Sony Alpha NEX-5N review:

Sony Alpha NEX-5N

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CNET Editors' Rating

2 user reviews

The Good Compact and stylish design, but can be overwhelmed by larger lenses. Nicest screen in its class.

The Bad Same confusing menu system for beginners. Clicking noise during video recording.

The Bottom Line The Sony NEX-5N offers great image quality, a large SLR-sized sensor and a stylish body with the added bonus of a touchscreen.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

8.2 Overall

Those photographers familiar with Sony's take on interchangeable lens cameras (ILCs) will be well acquainted with the NEX-5 that was released last year. Just one year on we have seen a dramatic uptake of ILCs from all the brands, with Sony coming out again with the successor to the NEX-5, dubbed the 5N, as well as a smaller version named the C3 and the big daddy of the clan, the NEX-7.

Design and features

It comes as no surprise then that the NEX-5N looks very similar to the NEX-5, which it now supersedes. The body design is almost identical apart from a few stylistic cues, including the "5N" badge now residing on the top of the chunky grip. There's also now a tilting touchscreen in place of the original articulating screen, which adds tactile control to the camera.

An accessory port at the top of the camera lets you slot in Sony's proprietary flash unit (which is included), as well as an electronic viewfinder (which is not included). There's a stereo microphone at the top of the camera, nicely separated to provide enough definition from each channel.

The most notable additions to the NEX formula include a new 16.1-megapixel APS-C-sized sensor (that is, the same size as consumer SLRs), which uses Sony's Exmor technology. The resolution bump is more of a keeping up with the Joneses move; however, the performance bump is something more interesting. The 5N is now capable of shooting 10 full resolution frames per second, but it can only produce a burst of 10 in one go. This makes it currently the fastest ILC in terms of continuous shooting speed.

Unfortunately, the navigation system hasn't changed significantly from earlier cameras, which makes choosing even the simplest shooting modes rather challenging, particularly for beginner photographers. The addition of the touchscreen helps things only a little, given that half the time we forgot that the panel could be activated via touch.

Connectivity is provided at the side by a mini-HDMI and mini-USB port, and the 5N can accept Memory Stick Pro Duo and SD cards. The body is still overwhelmed by larger E-mount lenses and even the 18-55mm kit lens is a little unbalanced. Like the earlier cameras, it's worth trying out before buying to see if the ergonomics suit you.

The 5N also has 11 picture effects to choose from: toy camera, pop colour, posterisation colour, retro photo, soft high-key, partial colour (red), high contrast monochrome, soft focus, HDR painting, rich tone monochrome and miniature mode. The picture effects can only be applied when shooting JPEG — shooting RAW and JPEG combined disables the filters. You can see examples of some of the filters on our review of the NEX-C3.

Compared to


Olympus E-P3 Panasonic Lumix G3 Samsung NX11 Sony NEX-5N
12.3-megapixel Live MOS sensor (four thirds type) 16-megapixel Live MOS sensor (four thirds type) 14.6-megapixel CMOS sensor (APS-C size) 16.1-megapixel Exmor HD CMOS sensor (APS-C size)
3-inch, 610,000-dot touchscreen OLED 3-inch, 460,000-dot touchscreen LCD 3-inch, 920,000-dot AMOLED 3-inch, 921,600-dot touchscreen LCD
Full HD video (1080i, 24fps) Full HD video (1080i, 30fps) HD video (720p, 30fps) Full HD video (1080p, 25ps)
35-point AF 23-point AF 15-point AF 25-point AF
3.2fps 4fps 3fps 10fps


General shooting metrics (in seconds)

  • Time to first shot
  • JPEG shot-to-shot time
  • RAW shot-to-shot time
  • Shutter lag
  • Sony NEX-5N1.40.710.5
  • Panasonic G30.
  • Olympus E-P30.
  • Samsung NX111.

Continuous shooting speed (longer bars indicate better performance)

  • Sony NEX-5N10
  • Panasonic G33.5
  • Olympus E-P33.2
  • Samsung NX113

Sony rates the battery at 430 shots.

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