Sony NEX-7 review
23.5x15.6mm 24.0-megapixel sensor, 3.0x zoom (27-82.5mm equivalent), 544g
Its photos aren't too shabby either. Automatic exposures were reliably attractive, and while we wish that the Auto ISO mode wasn't capped at 1600, anyone spending this much money will probably be happy to adjust settings as required.
The NEX-5N may be even better at ISO 6400 but this is still a superb camera for low-light shooting - click to enlarge
The 24-megapixel sensor is extremely impressive. It couldn't quite match the 16-megapixel NEX-5N and NEX-C3 for low noise at ISO 6400 and 12800, but it was still significantly cleaner and more detailed than any other CSC. Photos at ISO 3200 were broadly on a par with the NEX-5N, and at slower ISO speeds the NEX-7 took the lead with its extra detail. Noise reduction was fairly heavy-handed, but those who want to squeeze every ounce of detail out of photos are likely to want to shoot in RAW mode anyway.
That won't get around the limitations of the NEX-7's 18-55mm kit lens, though. Sharpness at the focus point was excellent but it deteriorated towards the edges of frames at wide apertures. This is the same lens that comes with other NEX cameras, but the NEX-7's higher resolution makes the lens's shortcomings more apparent.
Focus is inconsistent across the frame at wide apertures, as this comparison between the centre and edge of the frame shows - click to enlarge
It's not necessarily a disaster. It's arguably desirable for portraits, and it's avoidable by closing the aperture. However, it proved frustrating in landscape and group portrait shots where there wasn't enough light for a small aperture. This isn't the only E-Mount lens, of course – there are six others available or coming soon, including four primes. However, the only other one we've had a chance to test is the 16mm f/2.8 pancake, and it's not any better for corner-to-corner focus at wide apertures.
No camera is perfect, but when one costs over £1,000 it needs to come pretty close. In some respects the NEX-7 lives up to the price – and the hype. The design is gorgeous, the viewfinder is a real treat and, after some initial reservations, we came to really like the controls. Autofocus speed is disappointing, though, and the E-Mount lens range is yet to prove itself. The 24-megapixel sensor is mightily impressive, but because it exhibits both more detail and more noise than the NEX-5N's sensor, it doesn't constitute a massive upgrade in practical terms.
We'd probably like the NEX-7 even more if the Sony NEX-5N didn't exist. It's a fantastic camera – and the best CSC we've seen – but it's not worth twice as much as the NEX-5N. Still, its gorgeous design means we can imagine many photographers choosing with their hearts rather than their heads.