In Part II, almost 2 months ago I focused on the downsides of the Sony Nex-7. On balance I still was happy with my purchase but now that another 2 months have gone by I thought I’d post a quick update.
While the battery life is definitely not great for sustained shooting, I have found after reverting to my usual daily routine of shooting on the way to work and the way home and maybe at lunch, that a fully charged battery will last about a week and that’s adequate. I still carry the 2nd battery with me, in the charger so I can always swap batteries and recharge. If I was going out for a real extended shoot over the course of a few days I would definitely want to carry a third battery.
As mentioned previously, and in most other reviews, the two unmarked (Tri-Navi) knobs on the rear right of the top plate provide fast access to commonly used features. and the rear screen shows you what they will affect at any time. It’s a really elegant and effective solution. However, as I also mentioned, I constantly found that the knobs had accidentally been moved and I’d be shooting with, say, an EV compensation of several stops that I hadn’t dialed in intentionally. This was really annoying. I subsequently learned that by pressing and holding the navigation button for about 5 seconds you can lock them. I have been shooting for the last month or so with the knobs locked. Most of the time this works well. But when you need fast access to one of these adjustments you now have to remember to unlock first. And that takes several seconds – so you can forget about getting a grab shot that requires you to make a quick adjustment.
As has been commented on here and elsewhere often, the dedicated video button on the upper right is easily and often activated unintentionally creating 3 issues:
- It uses up memory, a fairly minor problem these days
- It uses up the battery life, already an issue for this camera
- You can’t take a still image till you first discover that video recording is what’s disabling picture taking and then stop it. You then have to delete the unwanted video which involves some toggling between playback modes but, at least, that can be done later.
I have become much more conscious of how I hold the camera so as to avoid doing this but I often still capture unwanted video of my trouser leg or the street. Michael Reichmann of the Luminous Landscape has gone so far as to recommend a “redneck” adjustment, which involves super-gluing a grommet over the button.
It doesn’t seem possible to easily switch off the rear LCD screen. When I’m shooting in the street and, especially in the subway, that rear screen often makes people suspicious of me so I like to keep it off. There appear to be 2 options. You can switch to EVF-only mode, but then the only way to get the LCD back on is to hold the camera up to your eye to go back through the menu system, or you can cover the EVF with some portion of your left hand. This fools the camera into thinking the camera’s at your eye and it auto switches from LCD to EVF. This solution, however, raises 2 new problems: one is continued drain on the battery as sleep mode doesn’t seem to be activated as long as you’re covering the eye sensor; the other is the fact that the slightest mis-positioning of your left hand makes the LCD flash on, defeating the original aim of being inconspicuous. Another adjustment I’ve made is to set the sleep mode to come on in only 10 seconds. As long as I don’t accidentally cover the eye sensor or touch the auto-focus button this will put the rear LCD into sleep mode after only 10 seconds so I’m good until I next attempt a picture.
The menu system has stopped bothering me as much as it did originally as I have come to memorize the relative positions of the 2 or 3 items I use most frequently. But whenever I need to access a control that’s infrequently used it’s back to the hell of trying to find it. The camera has a wide range of customization options but none of them allows you to put together a combination of settings as a custom setting you can simply jump to. This seems like something that could be easily remedied in firmware.
Re-focusing on the positives:
- great 24MP image quality with decent noise characteristics up to at least ISO 1600
- small and light (no more tennis elbow/tendonitis)
- quiet (no mirror slap)
- solid construction and satisfying heft
- wide range of semi-pro/enthusiast features, manual controls and overrides
- Usable viewfinder with the advantages of an EVF
- I find the 18-55 kit zoom to be a surprisingly handy zoom range for walking the streets
I still like this camera a lot. In fact I’ve been shooting almost exclusively with it for the last 2 months. Except for one night shoot (I didn’t have a remote release for the Sony) I haven’t touched my Nikon D300 since starting with the Nex-7, nor have I even looked at my Canon G9. At the end of the day, despite some very annoying ergonomics, the camera is a pleasure to work with and yields very high image quality files. I’m happy to call it my main camera (for now).
I’m very interested in the new Sigma 30mm f2.8 e-mount Lens (and also the 19mm f2.8). The former has surprisingly good resolution (see story here) and it’s bargain priced. It may be the perfect street-length prime for now (much smaller than the Zeiss 24mm and affordable).