Olympus PEN E-P5 vs Sony NEX-7 vs Sony NEX-5R – Comparison

May 16, 2013

House covered with snow in winter

In this article I will compare the Olympus PEN E-P5, Sony NEX-7 and NEX-5R. As for the time of writing this article, the E-P5 costs around $50 more than the NEX-7 but let’s not forget that the NEX-7 was announced on August 2011. The NEX-5R is much cheaper than the other two models (approx. $400 less).  Many photographers have been waiting for a new E-Px model to arrive, a new PEN flagship model. If you are reading this compterarison review you probably debating whether to get the NEX-7 (one reason can be due to its built in the viewfinder) or rather go with the NEX-5R which is the least expensive camera in this group and spend more money on a higher quality lens / another lens.

In this article I will try my best to answer all those questions, and give you a good understanding about the differences between those three cameras, their cons and pros. In each section of this comparison I will talk about different features and see how the three cameras differ from each other. OK, let’s begin and hopefully by the end of this comparison you will be able to pick up the camera that best fits your needs.


In this section I will talk about all the things that you see externally and also talk about the camera’s build quality.  Let’s take a look at the specs first.

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Sony NEX-5R, NEX-7 and Olympus E-P5 side by side

Sony NEX-5R, NEX-7 and Olympus E-P5 side by side from different side views

All cameras have magnesium alloy body which adds to the durability of the camera and also gives a professional look and feel to it. The NEX-5R is probably the least impressive of the three because it has a magnesium alloy top and front plate is made of polycarbonate.  The three cameras are unique in their external design as you can see from the image above. The Sony NEX-5R is the smallest and lightest in the group and have the more simplistic design approach. This camera is aimed for beginners and amateurs and therefore doesn’t employ a large set of buttons, but still offers lots of manual control but you have to use the menu to do modify most of the camera’s settings.  The NEX-5R has the most flexible LCD which can rotate up 170-degrees for easy self-portrait shots. Unfortunately, the 5R doesn’t come with a built in flash. The top control wheel is function button is very handy for changing settings without diving into the menu system, this includes changing the white-balance, metering, focus options and shooting effects. It’s still better than previous model that didn’t utilizes this control wheel, but not enough options for the more advanced photographer. The 5R also doesn’t have a hot-shoe connector, but you can buy the “SHADOW” NEX Hotshoe adapter for $79.99 from nexproshop.com that attaches to the accessory port.

The Olympus PEN E-P5 has a retro look which inherits the look of the Olympus Pen F film camera from the 60’s. As a PEN flagship model it is built with the highest standards.  The camera has a nice grip to it and it’s the second largest and heaviest camera in the grip. When you look at the camera from the top it looks bulkier than the NEX-7, and it is, as the NEX-7 grip and viewfinder takes a lot space and but has less volume overall compare to the E-P5. The E-P5 features lots of buttons and dials for fast access to popular used functions without diving into the menu system. You have the new mode switch which allows you to choose two modes: In mode number one you control the aperture using the back dial to change the shutter speed and front dial to change the aperture value. In mode two the back dial now allows you to change the white balance and the front dial changes the ISO sensitivity level. There is also a nice small rear grip at the top-ride side that helps keep your thumb secured and helps improved the holding of the camera. The camera comes with a pop-up flash and hot-shoe connector so you can attach an external flash to the camera if you need it.

At the back you can find a large 3-inch tilting LCD, which is less flexible than the NEX-5R one, but offer a bit higher resolution and has a touch-sensitive panel as we to control the camera functions and offers plenty of functionality which was designed around the touch sensitive screen.

The Sony NEX-7 is Sony’s NEX flagship model.  It’s the largest camera in the group mainly due to its EVF and large hand-grip that takes quite a lot of space. I think that Sony NEX cameras are really revolutionary in their design.  I wasn’t paying a lot of attention to that at the time that Sony launched its first NEX cameras, but after sometime you realize how great that body design is compare to other Compact System Cameras, it’s really slim and has really nice grip – great design now doubt about it.

At the top you find two dials and three soft buttons(two at the back, one at the top) makes this camera the choice of enthusiast. Each dial can be set to control an exposure parameter of your choice (ie. shutter speed, ISO ,aperture) so you won’t have to use to menu system for that.  The NEX-7 was designed to take as much advantage as possible from the little space on the NEX-7 body and give photographers the easiest and fastest acccess to popular camera settings.

At the back of the Sony NEX-7 you’ll find an OLED EVF with 2,359K-dots resolution. This is the only camera in this group that features an electronic viewfinder.  The NEX 5R does have a Smart Terminal 2 connector, which means that you can attach an external EVF to this camera. The Sony DA-EV1S is compatible with the NEX-5R, as well as the NEX-5N and NEX-F3 compact system cameras. It’s a very high quality EVF, offers OLED screen, adjustable angle, 100% FOV coverage and 2,359K-dot resolution – a very high quality EVF, but sold separately of course.

The NEX-7 doesn’t employ a touch-sensitive screen. Some will see it as a disadvantage, but I think that enthusiasts and pros won’t need this features at all. They prefer not having gimmicky feature, and will enjoy the extra buttons and EVF on the NEX-7 which are much more useful than having a touch functionality on their camera.   No doubt, the NEX-7 was designed from the ground up to be a more advanced photographic equipment. Every button and dial was designed to help photographer operate the camera more quickly, save time and help the photographer capture an image that otherwise it might miss. This is one reason why so many people love the Sony NEX-7, with this camera it’s all about the built quality, ergonomics, buttons and excellent electronic viewfinder.


The Sony NEX-5R is the most basic camera as you can see and was designed for beginners in mind, offering less buttons and many of the functionality is based around its touch sensitive screen. The back LCD can rotate up to completely face forwards for easy self portrait shots. It’s the most compact and lightest camera in the grip. The Olympus E-P5 is lacks a viewfinder that is disappointing considering that this is the most expensive PEN camera in Olympus’ PEN series. Having said that, the E-P5 is built to the highest standards, has great build quality, lots of function and dials for easy access to settings, as well as high quality touch screen as well, kind of a hybrid solution between the NEX-7 and the NEX-5R. The NEX-7 is also very impressive, offers plenty of buttons and two dials that you can customize yourself and use your preferred exposure settings. The NEX-7 has a great grip, including one at the back for your thumb. The NEX-7 main selling point is it’s built-in high quality EVF. The E-P5 and NEX-7 are aimed towards enthusiasts, the NEX-5R towards beginners and those who are searching for a lower budget Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens camera. Non of the cameras are environmentally sealed.


We saw that the Olympus PEN E-P5 and Sony NEX-7 are beasts when it comes to advanced features and button access layout and each of the cameras has its cons and pros. Now we are going to take a look at the inner part of the camera.

Let’s take a look at the specs first.

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The Sony NEX 5R and NEX 7 both use an APS-C size sensor, as all other NEX cameras. The E-P5 is using a Micro Four Thirds sensor. The Micro 4/3 camera image sensor is much smaller than the APS-C one. APS-C sensors are used widely in beginners and enthusiasts DSLR cameras. A large sensor has its cons and pros. The most important thing is the pixel size, and that what leads to improved in the sensor’s sensitivity, higher dynamic range, color accuracy and better color reproduction. We’ve already seen the Olympus OM-D E-M5 putting to shame many mid-range DSLR cameras when it comes to high ISO performance, so don’t underestimate the power of the Micro Four Thirds!

NEX-5R and OM-D E-M5 sensor size comparison illustration

NEX-5R and OM-D E-M5 sensor size comparison (via cameraimagesensor.com)

The NEX-5R has an APS-C sensor and also has a lower 16.1MP resolution, which means that it has the lowest pixel density in the group. Whether or not this will help the camera achieve higher IQ we’ll see in the image quality section.  The NEX-7 has the highest resolution, some say a bit too high. I am among those who always pray to have a 8MP-10MP resolution on a APS-C NEX camera, what an amazing low-light performance we’ll have than.. I can just wonder. The NEX-7 has the highest resolution (24.3MP) in the group, allowing photographers to capture very detailed images, which will appeal for studio photographers, landscape photographers and anyone who takes advantage of the high resolution image for large prints, image editing, etc.

I will inspect and compare the image quality in later section, but just know that the E-P5 utilizes the same sensor as the Olympus OM-D E-P5, and that means great high ISO performance.


When it comes to the autofocus there is a big difference between the three cameras. The NEX-5R like the NEX-6 utilizes a Hybrid AF sensor, a combination of both contrast-detect and phase-detect AF sensors. This helps the camera to focus faster and more accurately, but you mostly notice it in AF tracking and low light, which is the contrast-AF weakest point.  Still, contrast detect works amazingly fast in good light, and under the right conditions plus a good lens it can surpass the AF performance of many of the DSLR cameras out there.

It find it odd that Sony didn’t include a hybrid AF in the NEX-7. You can have phase detection AF with the NEX-7, but in order to have that you’ll need to use the LA-EA2 mount adapter (only for Sony A-mount lenses), which gives you phase-detection for both stills and videos. On the other hand, the NEX-7 features a unique AF mode called Direct Manual Focus (DMF), when selected, focus can be manually override, very useful for Macro photography when you start with auto focusing and then using manual focusing to adjust the focus to get the desired results.

The Olympus E-P5 uses Olympus FAST AF ultra-fast autofocusing technology, including the brand new Super Spot AF features that allows you to focus on the smallest parts of your subject, which exceeds that of phase difference  AF. This is very useful for macro photography, where you can magnify a selected point in the image and the AF will autofocus in the center point, allowing super precise AF. The camera will also stabilize the image using its 5-axis IS to let you a very steady view of the subject in the LCD when shooting handheld without a tripod. Olympus also added a Focus Peaking function that you turn on using the Fn button and highlights the area of focus in the image. Again, very useful feature, especially when using manual focus and wide apertures and when you want to make sure that the camera focuses correctly on a specific area that you want to appear sharp and in focus, while the other area are out of focus.

I personally in favor of the E-P5 AF features, I really find the combination of its FAST AF system, Super Sport AF and 5-axis image stabilization works seamlessly together to offer more precise and better versatility AF system overall.

In-body Image Stabilization

The Olympus E-P5 is the only camera in this group that features a built-in image stabilization mechanism. This is a 5-axis sensor-shift image stabilization mechanism. It moves the sensor in different directions to compensate for camera movement and reduce the possibility of getting blurred images when shooting hand-held. This is not a regular 2-axis IS (Yaw/Pitch), but a 5-axis image stabilization with up to 5-stop compensation. This means that the IS mechanism compensate for vertical-shift, horizontal-shift, yaw, pitch and rolling (along the z-axis) movements. So not just that the E-P5 has a built-in IS,  but uses the same IS mechanism as the E-M5.  This is one of the great features that the E-P5 inherits from its bigger brother, and many photographers were very excited to see this feature in the E-P5.

The Sony NEX-7 and NEX-5R both don’t have in-body IS, that means that you need to use a lens that have lens-shift IS in order to enjoy this stabilization, and even then you won’t enjoy a 5-axis stabilization, rather than 2-axis (Pitch/Yaw) stabilization, and most probably will give you around 3-stop compensation – BIG advantage for the E-P5!

Mechanical Shutter Advantages

The Olympus PEN E-P5 is the first Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens camera to offer a mechanical shutter, not an electronic shutter. A mechanical shutter have several advantages over electronic one, including more energy efficient (can turn the entire sensor array on or off during exposure), helps protect the sensor when changing lenses, offer faster Flash sync and shutter speeds. CMOS is slower to turn on and off and therefore all CSC cameras have a maximum shutter speed of 1/4000 of a second. The E-P5 can shoot at maximum shutter speed of 1/8000 sec, twice the shutter speed speed and flash sync speed of of the NEX-5R and NEX-7.  with the E-P5 you also have the option to used 1/4000 sec sync in Super FP mode using compatible external flashes (consumes much more electric charge per single flash). Adding to all that is a twice slower minimum shutter speed of 60 seconds on the E-P5. All in all, the E-P5 is the most impressive here, although not many photographers will take advantage of that super speedy shutter.


The NEX-7 is the only one without a built-in WiFi. I think that this feature becomes really handy in many situations where you want to have a remote view and remote shutter control when shooting from far away from the camera. This is extremely handy when shooting macro or whenever you are mounting your camera in a place this is not easily accessible and want to have a remote access to the camera. With the Sony NEX-5R you can use Sony’s “Smart Remote Control” feature (also available via PlayMemories as an app – free to download) which can connect to a mobile deice that have the Smart Remote Control installed on the device as well.  You can install it on your tablet or/and mobile phone and the camera will create a peer-to-peer WiFi connection which allows the photographer to see a live video stream from the sensor as well as control the camera remotely.

With the Olympus PEN E-P5 you do that using IO Share app which is available for both Android (at least Android 2.2) and iOS (at least iOS version 4.3) -based smartphones/tablets.  You will need to install the app through “App Store” or “Google Play” and following the instructions for there. The app also gives you a very easy way to transfer images between your camera and mobile device. This is a feature that some photographers will find super useful, others might not use it at all. However, at the days where everyone has a smartphone, it’s nice to have the option to share high quality photos with your Facebook friends without relying on the prime lens mobile phone camera that won’t give you the same IQ as you get with your Compact System Camera.

You cannot display RAW files using the remote feature on your phone. The camera converts the RAW to JPEG in the camera in order to give you a preview, that something that is not done by the app on your mobile device.  Furthermore, the Sony NEX-5R support PlayMemories installable camera apps which you can download from playmemoriescameapps.com website, a feature that is not available on Olympus PEN cameras and not the NEX-7 camera.


Advantage: Varies. It really depends on what you are looking in your next camera. I think that the E-P5 has the most attractive package here with its in-body IS, Super Spot AF, mechanical shutter and faster sync speed, but on the other hand, the NEX-5R enjoys a Hybrid AF, most versatile LCD (rotates up 180-degrees for self portrait shots), installable apps, built-in Wi-F and a large APS-C size sensor and with the largest pixels but lacks a viewfinder and a built-in pop-up flash. The NEX-7 has a large APS-C sensor and the highest resolution in the group, Direct Manual Focus, have a very high quality OLED EVF and has the better battery life in the group using Stamina lithium ion battery. Furthermore, the NEX-7 uses Sony’s InfoLITHIUM® battery system that allows you to see the battery power in percentage so you can have a better track on how much battery is left before the camera shuts off or before you need to change to a spare battery.

High ISO Performance

Image quality is one feature that most people carefully examine. I personally interested to know which of the cameras have the best high ISO performance. The Olympus PEN E-P5 utilizes the same sensor as the Olympus OM-D E-M5, and in previous comparisons I already compared the E-P5 versus OM-D E-M5 and found that the image quality is the same (more or less). I really love the high ISO performance of the E-M5, this camera really impressed me and for me it opened a whole new world of creative possibilities when shooting in low light, something that I didn’t have even with some previous generation DSLR cameras.

I was a bit worried with the Sony NEX-7 because it packs so many pixels, even for an APS-S sensor it’s a bit too much. The NEX-5R has the best combination of a large APS-C sensor and 16MP. That all nice and all, but we need to see the results in our own eyes, hardware specs don’t tell the whole truth.

I used various resources (ie. dpreview, imaging resource) an analyze high ISO sample images to get a clear understanding of the differences in IQ between those three cameras. I usually used dpreview Studio comparison tool, but as for the time of writing this comparison article, dpreview nor imaging resource comparometer tool have NEX-5R and E-P5 sample images to compare them against the NEX-7.

The Sony NEX-5R high ISO performance is very similar to what you get with the Sony NEX-5N, which is excellent. techradar.com has a JPEG signal to noise ratio where you see that the 5N and 5R results are very close, with the 5N being better between ISO 1600 – ISO 6400 overall. The dynamic range graph shows us that the NEX-5N has a slightly higher dynamic range than the NEX-5R across the ISO range and both perform better than the E-P5 an, Panasonic G5 and Samsung NX20. The Sony NEX 5N is among my top all time favorite cameras when it comes to high ISO performance. And I am glad to see that even close to two years since it was first announced, it’s still an excellent performer.

I went to dpreview to compare to NEX-5N to the NEX-7 in order to examine the differences, knowing that I should expect very close noise performance between the 5N and 5R. The NEX-5N did much better than the NEX-7 at high ISO. It doesn’t mean that the NEX-7 was bad, not at all, in fact I was surprised to see how good relatively clean the image was considering its pixel density. Having said that, we can see the affect of the pixel size on the high ISO performance and the NEX-5N was a clear winner. I expect the 5R to have similar results, means that it will have better high ISO IQ than the NEX-7 as well (still need to wait for NEX-5R to appear on dpreview’s studio scene comparison to be 100% sure).

The Olympus E-P5 performs virtually the same as the Olympus OM-D E-M5 and both use the same sensor with the same image resolution (aka same pixel density). Sometimes we do expect to see some differences as noise reduction algorithms are being improved and change between firmware version of the image processing unit. I went to dpreview to compare the OM-D E-M5 high ISO performance versus the Sony NEX-5N and Sony NEX-7 in order to get a good estimation where the NEX-5R and E-P5 stand in terms of their high ISO performance.

The OM-D E-M5 image quality is excellent. Image was sharper than the NEX-5N and NEX-7, and noise performance was slightly less than the NEX-5N. The E-M5 did beat the NEX-7 without a problem, but was still lagging a bit behind the NEX-5N.

I did confirm the result against real 5R high ISO sample images, and indeed, the 5R is an amazing high ISO performer. I would probably shoot at ISO 1600 and below with all those cameras, but the NEX-5R has the better high ISO performance in the group in my opinion and after some doing some indirect comparisons. This is not a scientific test of course, it’s based on image comparison and analysis. We’ll get a clearer and decisive conclusion when sample images appear on dpreview. You can check out the high ISO sample images by using dpreview’s studio scene comparison tool.

Advantage: Sony NEX-5R (estimated)

Software Features

This is probably more important to beginners, but the in-camera software based features helps any of us be more creative and do cool stuff with our cameras. Not everyone have the time, want or know how to edit images using photo editing software. I edit most of my RAW files using Adobe Photoshop Lightoom and I really love editing my photos and tweak to my liking. So many enthusiast will probably prefer shooting in RAW and tweak their images using Adobe Photoshop Lightroom rather than letting the camera do the work or do it inside the camera using the built-in editing features.

Some features can’t be easily replicate using conventional shooting methods, like the Sweep Panorama function. If you love shooting Panoramic images, this features is a bless. I am not talking about the stitching aid features which force you to use an external software to stitch the photos, but an auto panorama mode that automatically stitches the photos together inside the camera without the need for an external software to do so. This is just one example, another one can be HDR, etc.

Let’s take a look at a comparison table.

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The NEX-5R is the more interesting camera when it comes to in-camera applicative features, including the option to install apps (same as with the NEX-6) on the cameras and extend its capabilities.  The NEX-7 doesn’t offers that functionality. I didn’t find any information whether or not it will be possible in the future using an updated firmware version. The E-P5 has a very interesting feature that allows you to easily create time lapse videos, so the cameras takes stills at a specific interval from one second to 14 hour and up to 99 shots and assemble them together – pretty nice feature.

Video Recording

All cameras can capture full HD movies, let’s take a look at the specs.

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All cameras can shoot Full HD videos at very high quality but the NEX-7 and NEX-5R offer the best flexibility with both 60p and 24p, white the E-P5 has only 30p. Non of the cameras have built-on slow motion video recording (Very High frames per second) and you’ll need to do it in a video editing software to achieve something similar. The NEX cameras have the advantage because you can shoot at 60p and that gives much smoother slow motion visuals compare to 30p, so the NEX cameras have the advantage here.

The E-P5 has the advantage of having a built-in Time Lapse video recording functon, with the NEX-5R you’ll need to install a |time lapse” app to enjoy it. The NEX-7 doesn’t seem to have any option to do so. The E-P5 can connect to a mobile device using the built-in Wi-Fi connectivity, and it might be possible to do it using your mobile device as a remote trigger in specific intervals, but I haven’t found a source that suggests if it’s possible or not.

The Sony NEX-7 on the other hand is the only CSC that has a external microphone 3.5mm port, which means that you can attach an external microphoen to the NEX-7 to improve the sound quality. With the other two cameras you’ll need to buy an accessory in order to be able to attach an external stereo microphone, and that will cost you more money of course.

I also want to add that after viewing a lot of test videos, the E-P5 5-axis image stabilization is a god sent and is very useful for stabilizing the image, you get really amazing results with it (the end of shaky YouTube videos?)

Let’s take a look at a few sample videos..

Olympus PEN E-P5 sample video

Sony NEX-7 sample video using Zeiss 24 1.8 lens

Sony NEX-5R sample video using SEL25f18 and SEL1018 lenses


So there we have it, three very popular mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras, each one with its cons and pros.  I would pick up the Sony NEX-5R if I am searching for an affordable compact system camera under $600, high ISO performance is very important (best in the group), easy to operate, has Wi-Fi for easy sharing of images with your mobile device including the option to remote control your camera using your phone/tablet, have tilting touch-screen display (the most flexible in the group), Hybrid AF appeals to you (the only Hybrid AF in the group, great for tracking subjects), 1080p60 and 1080p24 video recording, a camera that have very fast burst and don’t mind not having a pop-up flash nor hot-shoe. The NEX-5R really impressed me with its high ISO performance, and it’s one of the strongest features in this camera – hate noise in images, the NEX-5R is the camera for you. The 5R als comes with sweep Panorama and 3D panorama and in-camera HDR, installable apps as well.

The Sony Alpha NEX-7 is aimed towards those who don’t mind spending $1000 on a camera body alone. this is Sony’s NEX flagship model. It comes with very high 24.3MP resolution (highest resolution in the group), has a built-in high-res OLED electronic viewfinder (the only one that offers EVF among the three), has great battery life (best in the group), has very good high ISO performance (really impressive considering the sensor’s resolution), fast burst, great build quality,more buttons for fast access to popular settings without diving into menus, pop-up flash but doesn’t have a touch-screen nor you will be able to install apps. I love the NEX-7 due to its excellent EVF, build quality, high performance , 1080p60 and 1080p24 video recording with standard 3.5mm mic jack so you can connect an external stereo microphone to improve audio (not available on the other cameras) – overall great choice for enthusiasts photographers who have to have a MILC with EVF and intend to take advantage of the camera’s video capabilities as well. I also recommend checking out the NEX-6 as well, which is cheaper and also comes with a built-in EVF.

Olympus PEN E-P5 is one of the most interesting camera announced in 2013.  Costs around $1000 as for the time of writing this article and therefore compete also against the NEX-7 and the Olympus OM-D E-M5. It lacks an EVF which is a shame, many enthusiasts would have want to have this feature. Nevertheless, the E-P5 looks beautiful with its retro design, has very durable body, comes with a large high-res tilting touch-sensitive display (highest res in the group), offers lots of button and dials for fast access to popular used settings, has hot-shoe, pop-up flash, the incredible 5-axis image stabilization (the only one that offers in-body IS in the group), Super Spot AF (Great for Macro!), mechanical shutter and 1/8000 sec shutter speed, fast burst and highest flash sync speed in the group. The camera offers a lot of scene modes for beginners to play with, the only one to offer time-lapse video recording but lacks auto panorama, in-camera HDR, lack 3.5mm mic jack and is the least flexible when it comes to video recording (doesn’t offer 60p nor 24p). If you can live with its shortcomings, the E-P5 is really an impressive camera.  Having said that, many people will still consider getting the OM-D E-M5 instead and enjoy weather-sealing (dust and splash proof), EVF and others features that you won’t find on any PEN camera.

So there you have it. I personally find myself more attracted to the NEX-5R due to its image quality and low price, it really offers a great value for the amateur photographer. I personally prefer investing more money on high quality lenses and having the option to buy an extra lens that will help m be more creative with my camera. If you have the budget to buy either the NEX-7 or E-P5, you already have the differences in front of you and all you need to decide is which camera has the features that you want to have in your next camera, and there are quite a lot of differences as you can see.

That’s it guys – I hope that you find this comparison interesting. I don’t think that choosing between the three should be so hard, there are a lot of difference between the three cameras and you just need to understand which of the features you will use and which one you won’t. If you know the answer to those questions, you already know which camera to buy. Good luck!

Buy from:

Olympus E-P5: B&H Photo, Adorama

Sony NEX-7: B&H Photo, Adorama

Sony NEX-5R: B&H Photo, Adorama