Shooter Turns SONY NEX-5N Into a “Mini-RED”

By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flatter, but I’m pretty certain Jim Jannard won’t appreciate the compliment, especially considering the plan to sell them. But that’s what a SONY NEX user is doing by calling his converted SONY NEX 5N – a “Mini-RED” rig – thanks to his very clever camera housing design which incorporates a cooling fan, touch screen, a full sized HDMI port, and lens adapter for more cinematic glass options.  The case, which Richard Gale turns the NEX5N into a legitimate cinema camera option for no-budget filmmakers will likely not put a dent into sales of the RED EPIC, or even Scarlet, but it may cause DSLR users to go… hmmmmmmmm.

“Ultimately the goal is to produce a product to remove the frankenrig situation and turn cost effective film making machines like the NEX 5N and GH2 / GH3 into less delicate pieces of equipment ready to work day in day out. Especially since there is a real growing workplace for such devices in education, event documentation and no budget movie making where the camera guy often uses his own equipment.” – Richard Gale

The NEX 5N is considered a mirrorless camera and some confuse it with a micro 4/3s design and it’s largely in that category, but make no mistake, the NEX5N sports a full 16.1 MP Exmor APS HD CMOS image sensor very similar to the one packed in the Canon 7D.  And it uses a more compact ergonomic design which can take advantage of similar DSLR lenses.  But it’s run afoul to inferior low light performance which invites a lot of noise to the party at higher ISOs.  So I wouldn’t be using it for night shooting.

But the housing brings a lot to the party to help the NEX5N out. The housing comes with a low power fan which promises to keep the NEX5N cool, since it has traditionally been subject to overheating when using for a long day of video shooting:

“From my own research the heat tends to built up behind the screen and around the lens mount.  There has been a heat sink applied to the panel behind the screen (creating a 8mm gap between the screen and the camera body.  using an aluminum lens adapter means it sucks heat away from the E-mount too. The enclosure features a 30mm fan running from an independent lithium ion battery supply, with independent on/off control.  The fan cycles around 4 cu/ft of air through the unit every minute – this air is pulled in by the fan and directed first over the front of the camera, then round and through the rear heat sink elements where it is ejected out of the thumb wheel/button access hole.  Fan life is a huge 12hrs between charge and it takes only 30mins to charge from empty to full.” (WOW)

Gale is planning to sell these housing and is making small batches, which looks to be from a 3D printer like the MakerBot, and is offering the housing for a cost for a hefty $2325 US (camera included), or, current NEX5N users can get the kit for about $1550 US.

The full kit will include

  • NEX 5N + 18-55mm standard kit
  • Case with fan system
  • Hand strap
  • Connector adapter providing robust full sized HDMI and USB connections
  • 5″ Sony screen
  • Sub £1500*
  • Existing owners of the NEX 5N can buy the kit sub £1000*
  • There’s also an optional anamorphic lens adapter

And while I think it’s a clever design that will allow budding shooters to get the most of their existing equipment, there’s a few things that give me pause.  First, there’s fan noise.  Running a cooling fan and onboard audio recording is an issue.  But if you’re recording to a separate source like the Zoom H4N or other option, then perhaps such a small fan in an enclosed housing wouldn’t be an issue.  But the real issue is that for just a wee bit more, shooters can pick up the BlackMagic Cinema Camera and do 2.5K video, or invest that money into a solid and proven used 5D Mk. II, rather than simple 1080p with serious low light issues, a full HDMI port notwithstanding.

But don’t get me wrong, I dig the idea.  And if he decides to moved beyond the 5N to something like the hinted Panasonic GH2, he may be onto something. (Editor’s note: Even the Olympus PEN series would be cool.)

Source: EOSHD

About James DeRuvo

James has a multi-faceted career that spans radio, film and publishing. A writer about the technology in the video industry for nearly 20 years, James is also an award winning film director, having garnered a Telly Award for his short film Searching for Inspiration. He's also worked as a producer of many talk radio programs in Los Angeles with topics ranging from entertainment to travel to technology.


  1. Lane says:

    Thanks for the post, but there is some mis-information here…

    “But it’s run afoul to inferior low light performance which invites a lot of noise to the party at higher ISOs. So I wouldn’t be using it for night shooting.”

    In Andrew Reid’s review on he says this when comparing nex5n to the GH2 in low light conditions

    “Where I feel the NEX 5N has a definite advantage here is that at the same ISO it is brighter than the GH2 by quite some margin. Lastly, the portrait picture profile can give you a further boost by bringing up the mids and lows, increasing shadow detail. ”

    Also, Phillip Bloom posted a test video on his blog including GH2, C300, Sony FS100, Nex5n and several others. In his low light tests the Nex5n did very well.. not too far off the $4000 fs100 – and fared better than many.

    I purchased a Nex5n particularly for the low-contrast look that lends itself to night shooting. It also has superior highlight roll off to the GH2 as shown in Andrews review.

    It’s really a great little camera and a great bargin at $600.

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