An excellent question was brought up in the comments section of my Sony a35 Hands on review by Akshay.
It’s a pretty strait forward, but requires a bit of explaining, because the two cameras really are completely different in a lot of ways. Size, lens availability, usability, video recording, lcd screens, OLED viewfinder, and image quality.
Let start off by showing you the actual difference in sensor quality from the pros at DXOMark.
Click the image for a larger version.
As you can see from the DXOMark comparison the Nex-5n has the best Score. This in my opinion is mostly due to the Nex-5n not having the translucent mirror in the way which slightly degrades the image quality by choking off a little bit of light. So, the Nex-5n has the edge in this department for sure!
The Nex-5n is also has better video capabilities.
Moving on tho usability which is a huge factor, especially if you don’t plan on getting another camera for a long time. The a35 is much easier to use and handle in my opinion, because the camera is much larger. It also has a lot more buttons which means you don’t have to scroll through a menu to change settings. The Nex-5n stinks in this department, although you do have several buttons you can custom program which helps. But, there just isn’t enough buttons.
The a35 on the downside doesn’t have an articulating screen. The nex-5n does, and it’s awesome for taking shots with the camera on the ground or overhead. It is also a touchscreen!!
The a35 has a OLED viewfinder which is critical for accurately focusing and framing your shot in sunlight. As you can image the screen is pretty much useless in sunlight. Atlases on the Nex-5n you can articulate it and help to a degree, but it still stinks.
The a35 wins in this department as well, because the A-mount has a ton of lenses available, where as the E-mount on the Nex-5n only has a handful of lenses to chose from. See what I mean over here:
If it were my money, I would go with the Sony a35 or a55, because of the huge amount of lenses available for them and the usability is also much better in my opinion. I am a Pro Photographer so I’m very used to large cameras and the weight. The a35 is not that heavy though so I don’t think that will matter either way. The a55 does have the advantage of an articulating screen though which the a35 does not have unfortunately. Also the image quality is almost the same on the a55 and a35. Check out my Hands on Review of the a55 over here>>