Sony NEX-5N – UV imaging

I remember few years ago when i first owned the Sony NEX-3 and used it for UV-imaging. Unfortunately the custom white balance range was not sufficient to properly white balance in UV for the jpeg files. This issue was fortunately resolved by the NEX-5N (4th camera in the NEX range) which had a wider white balancing range. I had sold my NEX-5N a while ago, and hence could not test this again until I borrowed my friend’s copy.

The two images below were taken previously with my copy of the full-spectrum NEX-5N using the Baader U and Kuribayashi 35mm F3.5 lens, using Xenon flash as light source. As you can see the yellows do look nice and yellow, and there is a richness to the colour.

Dandelion - UV (NEX-5N, Kuri 35/3.5 + Baader U)
Dandelion – UV (NEX-5N, Kuri 35/3.5 + Baader U)
Ranunculus spp - UV (NEX-5N, Kuri 35/3.5, Baader U)
Ranunculus spp – UV (NEX-5N, Kuri 35/3.5, Baader U)

Now that I have the NEX-5N with me again, I will be doing a series of UV-imaging tests on  it and posting the results. In this post, I have basically taken photos of a sunflower and Rudbeckia fulgida in RAW and jpeg, to show how these flowers are rendered by the NEX-5N. I used the Coastal Optics 60mm F4 APO, Baader U filter and Quantum X2D flash as UV light source for these shots.

I do have to mention a big problem I encountered with this camera. For some reason, the custom white balance set in-camera in the NEX-5n does not get imported into Capture One Pro; the  jpeg file has the correct custom WB set, whereas the RAW file does not. I suspect that the in-camera white balancing in the NEX-5N somehow differs from industry standards, and hence cannot be reproduced in Capture One Pro.

The first sunflower image below is to illustrate this problem. This is how the RAW file looks straight after importing into Capture One Pro with in shot CWB. The second image is after adjusting white balance in Capture One Pro. The third is the out-of-camera jpeg file with the custom white balance set in camera.

Sunflower - UV (RAW) NEX-5N + COSI 60/4 CWB on import into Capture One Pro
Sunflower – UV (RAW) NEX-5N + COSI 60/4 CWB on import into Capture One Pro
Sunflower - UV (RAW) NEX-5N + COSI 60/4
Sunflower – UV (RAW) NEX-5N + COSI 60/4
Sunflower - UV (jpeg) NEX-5N + COSI 60/4
Sunflower – UV (jpeg) NEX-5N + COSI 60/4
Rudbeckia - UV (RAW) NEX-5N + COSI 60/4
Rudbeckia – UV (RAW) NEX-5N + COSI 60/4
Rudbeckia - UV (jpeg) NEX-5N + COSI 60/4
Rudbeckia – UV (jpeg) NEX-5N + COSI 60/4

I have to say that I am not used to shooting the NEX-5N anymore, as I have predominantly been using the Olympus OM-D EM-5 for UV-imaging and know when and by how much to adjust the exposures to get the results I want. With the NEX-5N, it is like learning all over again. In fact I had to reduce the exposure a bit to get it to the right level.

So, what do I like about the NEX-5N?

1) I really like the colours of the flowers as captured by the NEX-5N. The colours of the flowers in UV seem richer and more yellow (compared to the OM-D which have a greenish tinge to them).

2) Focus peaking feature can help when adjusting focus (could prove very handy for focus stacking or for shooting UV or IDS videos).

3) The 1.5x crop factor will allow for me to shoot larger flowers (like sunflowers) without having to move the camera as far back as on a micro 4/3rds (2x crop) system. You have ability for shallower depth-of-field as well.

4) There are a few E-mount autofocus lenses which do transmit a reasonable amount of UV – e.g. Sony 16mm F2.8 and 20mm F2.8 (pancake lenses). I will be posting my review of the 20/2.8 lens for UV soon.

5) It has a touch screen for selecting different focus points. This could be either for selecting where to magnify in live view when doing manual focus or for selecting where to autofocus (this feature is absent in NEX-6, NEX-7 and A6000 which all do not have a touch screen, but present in the OM-D).

What could be improved in the NEX-5N?

1) It should have more than one custom white balance setting (OM-D has 2), so that I can set one for UV and one for my IDS2e; with the NEX-5N you can only have one CWB.

2) The custom white balance setting method of the NEX-5N does not appear to be conforming to industry standard, as it does not work when importing into Capture One Pro (at least in the UV spectrum).

3) No built-in hotshoe, so requires an add on adapter.

4) When shooting with flash in manual mode, you will have to turn the Live view settings effect to off or you will only see a black image (this is not necessary in the OM-D).

I will be doing a comparison of images between the NEX-5N and the OM-D EM-5 soon, as well as listing what is good about each system. So stay tuned.

Boon

Equipment used: Sony NEX-5N, Coastal Optics 60mm F4, Baader U filter, Quantum X2D flash, Nightsearcher UV torch