LCD, viewfinder and video
Once you are using the electronic viewfinder, it is impossible not to be impressed with the quality of the image. In good light the 2.359-million-dot resolution becomes difficult to distinguish from that of an optical image, and although the image shows signs of noise in low light it stays bright enough for clear viewing relative to the exposure settings.
Not only does it give 100% coverage, but the 1.09x magnification also makes it larger than even the Canon EOS 7D’s display. The benefit of having a viewfinder at all in a compact system camera should not be overlooked, either, with most cameras in this format requiring an add-on unit fitted to the hotshoe, and in bright sunny conditions it is nice to be able to place the camera up to your eye and avoid having to squint at a rear screen. In fact, in any light the process of putting the camera up to your eye engages you with the picture far more.
The rear screen’s wideangle format is utilised by the function descriptions to the side of the image, leaving the composition area relatively clear, or available for more shooting information. It gives a crisp and sharp image that makes reviewing files at the maximum 16.7x magnification ideal for checking sharpness. The coating on the screen does a good job of removing glare, and although thumb and fingerprints are visible when the screen is off they have little effect on viewing.
The display options can bring up a dual-axis level display and most usefully a live histogram. When shooting with the electronic viewfinder, the histogram display allowed me to fine-tune the exposure compensation to optimise the exposure and avoid clipping highlights. The rear screen can also show purely shooting information without an image, for reference when using the viewfinder for composition.
The video functionality should not be overlooked in the NEX-7, as with full 1080p HD at 50fps or 25fps in AVCHD format, or a 1440×1080-pixel format in MP4 quality is impressively clear and action smooth, with a data rate of around 96Mbit/s on our sample once downloaded. Sound is also impressive from the stereo microphone (saved in Dolby digital AC-3) and there is a 3.5mm input port for an external microphone if required.