Sony NEX-7 Review - Photo Jottings

Sony NEX-7 Review

Sony NEX-7 camera review 

 

 

The Sony NEX-7 is a ground breaking camera featuring a whopping 24mp APS-C sensor, an extremely useful OLED viewfinder, a Sony proprietary hotshoe, a pop-up flash that can be bounced (although not designed for this), and of course all the other features that make the NEX system so attractive.

 

Sony’s newest NEX camera is a significant step up from the initial 3/5 series cameras, and has several important features that the new NEX-5n doesn’t have.  I’ll point out some of these as we go along, in case you’re trying to decide which camera to buy, or are thinking of upgrading.

 

The Sony NEX-7 was introduced back in August of 2011, and started shipping in November; however, due to production issues beyond Sony’s control, and very high demand, the cameras have been hard to come by, and as of this review, are still scarce.

 

Currently, you can get the body only, or the body with a black 18-55mm kit lens.  You can’t buy the black kit lens separately.

 

Image sample gallery.

 

I  have quite a few test images available, most full sized, and some taken from RAW capture.  Check out the links below, which take you to my newest site; photojottings.com.

 

Full size samples using the Tamron 18-200mm lens.  Various landscape images.

 

large gallery of people shots using the Tamron 18-200mm and Sony 55-210mm, mostly at the long ends.  Photos take at the Accenture match play event in Tucson, AZ. Some full sized samples, others downsized.  Good study if you plan on taking people pictures.

 

Comparison between the NEX-7 and A900 with CZ 24/1.8 and CZ 16-35mm with full size images.  The NEX CZ 24/1.8 is far superior to the CZ zoom.

 

Large ISO comparison with the NEX-7 and A900 including jpeg and RAW.  ISO perfomance is almost as good as the Sony A900.

 

RAW vs Jpeg real life sample shot.  Shows how much detail is gained by using RAW.
Review of the LA-EA2 AF adapter.  Very useful device for making your alpha lenses work on the NEX bodies with full phase detection AF.
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Specifications

 

Model
NEX-7
Price
$1200 body only  12-11
Effective megapixels
24.3
LCD monitor
3.0″  921,600 pixels, flip-out screen.
Lens
Zoom
Recording media
Memory stick pro duo, SD
Image stabilization
No, in-lens type only
ISO range
100/200/400/800/1600/3200/6400/12800/16000
Manual controls
yes, very customizable
Flash sync
1/160
Shutter speed
30 sec – 1/4000 sec
Optical viewfinder
No, uses 0.50″ XGA OLED EVF (Electronic viewfinder) with 2,359k dots.
Sensor size
23.5mm x 15.6mm  APS-C
AF assist lamp
Yes, Built-in LED, Range: approx. 18″ – 9′ (0.5m-3m)
Timer
10 sec – 2 sec delay
Flash
Yes, pop-up type.
Movie mode
Yes, full HD and lesser modes.
Power source
NP-FW50, InfoLITHIUM® NP-FW50 (7.2V)
Dimensions
4.75″ x 2.75″ x 1.7″  120mm x 67h x 43d
Weight
10.3oz   291g  without battery or card.
Additional info
All new NEX camera utilizing tri-navigation system, Sony proprietary flash hot-shoe, along with the brilliant built-in OLED viewfinder.

 

 

Let’s get started with some product shots and a walk-around.

 

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The Sony NEX-7 presentation case

 

Inside the box or ‘presentation case’ (go here to see the box wrapper), you get a nice carrying strap, along with a small cream colored cleaning cloth for wiping fingerprints and dust from the camera.  The compartment on the right has the included accessories like battery, charger, rubber eyecup and cables.  The CD and quick start manual are in a small drawer type container that fits over the top of this box.

 

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Watch out for fuzz all over the camera.

 

Here’s something of mild importance; the NEX-7 comes in a presentation case with a black velvet-like lining as seen in the first product shot.  Fortunately, I always shoot some product shots before actually using the review item to avoid having to remove dust and fingerprint smears; and as I checked the shots in magnified view, I saw the tiny black fuzz from the lining all over the camera.  Be sure and use a blower bulb or vacuum cleaner to clean the camera before you take off the body cap, otherwise, you might wind up with a sensor full of this stuff.  I’m not sure how well the sensor cleaning feature works.  Note to Sony; wrap the camera in plastic when using this type of parts board.

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NEX-7 front

 

On the front grip, just below the shutter release is the Remote receiver for the RMT-DSLR1 IR remote.  This remote is standard with higher end Sony DSLRs, like the A700/900, but must be purchased separately for others. To the right, inside the handgrip is the AF illuminator, used for focusing in low-light.  Large lenses and hoods such as ‘a’ mount types will block the beam making it hunt for focus, although it can be turned off.  The tiny holes above the lens mount are stereo mics.  Underside the body cap is the lens release button, push in to release, and make sure it snaps back in place when installing the lens.  The NEX-7 uses triangular strap rings for attaching your neck strap, (like Sony DSLRs), the other NEX cameras use metal loops on the sides.

 

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On the top left is the fabulous 0.50″ XGA OLED EVF (Electronic viewfinder) with 2,359k dots, and is far better than any other built-in EVF, even on other NEX cameras.  There’s a rubber eyecup that snaps into place, but it does make the camera wider and slightly more cumbersome. Just to the right of the viewfinder glass is theproximity sensor, which switches the EVF on when you bring the camera up to your eye.  One thing about the viewfinder; it sucks battery power, and will come on when you carry it against your body while walking around, so shut the camera off when not in use.  To the right of the EVF is the diopter adjustment dial, so people with vision deficiencies can dial in the proper adjustments to see sharply though the viewfinder.  Farther to the right, after some empty space you come to the flash release button.  A little to the right again is the playback button, use this to review your shots.
The lever with the button in the middle is for AEL/focus, and is highly customizable.  One option I like is; the button can be set to switch the camera to manual focus and magnified view, which is great for manual focus lenses, or when you find the camera can’t focus properly on the subject because of obstacles or poor light etc. The AEL or automatic exposure lock setting is simple, press and hold, or toggle, meaning press the button to lock the exposure, and press again to unlock.
Below the AEL/AM MF switch is the soft key A, which activates the function displayed at the upper right corner of the screen.  In the center is the 4-way dial controller.  The down key is permanently assigned to exposure compensation, which is odd as the right top dial does the same thing.  The up key controls the display settings, the left key, timer and drive mode.  The right key is customizable in PSAM mode.  The middle button is also customizable and called soft key C. The dial by default controls ISO, and can cause problems is you aren’t careful.  You can lock this if you don’t want to risk shooting at ISO 6400 or 16000 in regular light.
Below the 4-way dial controller is the soft key B.   This activates the function displayed at the lower right corner of the screen, and is highly customizable in PSAM mode.
The little red button is for video.  My main complaint here is that it’s too easy to start if you’re handling the camera with one hand.  Sony should implement a press and hold feature to help eliminate this.
The main LCD is a flip-out, Tru Black, anti-glare, 3″ type TFT with 921,600 dots. This screen offers auto brightness and sunny weather mode for better viewing outside in bright conditions.  In real life, when in super bright conditions, the EVF is much easier to see than the LCD.
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On the left side of the camera are the HDMI, and USB receptacles behind a rubbery door, and an 1/8″ stereo microphone jack behind a separate door.  Sorry, no cable release support.

 

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The top plate contains the Sony proprietary hotshoe with a small plastic cover.  You can use any Sony alpha flash with the NEX-7, with full functionality.  Go here to check out a complete selection of Sony flash reviews.  Just to the right is the pop-up flash with a guide number of 6m at ISO 100 and will cover as wide as 18mm.  Next are the two thumb dials. By default, the left button controls aperture or shutter speed depending on mode, and the right button exposure compensation.  In my opinion, the two dials need to be damped harder because it’s too easy to turn them and change a setting by mistake.  Thankfully, you can disable these by pressing and holding the button beside the shutter.

 

The shutter button and on/off switch is located on top of the handgrip.

 

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On the bottom of the camera is the tripod socket, which is correctly centered with the lens.  The battery compartment uses a slide lock device, which I don’t like; I’d rather have it snap closed like the DSLRs.  Inside the compartment is a single memory card slot which takes either Sony MemoryStick or ‘SD’ type cards.  I also don’t like the placement of this slot, it’s too hard to get the card in and out.  The NEX-7 uses the standard NEX camera battery.  I highly recommend an additional battery; because the advertised battery life/shot number is probably not what you’ll get in actual use, especially when the camera is new and you’re playing with it at home.
Random observations.

The NEX-7 is slightly lighter in weight than I was expecting, especially with no battery!  With the 16mm pancake lens, it feels almost like a point and shoot camera.

 

When using the ‘electronic first curtain’ feature, the camera is very quiet, which you and others will appreciate in a quiet setting.  This feature is also available on the NEX-5n.  Some people are complaining of a line across the image at high shutter speeds as a result of using this feature, but I didn’t notice it during my use.

 

The OEL (organic electro-luminescence) or more commonly ‘OLED’ viewfinder is bright and very sharp, although no match for the A900 in good light.  With that said, I much prefer the OLED or LCD for low-light and magnified focusing.

 

Build quality is excellent, as is the NEX-5n.

 

Battery life is south of the advertised number of shots.  I got as little as 200 shots when the camera was new, because I was using the LCD and EVF all the time going through the menus and reviewing shots.  I did get more than 300 on a few occasions in a day of shooting.

 

The default button assignments are somewhat useful for the enthusiast camera user, except for the navigation button-awful.  This camera is highly customisable, so it may take a few days, (or weeks) for you to figure out what buttons you want to operate your favorite options.

 

The ‘peaking’ feature works very well, and is customizable in color and intensity.  This feature only works in MF.  Also available on the NEX-5n.

 

The pop-up flash can be pulled back to ‘bounce’ the flash off the ceiling, but only in a small room, as the flash doesn’t really have enough power for this type of work.

 

The ‘lens compensation’ feature corrects stuff like color fringing, lens shading, and distortion.  It seems to work well, and carries over to RAW files when using Sony’s IDC, but not to ACR except for shading; that’s odd.

 

There is no way to scroll through shots in magnified view, a big mistake in my opinion.  Hopefully a firmware correction is underway.

 

No cable release plug, that’s too bad, but it will hopefully appear in the NEX-7n.

 

 

Useful features:

 

HDR.  You can choose the number of stops to be combined from 1-6.  I find 4 to be about right.  If you choose 6, the image gets pretty flat from the lack of contrast, which is a signature of HDR.  The camera processing will remove most ‘ghosting’ from blowing tree limbs etc, and it does a very good job, which is a huge plus.

 

Sweep panorama.  Sony does a pretty good job, (but not perfect), of stitching the images together, blending only the centers of the images so there are no soft areas from the sides.  One problem is; you can’t control much of anything, the camera reverts to auto mode, although you can adjust the exposure.

 

Hand-held twilight mode.  Works very well if you shoot at high ISOs.

 

Features that suck; anti-motion blur, not perfected yet, but good for web pics.  DRO, just adds more noise to your images, adjust your images at home for much better results.  Picture effects; this is more for your camera phone snaps, not for an expensive enthusiast type camera.

 

Gripes.  Sony needs to improve the user interface.  If you only use the NEX-7, it’s not a big deal to learn it.  However, if you use three types of cameras with three different user interfaces like I do, then it becomes a headache.  Also, flash sync should be at least 1/250sec, not 1/160; it makes a difference, flash users know what I’m talking about.  One more thing, make the magnified image review the same as most other Sony cameras, where you can scroll through different images at full magnification and check focus etc.

 

Major differences between the NEX-7 and NEX-5n.

 

Built-in excellent EVF, although the NEX-5n has an option for an external EVF of the same type.

 

Sony hotshoe.  People that need, or use serious flash power will gladly pay the extra $600 over the NEX-5n.

 

Built-in flash, same issue as above, although all other NEX cameras come with an add-on flash.

 

24mp sensor.  Unless you look at your images at 100% all day, you probably won’t notice the difference between 16mp and 24mp.

 

 

Bottom line.

 

The Sony NEX-7 is a very capable camera, and will provide stunning resolution when used with high quality prime lenses such as the Sony CZ 24/1.8, or 50/1.8 OSS, and to a lesser extent the Sigma 19mm F/2.8 and30mm F/2.8.  It also works very well with the better ‘a’ mount lenses using the LA-EA2 adapter.

 

In my humble, and possibly worthless opinion, the person that buys this camera will not care a lot about video, or other gimmicks, (like HDR or DRO etc), that Sony puts inside, that’s why I didn’t waste my time explaining all of it.  I think they also want smaller lenses that make the system more portable and comfortable to carry all day.  The NEX-7 is a high quality and very impressive still camera offering tons of resolution; however, you don’t need 24mp for video or genera snaps.  If you want to use all the resolution the sensor has to offer, don’t bother with the kit zoom lens or other cheap zooms, spend your extra money on great lenses such as what I mention above.  I wouldn’t put a cheap zoom on an A900, it makes no sense.

 

Right now there aren’t very many NEX prime lenses for this camera, but more are on the way.  In the mean time, you can get the LA-EA2 adapter and use the better ‘a’ mount lenses like the DT 35/1.8, 85/2.8, (both small and lightweight), or the larger CZ 135/1.8 and CZ 85/1.4.

 

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