Review: Sony NEX 7 Mirrorless Camera

Ask anyone that really understands cameras and the photography industry and they will tell you that the future of digital cameras is the new mirrorless technology. Without all of the bulk of mechanical mirrors, pentaprisms, and related hardware, a mirrorless camera is much smaller than a regular DSLR. The real beauty of a mirrorless camera is that there is no sacrifice of image quality as the sensors are as good or even better than most DSLRs.  At the top of the heap is the Sony NEX 7 which is the top-of-the-line of the Sony NEX product line.

What is it?

The Sony NEX 7 is a best-of-breed mirrorless camera that sports a 24 megapixel sensor putting it ahead of most APS-C sensor DSLR cameras. The NEX 7 sports a standard Sony hot shoe (although Sony has now switched their hot shoe design for newer cameras). If you are into shooting video, the NEX 7 is the only camera in the NEX lineup that has a microphone input jack.

Specifications

  • 24MP APS-C CMOS sensor (shared with the SLT A-77 and A-65)
  • ISO 100-16000 (100-1600 in Auto)
  • Built-in 2.4M dot OLED EVF with eye sensor
  • Electronic first-curtain shutter (cuts response time from 100ms to 20ms)
  • ‘AVCHD Progressive’ 1080p60 HD movie recording with built-in stereo mic
  • Tilting rear screen
  • Three-dial user interface
  • Built in flash and Alpha hotshoe
  • Infra-red remote control receiver
  • Microphone input socket
When compared to the NEX 5n, the NEX 7 is a bit larger and adds the hot shoe, pop-up flash, and electronic viewfinder.
The top view shows the new integrated on/off/shutter control and the two programmable dial controls. Since I generally shoot in manual mode, I have one dial for aperture and one for shutter speed.
Having had the NEX 5n for the past five months I really wanted to have a viewfinder but I couldn’t justify spending the almost $300 for the add-on viewfinder for the 5n, especially since you can’t use the viewfinder and the flash at the same time. With the NEX 7 you have a built-in viewfinder and a pop-up flash so you can use both. After a few days of using the viewfinder on the NEX 7, I have really come to love it. Unlike a DSLR which is just an optical view through the lens with a little bit of data around the outside of the image, the viewfinder on the NEX 7 is basically a miniature monitor which gives you all of the same info you get on the large LCD on the back including a histogram, digital level, camera settings, and much more.

Who is it for?

Given the high price point ($1,350 for body and lens) and large megapixel sensor, the NEX 7 is geared towards higher end professionals who are looking for top-notch images in a travel-size camera. Since the NEX 7 images are as good or better than any APS-C camera, you are getting a lot of bang for the buck with the NEX 7. My primary camera is a Canon EOS 7D which is a mere 18mp versus the NEX 7’s 24 megapixels. What’s missing from the NEX 7 is more control over audio input. If you want a pocketable camera that doesn’t scrimp anywhere, has excellent image quality, and does great video, the NEX 7 might just be your perfect camera.

How well does it work?

The NEX 7 is an impressive camera with a very robust set of features. The NEX 7 is certainly a step up from the 5n in a number of areas such as megapixel size, mic input, programmable dials, and additional controls. What is oddly missing from the NEX 7 is the touchscreen that is on the NEX 5n. Even though it is at the top of the price scale for a mirrorless camera (aside from the Fuji X1 Pro) its there for a reason. The Sony NEX 7 is the camera for professionals who do not want to sacrifice on features just to have a portable camera.

Final Verdict

Personally I am having trouble justifying the cost of the NEX 7 when the NEX 6 is a great camera that has even more features such as the integrated WiFi, Downloadable Apps, and the new Sony Intelligent Hot Shoe for $200 less. When a new version of the NEX 7 is released in the future with the WiFi and new Hot Shoe then my opinion may sway back to the NEX 7 because of the larger image size and the microphone jack. Because these new features are sure to come out soon in a revamped NEX 7 variant, I would recommend waiting until a new version is released or go today with an NEX 5R (newer 5 version with WiFi feature) or a NEX 6.

Sony Web Site: Sony.com
Technical Review: http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/sonynex7/
Sony NEX 7: $1,349 @ Amazon.com

Special Thanks

I would like to thank BorrowLenses.com for providing the camera for this review. Please consider using them for your camera rental needs.


KerryG

Kerry Garrison is a wedding, portrait, and product photographer living in southern California. With 10 years of experience shooting products and 3 years of experience in the wedding industry, Kerry brings a good deal of technical know-how and can explain topics in easy-to-understand terms. Kerry's work can be found at http://kerrygarrison.com and on Facebook at http://facebook.com/KerryGarrison

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