I’ve had the Nex 7 for about a week now. Ordered in December of last year, it finally arrived late last week, just in time for a few days in Washington DC (I’ll be posting pictures from that trip over the coming weeks). Unfortunately, it arrived with only the kit lens (18 -55mm) but at least I could get to work with it. Before we begin, a little background.
I’ve been a lifelong Minolta shooter. I started with a Minolta srT101 when I was 13 and have since then shot with the XE-7, a couple of xd-11s, the Dimage A1 and the Konica Minolta 7D. And I have to say I loved each of those cameras. When the 7D began to get a little long in the tooth and started getting balky a new generation of sensors had just arrived and I had to choose among the new Sony (Minolta-based) Alpha 700, Canon 40D and Nikon D300. But when I held the Alpha 700 in my hand it had a totally different layout from my beloved 7D. And I was seduced by the idea of owning a “professional” camera. I sold all my Minolta equipment, bought a Nikon D300 and became a Nikon shooter. The camera is heavy-duty and takes fantastic quality photos. However it’s incredibly heavy – I think about a pound more than the 7D with a medium zoom – so heavy, in fact, that I developed painful tennis elbow from carrying it around and had to adapt my whole shooting style to left-handed camera carrying. Carrying it in my Tenba messenger bag with a 2nd lens, a flash and a few other odds and ends was killing my back and shoulders and putting my chiropractor’s daughter though college. Also, it’s way too “pro” for my taste. Features that I could find intuitively on my 7D were buried deep in menus on the D300. When I shoot in the subways I change my white balance to fluorescent, turn off the auto-focus assist lamp and the rear LCD display. Amazingly, for all its customization capability, it doesn’t seem possible to assign that set of features to a custom setting. I must make all 3 adjustments individually each time I descend and undo them each when I emerge.
This set the stage for my delight at the early reports on the new generation of mirrorless cameras, particularly the Nex-7. Among the features that attracted me:
- Small lightweight camera and lenses
- Very high image quality and 24 MP in an APS-C sized sensor
- Good build quality, if not quite as weatherized and rugged as my D300
- Full range of serious photography settings and manual controls
- A usable viewfinder built in (there were raves for the OLED EVF)
- Tiltable rear screen
- The “tri-navi” system sounded like it would accommodate my customization preferences through physical knobs, which the 7D excelled at
- While there were few E lenses available yet, the initial ones sounded to be adequate and many, many lenses were available with adapters with focus peaking promising to make manual focus feasible
The camera feels very comfortable in the hand. Solid, but light. I wouldn’t even mind if it was a tad bigger – my right pinky curls in below the camera instead of on it – not a problem, but I don’t think I’ve ever shot with a serious camera so small before, including the 2nd hand Voigtländer Vito C I started with when I was 12. Lenses feel pretty good and don’t feel as unbalanced in the hand relative to the small camera as they look. Also, one of my real peeves with my last several lenses is the way the rubber zoom and focus rings loosen up over time and won’t stay put. The Sony E55-210 and E18-55 are wide, hard-ridged and both feel like they’re there to stay (time will tell). The camera is quite fast and responsive if not quite as fast as my D300. But I haven’t had any missed shots because the camera wasn’t ready. The layout of the buttons and knobs is good and they fall comfortably under ones fingers (although see a problem with this in Part II). By and large, I found I could start shooting immediately without reading the manual. It feels good to shoot with the camera, natural and comfortable.
I’ve now processed my first batch of a couple of hundred images in Lightroom and the file quality is superb, especially at lower ISOs. It’s a little unexpected to shoot with a camera as small as this, that feels like a digicam with an electronic viewfinder and get such big, luscious files to work with.
However, all is not perfect. In Part II I’ll discuss some of the annoyances I’ve run into in my first week of shooting.