The NEX-7 may not be unbelievably petite, but it is
small. It's not as compact as the NEX-C3
-- a camera which had previously represented the benchmark for this category -- but considering everything that it has to offer, we don't have any complaints about size. The magnesium alloy body isn't as light as you might expect, though it feels quite solid and durable. It's difficult to criticize the camera's construction -- Sony really didn't skip a beat here. If we're really being critical, we wouldn't mind seeing the NEX-7 shed an ounce or two, but if you're used to carrying around a DSLR, you'll probably call foul at the mere suggestion that this camera has too much heft.
The camera grew in each direction to accommodate a handful of new hardware features. The XGA-resolution OLED electronic viewfinder is arguably the highlight here, complementing the 3-inch articulating LCD with a much-needed EVF. This is the same viewfinder found on the A77 -- it's bright, sharp and beautiful. No EVF will ever replace a top-of-the-line optical viewfinder, but this one comes very close. And you'll receive a few other benefits as well, including a high-res information readout, exposure- and white balance-accurate representation, and a horizontal position indicator.
Other additions include a full-size hot shoe, capable of accommodating the same external flashes as Sony's DSLR series, along with a new shoe-mounted external microphone that connects to the camera's microphone input jack (!). The built-in flash is of the pop-up variety, and is a welcome addition. It's a basic direct flash, however, and we all know how lousy direct flash images look -- those captured with the NEX-7 are no exception, though with great high-ISO performance and a new f/1.8 lens option, you'll probably be able to get away without using it.
Like full-size DSLRs, the NEX-7 was built with professionals in mind -- and pros need
speed. Not only can the camera power on and shoot an image in just over a second, it also captures full-res images at up to 10 frames per second. Even many larger cameras don't offer that. We doubt you'll be using this camera to shoot touchdowns from the 50 yard line or a match-winning serve from the nosebleed section, but with that impressive frame rate and Sony's LA-EA2 Alpha-series adapter
paired with a 300mm G-Series lens, you certainly could
Video capture isn't an afterthought on most cameras these days, and it certainly isn't on the NEX-7. Like the A77, you can capture video at a variety of sizes and frame rates, all the way up to 1080 / 60p in AVCHD mode. You can also shoot 1080 / 60i and 24p AVCHD video, or 1080i MP4 video, should you wish to shoot directly in everyone's favorite web-friendly format. You also have full control over aperture and shutter speed in video mode. Finally.
Like with other NEX-series cameras, there's a dedicated video capture button, so you can start shooting moving pictures immediately before and after snapping a still.
The NEX-7 uses the same 24.3-megapixel APS-C sensor that you'll find in the larger (and pricier) Alpha A77. It goes without saying that photos you'll shoot with both cameras will be huge -- you should budget up to eight megabytes for each full-res, high-quality JPEG (and significantly more for RAW images). But besides filling your SD card quickly, photos look fantastic as well.
Sony confirmed that the camera's "sweet spot"
We noticed minor sharpness issues when using the camera with A- and E-mount lenses above f/5.6
, so even though you can now shoot photos at up to f/1.8, you'll want to bump down the aperture a bit if you want the absolute sharpest images
. Likewise, you'll be able to capture greater depth of field detail at, say, f/10, but images won't appear as sharp at a 100 percent view as they will at f/5.6. You'll find a selection of untouched sample images in the gallery below, and a link to download full-size originals just above the comments section.