Is this the future of interchangeable lens cameras? Shooting documentary on the NEX 5n

Guest post by Jared Abrams

The little Sony Nex 5N series of cameras are a great second camera option for still shooters getting into video. I have been using it for about a month for my documentary The Board Of Education , a film about corporal punishment in the US public school system. So far, it has been a great companion to our $5000 Sony FS100. I knew we would be traveling extensively for this film and I needed a camera that would compliment our main A-Camera. I also needed a camera that was unobtrusive so that I could record the intimate moments of the film – we are dealing with children as young as five with black and blue bruises. I need something that I can sneak into areas undetected. We are not getting filming permits and most of our footage is fast paced run and gun. The Sony Nex 5N is a quick go to camera to capture moments as they unfold.

I took it with me to Washington DC as our sole back up camera system. This felt like a big risk for me as I always bring along my Canon 5D mkII. This was the first time we did not bring it and honestly I did not miss it one bit. The Sony Nex 5N takes 16MP RAW stills and has an APS-C sized sensor with a 1.6X crop factor. I picked up the 16mm f2.8 Sony E-Mount lens used for around $190 and keep that on the camera at all times. This configuration will actually fit in a normal sized pocket and easily in cargo pants. The Sony Nex 5N is a truly portable multi-use camera with features like AF in video mode, full 1920 X 1080 HD at 60P and a huge APS-C sensor. All of these features in such a small package for around six hundred bucks, makes this a great “Director’s” camera. It will also serve the still photographer who is now forced to shoot a “little” video for every still photo session. I highly recommend getting some type of additional separate system to use for video. Trying to switch back and forth during a shoot can be maddening.   

I used an older manual focus Contax 28-70mm f3.5 zoom lens for the video shown here.  I also highly recommend checking out the other used Contax prime lenses. The Sony Nex 5N may have AF in video mode and it does work some of the time. That said I would not rely on it for moving shots. A good manual focus lens gives you more precision and control. In this case tripods were not allowed, so I used the tripod bag for stability and shot this with the Contax 28-70mm f3.5 at the 28mm end, wide open at f3.5. Quality setting was 1920 X 1080/60P. I used Media Converter to convert from AVCHD to .MOV files then put them into Magic Bullet Grinder for a 60P-24P conversion. The image held up quite well and the motion of the cars in the background is smooth as butter. To use these older Contax lenses you need an adapter to the Sony E-Mount – available here.

The old Contax/Zeiss 28-70

In conclusion the little Sony Nex 5N is a great all around camera system that does everything quite nicely. I think in many ways this is a glimpse at the future of interchangeable lens cameras.

We are still raising funds for our documentary using Kickstarter. A $10 donation is all it takes to be a part of our film “The Board Of Education”. Please click here to check it out.

Basic Features of the NEX 5N are here (taken from the Sony website):
16.1MP, up to 10 fps shooting, AVCHD™ 1080/60p or 24p HD movies, APS-C size HD image sensor, Sweep Panorama™ mode, Auto HDR, Live View, Tiltable 3.0″ LCD

Subscribe to our newsletter