Sony Alpha NEX-7 review
A delight to use with outstanding photo and video quality – and a price to match
It’s been a long time coming, but we’re finally beginning to see compact cameras that are every bit as good as digital SLRs. The journey started with Panasonic and Olympus’ Micro Four Thirds system, followed by rival compact system cameras from Samsung, Sony, Pentax and Nikon. However, we’ve yet to see one that excels across the board.
Sony is leaving nothing to chance with the NEX-7. Not content to reuse the stunning 16-megapixel sensor from the NEX-C3 and 5N, it has fitted the NEX-7 with a 24-megapixel sensor – the highest currently available in the APS-C sensor format. Its electronic viewfinder is as good as they come, with a 2,359kpixel resolution providing a big, sharp picture that outperforms many SLRs’ optical viewfinders.
Frustratingly, it isn’t possible to enable Auto Review (for inspecting shots directly after capture) on the screen but not in the viewfinder, but we do like how the viewfinder and screen can be set to show different information. The camera’s screen is good too: a 3in wide aspect LCD with a sharp 921.6kpixel resolution, with the only disappointment that it isn’t a touchscreen, a feature that comes in handy for adjusting the autofocus point.
Otherwise, the NEX-7’s controls are extremely impressive. With two dials on the top plate and another on the back of the camera, there’s direct access to shutter speed, aperture and ISO speed. This has a profound effect to the fluidity and control, allowing you to concentrate on the photo rather than the camera.
There’s more, too. In priority and program modes, the dials are reassigned to exposure compensation and program shift as necessary. A button next to the shutter release cycles the dials through a range of other customisable functions. And, with more customisable buttons on the back of the camera, it’s possible to put all photographic settings within easy reach, from flash compensation to white balance adjustment.
The NEX-7 comes top of the class for image quality – at least as far as its sensor is concerned. Higher-resolution sensors usually capture more detail at the expense of more noise, but this one excelled for both detail and noise in low-light tests. The 16-megapixel NEX-C3 delivered slightly cleaner photos at ISO 6400 and above, but the NEX-7 wasn’t far behind, and well ahead of other brands of compact system camera.
At lower ISO speeds, the NEX-7’s huge resolution delivered on its promises to capture stunningly detailed shots. Automatic settings gave dependably good results, and while we’d have liked some customisation of the Auto ISO mode, most users will be happy to adjust settings manually. It’s well worth reducing the noise reduction strength, or shooting RAW, to maintain subtler textures.
The video mode is outstanding, with crisp details, flattering colours and the lowest noise of any stills or video camera we’ve seen. The manual controls for photos work seamlessly for videos, too, and AVCHD encoding at 25p, 50i or 50p, plus a microphone socket, make this a prime candidate for serious use.
|Camera megapixel rating||24.0mp|
|Camera screen size||3.0in|
|Camera optical zoom range||3x|
|Camera maximum resolution||6000 x 4000|
|Camera optical image stabilisation||in kit lens|
Weight and dimensions
|Dimensions||119 x 106 x 66mm (WDH)|
|Battery type included||Lithium-ion|
|Battery life (CIPA standard)||335 shots|
|Aperture range||f3.5 - f5.6|
|Camera minimum focus distance||25.00m|
|Shortest focal length (35mm equivalent)||27|
|Longest focal length (35mm equivalent)||83|
|Minimum (fastest) shutter speed||1/4,000|
|Maximum (slowest) shutter speed||30s|
|Bulb exposure mode?||yes|
|RAW recording mode?||yes|
|Exposure compensation range||+/- 5EV|
|ISO range||100 - 16000|
|Selectable white balance settings?||yes|
|Manual/user preset white balane?||yes|
|Progam auto mode?||yes|
|Shutter priority mode?||yes|
|Aperture priority mode?||yes|
|Fully auto mode?||yes|
|Burst frame rate||10.0fps|
|Memory-card type||SDHC, SDXC, Memory Stick Duo. Pro Duo|
|Secondary LCD display?||no|
|Body construction||Magnesium Alloy|
|Tripod mounting thread?||yes|
|Data connector type||Mini-USB|
Manual, software and accessories
|Full printed manual?||no|
|Software supplied||Picture Motion Browser, Image Data Lightbox SR, Image Data Converter SR|