Digital Cameras Guide

Sony Alpha NEX-7 review

Sony Alpha NEX-7 - The Best There Is

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Overall rating 9.5/10
Performance:
9
Design:
9.5
Features:
10
User-Friendliness:
10
Value:
8.5
THE GOOD
Extremely high resolution (24.3MP)
Best-in-class OLED viewfinder
Innovative Tri-Navi controls
Full HD 50p and 25p video recording
Great shutter responsiveness
THE BAD
ISO 3,200 and beyond unsuitable for large prints
Pricey
More Awards:
Editor's Choice


Introduction

The Professional NEX

The success of the 2010 NEX cameras - the NEX-5 in particular - has posed a problem for Sony (albeit a good one): enthusiasts had since been clamoring for a more advanced NEX. They wanted a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera that’s not designed to be a backup or secondary camera, but one that can truly replace their digital SLRs. Remember, the NEX-5 wasn’t without its problems: despite its innovative design and high-resolution, large-sized sensor, enthusiasts lamented a sub-par shot-to-shot response, the lack of a pop-up flash and hot-shoe for more powerful flash guns, a limited lens lineup, and an awkward user interface - though Sony did manage to address that last point somewhat through a firmware update months later. Looking back, the popularity of the NEX cameras (especially among the more advanced crowd) probably caught the Sony folks by surprise; after all, they were originally intended for the point-and-shoot crowd.

In August this year, Sony announced the NEX-7, with a specs list that caught many (even loyalists from other camps) by surprise. In fact, it isn’t a hyperbole to call it the compact version of the mid-range A77 SLT (single lens translucent) camera announced at the same time, for the NEX-7 shares many features with its much bigger cousin: a 24.3-megapixel APS-C ‘Exmor’ CMOS sensor, an XGA OLED viewfinder, a top sensitivity of ISO 16,000, and an electronic front curtain shutter that results in a 0.02-second release time lag. And let's not forget the 10fps maximum burst shooting speed.

Video features have been beefed up as well: the NEX-7 adopts the new AVCHD 2.0 (Progressive) standard, and is thus capable of 1920x1080 video recording at 50p and 25p (60p and 24p if you’ve an NTSC unit) with full manual control. Of course, all these impressive specs are useless if the camera handles like a Rubik’s cube; to rid the UI bugbear that plagued the previous NEX cameras, Sony has gone back to the drawing board, and the result is the Tri-Navi control system, which we'll discuss in further detail in the coming pages.

In October, we did a preview of the NEX-7. To recap, here’s a list of its key features:

  • 24.3-megapixel APS-C 'Exmor' CMOS sensor (same as A77)
  • XGA OLED viewfinder (same as A77)
  • 1920 x 1080 video recording at 25p and 50p using AVCHD Progressive with full manual control (same as A77)
  • Tri-Navi navigation system
  • Up to ISO 16,000
  • 0.02 second release time lag (via an electronic front curtain shutter)
  • Tracking Focus function
  • 10fps continuous shooting speed (Speed Priority mode)
  • Built-in flash & accessory shoe
  • 3.0-inch, 921K-dot, 2-way tilt LCD
  • Lens compensation: peripheral shading, chromatic aberration, and distortion
  • AF micro adjustment
  • Magnesium alloy body