Sony Alpha NEX-7 (Part 1)

6/14/2012 11:32:09 AM

The Sony Alpha NEX-7 is a small camera with a big heart – or more precisely an APS-C 24.3 megapixel sensor inside

Generally speaking, enthusiast and professional photographers like big kit. Kit that stands up and shouts out ‘Hey look at me, I’m a photographer!’ But many are now also looking for a small camera for those days when backache from lugging around heavy kit just isn’t needed. The Sony Alpha NEX-7 is just such a camera. It’s small, has a lot of potential and perhaps most importantly – it houses a 24.3MP CMOS sensor. So how does it cram all of this into such a small shell?

Description: The NEX-7 is solid, robust and ready to take on a challenge from the pros

The NEX-7 is solid, robust and ready to take on a challenge from the pros.

The main difference between the NEX-7 and a DSLR is the fact there is no mirror which flaps up and down, no prism and it has an electronic first-curtain shutter. In other words, the shutter doesn’t need to open at the start of the exposure saving a valuable 20ms (millisecond) of shutter lag. While 20ms isn’t particularly noticeable while taking pictures, it does make a difference to the sound the camera makes and the first time you use it you’ll think that’s it got stuck in a long exposure if you’re used to shooting with a DSLR. The quieter sound makes the camera perfect for candid work and shooting in discreet locations such as during wedding ceremonies.

Compared to the majority of competition in the mirrorless interchangeable lens camera market, the NEX-7 is perhaps the most modern in appearance, or rather the least retro-inspired anyway. Many of Sony’s previous bridge and compact cameras have featured an off-centre lens design and with the NEX-7 following in this mould, you can’t help but be reminded of awkwardness of early digital cameras rather than the retro flair that other cameras exude. This being said, Sony doesn’t have the same heritage in photography as most of the competition so it’s probably a better move to stick with the more contemporary design befitting a company that many ‘old-school’ photographers may still consider to be a technology brand.

What it does have over the competition is a market-leading hand-grip – it’s far bigger than any of its other direct rivals and also makes room on the top plate for a second input dial. These combine with a third dial on the rear of the camera allowing you to control the aperture, shutter speed and ISO without having to press any other buttons or enter a menu. However, the one downside is that the rear dial which controls the ISO is fairly easy to knock.

‘On the features side, the NEX-7 has a full set of the latest bells and whistles.’

Description: Sony Alpha NEX-7

The NEX-7 is also exceptionally well-made with a sturdy metal finish. This also applies to the supplied f3.5-5.6 kit lens which has a reassuringly solid feel. The pop-up flash springs to life like something from Short Circuit in a fantastic piece of space-saving design. One of the downsides is that, like the rest of Sony’s range, the NEX-7 features the Alpha hotshoe mount rather than the standard hotshoe mount featured on every other non-Sony camera. This isn’t a problem if you only intend to use Sony flashes, but you will need an adaptor to use the majority of flash triggers – which you will definitely need as there isn’t a flash sync socket on the camera either. On the features side, the NEX-7 has a full set of the latest bells and whistles including 3D panoramic, in-camera HDR and face detection. The in-camera HDR works well enough but the auto bracketing leaves something to be desired – it doesn’t allow for any more than +/-0.7EV which is hardly ideal for serious HDR work. While many RAW converters now offer basic lens correction settings, the NEX-7 also features built-in compensation for many available lenses with the promise of more to follow with firmware updates.

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