Sony NEX-5N at a glance

  • 16.1 million effective pixels
  • APS-C-sized sensor
  • Up to 10fps shooting rate
  • 3in touchscreen
  • ISO 100-25,600
  • Street price approximately £450 (body only)

When Sony updated the NEX-3 with the 16.2-million-pixel NEX-C3 in June, it was a case of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ the 14.2-million-pixel NEX-5 would receive a similar update. And it came just two months later, in August, when the 16.1-million-pixel NEX-5N was announced, adding a range of new features to the original NEX-5 that had been released just over a year before.


Like the NEX-C3, the NEX-5N uses Sony’s IMX071 CMOS sensor. This sensor has already been discussed in some depth previously, particularly in regard to its use in the Nikon D7000 (see AP 30 April). The sensor is highly regarded, producing very low noise levels, especially when it comes to recovering details in shadow areas.

When we originally tested the Sony NEX-5 (AP 5 June 2010), we were impressed with its features and image quality, but felt a little let down by its handling. However, there is one new feature on the NEX-5N that may go some way to improving its handling compared to the original camera.

With so few buttons on the Sony NEX-5, it was quite time consuming changing the most basic of features. Sony quickly released an updated firmware that enabled nearly all the camera’s rear buttons to be customised for certain functions.

Although this improved the handling of the camera, the NEX-5 was still crying out for one thing – a touch-sensitive screen. Clearly, Sony is either on the same wavelength or at least has listened to feedback from users, as the NEX-5N now comes equipped witha touch-sensitive screen.  Apart from these major changes, there are a few other upgrades worth noting. These include a boost in the maximum shooting rate from 7fps to 10fps, and an increase in the sensor’s sensitivity range to ISO 100-25,600 compared to ISO 200-12,800 on the NEX-5.

There is also an optional electronic viewfinder (EVF) in the form of the 2.3-million-dot FDA-EV1S XGA OLED unit, which has the same specification as the EVF used in the Sony NEX-7 and the Alpha 77. The EVF plugs into the accessory port on the top of the camera where the optional flash would usually sit.

There is also a new LA-EA2 lens adapter that, unlike the standard LA-EA1, has the same translucent mirror technology as used in the Alpha SLT (single lens translucent) cameras. This not only enables different system lenses to be mounted, but also a small sensor allows phase-detection AF to take place with Alpha-mount lenses. Although the LA-EA2 adds considerable size to what is an otherwise very small compact system camera (CSC), it does increase the usefulness of these lenses. The adapter should find favour with Sony Alpha users, but it does cost a hefty £349.99.

Another new feature is an electronic first-curtain shutter mode. Instead of the first shutter curtain travelling across the front of the sensor, the read-out from the sensor is altered to replicate this movement. The actual shutter curtain then rises, as normal, to complete the exposure. This reduces shutter lag fractionally, as the camera no longer has to close the shutter curtain and then reopen it to make an exposure. Another benefit of this system is a reduction in noise as the shutter mechanism is only heard to move once, rather than twice.

There is, however, a downside to the electronic shutter as, according to the Sony manual, ‘when shooting at high shutter speeds with a large-diameter lens attached, the ghosting of a blurred area may occur, depending on the subject or shooting conditions.’ This is worth noting for those users who wish to use telephoto Sony Alpha-mount lenses via an adapter, and in these situations the electronic front curtain mode should be switched off and the standard physical shutter mode used.

Video capture has also been improved, with the NEX-5N now shooting 1080p video footage compared with 1080i on the NEX-5. This means that footage is recorded more smoothly from frame to frame.

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