#99. Sony NEX-5n – Why I’m saying goodbye to this little gem

By pascaljappy | News

Apr 21

5 months ago, a tiny newcomer crossed the threshold of my house and joined the long line of cameras to replace an ageing Nikon D80. The Sony NEX-5n has caught my eye on sonyalpharumors and seemed like the right camera for a soon-to-come trip to Australia.

I bought it with the intention of using it with nothing but manual lenses.

Tall karri trees at Boranup forest on Caves Road, Western Australia. Sony NEX-5n and Zeiss ZM Biogon 25/2.8

Boranup, Caves Road, WA

Since that day, I have thouroughly enjoyed the camera and regularly posted updates to investigates specific aspects of its use. You will find these previous instalments here :

Bright blue fish in a restaurant fishtank in Hong-Kong. Sony NEX-5n

As always, be sure to click on pictures to see larger versions. WordPress makes the smaller on-page versions look quite fuzzy

What’s to like ?

Image Quality

It is, in a word, stunning. Remember this is a tiny and cheap camera. In that respect, it challenges pro cameras costing many times the price.

Part of the joy of using Leica lenses and cameras is that out of camera files are just spot on and require much less tweaking than those from other brands. You effectively spend much more time shooting and less time on Photoshop. This is true of this little gem of a NEX. It’s good. Easily 24″ wide print good.

I’m not much of a high ISO aficionado, but you can certainly shoot fast in the dark if you cannot afford a tripod.

It lets you build a lens kit

This is criterion #1. Cameras die, lenses stay. The look of your pictures is created by the lenses. Once you love a lens, you keep it forever. Always buy cameras that are compatible with your lenses, not the other way around. The Sony NEX-5n is THE perfect camera for this. It is compatible with a huge variety of lenses. By which I mean the sensor and lenses match well. Which cannot be said of many other cameras out there.

The statue of a naked lady in le Louvre, Paris. Sony NEX-5n

It has the best auto-focus system in the world

That’s me. I know where I want to focus better than any electronic auto-focus knows where I want to focus.

Focus peaking has its limits, but mostly work brilliantly. With long lenses, it’s usually easy to snap into focus. Wide angles can be more fussy and I often found myself back-focusing using Philippe’s Zeiss ZM18 Distagon. With such lenses, use focus peaking at its minimum and open the lens’ diaphragm. For some (unexplained to me) reason, some lenses seem to have much shallower depths of field than others (all else being equivalent). Philippe and I repeatedly found that my Elmarit 19/2.8 is much shallower than his Distagon 18/4, for instance.

It’s fast

Since it’s never wasting its time focusing, it’s always instant. The shutter mechanism is also ultra-fast. So you press, it clicks. Instantly. You cannot imagine how liberating this feels when you’ve struggled with slow AF systems for years in low light.

It’s very well built

I’ve use the little sweety with some of the most prestigious and expensive lenses money can buy (not mine, unfortunately ;)) and it never ever looked out-of-place. Fit and finish is perfect. It looks good. Granted it isn’t made of a slab of Wolverine’s skull like the M9, but it still feels very nice in the hand (and, hey, it has a grip. Take that, Wolverine skull digital camera designed 70 years ago ;))

Dead trees in a lake, Margaret River, WA. Sony NEX-5n

Exposure is mostly spot on

Not only is exposure very reliable, the highlight headroom in RAW files is really great. Some have measured it. What I can tell you is you can shoot deep shadows and sky on a sunlit Australian day and get away with it. Easily. Throw in white clouds and you’ll need to bracket that, though.

It’s cheap

And guess what ? Sony will soon be making a newer version of this, so it will get even cheaper.

It has a great feature set

Laugh all you want at the Toy Camera mode πŸ˜‰ It’s just great to be able to experiment and have fun. The menus could be improved by a 3-year-old with mental disorders, but once you get there, it is a lot of fun. B&W modes are also nice. Panoramas look stunning when they work well, but there have been some glitches (see link above). HDR is well implemented and you can season it with tone mapping or not (albeit in two different menu sets, unfathomably). There’s plenty more.

A twisted tree reaching for the sky in Bargeme, France. Sony NEX-5n

What’s not to like ?

No viewfinder

The rear screen is great and with the camera on a tripod, it feels spookily close to re-living my view camera days.

But, after almost 6 months with it, I still want to take it to my eye. A view finder is more intuitive in some situations (portraits, for instance). It also lets you see better in stark sunlight. Plus it lets you brace yourself with the camera tight against your face for more stable long exposures.

The EVF is very nice on this camera. And it swivels upwards. Oh joy. But costs too much. It’s definitely worth the price, but as I never intended to live with this camera forever, the investment is not worth it for me.

It’s probably best to include it in the camera by default.

A large spherical yellow tree in a green forest, in B&W. Sony NEX-5n

It’s a walkman

As pleasurable it is to use, it just doesn’t feel like a camera. Younger generations probably won’t mind, but I do. In that respect, the NEX-7 is way better. It almost feels like a baby Mamiya 7. Go Sony.


See below.

A white tree against a black mountain under a white cloud. Sony NEX-5n

Suggestions for future evolutions

There’s definitely room for improvement, but it’s revealing of how pleasing this camera is that I had a lot of trouble remembering what these were.

Raw button

Menus have their limitations and when you want to quickly get out of whatever fun mode you were experimenting to go back to RAW for a fleeting shaft of evening sunlight on a slate grey ocean through a pink tinged cloud (is that good enough an incentive to switch modes ?), you quickly feel yourself drawn to the dark side of the Force.

Circular lakes in Western Australia seen from the plane, Sony NEX5n

Live histogram

Let me check the date. Yeah … 2012. No live histogram? Really, Sony? Really?
UPDATE: Barry Timm corrected my mistake here. See comments at the end. There is indeed a live histogram on the camera. I did look for it quite a bit, but not well enough obviously πŸ˜‰ Thanks Barry. Be sure to read the comments for caveats concerning its use and exposing too far to the right.

Half-press focus peaking

Focus peaking is a brilliant aid for … focusing. So you only really need it when … focusing. The rest of the time, it’s a bit of a pain, painting your picture shimmering red or yellow.

It could be nice to leave it off and to activate it by half-pressing the trigger. And why not give us some control over the peaking level without having to go through the menu. Some sort of wheel control maybe.

Sometines, it gets a bit frustrating and you switch it off completely. With this type of result …

Oodles of french fries in my young girl's bowl. Sony NEX-5n


How can I put this ?

About 1% of photographers are fashion photographers. Let’s pass over the fact that absolutely none of them would use this sort of camera.
About 10% of their shots might show moire.

So, about 0.1% of pictures might suffer from moire, which seems like a great rationale for artificially blurring 99.9% of others. Doesn’t it? Brilliant!

Come on Sony. Leica got rid of AA filters long ago (never had them, to be exact). So did Ricoh and Fuji. And Sigma. And even good ol’ I-never-listen-to-customers Nikon ! Are you going to let even conservative Nikon out-innovate you ? Get rid of the damn AA filter. Completely. For. Ever !

Why not do it the (not so) “smart” way and charge 10% more for for a camera that doesn’t have that expensive component (a la D800E) and make a quick buck if that’s what your execs are worried about?

Lens coding

I’m not talking about some elaborate lens recognition system. Simply a menu letting you select the lens you are currently using from a list you define as you go. This would be nice for EXIF and for bulk corrections.

Oh, and, better customer service

Yes, Sony, how about decent customer service (see below) ? Better access to repair shops would be great. You’re a great brand,go all the way. This is not consumer electronics.

Night graffiti. Sony NEX-5n

Who is it for ?

Many will consider it as a backup camera. I think it’s a great camera for learning photography. All major controls are there, yet it’s incredibly easy to use. The creative modes inspire you to try new things and see what works. The amazing image quality rewards careful technique. I simply cannot think of a better camera for serious learning or teaching. Grab yourself a nice Voigtlander lens and you’ll be making creative images in minutes for less than 800$

Families and amateurs never going to print : I suggest getting a smartphone instead.

It’s also great for hiking or trekking – reliability issues aside – though for really tough conditions, a really tough camera such as the Panasonic GF1 might be better.

A white lamborghini faces an orange lamborghini. Sony NEX-5n

Reliability issues

If you’ve read the [first instalment] of this long-term rolling review, you’ll know I bought the NEX-5n a couple of months before a long trip to Western Australia because my Nikon D80’s processing seemed to be having occasional mishaps (it wasn’t, my mistake …).

The sad irony is that once in Oz, out in the boonies, the NEX-5n failed. It began eating up battery very rapidly (I would lose 5% every time I switched it on) until after a few days, the camera stopped functioning altogether.

Shit happens. But sometimes it get’s handled more gracefully than others. Back in Perth – having lost the once in a lifetime opportunity to make pictures of Kalbarri NP – I took the little NEX to the Sony Store. That’s like the largest Sony shop within 2500 miles. The guy there gave me a bemused look and told me

“Sorry mate, we sell those, we don’t repair them”

Or, for that matter exchange, loan, rent … or in any other possible way try to make a stranded customer happy. Ouch!

This is not to bash Sony, but it’s simply very poor salesmanship. My next camera won’t be a Sony. And my TV is a Sony Bravia. My Blu Ray player is a Sony. It’s very likely that replacements won’t be. Are you listening, Sony? Reputation matters! Wonderinf why you’re loosing money? Focus on quality.

The picture below taken with my wife’s Olympus Tough 610 while my NEX-5n was lying dead at the bottom of my bag. I like it a lot and people have asked me to sell them prints. I think that just shows how much most amateurs wory excessively about pixel peeping “quality” instead of technique. Ergonomy matters much more. Click to enlarge and you will see just how good even the smalles cameras can be. A Nikon D800 wouldn’t have made this pictures because I simply wouldn’t have hauled it around for 8 hours in 48Β°C temperatures.

Sunset at Kalbarri beach

So Sony sucked big time. On the other hand, Amazon.com were incredible. I went to the website, was sent a new camera in 3 days, printed out a form and sent my dead soldier weeks later, back in France. No questions asked. A. MA. ZING. Thank you Amazon! Thank you!

I never mentioned the incident on this blog before because it could have been random luck. But my replacement camera, now 3 months old, is going AWOL in exactly the same way as the first and I fully expect it to drop dead on me as well … Now I’m not a pro. Photography is just a hobby and this doesn’t really matter. But that’s besides the point. I’ve loved photography and cameras for 30 years and simply can’t be bother with gear/service that can’t be relied upon.

But basically, it’s my fault. Sony is a consumer electronics company, not (yet) a fully fledged camera brand (they do seem to be working hard at it). Chances are few NEX buyers make 5000 pictures in 2 months. Odds are most will be very happy with their acquisition. Image quality is just fantastic. The price is right. Only, if you’re a serious photographer that wants to rely on your camera even when Amazon’s not here to help, buy from a reliable camera maker.

The ferry in Hong-Kong at night. Sony NEX-5n

What I miss from the DSLR days


As mentioned above.

My lowly Nikon D80’s shutter achieved far more than its guarranteed number of cycles. My 18-200 was dropped into an Icelandic river and works just fine. That’s immerged into freezing water (along with the photographer, camera bag, the whole business) for at least 30 seconds, pulled out, left to dry outside in the air with no technical intervention and put back onto a new body to work perfectly for several extra years. It still does today. This definitely is a strong incentive to buy again.

A viewfinder

As I already mentioned.

A bit of chunkyness

Small, light cameras are a boon. Really. After an 8 hour hike with the NEX-5n and a pancake Voigtlander around your neck, you KNOW there is no going back. But there can be too much of a good thing. The NEX-5n is almost perfect. But the NEX-7 feels better proportionned, allowing a slightly more natural grip.

The blue Busselton Jetty interpretive center agains the gree sea and a sail boat under the sun

What I do not miss

A mirror!

Regulars know how much I like the little Sony. But let’s face it : 80% of its appeal comes from the mirrorless concept. Olympus PENs, Panasonic GFxxx and similar designs are just as pleasing. My reason for going Sony was solely linked to the way the sensor handles M-mount lenses (past generation M43 cameras have not been so brilliant). As much as I would LOVE to use that Nikon D800 sensor for landscapes (it”s not just the pixel count), there is simply no way to drag me back to the huge body and lenses, the cluncky, noisy slap of the mirror and the conspicuous body shouting for attention when that’s the last thing you want. Nope, mirrorless is the present and the future as far as I’m concerned.


Be honest : what’s the difference between any Nikon and any Canon ? I don’t see it and I’ve been a photo nut for 30 years. They’re just all the same camera with extra bits and bobs added or removed from the feature list by the respective marketing department the herd us into (not so, it turns out) lucrative ranges. That’s not the same with mirrorless cameras. An Olympus Pen is a little gem of a camera. A truely brilliant little object with distinct differences from my Sony NEX-5n (the look, the feature set, the build, the philosophy). To me a PEN has all the appeal the iPhone seems to have on so many people. It is an utterly desirable object from a design and technological point of view. A Nikon, even the incredibly capable D800, is just a dark grey plastic box. A great tool for a pro, but nothing that stirs me or begs me to get out of the house to shoot.

A small glass pyramid in front of a larger one, against the background of the Louvre Museum in Paris. Sony NEX-5N and Zeiss ZM Biogon 25mm f/2.8

What will I replace it with?

The Sony NEX-5n is a wonderful image making device that opened my life to a new form of – mirrorless – camera and rejuvenated my love of photography. I don’t think I can make it a better compliment. But what can I step up to in the Sony stable ? The NEX-7 ? Nope. No way. I lusted for it before the tsunami. I used it after. It can’t handle legacy lenses. It’s pixels are too small, too grainy and too fidgety. A great camera in the hands of someone who loves it, but that’s not me.

A petrol station in Margaret River, WA with exagerated colours. Sony NEX-5n

I pre-ordered a Fuji X-pro1, falling for all the “better than full-frame” hype. Then cancelled my order after reading the reviews. Image quality simply isn’t better than the NEX-5n (I don’t know this but did print many 24″ inch prints fragments using dpreview samples from both cameras). Yes it’s better at 6400 and possibly a tiny tiny bit better on screen at 150% at base ISO. But that’s about as relevant to me as how fast my car would drive on the moon (and much less fun). Plus, the viewfinder leaves me cold and the focusing seems to make everyone miserable.

The Nikon D800 ? Thought hard about that one. Incredible tonal range, dynamic range, colour depth and pixel count. But no, I’m not going back to a very competent tool that will stay at home because it breaks my neck, scares away the wildlife half a mile away, attracts unwanted attention and is a pig to handhold in low light. Why Sony doesn’t use it’s onw sensor in an M9 thrashing mirrorless design is far beyond me. Shame though. I’d buy that this instant, in spite of reliability worries.

A Leica M, possibly ? Hmmm, that would be a major financial commitment and image quality certainly would sway me that way. Leica is making a major announcement on May 10th and while my eyes a peeled, my hopes are low. Interesting rumours abound. But, however good picture quality will undoubtedly be, odds are the new camera will turn out to be be yet another overpriced 70 year old suppository design piece of kit that will frustrate all but existing fans and collectors. So the M is another one I lusted after, tried (co-author Caroline’s M8) and will leave well alone for now. I sure hope I’m wrong and Leica proves itself capable of surprise as it did with the lovely X1. Reinvent itself ? Unlikely.

An alley in the Walled City Park in Hong Kong

The Walled City

No, interestingly, my latest romance comes from the exact opposite direction.

In my haste to find a larger sensor version of the mirrorless design, I had passed on a very very interesting new camera from Olympus. Robin Wong’s review of the OM-D 5D made that wrong right.

Here we are with a small but well designed camera, built by a company with deeply rooted photography DNA, built like a tank, with a viewfinder (albeit for people who breathe through their mouths ;)) and that has somehow managed to at least match APS-C image quality in a tiny M43 sensor.

No, I don’t like the idea of going smaller. Every neurone in my brain is fighting it. Bigger pixels are better pixels. Plus Olympus suffers from the AA filter syndrome (whyyyyyyyyyy?)

But images from this newcomer simply challenge my beliefs enough for me to reach for my Paypal account. That is a fantastic looking camera. The Olympus colours (even better than Leica in my book), the per-pixel sharpness, the weather sealing, the Internal Stabilisation, the Zuiko lenses, the build quality … it’s all there at a price that’s barely more than a new NEX-5n with EVF. Drat, I’d dearly love to find a flaw and not go the smaller pixel way, but it sure looks like future pictures you’ll see on this website may be Oly-powered.

Plus, Olympus are in dire straits and I’d really be happy to help.

A rich Hong-Kong lady shopping for expensive bags. Sony NEX-5n

M43 cameras of previous generations have not been a great match for M-mount lenses. If, by any miracle, the latest Oly cures this, I’ll be one happy camper.

Gear for sale!

In order to fund my new purchase, I am selling some of the gear I will no longer be using. If you’re interested, just leave a comment or send me a note : pascal.jappy at gmail.com. Cheers!

Zeiss Contax Planar 50/1.7 T*. At least as good as Leica’s Summicron-R and far cheaper, this lens requires a separate adapter, which I was too lazy to buy. I’m letting it go for 130€. My short review is here. Note the astounding flare resitance and clarity.

Burzynski ball head. I bought this immensely strong ball head for astrophotography and never used it. You can find a review here. As new. Yours for 250€.

Will ship for free in France. Please add 30€ overseas for the ball head and 20€ for the lens.

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  • Fotoingo says:

    Did you read my mind in the last days, write it down and posted it above ?
    Sounds like it, haha.

    I really love the Nex5n but I orderd a OM-D too (because of the same reasonms as you even the review you mentioned) and will use it with my Contax G and Leica Lenses + the fabulous Oly +Pana lenses (12mm,20mm,45mm) in the days too come.

    We will see if it will outlast the Nex5n and if I stay MFT in the future (the next months, hahahah)
    Greets !


    • pascaljappy says:

      Hi Ingo πŸ™‚

      Glad to see I’m not the only crazy one downsizing sensors πŸ˜‰

      My guess is the NEX-5n opened a new world of possibilities and freedom for us, but we miss the “real camera” feel of our SLR. The OM-D should be a fantastic compromise. I sure hope it lives up to all the hype …


      • Fotoingo says:

        Mine should be coming in the next few days πŸ™‚
        I orderd it with the kitlens (trying the macro function with it) and try to get a feel for the camera. IΒ΄m lucky to have a friend who owns the 12mm Oly and the 25mm 0,95 Nokton so I try them out for sure. If the camera leaves up to my/our expectations I will buy the Oly +Pana lenses (12mm,20mm,45mm) and have a nice Camerakit with fast AND nice AF-lenses + my MF-lenses.
        IΒ΄m really eager to try out the 12+25mm…..
        Is it Wednesday allready ??? hahaha

        • pascaljappy says:

          Lucky youuuuuuu πŸ˜‰

          I hope to try one in Paris next Tuesday but it won’t be available for sale for a few more days (weeks ?).

          I bought the 14mm Panasonic pancake a few years ago thinking I’d get a GH2 but never did. The Nokton is definitely very tempting. I’d love to get the 17.5mm for pictures of aurora next year.

          Ah well, time will tell. Good luck with your purchase. Send some pictures if you want πŸ™‚ Or write a blog post. Everyone’s invited.


  • philberphoto says:

    Pascal, just one comment to complement your great write-up. I agree with everything you say, except that you leave out a major niche for the 5N: that of secondary camera. Many of us have a boat achor (read: a FF DSLR), and want something lighter to go where the large system is just not on.

    It is also a great back-up body for Leica M shooters. And a great way to pump new life into just about any legacy lens collection one might have.
    So, all this taken into account, the 5N is today, so it seems, the world’s premier camera for alt (meaning not originating from the same manufacturer as the body) lenses…
    And, considering its realease date, the next NEX should be just around the corner…:-)

    • pascaljappy says:

      Yes, you’re quite right. I’m allergic to weight and always travel with a single camera (then cry because it is broken in one of the world’s most remote places ;)) but the NEX-5n indeed is a fantastic second camera !!

      As for the release of the replacement NEX, DON’T TEMPT ME πŸ˜‰ πŸ˜‰ πŸ˜‰

      See you soon

  • Barry Timm says:

    Pascal, perhaps I’m not understanding the implementation of the histogram by Sony in their NEX-5N, but can you clarify what you mean by “Let me check the date. Yeah … 2012. No live histogram? Really, Sony? Really?”
    You don’t see the live histogram while composing the picture in your NEX-5N?
    Or the histogram that the NEX-5N does provide, is not somehow a “live” histogram?
    I use it all the time, but have learned that it does not pay to try to ETTR with the live histogram, because invariably one of the colors (especially red, in my experience) often gets clipped while the luminosity histogram indicates all is fine……perhaps that’s what you mean by no “live” histogram?



    • pascaljappy says:

      Hi Barry,

      I may be making a big mistake … The fact is, in 6 months of use I have not been able to view a histogram while composing. If there is a way I’d love to hear it as no amount of foraginf through the menus revealed it to me and the booklet didn’t help.

      There is a histogram available on reviewing the pictures, of course. And as you say, red channel clipping seems very frequent. I’d prefer to have this information before clicking though. So, again, if there is a way to do so, really eager to hear about it πŸ™‚ (I’ll update the post, too, so thanks).


      • Barry Timm says:

        Pascal, you get the live histogram (luminosity only, not individual color channels) as follows:

        Scroll down to “DISP Button (Monitor)…and select it
        Then, ensure that the “Histogram” option is Enabled.

        That’s IT!

        Now, when you are composing, simply hit the Disp soft key (Click the top of the Dial where it says “Disp” and it will scroll through the display options from the Enabled options, including the Histogram display you setup above.)

        Voila! πŸ™‚

        PS Remember that I said the NEX-5N histogram is not great for ETTR? Well, I’ve learned to NOT try to exposure any more to the right than about 2/3 across the range, as one of the color channels invariably clips. I WISH they also implemented the color histograms, but that is only visible on review after the shot.

        Did I say how much I LOVE this little camera? πŸ™‚

  • Barry Timm says:

    Oh, I meant to add, you may have to hit the Disp dial a few times, if you ENabled multiple display modes in the DISP Button (Monitor) menu, but once you’ve set it, it will stay in that mode for the rest of the session.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Barry, thanks so much for this information. I’d been living almost 6 months without it …

      I too really love this camera, but this is just typical of the reasons that make me want to look elwsewhere. Why would Sony bury this important feature so deep into menus ? It just shows the intended public is not (yet) the serious photographer. It’s a shame given how wonderful the camera is at making pictures …


  • Barry Timm says:

    The good news is that once you’ve enabled the Histogram view option, you never have to touch it again, and can switch it on and off by a simple press of the dial when composing.

    I’ve spent a fair amount of time customizing the various soft keys on the camera for my personal preferences, and find access to the main shooting parameters to be extraordinarily GOOD with the multi-functional dial and the bottom soft key.

    Unlike with my Canon 5D, on the NEX-5N, I have access, from my thumb and by TWO buttons/dials, to the following:

    Shutter speed / Exposure compensation
    Multiple info screens
    ISO level
    White Balance
    Drive Mode
    Metering Mode
    Flash mode
    RAW/JPG switch
    Live view magnification level

    It doesn’t get easier and faster to change these paramters than this little camera, IMO.

    Quite an amazing device, although I agree, it’s almost too small for its own good, for someone like me with large hands.

    But….I’m now selling all my Canon DSLR gear after under-utilizing the DSLR for months, since I got the little NEX-5N!

    Cheers, and look forward to hearing about your experience with the cool little Ollie.


    • pascaljappy says:

      Yes, I totally agree. Amazingly good when customized to your needs. It’s only really the lack of adequate documentation and more intuitive ergonomics that fail the little gem.

      I’m still in two mind about the Olie. Tried it yesterday with my manual lenses and didn’t get a single shot in focus … Will have to go back to the shop and try again, the huy there had no idea how to set the focus aid/magnification.

      Will keep you posted. Thanks again for the tips.

  • Barry Timm says:

    Any more on the Olie, Pascal?

    hmmm, just looked at the Olie review over at dpreview.com.

    In terms of RAW image quality and low-light / high ISO performance, the Olie does not match the NEX-5N, and is nearly double the price. Not as convincing as I’d hoped for the Olie….?

    IQ is not EVERYTHING, of course, but it IS rather important, eh! πŸ™‚

    Sp, if Sony would build us a NEX-5N processor into the NEX-7 body and add image stabilization into the body, and allow the screen to also tilt sideways for portrait shooting……we’d REALLY be talking!

    • ChrisX says:

      @Barry: Totally agree with you. The 5N ergonomics are ok but have way to be improved. However, the 7 with its wide-angle issues (loss of resolution, color-cast) is not acceptable. Otherwise I would have invested the additional cost compared to my 5n with EVF to upgrade to the 7 with its “all-inclusive” body of ext. mic input, hotshoe, integrated flash. Well, maybe the 5N++ will have it.

      • pascaljappy says:

        Hi Chris, the NEX-7 does require a lot of effort to extract best results and to find suitable lenses, but it’s probably worth it if you need the extra 20% resolution. Philippe has tested the Elmar 24 with the NEX-7 and I’m hoping for a review from him soon. And apparently the Zeiss ZM 18mm Distagon is not bad at all, so all hope is not lost πŸ˜‰ Not to mention the Leica WATE I was fortunate to test on Philippe’s NEX-7 that was really fantastic. If you can find and afford one, you won’t be disappointed. Have fun.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Hi Barry, yeah, I’m in two minds as well. Very nice to hold and use. I actually prefer the EVF to the NEX-7’s (not as detailed but not as contrasty either). But it’s true that IQ is at best as good as the NEX-5n …
      It does have image stabilisation so I’d be using 800 instead of 3200 on the NEX-5n, which more than outweighs sensor differences. I’m still waiting for May 10th to see what Leica are going to announce. Then it will be decision time πŸ™‚ So far Olie is still in the lead but the NEX-7 is a contender and so is (I hate to admit this) the Nikon 3200, until somtehing else is released. Come on Sony, let’s have that D800E sensor in a stabilisez NEX-9 at less than $2000. Isn’t it nice to dream … πŸ˜‰ Or an interchageable lens Leica X2 ? Rahhhhhhhhhh lovely …

  • Chris says:

    I have been using my 5N since Otober 2011 and already have more than 4000 shots on it.
    Except for a freze up during PC connection once I haven’t had any issue with it yet.
    I use FD lenses and the kit as well as the SEL50F18 and am quite happy with it:
    Of course you are entitled to make a switch to another camera. But I somehow have the feeling that you won’t be happy with that one, either. The histogram issue is for me an indication that you might have not invested a little effort in getting to know your camera. A simple web search or dpreview would have helped. I used to own the Olympus XZ1. While it is only a premium compact, was fed up with the fact that Oly never issued a relevant firmware update getting rid of their JPG mashing problem. Whereas Sony introduced of helpful updates for their Nex cameras even after the new model came on the market.
    There remains the fact that two 5n failed with the same problem with you. This may be really bad luck. Or you just might do something special :-)?
    Anyways, have fun photographing!

    • pascaljappy says:

      Hi Chris,

      you are quite right, I didn’t invest much time searching the web for info on histograms. In my defense, (1) you shouldn’t have to and the fact that it is so difficult to find adequate info in the menu system and completely impossible in the Sony documentation just proves that they don’t intend many people to use “advanced” features. And (2), I didn’t miss the histogram that much, since the pictures were so brilliant time after time.

      Don’t think I’m bashing the NEX-5n. To me, it’s the best camera I’ve used since the Mamiya 7 bar none. I simply find it frustrating that it isn’t a bit more of a “real” camera. It’s a bit like an american muscle car. Terrible in many ways and utterly brilliant in others. You can’t not love it, but in the long run, well … I do miss proper controls and the feel of a more dedicated – and solid – camera. That’s where the little Olympus OM-D shines, although the sensor is probably not any better (maybe not even as good ??).

      The second NEX-5n hasn’t failed, yet. It’s clawing through batteries at an alarming rate (about 50-100 pictures). The first one did this and got worse and ended-up freezing completely. I since learned that you can reset the camera throught the menus and it works fine, but – again – you shouldn’t have to do that. I want a digital Mamiya 7 and (as you say) probably won’t be happy with a camera until I get it πŸ˜‰ Ah well, at least I have great fun looking.

      Oh, and by the way, great blog. I love your pictures. Are you happy with your big prints ?


      • ChrisX says:

        Hi Pascal,

        thanks! I envy you that opportunity with Patagonia, but probably lots of mosquitos, too? Most of the Posters hang on the wall behind my monitor
        nad I really like those car shots with the SEL50 because of a certain, hard to describe richness in the color rendition. But it has its drawbacks: Using an AF lens has sotrt of spoilt me using my manual-focus FD glass. The other issue is that even WITH AF, our cat is so unrestful that I have to hurry to get a shot in a certain position before he takes of again. Next holiday is Turkey, I hope for more relaxed “targets” πŸ™‚
        Re Battery: Strange, I use Sony, Patona and VHHB batteries with no issues and currently am at 5400+ shots. I checked battery life with all three and get about 200 shots per charge with EVF mounted.

        • pascaljappy says:

          Actually, the lucky one is Philippe. He went to Patagonia πŸ˜‰ But we’re all lucky to see his pictures and read his travelogue.

          In my experience, the rewards of using manual lenses far outweigh the inconvenients (and my cat is fidgety as well – and actually looks quite a lot like yours !) I’m sure you must be very proud of your prints. Have a great time in Turkey.


  • […] as described in my previous post, Sony doesn’t give me the impression of taking photographers as seriously as pure players do. […]

  • […] them to. As I picked up my little Olympus OM-D E-M5 a few days ago, simultaneously letting go of my very dear Sony NEX-5n, I was expecting it to be a better camera with a worse sensor than the Sony. Better handling, […]

  • […] takes a couple of seconds to change. Ergonomically, this camera is heads and shoulders above my Sony NEX-5n. A deeper peep into the menus lets you select min ISO and max ISO for that Auto setting. The jump […]

  • olivier says:

    hello pascal si tu vends toujours ton zeiss 50 1.7 130€ je suis preneur paypal ou cheque comme tu veux…

  • Juckers Smith says:

    Thanks for your long descriptions and helpful insights it is tough to find it helps us personally enjoy photography and get great images. I’ve been trying Panasonic GH2for two years with the stills have never been all I wanted…I tried the Sony & it was amazingly better but it’s simple sensor size…. Or is it? If I shot more video… Em5 would be interesting but again for the price difference—I can get a small waterproof camera for the occasions where weather makes a difference and we are back to more portable equipment.

    1 question – if you hadn’t had the reliability issues?

    Btw, they do have a lovely handbook online, but yes ease of use for newbies is #1 goal for that camera….

    • pascaljappy says:

      Hello, thanks for your kind comment. It’s always great to learn these musings actually help people.

      To tell you the truth, I’m also convinced sensor size is more important than resolution or anything else. The NEX-5n seems to be a great compromise.

      When I got the EM-5, the dealer didn’t have a Sony client base and wouldn’t buy my NEX-5n back. So it’s still with me. And while the E-M5 is a lot more convenient (EVF, stabailization, great autofocus lenses …) the camera I take out with me is the NEX-5n. For some reason, in spite of the shortcomings and shaky battery management, it’s the one I have more fun with. Yes, a good waterproof camera may be the way to go for the rare occasions you need it. It also makes for a convenient backup. When my NEX failed, I used my wife’s Olympus Tough, in and out of water. It was just great and under 10″ prints, it’s pretty difficult to tell prints apart …

      All the best

  • Summicron says:

    Hi, is your Zeiss Contax Planar 50/1.7 sold?

  • […] my first Sony NEX-5n lasted 3 months before it died on me (in the middle of a once-of-a-lifetime shoot). Amazon’s customer service was incredibly good, […]

  • […] There is a good long-term rolling review of the 5N here: #99. Sony NEX-5n – Why I’m saying goodbye to this little gem | Dear Susan, Slightly concerned about the reliability issue but my Nex 5 is still fine after 2 years of use […]

  • […] came in the form of the Sony NEX-5n, an absolute gem of a camera, reviewed at length on this website. It was shaped like a mini Mamiya 7, accepted a whole universe of interesting […]

  • nickroberts says:

    Thanks for an interesting and informative read!

    I totally agree about Sony’s sometimes lax attitude to customers. I was very unimpressed that they sold me a PS3 with the ability to run Linux and then took the feature away with an update! Being fair to Sony, they’re not the only company who thinks just because you bought and paid for a product you don’t actually won it… some companies will kill your phone for modifying it…

    I think the nobbled viewfinder and lack of clean HDMI output are two problematic shortcomings. I use the camera for astrophotography and have to take ‘reference shots’ before I take the main picture sets. It would be much easier if I could see what I was _really_ capturing. Very odd. I also think it should be a ‘worldcam’, i.e. capable of both PAL and NTSC recordings @ 24/25/50/60 fps.

    The lack of clean image/HDMI output is, I suspect, to prevent people from capturing full quality video from the device (as I can do with my FS100). This is an artificial limitation imposed to prevent the technical capability of recording over 29:59 minutes of video. If a camera can do this it becomes a video camera and is subject to more import duty. It’s an evil commercial world…

    In terms of reliability, and whilst clutching wood as my camera clicks away in the background, I have had no problems. The other evening I took over 1700 shots with no issue. I regularly clear 700 in a session. Perhaps the fact that it’s freezing here kept the camera from overheating? In terms of battery, also good. This may be helped by pushing the viewing out over HDMI to a TV*.

    Sky watching in South West Wales,

    All the best,


    *The display is likely using a chunk of the power and this effectively turns it off; seems to work πŸ™‚

  • thetrystero says:

    I’m surprised you did not mention the Panasonic GX1 in your alternative options! I’m actually considering a m43, but I’m curious to hear your opinion on it.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Actually, I’m not entirely sure the GX1 was available when I xrote this. It certainly looks to be a very competent camera, but the OM-D files had that special look (mainly the colours) and that won me over (with the IBIS).

      Since then, I have changed my mind again and finally settled for a D800e. Fabulous camera. All the swapping and changing was worth it πŸ™‚

      Thanks for your comment

  • Mark says:

    Great article, and what a huge bummer that you’ve had two Sony’s die on you! I have had a Sony NEX C3 for the past year and a half and have taken over 20000 photos so far without any issues. Sure it doesn’t have a viewfinder (which annoys me to no end) but it’s holding up well to a lot of abuse that I’ve thrown at it. I live in Tonga, and take it to the beach regularly. It’s traveled with me to the US, NZ, and Australia, and has come away in great condition. In short, it’s worked well for me.

    All that said, I want a viewfinder, so I’ll probably be replacing it with a NEX 6 in a couple months. After lusting after an OM-D for a little while, I decided that I didn’t want to change all my lens adapters and I really like the angle of view I get from the manual lenses I have now. So I have to get an APS-C camera.

    I’m glad to hear you’re liking the OM-D so much, and I will continue to admire it from afar…now that Sony and Olympus are working together, maybe I might have access to Olympus lenses soon!

    • pascaljappy says:

      Hi Mark, thanks for the comment. Actually I think I was probably very unlucky as all commentors and friends owning Sony NEX cameras have been very happy with them. I absolutely adored mine whie it was with me. And yes, the OM-D has some extra lovable features as well but I certainly woulnd’t give up one system for the other. Both have strong points and both are great. I think what I’d most look forward to, now that the two companies work together, is Olympus colours in the Sony package. That would be a killer combo indeed. I hope you continue to have a lot of fun with that C3 πŸ™‚

  • dave says:

    I feel like I just read history of the digital camera, part III. I am new to this, and just got a nex7 to use with the full gambit 21-28-35-50DR-90-135.of M lens. Wish me luck.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Dave, I’m not sure anyone needs to wish you luck. With that sort of gear in had, you are in for an absolute treat πŸ™‚ Good luck anyway !

  • Paul Hill says:

    Loved your 5N review… Was wondering if you prefer the 5n over the 6? I have been looking at the 6 to purchase, but seems it may be more the lens. I know the 6 has phase & contrast focus but do not know if that will make any difference. I just want to create the same sharp images you have taken with your 5n.

    Thank you so much for your help.

    Best Regards,
    Paul Hill

    • pascaljappy says:

      Hi Paul,

      thanks very much for the kind comment. I think you will notice very little difference between sensors in real life conditions. For me the real advantage of the 6 is the viewfinder. I think the NEX-6 may be the best all-rounder in the NEX lineup today. And Sony’s rebates of the moment make an even greater case for that lovely camera. I’d go for the 6, although you will not be disappointed with the 5N or 5R.

      Best Regards,

  • Barry Timm says:

    Paul, I’ll jump in here and say that DXOMarks has measured the updated sensors int he 5R and 6 (compared to the 5N) as being very slightly better overall in terms of overall image quality (but depth etc) despite a slightly LOWER high-ISO performance compared to the 5N. If you take many low light high ISO images, then the 5N should be very slightly better than the 6 or 5R.
    See the comparison here…. http://www.dxomark.com/index.php/Reviews/Sony-NEX-6-review-The-logical-CSC-choice/Sony-NEX-6-versus-competition

  • […] might recall my steamy love affair with the Sony NEX-5n a couple of years ago that was interrupted by two technical break downs and ended in a divorce by […]

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