Let me start by saying that I am not a professional photographer, I am an enthusiast who has been taking pictures for a long time, but in no way am I claiming that this is an expert's opinon. But that may be what makes this review valuable to you. I shoot to make myself happy, what I like may be too plebian for some, but so be it. On with the review.
I approched this test with the idea in mind that most people do not have a long time to set up a shot so these shots are not overly studied or framed and I did not spend a great deal of time messing with the camera setting for each shot. The good news is I didn't have to in order to get good results.
Note: None of these images have been color corrected on a computer.
Manual vs Auto
This camera is not aimed at the professional camera market so it does not opperate the way a traditional DSLR camera does, and I found it helpful to view the camera as a differnent type of camera completely. I did a test of the basic automatic setting vs. me maually getting the best shot I could (which was the longest I took to set up a shot). As you can see I got nearly identical results to the auto settings.
I was very please with the wide range from black to white that this camera captured. Here is a building being blasted by full sun, shot on complete auto settings. The camera retained detail in the light colored part of the building and well as in the white letters of the sign, at the same time there are details in the shadow under the overhand and in the street light. Detail Photo
The colors themsleves are close to what they are in real life.
Most of the time I cringe when I see the "creative" modes of most cameras, and this camera does let you apply a range of special effect to you photos which I may get into in a later post. But for the NEX-5N Photo Creativity mode is a good tool for changing the look of the photo to match what you want, and letting the camera take care of setting the appeture and shutter speed. I came to think of it as a more artisic manual mode. There are five things you can change in this mode, Backgound Focus, Brightness, Color (warm or cool), Vividness (saturation) and Picture Effect (the wild effects I talked about earlier). The first four are the most useful in quickly getting the look you want to your photos.
As I quickly set up this shot of a leaf on a tree the camera did a good job of keeping track of where it should be focus as a slight wind blew the leaf around. The back screen of the NEX-5N is a touch screen, so you can touch where you want the camera to focus and it will track that object as best it can and for the most part it does a good job in a tough environment of swaying branches and leaves.
You can see the amount of detail in this shot here, it is amazing for the amount of motion that was going on.
The other three setting can be used in tandem to help shape the look of the shot in the camera before you do any editing on a computer. Which is good because most of the special features of this camera cannot be use with RAW mode or RAW + JPEG mode. This frustrates me a bit, I wanted to use this camera to shape the shot and then record it in the best quality I can. I wouldn't mind if I had to download the RAW file as well as a data file that would make that RAW file look like it did on the camera, it would save me time editing on the computer and move more of the creative choices to the time of the shot instead of later at a computer screen. So I like these settings but they are only for JPEG, which on this camera is still really good looking.
With these settings, I was able to alter the automatic exposure of the camera and create an image closer to what I like of this bamboo. The back screen does and amazing job in the bright sunlight, in fact I over-compensated for the wash-out effect too much and most of these photos, like this one, are a little darker than I like, but the detail is still there and could easily be pulled out with a few minutes in Photoshop.
I ended up using these creative setting a lot during the rest of the shoot. I used it to bring out the detailof this shop interior while letting the outside burn away.
The top photo is the first attempt with the creative settings and the bottom one is the second attempt. (I waited for the man to get out of the way, but he must have hit a female shopping force field because he stood there and would not actually go into the shop. LOL)
I like the way these setting let me have control of the image that is not the traditional aperture and shutter controls. As an enthusiest (amature) I don't have a light set or timers or interns to get these looks external to the camera, so it's great to have them internal. Not a professional job by any means, but I like it.
This could very well be the feature that excites me the most! The only different between these two pictures is where I touched on the back screen. The level of detail at the focal point is amazing and with one touch the camera changed its focus. Cool.
I was shooting with the 18 - 55mm zoom lens for these shots. I also tried out the 16mm fixed lens, it was okay but obviously not as verstial as the zoom.
I used the 16mm to test out the video I shot and that revealed the first major flaw of this camera. When shooting video and moving the camera, even a little bit, there is something inside the camera that moves and causes a clicking sound in the audio. It is very annoying. The good news is that Sony recognizes the problem and I have already arrainged to have them fix the camera (or as they call it a Performance Enhancement) for free. I do have to ship it off which isn't ideal, but it's good to see Sony taking care of the problem quickly.
These are the things that stood out to me after the first time using this camera, I am sure that after I use it more I will discover more things to do with it and will write about them here.
I am quickly falling in love with this camera and I can't wait to use it more. If you have any questions leave them in the comments and I will give you my un-professional opinion. :)