In this post, I will be doing a side by side comparison of these two cameras, with regards to the cameras themselves, ease of use, functionality and image quality, as well as images from both cameras for comparison. I know that there are features in both cameras which I like, and it would be great to see them all amalgamated together into one camera (although this is unlikely to happen).
First are the images in UV from both cameras.
The EM-5 has a nice retro look which sets it apart from other cameras out there. NEX-5N looks too modern and lacks appeal. Winner: EM-5
This one goes to NEX-5N again as the grip is very steady and easy to hold, whereas the Olympus EM-5 really requires the added hand grip in order to compete (which adds cost, bulk and weight). Winner: NEX-5N
The NEX-5N is lighter than the EM-5 despite that more substantial grip. It will be less taxing to bring this along on those long treks. Winner: NEX-5N
Image quality in UV:
Both have 16 megapixel Sony sensors, which at base ISO are very similar in image quality in UV. Both are useable to at least ISO 3200-6400. Winner: both
Colour rendition in UV:
I give this one to the NEX-5N, as the colours are richer and yellows look more yellow in UV. Winner: NEX-5N
EM-5 has in-body image stabilisation, NEX-5N has none. Winner: EM-5
Both have touch screen which can be helpful. Winner: both
Electronic viewfinder (EVF):
The NEX-5N requires an external EVF, whereas the EM-5 has one built in. Winner: EM-5
NEX-5N requires hotshoe adapter to use external flash, EM-5 has hotshoe built in. Winner: EM-5
Dials and buttons:
NEX-5N has 1 control dial which also acts as a 4 way controller and 3 buttons. EM-5 has a front and a rear dial, a mode dial, 4 way controller, and many buttons. Hence it is easier to adjust settings with the EM-5. Winner: EM-5
NEX-5N has infrared remote whereas the EM-5 has wired remote control. I wish they had both. Winner: none
NEX-5N has the old NEX user interface which is very poorly laid out and not easily accessible. The EM-5 has much better lay out with a super control panel where all the essential settings can be changed. Winner: EM-5
Custom white balance (CWB) settings:
NEX-5N only has one CWB setting, which does not appear to conform to industry standard. EM-5 has 2 CWB settings and this works in Capture One Pro. Winner: EM-5
Electronic first curtain shutter:
This feature shortens the time lag between shutter release and reduces shutter noise when taking a picture. NEX-5N has this capability, whereas the EM-5 doesn’t. This is not particularly necessary for UV-imaging. Winner: NEX-5N
NEX-5N has focus peaking, EM-5 does not. This is particularly useful for UV or IDS video, as it helps with adjusting the focus. Winner: NEX-5N
The Sony battery does not last very long, and does gradually drain down when not in use. The EM-5 battery seems to last a fairly long time between charges, and seems to have less loss of charge over time (but that could be because I seem to use it most days). Winner: EM-5
NEX-5N currently are selling for about £200+ used with kit lens. The EM-5 sells for £400+ used with kit lens, so double the price. So both have come down significantly in price over the years. Winner: both
Both cameras have features which are very useful. Both are useful for UV-imaging. The ideal camera would combine the best from both systems e.g. in-body image stabilisation, focus peaking, remote control capabilities, number of custom white balance settings, electronic viewfinder, colour rendition of images in UV, touch screen etc. The Olympus OM-D EM-5 probably just edges it for me.
However, I do have to say that the Sony A6000 does address many of the deficiencies in the NEX-5N, which makes it very appealing as my next UV-imaging camera (just as soon as a teardown of this camera appears online). But it is by no means perfect, as it does not have a touch screen or in-body image stabilisation. But it does come very close.