When first introduced the new Sony NEX-7 was somewhat ground-breaking, being the highest resolution mirrorless camera with a 24.3 megapixel APS-S CMOS sensor and is still to this day the highest resolution compact system camera, with the nearest model being the Samsung NX200 with a 20.3 megapixel sensor.
Sony NEX-7 Features
Sony NEX-7 Pop Up Flash
The Sony NEX-7 features the same 2.4 million dot OLED electronic viewfinder as the Sony Alpha A65 and A77 giving users an excellent view of the scene even in bright sunlight when the screen may not be ideal for framing. The NEX-7 also introduces a "tri-navi" control system, with two dials on top of the camera and a scroll wheel on the back of the camera.
24.3megapixel APS-C sensor (same as A65/A77)
World's fastest release time lag of 0.02sec
TRI-NAVI control system (3 dials rear)
High resolution XGA OLED Electronic Viewfinder, 2.359million dots
AVCHD Ver 2.0 Full HD video 60p, 24p, 50p, 25p, P/A/S/M
ISO100 to 16000
Auto-lock Accessory Shoe
3.0inch wide, tiltable, 921k dot LCD monitor with TruBlack and LED backlighting
Magnesium Alloy Body
On screen spirit level
25 focus points
Sony NEX-7 Handling
Sony NEX-7 Top
Handling - The camera has a large rubberised hand grip with a good sized thumb grip on the back helping you keep solid grip on the camera.
The top dials are unlabelled as the function they perform changes depending on what mode you are in and also what you select. You are able to choose what the three scroll wheels do by pressing the front (also unlabelled) function button next to the shutter release. In 'P' the right dial is used for exposure compensation, the left to adjust aperture/shutter and the scroll wheel on the back adjusts ISO.
Press the function button and you can then switch through the four other tri-navi settings, which are: Focus, White Balance, D-Range, Creative Style. Each of these has three settings you can alter using the three dials. You can choose what these four tri-navi options are from the options above, as well as Picture Effect and Custom Settings. If you choose custom settings you can then assign certain functions to the three wheels, from: Exposure compensation, Autofocus mode, ISO, Metering Mode, White Balance, DRO/Auto HDR, Creative Style, Picture Effect, Quality and Not set. In manual mode the two top scroll wheels control aperture and shutter speed.
Sony NEX-7 Back
There are another two unlabelled buttons, one above the back scroll wheel (defaults to Menu, called Soft Key C in the menus) and one below (called Soft Key B), the function of these buttons also changes depending what mode you are in. Along with these buttons, you can also customise what the AF/MF button and Right direction on the scroll wheel on the back does.
The benefit of the tri-navi system is that you can use them with the camera held up to your eye and quickly change settings without having to take the camera away from your eye, or if you're using the screen then you can keep the camera in the same position without having to re-compose your shot.
Sony NEX-7 Rear Angle
Menus - The menus take some time to get used to, with the options spread over four different menu items. Two of the options are used for playback settings and another lets you set the mode as the camera does not feature a mode dial.
Some of the options are greyed out when they are unavailable, at other times if you go to change an option, a warning pops up saying "You can't do that in RAW mode", so why not switch off RAW for me and tell me instead? Also it warns you of things, like "If you record at this quality video, you can't record it to DVD or Bluray" you then have to click OK before the message goes away.
Sony NEX-7 Bottom
Battery - Battery life is rated at 335 shots according to CIPA standards. We were able to take 270 shots before the battery went flat. As with other Sony digital cameras, it features an "Info-Lithium" battery that tells you exactly how much battery life is left, which is very useful, for example 77%.
Speed - We tested each camera's performance at focusing, shutter response, shot to shot time, continuous shooting etc and have posted the results below. To test this we took 6 or more shots and calculated the average, so that consistent results were produced.
Focus speed was very quick, with extremely quick shutter response. Switch on time was very quick, with shot to shot and especially continuous shooting extremely quick. The speed of the Sony NEX-7 is extremely quick, and only matched, so far, by the Sony NEX-5N in the mirrorless market.
Sony NEX-7 Performance
Here we've taken a number of sample photos taken in a variety of situations, including real world as well as studio test photos. Additional sample photos and information can be found in the Equipment Database.
Sony NEX-7 Sample Photos
Sample photos - With the camera's high speed shooting at 10fps, the camera is able to take three shots in extremely quick succession and combine the images to create HDR images. Photos taken with the built in flash are good with little red-eye. Photos taken with the kit lens produce pleasing out of focus areas (bokeh).
Sony NEX-7 Lens test images
Lens Test images - The camera gives slightly soft images with some corner softness with the kit lens, but good levels of detail thanks to the high resolution sensor. Macro performance at the telephoto end of the lens is good for a kit lens allowing you to get close to the subject.
Sony NEX-7 ISO test images
ISO Noise Performance - Low ISO100 - ISO200, starts to become noticeable at ISO400 and ISO800. At ISO1600 images appear slightly softer. Again at ISO3200. At ISO6400, images begin to look quite ugly when viewed at full resolution but resized should be useable. At ISO12800 images lose a lot of detail and colour saturation drops off and this setting and above is best avoided, unless you plan to resize.
Sony NEX-7 White-balance test images
White Balance Performance - AWB under tungsten lights gives a warm result, with the tungsten preset giving a more accurate result. AWB under fluorescent lighting also gives a slightly warm result, with the fluorescent preset giving a better result.
1/200 sec | f/10.0 | 18.0 mm | ISO 100
Panoramic options are standard (shown above) or wide in any direction.
Sony NEX-7 Digital filters
Digital Filters - there are a number of filters and effects available, with the choice of: Toycam, Pop, Posterization, Retro, Soft High Key, Partial Colour Red, High contrast mono, Soft focus, HDR painting, Rich Tone Mono and Miniature.
Lenses Available: The Sony E Mount has a range of lenses covering 16mm to 210mm, the equivalent of 24mm wide angle to 315mm telephoto and a choice of seven lenses currently available, with one pancake and three prime lenses, a 30mm macro, 24mm f/1.8 Zeiss lens and a 50mm f/1.8 portrait lens. Sony has announced plans to release 8 more lenses over the next two years, bringing the total to 15 lenses. There are also lenses available from Tamron, Sigma and Samyang.
Video Sample: The following video sample was recorded as full HD with wind filter, and optical image stabilisation switched on. Another video sample can be viewed on the ePHOTOzine YouTube Channel.
Value For Money
When announced the Sony NEX-7 was the only premium mirrorless camera on the market and is still unique in having such a high resolution 24.3 megapixel sensor and high resolution viewfinder. Alternative premium mirrorless cameras include the Fujifilm X-Pro1 with optical viewfinder / hybrid and prime lenses - it also commands a premium price (at around £1800 body only). Another new entry is the Olympus OM-D E-M5 with retro design and weather sealed body and a more conservative 1.44million dot screen. A lot of the features found in the Sony NEX-7 can be found on the Sony NEX-5N. Another camera with a high resolution sensor is the Samsung NX200 with a 20.3 megapixel CMOS sensor, available from around £499. Don't forget you'll also need to buy a memory card and a case or bag to keep your camera safe and protected - have a look at our complete guide to camera bags.
Sony NEX-7 Verdict
The Sony NEX-7 is a high specification mirrorless system camera with a high resolution sensor, high speed shooting, quick performance and an excellent OLED viewfinder. It is capable of taking detailed colourful photos in a variety of situations with good ISO performance up to ISO3200. Handling is good with the body providing a large rubberised grip and a number of external controls. The speed of the Sony NEX-7 is extremely quick and only matched so far by the Sony NEX-5N in the mirrorless market. The tri-navi controls and quite large amount of customisation of the cameras controls can help give you quicker access to the options you want to change, which should mean you need to visit the menus of the camera much less. Which can only be a good thing. The Sony NEX system has a number of lenses available, with the number of premium lenses set to increase over the next couple of years the Sony NEX-7 could make an excellent system.
The Sony NEX-7 takes high resolution, high quality images and performs quickly making it a great choice.
Sony NEX-7 Pros
Great image quality
High resolution OLED viewfinder
High resolution sensor - highest resolution CSC
Extremely quick focusing and continuous shooting
Magnesium body (NEX-5/5N also metal)
10fps (NEX-5N also 10fps)
Tri-navi system - change settings with camera held to your eye
Sony NEX-7 Cons
Limited premium lenses for the NEX system currently
Three dials all zoom in/out in playback
Non-standard flash hot-shoe
Numerous unlabelled buttons and controls