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.