Sony NEX-5N Review

4.5
October 31, 2011 | Mark Goldstein |

Image Quality


All of the sample images in this Review were taken using the 16 megapixel Fine JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 5Mb.

The Sony NEX-5N produces photos of excellent quality. Noise is very well handled, being virtually absent from ISO 100-3200 and not being too obvious at the fast speed of ISO 6400. At ISO 12800, noise is more easily detectable when viewing images at 100% magnification on screen, but the images are still perfectly usable for small prints and resizing for web use. The fastest setting of ISO 25600 looks good on the specification sheet, but proves much less so in reality. The RAW samples illustrate just how much processing the camera does by default, though, as they're much noisier at all ISO values than their JPEG counterparts.

Colours were vibrant without being over-saturated in the default Standard Creative Style, and you can always choose Vivid if you want even more punch. The 11 creative effects quickly produce special looks that would otherwise require you to spend a lot of time in the digital darkroom, while the 6 Creative Styles provide a quick and easy way to tweak the camera's JPEG images. The Dynamic Range Optimizer and High Dynamic Range modes both work really well, although we'd advise caution over using some of the higher and more extreme levels, while Sony's now tried-and-trusted Sweep Panorama is still a joy to use.

Image stabilisation via the lens is a very useful feature that works well when hand-holding the NEX-5N in low-light conditions or when using the telephoto end of the zoom range. The 16.1 megapixel images were a little soft straight out of the camera at the default sharpening setting and ideally require some further sharpening in an application like Adobe Photoshop, or you can change the in-camera setting. The pop-up flash provides an adequate level of exposure and thankfully no red-eye. Chromatic aberrations were only really noticeable by their absence, a great credit to the 18-55mm kit lens.

Noise

There are 7 ISO settings available on the Sony NEX-5N. Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting:

JPEG RAW  

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

 
 
     

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

 
 

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

 
 

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

 
 

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

 
 

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

 
 
     

ISO 6400 (100% Crop)

ISO 6400 (100% Crop)

 
 
     

ISO 12800 (100% Crop)

ISO 12800 (100% Crop)

 
 
     

ISO 25600 (100% Crop)

ISO 25600 (100% Crop)

 
 

Sharpening

Here are two 100% crops which have been Saved as Web - Quality 50 in Photoshop. The right-hand image has had some sharpening applied in Photoshop. The out-of-the camera images are soft at the default sharpening setting. You can change the in-camera sharpening level if you don't like the default look.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)

   

File Quality

The Sony NEX-5N has 3 different image quality settings available, with Superfine being the highest quality option. Here are some 100% crops which show the quality of the various options, with the file size shown in brackets.

16M Fine (4.34Mb) (100% Crop) 16M Normal (3.06Mb) (100% Crop)
   
14M RAW (16.1Mb) (100% Crop)  
 

Chromatic Aberrations

The Sony NEX-5N handled chromatic aberrations very well during the review, with limited purple fringing mainly present around the edges of objects in high-contrast situations, as shown in the example below.

Example 1 (100% Crop)

Flash

The flash settings on the Sony NEX-5N are Autoflash, Fill-flash, Slow sync and Rear flash sync, with Red-eye reduction available in the Main Menu. These shots of a white coloured wall were taken at a distance of 1.5m.

Flash Off - Wide Angle (27mm)

Flash On - Wide Angle (27mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64
   

Flash Off - Telephoto (82.5mm)

Flash On - Telephoto (82.5mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

And here are a couple of portrait shots. Both the Auto setting and the Red-eye reduction mode caused a small amount of red-eye.

Flash On

Flash On (100% Crop)
   

Red-eye reduction

Red-eye reduction (100% Crop)

Night

The Sony NEX-5N's maximum shutter speed is 30 seconds and there's also a Bulb mode for even longer exposures, which is excellent news if you're seriously interested in night photography. The shot below was taken using a shutter speed of 4 seconds at ISO 200.

Night Shot

Night Shot (100% Crop)

Steadyshot

The Sony NEX-5N has an antishake mechanism built into the camera body, which allows you to take sharp photos at slower shutter speeds than other digital cameras. To test this, I took 2 handheld shots of the same subject with the same settings. The first shot was taken with Shake Reduction turned off, the second with it turned on. Here is a 100% crop of the image to show the results. As you can see, with Shake Reduction turned on, the images are sharper than when it's turned off.

Shutter Speed / Focal Length

Shake Reduction Off (100% Crop)

Shake Reduction On (100% Crop)

1/2 / 27mm
     
1/4 / 82.5mm

Dynamic Range Optimizer

D-Range Optimiser (DRO) is Sony's solution to improve shadow detail in photos taken in contrasty light.

Off

Auto
   

1

2
   

3

4
   

5

 
 

High Dynamic Range

High Dynamic Range Optimiser (HDR) is Sony's solution for capturing more contrast than a single exposure can handle by combining two exposures into one image.

Off

Auto

   

1

2

   

3

4

   

5

6

Intelligent Sweep Panorama Mode

The Sony NEX-5N allows you to take panoramic images very easily, by 'sweeping' with the camera while keeping the shutter release depressed. The camera does all the processing and stitching and now even successfully compensates for moving subjects. The main catch is that the resulting image is of fairly low resolution

 

3D Sweep Panorama Mode

The NEX-5N has an additional 3D Sweep Panorama mode on the virtual on-screen shooting dial alongside the regular (2D) Sweep Panorama. If you're lucky enough to own a compatible 3D HDTV, download the sample below to experience the full 3D effect.

Download the Full Size Image

Creative Styles

There are 6 Creative Style preset effects that you can use to change the look of your images.

Standard

Vivid

   

Portrait

Landscape

   

Sunset

B/W

Picture Effects

Just like Olympus and Panasonic, the Sony NEX-5N offers a range of eleven creative Picture Effects.

Off

Toy Camera

   

Pop Color

Posterization

   

Retro Photo

Soft High-key

   

Partial Color (Red)

High Contrast Mono

   

Soft Focus

HDR Painting

   

Rich-tone Mono

Miniature

Entry Tags

hd video, hd, 3 inch LCD, 1080p, 16 megapixel, hdmi, compact system camera, sony, mirrorless, csc, 10fps, tilting, tilt, nex 5n, Sony NEX-5N Review, nex5n, nex-5N, Sony NEX-5N

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