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Sony NEX-5N APS-C Mirrorless Review

Joshua Waller reviews the new 16 megapixel Sony NEX-5N APS-C Mirrorless camera.

| Sony NEX-5N in Mirrorless Cameras

Sony NEX-5N APS-C Mirrorless Review: Sony NEX-5N
Sony NEX-5N

The Sony NEX-5N is an update to the NEX-5 - it gives the camera a new touch screen giving easier control of options, as well as an updated 16.1 megapixel sensor, and the ability to add an electronic viewfinder. The electronic viewfinder is rather unique in that is features an OLED screen with 2.359million dots!

Sony NEX-5N APS-C Mirrorless Review: Sony NEX-5N
Sony NEX-5N

Sony NEX-5N Features

The Sony NEX-5N is the same as the NEX-5, but with these additional or updated features:
  • 16.1 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor
  • Object tracking
  • ISO100-25600
  • 1200-zone multi-pattern metering
  • 3 inch touch screen, 921k dots
  • Support for EVF
  • Optional XGA OLED EVF
  • Full HD, AVCHD v2, 50p,50i,25p, PASM shooting
  • Photo creativity touch interface (background defocus, colour, brightness, vividness, picture effect)
  • Additional creative effects: HDR Painting,
  • Face registration
  • Soft skin effect
  • Speed priority continuous mode at up to 10fps
  • Ultrasonic anti dust system
  • Customizable keys
  • Lens aberration correction
  • MF Assist and Peaking functions
  • Smart Accessory Terminal 2
  • Battery performance 430 photos
  • Magnesium Alloy exterior
  • Body weight 210g
Sony NEX-5N APS-C Mirrorless Review: Sony NEX-5N
Sony NEX-5N

There's also a new Sony Alpha adapter, the LA-EA2, with translucent mirror technology, it provides high speed auto focus with Alpha lenses, and features a built in motor for lenses without built in motor. For more information have a look at our NEX-5N First Look Review.

Sony NEX-5N APS-C Mirrorless Review: Sony NEX-5N
Sony NEX-5N Sensor

With the new adapter, you can add great lenses such as the 35mm f/1.4 G lens and get extremely quick focusing on the NEX system. Sample photos taken with the Sony NEX-5N and 35mm f/1.4 G Lens can be viewed in the equipment database.

Sony NEX-5N Handling

The touch screen gives an alternative way to control the camera and can provide quick access to options and settings, letting you scroll through the menus quicker. playback is also quicker to control, and the ability to flick through photos, and drag the image around when zoomed in, makes it very similar to the way iphones and other touchscreen smartphones work. Touch screen lets you choose the focus point using your finger, then AF tracking can keep the choice in focus. The shutter sound is quite loud.

Sony NEX-5N APS-C Mirrorless Review: Sony NEX-5N Viewfinder

New OLED Electronic ViewFinder (EVF) - with 2.359 million dots the extremely high resolution electronic viewfinder gives an excellent view of the subject, and is of a higher resolution than the 921k dot screen. Although the screen does work very well outdoors in bright sunlight, there are times when it is difficult to see and the EVF helps massively in this respect.

Sony NEX-5N APS-C Mirrorless Review: Sony NEX-5N
Sony NEX-5N

Battery life is improved with a battery life rating of 410 shots. In our testing we took over 220 shots and the battery life was showing as having over 50% available, this is an improvement over the Sony NEX-5 who's battery life was rated at 330 shot.

Sony NEX-5N APS-C Mirrorless Review: Sony NEX-5N
Sony NEX-5N

Sony NEX-5N APS-C Mirrorless Review: Sony NEX-5N
Sony NEX-5N

Now that the camera has a touch screen, the way you control the camera and interacted with it, has changed, and now pressing the screen will let you change options quickly without necessarily having to go into the menus so much. Here's an overview of the touch screen in operation:

Speed in use:

Speed - we tested the Sony NEX-5N, and compared it to the NEX-C3 and Samsung NX11. You can also compare the results to the new Panasonic Lumix G3, and Olympus PEN E-P3 as well as others.

Sony NEX-C3
Sony NEX-5N
Samsung NX11
Shutter Response 0.1
<0.05 0.1
Wide - Focus / Shutter Response 0.35 0.2 0.3
Full zoom - Focus / Shutter Response 0.35 0.2 0.3
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo 1.0 0.9 1.3
Shot to Shot (without flash) 0.7 (1.5 with AF)
0.6 1.0
Shot to Shot with Flash 1.8 0.7 1.1
Continuous Shooting
(shots before slow down)
5.5fps (13 shots) 10fps (10 shots)
3fps (15 shots)
Continuous Shooting (flash) 2fps 2fps 2fps (infinite shots)
Continuous Shooting (RAW) 6fps (6 shots) 10fps (7 shots)
3fps (5 shots)

* 14-42mm Olympus M Zuiko 14-42mm II R lens used for the GF3 camera, tested with the new Samsung Class 10 memory card.

The speed has improved over the NEX-C3 and NEX-5 with quicker focus, shutter response, and much quicker continuous shooting at 10fps. Shot to shot was also very good even with flash on.

Sony NEX-5N Performance

Here are several sample photos taken in a variety of lighting conditions, click "Hi-Res" to view full size sample photos, there are more sample photos in the equipment database where you can also add your own photos and review:

Sony NEX-5N Sample Photos

Sample photos show very little red eye in the portrait photo and there is good detail. Colours are bright and saturated and detail is generally good. HDR mode helps expand dynamic range, keeping detail in the shadow areas and highlight areas.

Sony NEX-5N Lens test images

Lens test images show good detail in both the wide angle and telephoto shots. There is very little chromatic aberration or purple fringing, but where there is some it is not excessive. Macro performance is reasonable for a kit lens giving the ability to take some detailed close up photos.

Sony NEX-5N ISO test images

ISO test images show some pincushion distortion. At ISO100 all the way to ISO1600 noise is very low. At ISO3200 noise starts to become visible, and images become slightly softer. ISO6400 shows more noise, but detail is still good and the results are very usable. Although at ISO12800 and above noise is the most prominent, and images may be best used resized on the web or processed further to reduce noise more.

Sony NEX-5N White-balance test images

White balance images show the camera performing well using Auto White Balance under fluorescent lighting, although better results are available under tungsten lighting by using the tungsten preset. Detail is good in these photos thanks to the higher resolution sensor.

Sony NEX-5N APS-C Mirrorless Review: 1/200 sec | f/10.0 | 18.0 mm | ISO 100
Panoramic 1/200 sec | f/10.0 | 18.0 mm | ISO 100 - The sweep panorama mode works well where you simply press the shutter button and rotate with the camera. The camera will stitch the photographs together automatically.

Sony NEX-5N Digital filters

Digital Filters - there are a number of filters and effects available, with the choice of: Toycam, Pop, Posterization, Retro, Soft High Key, Partial Colour Red, High contrast mono, Soft focus, HDR painting, Rich Tone Mono, and Miniature.

Lenses available: there are seven lenses currently available (16mm, 18-55 OSS, 18-200 OSS, 30mm Macro lens, 24mm Carl Zeiss, 50mm Portrait, and 55-210mm telephoto). There are also wide-angle and fisheye converter add-on lenses available for the 16mm lens as well. Adapters to use Sony Alpha / Konica Minolta Alpha lenses are also available.

On the roadmap for 2012 is the addition of a "High Performance Standard Zoom Lens (G)", a wide angle zoom lens, and a mid telephoto prime lens, bringing the total number of lenses available from Sony up to 10 lenses.

More sample photos taken with the Sony NEX-5N: have a look at samples taken with the new Carl Zeiss 24mm f/1.8 Lens, new Sony 50mm f/1.8 OSS lens, and the new Sony 55-210mm OSS Lens.

Video - The NEX-5N features Full HD, stereo sound, AVCHD, and high quality video recording, with full manual controls, P/A/S/M.

Value for Money

The Sony NEX-5N is available for £539 with the 18-55 kit lens with OIS, or £609 with the both the 18-55mm and 16mm pancake lens (without OIS) making it quite good value for money. Alternatively you can find the Sony NEX-5 with full HD for around £378 with 18-55 kit lens, or the NEX-C3 is available for £385 with kit lens.

Alternatives include the Olympus PEN Lite E-PL3, E-P3, Panasonic Lumix G3, Panasonic Lumix GF3, Samsung NX11, as well as earlier models, the Panasonic Lumix GF2, and Olympus PEN EPL2. Of these, the Olympus PEN cameras feature a built in anti-shake sensor, and both the Panasonic and Olympus models use the micro four thirds mount, with the largest range of lenses available. More options available in our mirrorless reviews.

Sony NEX-5N Verdict

The Sony NEX-5N and additional lenses, viewfinder, and new adapter give the NEX system added versatility, and a much more useful range of choices regarding lenses. The touch screen is an improvement in the way the NEX-5 is controlled as it helps make up for the limited number of buttons on the original NEX-5, aids access to options, and ultimately makes it an easier camera to use. It also makes it a more fun camera to use, particularly when viewing photos. The optional viewfinder is extremely impressive, with stunning detail and colour, although the addition of the EVF does stop you from using flash.

Image quality appears to be excellent, and even though megapixels have increased, the camera is still providing low noise levels, with the addition of a new ISO25600 range giving additional usefulness in extremely low light. The new 50mm f/1.8 Portrait lens also helps in low light.

This could be the best NEX and whilst a subtle update, it gives quicker performance in use (including an impressive 10fps shooting), better battery life, higher resolution, touch screen aids control and there are new lenses available, which will be especially good news to anyone who has already bought into the NEX system.

Sony NEX-5N APS-C Mirrorless Review:
The Sony NEX-5N improves on the NEX-5 giving speedy performance and great image quality.

Sony NEX-5N Pros

Touch screen improves ease of use / control
Electronic viewfinder now available
Extended ISO range, and low noise
Great colour in photos
Full HD video recording
Improved battery life
10fps continuous shooting

Sony NEX-5N Cons

New lenses are quite large
Non standard flash mount
Alpha lens adapter can make the camera quite bulky


Sony NEX-5N Specifications

Image Sensor
Pixels16.1Mp (Megapixels)
Pixels (W)4912
Pixels (H)3264
Sensor TypeCMOS
Sensor SizeAPS-C
Sensor Size (width)23.5mm
Sensor Size (height)15.6mm
Aspect Ratio
  • 3:2
LCD Monitor
LCD Monitor3in
Screen resolution921,600
Touch ScreenYes
Focusing modes
  • Autofocus
Exposure Control
Shutter speeds shortest1/4000sec
Shutter speeds longest30sec
Bulb modeYes
Exp modes
  • Program
  • Aperture-Priority
  • Shutter-Priority
  • Manual
  • Scene modes
  • AB
  • Centre-weighted - Average
  • Multi Pattern
  • Spot
ISO sensitivity100 - 25600
White balance
  • Auto
  • Manual
  • Outdoors/Daylight
  • Cloudy
  • Incandescent
  • Fluorescent
  • Shade
Exposure Comp+/-3
Viewfinder ResolutionNo Data
MagnificationNo Data
Shooting Options
Continuous shooting10fps
Movie modeYes
Video Resolution
  • 1920x1080 FullHD
Video FPS25p, 50p
Stereo SoundYes
Optical Zoom with VideoYes
Other Features
Image StabilisationNo
Wi-FiNo Data
Card Type
  • SD
  • SDHC
  • Memory Stick (Sony)
  • SDXC
File Type
  • RAW
  • JPG
  • RAW + JPG
Power Source
Battery TypeNP-FW50
Battery Life (CIPA rating)410shots
Box Contents
Box ContentsCamera, Shoulder strap, Battery Charger, Infolithium Battery (NP-FW50), USB Cable, CD-ROM, Flash, Standard Zoom Lens (18-55mm OSS)

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Photographs taken using the Sony NEX-5N

"Highland Pano"Under the crescent moon.......Moonlight"... in a yellow submarine""Mike & mike"Under the bridge.MhediBack to basicsGirl in the HatLove at first sight!MoonlightHelloTriumphTides Out

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The high ISO, above 1600, is fantastic, far better than my Nikon D90 or any of my M4/3 cameras. I figure a NEX3, a NEX 5N. With 3 lenses, 16mm, 18-55, and 55-210 weighs about what my D90 with the 18-200 lens and is not nearly as flexible. I have a back up camera mounted with the 16mm and the 18-55 on the 5N and I am ready to meet any situation in my travels.
Great review, super little camera with a top notch performance, but these add on EVF's are so vulnerable to rough handling and accidental damage. Yes, I know it would make the camera bigger, but a built in EVF would be the icing on the cake for me. Sony must be the the class leader in CSC's, especially as its also a APS-C sensor camera which has less 'compromises' than a Micro 4thirds. The NEX 7 must have heard my complaints.
I wonder if there is much improvement in picture quality from 16mp to 24mp.

Great small body, great IQ, then it is spoilt as soon as you put a lens on!

The micro four thirds systems may not have the same high ISO performance but they do have the better compact lens. One of the main points for these camears is the compact size and low weight over a normal DSLR system. The NEX 5N when paired with a 18-55mm lens is neither compact or that light.

Better to have a little less ISO performance and something you can easily fit in a coat pocket than a larger camera that ends up being little better than a DSLR.
I have travel to India and Cuba with the 5 N with the EVF attached and in my vest pocket. Oh, the lens I mainly use is the 18-55 and that is also attached and in my vest pocket.

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