During our trip to Sony HQ earlier this summer to check out the NEX-C3, company reps hinted that the best was yet to come -- and held true to their word. Today's NEX-7 release breaks a handful of digicam records, becoming not only the first mirrorless camera to pack a 24.3 megapixel APS-C sensor, but the first APS-C cam of any shape and size to smash through this notable barrier -- potentially delivering unparalleled image quality for a camera of its size. Sony's new flagship mirrorless interchangeable lens camera (ILC) also features the same OLED viewfinder included with its brand-new Alpha A77, delivering XGA (1024 x 768-pixel) resolution directly to your eye. There's also 1080 / 60p AVCHD video capture, a full-size hot shoe, and a completely redesigned "Tri-Navi" interface. We spent a few minutes with a pre-production NEX-7 earlier this month -- jump past the break for our initial impressions.
Sony Alpha NEX-7 (hands-on)See all photos
Initially, we were taken aback by the NEX-7's size -- its magnesium alloy body is noticeably larger than the NEX-C3, for better or worse. Sony made the call to grow the cam in order to add those differentiating features. This top-of-the-line ILC is not for everyone -- its $1,199 (body only) price tag alone puts it out of reach for many -- but photographers looking for a true DSLR replacement will likely be willing to sacrifice a smaller footprint in order to add a full-size hot shoe, unique dual-wheel interface, and OLED viewfinder.
Speaking of that tiny eye-level display -- the NEX-7's finder is unlike any EVF counterpart. Sure, it can't offer the same image quality of the mirrored solutions found on pricey DSLRs, but it looks a heck of a lot better than any EVF we've seen before. And that XGA resolution let Sony frame the image with a variety of indicators, without allowing them to overpower your subject. The remaining image indicator is tiny, for example, but still very easy to read. There's also the same tiltable 3-inch LCD found on the NEX-C3, should you wish to use that display instead.
Another unique feature is the Tri-Navi interface, which lets you use a pair of top-mounted control wheels along with the rear wheel to adjust a variety of settings simultaneously, without jumping into the system menu. In manual mode, for example, one wheel controls aperture, one controls shutter speed, and the third lets you adjust the ISO. The pre-production sample we saw didn't include a complete interface, unfortunately, so we weren't really able to see this in action. We're certainly excited about the concept, however.
We were also unable to shoot images with the camera, though we did spend a few days shooting with a pre-production Alpha A77, which uses an identical 24.3 megapixel sensor. The images from that camera looked great, with accurate colors and great shadow detail. To be honest, 24.3 megapixels is probably overkill for most shooters -- if you're only sharing photos on the web, capturing at that high of a resolution will do more harm than good, filling your card quickly but providing far more detail than you need. Still, it's nice to have the option, and the sensor's other benefits -- excellent high ISO performance and 1080 / 60p AVCHD video, to name a few -- help to justify the expense even if you don't expect to shoot at full resolution.
We're very excited about Sony's latest addition to the NEX family, which helps to narrow the gap between DSLRs and ILCs. Since we have yet to actually shoot with the camera, you'll need to hang tight for a formal verdict, however. Scroll down below for an overview with Mike Kahn, Sony's new Alpha Camera Systems Director, and thumb through through the gallery up top for a sneak peek at the NEX-7's unique design.
New NEX-7 Combines superb imaging, high performance and full palette of creative options
SAN DIEGO, Aug. 24, 2011 -- Sony is taking professional quality imaging and artistic shooting options to new levels with the introduction of the new α NEX-7 camera. Styled in magnesium alloy for strength and designed with a unique blend of classic and modern inspiration, the new compact interchangeable lens model weighs only 10.3 ounces (291g).
"For Sony, the new NEX-7 represents innovation in its purest form," said Kelly Davis, vice president of digital imaging at Sony Electronics. "Speed and style meet performance and control, creating a shooting experience unlike anything in market today."
The NEX-7 camera features a new Exmor™ APS HD CMOS sensor with 24.3 effective megapixel resolution – highest in its class -- that complements the latest generation of Sony's BIONZ® image processing engine.
This unique combination of sensor and processor technology delivers flawless image and HD video quality with very low noise and exceptionally fast shooting responses. An ultra-high sensitivity range extends from ISO 100-16000, making it easy to capture clean, low-noise images in dimly lit interiors or exteriors.
Response is accelerated even further by a shutter release lag of approximately 20 milliseconds– the fastest of any interchangeable lens digital camera (as of Aug 2011). In speed priority continuous mode, the NEX-7 camera captures fast-moving action at up to 10fps (AF/AE is fixed) – the world's fastest burst shooting speed of any mirrorless interchangeable lens camera (as of Aug 2011).
The NEX-7 model offers extensive, direct control over creative settings via an intuitive new TRINAVI control interface, important for enthusiast and professional photographers. Two control dials on the top of the camera are complemented by a control wheel, giving users three customizable, manual controls and the ability to create images with the flexibility and precision of an advanced DSLR camera.
The NEX-7 model is also the world's first interchangeable lens camera (along with new α77, α65) that features an integrated XGA OLED TruFinder™ viewfinder for precision framing and focusing. The viewfinder provides a bright, detail-packed, high contrast view of still images and video, with approximately 100 percent frame coverage and a wide field of view that rivals pro-grade optical viewfinders. On-screen grid lines, various shooting parameters and a level gauge can be displayed to assist with accurate framing. With the XGA OLED TruFinder™, the NEX-7 model realizes the ideal of a compact, rangefinder style camera with an eye-level, through the lens viewfinder.
The XGA OLED Tru-Finder™ viewfinder is complemented by a three-inch Xtra Fine LCD™ display that can be angled up to 90-degrees up or 45-degrees down for easy viewing in any shooting position. TruBlack™ technology assures superb detail and contrast, while dramatically reducing on-screen reflections.
At the touch of a button, the NEX-7 camera shoots smooth AVCHD Full HD movies with high-quality stereo sound. Support for the new AVCHD Progressive (Ver. 2.0) format allows users to capture Full HD video at 60p (progressive) frame rates. for beautifully smooth, detailed video footage. 24p video shooting is also available. The Tracking Focus feature lets users select a target object on screen and focus on it accurately, even if it is moving.
Additionally, manual focus is now possible during video shooting. Enthusiasts can also enjoy full control over creating the perfect video image with Program, Aperture/Shutter Priority and all-Manual modes (P/A/S/M) – just like the most advanced DSLR cameras. Stereo audio quality is improved, with revised circuitry that lowers noise levels, especially when shooting quiet scenes.
First introduced on the NEX-C3, Picture Effects enables easy "in camera" production of sophisticated artistic effects without the need for a PC or post-processing. The camera features 11 modes and 15 effects, including new HDR Painting, Soft Focus, Miniature and Rich-Tone Mono. A generous palette of other artistic imaging functions includes 3D Sweep Panorama™ mode, Soft Skin, Auto HDR, Handheld Twilight and Anti Motion Blur Modes.
The NEX-7 camera includes an integrated flash system and also features an Auto-lock Accessory Shoe for advanced shooting applications, both of which are firsts for Sony's E-mount line of cameras. The shoe supports the full range of Alpha flashes and monitors, as well as adaptors to accommodate studio lighting.
The LCS-ELC7 soft carrying case combines a snug-fitting body case and leather lens jacket to help protect the body and lens from scratches and dust. It's complemented by the STP-XH70 shoulder strap, made of the same material.
Pricing and Availability
The α NEX-7 ultra-compact interchangeable lens digital camera will be available this November in a kit with an exclusive black 18-55mm zoom lens for about $1350, or as a body-only for about $1200.
The new camera and all compatible lenses and accessories will be sold at Sony retail stores (www.store.sony.com) as well as other authorized retailers throughout the Sony dealer network.
For "sneak peak" videos of the new products, please visit www.sony.com/cameravideos.