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Thursday, September 15, 2011

NEX-5N Impressions - Part 1

I finally got the Sony NEX-5N Test Unit from Sony Australia. Too bad it came with the kit lens and not with the new Zeiss 24/1.8, SEL 30 Macro or  SEL 55–210. I was really hoping that at least the LA-EA2 adapter came with it so I can test the SONY SAL2470CZ lens. Anyway, the camera comes with Firmware v1.0.

To give you a bit of a background, I have been using the NEX since it came out. I have the 3 E-mount lenses that Sony has in the market at the moment and some old Minolta manual focus lenses, a Carl Zeiss 24–70 A-Mount lens that I use with the LA-EA1 adapter. I like the NEX because of it's Image Quality. I am not bothered that it is not pocketable. Personally, the NEX system is portable and suits my shooting style.

The NEX-5N is the logical upgrade to the NEX-5, I know there is the NEX-7 but it will be like comparing apples and oranges between the NEX-5 and NEX-7. I won't be able to cover everything as Sony requires the camera back ASAP as there are huge requests for testing/review of the new cameras. I also would not tell you all the technical aspect of the camera, I am more interested in testing/reviewing how each works and what it actually does.  Here is a preview of the Sony NEX-5N from DPReview as they outline the technical specifications of the camera.


The two cameras look identical side-by-side. The NEX-5N has a better rubber grip compared to the NEX-5. Only one button has moved, the 'review/play' button. On the NEX-5, this is sitting directly on top but now it is closer to the 'movie record' button and a bit at the backside.

It features what Sony calls 'Photo Creativity Touch Interface'. You can turn them On/Off on the menu if you don't like to use the LCD touch screen. I am not a big fan of touch screens on cameras as you can 'accidentally' change a setting without you knowing what it is. Another thing to consider is how much battery does the Touch Screen uses? I would rather have buttons/dials if I can shoot more pictures. Besides, how do you protect your LCD screen now? If you are used to taking pictures with your iPhone, Samsung, HTC touch smartphones then this should suit you. It is actually fun to use as you can use your finger to touch the area you want to focus and it even tracks it if the subject moves.

Black NEX-5N and Silver NEX-5
The other major difference I see is when you lift the LCD screen. As you can see on the picture, the NEX-5 (near the dial) has a bit of an 'exhaust' which I think should help with the 'overheating issue' plaguing the NEX system when shooting video. On the NEX-5N, it is very flat. I will test this overheating issue with the NEX-5N and see which will overheat first.  There is a youtube video out showing that the NEX-5N overheats after about 22+ minutes of shooting video.  I

The NEX-5N also uses the new Smart Accessory Terminal 2.  What this means is that you cannot use the FDA-EVS1 (Sony's External Electronic Viewfinder) on the old NEX cameras. But you can use the HVL-F20S (a more powerful flash than the one that comes with the NEX) and the external MIC on the NEW ones.  I don't see any physical difference between the old and the new flash, even the contact points seems the same. So it has to be some sort of re-designed circuitry inside that has changed. One of my theory is that it uses a higher voltage than the old NEX cameras and thereby reducing the battery life of the NEX-5N.  I will ask Sony why they redesigned the Smart Accessory Terminal and post whatever their answer will be.


Picture Effect – On the NEX-5, this is part of the Shoot Mode, on the NEX-5N, this has been embedded into the Brightness/Color section of the Menu. You can easily access this though as you can set it as one of your 'Custom Button'. Personally, I don't like this. Sony could have left it where it is and then you can assign a more used functionality on one of the 'Custom Buttons'.  The NEX-5N boasts of 11 new Picture Effects (HDR Painting, Soft Focus, Miniature, Rich-Tone Monochrome and Soft High Key).  I will post a separate blog entry showing all the Picture Effects of the Sony NEX-5N.  I just hope that Sony will also provide a firmware update on the NEX-3, NEX-3C, NEX-5 that includes the new Picture Effects.

Custom Settings – It took a bit of playing around before I found this. It must be me as I was actually in a bit of a panic trying so hard to find the one biggest fault the first series NEX cameras have. The NEX-5 allows you to set up 4 quick access functions while the NEX-5N allows up to 6. This is a huge improvement and the most important thing that you can add on your Custom Button on the NEX-5N is the AEL (Auto-Exposure Lock) function.

Front Curtain Shutter – This basically reduces the shutter lag by removing the time to close and then open the shutter to expose the image. There is one disadvantage though which was stated on the NEX-5N manual. If you shoot at night at high shutter speeds with a large diameter lens attached, ghosting of blurred area may occur, depending on the subject and shooting conditions. In such cases, set this item to [Off].

AF Micro Adjust – This is only available when you have the LA-EA2 adapter attached to the camera. So I cannot say how accurate it is because I don't have the adapter yet.

Lens Compensation: Shading / Chromatic Aberration / Distortion – This should cut-down on the post-processing of photos. The only options you have are 'Auto' and 'Off'. I wish Sony allowed the saving of lens profile in the NEX-5N and NEX-7 (ala Lightroom Lens Profile).  I am not sure but I have to verify this, this seems to only work with Sony's own E-Mount lenses.  Does that mean then that everytime there's a new lens, the NEX-5N and NEX-7 will get a firmware update??

Face Registration – This is very useful when you have a guest of honor / VIP. If you are taking group shots, their face will always be in focus. I tried shooting my keyboard and it won't register. I will test this thoroughly as this is a useful function for events. You can store up to 8 faces and also re-arrange them by priority as you see fit.

Object Tracking – the name says it all! Even if you set this on the Menu to 'Off'. Touching the screen will automatically enable it and you will see this 'double-square' on your screen moving around. You can actually help the tracking by pointing to where the object/subject is if it loses focus. 

Eye-Fi Setup – Yes the NEX-5N supports Eye-Fi SD Cards. You will need to insert an Eye-Fi SD Card for the menu to show this option. I don't have one at the moment so I can't give you much except that it is supported. 

Don't discount the Sony NEX-5N, this is one serious piece of equipment from Sony. And with the NEX-5N being sold almost $400 - $500 less, I would just use that extra money to get the best lens for the NEX system, the SEL24F18CZ. I bet that the NEX-5N and NEX-7 sales will surpass the Sony A65/77 sales.  I was actually surprised on what Sony has added / improved in this little camera.  Personally, I would buy the NEX-7 as I want a viewfinder and the hot-shoe.

I will post the sample photos and videos next week after I used the NEX-5N extensively this weekend.

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