Sony NEX-5N – The next NEX

Sony may not have been first to the compact system camera party, but its NEX range of swappable lens snappers is mightily impressive – and that’s a trend that continues with new model the NEX-5N.

This camera is pretty much the ‘NEX-5 Redux’, looking exactly the same on the outside as the first-generation NEX-5 but packing more megapixels, a larger ISO range and a touchscreen.

Given that the NEX-5 was, at the time of its launch, the smallest interchangeable lens camera on the planet, the use of this old body shape doesn’t feel like a backwards step – or at least not a major one.

Sony NEX-5N – Alloy there

The NEX-5N may be small and lightweight but flimsy and plasticky it is not. The body is magnesium alloy – granite-like in its solidity – and even the tilting screen feels like it’d require some serious force to pry it off (note to Sony PR: we didn’t try to actually pry it off).

The body’s also smoother than the face of a choirboy, thanks to Sony’s aversion to buttons. While many compact system cameras rival a flight deck for controls, Sony has stripped this one back to the basics: there’s a handful of buttons and a single dial, so you’ll have to make a lot of control tweaks using the on-screen menu system and cursor controls.

Sony NEX-5N – Dial another day

While the basic idea behind this is sound, we reckon Sony’s gone a bit too far: the lack of a mode dial is the biggest pain in the posterior, as it now takes a few seconds to flip between, say, Sweep Panorama and Aperture Priority modes – on cameras with a physical mode dial you can do this almost instantly.

The menu system is simple enough, so after a bedding-in period you’ll probably forgive Sony its trespasses against buttons. And otherwise, this is a very fine camera indeed: it autofocuses with lightning speed, can shoot at up to 10fps, captures HD video in either AVCHD or MP4 and offers a variety of showy (but also handy) modes like Sweep Panorama and Auto HDR.

And image quality? It’s excellent, with low light shooting a particular strength. The NEX-5N can shoot at higher ISOs than most of its rivals without suffering the picture-ruining ravages of grainy noise, so if you’re looking for a dinky camera for dingy bars and other gloom-zones, this could be the model for you.

Stuff says... 

Sony NEX-5N review

Fiddlesome controls, fine features, fantastic image quality