camcorders

Sony NEX-5N DSLR Camera Review

$699.99

A brand new sensor and processor give the NEX-5N a huge boost in video performance and capability

Introduction

The Sony NEX-5N may not look much different than its predecessor, the NEX-5, but it comes loaded with a brand new image sensor and processor, which gives the camera a huge boost in video performance and capability.

Motion & Sharpness

The Sony NEX-5N’s video renders motion very well, with almost no color bleeding whatsoever in the 1080/50p and 50i modes (we tested a PAL model). Though like all CMOS cameras, there’s a bit of “jello-vision” when the 5N is panned too quickly. Motion was otherwise smooth, as the 5N gives you the control to scale up the shutter speed on the camera during video recording to better cope with moving subjects. The main issue with this camera comes down to sampling issues and chromatic aberration, both of which conspire to derail what would otherwise be a great little video camera. See our full motion performance review, including video clips.

We found that the NEX-5N was able to consistently reproduce around 700 lw/ph of horizontal sharpness, and around 650 lw/ph of vertical sharpness. The camera hit much higher highs than that (it occasionally touched in the 1000 lw/ph, which is ridiculous for an APS-C camera sampling down to an HD signal), but between 750 and 950 lw/ph frequencies, the camera produced a circular banding error that was incredibly distracting. Read our full sharpness performance review.

Low Light

The NEX-5N needed 13 lux of light to obtain a usable video image. That's not a lot of light, but it is more than you'd usually need with a high-end camcorder. It's also a bit more light than the NEX-5 required, but the difference makes sense. The new camera uses a different sensor and different processing, and often changing things around with a sensor—sometimes in the effort of making a sharper video—results in a worse low light sensitivity. Still, the 5N's results in this test aren't bad at all, so this is a decent low light camera for video. Read our full low light sensitivity performance review.

Conclusion

There's no question about it, the Sony NEX-5N offers much more for the video enthusiast than Sony's previous NEX-5. The camera did a much better job than its predecessor in our video motion test, and the fact that the NEX-5N can shoot HD video with four different frame rates (60p, 60i, 24p, and 30p) certainly bodes well for videographers.

In addition to enhanced performance, the NEX-5N offers a good set of manual controls in video mode—which was our number one problem with the video features on the previous Alpha NEX-5. With the NEX-5N camera, you have nothing to complain about if your videos turn out overexposed, as the camera gives you full control over aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and white balance for your videos. Not to mention you can play around with picture effects and special shooting modes when recording video as well.

The build of the NEX-5N isn't much different than the NEX-5, so if you turned down the previous Sony because you didn't like the way it handled for video, you probably won't be into the 5N either. Sony did add a touchscreen interface to the LCD, which some may have problems with, but most video users will probably be used to it. It's nearly impossible to find a dedicated camcorder that doesn't come with a touchscreen these days, so the NEX-5N is no different on that front.

To read our full conclusions for the Sony Alpha NEX-5N including analysis of the camera's video handling and audio options, plus see sample videos and photos, visit the full review at DigitalCameraInfo.com.