Sony NEX-7 review
All the usual NEX traits: outstanding image and video quality, lethargic autofocus, iffy focus from the kit lens. Sumptuous ergonomics only just help it to justify the high price
Review Date: 31 Jan 2012
Price when reviewed: £1,129
Reviewed By: Ben Pitt
Performance is generally excellent. We measured a shade over half a second between shots in normal use, and 1.8 seconds with the flash at full power. The 10fps burst mode lasted for around 15 frames before slowing to the speed of the card. The huge resolution meant this slowdown was sharp, though – testing with a Panasonic UHS-1 SDHC card, we achieved 1.7fps for JPEGs and 0.7fps for RAW after the initial 10fps burst. An alternative burst mode started at 3.1fps and lasted for around 25 JPEGs before slowing. Enabling continuous autofocus reduced the burst speed to around 1.4fps.
This hints at the NEX-7's biggest weakness – autofocus speed. As with the NEX-5N, autofocus is more in keeping with compact cameras than SLRs or the fastest CSCs. This didn't have a huge impact in brightly lit environments but it struggled in dim lighting, especially with moving subjects and at longer focal lengths. The camera often used low light as an excuse to ignore the focus point we'd specified, focusing instead on whatever it deemed was easiest.
The video capture mode is outstanding. Recordings are in AVCHD format at 25fps or 50fps (progressive scan or interlaced), with bit rates up to 28Mbit/s ensuring minimal compression artefacts. Autofocus was smooth and silent, and the lens's zoom ring is nicely damped to enable smooth zooms. There's full control over exposure settings using exactly the same controls as for photos. Sensitivity for video capture goes up to ISO 3200, and noise levels at that setting were incredibly low.
The NEX-5N's video mode matches all of these traits, and its touchscreen makes it easy to move the focus point while recording. This is possible on the NEX-7 but it's much trickier via the navigation pad. On the upside, a Peaking function highlights areas of the frame that are in focus, which makes manual focus possible while videoing – something that's virtually impossible on other CSCs.
The video mode also benefits from a microphone socket. It would be even more useful if it was joined by a headphone socket, manual volume control and level metering, but it confirms the NEX-7's standing as a serious videographer's tool.
A little unfair - worth 5 stars in my book
As photography tool, this blows the NEX 5N out of the water. The only way I could see any low light difference was by pixel peeping. The AF is much better described than in the review, at least as good as a recent Olympus PEN I tested in low light. It isn't as good as aDSLR at AF but it isn't competing with them. I disagree that noise is a problem, in 99% of conditions I shoot in this produces higher quality results than the 5n (particularly with the Zeiss 24mm lens).
The only downsides for me (I saw the lack of a touch screen as a real plus) were the position of the video button and the NEX refusal to implement a mode dial.
Having said that, 3 control wheels puts it up with the X100 for ease of use for photographers who shoot mainly (or delve into) in A, S, and M modes.
The TRI NAVI controls, improved image quality (over the already excellent nex 5n) and EVF easily make this worth twice the NEX 5n.
By Sgoldswo on 2 Feb 2012
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