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Box Photo

The Sony NEX-5N comes with an 18-55mm kit lens along with:

  • Battery charger BC-VW1 (1)
  • Power cord (mains lead) (1) (not supplied in the U.S.A. and Canada)
  • Rechargeable battery pack NP-FW50 (1)
  • USB cable (1)
  • Shoulder strap (1)
  • Flash HVL-F7S (1)/Flash case (1)

The kit lens on the Sony NEX-5N is a standard 18-55mm lens. It has a large, textured zoom ring and is made primarily of metal. There's also a smaller focus ring on the front of the lens, with no hard stops for achieving infinite and macro focus points. the lens has a maximum aperture range of f/3.5-5.6. There's also a 16mm pancake prime lens available in some kits, which is great for traveling with the camera as it's much smaller than NEX zoom lenses.

The Sony NEX-5N uses the E-mount from Sony, with adapters available that allow the user to attach nearly any kind of camera lens you can think of. Sony themselves promote the use of third-party adapters, and manufacture two for using their full SLR Alpha-mount lenses on NEX bodies. One of the adapters is merely a hardware adapter that lets you mount and manually focus the lens. The other uses Sony's translucent mirror technology to push a segment of the incoming light to an autofocus sensor, allowing for phase-detection autofocus with any Alpha mount lens on an NEX body.

Lens Mount Photo

On the surface, the Sony NEX-5N does not look terribly different from its predecessor, the NEX-5. But examining the performance of the image sensor, it's clear to use that the NEX-5N is a completely different animal. The sensor is borrowed from such stalwarts as the Nikon D7000, Nikon D5100, Sony A55, and Pentax K-5. It's a pretty common Sony sensor, but its high level of performance makes it a real bargain in such a compact, (relatively) inexpensive camera body.

Convergence areas of different sensor sizes compared

The Sony NEX-5N, like all Sony NEX cameras, uses a full APS-C-size sensor. This is the same size you would find in most DSLRs, and the result is a small body with fairly large lenses attached. The large sensor size yields very impressive performance, however, providing users with great images in a relatively small body. Other small interchangeable lens cameras use smaller sensors (and thus have more compact body/lens combinations), but for the performance hike it's generally a trade-off worth making.

The NEX-5N does not come with a viewfinder of any kind, but there is an optional OLED viewfinder that can be plugged into the camera's accessory terminal. This viewfinder is similar to the one found on the higher-end NEX-7, being made of the same type of screen with a similar resolution. The extra viewfinder is model number FDA-EV1S and it has an MSRP of $349.99 and can be tilted up to 90 degrees upward for odd-angle shooting.

The camera has a 3-inch 921k-dot resolution touch-sensitive LCD that is your gateway to controlling the camera. Not only is it a touch interface, but the top-right and bottom-right corners are always indicating the functionality of the camera's two main control keys. The monitor is also how you interact with the menu and switch between various shooting modes. The display tilts up and away from the body, giving it some utility even in bright sunlight where it might otherwise be washed out.

The NEX-5N does no include a built-in flash in order to save on space. It instead has a proprietary thin mount for clicking in an included flash unit. It's a pretty weak flash, with an effective guide range of just seven meters at ISO 100. The flash takes about four seconds to fully recharge and fire again, according to Sony's specifications. The port is not a standard hot shoe and thus can only be used with dedicated NEX accessories.

Flash Photo

The NEX-5N includes both a standard mini-USB and a mini-HDMI port for connecting it to various other devices. The 5N works with the Bravia Sync capability on compatible Sony Bravia HDTVs. The ports are all located behind dedicated plastic flaps that click into place on the left side of the body.

Powering the NEX-5N is a standard

Battery Photo

SD/SDHC/SDXC and Sony MemoryStick PRODuo memory cards store all your images on the NEX-5N, with the card slotting in just behind the battery. The camera does not list a maximum capacity, so it's safe to assume there's not a hard cap on how large a card can be used in the 5N.

Memory Photo

There's not much on the NEX-5N that you'd consider rugged besides the metal lens and mount. The camera is mostly made of plastic, but it has a heavy, durable feel to it. The top and front plate of the camera is made of magnesium alloy, as has been reported, but the grip and various other parts of the camera are made of plastic, so it's not exactly a camera built for a war zone. We wouldn't recommend dropping the thing, but it should last quite a while if properly cared for. The addition of a swiveling touchscreen is a concern from a durability standpoint, but the movement of the screen has a solid resistance to it and the arm attaching it to the camera is made of metal.

The image quality on the NEX-5N is, without reservation, excellent. The 16-megapixel image sensor is leaps and bounds ahead of the sensor in the original Sony NEX-5. It provides the kind of dynamic range and high ISO performance that had people salivating at the idea of a mirrorless camera with a sensor this large. We are dismayed by the performance of the 18-55mm kit lens—this camera can do much, much better—but the 5N offers one of the best performance to price ratios on the market today.

The Sony NEX-5N adds quite a bit of sharpness to its images, identifying areas of fine detail and increasing contrast to improve the perception of sharpness. This is a common technique in mirrorless and compact cameras, and it enhances the quality of images overall. The main issue with the lens is the chromatic aberration, as different wavelengths of light (colors) focus at different depths across the frame. While the camera can correct the color fringing digitally, those kinds of focus errors still impact sharpness negatively on the NEX-5N. More on how we test sharpness.

Science Section 1 Images

In testing the NEX-5N we found that Sony's default settings for the camera heavily pushed saturation in each of the camera's different color modes. The most accurate—standard—produced a color error of a little over 3.0, but a saturation level of close to 115%. By toning down saturation two stops (on a +/- 3 scale), that error dropped to 2.6 as purples and blues were better controlled. More on how we test color.

The other modes on the 5N tended to push saturation to an even greater degree, in excess of 120% over the ideal. Most of the other modes, while significantly more vibrant, still kept color error to around 4.0. The blue, magenta, and yellow patches were consistently the most oversaturated.

NOTE: Because of the way computer monitors reproduce colors, the images above do not exactly match the originals found on the chart or in the captured images. The chart should be used to judge the relative color shift, not the absolute captured colors.

The NEX-5N has five color modes to choose from, standard, vivid, landscape, portrait, and sunset The standard color mode was the most accurate, with the portrait mode right behind. Those modes are the best for shooting images of people, as skin tones suffer the most when the photos are oversaturated. The other color modes can be selected through the brightness/color submenu.

The NEX-5N produced generally accurate white balance, though it struggled with very warm light such as under incandescent or tungsten lighting. Its custom setting is easy to access and store, and the camera provides automatic, custom kelvin entry, and a number of preset white balance settings.

Automatic White Balance ()

The automatic white balance on the NEX-5N is fairly typical of this level of interchangeable lens camera: it performs well in daylight and under fluorescent lighting, but struggles mightily under the warmth of indoor incandescent lighting. In most conditions it produced an error of around 200 kelvin, which jumped to over 1300 kelvin under tungsten lighting. The main issue with the auto white balance is the camera's tendency to underexpose scenes in certain color temperatures, which tends to throw off some grays and darker colors especially.

Custom White Balance ()

The custom white balance on the NEX-5N performed well, able to control for color temperatures that the automatic setting would not. The warmth of indoor lighting, for example, which was diagnosed (somewhat accurately) at around 2700 kelvin, was practically ignored by the automatic white balance. With a custom reading, that error dropped to just 200 kelvin on average. Its diagnosis of white was nearly perfect (off by just a few kelvin), but the camera's demosaicing did not apply the same level of correction to grays and blacks, which upped the color error significantly.

Setting a custom white balance on the NEX-5N is quite easy, as the custom settings just requires a small sample from the center of the frame. Any small white card will usually suffice, with just a press of the shutter button required to capture a custom setting. White balance can be added to the camera's "custom" menu, which can be accessed with the center soft key in the rear control dial.

The Sony NEX, like Sony's Alpha NEX DSLRs, won't let you deactivate noise reduction when shooting JPEG images. The only options available are to turn high ISO noise reduction to "low" or "standard" or to shoot in RAW and process images yourself. The noise reduction is effective, but it's not a blanket smearing of fine detail. Noise is controlled, with the camera's noise reduction mostly hitting smooth areas like skies and blacks the hardest. More on how we test noise.

Science Section 2 Images

ISO on the NEX-5N is set primarily through the "brightness/color" menu, with no dedicated key assigned to the function. If you want to take more direct control over ISO, you can assign the center soft key to bring up a user-defined "custom" menu, in which ISO can be placed. From there the center soft key will bring up a vertical scrolling menu letting you pick out a particular ISO from 100-25600 or the automatic setting.

Science Section 2 Images_2

The NEX-5N reportedly uses a 16-megapixel image sensor that has popped up in several cameras we've tested in the past year, including full-size DSLRs from Sony and other manufacturers. As with those other cameras, we were impressed with the dynamic range results of the NEX-5N, with it producing seven "clean" stops of dynamic range beneath a low noise threshold through ISO 400. That falls off slowly beyond that, but even at ISO 25600 we still were left very impressed by the NEX-5N's performance, as it keeps more than 2.5 stops of range. More on how we test dynamic range.

The Sony NEX, like Sony's Alpha NEX DSLRs, won't let you deactivate noise reduction when shooting JPEG images. The only options available are to turn high ISO noise reduction to "low" or "standard" or to shoot in RAW and process images yourself. The noise reduction is effective, but it's not a blanket smearing of fine detail. Noise is controlled, with the camera's noise reduction mostly hitting smooth areas like skies and blacks the hardest. More on how we test noise.

ISO on the NEX-5N is set primarily through the "brightness/color" menu, with no dedicated key assigned to the function. If you want to take more direct control over ISO, you can assign the center soft key to bring up a user-defined "custom" menu, in which ISO can be placed. From there the center soft key will bring up a vertical scrolling menu letting you pick out a particular ISO from 100-25600 or the automatic setting.

The NEX-5N uses a contrast detection autofocus system, with 25 points of focus possible. Users can utilize a single spot, flexible spot AF, or multi-zone AF if they choose. Once focus is established, holding the shutter button halfway down will lock in exposure and focus. We found the low light autofocus performance to be more than acceptable, rarely hunting for more than a second in even extremely limited lighting. An autofocus lamp is built into the front of the camera to aid focus in low light, though it only casts light on the center of the image.

The 18-55mm kit lens on the Sony NEX-5N produced quite a bit of chromatic aberration, with defocusing errors in the blue and red channels specifically. These are mostly visible in our test charts in areas of high contrast, surrounding areas of white, blue, and magenta. The setup menu on the camera has the ability to correct for these errors, which will halt the decoloration but won't sharpen up the detail in the image.

The kit lens on the 5N also has very poor distortion across the focal length range, ranging from significant barrel distortion to even more pincushion distortion. At the 18mm focal length our tests detected 2.45% of barrel distortion. In most lenses this evens out by 35mm, but the Sony 18-155 pushed that all the way to a 2.56% pincushion distortion. At the full telephoto of 55mm this is mitigated somewhat, but there's still a 1.56% pincushion distortion. Again, this can be corrected somewhat digitally in-camera, but we wouldn't recommend this lens for budding architecture photographers.

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.

We did notice the infamous "NEX-5N snapping" issue that has been covered recently, though our model is a PAL version that we purchased when 5N's were very limited in stock, so we can't speak to the efficacy of Sony's supposed fix of the issue. We haven't deducted any points from the 5N because of this issue, but be mindful that there are still some 5Ns out in the wild that have not been fixed. More on how CamcorderInfo tests motion.

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.

When video was captured in motion, that sampling error coupled with the 18-55mm lens' inherent chromatic aberration to produce a rainbow of colors we really didn't want to see. We feel that the camera can be very, very sharp when needed, but particular patterns are going to come out looking quite trippy. More on how CamcorderInfo tests video sharpness.

The Sony NEX-5N's combination of APS-C image sensor and highly adaptable E-mount makes it an attractive enthusiast camera. Its control scheme and design, however, make it much more approachable for a novice to simply pick up and shoot. The NEX-5N doesn't court enthusiast users with deep manual controls and physical dials, but its combination of automatic shooting modes, on-screen guides, and in-camera shooting tips are great for those looking to take photography beyond simple point and shoots. Those looking for a little more control can find it, but only if they are willing to tinker with the camera's programmable soft keys.

The 5N includes a variety of automatic modes, though the two primary ones are the camera's program automatic and iAuto modes. The iAuto mode takes nearly all the control out of the camera, leaving the user to simply pick it up and shoot. The iAuto mode will also select an appropriate scene when it detects it, such as switching to a low brightness mode when there's very little light in the scene.

The 5N uses the same dual-button contextual design that the NEX-5, NEX-3, and NEX-C3 use, with an additional control wheel on the back of the camera. The wheel also doubles as a four-way directional pad, with various options triggered depending on what mode the camera is in. The rear screen is also now a touchscreen that tilts up and away from the body, offering another way to control your shot.

The 5N includes basic digital picture effects filters for sprucing up those tired old images. These are actually somewhat varied and include 11 types in total: posterization, pop color, retro photo, partial color, high contrast monochrome, toy camera, soft high-key, soft focus, HDR painting, rich-tone monochrome, and miniature.

The menu on the Sony 5N looks great, with bright symbols and clean text that pops off the screen. It's nearly identical to the menu on all other NEX cameras. There's no physical mode dial, with the shooting mode selected through an in-camera menu. The menu is organized into a group of tabs, though you often have to scroll through several pages of options before getting to the tab that you're looking for.

The manual on the NEX-5N is fairly basic, explaining the camera's functions in some detail with clear language. The manual is 94 pages in total, but with a large font there is considerably less content than you'll find with many DSLR manuals. This is actually better for beginners, with just about everything you may need to know included. There are also more advanced shooting tips located on the camera itself, generally brought up by pressing the bottom of the two context-sensitive keys on the back of the camera.

As with other NEX cameras from Sony, the NEX-5N has a slightly angular grip that protrudes out from the otherwise slim body. This gives it a very awkward look, but it's otherwise quite stable to shoot with—even with long telephoto lenses or lens adapters included. The NEX-5N also adds in a touchscreen interface, which slightly aids ease of use. This didn't require a sea-change in the user interface of the camera, as the NEX-5's non-touchscreen UI appeared touch-enabled anyway by design.

Handling Photo 1

The NEX-5N has a massive image sensor compared to compact cameras, but that unfortunately means it has a big problem: full-size DSLR sensors mean (generally) full-size DSLR lenses. That hinders portability. The real trade-off isn't trying to get SLR performance in your pocket, but getting SLR performance from a body that is substantially smaller than an SLR. That's where the NEX-5N excels, even if some of the bells and whistles that accompany full-size DSLRs are sorely missed by those looking for a greater degree of control.

Handling Photo 2

The grip on the NEX-5N is substantial enough that we felt comfortable shooting even with longer lenses. In fact, when we shot with the camera months ago at Photo Plus East, we were able to use Sony's Alpha-mount adapter, a full-size 200mm high-end lens, and an electronic viewfinder without feeling that the camera was in any way unstable. It's not as plush as the NEX-7, but Sony have a well-built product on their hands.

Handling Photo 3

The 5N uses the same dual-button contextual design that the NEX-5, NEX-3, and NEX-C3 use, with an additional control wheel on the back of the camera. The wheel also doubles as a four-way directional pad, with various options triggered depending on what mode the camera is in. The rear screen is also now a touchscreen that tilts up and away from the body, offering another way to control your shot.

Buttons Photo 1

The two buttons on the back of the camera are placed next to the rear LCD, with on-screen labels indicating their function. This lets Sony keep the design clean and simple, while actually offering a wealth of options for interacting with the camera. A second control dial would have been nice, but the result is a camera that has a great deal of manual control with only a few buttons for beginners to pay attention to.

Buttons Photo 2

The camera has a 3-inch 921k-dot resolution touch-sensitive LCD that is your gateway to controlling the camera. Not only is it a touch interface, but the top-right and bottom-right corners are always indicating the functionality of the camera's two main control keys. The monitor is also how you interact with the menu and switch between various shooting modes. The display tilts up and away from the body, giving it some utility even in bright sunlight where it might otherwise be washed out.

The NEX-5N does not come with a viewfinder of any kind, but there is an optional OLED viewfinder that can be plugged into the camera's accessory terminal. This viewfinder is similar to the one found on the higher-end NEX-7, being made of the same type of screen with a similar resolution. The extra viewfinder is model number FDA-EV1S and it has an MSRP of $349.99 and can be tilted up to 90 degrees upward for odd-angle shooting.

By pressing the menu key on the NEX-5N you'll bring up the camera's shooting mode menu. This will let you choose between intelligent auto, Sweep Panorama, 3D Sweep Panorama, program auto, aperture priority, shutter speed priority, manual exposure, anti-motion blur, and a few select scene modes. The scene modes include portrait, action, macro, landscape, sunset, nighttime, handheld twilight, and twilight portrait modes.

The 5N offers a full measure of manual exposure controls, with options for adjusting dynamic range, ISO, white balance, focus type, and focusing area. Most of these controls are in their own sub-menu in the main "camera" menu, though they can be assigned to specific soft keys if the user so desires. The best way to take over more manual control is to assign multiple functions to a "custom" menu that is brought up by the center softkey on the rear control dial. This will let you quickly access ISO, white balance, d-range, metering mode, and color mode.

The NEX-5N uses a contrast detection autofocus system, with 25 points of focus possible. Users can utilize a single spot, flexible spot AF, or multi-zone AF if they choose. Once focus is established, holding the shutter button halfway down will lock in exposure and focus. We found the low light autofocus performance to be more than acceptable, rarely hunting for more than a second in even extremely limited lighting. An autofocus lamp is built into the front of the camera to aid focus in low light, though it only casts light on the center of the image.

Manual focusing on the 5N is aided by both focus magnification and a peaking function that highlights in-focus areas in a bright blue color. The lack of hard stops on the kit lens is a bit of a letdown, making it difficult to quickly swing focus from macro to infinity. It does allow for fine adjustments, however, as each turn of the focus ring has only a minor effect.

The Sony 5N has a dedicated "image size" page in the main menu, letting you select still photo, movie, panorama, and 3D panorama size options. For still photos users can select small, medium, or large images, in either 16:9 or 3:2 aspect ratios. Users can also select RAW, RAW+JPEG, and JPEG alone, with fine and standard JPEG compression options. The maximum still size is 16 megapixels.

The NEX-5N offers several speed and timing modes to cope with whatever scene you're shooting. In addition to several self-timers, the 5N offers bracketing, remote, continuous, and speed priority shooting.

The NEX-5N's drive and burst modes are available by pressing the timer/drive option key on the left side of the control dial. This brings up a menu on the right side of the screen that will let you scroll through the various options. The two continuous modes fire at different rates, with the speed priority mode locking in focus and exposure with the first frame.

With the speed priority continuous shooting mode enabled, users will be able to capture shots at a blistering 10fps, in full resolution. This puts the NEX-5N up with the fastest mirrorless cameras on the market (though a far cry from the Nikon 1's 60fps capture). Speed priority mode captures 10fps right on the nose, which is impressive given it uses a mechanical shutter (with an electronic first curtain for more responsiveness). The standard continuous mode doesn't lock in focus and exposure, but it shoots at around 3.5fps for changing light and subjects that are moving either at or away from you.

The NEX-5N has bracketing options, a standard self-timer with a two- or ten-second delay, and a continuous self-timer. The continuous timer counts down a ten-second delay and then fires either three or five images. The two self-timers are 10-second and three-shot by default, respectively. When selecting timers, the bottom soft key lets you access a sub-menu containing the other options.

The NEX-5N uses a contrast detection autofocus system, with 25 points of focus possible. Users can utilize a single spot, flexible spot AF, or multi-zone AF if they choose. Once focus is established, holding the shutter button halfway down will lock in exposure and focus. We found the low light autofocus performance to be more than acceptable, rarely hunting for more than a second in even extremely limited lighting. An autofocus lamp is built into the front of the camera to aid focus in low light, though it only casts light on the center of the image.

Manual focusing on the 5N is aided by both focus magnification and a peaking function that highlights in-focus areas in a bright blue color. The lack of hard stops on the kit lens is a bit of a letdown, making it difficult to quickly swing focus from macro to infinity. It does allow for fine adjustments, however, as each turn of the focus ring has only a minor effect.

Sony has packed the NEX-5N with their usual bag of tricks: Sweep Panorama, 3D Panorama, color modes, 1080/60p video (50p in PAL version), and in-camera HDR. That aside, the NEX-5N is all about the hardware upgrades: articulated touchscreen, 10fps image capture, and the 16-megapixel CMOS image sensor. That's a potent mix, though the fine control you might want over some of those features (manual video controls, HDR strength, in-camera editing) are not present on the 5N. It's an enthusiast-level camera with a novice level of control.

The 5N includes basic digital picture effects filters for sprucing up those tired old images. These are actually somewhat varied and include 11 types in total: posterization, pop color, retro photo, partial color, high contrast monochrome, toy camera, soft high-key, soft focus, HDR painting, rich-tone monochrome, and miniature.

The NEX-5N records in either .MP4 or AVCHD, with a maximum resolution of 1080/60p. In the PAL version we tested, that maximum was only 1080/50p, with only a 25p option (no 24p) available. In the NTSC version, the 5N can record in 1080p with rates of 60 or 24 frames per second. The camera does provide several quality settings, depending on the compression selected, with options for 28, 24, or 17Mbps bitrate during HD capture. (lowering the resolution allows for 12Mbps or VGA/3Mbps capture). Find out how the performed in our video image quality test./r:link_to_content

With no dedicated video mode, the video on the NEX-5N inherits most of whatever still controls are engaged when you press the dedicated record button. In most modes, this brings you to the camera's auto video mode, indicated in the top left corner. If you're shooting in, say, manual mode, then you get a much different reaction. There's not much on-screen indication, but pressing down on the rear control pad gives you access to full exposure settings, while the center soft key yields ISO control. The manual mode also retains many of the brightness/color settings from still shooting as well, including HDR.

Auto Controls

When recording in auto mode, there is significantly less control than in manual mode. Auto mode will still retain almost any of the shooting settings that were engaged in still mode, but with less live control. The center soft key still controls ISO, but the bottom key of the rear control dial now only yields an exposure compensation scale (+/- 2 stops in 1/3-stop increments).

Zoom

As with most interchangeable lens cameras, zoom on the NEX-5N is entirely manually controlled. This lets you zoom and adjust the focus ring at any time during a video recording, because the lens is independent of the camera in this regard. The 18-55mm kit lens offers a nice wide angle, but its approximately 3x zoom ratio doesn't yield much magnification if that's what you're after.

Focus

The NEX-5N can focus automatically or manually while recording video, though focus mode must be engaged prior to recording (as entering the menu halts recording). The camera can also track subjects, while the user can indicated a focal point simply by touching it on the rear touchscreen. The focus tends to hunt during video when focusing on objects close up (moreso than in still shooting), but about half the time is offers a nice gentle focus pull for focusing on objects further away.

Exposure Controls

In the manual shooting mode, recording a video allows you to adjust shutter speed, aperture, ISO, and even retains picture effects such as toy camera, retro, and D-range optimization (including HDR mode). There are some limitations on what you can control (ISO only goes to 3200, for example), but the camera does have some neat options like the ability to record video with individual frames as long as 1/4th of a second, creating a neat strobing effect. All these adjustments can be made while recording a video.

Other Controls

As with picture effects and D-range optimization, white balance and other controls are also retained when you switch from still to video capture. The main issue with the NEX-5N here isn't the lack of control (obviously, it has a ton of it) it's the haphazard way in which it's implemented. Short of accidentally pressing one of the keys, there are usually few on-screen indicators that such control is available to the user. We love the dedicated video record button, but we also feel that sometimes a dedicated video mode (with a dedicated set of options) can be an effective complement so the user knows exactly what is being offered.

The NEX-5N includes a built-in stereo mic, built into the top plate of the camera. It does not feature a 3.5mm mic input jack, though with this level of camera that's hardly a surprise. The audio on the NEX-5N is recorded in Dolby Digital AC-3 and AAC-LC formats, offering different levels of performance. The speaker on the camera is monaural, however, so playback on the camera won't indicate separate audio channels.

Mic Photo

Put the Sony NEX-5N and its predecessor, the NEX-5, next to each other and you'd be hard-pressed to tell the difference. Like a "spot the difference" comic in the newspaper, the NEX-5N's aesthetic changes are few and far between. Once you see the shots that the 5N produces, however, it's clear that the NEX-5N delivers on the promises that accompanied the debut of Sony's mirrorless NEX system.

The NEX-5N is just about everything the NEX system aspired to be: DSLR image quality in a compact mirrorless body. The 5N's 16-megapixel sensor provides fantastic image quality, its body is downright tiny compared to a DSLR, and its shot-to-shot time puts it among the faster cameras under $1000.

Still, the NEX-5N doesn't erase all the complaints that were levied at the NEX-3 and NEX-5 when they were released; it's still got a very large lens mount and an awkwardly small body; its lack of control dials don't appeal to enthusiast photographers; it still costs more than your average entry-level DSLR.

However, when you stack up the considerable performance gains, the already enjoyable user interface, and the approachable, modern design, those concerns are only minor in comparison. We were seriously impressed by the NEX-5N's combination of low light capability, speedy shooting, and fast-twitch responsiveness—in several weeks of shooting in all sorts of conditions, we were never once frustrated by the camera's performance.

This is a mid-level DSLR boiled down and poured into the body, and price, of something any novice will feel comfortable shooting with. Enthusiasts who want complete control may find better options with Panasonic's GX1 or the Olympus E-P3, but the Sony NEX-5N performs well enough to be anyone's main camera or complement to a full-size DSLR.

When you can pack this kind of performance in a body this small, it's hard to not be impressed. While we're not ready to label the NEX-5N as the best compact mirrorless camera we've seen (the E-P3's bright light image quality is still amazing), it's in the conversation and it has us very excited to see where the NEX series goes next.

Meet the testers

TJ Donegan

TJ Donegan

Executive Editor

@TJDonegan

TJ is the Executive Editor of Reviewed.com. He is a Massachusetts native and has covered electronics, cameras, TVs, smartphones, parenting, and more for Reviewed. He is from the self-styled "Cranberry Capitol of the World," which is, in fact, a real thing.

See all of TJ Donegan's reviews

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