Sony NEX 5 review by Tom Antos

Cinematic Tests – Sony NEX-5R review

Sony NEX 5R just may be the best camera for budget filmmakers. Even though I often stress that people focus too much on the cameras and not enough on developing their cinematography skills, I get asked so much for camera recommendations that I decided to talk about a specific camera – especially since I bought this one myself.

You can see the full video review below. Then, I go over some key points – plus some new information I got since posting the video review.

UPDATE April 30, 2014: Since the review, new models of NEX-5 have come out – the NEX-5RK and NEX-5TL. All these cameras provide similar video functionality and quality. The main difference is the lens they come with.

The newest Sony NEX5 models:
Sony NEX-5RK on Amazon and eBay

Sony NEX-5TL on Amazon and eBay

So here are the reasons why I think NEX 5R gives you the best value for the money:

i) reasonable cost – $500

ii) shoots at 1080P at different frame rates, including 60fps – i.e. you can get nice slow motion shots without sacrificing the resolution

iii) it is small and light – more on this point at the end of this post

iv) has APS-C sized sensor

v) uses AVC HD codec which is superior to MP4 containers (which usually contain the h264 codec)

vi) using cheap adapters, you can mount other SLR lenses (ex. Canon, Nikon)

Get Nikon or Nikkor Lens to Sony Nex E-mount Lens Adapters at eBay

Get Canon EOS Lens to Sony Nex E-mount Lens Adapters at eBay

vii) impressive battery life – so far I’ve always been able to get through a day of shooting on a single battery. On the longest day, I had the camera on for five hours and that still left me with more than ten percent of the battery charge

viii) great image reproduction – see the tests I included in my video review to judge for yourself

Now, there are some trade offs, but most of those have to do with the small footprint of the camera. Namely,

i) the camera doesn’t offer a good base to support the weight of a large lens. So, rather than attaching  the body to the tripod, you will need to use a mount ring and attach the lens directly to the tripod – the way sports photographers mount their huge lenses.

ii) there is not much space for connections so Sony included a proprietary connector that works for the flash, microphone and electronic viewfinder. That means you will have to buy Sony peripherals that work with this specific connector. When it comes to the microphone, I have read good reviews about it and so – at around $80 – this doesn’t seem to be a bad deal.

Get Sony Microphone for NEX-3/NEX-5 at eBay

Get Sony Viewfinder for NEX cameras at eBay

iii) there are no hacks or free firmware available like the Magic Lantern, since it is a new camera. But if the camera becomes as popular as I think it will, with time some good hacks should come out.

iv) it has the rolling shutter effect, but this is not any worse than other DSLRs.

Some people have been reporting overheating problems with the older Sony Camera – the NEX 5N. I have had no such issues with the NEX 5R. For example, I’ve been able to take 12-13min long takes without problems. I haven’t tested out it out longer then that simple since I don’t do live coverage type of work with my cameras. Most of my work is for films and music videos, and in that line of work you barely ever have to do a take longer then 10 min.

Another thing that I like about this camera are the Sony lenses, which are much cheaper than similar quality Canon or Nikon lenses. For example, there is a nice “pancake” 16mm F2.8 lens for about $190. For additional $100 you can have an attachment to convert this lens to 12mm – such a wide angle lens would be great for steady-cam work and filming, for example, action scenes, music videos, weddings and real estate.

Get Sony 16mm f/2.8 Wide-Angle Lens at eBay

Get Sony HD Wide Angle Conversion Lens at eBay

Here is another music video I should shot on the sony NEX 5R

Final point: the small body and lens make it easier to find affordable solutions to stabilize shots – using either steadicams/glidecams or digital gimbals/stabilizers (see, for example, my tutorial DIY Digital Stabilized Camera Gimbal).

43 thoughts on “Cinematic Tests – Sony NEX-5R review”

  1. Great timing, as been looking to add a camera to give another angle as a closer match to my 5D2 as possible. Having a smaller small form factor is very appealing. Thank you for taking the time to review this camera

  2. Hi Tom,
    thanks for all what you’re doing. pretty cool! I’m following courses at cinecours (canada) t become a TV director. Your tutorials are very usefull for me. I live in Côte d’Ivoire (west africa). i would like to download this tutorial buy it seems that download is blocked on this video.

    1. To Dany Messan ,

      Hi, try and download a “ytd”, it will enable you to literally donwload the youtube video. Hint “You tude downloader”… any problems send me a private message.

      On s’attrape

    1. It can if you use the pancake lens, but I wouldn’t recommend it since the battery won’t last you long and you risk overheating and damaging the motors on the phantom

    2. Purchased OM-D caerma Body and 45 1.8 in July 2012-The caerma body, the appropriate lenses, the grip, hand strap, and extra batteries, will cost a tidy sum over $2200. But you don’t need to purchase everything all at once. You will need time to understand the range of options this digital caerma provides. From point and shoot to full manual controls, the serious amateur will need time to learn the controls and his/her preferences.I also, recommend obtaining David Busch’s new book on the Olympus OM-D E-M5. It lays out the caerma’s many control options in starter mode and advances to hidden features, to help the serious photographer. Practice, Practice Practice is required.I use the OM-D for my business and personal/professional photography needs. It has been an excellent purchase, already paying for itself. The images have been excellent. Great detail and, with practice, HDR capability will provide even better results. The smaller size, compactness, reduced weight, and precision of the OM-D and lenses were overriding factors in my decision to purchase. I tried many other compact caerma systems, including Canon G series and Olympus PEN PL-1.By the way, if you own the film caerma OM-1 series lenses, you can re-use them with this caerma, with the correct adapter. The lenses, I have will not sync with the auto focus and shutter controls, but they are fine in manual mode. These are high quality optics, which were unused for 30 years. It was a nice surprise. I now have lots of lens choices.Thanks Olympus!

  3. excellent review and video…before your review, or my having seen it, i bought the nex 5r, a57 slt and the nokia 808 purevieww pureview with its 41 megapixel camera and carl zeiss lense. your review confirms i’ve made the right choice as a beginning filmmaker! i’m very greatful!

  4. I’ve just bought SONY NEX 5RKB. I am satisfied since the quality is great. I only have experienced a problem: mts file are not audio-editable in premiere pro cs6. Is there a way to fix this problem without having to convert (loosing quality) the files ? Is this a problem also for premiere pro CC ?

    1. Weird. I never had that problem. Is that only with the MTS files from the NEX 5 that you get that problem?

      1. Well …. i update to Premiere Pro CC … and the problem is gone !! The MTS file from the Nex 5rkb are perfectly editable. Thank you so much for your tutorials TOM they are just GREAT: trought them i’ve understand for the first time what i really want to do in life !!! Would be great if you could tell all of us wich is the best way to export from premiere pro cc (or CS6) in professional format, since i have seen AVI or MPEG2 decrease drastically the quality, and mpeg preview format is really heavy. Thanks again !!!!

          1. Yes your link has been very helpful ! There’s only one thing that worries me about this great and cheap SONY NEX 5R : how can i add professional audio ? Is it possible to connect trought USB the new ZOOM H6 ? Is there any other possible solution ?

        1. Only way to get best audio directly on the camera is through the sony mic that you can buy for this camera. Otherwise you will have to record audio separately on the Zoom H4N. Which is what you would do in any pro setting anyway.

          1. I understand. To have Pro Audio i have to record it separatly and do what Art Directors did before digital era on the analogic MOVIOLA: “CIAK si gira !!!”. Thanks Tom, i will buy your tutorials.

      1. Thanks for your reply. I’d love to watch a package that you made with this camera, especially with some soundbites. Its great if you have any. I’m thinking of becoming a one man band. Appreciate your help.

  5. I think it is useful to stimulate discussion on this camera. That is why a few more questions are necessary. Can i use some old vintage prime lens from russia with the same adapters you linked ? Existing adapters are only for Nikon and Canon ? They can be used even with vintage prime lens ? And finally, most important, can i use “AUTO INTELLIGENT mode” if i put such lenses ? Thanks.

    1. You can use whatever lens that you get an adapter for. Obviously if it’s an old lens that all manual and has no electronic components in it then you can expect to get any automatic functions that are outside of the camera body to work. Like when I use my old manual Nikon lenses on this camera, then the settings for the aperture are all grayed out in the camera since I can only change the aperture manually by adjusting it on the lens directly. etc.

  6. After much research, I’m glad to see that I’m headed in the right direction. I recently received a Sony Nex 5T for Christmas to be used for product photography when I was asked to submit a video for a show application. I really hadn’t intended to take videos with this camera but now I’m trying to quickly find a good solution for audio. Before coming here, I purchased a Zoom H4N along with an Audio-technica lavalier mic ATR-3350 for my video. Now, I’m looking for a video editing program that will sync the audio to the video with a few extras that won’t break the bank. I was wondering if Adobe Premiere Elements 12 would be a good choice and if not, if you might have some suggestions. Thanks!

  7. When you are in manual mode and hit recording, does it stay in manual mode? Because with the nex 5(A), it switches straight to auto. So can you use manual exposure (aperture, shutter-speed etc.) for film? Keep up the good work and greetings from the Netherlands! ;)

    1. Yup When I start recording when Im in M mode then it stay in Manual the whole time. Except I also have to make sure I have the white balance and focus set to manual in the extra options.

  8. hi tom. wanted to say thanks for all your videos. I have learned more watching yours then all the others on youtube. I have a few questions. first of all I am in the middle of making a music video with some of my friends. I purchased the nex-5n for it but ended using my partners pentax k-5ii and a sony camcorder. we were able to film half of the video. now here is the problem. my partner quit so now all I have is the nex-5n and I film this weekend. I have learned from your video that I should video it ‘flat’ and I understand why. that way I can take care of the ‘colors’ when I edit. now the camera has 1080p in 60f and 1080p in 24f as you know. my problem is im not sure which one to use. reason is my partners cameras were set at 1080p in 30f and not flat. so the view is incredible as it is but im thinking I may have issues now when I use my camera. I was thinking about just redoing the whole video again with mine but man what a waste of time. what do you suggest? plus I would like to have it look as good as your videos with jreyes. do I use 1080p 60p or 24p? should I not video it ‘flat’ if I wanted to use the past recordings? does it matter? im new to this and am motivated to make this work. it will be recorded outside. once I have some funds I want to buy your video package. its def what I need.

  9. Very informative website, I am learning a lot from you. Thanks a lot. I am on short budget and I found a good deal for Sony Nex 5 but its not Nex 5R or 5N its just Nex 5. I want to know if there are huge differences between Nex 5 and Nex R or N or Nex 5 is also acceptable to shoot a music video. I want some shots in slow mo and some low light shots during evening (not night).
    Thanks alot

        1. Thought it might be useful for someone, so i bought NEX5 and I’ll sell it soon and get NEX5n or 5r the reason why I’m selling is the frame rate. Since I need a lot of shots in slow motion so NEX5 won’t work for me because it is only 25fps for 1080 video while NEX5n and most of the other models can shoot 60fps.

  10. Tank you so much ! U help me and u make the thing eazy to go ahead ! Tanks because u ar in this world !!

  11. Hai Tom! Thanks for the very usefull info. I still have a question about the rackfocusing:

    For example, when i shoot a musicvideo, is it possible to see the red outlines ( peak colourlines) during the recording and shifting focus, or is that only possible before you press record?

    Does it work with all lenses or only the sony lenses?

    Thanks in advance!

  12. Hi Tom, great video as always. I wanted to ask you have you do you know how the Sony NEX 5r compares to the Samsung Nx200? I need a new backup camera for an upcoming wedding and I watched a few vids on the Samsung but I no one really breaks down a cameras potentials and flaws like you. Have you ever used the Samsung model?

  13. We bought the Sony NEX-5R a few months ago and have it’s been nothing but problematic for video recording.

    We only use it in an air conditioned office and have implemented the following:
    – use sony microstick for recording
    – lifting up the LCD from the body of the camera
    – turning of the “stabiliser”

    …and still the camera randomly turns itself off after 10-15 minutes.

    We would not recommend the NEX-5R to anyone wanting to reliably record video longer than 10 minutes.

    1. I agree it’s not a good camera for live events or long interview type settings because of the overheating issue.

      I only do music video and film productions so for me it works great!

  14. Thanks for the review. We had the same issue. It was recommend by a photography store near us for vlogging. While it shoots very nice video, the Sony NEX-5R overheats quickly when recording video. It usually switches itself off within 10-15 minutes.

    This is a serious design flaw .

    1. If you need very long takes (or shoot in hot environments, for that matter), DSLR/DSLMs are generally not recommended – not just this model. But for many types of projects (ex. films, music videos), this limitation is not a major concern.

  15. Hi Tom, very nice and helpful video. Just curious and wanted to ask about how you color corrected the clips. The colors look very vibrant, especially the shots with the cows and the kids playing in the water.

  16. Hi Tom,
    I’ve been trying for a while to find the tune for the forest video. Will appreciate a lot if you direct me to it. Thanks a lot and great video!

  17. Pls tom is there any way I can get slow motion on the Sony nex 5.someone bought one for me and I will be using it more on music videos and short movies. But I wish I can have a way around it.

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