I’ve had the Sony NEX-5n in hand for all of a day now; however, I already have some quick first impressions to share.
First up, its a very fun camera to use. Quick response from shutter and focus. Autofocus is also very good in video mode. The face tracking AF during video recording seems to be very smart and smooth all the way around.
It’s also very compact – with the biggest part being the lens, which is rather bulky on the otherwise tiny camera. That’s the nature of the beast though, particularly considering that it is an 18-55mm zoom lens that’s including in a very affordable kit package.
At first blush, the photos look great out of the camera. I’ll have some to share soon; however, the camera does a very smart job with exposure/metering choices. The little attachable flash works quite well. It’s essentially a pop-up flash that’s not built in. For most folks, I think it makes sense to leave it on the camera all of the time.
Video looks great and audio sounds surprisingly good for an on-camera mic. However (and this is a big one), there is an audible clicking or rattle noise that can be heard when recording video. A number of other reviewers and users have noted this problem and I can confirm that it’s there and it is a real problem.
Here’s a quick sample from a family video clip I recorded.
It’s a very obvious sound that occurs in normal video capture situations. I purposefully did not try to “create” the problem. Instead, I just tried to capture a typical consumer-ish scene with my family at the beach. The sound was present throughout the video. Even with the loud natural sounds of the waves crashing and wind blowing, the clicking noise is present.
While I might be inclined dismiss this “clicking” as an annoyance if users would be more likely to record dual-system audio and sync a more pro-audio source in post, this is really a consumer-ish camera. As such, the NEX-5n could be easily situated as a camcorder and DSLR-replacement in a single package and, therefore, the audio on-camera needs to be usable. And in either case, it is unacceptable.
I’m not sure what the cause is and I don’t believe Sony has released an official statement on the problem as of this writing. The noise is not tied to the image stabilization system – as it is present whether IS is turned on or off. In fact, just a light shake of the camera body causes the click/rattle even when the camera is turned off.
Again, this problem is unacceptable and one Sony needs to fix. The problem seems like it could be an assembly/mechanical issue, which would likely require a recall to fix it. If that’s the case, the NEX-5n may end up as somewhat of a dud in the marketplace, which is a shame because it’s otherwise a great camera.
Moving on though, I’m still undecided about the overall camera control scheme. While I prefer an ordinary mode dial, I’m going to give the NEX-5n’s controls a chance before I render my verdict. I will give Sony credit that the controls are an improvement over the NEX-5. There are several customization options that let you take a little more control over what controls are accessible via the buttons on the back of the camera.
At first blush, the NEX-5n could be a great all-purpose camera (stills and video) if Sony can quickly and effectively correct the click/rattle noise during video capture. I’ll have more on the NEX-5n soon.
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