Sony NEX EA50, A Cameraman’s Review

Does size really matter?

or…

How Big is Your Sensor?

EA50 sensor

If you love that shallow depth of field look and are fighting with the limitations of DSLRs for video production work, then the Sony NEX EA50 video camera might be for you, ‘cuz guess what, you can put your prime lenses on it too.

The camera actually has many impressive features not covered in my review (such as being able to program focus shifts), but it is assumed that anyone researching this camera will also look over the promotional material available on the camera.

Instead this Sony NEX EA50 video review features about 5 minutes of footage from the camera under various conditions along with commentary from a cameraman’s point of view.

As usual, I forgot to mention a few things, but one thing I want to mention here is that if you’re seriously looking at this camera, be sure to watch this video in full HD so you can actually evaluate picture quality, noise level in low light situations, colour, sharpness, clarity, etc.

A few notes:

1. Sample footage includes exterior day (with and without sun), dusk, night, low light interiors, church interiors, interview sample.

2. All footage was shot at 50p.

3. Except for the first shot, all footage was hand-held and shot in Active Stabilization mode.

Health disclaimer:

I was sicker than a dog for the first part of the video (but I had to do it as the camera was being returned the next day).

This may have accounted for the fact that I forgot to dust off and polish up the camera before showing it off. Embarrassing.

I was only half as sick as a dog for the second part.

Sony NEX EA50 PDF Summary

Click here for a nice little PDF on the Sony Nex EA50 that gives a nice overview of its features.

Update 11/01/14: Please check out some of the excellent comments from EA50 owners below, including how exposure lock is accomplished.

And here’s a 1:47 promo video for the Video Whisperer shot on the Sony NEX EA50.

To be honest, I may have been faulty in setting the camera up for this (high gain?), but anyway, it’s just too cute not to share…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mvsof_qpVUE

Related

Sony HXR NX-30 Review

22 Responses to “Sony NEX EA50, A Cameraman’s Review”

  1. Wolfgang Ernst Says:

    from Germany: hello Joe,

    first of all, please apologize my clumsy English.

    Most recently, but not too late, I have found your blog and review of the Sony NEX EA-50. Fortunately !

    I am about to buy a semiprofessional video camcorder having a feature set and specs of a mid-range DSLR but with a more ergonomic form factor. For documentary shooting mainly. Since some time I have been considering to buy an EA-50. After reading your very helpful review I made up my mind, immediately.

    I read between the lines of the review (and in the sneak preview of your book “run ‘n gun sole cameraman survival guide”) that you are not one of the numerous paid video magazine reviewer, who have never been in a live shooting situation. I learned, that you are truly experienced professional cameraman. With as much experience as the number of wrinkles which can be seen in your face. (This is meant to be an honest compliment) I highly appreciate the way you are approaching the basics and most practical aspects of filming. Not losing yourself in paltry considering of this and that detail but keeping the eye on the basics. – No more ceremony!

    The only point of your review – that’s the only reason I strain my dusty English here – is one remark you have made in your valuable EA-50 review. “The shoulder pad is useless”.
    Sorry – No. Not really true. If you are referring to a “true” heavy shoulder mount TV camera you are of course right. I come from a point in the past where I tried to get my Canon 5DII rigged in a shoulder mount configuration. I can tell you, it’s a pain in the …
    The charm of the EA-50 is just this “shoulder mount thing”.
    No, the extended pad does not fit to the center of gravity of the cam. But, yes, it’s only a 3 kg camcorder, not an 8 -10 kg broadcast beast. The simple shoulder pad is meant to have another fix point besides your hands and the EVF. Your right hand has to carry about 1.5 kg only, when the pad is extended. That should be possible. The three fix points, shoulder, EVF and hand give you a stable shooting configuration avoiding shaking in the best possible way. If one does not extend the pad and uses the LCD only it is even better.
    And, the extended pad has a provision to mount a counter balance weight, e.g. a battery block.

    Have you ever seen (sure you have) what kind of ridiculous rigs the some DSLR shooters are using? rig, matte box, follow focus, monitor, XLR sound recorder – rig monsters with up to 12 kg weight. With a shoulder pad which obviously does not carry the center of gravity.

    I like the option to take the EA-50 from the tripod and run behind e.g. the wedding couple. No modifications needed. The same situation applies for documentary shooting. I don’t bother holding the EA-50 shoulder mounted then, carrying 1.5 kg in my hands. The EA-50 has everything you need. Mount a ND filter to the lens, matte box is only for impressing clients. Forget follow focus, focus pull is done on the touch screen or by pressing preset buttons. It has XLR audio input, no extra recorder needed. All you need in a 3 kg housing.

    So far I own a Canon 5DII and – a Sony CX730. I have bought this nice little camcorder only because of one special, innovative feature. It has the same genius “balanced optical steady shot” as does have the NX30. I fully share your enthusiasm which has been shown in your very useful NX30 review.

    Finally I’m looking forward to your “run ‘n gun survival guide”. Any indication when it will be available? As an e-book?

    Wolfgang

    • Wolfgang–your English is excellent. And you’re quite right about that “shoulder mount thing”. It’s good for a 3rd point of contact (your eye) for stability. My preference this days is holding the camera in two hands in front of me and using the LCD viewfinder so I guess I’m not inclined to use the optical viewfinder and a longer camera.
      And yes, I’ve seen the ridiculous rigs and agree that the matte box (and a lot of other add-on stuff) is more for impressing clients or even fellow cameraman. As you can probably tell, I’m more in favor of the “less is more” approach.
      On the book, I just happen to have a week or so free which I plan to start working on the photo/illustration content and other design aspects. Still hoping to get it all together and ready by end of August, but it could go into September with the inevitable interruptions from life.
      Where in Germany? Ever hear of Herrsching am Ammersee? I used to live there…a L O N G time ago. Used to speak German too!

      • Wolfgang Ernst Says:

        I live near Freiburg, southwest of Germany, close to France. Nicest and warmest region of Germany. Wine, good food, mediterranean atmosphere, much different to rest of our country.

        Herrsching am Ammersee. Also very L O N G time ago (it’s about half a century since then) I was based at the Fliegerhorst Fürstenfeldbruck (Fürsty Airbase) which is about 20 minutes away from Herrsching. On the weekends a friend and I went to Herrsching, renting a small sail boat, having fun on the Ammersee. I was volunteer in the services to become a jet pilot. Due to “inevitable interruptions from life” (I like your expression) I had to quit this career. Good news is, I’m still alive.

        “The less is more approach”. It’s also my approach in film making. Without any compromise.
        I love what A. Einstein has stated: “Any intelligent fool can things make bigger, more complex and more violent. It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction”. When I read these lines images of DSLR monster rigs come to my mind immediately.
        As you understand German, here is another saying which fits to your (our) approach. It’s from the renowned French pilot A. de Saint Exupery: “Perfektion ist nicht dann erreicht, wenn man nichts mehr hinzufügen, sondern wenn man nichts mehr weglassen kann.“

        You have given us a good example for this approach in your NX30 review. The NX 30 has this unique “balanced optical steady shot” (boss) technique. The results from this image stabilization technique are more than remarkable.
        It’s all in this 615 g solution!

        Which approach does the “up-to-date” video pack choose?
        The classical method is using STEADY CAM. A special trained cameraman, the steady cam operator, wears a harness, the steadicam vest, which is attached to an iso-elastic arm.
        The operator looks like a robot, the set up procedure may take hours and he will have much tired feet after the shooting.
        Today’s “ultimate” camera stabilization approach is the FLY CAM. It’s a huge rig with gimbals for 2 – 3 axis stabilization. The rig has a weight of 3 – 7 kg, alone! without the camera! The full weight is in front of the cameraman, about 40 cm away from his body. Try to hold a 10 – 12 kg item with your hands in front of you for more than 5 minutes. No way.

        These are some examples for the “bigger is better” approach.
        All video magazines are full of innovations and must have add ons. As consequence, it prevents many people from seeing the wood for the trees. Only a few have the courage to seriously consider what is really needed to shoot a good film or a video. Creativity can not be purchased.

        As pensioneer I have much time for DIY projects related to filming. I have built my own dolly system, a motorized slider and recently, a smart and cheap alternative to the standard studio green screen (chroma keying) technique.
        All my DIY projects have been done under the motto:
        Keep it cheap and simple! As Joe says: “less is more”

        I have done a DVD about image stabilization using the CX-730 with “boss”, the poor sister of the NX-30 . With own footage. If you, Joe, are interested in this DVD write to my e-mail address with your home address. I am glad to send you this DVD for your personal use. Good news: Free of charge.

        Wolfgang

  2. […] I found a new review for the Sony nex-ea50 made by the Videowhisperer, check out the review and his blog here. […]

  3. I purchased the EA50 back in early 2013 and love this semi shoulder camera. My only gripe is the lack of ND. I dont need a shutter to take photos! I started making films for other people while I was a lad at school and I am now over 60. I was raised on still cameras that just took photos and film cameras that could not take stills. That in my opinion is how it should be today! I get fed up looking for kit for my EA50 only to see the kit been demonstrated on a DSLR that should only be able to take photos!! Come on, lets get back to having Videographers and Photographers, not one person trying to do both!!

      • Yes, the Sony EA 50 is a really great camera but you should also check out the VG30 which uses the same lens mount, sensor and features but is a third of the size and you can get the body for around 1k on ebay. Personally I shoot with both but I like the VG30 better unless you are needing the pro audio XLR’s which you can still get for the VG30 but it will cost you another $800. Happy shooting!

  4. Thank you for your thoughtful and detailed review of the Sony NEX-EA50. By far, yours was the most intelligent and valuable review I have read of this pretty remarkable new, low cost, DSLR like camera with a camcorder form-factor. I just bought the camera today, in part due to your valuable information. If you and your wife are ever in Sedona, Arizona, you can stay in our elegant guest house!

    Michael Dubrow

    • Thank you Michael. You won’t believe this– My wife is a French sculptor (Laury Dizengremel). Before she was my wife I was doing a stint driving for Swift Transportation, partly to discover the whole U.S. (which is also how we wound up later moving to Montana, “the last best place”). Anyway, I had also discovered Sedona as I was based out of Phoenix where I kept my car, motorcycle and Winnebago, so when I first invited her over, guess where I took her? That’s right, that other-worldly, hidden gem you call home and the rest of us call Sedona. (don’t be surprised if we take you up on it!)

  5. Hi Joe,

    fabulous reviews! Would you rather use the Sony NX30 or something like a EA50/VG30 for weddings or events? Thanks so much for you help as I’ve been researching myself to death to try and decide.

    • I’d use the NX30. Low profile. Light. Great picture quality. Fast intelligent auto (focus,exposure). Superior hand-held steadiness capability. Full pro audio capability. Shoots 50p (as does the EA50) for great slo mo, but also will shoot real time slo mo. Easy to hold high and steady above your head (during that hustle bustle of the reception line) etc. (That is, unless you’re a shallow depth of field buff). I’m a minimalist when it comes to kit. I pack the NX30 along with a GoPro and Canon 600D along with all my audio equipment into a single case small enough for airline carry on, and all might lighting in another suitcase sized roller case. As soon as you get into larger cameras and more kit, you can’t move in and out with speed, nor with the same speed once your in.

      • Wow! Thanks for your fast and detailed response. I’ve watched your videos at least 5 or 6 times all the way through and so I appreciate your feedback. What GoPro set up to you use along with the NX30?

      • Hi Kim, just happened to be sitting here waiting for something to export. Anyway, I’ve got the Go Pro Hero 3 Black edition. That’s the best all-rounder as it performs better at lower light levels too. I don’t use it often, but came in handy most recently on a multi-camera concert shoot.

  6. […] I found a new review for the Sony nex-ea50 made by the Videowhisperer, check out the review and his blog here. […]

  7. Nice review, I used the camera extensively for a year and I can tell you can lock the ISO, I never had any exposure jumps and always handled my exposure manually. I sold the camera some time ago but if I recall right you can lock the iso just by pressing the ISO button on the side of the camera which either puts it in auto or manual mode, when in manual you can select up to 3 ISO values with the switch on the side as well and those values you have to assign though the menu. If you still would see exposure jumps in manual then it has to be a setting in the menu, problem is I don’t have the camera anymore to check and I set it up when I got it a year ago so I don’t remember exactly, but once it was set up my exposure was always where I wanted it to be.

    Also that “exposure lock” which was referred to in the firmware wishlist was something else, I believe the user who mentioned it wanted a button like you had on the Sony vx2100 where you momentarily could lock the exposure you where in at that moment and by pressing it again go back to autoexposure.

    About the shoulder pad being useless, if you have used the camera as much as I have I”d say it’s a very useful addition to the camera, like with the Canon xl2 it doesn’t turn your camera in a shouldermount one as, like you said, all the weight is still in your hands, but it makes quite a difference shooting stable as it adds another contact point when you are handholding the camera. You can also add a extra weight to it that extends further back or add a wireless receiver to that pad which helps distributing the weight in a bit better way, still no full shoulder mount but all bits help.

    That this camera is not a run and gun camera, well, if you would say that a dslr is not a run and gun camera I’d agree but the I”ll take the nex-ea50 with me in a run and gun environment with enough confidence while a dslr would make me very nervous.

    About the sensor, it’s not a “full size” one but a APS-C one, sensors come in different sizes and “full size” might be confused with full frame which it isn’t.

    One last thing about the resolution the camera handles as you mentioned it can handle lot’s of fine detail, my experience is that it doesn’t, especially with very fine detail in wide shots like trees branches or also those stained glass windows in the church video you did, the nex-ea50 has aliasing/moire issues that turns very fine detail into a jittery mess, it’s hard to explain but if you place the camera side by side with a Panasonic gh3, which I own now, you”ll clearly see the difference.

    Nevertheless the nex-ea50 is a great camera to use and the image it outputs is nice, I certainly will miss the way it handled, going back to a dslr formfactor wasn’t easy but I wanted a smaller camera again, the ea50 was too big for my use.

    • Thanks for a very informative reply. I’m sure this will help those decide in looking at this camera. Wish I had it now to check on that exposure lock trick (it’s not too obvious, but I figured there MUST be a way, so there it is). I guess I’m a little snobbish or something on my “run and gun” definition! I used to run and gun with a full sized Sony 70is beta cam–all 18 pounds of it. Now I prefer the smaller, shorter cameras because of the myriad of ways you can hold and shoot with them and somehow I never got into shoulder mounts with lightweight cameras. Something about the weight of that 70is Betacam seemed to justify it.
      Thanks again for the clarification.

      • I shot with a Sony dsr 250 back in 2005 and only used handicam type of camera’s after that, when I first got the ea50 it was a blessing being able to use a viewfinder in the proper way but the bigger size got in the way when I was covering weddings, the camera was a attention magnet and eventough it’s a light camera it wasn’t fun dragging around all day.

        Btw, if you want to have a confirmation about the ISO setting, just post on dvinfo.net in the ea50 category, plenty users there that can inform you about that.

  8. Here’s a Linkedin exchange from an EA50 owner commenting on this blog I wanted to share here. From Chris Harding of Wedding Video Productions:

    “Nice review but I disagree with the run ‘n gun comment! I have two of these and shoot on shoulder almost all the time! Just needs a few balancing tweaks. I’ve run my EA-50′s for a year now and it was worth jumping ship to Sony after 23 years with Panasonic cameras. 

It’s actually very hard to fault …Sony have thought of everything !!”

    (my reply)

    “Fair enough Chris. What did you make of the full exposure lock issue? Is there a way to do that I missed?”

    (Chris’s reply)

    “Hi Joe

    Nope! there is no AE lock like my Nikons have or any other DSLR .. What you do is use the Exposure Shift on the menu mainly for backlit situations ..it allows you to set a negative or positive EV which will compensate for a bright background sorta like the BL button on video cameras but on the EA-50 you can set the value in 1/3 stop intervals …the only issue is that you have to do it via the menu ..I assign normally a 1 stop over expose to a function button but if that happens to be too much or too little so still have to change it in the menu. The camera will remember the setting and you can recall it BUT not change it …the only other option is to turn off auto iris and expose manually ..I find the EV Value works a treat!

    You got some nice footage there!! The standard profiles are actually a bit poor and need tweaking too! I tend to use PP3 that has saturation lifted and that works well for both outdoors and indoors (weddings have you moving from outdoor to indoor quite quickly!)”

  9. Burkhard Kratzer \(Mediaworx\) Says:

    Hello Mr. Whisperer,

    Thanks for the work and I was affraid to see your review, because after the last one I bought the sony 30.

    (And I hope you got much money from Sony for this perfect promotion !!!)

    This Nex EA 50 camera seems not to be the right one for me and my work, but I have one question.

    I like the sound on your video, alltough there is a little noise in the background. So can you tell me, which mic you used ??

    I just bought the very expensive Rhode lavalier mic and it sounds really bad. May be something is wrong, I ll have to send it back.

    I also realized you did postproduction on the sound, I hear compression and EQ. Did you use FCP X or as I do sometimes “Studio one” or another external programm, anyhow, the voice sounds very good and that is important because: hearing is believing :-))

    All the best especially for your health

    Burkhard

    (made this city review with the sony 30 you recommanded, a nice camera for quick and dirty production :-))

    _____

    • You have a good ear! Yes, well I EQed it as I sounded pretty awful with that cold. I am using the Rode lav, and coincidentally I think I’ve now got a problem with mine which might be the background noise that FCPX was alerting me to. My strain relief broke at the plug end and I’ve got exposed wires. I have a feeling I’ve got an intermittent short. I did have a couple of sound cut-outs and a couple of spikes during recording. I’ve since shored up the strain relief and still have to test, but may have to send it out for repair. I’ve had it a couple of years and it’s a great mic. You just have to keep an eye on the strain reliefs of these lav mics as the wires are so small. Sounds like there’s something wrong with yours out of the box. It’s a great mic for the price.
      Your video is really good. I mean that. Well done!

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