Why I’m not buying the Sony NEX-7

Sony NEX-7 Screen shot

Sony NEX-7 (courtesy of the Sony website)

Read my latest option about this camera after the latest reviews and getting to personally play with the camera.

The Sony NEX-7 is the current hot camera in a string of must have cameras. Last year it was the Fujifilm X100. Each year the camera manufactures ramp up the specs and features to entice the consumers to open up their wallet and upgrade to the latest shiny object. That is understandable, I guess it is their job to create desirable products to increase sales. However, as customers, we need to think about if what is being offered really is a benefit to us. While it seems like many people are excited about the Sony, it just does not seem to interest me.

At first blush, it seems curious that I’m not more excited about the new NEX-7. After all, I’m already a Sony NEX customer. I purchased my NEX-5 last year. And while the NEX-5 is a fine camera, there are definitely things that I would like to be improved, as I wrote in my review. The NEX-7 is targeted for the serious hobbyist and it seems to address many of my gripes with the NEX-5. I seem like the perfect demographic. So why aren’t I interested?

First, I admit it is a bit unfair to judge a product before I personally used it for a while. And it is true, I have not used or even seen this new Sony. However, the reviews and photographic samples are starting to trickle in and something just does not seem right. The biggest issue I have is with the 24MP sensor. I had some major concerns when this camera was first announced and the early reviews seem to confirm my fears. Sony did not have a breakthrough in sensor technology or change the laws of physics. The sensor is indeed a lot noisier at higher ISOs, much more than the lower cost NEX-5n. For me, high ISO performance or low light performance is very important. If you see my work, I often take photographs indoors or in the evening or at night. Having great low light performance is very important to me. Clearly the NEX-7 is a disappointment in this area.

But there are other problems with 24MP sensor. What is the use of having such a high-resolution sensor when Sony’s current crop of Sony E-mount lenses are not sharp enough even at 14MP. From what I’ve been told, you need some spectacular lenses to resolve images well enough to take advantage of such a high-resolution sensor. It is interesting that the new EOS-1D X, Canon’s new flagship camera that was just announced, which has a full size 35mm sensor, tops out at 18.1MP. Even Canon has realized that just upping the megapixels does not improve image quality and in many ways decreases image quality. When you have large 24MP RAW files, you also have larger files that suck up more memory card space, uses more hard drive space and requires faster computers to process all those extra megapixels. I have a Canon 7D which is also a 18MP camera. My RAW files are 24 megabytes each. This seriously sucks up a lot of space and computing power. I wonder how big the RAW files are from the 24MP NEX-7?

The newly announced Zeiss 24mm f1.8, which lists for $999.99, may make a formidable pair with the NEX-7 but keep in mind this combination is going to set you back over $2000. Steve Huff, in his Sony NEX-7 review said “The Zeiss 24 1.8 QUICKLY became my favorite lens on the NEX-7. While it is not clinicaly sharp, it has character… and to me, that is way more important that hyper sharpness. … The Zeiss Sonnar has a “smooth” character.” I don’t know about you but for $1000, that lens should be clinically sharp AND smooth. I want my photographs to have character, but I’ll determine the character image and not have the lens do it for me. We are not talking about lens babies here. This Zeiss is the flagship lens for the flagship NEX product. It better be sharp enough to resolve gloriously sharp images with that 24MP sensor.

Another option for me will be to use some of my Canon lenses, with an adapter, on the NEX-7. I like to shoot urban landscapes and architecture. If I can have a smaller body and use my super-wide Sigma 10-20mm lens, that could be very beneficial for me. For my landscapes, I usually shoot them on tripod at ISO 100. The high-resolution 24MP sensor could be useful here. The thing is, I often use HDR techniques to enhance my landscapes and unfortunately the Sony’s exposure bracketing only goes up to 0.7ev. I need at least +/- 2.0ev range at 3 exposures to do a proper HDR. I can manually change these settings but this is less desirable since manual fiddling with the controls increases the possibility of camera movement between the exposures. If Sony changes the exposure bracketing to at least a 2ev range, the NEX-7 certainly will become more interesting.

So what would I have liked instead? Give me the NEX-5n sensor with the NEX-7 body. The Tri-navi interface looks wonderful. Sony did a nice job rethinking the camera controls. Too bad the sensor had to be pumped up that much. I admit it. I’m cheap or frugal, if that sounds better. I don’t want to pay for stuff that I don’t use and it looks like there is an awfully large number of pixels on the NEX-7 that I won’t be using. Maybe next year Sony will come out with the NEX-5n plus or NEX-6 that has that nice interface with a lower resolution sensor. While you are at it give me a super clean high ISO sensor at 12MP similar to what is in the Fuji X100. Now that would be a NEX that I’ll really get excited about.

16 thoughts on “Why I’m not buying the Sony NEX-7

  1. You are certainly right in that it is unfair to judge in the way you do;
    – Dissing the Zeiss lens on the basis of just how Steve describes it’s character
    – The RAW files of the A77 are around 24MB (http://dpnow.com/8229.html) so I would guess the NEX7 will be the same. So there is no increase when compared to your Canon
    – Higher Resolution + bit more noise seems to be prefereable to lower resolution/less noise according to some knowledgeable sources;
    – I am guessing HDR exposure bracketing is the same as on the previous models. So the same as on the NEX you already got?
    – I for one am waiting for some serious reviews before jumping to (and blogging about) my conclusions
    Kind regards

    1. IggyPop, thank you for you visit and comments. I agree with you, I may be premature in my statements about the Zeiss. I hope the lens turns out to be a good lens for the NEX system. It really needs some strong prime lenses. Some knowledgeable sources may prefer higher resolution with a bit more noise but I don’t. There are multiple sources including Steve’s review and DPreivew that clearly show the NEX-7 to be noisier. If getting a high-res file at a lower ISO is my primary purpose, then the NEX-7 may be fine, however, that is not my primary purpose. So for someone that does landscapes on tripod or portraits in studio lighting, the NEX-7 might be an excellent compact camera. I, on the other hand, take a lot of low light images. Both of my family and during street photography. Having low light performance is very important for me. Yes, you are correct that the NEX-7’s exposure bracketing is the same as NEX-5. That is also why I don’t use my NEX-5 for manually created HDRs either. If you have read my reviews, they are written after extensive usage. However this is not a review of the NEX-7, it is an observation of why I’m not buying a NEX-7. I can also conclude that high ISO performance is not its forte, which for me, takes it out of consideration. Now keep in mind that, the camera may be an excellent choice for you and other people — just not for me.

  2. I agree with your post, Andy. I’m not convinced that a large sensor is necessary and I think Sony marketing department may have had a hand it that approach. But I do feel Sony has really pushed the other Camera companies with innovative features like peaking, their stunning EVF and those controls. I think many of us crave the simplicity of our old film cameras’ controls but who wants to give up all the gee-whiz digital bells and whistles? Imagine taking a NEX-7 with a M4/3-size sensor and all those new Oly and Pany-sized lens out into the street…. Nice write-up Andy, I like your reviews

    1. Thanks Bill. Yes, I do applaud Sony for taking risks and coming out with innovative designs. There is much to like about the NEX-7, for me though, I just wished it had a lower pixel count with better high ISO performance. The strong point, right now, with the m4/3 system is its selection of great lenses. I agree with you, it would be fantastic if somehow the m4/3 lenses can be used on the Sony. Alas, as you correctly mentioned, this is not possible because of the sensor size difference.

  3. I’m not a sensor designer but the NEX-7’s pixel density sounds rather excessive for that sensor size. It is frustrating to see megapixel count jump for what IMO amounts to marketing hype directed at the majority of consumers and hobbyists who don’t know any better. Bigger number MUST be better, right? Umm…probably not. I believe that Canon would have bumped the 1DX higher if they could. The problem becomes pulling the large amount of data off the sensor fast enough to get the burst rate they wanted. My guess is that 18mp is the limit of the data pathways to pull off 12 frames/sec. If they could pull 24mp off the sensor at that rate, that’s probably what the pixel density would be.

  4. You maybe right about the Canon. I guess we will see in the future if Canon stops at 18. Of course the 5DMII is at 21. Lets see what the Mark III will bring. I like what Nikon is doing with the high ISO 12MP pro lines.

  5. So i have a Sony Nex c3 can i use this for any type of pro photos like ones to sell like weddings or portraits and how good are the nex zoom lens the sony 18-200 or the new Tamron 18-200mm F/3.5-6.3 Di III VC Lens for Sony E Mount Cameras do you have any exp with these i cant find any info im looking for a good all around lens , do i need the sony 50mm for portits or can i use the 18-200mm? And if not what kinda camera and lens is reccomended maybe i should-int keep the nex c3?

    1. Brian the NEX C3 is a great camera and more than enough to get professional results however, keep in mind that it all depends on what your are shooting and in what kind of conditions. The NEX C3 is not going to be a professional sports camera for example, so you are not going to get the same kind of results as a professional at NFL games, the Olympics or even a indoor basketball court. As for weddings, as long as the light is good, it should work for you. If the church or reception area is really dark, it going to be more challenging.

      In general, the 18-200 is a great one lens solution, especially when traveling where you can get a whole range of compositions from on lens. Because they are a do everything type of lens they tend not to be optically the best and they tend to be non-optimal for lower light conditions. You can shoot portraits with the 18-200 but a 50mm lens should give you a higher quality portrait with the background nicely out of focus. It will also be better for lower light conditions.

      1. Ok i will probably get both lens the debate now is the sony 18-200mm lens better then the Tamron 18-200mm F/3.5-6.3 Di III VC I guess you would say im kind of a begginer but i am very very particaler with how photos look i think pics look noisey or not clear enough while other people think they looks just fine. Im not sure if there is any dif between the 2 zoom lens also i hear the flash will not fit with a 18-200mm lens on there? Thanks for your info so far, and Great Photos

  6. One more thing what would one use the SEL24F18Z Sonnar T* E24mm F1.8 ZA wide angle lens for? Like Landscapes? Would it be better then then nex 50mm for portraits? I duno about spending that kinda money but everyone says there great but i don’t want to purchase something im not gong to use

    1. Brian, the 24mm certainly can be used for landscapes but it is not that wide. With the crop factor this 24mm is really a 36mm (you need to multiply the lens focal length by 1.5 to determine the crop factor on the NEX). I personally prefer a wider angle for landscapes but there is no rule that says you can’t use a 36mm.

      The 24mm might make a nice environmental portrait lens, where you get the person and their surrounding in the image. The 50mm will tend to create more of a classic portrait with more of a closeup on the person, though of corse, it would depend on your distance from the subject. I actually has a post today that shows the difference between a 40mm and 90mm lens which is close to your 36mm vs. 75mm setup you are asking about.

      The Zeiss lens is certainly expensive and I’m not personally going to buy it anytime soon however, Zeiss makes some fine lenses and I’m sure this 24mm will be very good.

  7. I guess i will just have to play around with it everyone is telling me i cant take pictures that are sell-able as extra income like senior photos or portraits whats your idea on that as you have used one. I know there isint many lens available for them , im kindia wondering if i should invest in lens or wait and just get a bigger type SLR like a t3i or d5100

  8. I totally agree with the unacceptable limitations in exposure bracketing, this is stopping me from getting a Sony camera. More people need to complain about this.

    1. JC, thanks for you visit and comment. Michael Reichmann over at Luminous Landscape also mentioned this and he is quite a famous blogger. Hopefully, Sony will address this in the future.

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