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Sony NEX-7: short review

Discussion in 'Other Systems' started by Armanius, Mar 8, 2012.

  1. Armanius

    Armanius Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 23, 2010
    Houston
    Muttley
    I put a deposit on a NEX-7 at the local shop a while ago, and then forgot about it. The store got the NEX-7 two days ago and when they called me, I couldn't resist. My justification for buying it (other than pure GAS) was that it could potentially replace the Leica M9 as an easier way to manually focus M lenses. I have the Sony E mount 16mm, but I haven't used it on the NEX-7 except to take one self portrait and seeing how quickly the camera auto focuses. The lenses that I primarily used on the NEX-7 were the Zeiss ZM28/2.8, Zeiss ZM50/2, and Voigtlander Skopar 50/2.5. I also shot solely in RAW and processed the images via LR4. So all my comments pertain to RAW only.

    IMAGE QUALITY

    When pixel peeping at 100%, there's noise even at low ISO's. At low ISO's, the noise is primarily confined to the shadow areas. By 800, there's noise throughout the entire frame when pixel peeping. It gradually increases, and 6400 was the highest that I went to. That being said, the noise is extremely fine and doesn't get blotchy. There's also very little if any chroma noise. It's very "film-like". More importantly, because it doesn't get blotchy, the details are still there at 6400 in spite of the noise.

    Now here's the really good news. The 24 mp files yields an image of 6000x4000 pixels (at 300 dpi, that's about a 20x14 print). Most people would not be using a file of that size for any purposes. Downsampling the size of the file by 50% to a 3000x2000 pixels photo, noise is gone or reduced dramatically without the application of any noise reduction during processing. The photo looks great, and the details are still there.

    The NEX-7's files are also very workable in Lightroom 4. If downsizing is not desired as a mean to reduce noise, LR4 does a pretty good job of reducing noise with the luminance slider. More importantly, LR4 does a swell job with sharpening after noise reduction is applied.

    When combined with the Voigtlander and Zeiss M lenses, the photos had a great quality to them. The photos had a good "pop." I'll post some of the photos later.

    THE CAMERA BODY

    Very well built. The NEX-7 exudes quality. The camera even comes in a nicer box (than the usual Sony boxes) with a little suede cloth covering the camera. That's Sony taking a cue from Apple marketing. But going back to the camera itself, most of the camera is magnesium alloy, but the grip is covered with a softer non-slip material. It makes the NEX-7 easily the best NEX to hold. I've used and owned at one point or another the NEX3, 5 and 5N. Unfortunately, when using a Leica M adapter and a lens with a big lens barrel, I had very little room for my fingers between the grip and the lens barrel. Someone with fatter fingers may have a bigger problem - no pun intended.

    The controls are well placed given the scarcity of real estate to insert all those buttons and dials. The rear jog dial (which allows for the control of ISO when in any of the PASM modes) didn't give me any problems. Many folks have complained that they were accidentally changing the ISO.

    The NEX-7 is highly customizable. Unfortunately, the customization process takes a little time to figure out. In fact, the entire interface takes a little time to figure out. Even though there are more direct controls in the NEX-7, Sony did not create a brand new user interface for the NEX-7. Instead, Sony appears to have taken the current NEX user interface, stuck the twin dials on the NEX-7, and forgot to give much thought on how to best utilize the additional physical controls. The menu system is still very confusing (just like in all other NEX), and I found myself wondering way too often which menu I had to go into to find a particular control. To be fair, I'm sure if I spend more time with the NEX-7, I'd eventually remember where everything is.

    OPERATION and PEFORMANCE

    Camera powers on pretty quickly. AF is fast when using the 16mm lens. Shutter lag is non-existent. While I didn't take more than a couple of photos with the NEX-7 set on auto focus, it seemed to do a decent job even under poor lighting and without the AF assist light. I have not used the AF assist light on the NEX-7, but I'm assuming that it is more or less the same as the other NEX's.

    The tilt rear LCD is the same as the other NEX's, which is very good. No touch LCD like the NEX-5n.

    The EVF is very very good. It's actually even good under poor lighting. I'd say that it's the best EVF in the market right now, which is identical to the clip-on EVF for the NEX-5n. It's better than the EVF for the Pany G1/G3/GH2, Sony A55, and Fuji X100. It's also better than the Oly VF-2 external EVF.

    The good thing about the LCD/EVF in the Sony cameras is the "real" exposure and WB preview. What you see is what you get (for the most part). In the GF2 and GH2, what I see did not match up with the final output was way too often.

    MANUAL FOCUS

    The peaking implementation on the NEX-7 works slightly better than the one on the GXR, and I was able to achieve critical focus more often with the NEX-7. However, I was disappointed that the shimmering from the peaking on the NEX-7 was much more pronounced when seen via the LCD as opposed to the EVF. For whatever reason, the EVF does not show the same amount of shimmering as the LCD. So the stability advantage of using the EVF is lost, because peaking doesn't work as well when using the EVF.

    When using focus magnify, the shimmer from the peaking also disappears (on both the LCD and EVF). On rare occasions, I can see a little bit of shimmer. But 95% of the time, there's not shimmer at all.

    The shimmer from the peaking also appears only on super high contrast and nearly vertical areas. So when looking at a human face with a white background, the shimmer will appear primarily on the countours of the face where it meets the white background. There's no shimmering on the facial features. If I'm trying to focus on the subject's eyes, peaking is all but useless. Fortunately, the combination of the EVF's high resolution and the focus magnify still allows for critical focusing. But it would have been better if peaking worked well when using EVF and when using magnify.

    PRELIMINARY CONCLUSION

    In spite of the noise even at lower ISO, the NEX-7 can produce excellent image quality. The camera is well built, has a great LCD, and an even better EVF. To me, the NEX-7 is a great camera to use with auto focus lenses (either native E mount lenses, or A mount lenses using the new and expensive EA-2 adapter). But for manual focus M lenses, the rangefinder is still a more effective way to manually focus. I was really hoping that the use of the EVF, peaking and magnify would turn the NEX-7 intro a true manual focus champ. Alas, that was not the case for me. Because the NEX-7 was intended to be a M9 replacement, I am 99% sure I won't keep the NEX-7, and have posted my NEX-7 for sale in FredMiranda.com.
     
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  2. elandel

    elandel Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 16, 2010
    Milan, Italy
    Nice review and you got straight to the point.:thumbup:

    You also owned 5 and 5n; was there any difference in MF?
     
  3. duke

    duke Mu-43 Veteran

    420
    Dec 4, 2010
    Tulsa, moving to Houston
    Duke
    Hmm, I've owned the NEX3 & 7 and both have been really great in regard to peaking. Have you turned it to medium or high? Honestly peaking is the fastest most accurate way to focus that I've used.
     
  4. Armanius

    Armanius Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 23, 2010
    Houston
    Muttley
    Thanks Barbaro. I never used the peaking on the 5 or 5n. I only used it on the 3 and 7. But I assume that they'd have been all the same.

    I did have peaking on high and tried it with all the colors. Peaking worked fine on the LCD. But the shimmering decreased considerably when using the EVF, which was disappointing for me, because I like to have the camera against my eye. On your NEX7, there's no difference in the peaking shimmer between the LCD and EVF? Did you ever see shimmering (whether using the LCD or EVF) around a subject's eyes?
     
  5. duke

    duke Mu-43 Veteran

    420
    Dec 4, 2010
    Tulsa, moving to Houston
    Duke
    I think there was the decreased effect in the evf but I still definitely saw it, and it does outline the eyes too. Was it a high contrast area that you were trying it in? I've had instances when the peaking wouldn't really do anything, but they've always been in really low contrast scenarios.
     
  6. Armanius

    Armanius Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 23, 2010
    Houston
    Muttley
    Maybe I'm blind and haven't seen the shimmer around any eyes. And most certainly, no shimmer around eyes when using the EVF. I read somewhere that the peaking on the NEX is restricted mainly to vertical high contrast lines. Which could explain why I haven't seen shimmering around eyes.
     
  7. duke

    duke Mu-43 Veteran

    420
    Dec 4, 2010
    Tulsa, moving to Houston
    Duke
    I don't know what you mean by the peaking being restricted to vertical lines. This is basically how it has always worked for me :
    [ame=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sJxUiLqPUgQ&feature=related]Sony NEX-3 firmware 04 peak mode test - YouTube[/ame]
     
  8. shnitz

    shnitz Mu-43 Top Veteran

    989
    Aug 25, 2011
    Austin, TX
    Are you sure you're comparing the noise measurements fairly? If one believes the objective noise measurements online, the NEX7 noise results are about twice as good as your current m4/3 cameras, and nigh-identical to the NEX-5n. Keep in mind that zooming in to the pixel level on the NEX-7 is a much higher magnification than any of your current cameras. Your results seem counter to these measurements and observations by some of the more prolific camera reviewers.
     
  9. Armanius

    Armanius Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 23, 2010
    Houston
    Muttley
    I shot everything in RAW, so there was no NR applied even at low ISO. And there was some noise in the shadows seen at 100%, even in the low ISO photos. But like I also wrote, it was very fine noise, and it really didn't bother me at all. Once I applied a little bit of NR to the high ISO photos, and/or downsampled it in size, most if not all of the noise was gone. And I could still sharpen the photos without much problem at all. So overall, I am very impressed with the NEX7's image quality. I do not believe I made any comparisons to any other systems on my short review. But if I had to rate the NEX7 vs. the current crop of m4/3 cameras that I've owned/own (including the GH2 and G3), the NEX7 would come out on top. In any event, I'm not quite sure what you mean that my results counter the measurements or observations of the more "prolific camera reviewers."
     
  10. Armanius

    Armanius Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 23, 2010
    Houston
    Muttley
    I haven't seen any shimmering around human eyes. Maybe my subjects need to wear more mascara! :smile:
     
  11. I thought Armando's findings matched what I have read about the NEX 7. The per pixel noise in RAW is significant, but the massive resolution allows you to reduce the noise by downsampling or applying more aggressive noise reduction without sacrificing too much detail.

    Sony NEX-7 In-Depth Review: Digital Photography Review
     
  12. Armanius

    Armanius Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 23, 2010
    Houston
    Muttley
    Massive is an understatement!!! :smile: Even in the iMac 27's screen, I still have to scroll around a good deal to see all parts of the photo when pixel peeping! And yes, I am a peeper!! :wink:
     
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