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Hands On: Sony NEX 7

by Chris Gampat on 09/29/2011

“If you can’t afford a Leica, this is the one to get.” Those are the words of the Sony Rep that demoed the NEX-7 to me. The other day, I finally got my hands on the extremely coveted Sony NEX-7 (or NEX7 and NEX 7). Though the reviews have already started to come out, I’m still waiting for my units to give them a full run through. However, this camera seemed extremely impressive during the brief time I spent with it as did the 24mm f1.8 lens.

Note that these were pre-production models though.

Tech Specs

Lens Compatibility Sony E-mount lens, (Sony A-mount lenses when used with LA-EA1 or LA-EA2 lens adaptor)
Camera Type Sony E-mount interchangeable lens digital camera
Imaging Sensor
Imaging Sensor Exmor™ APS HD CMOS sensor (23.5 X 15.6mm)
Processor BIONZ™ image processor
Anti Dust Charge protection coating on Low-Pass Filter and electromagnetic vibration mechanism
Pixel Gross Approx. 24.7 megapixels
Effective Picture Resolution Approx. 24.3 megapixels
Focal Length Conversion Factor 1.5x
Color Filter System RGB primary color filters
Recording
Media Type Memory Stick PRO Duo™/Pro-HG Duo™/PRO-HG HX Duo™ media SD, SDHC and SDXC memory card
Color Space sRGB, AdobeRGB
Still Image Mode JPEG (Standard, Fine), RAW, RAW+JPEG
Still Image Size 16:9 L size: 6000 x 3376 (20M) M size: 4240 x 2400 (10M) S size: 3008 x1688 (5.1M)
Still Image Size 3:2 L size: 6000 x 4000 (24M) M size: 4240 x 2832 (12M) S size: 3008 x 2000 (6M)
Panorama Still Image Size Horizontal Wide: 12,416 x 1,856 (23M) Horizontal Std.: 8,192 x 1,856 (15M) Vertical Wide: 2,160 x 5,536 (12M) Vertical Std.: 2,160 x 3,872 (8.4M) 3D Sweep Panorama: Horizontal Wide: 7152 X 1080 (7.7M) Horizontal Std.: 4912 X 1080 (5.3M) 16:9: 1920 X 1080 (2.1M)
Video Format AVCHD / MP4 (MPEG-4 AVC (H.264))
Video Mode AVCHD: PS – 1920 x 1080/60p@28Mbps FX – 1920 x 1080/60i@24Mbps FH – 1920 x 1080/60i@17Mbps FX – 1920 x 1080/24p@24Mbps FH – 1920 x 1080/24p@17Mbps MP4: HD – 1440 x 1080/ 30p@12Mbps VGA – 640 x 480/ 30p@3Mbps
Video Signal NTSC color, EIA standards
Audio Format Dolby Digital (AC-3) / MPEG-4 AAC-LC
Microphone/Speaker Built-in stereo microphone; Built-in, monaural speaker
Still Image File Format JPEG (DCF Ver. 2.0, Exif Ver.2.3, MPF Baseline compliant), RAW (Sony ARW 2.3format), 3D MPO (MPF Extended compliant)
Optics/Lens
Lens Mount Type Sony E-mount
Viewfinder
Type 0.50″ XGA OLED EVF (Electronic viewfinder) (2,359k dots)
Diopter Adjustment -4.0m-1 to +1.0m-1
Field of View Approx. 100%
Magnification 1.09x (with 50mm lens at infinity, -1m-1 )
LCD Display
LCD Type 3.0” TFT Xtra Fine™ LCD (921,600 pixels) w/TruBlack™ technology
Angle Adjustment Up: Approx. 90 degrees, Down: Approx. 45 degrees
Brightness Control Auto, Manual (5 steps between -2 to +2), Sunny Weather
Coverage 100%
Live View Yes, (Constant AF Live View)
Real-time image adjustment display Yes(On/Off)
Histogram Yes (On/off)
Peaking Yes (MF only, Level setting: High/Mid/Low/Off), (Color: White/Red/Yellow)
Grid Display Yes (On/off)
Customization Brightness: Auto, Manual, Sunny Weather; Display Color: Black, White, Blue, Pink
Focus Control
Focus System Contrast AF
Focus Points 25 points
AF Modes Single-shot AF(AF-S), Continuous AF(AF-C) selectable, Direct Manual Focus (DMF), Manual Focus
Focus Area Multi Point AF (25 points), Center Weighted AF, Flexible Spot AF
Focus Sensitivity 0 EV to +20 EV (at ISO100 conversion with F2.8 lens)
Manual Focus Assist Yes MF assist(5.9x, 11.7x)
Focus Features Predictive Focus Control, Focus Lock
AF Illuminator Built-in LED, Range: approx. 18″ – 9′ (0.5m-3m)
Exposure System
Picture Effect(s) 11 types (15 variations): Posterization (Color, B/W), Pop Color, Retro Photo, Partial Color (R,G,B,Y), High Contrast Monochrome, Toy Camera, Soft High-key, Soft Focus, HDR Painting, Rich-tone Monochrome, Miniature
Auto Exposure Lock Yes (AE Lock with focus lock)
Color Temperature 2500 – 9900 k with 15-step each Magenta/Green compensation (G7 to M7), Amber/Blue (A7 to B7)
Creative Style Standard, Vivid, Neutral, Clear, Deep, Light, Portrait , Landscape, Sunset, Night Scene, Autumn leaves, Black & White, Sepia (Contrast (-3 to +3steps), Saturation(-3 to +3steps), Sharpness(-3 to +3steps))
D-Range Optimizer Yes: (Auto, Level, Off)
Exposure Bracketing Yes: (3 Continuous)
Exposure Compensation +/-5.0 EV(1/3EV steps)
Exposure Settings iAUTO, Program AE (P), Aperture priority (A), Shutter priority (S), Manual (M), Sweep Panorama (2D), 3D Sweep Panorama, Anti Motion Blur, Scene Selection
ISO Auto (ISO 100-16000), Selectable (ISO 100 to 1600)
Metering Advanced 1200-zone evaluative metering
Metering Modes Multi-segment, Center-weighted, Spot
Metering Sensitivity 0EV-20EV, (at ISO 100 equivalent w/ f/2.8 lens)
Noise Reduction Long Exposure NR: (On/Off, available at shutter speeds longer than 1 second) High ISO NR: (High/Normal/Low)
Scene Mode(s) Portrait, Landscape, Macro, Sports action, Sunset, Night portrait, Night View, Handheld Twilight
White Balance Mode Auto,Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Flash, Setting the color temperature, Color Filter, Custom
Drive System
Continuous Shooting Speed Continuous (Variable) Speed Priority (up to 10fps)
Drive Mode Single-shot, Continuous, Speed Priority, Self-timer, Continuous Self-timer, Bracketing
Self-timer 2-sec. or 10-sec. delay, (single, continuous 3 or 5 frames)
Shutter Speeds 1/4000 to 30 seconds, bulb
Shutter Type Electronically-controlled, vertical-traverse, focal-plane shutter
Flash
Flash Compensation ±3.0 EV (in 1/3 EV steps)
Flash Coverage FOV coverage up to 18 mm (in the focal length)
Flash Metering System Pre-flash TTL
Flash Modes Auto, Fill-flash, Slow Sync., Rear Sync., Hi-speed sync., Wireless (with external flash), Off
Flash Type Built-in, Pop-up Auto
Guide Number 6 (in meters at ISO100)
Recycling Time Approx. 4 sec.
Advanced Features
Face Detection On/On (Regist. Faces)/Off
Smile Shutter™ technology Smile shutter (selectable from 3 steps)
Auto High Dynamic Range Yes, (Auto Exposure Difference, Exposure difference Level (1-6 EV at 1.0 EV step), off)
Sweep Panorama Horizontal (Wide/Standard), Vertical, and 3D Panorama
Interface
BRAVIA® Sync™ Yes, via HDMI with compatible BRAVIA HDTV
DVDirect Yes, via USB
HD Output HDMI® (TypeC mini)
Memory Card Slot Dual compatibility slot: Memory Stick PRO Duo™/Pro-HG Duo™/PRO-HG HX Duo™ media – SD, SDHC and SDXC memory card
PhotoTV HD Yes, with BRAVIA Sync™ enabled HDTV and HDMI® cable
USB Port(s) USB2.0 Hi-speed (mass-storage, MTP)
Weights and Measurements
Dimensions (Approx.) Approx. 4-3/4 × 2-3/4 × 1-11/16″ (119.9 x 66.9 x 42.8mm) (W/H/D) excluding protrusions
Weight (Approx.) Approx. 10.3 oz (291g) (excl battery & media)
Power
Battery Type InfoLITHIUM® NP-FW50 (7.2V)
Number of Still Images Approx. 430 images (CIPA standard)
Software
Supplied Software PMB (Picture Motion Browser) v5.2; Image Data Converter SR v3.2; Image Data Lightbox SR v2.2
Operating System Compatibility Windows XP SP3 (32-bit), Windows Vista SP2, Windows 7 SP1; Mac OS X (v10.3-v10.6), PMB is not compatible with Mac OS. Camera (via USB), Image Data Converter, and Image Data Lightbox software are compatible with Mac OS.

Ergonomics

The top of the Sony NEX-7 features the proprietary Sony hot shoe, the on/off switch, two settings dials and another button. Following the trend of having clean and stylish looks to cameras these days, the NEX 7 seems to make its own mark on the community as if it were Fashion Week for Cameras.

The back LCD screen is curious in that it flips up, but I really wish that it had a touch screen like the EP3. However, it’s nice to use when shooting from the hip; although sometimes it may think that your eye is near the viewfinder.

The back also features the pop-up flash button, playback button, a button/switch for AF/MF and Auto Exposure locking, two programmable buttons like the other NEX models, and the back dial. In manual mode, the dial operates as ISO control with the two top ones operating Aperture and Shutter speed. In aperture mode, it still controls the ISO. Sony’s initiative to do this pleases me, as ISO is the other major control in digital photography.

The side of the camera features the standard ports, nothing extremely special here.

Amazingly, the 24mm f1.8 is surprisingly light. It looks heavy in the photos, and it isn’t terribly large. It is much like a Leica lens in size. Still though, I yearn for smaller pancake lenses; especially for street photography.

Build Quality

When the rep said that this camera could replace your Leica, I was intrigued. The build quality is nothing like the M9 at all and I don’t even think that it’s on par with the EP3’s toughness. However, it still does feel very solid and may be just a bit below the EP3. If anything, it’s more like the Ricoh GXR.

Ease of Use

For the street photographer that wants to shoot in full manual mode, this is the camera to get. The dials are in all the right places, the viewfinder is big and beautiful, and LCD screen can flip up for shooting from the hip, and you’ve got a pop-up flash to shoot like Bruce Gilden.

The menu is still the NEX system’s menu, but now that there are more buttons, you don’t need to dig through them to find what you need.

Indeed, this camera is going to win awards. And I’m eagerly awaiting mine to come in for review. I couldn’t put a card in because it was a pre-production model, but the images with the 24mm lens were sharp and the bokeh was decent but nothing to get too excited about.

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