A quick look at the Sony NEX5N. The good and the annoying EDIT: NOW FIXED

I love cameras. You may realise that. They are my equivalent of handbags (actually I had quite a few man bags too!) I don’t care which company makes them. I have, at the last count about 50 or so cameras in my collection. Out of those, many are just part of my collection, old Super 8mm cameras, old Video 8 cameras, old film 35mm cameras and of course a fair few DSRLs, full size camcorders both HD and SD, mid size HD camcorders like EX1, JVC 201 (no idea why I still have that!), Z1 and then new S35 cameras like the F3 and FS100. Obviously the king of my collection is my RED Epic.

The ones I use constantly for paid work are the Canon DSLRs, F3, FS100 and RED Epic with a little bit of GH2. I am not a camera snob, and just because I own an Epic does not mean that is all I shoot with. That would be daft. Always the right camera for the right job. Often that is a DSLR…

I also, like many, never leave home without a proper camera. Be it my trusty Canon S95 or more recently this new camera that I have just got. The Sony NEX5N.

Now, I have an NEX5 and to be honest it simply never grabbed me for various reasons.

The updated version is the NEX5N and it’s much better than the previous one. Key features for me are an improved chip and light sensitivity and this..1080p 25p/50p for Europe and 24p/30p/60p for the USA. Full HD slow motion for a tiny APS-C camera is a big deal for me.

It takes nice pictures too and has a crazy amount of features. It’s a bit fiddly as there are not many buttons on it, but that is a compromise that has to happen due to the tiny size.

One feature that is not standard but is a must-buy accessory is the OLED EVF. It has 2.4 million dots and is simply the clearest, sharpest viewfinder I have ever seen, and it has red peaking! It pivots too which is nice. What is not so nice is it will set you back up to $400 which makes the NEX5-N much pricier. The NEX-7 which comes out at the end of the year has a non pivoting version of this EVF but has the same chip in it as the A77. More pixels generally means less light sensitivity when it comes to sensors. Of course until I have shot with either the A77 or NEX-7 I won’t know. All I know is that the NEX-5N in video (limited to 3200 ISO) is pretty damn good, as you can see from the little review video I did of Sachtler Ace tripod below. All shot at 3200 ISO and lit by a computer screen in a VERY dark room using an old Nikon 50mm F1.2 and a Samyang 35mm F1.4. The noise is actually quite grain-like which is nice (although MP4 compression as always cleans it up enormously, as does the compression by Vimeo!)

Did I mention how amazing the OLED viewfinder is? Seriously. If you get a chance to look through it…do it!

What is not so nice is that all of the NEX5Ns seem to make this clicking noise, actually it’s almost like a ticking when you move the camera around as demonstrated by the video below. It’s very odd. I have tried two bodies and they all do it, whether the camera is on or off, whether the lens is on or off..it makes no difference. It’s actually not that audible to the human ear unless you put you ear to it, but as the rather poor microphone of the NEX5N is quite close to wherever that ticking is coming from, it’s clearly audible in recordings in quiet places. What it is?  Sony have confirmed it exists but that is all.

EDIT: This has now been confirmed as a fault and will be fixed on all existing camera. It means sending them in though! Hopefully no new ones will have this!

It’s actually amazing that it was shipped as is. Because everyone is reporting the issue. I have not heard of anyone who does not have it. Although I did not notice it immediately, that is mainly because my old joins creak, crack and click so much I can’t hear much over that noise! 🙂 Hopefully this won’t put me  in Sony’s bad books for saying this. I still hope to get a Sony NEX7 and A77 to test ASAP. I bought the NEX5N as I really wanted it and there was no sign of a test body…


Using an external microphone would get past the clicking. Problem is, the only place to mount it is the electronic mount on the top of the camera…which is of course taken by the EVF! There is no mic input on the camera and no hot shoe anyway to mount it if there was!

So it’s a bit of dilemma. The camera is excellent. Yes, rolling shutter is bad as expected. Moire and aliasing visible but not as bad as many, and the image is lovely as it the low light, and it’s so damn small!

Lens wise it uses the e-mount. The same as the FS100. Currently I really don’t like the lenses made for this mount. But that will change. A camera this small needs some nice compact lenses and the only one is the F2.8 16mm, which is too wide for standard lens use.

I have a Nikon adaptor and a Leica M adaptor. Hell I even have a PL adaptor but that is ridiculous! The Leica M adaptor works well with my Voigtlander 35mm F1.4 pancake lens. No auto functions though which are rather good on this camera.

So all in all. A lovely little camera with a rather annoying issue. I hope this can be fixed…not sure how though, as this is a hardware issue not a firmware issue…will they all need to be sent back?

One more thing, some people have reported the camera overheating and not being able to get to the 29 mins 59 seconds max per clip. I just did…at 25p with no issue. 50p…no issue.

Also without the viewfinder the camera is only half as good for me…it does output a full HD hdmi signal but mounting a Zacuto EVF on this baby would be daft, especially as the OLED EVF is stunning!




Ridiculous with a CP.2 on it!!



  1. Hey Philip, a couple of questions.

    Do you have a problem mounting tripod plates or the gorilla plate? When I screw them in at their tightest, the plates still easily move. I feel like the mounting hole on the NEX5N is perhaps smaller than standard?

    Size of the EVF aside, do you like it better than the Zacuto EVF?

    What are you using to stabilize the camera for video? I’m trying to find something that takes advantage of how small the camera is, but Zacuto’s Point and Shoot does not stabilize it enough. As of now I am using Zacuto’s Target Shooter, but if I can find something even smaller that would be great.

    Keep up the great work.

  2. Exactly… The right camera for the right job. I’m growing weary of discussions about “the” best camera. ENG guys diss DSLR’s because they aren’t ENG cameras. If you don’t need a small camera, shallow DOF, or any other benefit of a DSLR then why would you want one? Similarly, if you don’t need a full size, ENG shoulder mount 4:2:2 rig like a Sony 800 then why would you want one?

    Video cameras used to have set standards. Broadcast cameras all used to be Ikegami’s or Beta cams. That was pretty much it. There was only one standard… SD in either NTSC or PAL. Now the options are limitless. Multiple resolution choices, various frame rates, different codecs… It can all be really confusing.

    So we tend to choose one camera that’s comfortable to us and extol it as “the” best camera. I think it’s only wise to consider the best camera for the particular job. I recently bought a Sony FS100, not because it’s “the” best camera on the market. But because it’s the best camera I could afford for what I need to do, and for it’s price it’s pretty amazing. I know it has it’s limitations, but what else do you expect from a sub $6k camera? I intend to incorporate it into my DSLR workflow. Since I don’t do any ENG work anymore, and instead do more cinematic work, I decided not to consider an ENG route.

    I guess what I’m saying is that the old adage “Use this because that’s what the pros use” is dead. Pros use RED cameras, they use ARRI’s, they use film, they use DSLR’s, they use F3’s and FS100’s, the use EX3’s and EX1’s, they use Sony 350’s or 800’s, they use Panny AF100’s or HPX-370’s, etc… There is no one standard anymore.

    Actually, that’s not necessarily true. A standard is just a constant, something with consistency. The focus isn’t on the gear anymore. That’s not the standard, the constant, or what’s consistent.

    Consistency is found in the quality of work that a pro can produce, despite the gear he or she is using. It’s about what you do with the tools you have, not simply the tools you have.

  3. Does this camera have GPS? I have the HX9V point and shoot and I can feel and hear the GPS mechanism when I move it- though I have not noticed it in actual recordings…(at least that’s what I think it is) Perhaps they just missed the step of making sure that doesn’t happen in the in the 5N? I don’t know- just a the first thought that popped in my head when I read this article. P.S. Thanks for sharing all your insights with the world 🙂

  4. Love the camera as well, need more time with it to get comfortable with all the fiddly menus though.

    I have a hard time finding a portable 35mm or 50mm lens that would work both on the Canon DSLRs and the NEX … guess an old Nikon would be the best option for that?

    1. probably but problem is the lens needs to sit quite far away from sensor as if the mirror is there to get the flange distance right. As you saw with my setup with the Nikon 50mm…not ideal. That’s why my Voigtlander works well but won’t work on canon for opposite reasons. it needs to sit right into the sensor…does yours click sir?

  5. Philip,

    A possible reason why you’re not seeing the overheating issue could be related to the fact that you have the OLED EVF, while most users probably only have the tiltable LCD to view their subject.

    On my Nikon, I read that I can only use the video function for 60 minutes at a time because of overheating.

    Just a guess.

  6. I just got this camera and I love it! The clicking is an issue, but Im recording audio externally with a Tascam DR100, so that wont be too much of an issue. I was shooting with a Pentax KX before so I have a bunch of old Pentax lenes, and I picked up a Fotodiox adapter. Works great, and has a tripod mount built into it. The peaking feature is really helpful for pulling focus. Thanks for the review, I’ve been visiting your site everyday watching for it.

  7. Is it an ND filter jumping in?
    My crappy wee Canon E480 does that, virtually the same noise.

    I thought this as while you were sweeping the camera the light level w as changing quite dramatically. Might be worth a look.

  8. I’m looking forwards to the NEX-7, full manual 1080P w/control and that EVF built in for greater stability is one to watch. Esp as Sony make most manufacturers sensors these days so it’s odds on to be good imo.

  9. I’ve only been playing with mine for a couple of hours but so far I’m blown away with the performance. I don’t find the controls very fiddly, you can assign 4 extra functions to the scroll wheel which doubles as a joystick. I have faster access to picture profiles on this than the 5D. I got the EVF for $300 from a HK ebay store. I’m looking for a decent eyecup for it. I think the LCD is acting as a heater for the sensor and vice versa so I recommend always unlatching it to allow airflow. 1600 ISO, the colours, and DR look gorgeous. My 5D is looking a bit tired. I’m shooting in portrait with everything dialled down and it’s grading nicely.

  10. So that last picture looks like you’re holding a CP.2 lens with a glorified rear cap.

    Nice review, Philip. Love the small form factor, but really can’t imagine using this for any serious paid work, except as C or D roll. For travel, what a joy it’d be! 🙂

  11. i can not stress enough how i would not let the audio deter someone from buying this camera (i personally have barely experienced the clicking – i think it happens mostly while panning quickly, which you don’t want to do anyway because of rolling shutter!).

    this camera is revolutionary. not just on paper (first mirrorless with APS-C sensor, 1080 60P), but in practice .. especially when you consider the pricepoint. this thing shoots nearly as good of video as my 5DMKII (especially when you take into account noise, the noise reduction / codec efficiency on this thing is absolutely incredible at lower ISOs).

    easily takes better video (and stills) than a 7D and it’s a third of the size and price. and think about the mounting possibilities! i’m absolutely blown away by this camera. don’t expect to record sound for anything but reference, but as a pocketable B-cam? it’s genius.

  12. Hey, I saw a video on Vimeo claiming that in the sunset picture profile aliasing and other problems are greatly reduced and the color space looks more like 10 bit than 8. any thoughts on this?

  13. The clicking doesn’t bother me. I shot a 35:00 test the other day and no shots were spoiled by clicking (of course the camera was mounted on a tripod).

    What really sucks is the built-in mics/agc recorder. Tilt-up at a 45° angle and the volume doubles from a level shot – pure BS. So, for me, it is only useable with double system sound (not a problem).

    Picture is good and the color is great. Quality is good enough for paying jobs.

  14. Hey Philip, can you do a test with the NEX 5n and an external recorder like the zoom h4n to see if the click is audible for external recorders. If it is, how far away does the mic need to be to not hear the click. I am trying to decide if I want to return my NEX or not and time is running out. I wish I had known about this before I purchased.

  15. There`s another thing that annoyed me and for which I didn`t get qualified anwer neither from Sony nor Oly or Pana. When you remove the lens, the chip in the camera is exposed to elements and as we know no supersonic dustcleaning system cannot remove tiny droplets of f.ex.mist. It should be easy enough to fix it through firmware. You turn unlock the lens and the chip is capped with fysical shutter. Is it fixed? Another question. Can you use Oled finder in b/w mode?

  16. Hey Phil,

    Have you seen the new camera that Nikon is releasing? Super small consumer form factor…Nikon 1 V1 camera. Apparently it can do 1080p video and shoot up to 1200fps (although it crops in) still for a cheap consumer camera that is insane to me!

  17. Hello Phil,
    I am thinking about buying this camera. I just had a couple of questions about it hope you can answer them. What is the name of the Nikon mount that you use and would a nikon 50mm lens work with it? Thank you.

  18. Hi Philip.

    Any timelapse controls internally or a remote T-L controller option on either the 5N or upcoming 7? Can’t see any in the specs. Saw you shot the photography shop on it so did you just speed up the video to get a T-L?

  19. Hi Philip,

    What mount do you use for your M-lenses with this camera?

    Currently a 7D user, but have leica glass for my stills work. Trying to work out whether it’s worth the switch as a possible alternative to my 7D.

  20. I bought this camera. I love it. I want to use it as a ‘B’ cam when I’m using my FS-100.


    WHY have Sony locked out the framerates I need as a UK film-maker? I need 24p. End of. I’d like 60p for slo-mo.

    Please, someone tell Sony to stop doing this? It’s a total pain in the proverbial. I had to buy a US model FS-100 and now I’ll have to do the same with the 5N (or more likely I’ll sell it on and buy a 7N). They’re not protecting their markets with this policy, they’re actually forcing people to import models from other regions. Canon and Nikon are not locking out these framerates on their DSLRs, so why are they?

    Otherwise, a killer little camera. I second the comment that Sony need a lot of great, fast, lenses to go with these lovely little bodies and the FS100, please.

  21. I have a question or two about the NEX cameras in general. I’ve found that you have to install the Sony software in order to load the footage. Sony has always been notoriously ant-Mac. Does anybody know if it will work OK on a Mac? I assume it’s AVCHD, then would have to be converted to H.264 to intercut with Canon footage, right?

  22. Can someone help me out? I have a nex5 and the iso seems to work just fine in picture mode but in video mode, it does not seem to make any difference what I set it in. Even on the lcd screen when I adjust the iso, the brightness changes but when I hit that video record button, it records in a same light and color condition. Is that the way the camera is or am I doing something wrong?

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