Monday, June 11, 2012

Sony Nex-5N Camera

This is just going to be a camera review - no kayaking - so if that doesn't interest you, just scan through the pretty pictures below and call it a day.

As I said a little bit ago, I just got a new Sony Nex-5N camera and I've been playing around with it. I'm no professional, and this is my first professional grade camera, but I'm starting to get some good results. There are several advanced features on this thing that can create some interesting images, especially for kayak type scenes.

The Nex cameras are mirrorless. If you don't know what this means it doesn't really matter. Just know that it means the camera is small. The body for the camera is about the same size as my waterproof Panasonic Lumix TS3. It's not your typical bulky DSLR, but the image sensor inside is the APS-C which is exactly what most bse DSLR's use (it's 16.1 Mps). You get the performance and features of the large camera in a much smaller (and cheaper) package. I can fit the camera in my small Peli case which fits easily into my whitewater kayak or in my lap when sea kayaking. It's the same set up I've been using for years with my non-waterproof Lumix FZ28.

The Nex also uses interchangeable lenses. Sony makes lenses specifically for these cameras but you can also get adapters to use all the fancy glass you want. Right now I've got the basic kit lenses: 18-55mm and 55-210mm. They're decent but I'm sure there are much better options out there (for more money). They are also fairly compact - I can fit both in the Peli case with my camera, so my whole rig is with me wherever I go.
Aside from the ability to fully control the camera functions (most point and shoot cameras control things for you, shooting in auto mode), there are a couple of nice extras that really come into play when kayaking. The first is the continuous shooting speed. You can shoot up to 10 frames a second. This allows you to really capture action and sequences. Sequences are cool because it shows what is actually happening in a way that video does not. By freezing the frames we see exactly where that boof stroke was placed, and just how much under what the boat goes when it hits a hole. It also allows us to get lucky with an image - something that happens so quick that you would never get it if you were trying to react. And with the high quality images you can shoot wide and crop down for great detail.

Another feature I'm just starting to get the hang of is the High Dynamic Range function. This allows the camera to take the same picture with three different exposures and combines them. This is great when you have shadows (like in a canyon) and bright areas (like whitewater) and are trying to get detail with all of it. It doesn't work with moving subjects but is great for scenery.

And, so far, my favorite feature is another automatic trick that replaces tedious photoshop work: auto panorama. This allows you to just sweep the camera while it takes a series of photos and stitches them together into a super wide panorama shot. Again, it doesn't work well with action shots, but it does create some interesting perspectives on rapids. Getting it to shoot vertically is a little trickier, but helps for the steep drops.

And, of course, what modern camera would be complete without the ability to shoot full HD video. I'm still getting used to the fact that the video uses the camera settings. Most point and shoot cameras default to auto mode when you shoot video - it takes care of shutter speed and aperture for you. You can do the same with the Nes, but you can also control those settings just like you would for taking pictures. I haven't played around with this yet but it definitely gives you more control - which is good once you learn what you're doing.

I'm looking forward to learning more about this new camera and I'm excited to be able to get some high quality images. While it is true that a good photographer can frame a great shot with any camera, the real truth is that it's much easier with quality gear.If you want to check out more of my photos, from the new stuff with my Nex-5N to earlier stuff with cheap, waterproof cameras, check out my Picasa Page.

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