The decision to stick with the physically larger APS-C-sized sensor has added to the appeal of the NEX cameras over the micro four thirds models and has allowed the latest sensor to reach such high resolution.
The Exmor HD APS-C unit has 24.3 million effective pixels, and 24.7 million in total. This means that at full resolution a 6000×4000-pixel image is recorded, which equates to an A3 print at 342ppi, or a 20x13in print at 300ppi.
By default, JPEG images are saved at 350ppi, making them almost pre-sized for A3. Images can be saved in a choice of Standard or Fine JPEG compression, and also raw and a combined raw+JPEG, which uses the full Fine JPEG. The raw is in Sony’s ARW format and requires the Sony’s Image Data Suite to convert the files as none of the third-party programs currently supports the files.
The Bionz processor is the brain of the camera and is responsible for noise reduction, allowing the NEX-7 to provide a sensitivity range of ISO 100-16,000. An auto ISO setting allows a fixed range of ISO 100-1600 for standard shooting.
Fast data conversion allows burst shooting at up to 10fps in speed-priority mode, while still allowing adjustment of the exposure modes. The regular continuous shooting mode is at 3fps. Using a SanDisk Extreme Pro 8GB card, the camera can perform a burst of 17 JPEG files, 13 raw files or raw+JPEG files in speed priority mode. That’s a burst of 1.3-1.7secs before filling the buffer.
In regular continuous mode 13 raw+JPEG files, 17 raw files or a more significant 48 JPEG files can be saved. That is a burst of between 4.3secs and 16secs, which is more suitable for prolonged action sequences.
As the camera doesn’t feature a regular data writing lamp it is difficult to judge exact write times per file, but by filling the buffer the delay before the review screen becomes active is between 6secs and 17secs, depending on the file type. This means that individual write times reach at least 0.35sec for JPEG and 1.3secs for raw+JPEG, which is very impressive for such a large file size.
The lens mount is Sony’s new E-mount system, which offers compatibility with a range of seven lenses, plus two adapters for the 16mm to give a wider-angle view. Sony A-mount lenses and older Konica Minolta Dynax lenses are compatible via an adapter due later this month, which also includes a phase-detection module and pellicle mirror to improve AF performance. The kit lens due to be offered with the NEX-7 is an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6, which appears relatively compact on this body, but feels a bit limiting for the level of camera and suffers from both pincushion and barrel distortion (which can be corrected in-camera). Without a fast aperture zoom lens currently available in the E-mount, your only other option is to go for the 24mm f/1.8 and 50mm f/1.8 primes.
The NEX-7 features the SteadyShot Inside sensor-shift mechanism, which provides stabilisation for any lens placed on the camera. This keeps the size and cost of the optics down and means that even older lenses, attached via adapters, are stabilised. This also helps with dust reduction and a special cleaning mode features in the menu.
Metering comes via a 1,200-zone system, which uses the image sensor itself and offers multi-segment, centreweighted and spot options. Exposure compensation is available in 1⁄3 or 2⁄3 stops for ±5EV.
The imaging-sensor-based autofocus system uses the contrast-detection method and offers a choice of multi, centre or spot options. Spot AF is available from any one of 187 points across the frame, although it doesn’t quite reach the edges. There is also a choice of single and continuous modes, object tracking, plus face detection and face priority for registered faces.
Alongside the regular exposure modes the NEX-7 offers intelligent auto, which recognises the scene and applies adjustments to suit. There are eight scene modes, an anti-motion blur setting (which uses the widest aperture) and auto ISO settings. Sweep panorama comes in either 2D or 3D modes, and creates a 12,416×1856-pixel 2D or 7152×1080-pixel 3D image.
The built-in flash unit provides a guide number of 6m @ ISO 100, while a hotshoe accepts external flashguns. Storage is via SD cards, with SDHC/XC formats supported.
Image: This enlarged section of an image shows the high level of detail in raw and JPEG