#89. Battle of the tiny Titans: Sony NEX-5N vs Sony NEX-7

UPDATE : A summary of all this website’s reviews of the Sony NEX-5n and NEX-7 is now available.

It has been a great week for Dear SusanS: a new author, Philippe, has joined the crew. We met over comments and since met in real life to swap lenses for our Sony NEX-5N cameras. Philippe does semiconductor consuting for large corporations, so he travels a lot. He is committed enough to rise before the sun and has a great eye, so you can expect wonderful pictures from around the world πŸ™‚ His first post, a beautifully written account of a sunrise over the Golden Gate in San Francisco, will give you a glimpse of things to come !

The glass pyramid at the center of the courtyard in Le Louvre museum, Paris. Sony NEX-5N and Zeiss ZM Biogon 25mm f/2.8

Glass Pyramid. Circa 1832, Selenium Print on bamboo rag.

Secondly, a hasty meet-up on Tuesday with Philippe (yes, the same Philippe) gave me the opportunity to try out the Sony NEX-7 I have lusted over so long. My NEX-5N in hand and some great lenses between us, it was gunfight at OK Coral (or mirrorless shootout at Le Louvre, in our case πŸ˜‰ The idea (well, really, the idea was just to get my hands on the NEX-7) but what was in my mind prior to this great moment, was – obviously – to see how much the 8Mpix difference influences image quality.

Update: More pictures from that day are available in the next post: Le Louvre Museum and naked ladies in Parisian windows πŸ™‚ (please note they are not technical pictures made to evaluate anything, just pictures :))

In the hand

As much as I love my little NEX-5N, it looks like a hand-held game thingy for pre-teens, compared to the bigger brother. The NEX-7 is larger, the grip more curvaceous and organic, and falls better into hand.

A small glass pyramid in front of a larger one, against the background of the Louvre Museum in Paris. Sony NEX-5N and Zeiss ZM Biogon 25mm f/2.8

Small & Big, which is better ? NEX-5N & ZM Biogon 25/2.8

The EVF? Well, it’s difficult to describe better than what other reviewers have written. I personally prefer the larger rear screen, but that’s entirely personal. Looking inside feels like watching a small but high-resolution (and high contrast) TV. Looking at the rear is more like the back of a tiny view camera. To each his own.

That being said, I looked directly into the sun and the frame stayed perfectly clear, even though the shadows were a bit too dark for comfort. The viewfinder is at top left, which is perfect for people with noses beneath their eyes, and the Sony NEX-7 is more reminiscent of my beloved Mamiya-7 than any other camera I know of. Lovely.

Why I dream of the Sony NEX-7 …

Enough with the banter, this is what you’ve been waiting for. IMAGE QUALITY.
For the test, we used the sharpest lens I have ever used: the Zeiss G Planar 45mm f/2. Here is the test scene.

Two windows at the louvre in Paris. Sony NEX-5N & zeiss bigon 25 zm

Such an inspiring scene, isn't it ?

Here is a a series of frames at 100% just off-center to show the difference in resolution at various apertures.

NEX-5NNEX-7

f/2
f/2.8
f/4
f/5.6
f/8
f/11
f/16

So what do these pictures tell us?

First, look at the complete series and you will see a distinct warm to cool balance shift. It is present with both cameras, possibly slightly more pronounced with the NEX-7. What isn’t apparent is that exposure was not all that consistent between frames, on either camera. I corrected level (auto setting in LightRoom) to present them here.

Secondly, the Planar is an incredibly sharp lens. At f:2, there is a slight softness and a very faint trace of chromatic aberration. From f/4 up to f/11 sharpness is simply incredible. Bear in mind that the enlarged frames are about 3-5 feet wide on-screen. The recent announcement of the Nikon D800’s 36MPix resolution rose worries about the ability of lenses to deliver such an amount of information to the sensor. Well, a full frame sensor with the same pixel density as the NEX-7 has would have 60 Mpix. The Planar easily delivers this level of detail (at least in the central region) and then some.

Finally, and more to the point, the NEX-7’s image quality is indeed much higher than the NEX-5N. Be sure to click the individual frames to view the difference in detail between the two cameras. Here’s the deal: not only does the NEX-7 have 50% more pixels than the NEX-5N, but per-pixel sharpness also seems slightly higher, as if the AA filter was slightly less strong on the 7. I’d love to see large prints compared to the Leica M-9 and Nikon D3x.

What about the cornrers of the frame ? Strictly speaking that’s more a test of the lens than the sensor, but since IQ problems arrise with angular rays, here’s a sample at f/4 (you’ll just have to trust me with the other apertures, this is such a pain to do ;))

Edge performance of the Planar 45mm f/2 with the NEX-7

Edge performance of the Planar 45mm f/2 @f/4 with the NEX-7. Pretty special, right ?

Verdict: In ideal conditions, IQ is the best I’ve seen this side of medium format backs costing 10-30 times the price.

… And why I probably will never buy it

The glitch in this verdict resides in these three words: In ideal conditions.

Your mileage may very, but my money is always placed on lenses, not on the cameras. In 3 years time either of these cameras will be obsolete or broken. Quality lenses will still be doing stirling service and probably appreciating financially. So, for me, a choice of camera is always dependant on the lenses it lets me use.

A backlit cup shows the great contrast and flare resistance of the Zeiss Biogon 25 ZM

Zeiss Biogon 25 in full sunlight. Contrast & flare resistance at their best.

However good optically, the Sony Zeiss 24/1.8 will always be limited to APS cameras. It has no focus ring or aperture ring. It is not a lens for tomorrow. Lenses such a Voigltanders, Zeiss ZM, Contax G or Leica (in screw, M or R mount) are both solid investments and marvelous to use.

A camera that cannot work with these is not a camera for me. And this is where the cookie crumbles. Here are more pictures taken that day with my trusty Zeiss ZM Biogon 25mm f/2.8.

NEX-5NNEX-7Β As you can tell, results are very poor. At f/11 anf f/16 corners get in shape. But who want to shoot at f/11 all day long on an APS sensor ? To be fair, the Biogon uses a symmetrical design that presents a worst-case scenario to the NEX-7’s sensor. If at all possible I will test the Leica-R 19mm Elmarit and the Zeiss ZM 18mm Distagon. FIngers crossed.

f/2.8
f/8

Verdict: The Sony NEX-7 is a high-end Ferrari. Give it a track and perfect conditions and it will outpace most other cars on earth (no discussing finer automotive points hear, you get my drift). Compared to which, the NEX-5N is a Range Rover. It will tackle most anything you can through at it with grace and efficiency.

For someone travelling, sometimes in bad light, and using manual lenses, there’s simply no match. A NEX-7 body with a NEX-5N sensor would be wonderful, but I’m happy with it as it is. Next on my list is the Fuji X-PRO1, but pictures so far do not show any advantage compared to the NEX-5N, so it looks like this little puppy is going to stick around for some time. At least until the full frame mirrorless comes along, that is πŸ™‚

If we can, Philippe and I will test the NEX-7 with more lenses and we will report here. If you have any exotica you’d like us to test, send them over πŸ™‚

50 thoughts on “#89. Battle of the tiny Titans: Sony NEX-5N vs Sony NEX-7

    • At full-frame, normal viewing distances (not cropped close-ups) it seems both the 5N and 7 deliver more resolution than anyone could ask for unless pixel peeping. Elsewhere reviews and tests show the 5N has better high ISO image quality, i.e. less noise. This is where the less-than-ideal factor comes into play. Plus the 5N tests better using wide or super-wide lenses in terms of many fewer chromatic aberrations and corner mis-hues. Bottom line: Aren’t 16 MP enough for the average mortal photographer? Would Henri Cartier Bresson be satisfied with the 5N? You bettcha.

      • Sam, HCB would undeniably have been very happy with 16Mpix. In fact he probably wouldn’t even care how many pixels his camera had πŸ˜‰

        But Ansel Adams or, closer to home, Galen Rowell would. Street photographers will rarely print large. Ergonomics are fare more important than pixel count. For landscape photographers, printing big and/or minute details count much more.

        I’m perfectly happy with the NEX-5n’s 16Mpix, particularly as they are very high quality.

      • I think Christopher had made some salient points. Perhaps I’ll take him up on his offer. After a few bottles of wine, we may gain some new photographic perspectives.

        Since I still have time to cancel my Nex 7 order, I’d be curious to know why people think the 7 is less forgiving than the Nex 5n? (I just read the ‘well’ analogy and it has me thinking).
        Any other drawbacks to the 7 vs the 5n?

      • Hey, are you in Paris as well ? Let’s all meet-up πŸ™‚

        Philippe will answer you better than I can as he has been using the NEX7 much more. My take on this is that tiny pixels require higher resolution from the lenses, more accurate focusing, perfect shooting technique (no vibrations …), good lighting. With the NEX5n, I can use slowish shutter speeds, whereas Philippe reports having to use 1/2*focal length for good results. In that respect, the NEX7 is the opposite of the Nikon D700 for instance, with it’s big lazy pixels that tolerated older lens designs, bad lighting … Hope this helps.

      • My apologies; the comment about gaining new photographic perspectives after a few bottles was meant as humor. Were I close to Paris, I would certainly take you up on the offer!

  1. Hey, nice write up.
    I tested my Contax G and Leica lenses some weeks ago too and thats the cause I send back the Nex 7.
    You cant use the Contax G 28mm, the Leica Elmar 24mm or even the Sony Nex 16mm probably with the Nex 7. There will be smearing and magenta colour cast in the edges and it is even a bit worse than it was with the original Nex-5 / Nex-3 sensor.
    Even with a 35mm Asph Summilux or a 50mm Asph Summilux you get colour cast even though it is not really much.
    I learned photography by shooting film and so I try to frame and focus every frame as perfect as I can. This way I dont have to work with Photoshop or Lightroom more than needed. (eg not more than white balance and sharpening)

    So when I had kept the Nex 7 I would have ended up getting a lot of frames with colour cast and I had to use cornerfix on hundreds of pictures when coming home from a vacation…
    So, even though the Nex-7 feels very good in the hand, has incredible resolution, nice controls and a more profesionall body, I will keep my Nex 5-n (like you) with the viewfinder till something -really- better (for my needs) emerges.
    Sorry for the long “2cents” of mine πŸ˜‰
    Have some more nice testing !
    Ingo
    PS:I hope Phillipe doesnt take this post too personal πŸ˜‰ It isnt !

    • Hi Ingo, I feel your pain πŸ˜‰ What I find great with good lenses and good cameras is that pictures are lovely out of the box. Like you, post processing hundreds of images is not my cup of tea.

      It seems that some wide angle lenses work very well with the NEX-7, we just need to find them, I guess (or stick to “easier” cameras such as the NEX-5n). And let’s just hope Sony don’t mess up the full frame mirrorless in the same way. That holds so much promise …

      Cheers

  2. For now, I have decided to keep both 5N and 7, and continue my testing to find WAs for the 7. It is a hit-and-miss process. Yesterday, I briefly tried the legendary Leica Tri-Elmar, a 16-18-21mm lens that cost 5K€. No shift, no corner degradation, even at 16mm. Then I tried the also legendary Leica 28mm Summicron. That ought not to shift, as it is much less wide, right? Wrong! It shifts. Obviously corner trouble is influenced by at least three factors, each of which contributes to the angle with which the light hots the sensor: the lens width, its design, and the distance between its upil and the sensor.
    Today I will try to set up a Cornerfix profil that works for my ZM 18 on NEX 7. That should clean up the colour shift, as it is less severe than, for exemple, the extraordinary Contax G 21, probably the finest piece of Zeiss glass to pass through my hands. The question is, after cornerfixing, how good is the corner resolution? Folk wisdom says that, if the colour shift is mild, then corners should be OK. But at this stage I take nothing for granted, everything is trial and error. And, Ingo, Cornefix can be set up for batch processing. Otherwise, like you, fixing hundreds of shots individually is really not my thing. I don’t like to spend more than a minute on processing any single shot, unless it happens to be very, very special…
    Cheers
    Philippe

    • Hey Philippe,
      I know about the batch processing but first you have to export all Sony Raw files into the DNG format (ARGH) and you have to (for best results) set up a different cornerfix profiles for every aperture used.
      So you have to sort all your images to the different aperture settings (I cant remember all of them after a vacation and the exif data dont remember them too πŸ˜‰ ) and then batch process them seperatly. (If I understand the program right, since I never used it) Puh, that would be a lot of work.

      If the Nex 7 would use the 5n sensor the Nex 7 had stayed with me for sure !
      Greets
      Ingo

      • @Kosta72 Not really. They use the same technology, but the smaller pixels in the NEX-7’s sensor make it more sensitive to lens choice and shooting technique (as well as slightly les sensitive, per pixel). Imagine a field full of wells. When the sun is high in the sky, all the wells receive plenty of light, right to the bottom. When the sun is lower, if the wells are very narrow, only a tiny fraction of the light gets in. Whereas in larger wells, sun angle is not quite as important (up to a point).

        Some lenses have rear elements that come very close to the sensor. So pixels at the center get plenty of light whereas those in the corners are getting very angled rays that do not enter so well. Given the RGB pixel distribution and other considerations in the optical formula, this gives rise to more unsharpness / colour shift / vignetting in cameras with smaller lenses (NEX7) than in those with larger pixels (NEX5n). This is a naΓ―ve explanation, but I believe generally correct πŸ˜‰

  3. Pingback: #70. The Sony NEX-5N and exotic lenses (Leica-M, Leica-R, Zeiss ZM, Zeiss C/Y, Panasonic) | Dear Susan,

  4. Pingback: #85. A Contax-G trilogy on the Sony NEX-5N | Dear Susan,

  5. Pingback: #90. Le Louvre and the naked ladies in Parisian windows | Dear Susan,

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  7. I’ve been taking out my Nex 3, N5 and Samsung TL350 for some NPS trail shoots, as all 3 are light capable cameras, each with their strong and weak points. What has bothered me the most on the Nex’s has been the screen. I usually use the LCD, but have found the N5 and 3 have only about half the clarity of the Samsung. I”m still really sure why, but part of it may be due to the brighter AMOLED screen of the Samsung. Another factor may be the screen size. While Sony claims 3″ (like the Samsung), the actual view is only 2.5″ as about .5″ is taken up by the black ‘menu’. When facing the sun so the light reflects off your shirt, it creates a glare on the LCD making it almost impossible to see the image. This is the main reason I’ve ordered a NEX 7. The other option would be an EVF for the N5, but by the time you add this cost and bulk to the N5, you might as well go for the 7.
    A parting opinion: technical prowess is great, but if you don’t hit the mark it’s useless. Better to have an interesting non technical shot than the other way around. Content is still king.

    • Hi Jorg, no one agrees with that more than me. They are just tools and the pictures are what count in the end.

      That being said, I believe the NEX-5n is a great camera for making pictures in the wild. I have has a very high success rates in framing, exposure, (manual) focus. Yes, the screen can be a little tricky to see in very bright sunlight, but it’s actually not that bad (are you using the NEX-5 or the NEX-5n, they are not the same). I’m not a big fan of the NEX-7’s EVF in spite of what many reviewers have said, but it works well in these conditions.

      My opinion is that the NEX-7 is probably a much trickier camera to use well. For me the sweet spot is the 5n, although the 7 is ultimately better (by a fair margin) if you nail everything.

      Cheers

      • I’m now using the Nex 3, which by the way I love as I’ve found a few tricks to get really clear shots. I had the Nex 5n for two weeks, but sent it back. When I ran some tests of the 5n vs Samsung vs Nikon D5100, to be honest, I really couldn’t tell the difference in bright sunlight. On critical shots under controlled conditions, I saw a noticeable difference in edge sharpness in the 16mm lens. But when
        I stopped it down to f5.6 or f8, 90% of the softness disappeared.
        I share your reservation about EVF’s. My main one being you couldn’t set exposure or any other value and see what you’ve done.
        The new EVF on the 7 should correct this… hopefully. Luminous Landscape has made an excellent point about the 7’s low light ability, in that when you size the picture down to the 5n’s 16mp, it’s comparable to the N5 in low light. I also agree that if they had the Nex 7 body with the 16mp sensor (and lower price of course) they would have sold millions (inc. one to me).

        Again in parting, something I don’t understand is the obsession with Leica or Zeiss lenses. I had an M3 for years, and yes it took good pictures, but the weak link was always the photographer. I could somewhat justify it as my slides were shown at 6’X8′ on the wall.
        But when you consider how most people shoot and display online today, it doesn’t make sense unless you’re looking at a 24″X36″ print with a magnifying glass.

      • Jorg, it’s not really an obsession with Zeiss or Leica as brands. Its more that these lenses have several aspects to them that make them pleasant to use. In particular:
        * They are small.
        * They are generally high quality. You use apertures to get a specific DOF, not for sharpness issues.
        * Most importantly, they give you a certain “look”. If you read my post “90 is NOT for reach” on this blog, you will see what I mean. The 90mm Elmarit-M is a very moody lens. The Biogon 25, on the other hand is ultra sharp and ultra revealing. And the Contax G 21 or 45 have incredible micro contrast that would render crepuscular scenes beautifully where lesser lenses would simply render some grey mush.
        * They are great investments. Co-author Caroline paid 2200€ for a Summicron-M 28mm. Today, the lens costs 3300€. That’s +50%, compared to which a Sony Zeiss 24 will loose half its value in the same period.
        * They are full-frame lenses. When mirrorless goes full-frame, these will still be around, whereas all the current APS-C lenses will not be usable.

        So it’s really not about sharpness or snobism. It’s about finding a look you like and building a practical system around that. TO be honest, it’s also about loving the objects themselves as some of these are so beautifully made you just want to hold them all day long πŸ˜‰

        So now, I buy cameras that go with my lenses not the other way round πŸ™‚

        I hope this explains the general idea. That said, there is a lot of snobbism around these brands, and some people just collect and never use. Sad.

  8. Regarding optics and current sensor technologies, a properly manufactured lens will easily out-resolve current digital sensors.

    If a lens can’t give you at least 100 line pair per mm resolution, there must be something wrong. I learned this after years of putting lenses to the test in front of a USAF Resolution Test Chart. Rarely does a lens stand up to a sensor or film (for that matter). Said another way; Seldom have I ever met a lens that couldn’t make a decent image, _as long as_ the nut behind the lens doesn’t screw things up! πŸ™‚

    As you note, lenses made with very short rear element to sensor distances can be problematic for digital cameras, particularly around the edges. Which is likely why I’ve come to love certain manual focus SLR lenses, where optics designs required accounting for the mirror-box and concerns for the angle of light hitting the edge of a sensor are largely mitigated.

    For several decades now, I have made an open offer to all who care to play the game. The game is this: Meet me at a cafe (yes, I’ll soon have a Paris address) of your choice with the lighting of your choice. I’ll bring a stack of prints, large or small, it won’t matter. And I’ll get to ask what camera and what lens made an image. If you guess the combo right, I’ll buy you a bottle of wine (fairly priced, bien entendu). If you get one of the two right, either the camera or the lens, we buy each other a bottle of wine. If you can’t guess what camera or lens was used to make an image, you buy me a bottle of wine (again, fairly priced, as I wouldn’t want to break anyone’s budget, LOL!).

    I have yet to have any takers. So step right up and be the first! πŸ™‚

    Having beat that horse dead, I must say that modern digital cameras and optical systems are wondrous tools of creative artistic expression. I’m very much enjoy watching as image making technologies evolve and continue to bring us such incredible choices and great tools.

    Keep up the great work. Nice blog.

    • Hi ! Thanks for the interesting comment πŸ™‚

      Yes, most lenses will top 100 lp/mm. The Biogon 25 is said to max at about 400 lp/mm. But that’s only part of the story. Unevenness across the field and through apertures is more important than absolute limits and the contrast at various lp/mm values (as described in MTF graphs) tells you how the lens will render scenes. Some lenses will give an impression of high contrast because their value at 10lp/mm is very high although they fall quickly from then on and can’t enlarge too much, for instance.

      But more importantly, there are far more important aspects, such as bokeh, the general “look” the lens renders …

      Your proposition is very interesting. It reminds me of how Michael Reichmann obfuscated quite a few pros and fan boys by presenting pictures made by a medium format digital back and other made with a canon digicam and no one could tell the difference πŸ˜‰

      I’ll take you up on the offer. It will be great to meet you and I know I will *not* be able to tell the difference either. It just shows we choose lenses out pride of ownership and pleasure, not for ultimate sharpness. BUT, let’s not go too far the other way either. A well executed NEX7+Summicron 28 30 combo will produce winners more reliably thab a consumer zoom on a tiny sensor πŸ˜‰

      • Bonjour Pascal,

        Send me a private email and we’ll determine the location to talk photography, lenses, and perceptions that drive buying behaviors. πŸ™‚ [If you’re an admin on this blog, I think you’ll be able to find my reply email address embedded]

        For the “look” of lenses, 35mm Contax optics from the earlier half of the 20th century are brilliant! Particularly for the way they render out of focus areas. Leica has tended to go “harsh” in the OOF regions, by design.

        What I would really prefer would be Voightlander Heliar-like or Schneider Symmar-Convertable, Xenar f/3.5, f/4.5, Planar f/2.8 optical “look”s in DSLR focal length lenses. Alas, I fear too many people might complain about how OOF areas would be rendered. Too “creamy” would likely be their claim. πŸ™‚

        Kindest Regards – Christopher Mark Perez

  9. I have now played with the NEX 7 for a couple of weeks, and share Pascal’s view. Under controlled conditions, it delivers tremendous IQ. But try to use for what the 5N does so well, being an ultra-small platform for a wide variety of lenses for “go-anywhere-shoot-anything-under-any-conditions”, and it will punish you.
    This explains why Sony have two separate models: to each his/her own. For the time being, I am keeping both.
    Looking at my own post, I see that my definition of the NEX 7 could also be said about the digital Leica. Hmmmm…..

  10. Zeiss Biogon. 25mm f2.8. That’s what it says on the box.

    I bought that lens – at least in part – on the basis of your mass lens test recommendation. And, I’m really glad I did.

    It lives on my NEX-C3 (that is when my 35mm Summicron and 50mm Elmar aren’t there).

    From being a Nikon shooter of too many decades to want to reveal and used to carrying a P&S for those just in case pics, I’m fast becoming a devotee of this Sony marvel and lenses that make me work slower and think more. Travel no longer means a DSLR, a couple of 0.5Kg plus zooms and a backpack that would test Charles Atlas.

    Now, I have a small pouch with the NEX and 3 or 4 lenses tucked safely inside. I no longer heave and strain on and off aeroplanes, subways and buses. Better still, I now carry a messenger bag and don’t look like a mugging-ready photographer walking the streets.

    And, as has been said many times elsewhere, I also no longer look like a serious photographer, pointing a huge camera at someone. Who could take you seriously with a camera no bigger than a phone and a manual lens that requires adjusting for every shot.

    NEX-7? I really want(ed) one, but delivery problems stopped me from buying one, even in Singapore on a recent visit and now, I’m thinking that I probably won’t. I’ll choosing to wait and see what comes next.

    The truth is that with almost 10k images on my C3 I now can’t think of anything I’d rather use.

    • Paul, thanks so much for your comments. I’m really glad your experience mirrors mine. It’s a whole new experience and feels so much more liberating than the ol’ DSLR way I couldn’t go back.

      Cheers & have fun

    • Glad you like your C3. I looked at the specs and was contemplating getting one as it represented the best value for the money. Unfortunately I wanted to do time lapse and it has no IR sensor. From everything I’ve read, the kit 18-55 is pretty good if you stop down to f5.6 -8, especially in the mid (e.g. 25mm) range. Do really see that much difference to justify paying $1000 more?

      • Jorg,

        The 18-55 is surprisingly good and I have made a NTS (note to self) to put it on the C3 when wandering the streets. That is until I master the art of focussing rapidly with a manual lens, or reach a point where the chosen DoF available from a manual lens makes up for my inabilities πŸ˜‰

  11. Love your blog site and great images. This blog, plus a few others, have been really helpful over the last few days. I am planning a big European road trip by camper van and decided to sell my big, heavy DSLR. I have been really impressed with my 5N over the last few weeks and have been trying out a couple of Contax G lenses I still had in a drawer. Ace.

    I thought long and hard about a NEX 7. Built in EVF and, most importantly, hotshoe for strobist work that I dabble in. Reading this blog, the 25/2.8, Contax lens and your 90 blogs have helped convince me to keep the 5n and invest is some sexy glass instead. I’ll buy the evf too.

    Thanks.

    I have a little GRD that I will use for strobist experiments until Sony put a hotshoe and evf on the 5N ;))

    Keep up the great work.

    This sort of site, images and discussion is exactly what photography is all about.

    • Thanks so much, Andy, couldn’t think of a better compliment!! I hope your trip goes well and tat you enjoy every minute with your NEW. If you’r ever around Paris, we could hook up. Cheers, Pascal

  12. Impressive comparison between these two gems. I am still on the fence about which one to buy, but as for now my bets are on the 5n, specially because of the better integration with legacy mf lenses and wide angles. If only the 5n would have the EVF integrated…
    Just one question, which m to sony nex adapter do you use? Is the difference of novoflex and any other cheaper adpaters of almost $200 justified in your opinion?
    Thanks,
    Gari

    • Hi Gary, thanks for the comment.

      If you’re going to shoot handheld with legacy lenses and don’t need to enlarge past 24″, I would definitely go for the NEX-5n. The external EVF is the same as the one in the NEX-7.

      But if you use a tripod occasionally for best quality, want to print big, and have some of the lenses that work well with the NEX-7 (I will try to publish a summary about these soon), by all means get it. The difference in resolution is clearly there when the conditions are right.

      Unfortunately, my experience with adapters is limited to the Novoflex. Apparently, the Kipon and Voigtlander are just as good (and cost roughly the same) but I would definitely stay away from the cheapo ebay deals. I would be to introduce a weak link into your system for $100, particularly with Leica M or Zeiss ZM lenses !!

      Have fun πŸ™‚

      • Thanks a lot for your quick reply. I will wait anxiously for your report on mf lenses that work well with the Nex-7. That is my main doubt about going for the Nex-5n or Nex-7…
        BTW I will be starting from the scracth with the Sony + vintage mf lenses setup. I have used Canon high end DSLRs for some time now but I am looking for a lighter setup. For this, the Sony Nex is probably the best option (can’t afford Leicas…), although I am still waiting for some Fuji Pro depth reviews aswell
        Congrats on you blog. I am finding it quite interesting! πŸ™‚
        Gari

      • Thanks again πŸ™‚

        If you want to play it safe with the NEX-7, you can try the Leica-R lenses. They tend to be a bit larger and the adapter is definitely longer, but it’s not that bad and they are a lot cheaper than the Leica-M.

        The Contax-G trio I tested on the NEX-5n is apparently OK as well on the NEX-7. These are killer sharp. The adapter is a bit of a pain, but only if you want to go very quickly.

        Stay away from all symmetrical designs (older M-lenses and Zeiss Biogons), which is a shame as they work wonders on the 5n. Unfortunately, the fabulous Leica Summicron-M 28/2.0 doesn’t work so well.

        But there are two levels of not working-well (you see what I mean ;o) : you can have sharp images with a colour cast in the corners and that can be fixed using … cornerfix (free software). A tad more fidly but it works very well. Or you can have blurry corners and there’s nothing you can do apart from selling the lense.

        What I find most worrying is sample variation. My Zeiss Biogon ZM 25/2.8 is simply fantastic on my NEX-5n but some have reported issues. I’m very surprised, to be honest, but that’s the rumours.

        Have fun.

      • The forums give excellent feedback about the Hawks helicoid adaptor. Turns you lens into a close focus lens Search eBay for Hawks factory. The Nex DPReview Forum has more details.

  13. Just got my CZ 25 2.8 and Hawks adapter thsi week. Awesome. I have posted some (poor) images here just for reference. Both at minimum focus. Both 800 iso, fully wide. One with the helicoid in, one out. Its just an additional focus ring on the adapter. See the difference! I bought mine from MXCamera on ebay as Hawks didn’t have one in stock. Arrived in the uk in 4 days! Both images are uncropped….. really!
    DSC01386

    • Wonderful! Thanks for the samples. Definitely something I’ll be investigating.

      Now, have fun with all this. If you ever want to write something on this blog, you’re welcome πŸ™‚

      Cheers

  14. Pingback: #99. Sony NEX-5n – Why I’m saying goodbye to this little gem | Dear Susan,

  15. I am a Canon boy for quite some years and decided to step into something smaller as a travel and everyday kit. Since I am not a big fan of the small mFT – call me biased – I prefer a Sony. My Nex-7 arrived at the weekend and we just threw some legacy lenses from friends with Nex-5Ns on it. Long story short they all struggled on the Nex-7 to deliver between just weak at the borders & chromatic effects on contrast edges (Canon FD) to just plain ugly (Zeiss 35 from the 60s) to works at aperture 4 (Zeiss 50mm 2.0 from the 60th). Another try was the Heliar 12mm which was not really worth the effort and the Leica 90mm 2.8, which worked quite well.

    That left me thinking of what to do with the Nex-7. Since my base requirement is a build in viewfinder the Nex-5N is no option. On the other hand I have no legacy glas myself beyond some basic Canon FDs. So I thought what about the Sony glas available? We were lucky to have the kit, Sigma 30 & 19mm and Sonys 50 OSS available. Checking out the kit it failed pretty miserable. But let me tell you the Sigmas are really a great deal for the Nex-7. They simply work as you would expect them to do and deliver nice color and contrast (opposite to The Sonys). They do have a deal of chromatic abberations but they are very well removed automatically in Lightroom 4. The Sony 50mm works as expected as well. After all this means the Nex-7 is pretty much restricted regarding lens choice. I would have stopped right there with my approach but: I pretty much like the handling and the look of this beast.

    Then I thought well what am I going to do with this camera? I am pretty sure that I will use it on the street and that my Canon is here to stay. Therefore the investment into lenses for the Sony must stay in sensible ranges and it cannot do with most legacy glas anyway. My conclusion for now: if you can live with a combination of Sigma 19 & 30mm, the Sony 50mm, the Leica 90mm 2.8 (and I guess the Leica 75mm 2.0 or 2.5 will work as well) you can get a pretty decent setup without throwing out piles of money on specialist lenses like the Zeiss 24mm. I am pretty sure that there are some legacy lenses out there mostly in the range 50mm and above to work with the Nex-7 as well but this is pretty much it. My choice for now will be the 19+50 for a very lightweight day kit plus the 30mm if there should be only one lens. If Sony comes up with a good ultrawide option (and for the Nex-7 it is badly needed) then I can imagine to drop the 19 and possibly exchanging the 50 for either Leica 75 or 90 to give even more possibilities.

    I stumbled over your blog when researching more lens options for the Nex-7 since I am still not 100% sure if I am prepared to go with its limits. Maybe my post helps others who are not too invested into legacy glas to get another view on the Nex-7.

    • Hi Torn,

      thanks for your precious comment. What you describe is – unfortunately – why I never bought the NEX-7 myself. It’s a great camera but not well suited to legacy lenses. The NEX-5n is definitely the sweet spot here. If legacy lenses are important to you, you should definitely give that camera a try. The external viewfinder is just as good as the NEX-7’s, plus it swivels.

      Another camera you might want to try is the Ricoh GXR with M-mount module. It’s not as ‘modern’ in it’s features as the NEX-7 but the sensor is a gem and with no AA filter, tests have shown that the resolution loss compared to the NEX-7 is negligible (and better than the NEX-5n), but is not very good at high ISO, if that matters to you. It really works very very well with these lenses and was designed around them. The Fuji X-Pro1 might be an alternative, and I would have bought one with great pleasure if the focusing wasn’t a pig.

      And, although I’m as allergic to small sensors as you are πŸ˜‰ the Olympus OM-D might be worth a try. As soon as mine arrives, I will try it with as many legacy lenses as I can get my hands on. My initial tests have not been very promising, but that was mainly due to focusing difficulties. Will try again soon.

      If you’re using the Canon + the NEX, I’d recommend selecting only the lenses that fit the specific use the NEX is going to see. If that’s street photography only, then maybe the Zeiss 24 could be your only lens for that camera (I’ve never seen or used one, this isn’t a recommendation). You could also try Voigltander. My Colour-Skopar 35mm works very well on the NEX-7. These are relatively cheap and sadly under-rated lenses that produce very pleasing images with more emphasis on drawing than ultimate lab-test sharpness.

      Thanks for the feedback on the Sigmas. I’ve heard nothing but great things from these lenses.

      Best of luck,
      Pascal

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