contracted opto-mechanical assemblies.

        Does anyone really believe Leica’s digital internals are hand-crafted under the light of a waning moon by wizened gnomes deep in the Black Forest? Not only do Leica employ much the same techniques, technology and construction methodology as their Eastern ‘rivals’ – but do it more ineffectively in-house – they also badge-engineer certain of those self same rival products as ‘Leica’ quality goods.

        Leica has a deserved historical reputation in lens technology and mechanical engineering excellence – but not in high quality large scale electronics or volume production engineering – where Sony DO excel … that’s why the old Minolta link-up, Leica needed their expertise. As the current owner of Minolta’s technology heritage, Sony also chose to remain with their existing Zeiss tie-in (rather than Leica) as their premier optics line when they went camera ‘mainstream’.

        I’m not sure how (other than snobbery) you can accuse products from one of the worlds largest electronics companies (supplying the bulk of the photo industry’s pro or semi-pro sensors AND the world’s broadcasting industry with TV cameras etc.) allied with expertise from Leica’s former photographic partner; utilising Zeiss optics, can be compared to a rather simplistic implementation of digital technology (i.e. an M9) with hang-overs from the 1930’s.

        As an owner of M film equipment, I understand the Leica ‘passion’ – but I am not blinded to the fact that they now currently service a niche sector, with a product that genuinely struggles to hold it’s own (technologically speaking) in the wider market. No wonder that Leica, like Harley Davidson, have been described as ” … decades of tradition, unhampered by progress ….”

        As the Fuji X100 proved, Leica should be growing and innovating – not fighting a battle to service it’s small market sector – being defended only by staunch neo-Luddite owners who refuse to criticise their products in any way. Evidence – not passion – always speaks for itself.

  90. Steve I am really enjoying your site and am thinking about getting a NEX 7.
    I was wondering if you are going to get yours with the SONY 18-55 kit lens or just get the body?
    Until someone gets a 7 in their hands it is hard to guess how the 18-55 would perform but it is relatively
    cheap if bought with the camera ($200 in Canada).

  91. I am saying wow to the cat and the fruit picture with the kit lens straight out of the camera with the kit lens! I have a 5N on order and will let you know my impressions once I test it out myself. Thanks for the great review Steve. I just found out about your website this past week and I am really enjoying catching up on older articles and reviews.

  92. How sad if NEX7 cant beat his younger sibling in image quality? Steve, are you still keeping your X100? which one are you keeping out of your ep3,x100,nex5n?

  93. Hello – thanks for the review.

    When you’re talking about sharpness are you talking about jpeg output. If so could it be a change in the jpeg sharp and contrast settings as opposed to – well I don’t know. I say that because if the c3 uses the same sensor and lens – what’s left?

    I haven’t found the nex-3 to be soft. I shoot raw and generally stay from lens extremes.

  94. Thanks for the review, Sony cameras have never really been on my radar but the image comparison you posted between the NEX-5N and Leica M9 leaves me scratching my head.

    Given the same lens, settings and lighting – I prefer the Sony image over the M9. And I have been obsessing over the M9 for almost two years.

    I hope you’ll answer this Steve, now that the M9 is turning 3 yrs old – are these new technology camera’s creating better images at 1/Gazillionth of the price?

    Finally, I read your Leica crystal ball predictions … when do you think Leica will update their arsenal with an M9.2 or M10.

    Looks like they have some catching up to do.

    • Yes, aside from the crop factor, my M9 lust has been stalled since the NEX 7 was announced. I preferred the Sony image as well.

      As a digital companion to my M6 I can’t imagine much better than the NEX. It all depends on how it does with wide angle lenses. Assuming it handles them well, purchasing that and a 21mm Zeiss lens would be less than half of what the M9 is.

      Leica finally has some competition! Who would’ve thought it would be Sony?

  95. Hi Steve. Terrific review. By the way, if your 5n comparison headshots with the M9 are a true sensor IQ indicator, you might be well advised to sell your M9 while you can. After the NEX 7 is released, I suspect there will be many used M9′s looking for new homes. Just sayin’.

    • Thats true, for me, the Nex (+Summi) looks even better than the M9 (and yes, I do have the M9, also the M8 and some “older” Ms)!

  96. Thanks for the review. Well as long as the NEX7 keeps the IQ from ISO 100 to 3200 this is more than enough ( stopped my M8.2 at ISO 800 because it was shitty above that). If it does, the NEX 7 will be sweet. This 5N seems to be an excellent second body for Leica users, the M9-P did not put it to shame, you do see a difference but it does not pu it to shame. When Leica comes out with their EVIL in September 2012, the story might be different but we have a good year to wait until it gets announced, then a few months for it be be produced and a few more before it becomes available. I think it will be hard to get until August 2013… Time to change to NEX7 around that time anyways. So far so good Steve, I like what I see and all this make my wheels go around to try to figure if the 5N wasn’t what I needed after all..

  97. About the software correction: are the pictures shown with or without this feature? Would it be possible to have an example of its effects with the lenses?


    • I think they’re shown with feature turned on. I have heard that the 18-55 kit and the 16mm pancake actually have a lot of distortion if that feature is not enabled.

  98. Steve,

    This is the best, seemingly truthful review of a camera I have ever read. You can always tell what bias the reviewer has for a particular company, you know fanboys. You seem to love to take photos and don’t care about the name on the front of the camera. I shoot Sony because I use my Sony points to make my purchases. Therefore, the 5n is indirectly free to me, but I like Nikon, Canon and Leica cameras and would take one in a heartbeat. I am coming back to this site more often. You cover what is good, bad and ugly about the camera. It gives the information that actual users need to know before throwing down the money for it. Based on your review, I am getting the 5n because I need video capabilities in a camera for my kids who play sports and cheer. I like the small fit in cargo pants size or coat pocket. This will be my 2nd camera to compliment my Sony 850. I am waiting for Sony’s next FF which I hear is coming next year and is the reason I will not be waiting for the nex7 even though that may be the sequel, Monster 2. I will also be getting the EVF which I was waiting to hear about its performance. You calmed my concerns (This will be my 1st EVF). I like shooting through a view finder, call me old fashion. Thanks again for the in depth review.

  99. Also I agree it was crappy of them to not support the viewfinder in older models, kind of a fu to the earlier adopters, including people who bought a C3 a couple of months ago.

  100. If this is the same sensor as the C3, then how come the 5N IQ/ISO is being ranted and raved over but the review for the C3 said nothing has really changed from the old NEX-3 ISO/IQ wise? Shouldn’t these two match up?

  101. wheww.. what an excellent review Steve 🙂 really nice job! I’m a NEX 3 user, and I’m very pleased with the results and experience… it simply obsoletes my other DSLRs :p photography has never been this FUN 🙂 I can see that u are enjoying your NEX much. Thanks for the review Steve. I hope you don’t mind if I’m sharing this page with my friends over my fb page 🙂

  102. Great review.

    Interestingly enough when you add the EVF the NEX 5N, however, the price gets within spitting distance of the NEX 7 with its somewhat more substantial (but not TOO substantial) body, identical (and built-in) EVF and flash. And, oh yeah, one more thing…that eye-popping 24MP sensor which will permit decently sized prints even when you have to crop because you didn’t have a bulky zoom handy. (You cant get Sony’s actually quite nice new 24-50mm f2.8 zoom but with the PDAF attachement while functional may be a bit unwieldy.)

    The interesting thing is the neat ‘peaking’ feature which apparently makes MF a breeze. Although, and correct me if I’m wrong, the NEX 7 ALSO offers an enlarged section for MF with an inset of the full scene in addition to peaking. So with the NEX 7 you get TWO great MF assist features.

    Want a neat NEX dream team?

    Consider a kit with these three lens areas:

    Classic Leicaesque basic lens: 24mm f1.8 Zeiss (35mm equiv.) A no-brainer.

    Wide: 15mm Super Wide Heliar Aspherical II f4.5 (22.5mm equiv. which, despite it’s f4.5 dimness probably would focus well with the peaking feature). Or, if you REALLY want to go all the way, get the Zeiss 15mm f2.8. (Yah yah…it’s $4600 in change but this is a dream team right?)

    Portrait: You already nailed it. 50mm Summilux. (Or, if you just sold all the stock from your IPO, the Noctilux).

    Obviously with the PDAF module you can also consider optics (for those times you wished you had something longer to shoot with) like Sony’s new (and by initial tests quite good) 24-50mm f2.8, Zeiss 85mm f1.4 (127.5mm equiv.), Zeiss 135mm f1.8 (an even more amazing 202.5mm equiv.) and the often overlooked Sony 70-300mm (which will give you great legs of 105-450mm equiv). All a bit unwieldy for sure in general use but not impossible.

    Nice. Reasonably compact (and hideously expensive). And light.


  103. Very impressive camera! Thanks for the great review Steve! One of the nice things about the EVF viewfinder is that for left-eyed shooters it will keep their nose off the LCD screen.
    it is going to be a tough choice between the 5n and the 7, but what a nice predicament to have 🙂

  104. I was more curious about how the 5n compares to the G3 then to the E-P3. I know Steve isn’t a huge fan of the G3, but from a noise and resolution perspective it’s a much better match for the 5n. From what I’ve seen of the G3 it looks like it is very good up to ISO3200 and has roughly the same resolution as the 5n. Plus, if you order it direct from Pansonic it’s only $480 body only (and you don’t have to buy a $250 external EVF). I admit from a design perspective I’d rather have an E-P3 or especially the NEX-7, but as a tool for taking photos the G3 is a heck of a bargain. I can’t wait to see what Olympis and Panasonic have in store for their equavilinets of the NEX-7. I just hope Panasonic gives Olympus that 16mp sensor for the Pro PEN.

  105. It might be a good camera but the design really turns me off. It looks more like a gadget than a camera and really unbalanced with 3rd party lenses and the evf mounted. That’s the deal breaker for me right there. I have no desire to even pick it up and see what it can do. Sony make some great sensors, but somehow I still have a hard time accepting their idea of what a camera should be. Their image as a consumer electronics company is too strong and a lot of their products look like they’ve been designed with techno geeks in mind rather than photographers. I might be a purist but I prefer more traditional camera designs. This one looks odd now and is going to look very dated years from now. I guess it’s either a love it or hate it design.

    • I used to think that about Sony too but I do have to respect them for their ingenuity and brave design decisions with their cameras. Even though the NEX-5N doesn’t look like a ‘proper’ camera (DSLR) with no built in viewfinder etc cameras are changing and, too me, this is how cameras will look in the future. But to dismiss them out of hand without trying one or even holding one seems — well, daft. Why not try one in-store and then make up your mind. I’ve only held one in a camera shop and read reviews such as this one and that has made my mind up to take a leap into the unknown with this camera; and Sony.
      I hope you don’t take offence with my comments as none are intended.

      • No offense taken ; ) It’s an open forum so being able to say what you want is what it’s all about.

        I have nothing against companies trying to design a camera for the future. Progress is important and part of human nature. But in this case I think Sony have tried too hard too make an obvious design statement with the body being so thin. And maybe that’s what comes off as gimmicky. I have a couple of cameras I’m happy with already, so that’s another reason I don’t feel the need to check this one out. I’ve done a lot of gear chasing to find out what I want and in the end came to the conclusion the latest thing didn’t really matter that much. All cameras have pros and cons. Once you find an acceptable compromise and a camera you’re comfortable shooting with it’s refreshing to loose interest in gear and just focus on taking pictures : ) I commented on this review, because the design was so far away from what I like about cameras with a more traditional style and conventional layout. It looks like Sony are competing on tech specs and appearing innovative in the gadget market, but overlooking what’s comfortable and familiar about using more conventional cameras. This approach seems to stem from the culture of a company who are a primarily a consumer electronics company as opposed to a camera company. Simply concerned with taking pictures, I want a functional and practical camera, not a gimmicky looking gadget. The design of the body is an important way of communicating this purpose. Innovation is good, but looking too radical can also leave consumers feeling uncertain about a new product. I know we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but it’s something we’re all guilty of from time to time ; )

        • A digital camera is a small computer that record digital files that can be read as images. I would posit that digital cameras that “look like” film cameras are more suspect than this lovely thing.

          I would posit that but I’m not a didactic person.

        • Personally, as long as I can comfortably hold the camera and it is small enough to be discreet, I don’t care what it looks like. Progress means design innovation from bold companies such as sony who don’t simply churn out SLR clones. They might not be for everyone, but where would the world be without interesting design. Would we still be tumbling from penny farthing bicycles? The NEX series may require slightly different approach to holding and shooting a camera, but this in itself is no bad thing in my opinion.
          I, like others, am hoping that the NEX 7 will be worth the extra cash although, as IQ is paramount to me, I too am a little worried that sony might have over-populated the sensor reducing high ISO capability.Decisions decisions!

  106. Steve, have been following your site with a great deal of interest the past few months. Kudos to you on the great work, your passion and joy shine through in everything you write.
    Secondly, your reviews are the best kind, practical, concise, covering all the real world use cases and mindful of total cost or ownership.
    I own an original M8, unmodified, and have a number of M mount and LTM lenses and have been looking for a smaller piece of kit that would let me continue to use Leica glass in a smaller package as desired. After reading all your reviews this Sony might be the what I’ve been looking for, the caveat being how much bett the NEX-7 might be.
    Thanks again for all your hard work, my Amazon purchases now take place through your site!

  107. Very nice. It looks like Sony has another winner on its hands.

    Short quip – what is with Sony and the silly stickers? Who wants that “XGA-OLED” nonsense on there? Its the same with the AVCHD, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH… Why not put a “Bionz Inside”?

  108. Steve, As I am a new G2 owner (couldn’t pass up the $299 body price tag!) I was wondering how the Panasonic might compare… I know you love the EP3, but also noticed in your older reviews that you gave the G2 a lot of love, too….Just wondering.

  109. Thank you Steve. Your review got me to the mood – for the very first time – to consider the NEX lineup as a candidate.

    You mention that the EVF is better than you ever seen – how does it compare to the one on X100 and the one available for GXR? I agree that EVF inevitably the future, but those EVFs just mentioned left me cold because of the color, frame rate and contrast. So – how much better is the one from SONY?

  110. Hi Steve,
    Great review. Right now I use the Canon 5D Mark II. I’m sick of weight. I am also waiting for the Nex-7.
    There’s only one thing that worries me. If tomorrow you come out a nex-8 full-frame, what is the mount?

    • Carpeira

      If Sony comes out with a full frame NEX body more than likely it will use the current NEX lens mount, since it is more than large enough to support a full frame sensor; it is larger in diameter than the Leica M-mount. Another clue that this is what Sony will do is the fact that they announced an electronic adapter that allows us to use the Sony SLR lenses on the NEX bodies. The major question would be if the current Sony NEX lenses will cover a full frame sensor.

      Finally, if Sony decided to do something strange and abandon their new lens mount for a full frame NEX body, their next option is to use the current SLR lens mount. Otherwise they need to create another new generation of lenses.


      • Thanks for your response. What PaulB says is what I think. My fear is exactly spend a lot of money for this lens now and then these small sensor lenses do not work in a future full-frame. I’m talking about lens mount type E. If this is not clear is preferable to think very carefully the type of lenses to buy for this machine.


  111. Thanks for the review. Can you please talk some more about the movie mode? How good is the continuous AF- quick or hunting a bit? Is the 18-55 lens quiet while zooming? How would you compare it overall to a dedicated HD camcorder?

    I am wondering if NEX5n is good enough of a hybrid to replace my Nikon D3100 and Canon HF100 camcorder.

  112. Hi, I used to have a nex-5 with a GentLED remote for time lapses, something I hate was that HDR timeslapses where not possible because on HDR mode the remote fuction was not an option, is the same case with the nex-5n?

  113. Great review, Steve! Just two additions: firstly, the kit lenses look better, because the 5N has in camera lens correction and secondly, Samsung has some AMAZING autofocusing pancakes for its APS-C sized NX series. The 30mm f2 performs like a Zeiss, with smaller size (sorry, i had to make this pun) and nice price.
    What I don’t understand: how can you not like the minimalist controls of the 5N when you’re a Leica guy? Just like on my Leica I have only the buttons I need (well, the movie button comes kind of like an extra) and I have more customisation than I actually need. The Nex truly is the poor man’s Leica, just without the rangefinder focusing (esp. since I see barely any difference between the M9P and Nex shots above).
    Keep up the great work!

  114. Excellent article!

    A question if I may: when looking at the old NEX5 and shooting video, although there was no Jellovision on panning, I’d notice the occasional “screen tear” – a horizontal scan line moving up through the frame over a second or so, with a distinct discontinuity in the picture above and below the line. I can’t see anything like this on your excellent aquarium footage. Is it something that’s gone away, or have you noticed it when shooting and edited around it?

  115. How do you think it compares to K-5 in IQ? Looking at the pictures there’s absolutely no comparison, Pentax IQ is stunning.

  116. OK, here’s a few question I hope you can answer Steve, please. You mentioned that
    Therenare no camera body, and rear lens caps included in the box, are there any available to buy either from Sony, or from third party?
    The second question is regarding he fast shutter: the electronic fast shutter gives a 0.02 ms shutter delay, but can this be used full time without restrictions ie RAW mode, or is it only for certain programme settings?
    I’m looking forward to getting my twin lens kit NEX-5N as soon as it’s in stock over here in Scotland. I sold off my Nikon D90 and VR kit lens as it wasn’t getting used, too bulky and heavy to carry everywhere, so the sony’s APS-C sensor won the day for me.
    I used to be a big Olympus fan, having owned the Olympus OM-1 with the 50mm, and 200mm prime lenses but since moving to digital with the Kodak camera I won in a competition many years ago, I’ve had a succession of cameras from Canon, Olympus, Nikon, Kodak and now the Sony NEX-5n. My dream is to own a Leica M9, or the next iteration of the M range rangefinder cameras as it is the nearest to the purity of the OM-1 I once owned. Cheers, Steve!

    • PS. I would have thought Sony could, and should, have made their Alpha DSLR range lenses with the E mount allowing NEX users the to have better lenses, both in prime and also in zoom, but also to give full auto control without using adapters between the lens and body. Can quite figure out why Sony doesn’t do that?

    • @Macjim: Your old Olympus lenses are some of the best one to manually adapt to the NEX system. I’ve done so on my NEX-5 with great results.

      • Alas, Olympus OM-1 & lenses died a long time ago after succumbing to the fungus in the lenses and metering nightmare caused by a cold and damp winter. 🙁

  117. From your pictures it seems that once in a while a little camera at a very affordable price comes out and punches well above its weight into pro territory.
    Does the EVF viewfinder makes the shadow areas look a little too dark or is the EVF view contrast adjustable.
    Thanks Steve for a wonderful review.

  118. Steve,
    thank you very much for yur wonderfull review, which gives me a lot of insights.
    I am still deciding, wheather to wait for the Nex 7 or to buy the 5N. One key question to me is, if 5N enables you to move the magnification field via tchscreen when using the manal focus mode. Because I use the manal focs mode on my Nex 5 a lot I find the dial control for the magnification field somehow out dated. If this where the case I would buy the 5N and would comfortably lean back and wait, what Nex 7 has to offer…
    again, thanks for your exiting job.

  119. Steve,I was waiting with bated breath for this review! Wow,the high ISO capabilities knocked me off my chair! Truly, a T Rex in Chihuahua’s clothing !Makes the GF1 4/3s hi ISO output look terrible. Waiting for the NEX7 and your review before I decide to change to the NEX system.

  120. Thanks Steve. Nice and profound review. A question- can you use EVF finder in b&w mode? I hope Sony will allow this in NEX-7. Greetings

    • One thing more. Nothing is perfect, even your 50Lux. You`ve forgotten one thing more to make your review complete. Spealing about Sony`s lens drought, you forgot that lot of photogs buy Nex-es for lens use. What about us , second division guys too poor to owe 15-21-24 Zeisses and Luxes, but rich enough to have VC15, 21,24. It would be interesting how these lenses behave on NEX-5n( with and without vinetting correction). I have two of them in mind Heliar15/4.5 and Scopar25/4. Talking about compactness, look at FX snapskopar! You are right, why Sony can`t make their primes in the style of Oly`s 12/2. Sony was always considered as Apple of Japan, but their primes are chunky.

  121. Thanks for the review!
    Would be nice to hear your opinion on the upcoming laea2 adapter and some alpha-lenses. (Af-speed, ergonomics etc.)
    Personnaly I’m not so worried about the camera-lens size. I think the bigger lenses gives you something to “hold on to”.
    Would love to see more shots with different lenses and adapters on the nex system.

  122. nice review, looks like you missed the focus with the m9, it is slightly behind his forehead… where with the focus peak, focus is deadon.

  123. Oh also, it’s nice to see the hat guy does actually change his clothes.. I was starting to think he only had one outfit. 😀

  124. Thanks for the review steve.

    I have to say, for one of the few times not a single shot in this review made me say.. hey I really want that camera. No reflection on your skills as your style is present in all reviews.. but nothing that made me sit up.

    Leica X1, Fuji x100, obviously your m9 stuff all grabs at my wallet.. this one.. I dunno, something is missing for me. I’ll have to reflect on what that may be.

    On the upside – my wallet is happy(er)

  125. Great review – thanks, Steve. I really enjoyed reading it.

    I too am hoping the NEX-7 is the one to go for – mainly because the triple dial arrangement looks like it should be a winner. From the A77 samples I’ve seen however, I fear Sony may have overstretched themselves with the sensor. I really hope they haven’t, as I do use high ISO quite a lot. Maybe they’d make an NEX-5N sensor in NEX-7 body just for me? An NEX-6. 😉

    As the focus peaking is so good, do you find yourself using MF lenses more than the kit AF lenses?

    I love the idea of an NEX as an everyday camera with my MF lenses, and the 18-55 as the AF ‘backup’, but unfortunately the 1.5 crop moves all my lenses to focal lengths I’m not so keen on. (24 -> 36, 50 -> 75, 90 -> 135) I adore my 50mm, but am not sure if I still will when it’s a 75mm.

    How do you find using the 50mm Summilux as a 75mm?

    Thanks again, and keep up the good work.

  126. Great review, I really enjoyed it. Though after reading it, you made my choice between the Panasonic GF-3/Olympus E-PL3 and Sony Nex 5N a lot harder. Can you post pictures from the Olympus E-P3 at the aquarium? I am curious to see how large is the difference between the E-P3 and Nex 5N at high ISOs.

    • I started reading it at breakfest, and finished at lunch
      Well done steve, touched most of the impt issues,
      also liked the Vs comparisons with other cameras,

      The M9 vs Nex looks much closer then E-P3 could match, i wonder if youll be able to make a direct real world “golden hour” time comparison of all the 3 lens

      Frankly the main reason i’m not buying into NEX is the lack of optics, if sony hade the golden trio samsung pancakes 16\2,4 20\2,8 30\2 that would be the perfect system, no one could touch!

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