It’s been some time since I’ve written about digital cameras. My mind has been filled with thoughts of film and old rangefinder cameras However, I’ve been shooting digital and just not talking about it that much. What have I been shooting? I’ve been shooting a Sony NEX 7.
Sony Nex 7 with Zeiss 24mm and external mic
Some of you may have read my Sony NEX 5N review. If not, check it out here. In the end, I came to really enjoy the 5N and took some photographs that I really love. Truthfully, I only got the 5N because of all the troubles that Sony had in delivering the NEX 7. So when an opportunity to pick up an NEX7, I found a buyer for my 5N and moved to the 7. I sold the NEX 5N viewfinder to someone and then sold the NEX 5N with kit zoom to another. This gave me the money I needed to pick up the NEX 7 body to go with my Zeiss 24mm E mount and the 55-210 E mount zoom. I also have a Leica M to NEX adapter as well as an old Pentax K to NEX that a friend gave me so in actuality, I have quite a few lenses to shoot with the lovely NEX 7 body.
The short version of my review is that the NEX 7 is a near perfect camera for me and how I shoot. I often go light weight and must have a camera that is both small and capable. I love the NEX 7. I love the controls. I love shooting it. I like the images I am capturing with it. Yet, no camera is ever perfect, but this NEX ticks more boxes than any other camera for how and what I shoot. I love it. Here are the list of things that I just love.
- Design & Appearance – It just fits so perfect in my hand. Many folks will say that appearance doesn’t matter, but I think it does and the NEX 7 looks perfect (to me).
- Function – I love the external controls of this camera. The 5N always felt like a toy to me. The NEX 7 feels like a real camera (to me).
- Sensor – Some might argue that the 16MP sensor in the NEX 5N is superior in low light. While that may be true, I have found that I absolutely love the 24MP sensor resolution. At first, I kept looking at the images and thinking they were noisier than the 5N. Then I got some prints. Whoa! And, regarding the low light capabilities, I do just fine with my f1.8 lenses.
- EVF – I loved the OLED EVF on the 5N but didn’t like how it stuck out the top of the camera and made it a bit more difficult to put into my pack. The EVF on the NEX 7 is not only really functional in terms of immediately viewing the effects of your exposure settings, it is built in making it less prone to damage and makes the whole camera easier to remove from or place in my bag.
- Adaptability – As noted above, I use a myriad of legacy style lenses on this camera. Some have reported the color cast/shift when using ultra wide angle legacy lenses. I, however, have not used them nor do I plan too. If I want to shoot wide, I shoot my Bessa R4A, a true wide angle rangefinder camera.
- Manual Control – The combination of external controls, focus peaking and quick magnification make manual focusing a snap on this camera. Love it.
No camera is perfect, at least those I’ve shot and/or tried. The NEX 7 is no exception.
- JPEG’s – Well…The JPGS leave me feeling lukewarm about the camera. They just don’t pop in anyway.
- RAW – I wish there was a size adjustment for shooting RAW. I don’t always need to shoot these large 24MB files, but I do need to shoot RAW to get the images I like. I just wish there was a smaller RAW file size like there are on some other cameras I’ve shot.
- Focus Tracking – It just isn’t up to the standard of my Nikon D7000. That said, I knew that going in as I didn’t purchase this camera to shoot moving subjects.
- Metering – My NEX 7 is off by .3 to .7 under in almost all circumstances. Thankfully compensation in Aperture Priority and full manual shooting is a cinch with the Tri Navi CONTROL system. Also, thankfully, you can see your all of your adjustments to exposure immediately through the EVF.
- UI (user interface) – It still is not intuitive to me. If there is no direct access external control button, I still have to look through menus to find what I want. I am not exactly certain why I can’t remember where everything is.
- Lens Selection – My biggest beef of all is the crappy native Sony E mount lenses. Truthfully, having shot every single one of the E mount lenses either on the 5N or this 7, the only two Sony lenses I truly enjoy shooting with are the Zeiss 24mm f1.8 and the new Sony 50mm f1.8.
Now, I know for others there are a lot of really important things in a camera. Some of those being flash capability and video. I rarely use flash, although I’m starting to experiment with it, as I am a natural light shooter. Also, I am just starting to play with video but I’ll say up front, my video isn’t “filming”. Right now any kid in high school can likely shoot and edit video better than I. But I can say that the video works pretty darn well for basic interview style videos. I’ll have to report back at another time on those aspects and features of the NEX 7.
For how I shoot and with the awesome Tri Navi system on the NEX 7, I primarily shoot in either Aperture Priority mode or in full manual. I’m really loving shooting full manual these days. Some of this influence is from shooting film and slowing down. However, most of it is because of the combination of control from the Tri Navi dials AND the EVF as I can immediately see what my exposure is. It is so awesome to look through the viewfinder and see my exposure and white balance. It is pretty much what you see is what you get. Simply put, it is awesome.
Before I get to pictures, here is my kit that I am using for an upcoming trip to Japan. I’d love to carry a full frame DSLR, but I just can’t carry the weight nor do I want the bulk of the body & lenses. This kit is optimized to balance function, size and IQ for my photographic needs. This set up is good for both stills and video.
NEX 7 Body w/3 extra batteries
Sony ECMALT1 Stereo Microphone
Sigma 19mm f2.8
Sony E mount Zeiss 24mm f1.8
Sony E mount 50mm f1.8 with OSS
Sony 55-210mm E Mount with OSS
Small Tripod – TBD
All in all, the above kit is wildly capable and pretty darn compact and light.
At this point, I’ll share some pics. These are mostly shot RAW and processed to my liking in Lightroom 3. I know processed images are hard to compare or judge but I don’t really care. There are enough sites out there that do that sort of technical analysis. I just process them to my liking and share them. I will say I am enjoying the RAW files and they have quite a bit of latitude for post processing.
Cuyuna morning – Sigma 19mm E-Mount
Bud – Minolta 50mm f1.7 with LA-EA2 adapter
Trees – Sony 50mm 1.8 E-Mount
Choose the best! – 50mm E mount
Evening light – 50mm E Mount
Hopslam! – 24mm Zeiss E Mount
Icefall – 24mm Zeiss E mount
Jump! (My favorite image with the NEX 7) – 24mm Zeiss E mount
Kid riding to the point – 55-210 E mount
Mickey’s @ St. Paul, MN – 55-210 E mount
N’s 1st swim meet – 50mm E mount
Mukluk paceline – 24mm Zeiss E mount
Toshi @ sunset – 24mm Zeiss E mount
Still life – 5omm E mount
Shuji riding the edge! – 24mm Zeiss E mount
The shack! – 55-210 E mount
Canonet QL-17 – 50mm E mount
I want that rabbit – Minolta 135mm f2.8 with LA-EA1 adapter
Packing up. That’s a wrap! – 50mm E mount
Anyway, hope you enjoyed my Sony NEX 7 impressions. If you’ve got specific questions, leave a comment and I’ll do my best to answer. I’ll also be giving an update down the road. Stay tuned.