The NEX-7 unit I tested in San Diego is not 100% up to full production. I was told that image quality is very close to what final production units will produce, but that user interface was still a bit buggy. I didn't encounter any issues out of the ordinary shooting with it. For sanity's sake the samples I shot are reduced to web-friendly sizes, but no other out-of-camera processing has taken place.
The Sony NEX-7 is impressive no matter how you look at it. It manages to squeeze a 24.3 megapixel APS-C sensor into a svelte, modern camera body. It offers new levels of control with two dials on the top deck. Recording 1080 HD video is always at your fingertips with a quick start video button. And unlike the NEX cameras before it, the 7 incorporates a bright OLED viewfinder.
I can't stress how much I like this viewfinder. The enthusiast and advanced users who are most likely its target audience will want to bring the NEX-7 to some challenging shooting situations. That viewfinder rescues the user from the chore of squinting at the camera's monitor, wondering if composition and focus are on target. This 2359k-dot OLED finder is sharp, clear and bright.
In a setting like the Pala Motocross Track, it was essential. The NEX-7 didn't let me down on the dusty raceway tracking fast-moving targets. I used the 55-210mm telezoom lens for all of my shots here. It wasn't the ideal lens - and I doubt many would use it for serious sports photography. It wasn't fast enough to get in close on the cyclists as they zoomed by, but I came away with my share of clear shots.
When situations call for shooting at unusual angles, the tilting LCD comes in handy. The whole camera is so light and agile that holding it above the head for a wide shot of a crowd is easily done. Altogether, the NEX-7 promotes a very user-friendly experience. I only had a couple of problems. The video record button can be activated without much effort accidentally. I also found the directional button on the control wheel easy to press on accident, bringing up the exposure compensation control.
In terms of ergonomics, I found the NEX-7 very natural in the hand and well-balanced. The sculpted grip is a welcome addition to the NEX design. Both of the top deck dials are easily accessed with the thumb of the shooter's right hand, making quick adjustments to exposure seamless.
Auto focus performed up to par. It's expectedly a bit slower in dim conditions, but outdoors it's fast enough for most shooting scenarios. The kit telezoom/NEX-7 combo was more at home at the San Diego Zoo Wild Animal Park than at the Motocross track. It provided enough zoom to get close to animals that weren't so close, and uncomfortably close to animals that wandered up to our safari caravan.
The preliminary samples from the NEX-7 from our day of shooting look very good to my eye. The user experience is pleasant, intuitive and the lightness of the system will be a major bonus to travel photographers. It's an extremely versatile system, with more and more lens options available, and it's capable of producing great images in a variety of situations. It's too early to make any great proclamations about the NEX-7 yet, but there's a lot of potential to put it at the front of the class.
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