Sony NEX-5N vs Olympus E-M5

Dick De Jong, September 21, 2012

In the late summer of 2012, the Olympus E-M5 and the Sony NEX-5N are two of the hottest Mirrorless cameras on the market. Indeed, at the time of this posting, the Sony 5N still retains our 2 Camera Guys Award for Best Mirrorless Camera (under $1000). Let's compare the two side-by-side and see if the E-M5 can dethrone the champ.

Sony NEX-5N vs Olympus E-M5


At first glance these two mirrorless cameras look like very distant relatives. The Olympus E-M5 sports the classic SLR styling, though in a much more compact form. The sleek Sony NEX-5N is even smaller and with its offset lens, its design is definitely not traditional. If you are choosing a camera on looks, these two models give you distinctive options.

As part of that SLR design, the Olympus furnishes an integrated Electronic Viewfinder (EVF). The Sony does not include one, though you can purchase separately either an optical ($200) or electronic ($350) viewfinder.

Another major difference is the image sensor. The Olympus E-M5 contains a Four Thirds sensor. In contrast, the Sony NEX-5N has a larger APS-C sensor. Bigger sensors often produce slightly better image quality and better performance when shooting in low light situations.


If you are more numbers oriented, you can compare the list of specifications side-by-side here.

Let's highlight a few notable specs just to illustrate how close these two cameras are in this Olympus OM-D E-M5 vs Sony Alpha NEX-5N challenge.

Sony NEX-5N     100 - 25600
Olympus E-M5    200 - 25600

Continuous Drive
Sony NEX-5N     10 fps
Olympus E-M5    9 fps

Effective megapixels
Sony NEX-5N     16.1MP
Olympus E-M5    16.1MP

The disparity comes in size, with the Sony body being considerably smaller and lighter.

Size (inches)
Sony NEX-5N      2.38 x 4.38 x 1.56
Olympus E-M5    3.50 x 4.80 x 1.70

Weight (body only)
Sony NEX-5N      9.50 oz
Olympus E-M5    15.00 oz

Image Quality

All things being equal, a bigger sensor will produce better image quality. But the Olympus E-M5 was released about nine months after the Sony NEX-5N and the Olympus engineers have tweaked the E-M5's imaging system to compare very well to the 5N.

Noise can be more problematic with smaller sensors, but again the Olympus is neck-and-neck with the Sony. In fact, noise from either camera only becomes unagreeable starting at 3200 ISO or higher.


Both cameras furnish a touchscreen, where you can navigate through menus and even select your focus point. The Olympus goes one step further allowing you to tap the screen to release the shutter.

Olympus has been making mirrorless cameras for a few years and during that time, they have been adding to their line-up of interchangeable lenses. Furthermore, the lenses that Panasonic makes for their mirrorless cameras are compatible. Sony and third party lens makers are beginning to narrow the gap, but there still exists a wider selection of lenses for the Olympus.

Neither camera offers integrated connectivity features like Wi-Fi or GPS.


At the time of this post, the Sony NEX-5N body was $400 less than the Olympus E-M5. Of course, if you bought the Sony EVF for $350, the price tags would be comparable.


With the image quality from the two cameras being very similar, the choice between the Sony NEX-5N and the Olympus E-M5 hinges on other factors.

If you want a camera with an EVF and SLR styling, then the Olympus fits that bill. Though for those with big hands, you might find E-M5 a little too small to handle and operate comfortably.

If that is not an issue, then the Olympus E-M5 is one of the best Four Thirds mirrorless cameras currently available. Of course, it is also one of the most expensive Four Thirds models.

Beyond the fact that I like the look and feel of the Sony NEX-5N, its price tag, (which should drop even lower with the release of the Wi-Fi connected NEX-5R), seals the verdict that the 5N is the winner by a whisker in the Olympus E-M5 vs the Sony NEX-5N faceoff and is still the champ in the Mirrorless Camera category - at least for the moment.