Sony ups the ante with a new high end mirrorless camera – the NEX 7 and new EVF-styled dSLRs.

Written by Gary on August 24th, 2011

I have not been a big Sony fan when it comes to cameras – largely because of their silly proprietary flash hot shoe which is practically the only one not compatible with 90% of manual flash units ever made, and their insistence on using proprietary Sony memory sticks. Up until now their NEX cameras have had rather limiting feature sets.

BUT, their new NEX-7 has got me excited, mainly because it has included an XGA  2.4 million dot OLED EVF where it should be – on the left hand side so you can use it more like a Leica and use your left eye to keep an eye on the scene.

As good as the new Olympus Pen cameras are, the lack of a built-in EVF has troubled me – sure you can add an EVF to the hotshoe but then you can’t use the hotshoe, and it is a bit clunky.

Furthermore, they have included a tilt LCD screen in the NEX-7 which will be handy, although still not a flip out, swivel one like on the Panasonic G series.

Other features of the NEX-7 include:

  • 24mp APS-C sensor – I am not sure 90% of the population can tell the difference between a 12mp and a 24mp image, but if you have lots of memory cards and hard disk storage space, looks like you are stuck with nice big 24mp files.
  • magnesium alloy body
  • built-in flash
  • proprietary Sony alpha hotshoe
  • ISO 100-16000
  • optional electronic 1st  curtain shutter to reduce shutter lag from 100msecc to 20msec
  •  a decent HD video at last – AVCHD 1080p 60fps or 24fps but at what quality – is it the 28mbps as with the a77 dSLR? Manual focus is now available during HD video.
  • IR remote control receiver
  • 2 additional dials and a control button on the top
  • in-camera HDR
  • 3D sweep panorama
  • ability to shoot at 10fps but with fixed AF/AE
  • level gauge
  • body only – RRP $1200 not much cheaper than their new a77 dSLR body!

A new phase-contrast AF adapter for Sony alpha lenses (LA-EA2):

  • Olympus and Panasonic are working on similar adapters but Sony is the first to get one out, albeit $US399 and big and bulky
  • uses a fixed translucent mirror as with its SLT dSLRs, and has a AF motor to drive screw-drive lenses.

New E-system lenses:

  • 24mm f/1.8 (36mm field of view in 35mm terms) – $1000 RRP and 65.5mm long – much bigger and more expensive than the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 pancake lens.
  • 50mm f/1.8 OSS (75mm field of view in 35mm terms) – $300 and 62mm long – optical image stabilised but 75mm field of view is in no man’s land – the Olympus 45mm f/1.8 giving image stabilised 90mm portrait lens at much the same price seems a better idea.
  • 55-210mm f/4.5-6.3 OSS (83-315mm in 35mm terms) $350 and 108mm long – the Panasonic kit 45-200mm kit lens gives more telephoto (90-400mm) in a smaller package and at wider aperture.

On paper, there is a lot to like about the NEX-7, I hope it handles better than its pre-decessors, and I am sure it will drive Olympus and Panasonic to bring to market their high-end compact mirrorless versions with built-in EVF, improved sensors, global electronic shutter, and a phase-contrast adapter for Four Thirds lenses, and I am hoping too that Olympus produce their 0.5x wide adapter which gives AF capability to legacy OM lenses as suggested by their patent some 1-2 years ago.

A big question is how does the contrast detect AF speed compare with the new Panasonic and Olympus cameras which now have very fast AF for stationary subjects at least.

Furthermore, how silent are these new lenses for HD video and will they be as good as the new Olympus lenses.

As good as the Sony NEX-7 appears to be, the larger lenses mandated by the larger sensor partly defeats the whole purpose of a compact system, and if one is forced to use large lenses, why not just stick with a full frame dSLR?

Perhaps not surprisingly, for this reason, Nikon is looking at bringing out a 2.5x crop mirrorless system which could have smaller lenses than the Micro Four Thirds, and perhaps may even be truly pocketable, but with less image quality and less ability to blur the background,

If you want the above features in a dSLR, check out Sony’s new SLT-a77 and a65 models – these have some fantastic ground breaking features for a dSLR and will entice many would be Canon and Nikon dSLR buyers. I suspect they will be bringing out a similar image stabilised fast shooting full frame model too – but perhaps at 45 megapixels to really up the ante!

Competition is good for the consumer.



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