Sony NEX-5R vs NEX-5N – Is It Worth the Upgrade?

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Sony recently launched two new additions to their highly popular NEX lineup of interchangeable lens mirrorless cameras, the NEX 6 and the replacement for their hugely successful NEX 5N – The NEX 5R. But does the 5R advance the series forward enough to warrant an upgrade from the NEX 5N?

Here’s a nice video from The Digital Digest comparing the new Sony NEX 5R with the camera it’s replacing, the NEX 5N, which is one of our favorite cameras of the last year. And it seems like TDD feels the same way.

Here’s what they had to say >> One of the best cameras of the year just got better because of a price reduction. Granted, the 5N is about to be replaced with the launch of the 5R, it still represents one of the best cameras on the market today. Enjoy! -TDD

TDD is right on in asserting that the NEX 5N is a great camera and a fantastic value at around the $500 price point, but is it worth it to go for the 5R? Here’s some key differences that might help you make your decision…

Wi-Fi – The 5R is a Wi-Fi enabled camera, so not only will you be able to upload your photos and videos direct to the web, you’ll also be able to install apps and integrate with your smartphone or tablet. So you’ll be able to control the 5R directly from your iPhone, Android, iPad, etc., and we all know that where apps are invloved, anything goes. Check out the video below, also from TDD, to see the apps in action.

Articulating Screen – While both the NEX 5R and the NEX 5N have tilt screens, which enable you to more easily shoot from low angles (with the screen titled up) or from high angles – i.e. over the heads of a crowd (with the screen tilted down). But the NEX 5R tilt screen goes a step further, allowing you to tilt the screen a full 180 degrees, so it faces forward for easy portrait shots.

Hybrid Autofocus – The Sony NEX 5N and NEX 7 were among the top cameras in autofocus speed in the last couple of years, and they really helped raise the bar by which all other cameras are measured. So will the new Hybrid Autofocus system on the NEX 5R (and NEX 6) be that much of an improvement? In a word… Yes. It looks like Sony have really made strides with autofocus speed and quality with the new system, and it now ranks right up there with the autofocus on the Olympus OM-D E-M5 and the latest Panasonic Cameras, which is blazing fast (virtually instantaneous).

Sensor Overheating Issues – Though it looks like Sony have made some improvements with the sensor overheating issues (in continuous video mode) that have plagued the NEX series, it doesn’t look like they’ve been eliminated with the 5R. These Sony sensors product some of the best quality images (stills and videos) that you’ll get out of any camera, and they ARE great video cameras, but only if you’re looking to capture videos in short bursts – say… 2 to 5 minutes at a time. Typically, the NEX series has been known to overheat anywhere between the 5 and 15 minute mark in continuous video mode.

Menus – Both the NEX 5R and NEX 5N have touch screens and include smart phone style menus in which you’ll drill down to access different functions and features. If you’re the type of person who is comfortable with smart phones and tablets, and have no trouble navigating through their menus, then neither of these cameras will pose much of a problem for you.

Which camera is for you?

You really can’t go wrong with either one of these cameras, but…

  • If you’re looking for a great bargain on a really great camera, but you’re not really concerned with Wi-Fi or apps and want to focus more on capturing beautiful quality still photos and shorter video clips, then the 5N is an excellent choice for you.
  • If you want the latest tech, you love to play with apps, Wi-Fi, etc. and you’re concerned that really fast autofocus just isn’t fast enough, then you won’t regret springing for the extra $$ to get the NEX 5R.
  • If you’re looking for more Pro Features, an electronic viewfinder and on body controls, you probably should look at the higher ups in the NEX lineup, the NEX 6 and NEX 7.

Other cameras you might want to consider…

  • If you’re looking for an even better bargain on a really great camera, but you’re not really concerned with Wi-Fi or apps and want to focus more on capturing beautiful quality still photos and longer video clips (i.e. – you want to use your camera not only as a camera, but as a surrogate camcorder to capture birthday parties, Christmas Morning gift opening sessions, full Wedding Ceremonies, etc. – no overheating issues here), then we would recommend that you check out the Panasonic GX1 (an excellent camera which originally sold in the $800 to $900 range, but you can now get one for around $450 to $500).
  • If you want all the features that you like in the NEX 5R, but you’re looking for alternatives to compare it to, you might want to check out the new Olympus PEN Lite E-PL5 (Which is Wi-Fi capable, has an articulating touch screen which flips forward for easy self portrait shots, a Sony sensor and super fast autofocus.

Check out the NEX 5N, NEX 5R and our recommended cameras below:


Josiah Göring says:

The 5N also has a tilty screen

FlyLifeFilms says:

@Clintondmb Its not too much to ask for a Camera to perform how it states in the manual! (29min clips) Suggesting to people to buy other products is counter intuitive to say the least! If i wanted to buy a camcorder i wouldn’t be inquiring about these issues. Nowadays people want SMALL interchangeable lens cameras for VIDEO! Yes its True believe it or not!! (smh)

Clintondmb says:

if you’re needing to shoot more than ten minutes of video at a go. buy an
actual camcorder.

You don’t need to go the camcorder route, Clintondmb… One of the great things about mirrorless cameras is that they’re heading more and more into the realm of Hybrid Imaging… In other words, one camera that can capture great quality photo and video equally well. Why carry a camera AND a camcorder when one camera will do?
While the Sonys do have overheating issues, a lot of people only shoot 2 to 5 minute clips at a time, and these cams are GREAT for them because they pop out some stunning quality video. If you want to shoot longer than say, 15 minutes at a time, then check out the Pannys – No overheating issues and no 29 minute limit outside of the EU – and you can get GREAT DEALS now on a GH2, GX1, G5, etc. Hope this helps 🙂

yash1551 says:

CAn I use the EVF from the 5N to the 5R¿?

TataruRoman says:

There’s no “larger” sensor in nex-7, just more Mpx count. Which arguably doesn’t really make it a better camera…

kawai922 says:

The 5R has manual dials and a tiltable screen…that in itself is already a huge step above the 5N

MrMagicxyz says:

why would Gov tax something like record time?

exwhyz33 says:

on the 5N, looks like the amateurs should stick with the flash whilst the professionals would choose the EVF and attach a separate flash on an extension arm.

FlyLifeFilms says:

Great Vid! I appreciate you touching on the Overheating issue as thats the reason i sold my 5N and 7! I relied on these cams for video mode and that issue hindered it greatly. I will be going with the Nex-6 and i’m praying that this overheating issue has been somewhat addressed.

Michael Molli says:

I love my NEX-5N so much but I still will be getting the NEX-5R. Looking forward for the SEL1650, the SEL35F18 and probably the SEL1018 lenses as well.

Aram Hassan says:

My V30 is best.

Aleksey Shinkarenko says:

5n is the best! I love my little beast! 😉

iDRteck says:

First in under minute

Pete says:

I would be really interested in any tests you can run to check for the overheating when shooting longer video duration sat 1080/60p (presumably the worst case scenario). I’d love to buy the NEX-5R or the NEX-6 – but its got to be able to shoot 20 or 30 minutes of HD video video without overheating – or I’m going with Panasonic.

Simon says:

Do not buy the Sony NEX-5R or NEX-6 if you want to record video over 10 minutes. In Australian summer outdoors, we have found both will suddenly shut down within 5 minutes video recording. The problem is the overheating issues, thanks to the full frame image sensor. This is a design flaw by Sony which has not been properly addressed.

The Sony NEX-5R or NEX-6 are great point and shoot cameras, and ok for very short 2-3 minute videos, but no more. However, my iPhone 6 is more reliable for video than the NEX cameras that I own.

Hi Simon… Thanks for the input on the NEX cameras. They’re great for the applications that you mentioned (straight up photography and short videos), and the SONY sensors are wonderful, so the NEX cameras were some of the first I looked at. I do a lot more with video though, and that’s why I personally ended up going with Panasonic Lumix Cameras, which in my opinion are still the best hybrid cameras you will find, dollar for dollar. Hard to argue that those full frame SONY cameras aren’t mighty appealing though! ヅ

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