Sunday 29 September 2013

Sony NEX on the Scottish Watershed

View over Rannoch Moor from Stob na Cruaiche. NEX 7, 16-50mm lens @ 18mm, ISO 100, 1/200 @ f8

The Scottish Watershed was the first long distance walk for my Sony NEX cameras and the first bar one on which I didn’t take an SLR (on my very first long walk, from Land’s End to John O’Groats, I just took a cheap film compact, which broke before half way, but I didn’t take photography seriously back then).

Evening Light in the Southern Uplands. NEX 7, 16-50mm lens @ 41mm, ISO 100, 1/125 @ f8

The great joy of NEX cameras for long distance walking is the low weight and bulk. I went into detail about my choice of the NEX 7 here, in what is still my most popular post, and the reasons for changing from DSLRs to the NEX system here. Since that NEX 7 feature I’ve bought the 16-50mm and 10-18mm lenses plus the NEX 6 body that I described in a later piece. Having initially decided that the NEX 5 was adequate as a backup to the 7 I read reviews of the 6 and was persuaded that it was much better than the 5 and had several advantages, including the viewfinder and the wi-fi (though I’ve hardly used the latter). I’ve now sold the NEX 5 and the 18-55mm lens.

Clouds in the Fannichs. NEX 7, 16-50mm lens @ 31mm, ISO 100, 1/200 @ f8

For the Watershed walk I took both NEX bodies (I always take two cameras – breakages and failures have occurred!) and two lenses – the Sony E 10-18mm and 16-50mm. I considered the Sony E 55-210mm lens but decided its 394 grams was unnecessary weight. One reason for this was that I knew I could crop images from the 24mp NEX 7 and still have good quality images. For that reason the 16-50mm lived on the 7 with the 10-18mm on the 6. I did swap the lenses occasionally. Both cameras were carried slung across my body for quick access except in the stormiest weather. I used a Lowe Alpine Apex 100W for the NEX 7 and an old Camera Care Systems padded case for the NEX 6. 

Deer stag in Glen Quoich. NEX 7, 16-50mm lens @ 50mm, ISO 400, 1/125 @ f8.

Crop from the photo above.

The weather, which was too often stormy or dull, meant I didn’t take as many photos as I expected – 1636 in total – so I had more memory cards than I needed, which wasn’t a problem as they are so light. I took 4GB and 8GB cards rather than ones with more capacity as the likelihood of several cards all failing is remote. As it was, I had no problems with any of them.  I also had half a dozen batteries, which was a little heavier and again more than I needed, plus a charger so I could recharge them at town stops. I wanted a full record of the walk so I did take shots in the rain, the cloud and in dense forests.

In dense forest on a misty, rainy day in the Southern Uplands. NEX 7, 16-50mm lens @ 21mm, ISO 800, 1/20 @ f8

Most of the photos were taken handheld though I did have an ultralight Velbon V-Pod tripod that I used for camping shots and in low light. I always used manual exposure, using the histogram as a guide and exposing to the right – being able to see the histogram in the viewfinder is something I find really useful. I kept the ISO as low as possible, mostly sticking to 100. All the images were made as raw files which were then processed in Lightroom.

View south to Loch Lomond from Beinn Dubhcraig. NEX 6, 10-18mm lens @ 10mm, ISO 100, 1/400 @ f8

Overall I am pleased with the results, especially given the prevailing weather, and still delighted with the cameras. The NEX 7 remains one of my favourite ever cameras. The 16-50mm lens was a joy to use too as it’s so light and compact. The 10-18mm is also lightweight and produces top quality results and I should probably have used it more. For long distance walking where weight is crucial these really are excellent cameras if you also want top quality results. Indeed, in terms of technical quality, the NEX cameras produce the best images I have ever taken.

Stormy weather in the Northern Highlands. NEX 6, 10-18mm lens @ 10mm, ISO 100, 1/160 @ f8


  1. We just recently sold our DSLR (Nikon D300) and purchased an NEX-6 to replace it. We also had an NEX-5 as well, but we will be selling that one soon too. We are planning on using it as our primary camera for both photos and video on our upcoming AT thru-hike, when it comes to video the NEX-6 is no slouch as well. We have just had it a couple days now, but the photos we are getting are fantastic.

  2. Fabulous photos. my favourite being the last but one.

  3. I wonder if you have much feel for the difference in results from the two cameras? I eventually chose the NEX-6 because I understood that the admirably high resolution sensor in the NEX7 had more problems in low light when compared to the NEX6 (which with less pixels has less internal interference).

  4. I haven't noticed any difference in low light shots Paul. However there is vignetting on the NEX 7 at wide angles and also some purple fringing in pale corner areas. Lightroom sorts these easily.

  5. You got great captures with your Sony NEX. And it looks like you also had fun using it. It's always good to have a great camera when hiking.

  6. Replies
    1. The tripod was fine Tony. Of course it's not for use in strong winds or with anything heavier/bigger than an NEX but it is ultralight and compact.

  7. Hi Chris,
    I'm thinking of upgrading from my Lumix TZ20 to the NEX 6, based partly on your review. I have had a couple of issues with the Lumix and wondered whether you have had any such problems with the Sony. Firstly, I have had to open up the camera and clean the sensor on three occasions. This is due to dust entering through the bellows of the lens. Secondly, condensation/damp has affected the quality of the pictures until it has warmed up and dried out. This occurs mainly when out in bad weather and the camera is in and out of my jacket pocket.
    I would appreciate your thoughts/comments.

  8. Hi Ian,
    I have had to clean the NEX sensor a few times, though not as often as I had to with Canon DSLRs. It is self-cleaning but this doesn't always work. Of course the sensor is exposed when you change lenses. I haven't had any problems with condensation or damp. Overall I am very happy with my NEX cameras and have no intention of changing.

    I see the NEX 6 has just been replaced by the Alpha 6000, which has more megapixels and some other changes. I guess the NEX 6 should be quite a bargain at present!

    Best wishes,


    1. Thanks Chris, that's very helpful. And how does the NEX 6 cope with the inevitable knocks and getting wet and cold?

    2. It's coped fine so far. I always carry it in a padded case and I don't let it get too wet as it's not weather sealed.

    3. OK, thanks again Chris. Just enjoyed your brief appearance in Terry's film camping below Scafell. Looking forward to seeing the finished article.

  9. hi chris
    great pics, do you use any filters? , the first looks like it was shot with a polarizing filter ,what method do you use to clean sensors in the nex ?

  10. Hi, glad you like the pics. I occasionally use polarising and ND grad filters but none were used on the pics in this post. The inbuilt sensor cleaning in the NEX 7 is pretty good. When it doesn't get rid of everything I use the VisibleDust Arctic Butterfly brush.