Trial run with the Sony NEX 5N camera and Nauticam marine housing…

Hairy Hermit Crab
Hairy Hermit Crab taken with the Sony NEX 5N

On a recent trip to Hawaii (11/27 – 12/10) I was given the chance to play with the brand new Sony NEX 5N camera and an even newer Nauticam housing for it.  Obviously this camera is quite a bit more advanced than the Sony Cybershot TX7 I have talked about in my starter camera post.

Since I only had the camera for 1 day prior to my trip, I didn’t really have time to learn all the bells and whistles on this system.   The first step I had to do was figure out how to put the housing together and then the camera in the housing.  When first looking at the housing it looks rather complex (it was made even more complex for me because I had no documentation).   After about 10-15 minutes of reviewing the various parts, I was able to fairly easily figure out how to put the unit together, attach the camera to the unit and try it out.

The camera has many advanced features, of which I only had enough time to scratch the surface but I tested the ability by snapping a few shots in my hotel room, with the lights off, the shades pulled (very low light) and I was shocked at how much I was able to pick up in a photograph.  This is not true for the video mode as that definitely needs good light in order to shoot a good video.

After playing above the water with the camera in my hotel room, it came time to get wet with the camera.   One of the

Titan Scorpion Fish
A close up of a Titan Scorpion Fish shot with the Sony NEX 5N

cool things I wanted to try with the camera was shooting video in 1080P 60p (60 frames per second).  The quality is simply amazing.   I am finding however, that in this super high-end mode, Windows Live Movie Maker does not seem to be able to properly import the video.

Both Sony Vegas and Adobe Premier are capable of importing the videos, but both of those programs are far more complex, so one disadvantage of the higher video mode is that the simple, and easy to use video editor (Windows Live Movie Maker in my case) hasn’t been able to process the codec correctly.

As I get the photo’s and videos from this camera edited, I will post them here, but things I noticed right off the bat compared to the TX7 was how quickly and correctly the camera focused for still shots, especially smaller items.  With the TX7 trying to focus on small items requires many tries, zooming out and back in, and other tricks to get a shot, while the NEX 5N almost always was able to correctly focus on what I wanted in a very quick succession (10 shots per second quick if I wanted).

One problem I found when shooting video (and a few times for stills) was that autofocus on the camera would sometimes focus in and out of the particulate in the water vs the image I wanted to shoot.  The video that shows this clearly happening was when I was swimming with Hammerheads (a VERY cool experience).  See how the camera comes in and out of focus of the sharks vs the near floating particulate?

I would have loved to spend more time with this camera learning the in’s and out’s, as well as mastering the best settings for both the camera and the external flash in order to get the most optimal photographs.   What I did discover was that for video shooting, the best light was a Light & Motion Sola Video 1200.

In all, this was an amazing camera and housing to use, and I found the quality of my photos and videos increased dramatically while still having the compact size I love about the TX7.  No big bulky DSLR and heavy housings to carry around.

One last note that was one of the GREATEST features of this system was that shooting video and shooting a photograph  are accomplished with two different buttons on the housing (and camera) such that I was able to switch between video and photography without having to use any menus.   If I wanted a picture, I simply pushed the photo button, and if I wanted video, I simply pushed the video button.  It was amazing to easily switch back and forth to get both types of images.