Thanks for the opportunity given to me by CS and Sony to review the latest Sony NEX-5N.
I remember vividly, when NEX-3 and NEX-5 release in the market, it caught my attention. Being a compact body, APS-C sensor and the ability to have legacy lenses (with adaptor) on it was a great selling point to me.
As a professional photographer who specialises in Available Light Photography of Children and Family and as a parents who would like good quality image without all the bulk associated with big DSLR.
NEX system is at its early development but certainly one of the most interesting development in photography history.
This review will focus solely on the usability of the camera and how it perform using available light, or perhaps lack of the available light. It won't be about its technical specs nor in depth pixel peeping, but it is about how the camera help the photographer get what he wants. It will be short and straight to the point personal opinion on the usability of the camera.
1. Body Size
NEX system (including 5N) is perhaps one of most slimline design camera that I have used so far which feature a big APS-C sensor (read: 1.5x crop). I like the pocketability which allow me to bring it with me anywhere I go.
It is almost identical to its replacement SONY NEX-5, which a couple of slight modification on the body shape. Although it is compact, the grip provided is adequate for someone who don't have a big hand.
I find it difficult to use the LCD and pressing the shutter button using my index finger hence, I choose to use the camera to shoot below eye level and pressing the shutter with my thumb while having another hand on the left controlling the zooming or focusing of the lens. The tilting LCD makes life very very easy. Although, after a prolong use, you will find your eyes a little difficult to adjust its focus point...
With the current "Tru Finder" this eliminate this issue, but at over $300, it is a little pricey. It wasn't supplied at the time of review.
NEX 5 vs NEX 5N
2. ISO performance.
In short, I am impress by the ISO level. However, it is not a huge upgrade from the previous Sony NEX5 but certainly an upgrade. Shooting at ISO 3200 on this little camera gives one all the freedom at very low light level.
As compared to NEX-5, NEX-5N does give you more "control" as the camera seems to be a lot more responsive and the shutter lag seems to be non-existence even shooting at high ISO. Even with A900 at high ISO, I could feel a little sluggish performance, but 5N change my perception. It is enjoyable... Perhaps due to its 10fps speed, it seems the camera ready when you are...
4. The live-view
Shooting with Live-View is always interesting as it is very very responsive and very minimal lag that I can detect, certainly at a level that I think it is usable.
5. Peaking Level
I believe this is not a new technology, but the ability to use manual focus lenses on this camera with this function gives you the freedom to work faster... actually faster then the AF from the supplied kit lens. I like how it gives you 3 different colour (White, Yellow and Red) and you can use it at different scenario to help you with the manual focus in a very dark area. The accuracy is commendable but only if you are not overly critical about it or using extremely low f-stop. I would say, I have over 90% confident to use this function to get my shot where my eye sight fails me.
So my conclusion is:
For those who is looking for a camera body which you can bring with you anywhere you go and if you have a collection of great manual lenses (such as older Minolta Rokkor, Leica M, etc) this is definitely a camera that worth your attention. The current range of E-Mount lenses are still very limited and the size of the lenses left the system not a lot to be desired if size is the only consideration.
It is a camera that don't take up a lot of space in your bag and I do recommend for those who would like to have 3rd backup camera (after you have 2 very reliable pro specs DSLR), this is a camera to consider.
I had to use it once to shoot one of my clients images using Sony Nex-5 after both of my DSLR were damage due to an accident, of course, the "image" of a professional using a point of shoot is one thing to consider, but at desperation, this camera do produce results that even a client would wonder if it come from a big DSLR or this little camera. It saves my day once...
It is a perfect travelling camera if you want Quality without the bulk. I was really impressed with the quality of Sony NEX-5, hence the 5N is just something is better.... Here are some of my holiday snap http://www.tomato.sg/blog/?p=1045 and can you pick which images were taken using NEX 5 or the A-900 with CZ lenses?
So the question that you may ask, if I already have NEX5, should I "upgrade" to 5N? the answer is not totally easy to answer... Of course, if money is not an issue, go for it... 5N is a much improved version of 5, and with its responsiveness even at very low light level, this camera worth a serious consideration. It feels right on my hand and it certainly gives me the result that I am looking for.
For those who can't wait for the NEX-7 which will be released in Oct 2011, 5N will be a camera that you will enjoy using and you can be sure that with a bit of careful use, this camera can produce very high quality images that rival the big DSLR of the similar quality.