55mm, ISO 800, 1/50 @f9
Somewhat to my surprise a Sony NEX 7 arrived in the post the other day. I had ordered it so it wasn’t a total shock. However I’d been told that I’d be added to the list of orders and would be notified when it was actually available, which was likely to be at the end of February at the earliest. (This is known by the dreadful term “pre-ordering” – you’re not ordering before you order you’re just ordering once so adding the “pre” is stupid).
Why did I decide on the NEX 7 rather than the NEX 5N? I was persuaded by the mass of adulatory reviews, especially those from DxOMark, Luminous Landscape and Backpackinglight.com.I knew I liked the NEX approach after a year with the 5 and I wanted a second body so I could dispense with carrying the Canon 450D, which now seems big and clunky, and just have two NEX bodies and lenses. Those reviews convinced me that the 7 was worth the extra cost over the 5N.
Having played with the camera for a few minutes – and finding the controls fairly intuitive (helped by having had the NEX 5 for over a year - see my blog post for Nov 13, 2011) – I took the camera, fitted with the Sony 18-55 lens, for a short stroll by the River Spey on a bright, frosty day with strong shadows and sparkling sunlight. These are my initial impressions. Firstly it’s only a smidgeon bigger and heavier than the NEX 5 despite having an electronic viewfinder and a built-in flash, both of which the 5 lacks. Secondly the new Tri-Nav controls, utilising three dials, make exposure adjustments quick and easy. These dials can be customised, which I haven’t done yet and may not do at all. Certainly when using manual exposure, as I almost always do, having different dials for shutter speed, aperture and ISO is wonderful, these being the three controls I use most of all. As I also always shoot raw I stick to average white balance and ignore all the different settings for varying JPEG output. I think it may now be easier to shoot raw than JPEG! Certainly there are far fewer choices to be made.
The EVF I am unsure about. In low light it does flicker a little disconcertingly. But it is good to be able to see exposure details and ISO in the viewfinder and be able to adjust these without removing the camera from my eye. But the image is quite small compared to the screen (something I’ve found when looking through the Canon 450D optical viewfinder too) and I’ve become used to flipping the screen up on the NEX 5 and holding it against my chest. Somehow it feels wrong and part of the past to put the camera up to my face!
Now I have the NEX 7 the 5 will be relegated to second body status. To supplement my 18-55 lens I have ordered a 55-210 one. I’m told it won’t be available until the end of the month so I’m surprised it didn’t arrive today. Then it’ll just be a case of waiting for Sony to launch a wide angle zoom (and for it to be affordable) and I’ll have a complete NEX system. In the meantime I have a cheap adaptor so I can use my Tamron 11-18 lens – though without any exposure control or auto focus. For the latter the NEX’s focus peaking makes manual exposure easy. There is a new adapter from Metabones – Conarus that gives all controls other than focusing that I would like, except that the first run has sold out so waiting is again required.
Overall the NEX 7 looks an ideal camera for backpacking when high quality images are required. Eight years ago I bought my first digital SLR, the Canon 300D, it cost a touch under £1000 (the first DSLR to do so), was big and bulky and had 6mp. The NEX 7 also costs a touch under £1000 but is less than half the size and weight of the 300D and has 24mp. I think that’s called progress.