Sony NEX 6 L/B Vs. Sony NEX 5N

Sony NEX 6 L/B Vs. Sony NEX 5N
Oh, the people you’ll meet when you’re carrying around a Sony NEX 6 (or, in this case, a Sony NEX 7)! [Image by Andrew Xu via Flickr]
Sony’s NEX cameras — particularly the Sony NEX 6 and the Sony NEX 5N — have taken the latest mirrorless interchangeable lens camera trend to a level that is giving entry-level DSLRs a run for their money. Not only are we seeing more amateur photographers opting to put their hard-earned money into mirrorless cameras — where a DSLR would have been the only real option for those who wanted to step up their game beyond what the compact market had to offer — but even some professionals are ditching their bulky gear in favor of these smaller, lighter alternatives.

Trey Ratcliff, a well-known photographer, has made waves on Google+ and with his many posts on his photography blog with many stunning photos taken with the Sony NEX 7, the highest-rated member of Sony’s NEX family of mirrorless cameras.

For a lot of potential NEX customers, the decision between the slightly less expensive Sony NEX 5N, the updated Sony NEX 5R, or the Sony NEX 6 is a tough one to make. There is actually very little to dissuade you from going with one over the other, but for many photographers, those minor details make all the difference in the world.

For this article, we’ll concentrate on some of the differences between the Sony NEX 5N and the Sony NEX 6.

Sony NEX 6 L/B Vs. Sony NEX 5N: Price

The Sony NEX 5N currently retails for around $650 with an included kit lens (18-55mm) to get you started on your photography journey. The Sony NEX 5N has a slightly cheaper sibling with the Sony NEX 5R, which boasts more autofocus points and better dynamic range at a price point at or below $500 from many retailers. This comes at a sacrifice of nearly 40% of battery life, so you’re giving up a lot for that quicker autofocus.

The Sony NEX 6 will run you around $750 for a similar kit setup. The Sony NEX 6 is a step higher in the Sony NEX product ladder, so an increase in price is reasonable given its feature set.

Sony NEX 6 L/B Vs. Sony NEX 5N: Similarities

Let’s start breaking down this price differences by explaining what both of these cameras give you for your investment.

Both of these Sony NEX devices share a similar build quality that feels as high-end as you might expect from Sony’s premier line of mirrorless cameras. From the boastful displays found at your local big box electronics store to the metallic finish on the hardware, the Sony NEX line is intended to appear as expensive as one of those boutique cameras used by the wealthiest of street photographers. That said, the construction is largely plastic in feel.

Each of these cameras has a good grip, though you’re not getting a camera you’d expect to take the type of abuse a professional field photographer might put it through during extensive shooting. I’m personally not as fond of the Sony NEX design for durability as I am the Olympus PEN line, but you’re not going to be sacrificing build quality by going with either of these cameras over the other.

Here’s a look at some of the general features and performance marks these cameras share:

  • Decent noise performance at up to 1,200 ISO (25,600 max ISO)
  • 24p Support for video
  • Flip-out screens
  • Integrated HDR
  • Excellent image quality
  • External flash support
  • ~24-bit color depth

Neither of these cameras offer integrated image stabilization. You’ll depend on the lens to offer this type of support. You’ll also find yourself limited in maximum exposure time for those long-exposure night shots that photographers love to take. If you need more than 30 seconds of exposure time, you’ll probably be better served with a more professional option.

Sony NEX 6 L/B Vs. Sony NEX 5N: Differences

The Sony NEX 5N lacks a digital viewfinder. You have to rely on the screen to serve as your viewfinder unless you purchase an external one separately. These can run you around $400 unless you can find one at a good bargain. Meanwhile, the Sony NEX 6 has a digital viewfinder built right in.

The Sony NEX 5N gives you a touch screen, whereas the Sony NEX 6 does not. This is a useful feature if you’re the type of photographer who finds touch screens easier to use than manual controls. It isn’t for everyone, but it’s a consideration worth taking into account.

You also gain the ability to take 3D photos with the Sony Nex 5N, while the Sony NEX 6 doesn’t give you that bonus feature. This isn’t to say that the 3D photos taken with the Sony NEX 5N are anywhere near as exciting as you might find in a far more expensive professional camera, but it works incredibly well for the price.

Do you need a built-in flash? The Sony NEX 6 gives you one, leaving you to fend for yourself if you opt for the less expensive Sony NEX 5N. This advantage is in addition to the incredible difference in startup times between the two cameras. You’ll have to wait nearly two extra seconds for the Sony NEX 5N to start up than you will with the Sony NEX 6. In many cases, this could mean the difference between getting the shot and missing it.

Autofocus is also enhanced with the Sony NEX 6. You have 99 autofocus points compared to the 25 included with the Sony NEX 5N.

Sony NEX 6 L/B Vs. Sony NEX 5N: TL;DR

The Sony NEX 5N and Sony NEX 6 are very similar cameras. Both of them offer impeccable build quality and access to a full line of lenses and accessories made for the Sony NEX line. They offer very little difference in terms of photo quality. They’re equipped with the same powerful cropped censor offering 16.1 megapixel crisp images in a form factor that is easy to travel with and use.

Their differences are found in individual features, as opposed to an overwhelming shift in experience. If you need a viewfinder and appreciate faster autofocus, then the Sony NEX 6 will probably be worth the additional investment. Likewise, the Sony NEX 5N gives you an incredible value for your investment that, in many ways, puts it on par with bulkier DSLRs that would set you back several times more.

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Ryan Matthew Pierson