Sony NEX-7 Mini Review

I’m not a big fan of micro four thirds cameras.  A lot of folks look at them as excellent entry-level cameras or alternatives to DSLRs but not me.  I look at them as a second camera for serious photographers who do not want to bring along the weight of a DSLR.  If you’re starting out: get a DSLR.  As you skills improve, and you outgrow slow lenses, invest in quality lenses, then upgrade your camera body as your need for custom setups, high ISO and better auto focus arise.  You really can’t do that with a micro four thirds, you’re stuck with the format.  Yes, there’s a range of micro four thirds lenses, but the top end lenses in the market are made for DSLRs.

So, why am I writing about the Sony NEX-7?  First, it’s not a micro four thirds; the NEX-7 sports a full APS-C sensor.  Also, I kind of liked it!  I’m not going to trade in my Canon for it and I still wouldn’t recommend it for someone who asks: “I’m starting out in photography, what camera should I get?”  But, for a photographer who has an extra $1348 or $1198 for the body only, it’s a great camera if you’re looking to travel light.

What I liked:

  • 24.5 megapixel APS-C sensor in a lightweight camera body is nice especially when you want to shoot in public places without drawing too much attention.
  • 10 frames per second.  Enough said!
  • Viewing images in the viewfinder exceeded my expectations.  I’m not talking about composing images, I’m talking about seeing images you just captured.  I can’t explain it, but images almost look like they’re 3D.  It’s magical in an Apple-esque sort of way.  You really have to see it to appreciate it.
  • Articulating screen is handy when you want to shoot down low but don’t want to get down and dirty.

What I didn’t like:

  • The viewfinder is grainy in low light.  Remember, there’s no mirror so it’s not an optical viewfinder; it’s electronic and you will see ISO noise as you’re trying to shoot.  It’s a bit disconcerting seeing ISO noise jump around as you look through at your scene.
  • Ergonomics are still an issue for me.  Mind you, I didn’t spend hours with the NEX-7, so perhaps this is a function of too little time, but I’m not yet convinced the ergonomics are there.  There is something to be said for the DSLR fit in your hand.
  • While there are adapters to allow you to mount just about any lens to the NEX-7, you will invariably lose some image quality.  It will be interesting to see what comes from the manufacturers in the next few years but for now, I still think you’re going to need to buy into lenses designed for the form factor.
Would I buy it?
This would be a shock to some of you who follow me on google+, but yes I would if my requirement was lightweight body that produced high quality images.  It’s great for trekking around the back country or for taking on a vacation (think theme parks).  When you want to go light without sacrificing image quality the NEX-7 is a great choice.