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The Sony NEX-5N and Sony NEX-7 are two interesting cameras to compare, with the NEX-5N playing little brother to Sony's new flagship compact system camera. We reviewed the NEX-5N earlier this year, and with our NEX-7 review going live last week we thought a direct comparison was needed.
On the one hand you have the Sony NEX-5N, featuring a venerable 16-megapixel sensor that appears in four of our top six interchangeable lens cameras (including the NEX-5N.) It's a sensor that has appeared in the Pentax K-5, the Sony A55V, the Nikon D7000, and our 2011 camera of the year, the superb Nikon D5100. Getting that sensor into a compact system camera that shoots 10fps for $699 is a serious accomplishment for Sony.
Countering that, the Sony NEX-7 features Sony's newest sensor, a 24.3-megapixel powerhouse that now sits in their prosumer Alpha A77 and A65 DSLR models. The NEX-7 also fires off at a 10fps clip, with a built-in flash, OLED electronic viewfinder, three control dials, and substantially more comfortable grip than the NEX-5N. All this comes at a hefty price tag, however, with the NEX-7 costing you $1349 with the same kit lens as the 5N.
So which camera is the way to go? Well, it'll depend largely on what kind of photographer you are. We found the NEX-7 was marginally improved over the NEX-5N in most performance categories, with slightly better dynamic range, noise performance, and more resolution due to its superior image sensor and processor.
If you shoot primarily in JPEG or for the web, the NEX-7's images will look better, but your end results will look similar with either camera. The NEX-7 has more controls, handles better, and outperforms the 5N in that case, but the numbers are close enough that it's hard to justify paying twice as much for the NEX-7 as the NEX-5N.
If you're a RAW shooter, regularly print images, or you plan on investing in high quality lenses like the $999 24mm f/1.8 Carl Zeiss lens, then the performance gap between the two cameras is large enough to justify the extra expense.
Either way you're getting a top-of-the-line camera, though replace that 18-55mm kit lens as soon as possible; it doesn't do either camera justice.