I must admit that I wasn’t very excited the first time I heard about the mirrorless cameras. They seemed too small, were missing the versatile SLR optical viewfinder and some, like the Sony NEX, were also missing an electronic viewfinder. It can be purchased separately, but it’s quite expensive.
But my biggest doubt about these cameras, also called EVIL, was the small size of the sensor, 4 / 3 like with Panasonic and Olympus, or even Nikon’s smallest, that’s equivalent to 16mm film.
They just didn’t suit professional applications, because the small sensors are producing much more noise and they also lack angles for increasing the depth of field.
Speaking of lenses, most of these systems have a limited catalog, lacking in fast and prime lenses.
When it comes to video recording, the mirrorless cameras were not considered to be proper tools compared with the already popular DSLR. The digital camera is offering resolutions below FullHD with low bitrate codecs.
All this may now have been changed due to the arrival of Sony’s new NEX cameras, which seem to be the solution to all of the above mentioned problems.
Thus, the Sony NEX5n, not be confused with the discontinued NEX5, has some features that at first glance make it a “DSLR Killer”.
I will list and analyze these characteristics.
APSC sensor. This is undoubtedly its greatest asset that makes it a great competitor on the market. The Sony Nex5n is a camera smaller than a pack of cigarettes and has a sensor that’s the size that Canon 7D or any other digital movie camera has e.g. read RED One, Arri Alexa, etc. This makes it possible to achieve shallow depths of field, which is essential in today’s film making.
Also, noise levels are much lower than their fellow members have and the bigger the sensor, the larger the photodiodes, and the greater the ability to capture light from them.
I must also emphasize that Sony has done an outstanding job with the process of the signal and therefore, resulting in extremely low noise levels, unseen with cameras in this category and price.
Sony E Mount. This may seem inconvenient a priori – a camera with a Sony mount as special as E, with a small catalog and few or no other brands developing lenses for it. But the APSC sensor size and the missing mirror make it possible to use NEX cameras with almost any kind of lenses ever made, when using an adapter ring. Just to name a few compatible lenses: Canon, Sony, Pentax, Nikon, Leica M, and even cinema lenses with PL mount.
This makes this camera one of the most compatible on the market, and gives it almost an endless range of lenses to choose from.
OLED Electronic Viewfinder: A few years ago the lack of an optical viewfinder was considered a big inconvenience. It is not so today, especially for those of us that use DSLR cameras to shoot video or time lapse because in that case it is not possible to use the mirror and the viewfinder. This has forced the industry to manufacture other devices such as electronic viewfinders “EVF”. The best known are the Zacuto and SmallHD, both quite big and expensive.
This is where Sony beats them with their NEX5n, offering a cheaper compact viewfinder with a fantastic resolution thanks to the OLED technology.
FullHD video. This is the third and perhaps the greatest strength of the Sony NEX5n – the possibility of video recording in full HD (1920x1080p). Something that only some compact cameras in this range were able to do so far. Some high-end DSLR, like Nikon D3s for example, stay in a modest resolution of 720p.
What is most amazing about this little camera, and might have made me buy, try and write about it, is the ability to record 1080p, 50p in AVCHD. This, for those of you who are not very well informed, means that it records 50 frames per second, which allows you to do real slow motions (in FullHD).
Until now, most of the DSLR cameras have been able to record at 50p, but then the resolution drops to 720p. But Sony has managed to keep the resolution when increasing the number of frames per second. For me this is what makes it a “DSLR Killer”.
But not only does it perform better than the DSLR, it also does better than cameras like the Canon C300, which has the same size sensor as the NEX5n and only allows recording of 50p at 720p, which is unforgivable with a camera that costs 15,000 € .
I’m not saying the NEX5n is better than Canon C300. Far from that. They are two different cameras for two different applications. But if Sony was able to achieve this recording format with a 500 € pocket camera, why Canon has not been able to do that with its more professional tool?
Dynamic Range. One thing that has pleasantly surprised me is the considerably greater dynamic range that NEX5n has compared to its rivals. I compared it with a Canon 600D, which is the most similar in price and sensor size.
The Sony NEX5n showed even greater latitude than 5D MarkII, with more shadow detail and much less contrast, which gives more possibilities in color correction.
Sharpness. Here is another point where I have to highlight the great performance of NEX5n. Even with the kit lens, a modest 18-50 f3.5-5.6, Sony has proven to be much sharper than its rival, in this case the Canon 600D accompanied by a professional Canon lens 17-40 f4.
I have to say that I didn’t expect this result, but it gives a good example of how great can be the improvement in sensor and signal process development.
Moiré. Reducing the moiré effect is another strength of the Sony NEX5n. Featuring a 16mpxl APSC sensor, we could expect a higher level of this digital artefact, but Sony has done a good job in managing to keep it very low, almost unnoticeable. With that beating its competitors – the DSLR cameras with triple its price, like for example the Canon 5D MarkII.
Conclusions: We are facing a camera that just hit the market, with extensive features and endless amount of possibilities.
Full HD at 50p, APSC size sensor or Super 35 when it comes to movies, Sony E mount with ability to use almost any lens on the market, when using the adapter rings, AVCHD Codec, OLED viewfinder, folding screen, picture styles for greater image control, etc. are some of the features that make this camera a “DSLR Killer”.
For a long time no camera has aroused my interest as much as the Sony NEX5n, pushing me to make a comparison and write this review. Perhaps it’s because this is a special camera, with revolutionary features. A camera worth its price, and most importantly, that is available to everyone.