I finally got some hands-on time with Sony’s new mirror-less NEX-5N camera and I must say, it’s a very impressive little camera. The body, although small, feels very solid in my hands with its magnesium alloy body. The menu system is very reminiscent of menus found in iPhones and PSPs. Some may find it too graphically heavy but I thought it had a great look and a welcome revamping of traditional text based menus from typical DSLRs.
The kit I purchased came with a 18-55mm zoom lens which is a descent starter lens but you will want to upgrade to faster/better lenses for better images. The NEX-5N is the first digital mirror-less camera to feature 1080/60p with extra-ordinary low-light capabilities. It also features the new AVCHD 2.0 codec for higher nitrate compression and peaking focus-assist usually found only on high-end professional cameras like Panasonic’s $5000 AF100.
I would describe the video quality of the NEX5N as a mixture of Canon’s 7D and Panasonic’s DMC-GH2. It share’s many of the positive traits of the 7D with soft film-like images and a nice roll-off in highlights but unfortunately, also suffers from aliasing/moire (but not as prominent to those found in the Canon DSLRs). The sound quality of camera is close to useless. There seems to be a constant clicking sound while in video mode that makes it impossible to record anything other than a guide track. Another frustrating aspect is that there is no hot shoe where you can mount something like a Rode VideoMic. You will definitely need a separate sound recorder if you want to use the 5N as your A-camera for video.
I found the best modes for video are the Portrait and Sunset presets. Portrait gives you the flattest look, ideal for color-grading in post while Sunset gives you nice burned in image that seems to do particularly well with gradations. Check out the video above, shot with the 18-55mm kit lens, 1080/60p using the Sunset preset.