Top positive review
925 people found this helpful
Great in a lot of ways but not perfect. Worth the spend
on December 28, 2011
A little background to give you perspective on the review. I'm an advanced amateur shooting for about 10 years. I also own a Canon 5D Mark II with some L Zoom lenses (24-70 F2.8 and the 70-200 F2.8) and the very good 50mm 1.8 prime and a Fuji X100.
I spent a lot of time (probably over 40 hours) researching this camera, reading reviews etc. before buying it on Amazon from a third party seller. I've had it about a week now and shooting with with the Sony 18-200 Zoom Lens (SEL18200). Below are my observations:
1. Very small camera body, smaller than my X100 and feels a lot like my old S90 compact in terms of size (this is of course without the lens). With the 18-200 lens its no longer pocketable but still small and very manageable compared to a SLR.
2. Great build quality, tough body, I like the styling and I love the handgrip. Just the right size.
3. Probably the fastest shutter I have ever used, very little shutter lag.
4. Easy to use menus/interface etc. Lots of options and things like sweep panorama and other "gadget" type things work well although unlikely that I will use them much.
5. Good battery life. I'm easily getting the 400 or so shots per charge its rated for.
6. Electronic viewfinder - The good part is that it works really well, focus is fast even in low light, for the not so good part relating to the viewfinder see below.
Not so good
1. The electronic viewfinder that gets rave reviews is simply not as good to my eyes as looking through glass. Its a far cry from an optical viewfinder and I find the little "noise/dots" in low light distracting. Images even when blown up don't seem to show the same noise so this is definitely a viewfinder issue. To give you context even with a lens cap on when the LCD is completely black the viewfinder has tiny dots dancing on it sort of like static on a TV screen, this doesn't go away.
2. Internal Flash design needs work. When used with the SEL18200 lens there is noticeable shadow in images due to the lens blocking some of the light, to the point where I am currently not using the flash at all and will eventually invest in an external or wireless flash. Just simply providing the ability to bounce this off the ceiling would have helped. UPDATE: Someone in comments just pointed out and I verified that you can manually tilt the flash while shooting. Solves my issue with the SEL18200, thanks.
In the end what I really care about though is image quality. In this the camera does not disappoint. It does indoors just about as well as my Fuji X100 which to me is the best low light, auto WB adjustment under any kind of light shooter I have ever used and for landscapes and nature its almost as good as my 5D particularly in good light. I suspect with a better lens I would be hard pressed to see the difference, right now while the 18-200 f3.5 is very versatile my Canon glass is definitely a little sharper, but at its size and lightweight appeal by guess is that the Sony will get a lot more at bats than the Canon. Even when blown up to the size of a modern day LCD TV pictures look great and the zoom lens is great at bringing far away details closer. The 24MP señsor does capture a lot of detail and does well in low light situations as well. I'm not really a high ISO shooter preferring flash or faster lenses where this becomes required but up to ISO 1600 have not noticed any issues with the picture quality even on a 63" screen.
All in all I am very happy with my purchase and look forward to many years of shooting with it. I'd recommend it along with the SEL-18200 lens for anyone looking for a second camera as a go anywhere alternative to a SLR and lenses or as a very significant upgrade from a compact. This could also very easily become the only camera for an enthusiast/advanced amateur type who would be willing to trade in the bulky DSLR. I definitely hope they make more high quality lenses for it as time goes by. I was also looking at the 24mm F1.8 Carl Zeiss prime (36mm equivalent) but in the end opted for the versatility of the zoom particularly since my X100 gives me a dedicated 35mm point of view for about the same price but with camera body attached.
Update - I did some more comparisons to my X100 and liked the Nex 7 enough to sell the Fuji. I used the proceeds to purchase the Carl Zeiss Sonnar 24mm F1.8 e mount lens. I'm finding this lens to mitigate some of my viewfinder issues since its bright enough and the little dancing dots seem at bay but not totally gone. Also finding this lens to be of very high quality, auto-focus is very quick and indoor low light shooting a breeze. Portraits are sharp and background is pleasantly de-focused, even in dimly lit rooms I am not using flash or high ISOs and outdoors or in good light its beautiful.
Update 2 - I have now been using the Nex 7 for almost three months. I have to say I love it even more. Its become my go to camera for a lot of different occasions and I recently travelled internationally with this and the Zeiss F1.8 lens as my only camera. Pictures of the trip came out beautiful, although I'm not much of a dedicated 35mm shooter I found that there was enough there to make me very happy and in some cases crops etc. taking advantage of the ample resolution the Nex offers strengthened particular images. I have also added the HVL20 flash to my collection and find it to be useful in low light, indoor types of situations and pretty compact still and recently added the Tamron 18-200 lens which I am liking a little more than the Sony SEL18200 since its a little smaller, lighter and produces about the same image quality. Vain I know but I actually like the black of the Tamron lens more.
I have been doing some tests also of portraits compared to my 5D Mark II and for me at least the Full Frame bokeh of the 5D can't be beat. I don't have a great portrait lens for the Nex yet so will reserve final judgement until I acquire one (50mm F1.8 on pre-order) but at near identical focal lengths and apertures the Canon 5D images have the 3D like pop to them that the Nex is missing ONLY when compared side by side, i.e. the Nex does render a little more detail in the background. Outside of this extreme bit of detective work that likely has very little value in actual use I am extremely happy with Nex for portraits and for all others types of shooting including landscape with the Zeiss lens.