117 of 124 people found the following review helpful
Capable of great images but concerns around the AF system
, 3 Mar. 2012
This review is from: Sony NEX7KB.CEH Digital Compact System Camera with 18-55 Lens Kit (24.3MP, 10x Digital Zoom) 3.0 inch LCD Screen (Camera)
This is a fairly long review, but then this isn't a cheap camera! I invested a lot of time as well as money in choosing the NEX-7 so wanted to share both pre and post purchase thoughts.
One area where digital photography has never really equalled 35mm film is compact cameras. In the days of film I carried a Canon SureShot 35mm camera everywhere and although it had a fixed lens, it was capable of excellent images. Since transferring to digital, I still like to have a camera with me whenever possible, but carting a 5DMkII around everywhere is impractical. So I've owned several compact digicams over the years but the tiny sensor size means that fine detail in, say, a landscape is just not captured plus I really dislike having to use an LCD on the back to compose a shot.
In recent years, manufacturers have started to address the sensor size issue with the M4/3 format and the larger still APS-C sensor. Canon have also announced the G1X, whose sensor is between M4/3 and APS-C. So this was the time to replace my Canon G10, which stays in my bag but I don't especially enjoy using. I have to say this was the most difficult photography decision I've made to make! There is no such thing as the perfect camera in this area of the market, they all have their pros and cons so I recommend you do what I finally did and draw up a list of the things that are most important to you and match the camera to that and not vice versa.
For me, the most important things are: a decent viewfinder, image quality, replaceable lenses, and control over settings. The Sony NEX-7 meets all of those but the viewfinder was the killer feature for me as I really, really hate having to hold a camera away from my face to compose. That the viewfinder is integrated into the body and not an optional extra was important. That the NEX-7 can accept my existing Canon lenses via adaptors sealed it.
The first thing I have to mention is the packaging: Sony have definitely taken a leaf out of Apple's book here - it just exudes quality as you gradually open layers to finally reveal, under a quality cleaning cloth, the body and lens nestled in velvet-like compartments. The body itself also inspires confidence, solid, sturdy, yet not too heavy. The same can't quite be said for the kit lens, which is almost too light and the supplied lens hood also doesn't click into place with any certainty. A strap is supplied, along with battery charger & mains and USB leads. There are three manual: a Getting Started guide, an Operations Manual and, on CD, the full Instructions.
You will need to read all of these to set the camera up optimally; it's amazingly configurable, almost like designing your own camera controls. If this is your first top range camera you might take a while to find the most suitable configuration; I've set mine up to follow my normal DSLR usage: in aperture priority, with one control dial setting aperture and the other exposure compenation. Both the viewfinder and the LCD show a live approximation of the exposure that will result and a live histogram can also be included in the display. This really makes it easy to gauge the end result. It's not the smallest camera body around but I have largeish hands and find it more comfortable than the Olympus Pen for example.
Talking of viewfinder, the electronic viewfinder is the first I've used but I really like it. It displays 100% of the scene with a variety of other information either around or superimposed on it, including focus points. Talking of focussing, reviews have referred to the AF system being poor. Compared to a DLSR and the latest M4/3 cameras, in dim light it is and I was initially disappointed. But the manual focussing is so well implemented that in reality I've not found this to be a major issue. Press the manual focus button on the rear and as soon as you touch the focus wheel the camera magnifies the image. I've suffered with astigmatism for years and struggle to focus manually on an SLR but have had no problems with this method.
There is so much to this camera that I could go on but I'll restrict myself to image quality. I mentioned earlier that the kit lens feels of less physical quality than the body and the same is true to a certain extent of image quality. Certainly the 24MP sensor will benefit from better quality glass, but the kit lens isn't that bad unless you're a persistent pixel peeper. Forget pixels and look at the pictures instead and it's fine as a starting point. It's reassuring to know that the body is capable of better things and, via adaptors, can use lenses from other manufacturers. I'm already looking at Canon adaptors so I can use my old 50mm f1.4 or EFS 17-85mm, both of which are good quality and lightweight. As manual focus is so well implemented (and I haven't mentioned the focus peaking ability) I don't see that being a big issue for me. The camera rarely exposes wrongly and even if it does get caught out, with the live exposure view you will already see this before pressing the shutter in most cases.
Summing up, I had to think long and hard about which system to get into, comparing the pros and cons of each before listing my priorities and finding a camera to match. The NEX-7 won't suit everyone but definitely put it on your shortlist. If I could give 4 1/2 stars I would but I have to drop one star for the AF - in a camera at this price is it disappointing. Overall though, I've had more fun with this camera in a couple of days than I had with all the other compacts I've owned put together. It doesn't make you feel limited in any way.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews
Was this review helpful to you?