Sony NEX-EA50M Camcorder Review

About a day after the Sony NEX-EA50M camcorder arrived, I left home to tour with Anthony Hamilton, and then Janelle Monae, and traveled non-stop for about 4-5 weeks. Because of that, I had to start filming right away, with little to no time to read a manual or explore the camera’s features. I put it right to work. Here's what I discovered:

Who is this camera for?

If you're looking to shoot documentaries, any type of interviews, weddings, short films, or small budget music videos, I think this camera will suit you very well. The price provides you a lot of features for video production. You won't break the bank for the quality you'll get from this camera. The image quality is clean, straight from the camera, and the image profiles allow for some creativity in post.

Who is it NOT for? 

If you're a run and gun shooter, who prefers a compact rig, and a more discreet look, this is not for you. This camera, is at least 5 times larger than Sony's Alpha mirrorless cameras or DSLR bodies. however, it's not as heavy as it looks. Keep in mind, that selecting a DSLR or mirrorless, over this EA50M will indeed lessen the size and weight of your camera bag, and allow you to run and gun, but you'll miss out on a lot of video production features. That could be a determining factor for you.

My Sony a6000 placed next to the Sony NEX-EA50M, for size comparison.

My Sony a6000 placed next to the Sony NEX-EA50M, for size comparison.

The Good

  • Cost - in terms of cost, I'd compare the price point for this camera, to that of a semi-pro DSLR, roughly $2,700. With the DSLR's you'll be able to shoot similar quality video, but without some of the important video features. Some shooters debate between a video camera, and a photo camera that shoots video. You'd have to decide what's more important to you in terms of investment.
  • Shoots full 1920 x 1280 HD, up to 60fps
  • Audio - the camera has a built in stereo mic, as well as a shotgun mic, with 2 channel XLR audio. The audio captured is very clean.
  • Memory card - the camera uses SDHC cards, which are pretty inexpensive. However, there's only only slot built in. Some shooters prefer 2 slots to dedicate one to backup recording
  • Sensor - the EA50M has a full-sized APS-C (cropped) sensor. 
  • Lens & Lens Mount (e-mount) - the camera has Sony's e-mount, providing the option to change lenses. The interchangeable lens mount provides the option to use prime lenses, to get the same shallow depth of field, that you’d get from a dslr, with the added value of a professional video camera's features/functions. It ships with an 18-105mm f/4 lens that’s pretty sharp. I used it on my Sony a6000 mirrorless as well, and loved that combination. I wished it was f/2.8, but I’ve grown tired of wishing for more f/2.8 glass from Sony. ***Sad face. When that day does come, the skies will open, and the sun will shine down so bright, and little babies will sing many praises. Since this camera has the same exact lens mount as my a6000, I was able to use my Sigma 30mm and 60mm f/2.8 lenses, and was pleased with the results. It was very convenient. I also ran some tests using my lens adapter and Canon glass, with an adapter.
Sony a6000 mounted on the NEX-EA50M, via a cold shoe adapter. Photo by Glenn Parson.

Sony a6000 mounted on the NEX-EA50M, via a cold shoe adapter. Photo by Glenn Parson.

  • Low Light Performance - while reviewing this camera, I found myself using it mostly in situations where lighting was ample. In most cases, I never had to adjust the ISO higher than 800. At 800, I felt as if it was pretty clean. In low light situations, one could simply add a lens adapter, and pair it with a another brand lens with a wider aperture. 

UNEDITED FOOTAGE: Anthony Hamilton, filmed using the kit lens, with an aperture of f/4.5.

UNEDITED FOOTAGE: Janelle Monae, filmed using a Sigma 30mm f/2.8 Art lens, with an aperture of f/2.8. Shown in 720p.

  • Assignable function buttons - by default, they're set to control things like peaking, zebra, face detection, and histogram, but within the menu, you can assign them other functions for quick access
  • Battery Life - the battery that came with the camera lasted about 3 hours per charge. While reviewing, I never had any worries about battery life, since I'm already used to managing batteries that don't last nearly as long.
  • Auto focus - the AF system is fair. Not fast. ***See the video below for a preview of the auto focusing

Auto focus system at work. I placed some objects on the floor, and moved the camera around.

  • Spot focus (touch screen) - the camera featured a touch screen LCD that allowed for spot focusing. I found that to be effective, and useful in certain cases. Notice how the jittery camera shake every time I touched the screen, for a transition. I'm not sure if I touched the screen too hard, of if the screen's sensitivity to touch is the issue. NOTE: This video is at 300% speed.

Using spot focus, I toggled between the Jesus hat and the Sony headphones.

  • Focus transitioning - for the type of work I was doing, during the review, this feature wasn’t used, but I still tested it out. **See video below.

Transition focus between the pile of money and the Converse.

  • Still images - The Sony NEX-EA50M includes a photo mode, that captures 16.1 megapixel images that are very clean. Below, are some unedited images captured with several different lenses. ***See notes below each photo.
Lens: Sigma 30mm f/2.8 Art. Shutter speed: 1/125. ISO 500. Aperture: f/2.8.

Lens: Sigma 30mm f/2.8 Art. Shutter speed: 1/125. ISO 500. Aperture: f/2.8.

Lens: Canon 50mm f/1.4, with CommLite Lens Adapter. Shutter speed: 1/100. ISO 500. Aperture: f/4.0.

Lens: Canon 50mm f/1.4, with CommLite Lens Adapter. Shutter speed: 1/100. ISO 500. Aperture: f/4.0.

Lens: Canon 85mm f/1.8, with CommLite Lens Adapter. Shutter speed: 1/100. ISO 500. Aperture: f/4.0.

Lens: Canon 85mm f/1.8, with CommLite Lens Adapter. Shutter speed: 1/100. ISO 500. Aperture: f/4.0.

The Bad

  • Shoulder mount - it sucks for the most part. It only helps a little, and the latch that allows you to adjust it doesnt lock very well. The shoulder pad kept moving while shooting. The camera tipped forward a lot when the shoulder mount was used. Who designed this thing?
  • Playback buttons were awkwardly placed. Somewhat blocked by the handle.
  • I couldn’t easily find the “Mode” button to switch between “Video” and “Photo”.
  • No Neutral Density filter - In a perfect world, it would have a ND filter built in. ND filters are very helpful during outdoor shooting, especially if you’re shooting with a shallow depth of field. 
  • Workflow & File Handling - This camera uses the very annoying .MTS file type, when you record AVCHD. Why is it annoying? Because my Macbook doesn’t show the thumbnails for the files. That creates a major issue when you’re scrolling through folders of clips, looking for something specific. I happened to have Sony’s Catalyst Browse installed, to review and handle the video files. It still created an addition workflow step. Sony has the “Play Memories” software for importing these files, but it’s quite slow, which effects workflow.
  • Overall body size - for me, a DSLR shooter, looking to do more video, this camera was a bit big. Not heavy though, but it consumed quite a bit of space in my camera bag. 

Conclusion

After reviewing the camera, to sum it up, I like it. Is this a camera that I would actually purchase? Probably. I think it is a great entry level camera. The convenience of the lens mount is a biggest selling point for me, since I already own a few e-mount lenses. The image quality is great, and your clients would be very pleased with the final product.

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