There's now a Sony in the house

There's a Sony In The House
Sony NEX 5N with E 3.5-5.6/18-55 OSS kit zoom lens
Sony dropped the price of the NEX 5N with kit lens low enough that I finally opened my wallet and purchased a copy. I have read many reviews and seen the results of using this camera and I have been favorably impressed. What finally convinced me to purchase the 5N was an event in Toronto back on the September road trip. I was up at Casa Loma with Matthew Robertson when a vacationing family asked me to take a group photo of them with the castle in the background. It was the silver NEX 5 with the kit zoom.

Once I had the camera in my hands it took me all of about 30 seconds to figure out the general control layout, make sure it was set up properly and then trip the shutter. I flipped up the rear display so I could drop the camera down to about chest level and get a better view of the castle behind the family. I liked the way the kit lens zoomed and the way it locked focus. I especially liked the sound of the shutter. I came away from that moment realizing that blindly culling anything made by Sony was stupid. The only other camera I held that day (other than my own) was Matthew's D800, an act that would later spoil me with regards to the D600 (no, a D600 certainly isn't a D800).

I've already played around with the 5N a bit, having finally charged up the battery and figured out how to configure it so that I can get directly to the most important settings I care about; ISO, PASM, and aperture. All beeps have been turned off and it's shooting Raw.

Here, in no particular order, are what I find interesting so far about the N5:

  • Shutter. The shutter is fast, quiet, and low pitched. It reminds me of the E-1's shutter in that regard. All the Pen shutters (E-P2, E-Pl1, and E-PL2) are a little slower in release, a bit noisier, and higher pitched.
  • Rear screen. It is a joy to look at the back of the 5N, just like it was for that brief instant up at Casa Loma. The resolution and color are nothing less than stunning, when compared to the Pens. And it's capable of being tilted up for waist level viewing as well as partially down for overhead viewing. An articulated view screen is a feature I came to depend upon with the Olympus E-3.
  • Finish. The body has molded magnesium across the top and front, with plastic across the back. The rubberized grip, combined with the front and top, give the 5N a svelte, quality look. The Pens look downright chunky by comparison, but that doesn't mean that the Pens are bad looking, especially the E-PL2. Sony's just a different design ethos that I instantly appreciated.
  • Size. As has been noted ad infinitum elsewhere across the web, the body is tiny while the lens seems too overwhelmingly large. And yet when I hold the complete combination in my hand it feels just fine. That's what I first noticed in Toronto with the older 5, and the 5N carries that forward.
  • Kit lens. I am not at all pleased with how Olympus (and Canon and Nikon and yes, even Sony, with their DSLR/DSLT kits lenses) have gone to plastic all over their kit lenses including the bayonet. The fit and finish of the E-mount 18-55mm kit lens is superb. The lens has a metal bayonet and lower base. The rest of the lens is a silver nicely finished plastic. The zoom is solid and smooth (for a kit lens). The focus is silent. And it even comes with a lens hood.
  • Battery. The battery is physically tiny, smaller even than the battery in the Pens. And that size effects the power capacity of the battery, which is less than the Pens. I've yet to shoot it until it runs out, but I've already got an order in with Blue Nook for a pair of Wasabi Power batteries and a second charger. I use Wasabi batteries in all my other cameras.
  • Auto focus speed. With the kit lens the camera, in dim light, isn't particularly fast, but then it's not particularly show either. Compared to the Pens I can't tell any difference. Oh well. If I'd wanted a focusing speed demon I'd have purchased a Real Camera like the D800. Tomorrow the sun comes up and I intend to grab a few downtown Orlando photos with this camera.
The primary reason for purchasing the 5N was curiosity. It may be a camera, but it also represents a suite of technologies and designs that I wanted to play with, just to see how it all worked. The NEX 5N certainly won't make me an authority on the whole NEX system, but it will help me build up a better understanding.

I've also realized something else. I don't care for big cameras anymore. I now much prefer the smaller cameras like those from Olympus, Panasonic, and now Sony. I suppose I should also consider small cameras from Ricoh, Sigma, Pentax, and Fuji, but they're too niche and expensive for my tastes. As for Leica, there's only one Leica I ever lost my photographic heart over, and that's the black M4. The M lost something essential in the transition from film to digital. I realize now the only film SLR I felt the same way about was the Olympus OM-1. I have very few regrets in life with regards to cameras, and one of them is never having had enough sense to buy and use an OM-1. I later bought an OM-4T, but that's not quite the same. The E-M5 has elements of the OM film series, but it's still not quite the same either...

I have no clue where this will lead me; probably spending more money. I do know I'm looking forward to working with the files produced by the Sony 16MP sensor in that camera. I think it's going to be fun. And I think it's going to knock me out of a rut I've been in lately.


  1. Congratulations on the new purchase!

    I have no doubt that you'll really enjoy this camera, and I'm looking forward to seeing what you'll do with it.

    Last week I had a Sony NEX-7 with 18-55 and GF2 with 14-42 out in front of me, and I was struck by just how similar the real-world sizes are. The system certainly shows a lot of potential, and with Zeiss having some mockups of high-quality primes floating around, it's only a matter of time before there are some lenses that can really make those sensors shine.

    1. Interesting. I had thought to wait and purchase the NEX 6, but at a suggested MSRP of $1,000 body only (same as the Olympus E-M5) I wasn't quite ready. I jumped at the chance to try out the Sony NEX system, as it were, with this heavily discounted model. Same sensor resolution, by the way.

  2. Well congrats from here as well. And yes, I think that sensor will win you over most probably - should be the same one like in bigger Sony cameras as well as the Nikon D5100, D7000, and the Pentax K-5.

    Played with the latter briefly, but when I compared my colleague's Pentax and my E-520, it was about skin tones only. Which is of course no question at all when you do raw and a correct white balance anyway.

    I'm very curious and excited to read about your experiences with that Sony, even if it doesn't have in-body IS.

    1. Thanks. Everybody comments about a lack of IBIS, but here's an interesting note: I've had to turn IBIS off on the E-PL1 because it actually makes my photos blurry at certain shutter speeds. Good basic hand-holding technique trumps IBIS in a lot of cases anyway.


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