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Sony NEX-7 First Look

Sony NEX-7

I have no Sony lens, only a NEX-7 body with adapters for Leica M lenses and Nikon lenses. The Voigtlander 35mm f/1.2 II ASPH works well ergonomically on the NEX-7, a very nice balance and feel, if on the large side.

When working with the Sony NEX-7 with manual lenses, such as Leica M or Voigtlander, these settings are critical for usability:

  • Enable Enable Release w/o Lens
  • Enable MF Assist
  • MF Assist Time = No Limit

Noise at ISO 100 is a far cry from what can get with a full-frame 24MP Nikon D3x. Which is to say about what one might expect from cramming 24MP into an APS-C sensor— good, considering the pixel size, but rather grainy under real world conditions at dusk where exposures involve dark areas. Then again, there is no way I’d want to carry the D3s/D3x when cycling! All things in proper context.

Ergonomics are decent for this type of camera, and given my advancing presbyopia*, the electronic viewfinder (EVF) is a mandatory feature; the rear LCD is impossible for my eyes to focus on without holding the camera well in front of me, at least in not so bright light.

As is usual with such cameras, the user interface is littered with irrelevant settings that degrade the usability. These settings persist even when made irrelevant by the choice of RAW (and are largely useless anyway). What’s wrong with one electronic colon-cleanse setting that says “hide all moron-mode and irrelevant settings”? Where is the Steve Jobs of the camera industry who could un-f*ck all this? It’s not just Sony of course.

A shutter speed dial like the Fuji X100 would go a long way to making the camera feel like a camera instead of a gadget (but real credit goes to Sony for a really solid handgrip). The flush-inset button to zoom in for focusing is madeningly hard to find by touch, impossibly so with gloves (do your hands get cold at 35° F? Mine do). The NEX-7 is not a well designed camera from an ergonomics point of view, but I’d still rate it as “good” in the context of the “horrible” of most point and shoot size cameras, and both better and worse than the Fuji X100.

Shooting Leica M lenses on the M9 vs the NEX-7 (an M9 2nd body in effect) leads me to the Leica M9 with all its shortcomings: I can shoot it with gloves on in 20° weather, and it’s a lovely camera that never feels like a gadget. And costs 6X as much, and will be worth 20X as much as the NEX-7 two years from now (when the latest gadget camera has devalued the NEX-7 by 80%), and still work great. Value is not just the initial purchase price, and the M9 has absolutely been money well spent, now 2+ years later.

I like the NEX-7 to a point, but $1200 without a lens is steep (and I have zero interest in a slow “kit” lens). Especially since its lens-bulge ergonomics do not make it a pocket camera or cycling jersey camera. Still, for those lusting after 24 megapixels, it’s at a reasonable price point, unless that rumored 36MP Nikon D800 comes in under $2.5K.

I’ll have a report on the NEX-7 from the point of view of use as a field camera. I am not interested in much of anything with it other than its ability to solve photographic challenges; can it produce pleasing images under the conditions I shoot? Evaluating it as a point-and-shoot camera for sunny day snapshots is in my view, absurd. A $200 camera can handle that job just fine. I am going to hold it to a higher standard, as I did with the Fuji X100.

* presbyopia = farsightedness caused by loss of elasticity of the lens of the eye, occurring typically in middle and old age.

Crescent moon over the Pacific Ocean
Sony NEX-7 + Voigtlander 35mm f/1.2 II ASPH
Crescent moon through fog
Sony NEX-7 + Voigtlander 35mm f/1.2 II ASPH
Top of Page Mill Road
Sony NEX-7 + Voigtlander 35mm f/1.2 II ASPH
Supplemental illumination with Lupine Betty II
Bush in dense fog
Sony NEX-7 + Voigtlander 35mm f/1.2 II ASPH
A couple embraces photography at Russian Ridge at Dusk
Sony NEX-7 + Voigtlander 35mm f/1.2 II ASPH
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