Sony NEX-7: Lab Test Results & Comments

Jill Rahn's picture
The Sony NEX-7 is a compact camera with an E-mount system and an extremely high resolution (24MP). The metal body is very robust and sports a stylish retro design, which offers new features like two additional setup dials to change image parameters. These setup dials, located on the camera back and accessed using the right-hand thumb, are integrated seamlessly into the body and nearly invisible when looking at the camera from the top.

The Sony NEX-7 is a stylish and compact system camera. It offers the highest sensor resolution (24MP) in its class and has many interesting features such as 10 frames per second burst mode. In addition, it allows the user to record Full HD video in 50p mode.

All interfaces are located on the left-hand side of the body. The NEX-7 offers a USB port, an HDMI interface, and an interface for an additional microphone.

The Sony NEX-7 lacks a mode dial on top, but does have an accessory shoe, a built-in flash system, and two additional setup dials/cylinders, which help to set up image parameters quickly and intuitively.

The NEX-7 offers numerous menus for setting up image parameters. Even exposure modes are selected with the help of a virtual mode dial on the screen. A cursor field, a dial ring around this cursor field, and two cylinders on the top are used for menu navigation.

The NEX-7 uses a large LCD screen (3”) with high resolution. This screen can be flipped up- and downward. In addition, it offers a high-resolution OLED viewfinder.

The camera offers an EVF (electronic viewfinder) with very high resolution. The EVF is based on OLED technology and offers a very brilliant image quality. In addition, the camera offers a large LCD screen on the back which can be flipped up- and downward. This allows for many shooting positions and postures, but it should be noted that it is less flexible than some of the fully articulated monitors found on other Sony models.

Compared to their SLR systems, the NEX-7 has only a few functional elements accessed from the camera body. In most cases those changes are made via the menu screen—even a mode dial for basic changes such as exposure modes, scene modes, etc. is missing and those changes are made via the LCD screen and setup dial.

The camera is extremely fast for a CSC (Compact System Camera) system. It allows the user to shoot a series of images at 10 frames per second in full resolution. Another notable feature is Full HD video with 50 full (progressive!) frames per second with high data rate. The autofocus system is as fast as the system of the NEX-5N, although it must be noted that it is slower than the Sony A77 SLT because it is based on contrast metering instead of the phase detection system. The NEX-7 does have an autofocus tracking system to trace a moving object and keep it in focus.

The image stabilizer (integrated in the kit lens) works fine in video mode. In still image mode it allows for handheld use of longer exposure times up to a 3 to 4 EV equivalent.

The NEX-7 uses Memory Sticks and all kinds of SD cards (including SDXC) to save images and videos. It is also able to record JPEGs and Raw files simultaneously.

Top: GretagMacbeth color chart showing color rendition. Center: The test image shows a shift into more yellow-colored nuances (automatic white balance system). Sharpness is good and fine details like the fibers of the red spool are clearly noticeable. Above: In this image the white balance system caused a very warm and red shift of all colors, somewhat amplified by underexposure using the automatic exposure settings.

Image Quality
Color:
The automatic white balance system caused a very warm portrait image and a little yellow and green shift in the standard test box shot. The result chart shows this shift into the more green area, which is noticeable in the gray color patterns. The skin tones are fine and have a slightly high yellow rate. The same applies for red colors, pattern 9 and 15 show a shift and very high saturation of those nuances. The mean saturation of 109.3 percent is higher than in images taken with most SLR systems and on an average level for CSC cameras.

Sharpness: Just like the Sony A77 and the A65 with their high-resolution APS-C-sized sensors, the NEX-7 doesn’t achieve the full nominal resolution of 4.000 lines per picture height in its images. The ISO 12,233 chart was reproduced with 2.922 lines per picture height. The slightly lower results (compared to the A77/A65) may be caused by the kit lens of the NEX-7, which causes some chromatic aberrations on contrast lines. In addition, the electronic sharpness filtering of the camera is set up more discreetly than in other cameras. The new Sony showed a good differentiation of red nuances: the fine details of the model’s T-shirt are clearly visible as are the fibers of the red thread spool in the test box shot.

Noise: The camera showed good performance, especially in tests of luminance noise. It kept the noise level way below y-factor=1.0 up to shots taken with ISO 3200. In higher ISO speed settings luminance noise will be visible as a kind of film grain-like noise. Color noise is nearly invisible in images taken with ISO 400 and lower. At ISO 800 it becomes visible, but on a very low level. It is still acceptable in images taken with ISO 3200 but gets annoying at ISO 12,800 and ISO 16,000, where there’s a visible loss of details because the anti-noise filtering is very intense.

Scorecard

This graphic should be used as a comparative measure of various camera attributes. Image Quality is a subjective assessment taking color rendition, resolution, and noise measures into account. Resolution is a tested measure using ISO 12,233 charts. Handling is an overall assessment of the field experience with the camera. Scope of Supply refers to a value/benefits score in comparison to similar cameras tested.

Image Tech
Image Tech is where we publish web-exclusive lab reports on cameras. To read the reports please go to the Shutterbug homepage at www.shutterbug.com and click on the Image Tech tab on the top navigation bar. New reports are published frequently, so check Image Tech for updates. The following reports are available now:
• Leica X1
• Ricoh GR Digital IV
• Nikon P7100
• Olympus E-P3
• Panasonic FZ48
• Sigma SD1
• Sony SLT-A35
• Sony NEX-C3

Pro
• Elegant and stylish camera in robust body
• Sensor resolution is very high
• Full HD video with 50p (progressive mode with high bit rate)
• High-resolution EVF and LCD screen
• Nice handling due to two additional setup dials

Con
• Resolution results a little disappointing
• Swivel monitor could allow for more articulation

Lab test and comments by BetterNet, our TIPA associated testing lab. Edited by George Schaub. Note: A lab spec sheet of the Sony NEX-7 can be found in the Instant Links section of our website filed under this issue’s date. Visit www.shutterbug.com.

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