I recently began a serious pursuit of digital photography. My first investment in a “real camera” was the Sony NEX-7. I bought it primarily on the recommendation of Trey Ratcliff, who is responsible for the popularity of HDR photography. He offers an incredibly helpful and thorough video tutorial on how he creates his stunning photographs. Check it out here.
Here’s the spoiler: while I loved my Sony NEX-7, one crucial flaw caused me to send it back. I will explain…
What Makes The Sony NEX-7 Camera Different
This camera is part of a new generation of high quality digital cameras that do not incorporate a mirror into their optical system. The NEX-7 is not a “DSLR” camera. DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras allow you to view and photograph through a single lens, using a mirror to reflect the image to your eye. What you see is exactly what you get.
The new breed of mirrorless digital cameras, like the NEX-7, eliminate the mirror. This makes the camera smaller and lighter. Many say the days of the DSLR are coming to an end, and we are transitioning to a time when most professional photographers will use mirrorless camera systems.
What I Liked About the Sony NEX-7
As I already mentioned, this camera is very light and compact. I might add that it is not overly small, so it feels like a “real” camera and not like a tiny “point-and-shoot” camera.
The camera has a very good sensor, and delivers 24 megapixels of resolution. The “kit lens” (the lens that is included with the camera) creates very high quality images. I also purchased two additional lenses with my camera, which gave me a good range of lenses to cover most situations.
Because the camera and lenses are small and lightweight, it was easy for me to carry all of my gear in a small bag. On a couple of occasions I just slung the camera around my neck and popped the lenses into a pocket of my jacket.
Sony’s “Tri—Nav” menu system, which is used to adjust the settings of the camera, was easy and intuitive to use. Others do not agree with that opinion, and some have found it downright frustrating and difficult. That was not my experience.
The camera offers most all the features of higher-end pro cameras, and captures excellent images.
So Why Did I Return My Sony NEX-7?
I did find a one minor problem with this camera, and one major problem that was so crucial it caused me to return the camera and buy a different system.
The minor problem is this: the Sony NEX-7 does not allow you to take bracketed photographs without touching the camera. Let me explain. “Bracketing” refers to taking a series of photos, for instance three in a row, at different exposures.
This is important if you are planning to create HDR photographs. HDR stands for “high dynamic range”. These kinds of images render a photo that more accurately represents what you would see if you are physically present in the situation. If you have ever taken a photo of some stunning natural vista, only to be disappointed when you got home and looked at your image, you understand. Something got lost in the translation. HDR photos tend to carry the emotional impact of actually being there. This review is not the place to discuss the merits or disadvantages of HDR photography (photo nerds get pretty passionate about the subject, either loving HDR or hating it.) But the ability to bracket photos was crucial to my use this camera.
The Sony NEX-7 does do bracketing, no problem. But in order to take your three photos, you have to keep your finger pressed on the shutter button. This creates some camera shake, no matter how steady your hands may be, and reduces the quality of your final HDR image (which blends all three photos together).
I even bought a remote shutter control device, only to discover it doesn’t work when the camera is in bracketing mode.
This alone was a bit of frustration, but I liked the camera so much that I would’ve been able to tolerate the inability to do “touchless bracketing.”
The fatal flaw, for me, was the camera's video function. I needed and bought a camera that would allow me to take regular photographs as well as shoot high-quality video. The Sony NEX-7 certainly shoots high-quality video, at up to 60 FPS. The problem is the camera has a known flaw. When shooting video it overheats and then simply shuts down. I could get no more than five minutes worth of video out of the Sony NEX-7 before the “warning light” would come on and my camera would shut down.
A little searching on the Internet revealed this is a well-known flaw in the camera, and while there are a number of suggested fixes, none of them were from Sony, and none of them work. Sony seems to remain frustratingly silent at this issue, not only refusing to fix it, but apparently refusing to even acknowledge it exists. I found that disappointing.
This flaw rendered the camera useless to me. Reluctantly, even though I loved the camera in every other way, I packaged up my beloved Sony NEX-7 and sent it back.
Which Camera Did I Buy Instead Of the Sony NEX-7?
I was forced to buy another camera.
I settled on a Nikon D5200.
It is a DSLR, and not a compact mirrorless system like the Sony NEX-7.
I have just begun using the Nikon, and so far have been very pleased with it, and I will write a full review in the near future.
Final Thoughts on the Sony NEX-7
I suppose that if I were willing to accept the fact that the Sony NEX-7 was just no good for video, I could’ve kept it and used it for still photos only. But it didn’t seem like a resposible use of money to buy an expensive camera when one of its primary functions simply didn’t work.
I am intrigued by the new Sony A7R, and may take a look at that at some point in the future. But for now, I’m a Nikon man.
Sony: if you are reading this, and you feel that I have somehow represented your camera unfairly, I’m willing to test a unit that works properly. I really did love your camera, except for the fact that it didn’t work.