USER REPORT: My Experience with the NEX-5N and a Canon 50 1.4 FD lens by William Jusuf

My Experience with the NEX-5N and a Canon 50 1.4 FD lens by William Jusuf

Hello Steve..

This week, a good friend, asked me to switch camera and system…

He wanted to do a comparison review about the Panasonic GF2 (mine) and Olympus EP-M (his) with Panasonic Leica 25 mm so he let me use his NEX system.

He gave me a white Sony Nex 5N attached to Canon 50 mm F1.4 FD lens. So I have to live and learn this new system and menu.


At the first day, I barely shoot anything. The NEX had me confused with quite many menu and submenu (call me and idiot, yes I am). Even after downloading Nex Manual, I still feel dumb.


Then I had a sunday gathering and one of my friends is an avid Nex and X-100 user. He quickly taught me how to enable spot metering, lock exposure and do everything like my workflow in my Panasonic GF 2.

So I start to shoot with Nex5N and old Canon lens this weeks. I am very pleased with the nice experience and I have to admit.. The dynamic range, the High ISO noise and the manual focus peaking is so useful for me, shooting manual lens..


So I want to share.. Some shots in High ISO (> Iso 1000 to iso 3200) I took .. This is not a technical review..just some fun shots… I choose some that I took in quite dark environment


1. the Sony Nex5N white and Old canon Lens , I shoot it using iPhone

2. I shoot a photo of a couple buying a beancurd in local market Iso 1000 F1.4 1/80 Sec (dsc2495)

3. During Dinner.. I shoot a table beside me… focus on the glass .. F4.0 Iso 1600 1/60 Sec (dsc2591)

4. Peeking through the bars to the homeband playing . I focus on the singer face.. F1.4 Iso 1250 1/60 Sec (dsc2607)

5. Shooting the wall and the desk.. with a boy staring at the painting at the wall… I focus on the desk Can.. using F2.2 Iso 1600 1/60 sec (Dsc2597)

6. Get near to the home band.. I focus on the right guitarist hand . F1.4 Iso 1600 1/60 Sec … (dsc2610)

7. I still want to try to pump the ISO.. So I get nearer.. Pump it to Iso 3200 1.60 Sec F1,4 .. I focus still on the guitarist hand .. (dsc2611)

8. how about portrait ?? I portrait my friends with Iso 2000 F1.4 1/60 Sec.. (dsc2463)

9. some friends arguing about Panerai… Shot Iso 1250 F1,4 1/60 sec , focus on my big friend face (dsc2476)



So How do I like Sony Nex 5?

I love this experience.. I can’t deny that the bigger APS-C sensor beat my m4/3 gf2 sensor.. esp in High ISO shots. But I still can’t get used to the whole time manual focusing with good old lenses.. Imagine how I chase my baby using manual focus..

I love the picture quality, but somehow my hand and wrist get sore after 1-2 hours playing with Nex. I don’t experience it with my Panasonic.

So its been a lovely new experience for me. Having 1 week to shoot daily using NEX-5n and old manual lens.. It’s quite an experience..

Great camera.. I wish they provide many native prime lens , that goes fast , lets say under F1.8.. but I admit NEX-5n beats my GF2 in many picture quality aspect…

Somehow I will miss the Nex 5n next week … and get my old faithful Panny back..


Thanks u all.. and thanks Steve for always inspiring me with his lovely website.


  1. Hello,
    probably is passed a lot of time, but I am very glad to share my experience.

    At present (fall 2014) I am using a Sony A6000 24Mpx sensor with a lot of old MF lenses.

    I like the output of Canon FD 50 1.4, but I am using with pleasure other older lenses like the Zeiss Triotar 135 f/4 and Helios 40 86mm f/1.5 (both excellent for portrait, in the right light conditions)
    For macro I am using a Canon FD 55 Macro, another precious lens.
    I am studying the S.C. Rubinar 500 f/8, it’s funny go around with this big ‘nose’

    It’s not easy to have perfect images but I enjoy a lot.
    Sony is doing excellent job with these cameras.

    I revamped my pleasure to take pictures.

  2. I use an old Minolta MC Rokkor PF 58mm (87.5mm with crop) F1.4 as my portrait lens, and an MC Rokkor 28mm F2.5 as a standard. I will eventually get the new 50 1.8 with OSS and the Zeiss 24 1.8 and use those exclusively. The kit zoom is fine, but I prefer working with fast primes. My old (non G) Minolta 85mm F1.4 practically lives on my A77.

  3. I love the idea of being able to use these manual, left aside lenses. I am very close to buy myself a nex-7.

    I have a question I couldn’t find an answer for: Manual lens have an aperture ring, but digital camera let your control the aperture in the software, how do you set the aperture, on the lens? On the camera? On Both?

    Do you set the camera aperture to open and then control the aperture on the lens of the camera?

    • With a manual lens you will use the Aperture dial on the lens itself to change aperture. No need for using the dial on the camera as it will not function.

  4. Almost exactly what I’m buying a NEX for, but in my case old Pentax K lenses that don’t work too well on new Pentax KAF bodies.

    As far as the frequent comments on wrist fatigue, big lens on tiny body etc etc; how does everyone hold their cameras?
    I’ve always had SLRs with often large lenses that weigh more than the body. Consequently I have always held the weight of the camera primarily by the lens with my left hand palm-up and used my right hand to access controls. This approach led to selling my only OM system camera (aperture, shutter dial and dof preview all around the lens mount) and avoiding 2-ring zooms. The pluses are little to no fatigue holding up a 2 to 3 kilo combination, keeping both elbows in to avoid contact with other humans and the option of bracing your left elbow (or both) against your torso. it’s a bit old fashioned, but it looks like I’m well prepared for an NEX and all those hefty old lenses!

  5. Very enjoyable pictures and text, William. I am used to the menu on my 5N and with a couple of customised keys don’t have to do TOO much diving. The pros far outweigh the cons for me.

    Hope you get to play with that combo again soon!

  6. Thanks for sharing, I’m really loving my NEX-7, and agree with many criticisms about the complexity of the interface. But, over time all those customizable features proof worth while. My big wish is that Sony and third parties come out with more lenses for the NEX system, especially high quality primes.

    • thats a very good things if Sony will really collaborate with third party lens maker ..

      makes some good prime lens .. and shine out the Nex line..

  7. so if you all observe well…
    almost every picture I shoot in here (and in other inspiration in Steve web)

    tend to focus on the right side of the pictures ( that is handled by my left eyes… )
    that is my born flaws..

    I am trying very hard to train my dead eyes .. I try to be able to focus correctly using my right eyes..
    so help me God

    hopefully 1 day I could shoot a good technique wised pictures…

    maybe some Pros will want to teach me one day.. 🙂
    the one dead eyes doctor

  8. Folks, I think it’s a wonderful idea to have friends to swap one body-one lens setups for week-long shoots. It helps refresh the joy of discovering new equipment, plus perhaps injecting some creativity in the process. It might even eliminate the fanboy syndrome by having to see the world through another camera one wouldn’t normally think of using.

    As they say, the best way to eliminate bias or bigotry is to see things through the other person’s eyes…

    • I guess you are right

      it is refreshing

      and i am lucky to have some friends that regularly … we borrow and use each other lenses.. body (different system).. just to refresh our point of view

      so for me personally.. its the fun and the results…
      i am loving the process of adapting
      learning the power also the weakness.. and coup with it

      like when i borrow olympus pen .. and my fellow get my GF..
      we feel its different approach but in 2 weeks of using different camera

      gives us many unexpected results..

      thanks Kevin

  9. This must be a very oldfashioned view, but I can’t for the life of me see the attraction of a creditcardlike, viewfinderless camerabody desperately hanging on to the back of a great (and not small or light) lens, whatever the resulting image quality. There mus be simpler ways to use an FD lens.

    That would be just me of course.

    • its ackward… i know

      but thats what I call friendship
      we trade and use each other gear .. to know many system better
      and to expand our self.. I hope 🙂

      its not ergonomic at all.. at least for me .. but I am loving every moment of it
      since its just limited time 🙂

      i enjoy the process.. each shots.. each weakness and each power .. in the new system I get

      thanks Michiel

      • William, I really like the images, and the NEX’s sensor in combination with good glass (and you 🙂 ) produces them, but wouldn’t you like a well balanced camera with a good viewfinder?

        Just a thought; I wasn’t brought up with digital “look at the display” cameras.



        • off course Michiel.. it will be lovely to have that kind of great camera..

          great ergonomic… great sensors.. good lens… good workflow
          and affordable to me..

          but we cant have all we want.. at least not for me..

          so I try to compensate.. 🙂

          yup..I got ur point .. the look at the display..

          frankly… tell u the truth
          one of the reason.. my dear friend lend me this nex 5 + the Tru Finder is

          I said I cant shoot with eyes viewwinder… I only shoot all this time looking at the LCD view… (with my first PS camera, canon A70, goes to Fuji F40, goes to Lumix LX3)
          then goes to Panasonic GF2

          I am so amateur and get used to looking and framing using the lcd display..

          plus I have 1 incidence that almost stop me from shooting pictures..

          2 months ago… I met a Professional Photographer in my country (he is the GURU)
          he became my patients .. and while waiting his turn to get his Cardiac CT Scan

          I humbly ask him to see some of my photos… (esp.. my baby girl)…
          after looking +/- 30-40 pictures arround 10 minutes
          this Guru …. look at me.. for like 10 seconds..

          He said… Doctor William… I think , you should stop shooting photos.
          You will never ever be good in photography and you certainly wont ever be a pro ..

          I am really shocked and troubled.. asking.. why ?

          the big Pro .. tell me
          dear doctor… all ur photos have 1 flaw .. it is your birth flaw..
          I know from all ur pictures.. u have 1 dead eyes..
          1 useless eye.. that is your right eyes…

          I bet your right eyes has big minus or silindric.. compared to the left eyes.. cause it is dead zone and lazy eyes…

          he is so right… my right eyes is minus 4.5 and my left eyes is only minus 2.0
          the right eyes always gives me troubles..

          so he said… u quit do photography cause u cant even see correctly in the view-winder cause ur right eyes is dead eyes.. dead zone..

          before its too late u stop taking photos…

          I feel very depressed for few days…
          and this friend of mine… said.. proof him wrong…

          one of the reason he insist me of using his nex 5N with the tru-finder is
          to train my right dead eye… so I can learn to use my eye looking through the eye viewinder

          I almost stop shooting since I valued the Pro Guru advice so much..
          but friends and wife said..
          at least you shoot for ur happiness.. for our baby and family…
          dont mind if any Pro telling your photos is crap..

          so the solution is
          my friend force me to use my right eyes .. he always remind me not to back to my old habit. using the LCD to frame…
          train your dead right eyes..

          and one day.. proof the mr Pro..
          even with God ‘s flaw. one dead eye..
          I could still having fun in photography

          well.. I mumble a lot hahahahaha
          but thats actually the story behind the trade,,, this time

          • Oh, William, what a terrible experience with that Guru.

            If everyone took the advice of others, where would we be with all those great artists, writers, composers, and others, if they followed their parents wishes and took up the careers their parents wanted for them, rather than follow their own inclinations?

            You produced some lovely images, despite everything. Keep it up!

          • That’s a terrible story William, but don ‘t let it turn you down. Nothing wrong with your eye for a good image. Your pics demonstrate that.

            Keep going with the camera you feel comfortable with!


  10. This must be a very oldfashioned view, but I can’t for the life of me see the attraction of creditcardlike, viewfinderless camerabody desperately hanging on to the back of a great (and not small or light) lens, whatever the resulting image quality. There mus be simpler ways to use an FD lens.

    That would be just me of course.

    • oldfashioned but the most important thing is

      you enjoy what you are shooting
      and have fun.. also delivering happiness to others 🙂


  11. Totally off topic (the images are great): a Contax 139 Q (that’s a small slr) with a 1.4/85 Planar (that’s a big lens) looks a lot less stupid then a NEX with a 50 Lux.

    Just MHO of course.

  12. Very nice images and this gets me excited as it is beginning to look more like film in it’s rendering. The Canonn 50 F1.4 is classic . Well done.

  13. Very nice mood and captured light.
    I have a 5n that I only use for video. I tried to take some photos with my Planar mounted.
    Peak focussing is a breeze but I find the 5n too slow in operation.
    I must take sometime to really test this combo.
    And when it comes to watches, your friend is right : Panerai is therealdeal (I have a Submersible 300 and a Radiomir chrono 😉

  14. Hi William,

    Almost everybody these days is looking for sharp, clean and clear. Your pictures however are:

    Not over-sharp. Not over-contrasty. A bit more grainy caused by the higher ISO settings. Beautiful creamy bokeh. It all adds to the character of these pictures. I think it’s the combination of fast classic glass used open with high ISO and a wonderful sensor (and a good eye of course). This is so relaxing for eye and soul. Feels like film. Love it!

  15. Nice to see an user report about the NEX 5N and manual lenses. Reviews often only tell about resolution, noise and color, but not so much about the handling. Sony still has to tweak their menu driven controls, but I can’t wait for my NEX 5N to arrive 🙂

  16. Nice shots, Wiliam. Really nice. And I’m glad you loved the manual shooting. I guess it’s time to buy an adaptor for the same Canon lens that’s still sitting on my old A1. I’m really curious how it holds up in comparison with the Carl Zeis Planar 2/50 ZM that I use with my NEX-7 nowadays.

      • Wow, William. It’s almost a year later that I notice that you replied to my comment! But you can indeed check some of my pictures on Flickr, if you search for my name or search for KeepnitGood. (Don’t forget to click on “people”.)
        I’m using a bunch of lenses, mainly Zeiss ZMs, but also a few Canon FDs – amongst them a sensational 85mm f/1.2 and a 20mm f/2.8. I really, really (!) wanna thank you a lot, William, because these lenses serve me so very well on my NEX-7 and give me so much joy. You know, it’s really because of reading your article that I began to use them on my NEX! Incredible! Thanks you so much!!!
        BTW, I’m absolutely curious to hear what you think of the pics I took with the different lenses. One thing I learned is, one needs to buy a good adapter. Novoflex never lets me down. But while waiting for the FD adapter, I first used a cheep one, that had focus issues. So I’ll never buy a cheap adapter again.
        Oh yeah, Steve also published two articles of mine, that you can find when typing in my name in the “search” box (top right of this site), with pics taken by Zeiss ZM and the FD 85mm on the NEX-7. But on Flickr some pics have a much bigger size, showing for instance the quality of the good old FD85. I love that one!

  17. I use the same combination alot: nex-5N and canon fd 50/1.4. It’s my first manual lens on the Nex, or any camera for that matter, and it has changed the way i feel about the camera and the moment i’m about to take the picture. I LOVE it! And i love the look of the picture. And the quality of it, especialy around f2.8.

  18. I enjoyed your photos a lot. Nice, moody feel and demonstrating the capabilities of the 5n with good glass.
    One general question for anyone. Notice the white circles in the background on some of the shots? Look a lot like the infamous Fuji X10 “white orbs.” The more I look for these in photos from all different brand cameras, the more I see them. Just me? Could it be a more common issue than we realized? Have we been living with it all along and just didn’t notice it?

    • Hi, Jim.

      I don’t think what is seen in these images is the dreaded Fuji white orbs, but is simply the product of the bokeh produced by the Canon optics.

      Looking at this phenomenon on the Fuji postings, it is clear the white discs arise from a problem in resolving a point source of light correctly. However, in these images from the Canon lens, it seems to me that this is pure bokeh, as there would not appear to be a point source of light in the image, but rather they are either reflections of lights, or clearly de-focused hightlights. The reason behind my belief is they are all defocused, whereas the Fuji white disc problem is more evidenced by hard edges and an unnatural spreading of the highlight that shouldn’t be there, and that only diminishes as the lens is STOPPED down. All these images were shot wide open at f1.4 and this therefore suggests to me that what we are seeing is not the Fuji white orb phenomenon.

    • In this case this is just a bokeh effect caused by the fact that the lens is focused on something near with a wide aperture.

      The Fuji Orb issue appears even when the lens is focused at infinity…so it is not caused by the bokeh and it should simply not appear with such parameters.

      These two things are totally different 🙂

  19. I really enjoyed to see your photos. They wet my appetite for some fine indo food in one of those nice padang restaurants. 🙂 Fortunately I will be in Indonesia soon and hope to bring back a lot of pictures also.

    • Tell me when you visiting Indonesia again Hugo 🙂

      could do a culinary tour and photo hunting with many good fellows here 🙂

  20. Nice to see somebody use Canon FD glass on a modern camera. I stopped using my FD gear only recently and still have a handful of lenses. I have been wondering how my FD glass would perform on my M9, although focussing will be an issue as there is no rangefinder coupling.

    Has anybody ever used FD glass on an M9?

  21. Hello William,

    thank you for your nice story of the Nex5N with the Canon FD 50 1.4. And thanks to Steve for this great website…it´s a daily inspiration for me. I also use a Nex 5N and a couple of Canon FDs (24/28/50/85/100 Macro/135) and I can say: I love it. It is another way to take photos…I need more time and that is very good. I have to make a plan to take a good photo…no more autofocus will help me. It is “slow photography” and I love it. A more conscious way to photograph. Thanks Sony for this great photographic tool!

    Best regards from Germany,

  22. Some very pleasing available light images, and they don’t look digital at all. The lack of noise shows how good the 5N sensor is, but even here, it is not being pushed to its limits.

    My only reservation, considering you shot wide open at f1.4, is you could have gone to higher ISO’s with little detriment to noise and availed yourself of a higher shutter speed, which I think may have helped. Remember, the crop factor meant you were using an equivalent 75mm focal length and unless you have very steady hands, 1/60 sec is borderline.

    You did comment on a handling aspect of the Nex 5N, especially using old wide aperture film camera lenses, which tend to be heavy. The small size of the 5N body doesn’t give much hardware to grip and as you have found, one’s wrists can start to ache after a while. Fitting the camera saddle part of the case significantly increases the size of what you can grip and can alleviate the problem.

    Thank you for sharing your images and experience.

    • thanks TerryB

      you are right about not pushing it to the limits..
      honestly, I am a bit worried to push it over ISO 3200 (silly me)

      and after shoot some ISO 2000-3200 and looks fine.. I might try push it more (I still got this camera until next week)..
      and you are right.. Going slower than 1/50 sec with my jelly hand.. risk the blur cause the hand shaking.. so I try to keep it over 1/50 sec

      About the ergonomic… It could be because I am using old glass lens that is quite heavy and big + the adapter..
      So it makes my positioning not so comfort.. I havent has any chance to do the shooting in Nex Native Lens.. maybe it will be more friendly to my wrist and hand


      • Hello, William.

        I have a similar issue using my Olympus f1.2/50 + adaptor on my 5N. The lens IS heavy.

        Using the E-mount kit lenses doesn’t induce aching wrists, even the 18-55mm zoom (27-82mm equivalent) is astonishingly light in weight, i.e. metal outer shell, but mainly plastic innards. It is a good, but not exceptional performer, but a lot of photographers have found it actually performs better on the 5N than the original 5. I can vouch for this, although I can’t explain it.

        As you will no doubt know, it has a relatively slow aperture range of f3.5-f5.6 but it does incorporate effective image stabilisation. However, your Canon was the equivalent of a 75mm f1.4. The Sony zoom at its maximum focal length is only fractionally longer, but importantly, it is 4 stops slower! Not even the excellent noise characteristics of the sensor can compensate for this, although the image stabilisation can help with your “jelly” wrists.

        Keep up your fine work.

      • When I had my NEX-5 I found that it was best to hold the lens only with left hand, fingers over the top and thumb underneath. This gives you more control and less strain on your wrist. It feels odd at first, but I found it works well with manual lenses.


        • Paul, this is exactly what I do with the 18-55. The wide zoom ring then comes into its own. Do you notice in most 5N reviews, few actually mention it has a manual zoom, far more accurate for framing than motorised versions, which seldom stop exactly where you want them to?

  23. The NEX system takes a little time to customize and then become familiar with your setup. Once you have it set up how you like, there is little menu-diving required. Some people, like d!rk above, prefer more dedicated buttons, giving fast access to pretty much everything (but then you have to remember what all those dedicated buttons actually do). Others, like me, prefer a few buttons that cover majority of shooting needs, then menu-dive for special situations.

    Regarding fast lenses, I finally got my hands on the new 50mm f1.8 in e-mount, which ELIMINATES me ever using my old 5Super Takumar m42 screw-mounts. The 50mm f1.8 is just spectacular! It’s so good that I’m going to eBay or Craigslist all my m42 lenses. Between the kit 18~55, the 50 1.8, and the 55-210, I’m pretty much set for now. My 16mm e-mount will likely get eBayed as well, as I rarely use it – I just don’t see that much difference between the 16mm and the kit zoom at 18mm to bother carrying the 16. Finally, the NEX system is getting a good range of lenses available! woo hoo!

  24. You are not an idiot. The user interface is just too complex. It took me half a year to get used to it. The main reason I switched to a Nex 7 is that I wanted some dedicated dials for ISO and aperture. I always got lost in the 5N structure and the accidental activation of the touch screen didn’t help. Still, it is a great camera when it comes to size, flexibility and output. Great review on your lens experiment. D!RK

    • Half a year to get used to it? Crickey!! Up until your experience I would have argued that any complaints about the user interface would be down to not having sufficient experience with it to remember where things are buried. However, yours seems to be the exception that proves the rule.

      Kidding aside, its user interface is undoubtedly alien to what many photographers want, coming from cameras with more direct controls, but I do wonder how often it is really necessary to keep changing numerous camera settings on the fly that can’t, mostly, be accommodated by judicious use of the soft key settings. But if one’s photography does require the ability to change many settings on the fly, the 5N is not going to be suitable, and its undoubted imaging capability is no compensation. So its the Nex7, but with a slightly compromised IQ at higher ISO’s.

      • I here read the manual and I am so used to the simple interface of the M9 that I just don’t like all the buttons on the 5N. Plus I never used it on a regular basis so I always had to remember what button to press to get to the features. I like it simple: ISO, Speed, Aperture, and view images and that’s it. D!RK

        • i am using it only in apperture priority..
          using manual focus assist in yellow line..
          setting the spot metering ael lock to right button

          and done..

          never really get to the more advanced stuff

          for 1-2 weeks fun… that setting serve me very well and pleasurable..
          thanks to a friend (shoot in nex, x-100 and M9) to teach me the simple workflow

          dont mind all the feature and mumbo jumbo soft key custom setting
          u just shoot and framed in ur head… focus and shoot..he said

          it works deliciously

          dummy me only need that

      • I want to troll on that since I own a NEX5n, a X100 and a M8.

        NEX5n…It became ok with me after 1 or 2 weeks of intense use (and you definitely need to memorize the menu to find things quickly)

        X100…sorry but I just don’t get it lol. Sometimes I have to go back to the manual to find what I am looking for.

        M8…Hey…So simple…it took me 10 minutes lol…but some people will argue it’s because there are no features :p
        But still it’s a delight to use a simple camera with few buttons.

        • ah also I have to say that the X100 manual is the poorest translation I’ve ever seen in any camera manual lol.
          Sometimes I read the text like 4 or 5 times and sitll do not understand what it means. kkk

  25. Great pics. I am really enjoying the NEX cameras and how adaptable that they are! You are showing what a wonderful system this is, especially in light of a limited E-lens selection for this set up. Plus, vintage glass has that look from another era, which can be enormous fun!


    • Thanks Ashwin and Carsia..

      I agree that this vintage glass.. has a certain character.. the color..

      I observe in all the Auto White Balance… shooting with this combo..
      the WB always goes very low Kelvin.. (very cold but look warm in the file)

      is it the trademark of Nex 5 ? or maybe because of the Lens ?
      I dunno ..

      enlightment , someone ?

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