The $350 docu-filmmaking kit: Depreciation is Wonderful

Last week, I went out with some friends for yet another night on the town.  I brought along my Sony NEX-5n with a Nikon 50mm f/1.8 pancake lens and made the short “Tuesday”.

I recently discovered that this combo can be bought for about $350 used on Ebay.   The NEX-5n goes for about $300 (search completed listings here).  The 50mm f/1.8 can be had for about $25 (search completed listings here). The Nikon to NEX adapter is about $15 on Amazon.  Depreciation is a wonderful thing.

Sony NEX-5n

Nikon 50mm f/1.8 pancake

The NEX-5n remains the lightest, smallest APS-C body that produces a quality 1080p24 image as well as 1080p60 for smooth slow-mo.  It’s excellent in low light and has an articulated screen.  It’s compatible with almost any lens made (unlike Canon and Nikon), and its APS-C sensor can even be effectively made full-frame if you add the Metabones Speed Booster (read about modification here).  This modification is not currently possible with Canon or Nikon.

Its successors such as the NEX-6 and NEX-5r have improved on photo capabilities and wifi connectivity, but the actual video image is the same.  Or possibly worse: I recently tested the NEX-6 and noticed a slight increase in moire and high ISO noise.  The image was also contrastier, making it harder to grade in post.

The NEX-5n can be your B-camera, your crash-cam, or even an A-camera for bare-bones productions.

UPDATE: Overheating is a notorious issue on longer takes with this camera (and most DSLR’s in video mode), but I’ve been using the fastest Sony 32GB Memory Stick (MSHX32B)  and found that it remarkably allows me to record up to the 30-minute limit! I still get overheating when using the camera continuously for over an hour or so, but this is a big step up in usability for bigger projects.

The Nikon 50mm f/1.8 pancake lens is the cheapest, lowest-profile solution for low light shooting.  You could spend more and get the E-mount 50mm f.1.8 or 35mm f/1.8, gaining autofocus and image stabilization (50mm only).  The only drawback is that you wouldn’t be able to adapt those lenses for use with the Metabones Speed Booster.

I enjoy shooting my daily life without worrying about breaking the bank or my back.  It’s nice to know that technology has come far enough to let me capture a quality image on a shoestring budget.