Sony Alpha NEX-5N Review

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Sony NEX-5N Conclusion

The Sony Alpha NEX-5N is a great camera with wonderful image quality. It’s an excellent option for experienced photographers or beginners who want a camera with most of the performance of a DSLR in a smaller package. I really enjoyed my time with it and would have happily continued using it if Sony didn’t need it back right away. It’s not the smallest mirrorless option out there but the benefit of going a little bigger is much better image quality than most of the competition. And it’s still a lot smaller than a comparable digital SLR. If I were to buy the Sony NEX-5N, I wouldn’t buy the 18-55mm and 55-210mm lenses that they sent me. Instead, I’d probably go with the Sony 16mm f/2.8 prime lens and the Sony 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 OSS zoom. It’s a chunk of a lens and I don’t know how the image quality is, but I’ve used the Canon and Nikon 18-200mm zooms and it’s a really nice all-purpose zoom range to have in one lens.

Photographers who value image quality above all else should put the NEX-5N – or the NEX-7 – at the top of their mirrorless camera wish list. On the other hand, photographers looking for a really compact alternative should consider trading a bit of the Sony’s image quality for the smaller, lighter Olympus and Panasonic Micro Four Thirds mirrorless cameras.

Sony Alpha NEX-5N - Old Farm Machinery

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All photos copyright John Shafer and/or


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About the author: Photo-John

Photo-John, a.k.a. John Shafer, is the managing editor of and has been since the site launched back in 1999. He's an avid outdoor enthusiast and spends as much time as possible on his mountain bike, hiking or skiing in the mountains. He's been taking pictures for ever and ever, and never goes anywhere without a camera.

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  • Chris Nitz says:

    I am curious if how this will handle against the NEX-7, but overall a good review and informative. I’ve had my eye on this for some time due to the Nikon adapter that will allow me to use my current lenses with it as well. It is crazy how much technology is changing!

  • Photo-John says:

    Thanks for the comment, Chris. I am curious about how the cameras will compare, too. To bee honest, I wasn’t that interested in the NEX-5N. I got it for review because it was a way for me to get a feel for the system and because it’s a popular camera. However, after I used it a bit, I found I really liked it. Now, I feel like the bar has been raised for the NEX-7. The NEX-5N is that good.

  • Charlie (Anbesol) says:

    Wow, I was not aware that it slowed down to 3 FPS in manual modes. Thats a buzz kill, I guess Olympus actually has them beat there (they all have 5 and 3fps modes accessible in all modes). So basically the only thing you add from going up from the C3 is 1080p and a larger grip, and a limited 10fps mode. Might be worth saving the $100-$150 for the C3 instead.

    Great review, great shots! Thanks for showing us what this sucker can do, solid camera with excellent IQ!

  • Photo-John says:

    The Olympus E-P3 is even slower in burst mode, unless I missed something. I think it’s 2.3 FPS or something like that. It doesn’t matter that much until you hit 5 FPS, anyway. And for skiing, you need 6 or 7 FPS for the burst mode to really help. You’re right about the NEX-C3, though. The NEX-5N isn’t that much better performance-wise. It does have a better build and the controls are a little better, though. I played with the NEX-C3 at PhotoPlus and I definitely like the 5N controls better. I think Sony did a better job with the touchscreen than Olympus, too.

  • Charlie (Anbesol) says:

    John, the E-P3 has a slower burst than the other 2 pens, the E-PL3 and E-PM1 both do 5.3 fps bursts in all modes, the E-P3 is 3.1 fps. I think it slows down to like 4.9 and 2.7 with IS enabled.

  • Photo-John says:

    Thanks, Charlie. That’s good to know. Any idea why the E-P3 would be slower when all three Pen cameras have the same sensor and processing?

  • Charlie (Anbesol) says:

    I’m not sure, it is a bit strange. The E-PM1 and E-PL3 were announced some 2 months after the E-P3. The E-P3′s buffer depth is a bit better, but that’s pretty much in line with its slower framerate, I guess this is where the cpu’s slack is made up.

  • Alex says:

    Interesting review, but with regards to your comments on the 55-210mm lens where you say it doesn’t have OSS – I thought it DOES have OSS.

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