May 272014
 

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The Sony A6000 Digital Camera Review by Steve Huff

Sony is back once again with a camera that may appear to be just like the previous NEX-6 but takes it to the next level with new branding (No more NEX name or Menu, this is the ALPHA 6000), a new more robust and square body, and a very good price. The new Alpha line came about when Sony released the A7 and A7r and renamed them from NEX to Alpha. With the NEX camera line, Sony always had loads of complaints that the menu..well..sucked. It sort of did. I even complained about it on a few occasions and said “why do they not just use the Alpha menu system”!?!? Well, now they do and it is so much nicer than the old NEX menu system. Much quicker, easier, and laid out better in every way. The last NEX, the NEX-6 was and is a great camera. Nice size, built-in EVF, good speed and finally, some great lenses for the system. The new A6000 kicks it up a notch and the result is Sony’s best APS-C NEX style body to date. This one is a screamer and a sleeper that many will pass up.

Before I get into the review and the images, let me state that I have had this body for 3 weeks, thanks to Sony sending me the review sample. So thank you Sony! If they did not send it I myself may have passed on reviewing it as I originally thought it was just another re-hash of the NEX cameras. While it is a rehash to some extent it is so much better than any NEX camera that if I were to offer an Editors Choice” or “Steve’s Pick”, this would be one of them. In the past I have reviewed all of the NEX cameras (almost) and you can see those reviews HERE at Mirrorless Central in the Sony section, the place where I archive all of my mirrorless reviews. BTW, This review will be of the shorter variety so I AM NOT re-hashing my reviews.

Most of what I felt of the NEX-5, NEX-7 and NEX-6 is the same with the A6000 because at its core and heart, it is still a NEX camera in design, in feel and in use. Basically we are getting the new menus, faster speed and the best IQ in a NEX type of camera to date. We also get the WiFi and camera apps but WiFi is in almost every camera today so it is a must for most companies to throw it in, and it works great here in the A6000. The apps are cool but I never use them as it slows me down too much. Some love them though. For me, the A6000 is a REAL camera that can offer someone wanting to step up from a P&S to professional quality images (with the right lens). It can also offer owners of the NEX cameras the new interface and the super fast speeds.

My biggest bang for the buck system of the year – The A600 and Zeiss Touit 32 1.8 – Under $1400 for the set. This one was shot at f/2.2 and is a JPEG from the camera. Click it to see it MUCH better. This impressed me, especially being a JPEG. 

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The A6000. What are the specs?

The best of the  A6000 specs are below:

24.3MP Exmor APS HD CMOS Sensor and BIONZ X Image Processor – The latest processing power and the latest Sony APS-C sensor. Sony always leads the way in Sensor design IMO.

Fast Hybrid AF System - The Fast Hybrid AF system utilizes both a 179-point phase-detection system and 25-point contrast-detection system to achieve precise focus in as little as 0.06 sec. This system also provides AF tracking when shooting up to 11 fps in continuous high mode and functions seamlessly when recording full HD movies. In real world use, this camera is FAST. One of the most responsive cameras I have ever used. No slowness here. I remember the very 1st NEX-3 and NEX-5. They were so slow when compared to this new A6000. How things have improved.

There is also Eye AF! A detail-oriented focusing function that can prioritize a subject’s pupil and dedicate focusing performance on that for sharply rendered portraits; Lock-on AF is a dedicated focusing method for use with moving subjects and adjusts the target frame size as the subject moves throughout the image frame; AF area settings allow you to prioritize specific regions within the frame for increased accuracy; and AF-A (Automatic AF), AF-S (Single-shot AF), AF-C (Continuous AF), DMF (Direct Manual Focus), and Manual Focus modes can also be chosen.

Full HD Video Recording - Full HD 1080i/p video recording is supported at both 60 and 24 fps frame rates to produce high-resolution movies with a smooth, cinematic look. Full HD videos are recorded using the high-quality AVCHD codec, while 1440 x 1080 and 640 x 480 formats are also supported in the Internet-friendly MP4 format.

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Body Design - The Tru-Finder 0.39″ 1,440k-dot OLED EVF features a refined optical system that integrates four double-sided aspherical elements to provide 100% frame coverage and a wide 33° viewing angle for clear edge-to-edge viewing. The electronic viewfinder’s design offers a true live view image, which is able to simulate the appearance of the finalized image prior to shooting and also avails focusing aids, such as MF Assist and the Peaking function. The 3.0″ 921k-dot rear Xtra Fine monitor is a larger alternative, suitable for making accurate compositions, reviewing imagery, and navigating the menu system. It features a tilting design that can tilt upward approximately 90° or downward 45° to benefit working from high and low angles. Additionally, WhiteMagic technology works to increase the overall brightness of the screen to better support use in bright or sunlit conditions.

Built-In Wi-Fi Connectivity

Additionally, PlayMemories Camera Apps are also supported via the built-in Wi-Fi connection, and allow you to personalize the camera’s features depending on specific shooting styles. Apps are available to suit creating portraits, detailed close-ups, sports, time lapse, motion shot, and other specific types of imagery.
Sony 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS Retractable Zoom Lens.

The Zeiss 32 1.8 on the A6000 is fantastic though the front bokeh can be a bit odd at times. Still, one of the best lenses i have used on a Sony camera. I was not a HUGE fan of the Touit 32 1.8 on the Fuji system but love it on the Sony. 

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My First thought on the A6000 after it arrived

When the A6000 box arrived I was thinking “Great, a variation of the old NEX-6..not exciting”.  Then I took it out of the box and thought..“Damn! This is the best feeling and looking NEX style body ever”. Sony sent me the silver version and it looked pretty sharp. All I had was a kit zoom so I knew I had to try something better but even so, the kit zoom was doing great. I love the fact that the new 16-50 is so small and sleek when compared to the old long and fat 18-55. Yes, these Sony’s are getting better and better with each release. The best part about the A6000 kit is the price. Coming in at $798 for the camera body AND kit zoom, it makes me feel dirty to recommend other APS-C cameras that cost more because the A6000 is so good in so many ways. It is a little on the lightweight side but feels just as good in build, if not a little better, than the Fuji offerings. So again, good bang for the buck.

I looked the body over and remembered I also had that Mitakon 50 0.95 and it was a native E mount lens! Why not slap it on and give it a try? I did just that and the snapshots I snapped with it are below (all were at f/0.95), as well as a look at the A6000 with the lens attached:

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The combo of A6000 and the Mitakon ROCKED! Not as good as it was with the A7 but it was nice to have that shallow DOF and a super fast WELL MADE lens on the camera. It felt solid, it inspired confidence and for me, was easy to focus just using the EVF. While not a perfect lens (it has some odd Bokeh qualities) at $799 it gives you a taste of those super shallow DOF lenses like the Leica Noctilux that comes in at $11,000. While I feel the Sony 55 1.8 or Zeiss 32 1.8 are overall better choices if you are only going to have one lens, the Mitakon is great if you want to add some artistic flair to your photos. The thing is a beast of a lens and well worth the $799.

With more use of the A6000 I started to realize that this camera was actually pretty special. For under $800 I was seeing the fastest response of any camera in recent memory (mirror less). The response, the AF and even the shutter were fast and gave me an actual sense of speed while using it. Like AIM, FIRE, FIRE – BAM! Done! As I said I have reviewed nearly all Sony NEX cameras and while the A6000 is VERY similar to all of them in many ways, it is the most responsive in all areas without question.

Oops, they did it again! But no biggie. 

After looking through the box more I realized that Oops, Sony did it again. No external dedicated battery charger. This time I will forgive them though as for $798 (yes I keep relating the price because it is such a value) they could not have given it all. If this camera were $1200 I would have been upset at the fact that all we get is a USB cable to charge while the battery sits in the camera. At $798, it is fine. You can buy an external charger for Sony batteries at Amazon for cheap, so no big deal. Look at this crazy deal. For $19.99, and using Amazon prime, you can get a dedicated charger and extra battery. Yes, a battery and charger for under $20. SNAG IT if you have an A6000 or A7 as they use the same battery.

The Kit Zoom is pretty nice. 

Usually I am not too fond of the kit zoom’s that are included with camera kits. They are usually slow, soft and cheap in build. The A6000 includes the better Sony Kit Zoom, which is the 16-50 OSS lens that normally sells for $350 on its own.  Some people are not a fan of it but I happen to think it does great on the A6000. If you have light and need the versatility that a zoom offers, it is a great lens and gets the job done. I used it while walking around rural areas in Southern Illinois with my Mother over Mothers Day and it did great.

These are all OOC JPEGS using the kit zoom and A6000. Click them for larger! 1st two shot by Brandon. 

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So while I am still not a fan of zoom lenses (I prefer primes) the kit zoom is actually a nice and small little lens. Not perfect, not high end, not anything giving a WOW factor but when it is included in a camera of this price it is very nice indeed. The color is very nice right from the camera as well, which is not the case with many of the cameras that are even priced into the thousands.

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The need for MORE speed!

The Sony A6000 is a monster in the speed department. It can shoot 11 frames per second and due to its crazy focus points covering 92% of the sensor, it is uber fast. It has contrast and phase detect AF, which in laymen’s terms means IT IS FAST. When I was shooting with the bundled kit lens the camera was lightning fast. I shot the camera in all kinds of light and never once had an issue with Auto Focus. As i mentioned earlier, I do not remember any other camera being this fast. It is faster than my old fave, the Nikon V1..faster than ANY other Sony to date (much quicker than the A7 flagship) and faster than any Fuji. I think it even edged out my Olympus E-M1 which has been my benchmark for speed and response. While the Sony system does not offer the lenses that Micro 4/3 does, nor does the A6000 offer the build and features of the E-M1…it is up there and maybe faster in the speed department.

Sony also excels here with focus tracking. If you want to shoot sports or action, this is probably the best mirror less to date to do just that. In fact, I know it is. So I will say it clearly: In May of 2014, the A6000 is the best mirror less camera for tracking moving subjects as well as overall speed. 

An APS-C sensor that is super fast, responsive and has amazing AF? Yep, that has finally become a reality in the Sony A6000. Every year cameras get faster and add more features. Sometimes they are not really worth the upgrade and sometimes they are. If you value speed and an APS-C sensor, you MUST try the A6000.

All three images below were shot as JPEG using the Zeiss 32 1.8 Touit lens. The 1st one was converted to B&W using Alien Skin. STILL my fave filters!

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Overall Image Quality

I knew from the get go that the A6000 would have excellent IQ. I mean, would Sony release this camera with anything but at least as good of IQ as the older NEX-6? No. In fact, I feel it surpasses any NEX to date for IQ and I am just talking about JPEGS! The JPEG quality from the A6000 is fantastic. I shot this camera as a JPEG shooter to make it more challenging and to see what kind of color and quality would come out. I was surprised as every JPEG I looked at was sharp (though would be better and cleaner with RAW), clear and with pleasing color. The A6000 has the same color modes as previous NEX cameras so you have the usual Standard, Vivid, Nutral, Clear, Light, etc. While I feel they should drop 75% of those and just concentrate on the core color modes, the Sony’s always offer all  kinds of gimmicks and things to try. Still here is the Sweep Panorama mode, the Intelligent Auto and the Picture Effects, none of which I ever use. For me, just give me Aperture Priority and a good Auto ISO and I am off to the races.

As for JPEG shooting, below are a couple of direct from camera JPEGS. You can right-click on them to open them in a new window and see the full size file. Both were shot with the A6000 and Zeiss Touit 32 1.8. 

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High ISO and low light. Is it any better than previous models?

High ISO on the A600 is excellent as one would expect. Today we should not have to worry about ISO capabilities of modern-day cameras as they give us so much more in this area than film ever did. EVER. We can shoot clean with many cameras right up to ISO 3200, some even 6400. With the new Sony A7s coming soon we can go to levels we would have ever thought possible in our lifetime just a few years ago. So shooting the A6000 in low light with higher ISO is as good as one would expect but below is some ISO crops from 1600 and up.

The A6000 has very good high ISO performance all the way up to 6400 ISO, which is all anyone would really ever need. I mean, how many of you shoot past ISO 1600 on a regular basis? The test image below was shot in my office with natural light coming in through slightly open blinds. Noise Reduction was turned off 100% in camera and what you see below is all OOC JPEG.

Bottom line, the ISO capability rocks on the A6000 but then again, Sony has always been good at this. You can see the detail at 6400 and it gets lost at 12,800 so 6400 is as high as I would want to go.

The Test Image

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The Crops

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A Crazy JPEG Comparison! The A6000 and Zeiss 32 1.8 Touit vs the Leica M and 50 Summicron APO

Ok, here we go. I was not going to do this but I had to! I mean, I have in my possession the A600 and Zeiss Touuit 32 1,8 which gives us a 50mm full frame equivalent. The Zeiss Touit lens and A600 come in at under $1400 TOTAL, FOR BOTH! I also have the Leica M 240 and Leica 50 Summicron APO. This kit comes in at OVER $14,000! 10X the cost of the Sony combo. YES, you read that right. $14,000! So how do they do against each other in pure IMAGE QUALITY results only? Judge for yourself. But before I show you I want to state that shooting these cameras is 100% different as is the build and camera construction quality. As you would expect the Leica is in another stratosphere when it comes to build, feel and quality of the camera itself. It is also a rangefinder. The ONLY digital rangefinder available today. It is a unique experience and it is a Leica. With that said, when looking at Image Quality ONLY, the little Sony A6000 is quite good. ;) Take a look. IMO, IQ alone does not warrant 10X the cost here. Not even close, and I love and adore my Leica system. Yes the Leica is better but $13k better? Nope.

THIS IS AN OOC JPEG COMPARISON! What it shows is that the JPEG out of the Sony is fantastic. It is average out of the Leica. 

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Things I did not like about the A6000?

There are only a couple of things I did not like about the A6000, and they were not major dealbrakers in any way. For the under $800 cost (with lens) of the A6000, I really have ZERO complaints. It is a mature system camera and when you attach a great lens it will reward you with good color, great IQ and detail and uber fast operation. I would have liked it to be a little more solid in feel..maybe even a pro version with waterproofing and a more robust feel. I would have loved to have a better EVF like the one Sony offers externally for the RX1 camera. The problem is that my wishes would have propelled the cost of the camera to $1300 and up. The beauty of the A6000 is the fact that it allows us to get into a mature system camera that has it all. Speed, nice build and design, great lenses, built-in flash and EVF, swivel LCD, good battery life, innovative features such as Eye Af and great face recognition AF. It has the best tracking of any mirrorless to date as well. All for under $800 with a nice (normally $350) kit zoom. I mean, for those looking for a new camera under $1000 the Sony A6000 MUST be looked at! Small size is the key for me.

So at the end of the day I really can not fault the A6000 because for the cost of admission it offers way more than it should.

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Pros and Cons of the Sony A6000

Pros

  1. The price! Under $800 for camera and lens – MASSIVE Bang for the Buck.
  2. The sensor is fantastic with awesome color and detail.
  3. JPEGS are very good. Better than most camera.
  4. Fast AF and Response. Fastest in the mirror less world right now.
  5. Nice design and look to the camera.
  6. Built in EVF is always nice to have, and the A600 has one
  7. Tilt LCD
  8. Great high ISO performance
  9. Kit Lens is quite nice
  10. Small size and light weight
  11. Built in flash for those who like that sort of thing
  12. All new Alpha menu!
  13. Retains the gimmicky modes
  14. Nice control and customization
  15. Can use many lenses via adapters
  16. Good at AF tracking
  17. High ISO Noise Reduction can be turned off 100%! (which is good)

Cons

  1. No weather sealing
  2. No in body Image Stabilization
  3. EVF could be better

So there thou go. For me, 16 pros and 3 cons. This is after 3 weeks of use, which was not daily use but 3-4 times per week.

The OOC color can be gorgeous! Rich, beautiful color and tones. Zeiss 32 1.8 Touit. 

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and B&W is also nice! Once again, the awesome Touit 32 1.8

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My Bottom Line conclusion of the A6000 

To be honest I was not incredibly excited to review this camera. Why? Well, when I review a camera I do not just go through the motions nor do I have any kind of template that I use. Some reviews I do are more detailed, some are more exciting and some are short and sweet. ALL are based in real world use with the camera and never do I get technical or talk nerd talk. I simply use the camera and if it excited me you will know by the way I write (see an example of that here) and if I do not like it, you will know (an example here). Sometimes though I am surprised by what I think will be average or mediocre when it turns out to be much better than I expected. The Sony A6000 is an example of just that. I thought it would just be an average NEX-6 update with new Alpha menus. But as is the case on many occasions, I was once again wrong!

While I am not raving about how it is the best thing since sliced bread, I am very happy with the camera and feel it is indeed the best APS-C NEX type of camera to date and one of the best if not the best APS-C cameras available. I prefer it to most Fuji’s (besides the X-T1, slightly) and prefer it to any other APS-C Sony and almost every other APS-C camera. I have to keep reminding myself that this camera is only $798 with a lens as when you use it seems to perform and feel like a $1200 and up camera.

Sony did good with the A6000. Those who never shot a Sony and those who own something like  NEX-5, NEX-6 or even NEX-7 would be thrilled with the A6000. If I spent even more time with it I may have even fallen harder for it and ordered one. It truly does give outstanding performance and speed all in one small nice looking package. I review and use so many cameras each and every year it is easy to get a little burn out with cameras and new products but the A6000 is one of those cameras that makes os much sense on many levels and is fun to shoot, so it made me want to head out with it every time I took it out.

This is an important price point and Sony knows it, so it will appeal to a much wider audience than the over $1000 enthusiast cameras. I think if the A6000 was shown to a group of 50 people who were in the market for an under $1000 camera system, and they were able to use it for an hour, I feel that 40 would buy it on the spot (if they were in the market and ready to buy).

The only faults are with the smaller EVF, no touchscreen, no in body IS and no weather sealing. But add those and it will add to the price so in reality, when judging the A6000 at the current price point it has no flaws at all.

The Sony A6000 is one small step for camera fan and one giant leap for the masses who really do not follow the camera world or care about sensors and tech. By that I mean that ANYONE who takes pictures would be thrilled with this mid range offering from Sony. It does what it does extremely well and all you have to worry about is what lens you want to attach.

Speaking of lenses, I really enjoyed the Zeiss Touit for its rich color and nice overall rendering. At under $800 it is a fabulous lens that will give you the 50mm focal length equivalent and some nice shallow depth of field effects. If I owned the A6000 I would also own the Zeiss. The Mitakon 50 0.95 is also unique and built like a classic Leica lens in feel and the solidness of it. The Mitakon is manual focus only though so beware of that. At $799 it offers a more artistic approach in use and results. You can read about the Mitakon HERE.  Sony now has many lenses available for the E-Mount. From zooms to primes to expensive to cheap. Take your pic.

Bottom Line? If I offered an “Editor’s Choice” the A6000 would  take that title easily. Highly Recommended for those looking for a quality camera with DSLR quality and speed without the size. Also good to note is that during the review period I never had a mis focused shot or any issues at all with the camera. When I snapped I knew what would come out of the camera would be fantastic.

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Where to Buy?

You can buy the Sony A6000 at my recommended and preferred dealers below. Just click the link to go direct to the A6000 page to check stock status, price and to order if you so desire!

Amazon - Sony A6000 in BLACK or SILVER with Kit Zoom.

Amazon - Sony A600 in BLACK or SIlVER without Kit Zoom.

B&H PhotoAll variations of the A6000 are HERE!

Zeiss Touit 32 1.8 Lens for Sony E-Mount at Amazon or B&H Photo

SMILE!

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PLEASE! I NEED YOUR HELP TO KEEP THIS WEBSITE RUNNING, IT IS SO EASY AND FREEE for you to HELP OUT!

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To help out it is simple. 

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A few more images from the A6000! Enjoy and THANK YOU for reading!

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Jan 062014
 

The new Sony NEX? The Alpha 5000 Arrives!

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With CES here many manufacturers are announcing new cameras, lenses and gadgets this week, so this is always fun. Last year was the Fuji X100s, this year is the Fuji X100s black :)

While I did NOT make it to CES this year due to the fact that I was just in a car accident and my car is in the shop for the next 30-45 days (I am fine as the airbags did their job well and yes, I would have driven as Vegas is a 4 hour drive for me). Even so, I do not feel like I lost out too much as the new cameras at CES are usually “in-betweens”. The big announcements are usually just that..BIG announcements (as with the Olympus E-M1 and Sony A7) so I did not expect HUGE news from CES in regards to camera releases.

Nope, not many “super exciting” things being released IMO besides the new Fuji 56 1.2 lens, the black X100s, Panasonic Nocticron F/1.2 lens and now the new Sony A5000 which is being touted as the worlds smallest interchangeable lens camera WITH WiFi capability :) The new Alpha A 5000 looks very similar..as in..it looks just like a NEX body but it is now called an Alpha A instead of a NEX. It is an E-Mount so will use all of the current and past E mount lenses. So if you want a basic “NEX” like upgrade, the A5000 will do the trick, and at a great price. I expect it to be very NEX like with the Alpha and A7 menus.

With a 16-50 Kit Zoom the A5000 comes in at under $600. You can pre-order at B&H Photo or Amazon. 

FEATURES:

20.1 Mp Exmor APS HD CMOS Sensor and BIONZ X Image Processor

The 20.1 Mp APS-C-sized Exmor APS HD CMOS sensor and BIONZ X image processor work together to produce high-resolution, well-detailed imagery with minimal noise and notable low-light quality and sensitivity to ISO 16000. The processor also contributes to providing a wealth of speed throughout the camera system, including a fast 25-point contrast-detection AF system, top continuous shooting rate of 3.5 fps, and full HD 1080i/p video recording in multiple frame rates.

Full HD Video Recording

Full HD 1080i/p video recording is supported at both 60 and 24 fps frame rates to produce high-resolution movies with a smooth, cinematic look. Videos are recorded using the high-quality AVCHD codec and a built-in stereo microphone records sound in the Dolby Digital AC-3 format. Additionally, 1440 x 1080p, 1280 x 720p, and 640 x 480p formats are also supported in the Internet-friendly MP4 format.

Built-In Wi-Fi Connectivity

Built-in Wi-Fi connectivity enables the A5000 to instantly share imagery to mobile devices for direct sharing online to social networking, via email, and to cloud storage sites. NFC (Near Field Communication) is also supported, which allows for one-touch connection between the camera and compatible mobile devices; no complex set-up is required.

Tilting LCD Monitor

For live view monitoring, image playback and review, and menu navigation, a 3.0″ 460.8k-dot touchscreen LCD monitor is integrated into the camera body and features a 180° tilting design to promote easier use from low angles as well as in front of the camera.

Sony 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS Retractable Zoom Lens

The included 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS Retractable Zoom Lens provides a 35mm-equivalent focal length range of 24-75mm, covering wide-angle to portrait-length perspectives to suit working in a wide variety of situations. It features Optical SteadyShot image stabilization to help minimize the appearance of camera shake by up to four shutter speed steps to greatly benefit working in low-light conditions and with greater zoom magnifications. One extra-low dispersion element and four aspherical elements are integrated into the optical construction to help reduce chromatic aberrations as well as increase clarity, sharpness, and contrast and the Power Zoom electronically-driven zoom mechanism brings greater efficiency to controlling the zoom position of the lens.

Other Camera Features

A built-in pop-up flash is available to provide additional illumination when working in dim lighting.

Auto Object Framing is an intelligent shooting mode that can automatically analyze the scene and subjects within it and determine an aesthetically-pleasing composition. The subsequent imagery will be cropped according to subject matter, resulting in a well-balanced composition that utilizes Face Detection and Tracking Focus to ensure high image quality and sharpness.

Picture Effect modes allow you to apply creative settings and emphasize certain facets of individual images for a richer, more aesthetic picture quality. Posterization (Color/B&W), Pop Color, Retro Photo, Partial Color (R/G/B/Y), High Contrast Monochrome, Toy Camera, Soft High-Key, Soft Focus, HDR Painting, Rich-Tone Monochrome, Miniature, Watercolor, and Illustration modes are available.

The Photo Creativity feature provides quick access to Picture Effects as well as dedicated controls for adjusting Background Defocus, Brightness, Color, and Vividness. Additionally, these effects can be combined for nearly limitless adjustment options

Superior Auto mode is an intelligent automated setting that can quickly identify the current shooting environment and adjust crucial camera settings to deliver optimized results. This mode also utilizes Auto HDR and Hand-held Twilight modes, which employ image compositing techniques to better handle difficult lighting conditions.

Anti-Motion Blur automatically corrects for subject movement in order to deliver clean, sharp imagery in low-light conditions. This is accomplished by recording six sequential frames and compositing portions of each image to ensure overall sharpness.

Hand-held Twilight Mode automatically composites details from six sequentially-recorded images in order to attain higher overall image sharpness when working in low-light conditions.

Face Detection/Smile Shutter can detect and base focus, white balance, and exposure settings on recognized faces. This technology also enables the shutter to be released, based on three sensitivity levels, when a smile is detected in the frame.

Creative Style settings provide control over how the camera processes images based on six different predetermined styles: Standard, Vivid, Portrait, Landscape, Sunset, and B&W. Within these settings, contrast, saturation, and sharpness can also be adjusted depending on personal preference.

The Sony E-mount affords compatibility with an extensive number of lenses and lens adapters.

Convenient USB charging allows you to charge the included lithium-ion battery in-camera via USB connection from either an AC outlet or PC source.

The Stamina battery power allows up to approximately 420 shots to be taken on a single charge. The InfoLITHIUM batteries also enable you to see the remaining percentage of battery power left.

PlayMemories Home software is pre-installed on the camera for automatic downloading to a PC when connected to offer support for viewing, organizing, editing, retouching, printing, and sharing imagery.

Aug 222013
 

Rhinocam with NEX7 and Hasselblad Distagon 40mm

170 Megapixels with a Sony NEX camera and Vizalex RhinoCam

by Dierk Topp – His flickr is HERE

Hi Steve,

today I have a very special topic again, the “Vizelex RhinoCam for Sony NEX E-Mount Cameras“.

rhino1

The Rhinocam is more or less an adapter for medium format lenses on NEX cameras – but much more than just an adapter! When I read about it, I ordered the next day and got it about 4 weeks ago – and I am very exited.

But let my start from my beginning more or less.

My very beginning was in 1956, when I did my first photographs with the Agfa Box of my mother and I got exited the first time. To make this long story short, my analog time ended with 6×6, 4×5 and the panorama cameras Horizon 202 and the last one was the ultimate Seitz Roundshot, shooting up to 360° (and even more).

Then I switched to digital. After some Nikon Coolpix I got the Nikon D70 with 6 Mpix. I love big prints but the resolution was very low for big prints. So I got a Panosaurus panorama head, adjusted it for the nodal points of my lenses and started shooting and stitching panoramas (with PTGui and TPAssembler) and printed and sold 150x50cm panorama prints. That was great!

When Gigapan offered a beta program for their Epic pano head, I participated and used the tiny Leica D-Lux3 with 10 Mpix. and stitched up to 200 images giving up to 800 Mpix images:) You may see them at gigapan.com (search for -dierk-)

During the last years I was shooting many stitched landscapes with Leica M9 and M Monochrom and the NEX7 and now the NEX6. Prints are now up to 1x2m on my wall:) Allmost my landscape and nature images are stitched images. Going out with the Leica and one or two lenses (most of the time 21mm and 35mm) I can get any angle of view by just shooting one or even two rows hand-held.

As sad, I love big prints. I stitched also from shifted images of the Nikkor 24mm PC-E and lately with the Canon 17mm TS-E for higher resolution and wider angle of view, especially with the 17mm TS-E. But that is a new story.

When I saw the Rinocam, I ordered it the next day and bought two Hasselblad lenses, the Zeiss Distagon 40mm and the Zeiss Makro-Planar 120mm. I want to do landscapes and architecture and stills with the macro lens. For the resolution of up to 140 Mpix the best lenses are just good enough and these Hasselblad Zeiss lenses are very big glass value for the money! For the price of the Sony Zeiss 24/1.8 you get the excellent 40mm Distagon, like about 21mm on 24×36 FF. Finally I bought the superb Zeiss Sonnar 150mm/4 for less than 400€, a collector’s item like new!

How does the Rhinocam principle work?

On the front part you find the exchangeable adapter for the lens with the tripod foot, I have the Hasselblad V adapter. Adapters for Mamya 645 and Pentax 645 are also available.

On the back of the Rhinocam is the mount for the NEX E mount cameras. This part can be rotated by 90°. For “Panorama” taking 2 rows of 3 images with the NEX in landscape orientation, and for so called 645, taking 2 rows of 4 images with NEX in portrait orientation.

The camera is now positioned within the images circle of the lens and where the film plane used to be in 6×6 or 645 cameras. For the pictures you move the back with the camera to any position. For guidance there are marks for the horizontal and vertical movements. But as said any position is possible. Sometimes I use additional positions, when for example the unstructured background of stills or the sky will make problems for the stitching. Additional pictures can connect those areas for the stitcher.

You will find more explanations an a movie on the page of Fotodiox Inc. or you can see it below:

Some thoughts and comparison of the Rhinocam/NEX versus digital medium format DMF.

Besides the price the obvious difference is, with stitching several images together, you can only shoot more or less static objects. Witch is obvious and normal for anybody, who used stitching before.

I would like to look at the resolution (there are many more aspects – besides the price :) ). The Rhinocam technique uses 6 to 8 (or more with more overlap) stitched images of 24 MPix/image of the NEX7 or 16 MPix/image of some other NEX models.

  • The effective sensor size results in 4.5×6 mode of the Rhinocam is about 58×48 mm compared with 48×36 mm of the Leaf Aptus 75S for example (there are bigger and much more expensive ones)
  • the resulting resolution is about 11700 x 9300 = 108 MPixel with the Rhinocam and the NEX6 versus 6726 x 5040 = 34 MPixel of the Leaf 75S – the NEX7 even higher (140+).
  • ich made a test with NEX7 and shooting 10 instead 8 images (in 4.5×6 mode) and got 17.000×11.300 pixel = 192 MPixel.
  • If you downsample the NEX6/7 files to the resolution of the 75S, you must get some very good IQ (if you start with a good lens like Zeiss glass of course)
  • another aspect is high ISO: the high ISO of the NEX cameras is good and getting better. What I read and see, the high ISO on DMF seems to be very limited
  • and one more: my NEX7 is converted to infrared and I can use it on the Rhincam as well. That gives me IR images with this impressive resolution of 140+ MPixel
  • by using the big image circle of the 6×6 lenses you don’t get any problems with parallax and foreground, as you may know from stitching images by moving the camera. You move within the same image and “simulate” a much bigger sensor
  • shooting the Rinocam is fast! Setting up the picture is the same as with any other tripod shooting, and the shooting of the 8 images does not take more than about 15 seconds (or even less). Moving clouds and changing light is not a big problem. Shooting large format takes far more time and preparation
  • stitching is like any other stitching. On my 3 years old AMD quad core WIN7 with 16 GB using the free MS ICE takes about 20 seconds.

 

There are really strange arguments in some post and “reports”:

  • you need a good tripod – wrong! no problem, for stitching images you even can shoot hand-held. The stitcher takes care
  • even Fotodiox says: shoot auto WB and auto exposure: shooting RAW auto WB is unimportant, auto exposure give you big problem with light and shadows. Experienced pano shooters use manual exposure (or even bracketing)
  • focusing on the ground glass is a problem: wrong! The ground glass is just for first framing. I control the exact framing of the final image and the focusing with the perfect liveview of the NEX.

Last, but not least: who needs this high resolution?

  • not for the Web, life could be easier!
  • but for real big prints, where you can walk around with your eyes on the picture and enjoy the details
  • you don’t have to be Andres Gurski! My prints are up to 1x2m and I love them :)
  • with all these pixels you can use parts of the image like a shift lens

Please, all the PROs making money with DMF cameras out there, don’t kill me, I make fun – not money with my gear :))) I bought the Rinocam like anybody else and don’t get payed for my typing.

You find more information and a movie about the Rhinocam on the site of Fotodiox Inc.

You may find my images with the Rhonocam here or on my flickr album: www.flickr.com/photos/dierktopp/sets/72157634801332367/

Amazon sells the RhinoCam HERE

Too many words, here are some examples:

First, here is the “monster” on location

With my special NEX7-IR (converted to infrared) and the Zeiss Distagon 40mm/4. You see the ground glass for the first rough framing and the old-fashioned focusing aid in the center. It works for the first focus but for exact focus you use the NEX with the magnification. For the exact control of what you will get on the image you also use the liveview of the NEX and slide the camera to the outer positions.

Rhinocam with NEX7 and Hasselblad Distagon 40mm

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NEX6 with Hasselblad Zeiss Distagon 40mm/4 

stitch of 10 images (2×5) from Rhinocam = 14.000×9.300 pixel. A higher resolution of about 6000×4000 pixel is here

Rhinocam with NEX6  and Hasselblad Distagon 40mm@f/16

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a crop (the real 1:1 is here)

Rhinocam with NEX6  and Hasselblad Distagon 40mm@f/16

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NEX6 with Hasselblad Zeiss Distagon 40mm/4 

stitch of 8 images from Rhinocam about 110 MPixel. A higher resolution of about 6000×4000 pixel is here

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NEX6 with Hasselblad Zeiss Sonnar 150mm/4

 stitch of 2×4 images from Rhinocam about 110 MPixel. A higher resolution of about 6000×4000 pixel is here. If you look at the upper right part, you will find, that this part is blurred, as the image for this part was blurred. But I had only this shot.

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NEX6 with Hasselblad Zeiss Sonnar 150mm/4 

stitch of 2×4 images from Rhinocam about 80MPixel. A higher resolution of about 6000×2700 pixel is here. The distance to the houses is about 200m

80 MPixel with Rhinocam with NEX6  and Zeiss Sonnar 4/150mm

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NEX7-IR infrared with Hasselblad Zeiss Sonnar 150mm/4
stitch of 2×4 images from Rhinocam about 123 MPixel
a higher resolution of about 6000×2700 pixel is here

123 MPixel with Rhinocam with NEX7-IR  and Zeiss Sonnar 4/150mm

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170 MPix - 
NEX7-IR infrared with Hasselblad Zeiss Distagon 40mm/4

stitch of 10 images from Rhinocam about 170 MPixel
a higher resolution of about 5700×4000 pixel is here

170 MPix - NEX7-IR and Rhinocam with Hasselblad Zeiss Distagon 4

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NEX6 with Hasselblad Zeiss Makro-Planar120mm/4
stitch of 2×3 images from Rhinocam about 80 MPixel
a higher resolution of about 6000×2700 pixel is here (here on the big image on flickr you see, what is on the picture with your mouse over for “who is who”)

yes, I know, but I was too lazy to clean up the dust :)

a real picture of a 1:1 crop is here

Rhinocam with NEX6  and Zeiss Makro-Planar 4/120mm

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NEX6 with Hasselblad Zeiss Makro-Planar120mm/4
stitch of 2×4 images from Rhinocam about 100 MPixel
a higher resolution of about 5000×4000 pixel is here 

on this one I “invented” another trick: focus stacking :)
the camera and Rhinocam was on a macro rail. After shooting the two vertical shots I moved the rail by three cm to the back
this makes the whole picture like focus stacking and sharp from front to back. 
Normally you do focus stacking with the whole picture and let the software find the sharp ares for stacking. Her I just took only the sharp areas and let the stitcher put it all together.

Uff, hard to explain, I hope, somebody will understand, what I mean :)

Mail Attachment

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NEX6 with Hasselblad Zeiss Makro-Planar120mm/4
stitch of 2×4 images from Rhinocam about 95 MPixel
a higher resolution of about 4000×4000 pixel is here 

a real picture of a 1:1 crop is here

95 MPix - NEX6 and Rhinocam with Hasselblad Zeiss 120mm Makro-Pl

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NEX6 with Hasselblad Zeiss Makro-Planar120mm/4
stitch of 2×4 images from Rhinocam about 95 MPixel
a higher resolution of about 4000×4000 pixel is here

95 MPix - NEX6 and Rhinocam with Hasselblad Zeiss 120mm Makro-Pl-

NEX6 with Hasselblad Zeiss Makro-Planar120mm/4
stitch of 2×4 images from Rhinocam about 95 MPixel
a higher resolution of about 4000×4000 pixel is here

85 MPix - NEX6 and Rhinocam with Hasselblad Zeiss 120mm Makro-Pl-

a real picture of a 1:1 crop is here (it is still 2600×2200 pixel)

85 MPix - NEX6 and Rhinocam with Hasselblad Zeiss 120mm Makro-Pl

I hope, you enjoyed it and have some neu ideas for your/our passion photography :)

Dierk
Amazon sells the RhinoCam HERE

Jul 152013
 

The Great Shootout – LEICA M240, NIKON D800, Sony NEX 7

By Jim Hale

More posts coming today but to start it off I thought some of you may find this interesting. Jim Hale sent me a video he made comparing three cameras in a very “non scientific” test. Enjoy!

Jim also made a very cool video with his M and Noctilux that looks pretty good :) Tough to beat that Leica glass!

Jul 052013
 

zeiss-touit_tryout

TRY BEFORE YOU BUY! Zeiss Touit Lenses for Fuji X or Sony E Mount!

PopFlash.com has informed me that they are offering a very cool program for the Zeiss Touit line of lenses where you can actually try them out before you buy. In other words, give the lenses a try. If you like them, great! if you do not like them, send them back! This is a great way to see if you like the lenses before committing to buy 100%.

Here are the details from the PopFlash.com website:

“Here is your opportunity to have a hands on experience with the ZEISS TOUIT LENSES for Fuji X Mount or Sony E Mount. You will be billed for security purposes, then shipped the tryout lenses of your choice. Upon return, you will be refunded minus the shipping cost. All you pay for is shipping to your destination plus the **shipping cost to return the camera and lenses. If you like the “TRYOUT SET” and decide to purchase any of the lenses, just return the tryout equipment and we can bill and ship brand new Zeiss Touit Lenses of your choice at our current sale price.”

To check it out and read more visit the page at PopFlash.com HERE. You can read my thoughts on the Zeiss lenses for Fuji HERE. That 12mm is a superb lens!

 

May 212013
 

sonynex3nre

Sony NEX-3n & 20 f/2.8 Lens Quick Review by Steve Huff

This is one of the best deals in the mirrorless photo world right now, as of this writing (May 2013). For under $450 you can have an APS-C NEX camera with a decent  and compact 16-50 Zoom lens included. Great buy. 

This NEX-3n is an older release as it arrived a couple of months ago but I asked Sony to send it to me as this site has a history of reviewing ALL of the NEX cameras and I have had yet to even hold the newest version of the “3″, the slick little 3n. I have tried them all from the very 1st revolutionary NEX-3 and 5 to the latest NEX cameras and now this NEX-3n. I have heard rumors of a NEX-7 replacement coming soon, and many think it will be huge AND full frame. Will it? Maybe, hope so..but no one really knows what is to come just yet.

If Sony goes full frame with a NEX camera there will be some things that are not so great, like the fact that all NEX lenses released to date are for a crop sensor, not full frame. So this would mean all new lenses for an all new camera and we know how slow Sony is at releasing quality glass! A full frame will require QUALITY glass. Sony knows this as the lens on the full frame RX1 is astounding, and one of the best 35mm lenses around.

For now though, those of you who want a quality APS-C camera can indeed find one for not so much cashola in the NEX-3N and the IQ is just as you would expect, the same as previous NEX cameras. It even shares the same sensor as the previous NEX-3F but what is different this time around is the body shape, which is different from the previous NEX-3. Also, this new one makes a perfect setup for beginners looking to step into higher quality without having to buy into a large bulky DSLR.

Using the newer 20 2.8 Sony lens on some yellow flowers. The color is intense but gorgeous. 

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The NEX-3N is the latest in the “3″ line and while it does not feel the best in the hand of all of the previous “3′s” it can indeed take a quality image. The 3N feels light, hollow, “plastic” and not as formed to the hand as my fave NEX cameras the 5N and 6/7. But how can I complain? Sony is packing some cool tech in this thing and at under $450 for the camera AND the new 16-50 Zoom lens they are making a price point statement. Finally, a camera that is not overpriced but priced RIGHT. Wow. $450 for the set and you will have a highly capable little APS-C shooter. The 16-50 Zoom alone sells for $350 so in reality you are getting the camera for $100!

While not as exotic or cool as the Fuji X100s or the Sony RX1 or the Olympus E-P5, the NEX-3N is for those who want to get started in the mirrorless world with quality output without spending thousands of dollars.

The only bummer is that I am now so used to using an internal Viewfinder that it would be so cool for this camera to have one. At the same time, I understand that at this price and size, it really is not possible so it is all good. The external EVF is NOT compatible with the 3N, so no option for that at all.

The NEX-3N has a built in Flash but no hot shoe for the Sony EVF – it’s all about conpactness 

NEX3NLB_4

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Sony should have a commercial for this camera using a TV pitchman..I can see it now:

“Act now and this NEX-3N will not cost you $1500, not even $1000, not even $500! The next 50 callers will get the APS-C NEX-3N with Kit Zoom for the ridiculously low price of $449!”

There is not much I can say really besides to tell you about the specs and the experience shooting it because I have said it all many times before in my past NEX reviews. See “Mirrorless Central” in the Sony section here for all past NEX review on this site. The basic idea of the NEX series has always been “small size but huge quality” and the 3N delivers great images just as past NEX cameras did.

Testing the 3-2-1 Self Portrait mode where the LCD faces you and counts down the shot, photo booth style

DSC03051

The new NEX-3N has a more boxy appearance but is still VERY small. The buttons feel a little cheaper than previous NEX cameras but again, $450 with lens is a steal of a deal for those wanting APS-C quality and interchangeable lens capability. At the price it is hard  to NOT recommend.

But what about the new 20 f/2.8 lens? I will post my thoughts on the lens after listing the specs of the 3N:

16.1MP Exmor APS-C CMOS Sensor – Same as  the previous NEX-3F

BIONZ Image Processor – Makes its way to the starter NEX

Sony E-Mount

16-50mm (35mm Equiv: 24-75mm) PZ Lens – The newer smaller zoom 

3.0″ 460.8k-Dot 180-deg Tilting LCD – Can even tilt all the way up for easy self portrait, as with the previous NEX-3F

Full HD 1080i Video at 60fps

ISO 100-16000

Intelligent AF System

Auto Object Framing – This is a new intelligent feature that will automatically frame your subject in the most appealing way. This is for newbies. 

Photo Creativity Feature for Effects

IMO, this is the most impressive bang for the buck NEX to date and while not anything new, it comes in with some small improvements and makes a perfect setup for beginners looking to get the best results with minimal effort.

While not perfect and not much different and really the same old same old in a new body with some slight changes, it is still a capable little thing

Menu is the same, settings are the same, and the camera behaves like most previous NEX series cameras. The AF is not blazing fast and the Olympus OM-D E-M5 focuses faster and feels more responsive but that camera is about a grand. The NEX-3N is under $500 with lens, so for what it is and what you pay it is a superb deal and you can not argue with the large APS-C sensor inside.

 The NEX-3N does B&W as well as color :) The Sony 20 2.8 lens at 2.8

DSC02940bw

The Sony 20MM F/2.8 Lens

sony-20mm-angle-500x478

Sony has released yet another lens in the “standard” area of primes. This 20 f/2.8 will give you a 30mm equivalent focal length so this is Sonys answer to nice walk around 30mm that will not break the bank. This is the lens Sony should have made when the NEX series started. Back then they gave us the 16 2.8 which was soft, flat and dull with colors. It was not horrible but it was not the best lens to showcase a new APS-C system. I did like that little 16 when shooting the old NEX-5 at ISO 6400 and B&W. Gave a nice field of view with some grit and I did not have to worry about its shortcomings. The new 20 2.8 is small and delivers better performance across the board but is $100 more than the old 16mm.

In use it will not feel like a blazing fast lens in regards to AF because it is not. It is also not an incredible WOW lens. What it is indeed is a very good 30mm equivalent with a semi fast 2.8 aperture in a small package and a decent price tag of $348.

I can indeed state that the new 20 2.8 is an improvement over the old 16, fact. It is sharper and gets pin sharp at f/4 and this time around we get much sharper corners. This is considered a “pancake” lens and is pretty small on the camera, which is batter than those huge fat lenses for this system. I believe with a NEX system which focuses on size that all lenses should also be kept small. The 20 2.8 fits that perfectly so Sony is once again on the right track.

The 20 2.8 lens on the NEX-3n provides good color, sharpness and detail and the usual Sony NEX colors

DSC02961

DSC02974

So a NEX-3N with 16-50 Kit Zoom and the 20 2.8 would set  you back about $800 but you would then have a pretty capable starter kit that will bring you DSLR results and all in a small compact size that would fit easily in a Think Tank Mirrorless Mover :) If you already own a NEX camera the 20 2.8 may be a lens you can get into. If you want a small walk around 35mm equivalent and do not mind the 2.8 aperture speed, it is a good choice. Three more examples below with some explanations…

Up close and personal. When shooting close the 20 2.8 can indeed show some distortion. Remember, this is still a 20mm lens and will distort like a 20mm giving human subjects “Big Nose Syndrome” when in close quarters. 

DSC03052

The B&W rendering looks deliciously good with the NEX 3N and 20 2.8 – Shot through a shop window, they had no clue I took the pic.

DSC03073bw

The Bokeh is smooth from the 20 2.8 so do not be afraid of it :) This lens is a fantastic all around performer when used in the real world.

DSC03036

When I see output like this from a $450 camera and $350 lens I sit and wonder why I pay so much for my other gear. Well, I know the reasons why and my other gear IS indeed better but is it THOUSANDS of dollars better? THAT is the question. There are many things we go through today with camera, gear, etc that is mostly psychological and while each and every camera made today is different, all are quite capable. What we get out of them is equal to what we put into them and it is you who will make the photo’s that come out of the camera.

Full Size File from RAW

Below is a file shot at f/5.6 with the 20 2.8 lens on the NEX-3n. Click it for full size. 

fullsizefromraf5.6

If you click the image above you will see the full size file from RAW and it was shot at f/5.6 without any lens corrections on. When shooting JPEG the camera corrects for the distortion and faults in the lens which I see Sony doing alot of these days. Where a lens made by Leica is distortion free from the get go, it seems Sony lenses are designed and have plenty of distortion but they are now counting on in camera software to fix these distortions in JPEGS. 98% of what you see here are RAW files without correction but I do wish Sony would concentrate more on designing lenses with minimal distortion out of the box.

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Where to Buy the NEX-3N and 20 2.8 Lens?

I would buy from the same shops I have been buying from for years and years with never a single issue.

B&H Photo sells the NEX-3N and 16-50 Kit Zoom HERE - Also in WHITE

B&H Photo sells the 20 2.8 Lens HERE

Amazon also sells the NEX-3N HERE in black and also in WHITE, and the 20 2.8 Lens HERE

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My final thoughts on the NEX system and the NEX-3N

It’s all about usability and output for me and the NEX-3N has OK usability and great output. Without a viewfinder or the option for one and the slowish operation when focusing and firing it is not the most fun camera to use but I can not argue with the cost or the output, which is what it is all about. I much prefer the NEX-6 and 7 but those cost much more and are for more advanced users.

Until Sony releases the next big thing in the NEX line this is about all I can write when the camera is not much different than the previous version. The NEX-3N has the same menu system, same control system and mostly the same features as the previous NEX-3 cameras. Not much has changed besides the body style, SD card compartment (now on the side, not with the battery) and the slimmer grip. The camera still has an APS-C sensor capable of superb output and it can take some great lenses such as Leica lenses, Zeiss E mount lenses and every other lens that every other NEX can take. It is a NEX through and through and while I am more of a fan of the 5 and 7 series, the 3 still has its place as the entry level affordable APS-C little pack of dynamite that it is.

The NEX-3N can put out some very pleasing results without question but it is still a body style and design set up for those who do not want total control. It is lacking control dials like the NEX-6 and NEX-7 so if you want a more advanced NEX, those are the bodies to look at. As for high ISO, in rel shooting I did not see any difference between this and the 3F. In fact, this camera felt like the 3F in use, with a different style grip.

For those starting out in this mirrorless camera world and are blinded by the many choices the NEX-3N is a wonderful choice if you want to get in on the ground floor of the NEX system. Oh and  if you want to see more about the kit zoom, the 16-50, you can read about that lens in my NEX-6 1st look HERE.

Bottom line, if you want quality DSLR like photos without the bulk, check out the NEX line. You can read all of my NEX reviews in “Mirrorless Central”

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HELP ME TO KEEP THIS SITE GOING AND GROWING!! IT’S EASY TO HELP OUT & I CAN USE ALL THE HELP I CAN GET!

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Feb 122013
 

IMG_249283

Amazing DEAL on Sigma NEX Lenses – $199 for BOTH the 19 and 30mm 2.8 together, $99 each!

The most amazing deal is still going in at B&H Photo and they have these IN STOCK. Both excellent Sigma lenses for the NEX Sony E Mount system – the 19 2.8 and the 30 2.8 (which you can see my review of HERE)  - both of them for $199 total, for both together! This is a STEAL. At $199 the 30 2.8 was already a deal. At $199 for BOTH it is a VERY crazy deal. These are good lenses and even come with cases. To be clear, you get BOTH lenses with cases for $199. Amazon has each lens for $149 which comes out to $100 more, so this is a great buy everyone!

Don’t miss out. If you want to take advantage of this deal, B&H Has them listed HERE. Last time they did this they sold out quick.

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Dec 292012
 

bothtt

Gorgeous new SLR Magic Hyperprime 35mm T0.95 and 35 T1.4 arrives for testing!

The “Noctlux” for your APS-C Mirrorless

The 35 T 0.95 Hyperprime ASP-H M mount Lens

So..you want a super fast, super sharp, super built, super bokeh 50mm equivalent cream machine for your Sony NEX, Fuji X or EOS-M camera? How about a 70mm equivalent for your Micro 4/3?  Want one for each system without having to buy three different lenses? I know I do..and such a lens has just arrived to the Huff Household. Yep,  UPS arrived yesterday with a huge box from SLR Magic and what the box held were two lenses I have been excited to review for a few weeks now. One of them is the premium 35mm APS-H Hyperprime (their premium quality line of lenses)  and I have to say that it is a BEAUTY.

It’s large, hefty, built like a solid brick and is a damn nice T0.95 lens, which in F stop land means about f/0.92! This is the 50mm equivalent 0.95 lens for APS-C mirrorless camera shooters! Almost Like having a Noctilux for your Fuji X or NEX, speed wise anyway :)

t0.95onnex

hyperprimonnex

This is an all manual lens designed for ALL of the popular mirrorless systems. You can shoot this one lens  on the NEX system, Fuji X system, EOS-M or Micro 4/3 system. How so you ask? Well, when ordering you just choose which system you want to use it with but the beauty of it all is that if you own 2 or 3 or all of these systems you only need ONE lens and it will be compatible with all of your cameras using an adapter.

This lens is actually an M mount design but not to be used on an M camera. Instead SLR Magic made it in the M mount because so many adapters are made for this mount. So this one lens can be used on almost any mirrorless system with an adapter. This was a great move IMO. For example, if I have a Fuji X camera and an OM-D and a NEX-6 or 7, this one lens can be shot on all of them. Awesome.

One thing I found while doing test shots is that even with focus peaking set to on with the NEX-6 this lens is a beast to focus correctly when shooting wide open. It has a massively razor thin level of DOF at T0.95 so your focus has to be pinpoint precise or else the images will be slightly soft at the focus point if you miss.

A quick OOC JPEG at T 0.95 and the Sony NEX-6  - remember this is wide open at T0.95 

095atbar

The particular lens that was sent to me was shipped with the Sony E Mount adapter so I will be testing it on the NEX-6 (see 1st three OOC JPEGS above) and then later the Fuji X system as soon as I get an adapter for it. It appears the Fuji adapter will not work correctly but there are some that will and SLR Magic will be shipping them with their own Fuji adapter that will work just fine.

Out of the box, this lens looks pretty bad ass but I can not speak enough about how large it is. IT IS LARGE. So if you are hoping for something small this is not your lens. If you want super quality Bokeh and image quality it just might be your lens. The packaging is solid this time around with the lens and adapter encased in solid foam so there is no chance of shipping damage (unless the UPS guys decide to play soccer with it). I am excited to review this one.

A couple of B&W JPEGS with the NEX-6 wide open at T0.95

debbybw

debby feet

This 35mm T0.95 APS-H Hyperprime  lens will be selling for $1349 starting in February 2013 from SLR Magic and that is a decent price considering their 50 T0.95 for M mount was nearing the $5k mark (this was mainly due to the RF coupling and it being a full frame lens). In the same price range as this lens is the Voigtlander 35 1.4 in M mount. Many use that lens as their fast 35 on their mirrorless systems and love it but from what I have seen, this lens just may surpasses that one in Image Quality and Bokeh when used on mirrorless cameras. The only negative is that you can use the Voigtlander on an M camera as it is a full frame lens. Again, This SLR Magic is NOT full frame so while it has an M mount, it is not compatible with M cameras.

The soon to be released SLR Magic 35 T0.95 HYPERPRIME premium lens. (all product shots with Sony RX1)

35t0.95inbox

35t95side

35t95front

For those of you who have seen my review on the previous SLR Magic hyper prime, the 50 T0.95 for Leica M mount you may remember that I loved it and declared it to be just about equal to the Leica Noctilux f0.95 in image quality (in real world use) and I preferred the Bokeh of the SLR Magic. The construction of the Leica Noctilux is better (as is the resale value) but for all out IQ the HyperPrime was amazing. I never had one issue with it on my Leica M9-P or the Monochrom. It was large and heavy but it packed some serious glass. Unfortunately, as far as I know this lens is no longer shipping in the USA (the 50 T0.95) so if you managed to snag one, you have a rare lens in your collection :)

This new 35 T/0.95 seems to have rock solid construction and design, is much less expensive with maybe even better build quality and is a T0.95 35mm which will be like a T0.95 50mm on APS-C mirror-less cameras. Finally a fast and exotic 50mm for your APS-C. BUT, can it deliver the goods? I am not sure yet as I just got it so I will be shooting it in Vegas next week to give it a workout.

I will not know anything until I thoroughly use it but from the looks and feel it is impressive. This lens will come in at $1349 and will be available from SLR Magic starting February 2013. They are also offering $100 off for early buyers so keep an eye out here for info.

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The SLR Magic 35 T1.4 for APS-C

onthex-e1

SLR Magic also sent me their new 35 T1.4 lens to test out on the Fuji X-E1 and this lens is coming in at only $349. It is a budget lens but it certainly does not look or feel like one. This lens is also available for all other mirrorless systems but will come in whatever mount you order it in. The one that I was sent is for Fuji X and for a $349 lens this is one hell of a well built lens. Metal construction with the weight of a Leica 50 Summilux ASPH. This is no cheap toy lens in the construction department and the packaging is just as nice as the Hyperprime lens.

Andrew from SLR Magic told me they have tweaked their packaging and it shows.

This lens is not up to par with the T0.95 Hyperprime in the IQ department but it is not designed to be. This $349 lens is built for Bokeh it seems as it delivers a rich and creamy out of focus rendering with bit of softness to the images when shot at 1.4 wide open. The lens seems to sharpen up by 2.8 but even wide open will give you a soft etheral look.

35t1.4front

What is nice about this lens is the build and the fact that you can order it NOW in any mount you want. This is what SLR Magic told me about the availability of this lens:

“The 35mm T1.4 is available now. We have it for X mount, E mount, EF-M mount, and mFT mount. It is not up on our website or eBay yet but people can already order by emailing us at [email protected] to get it before it is up on our website. We have already sold a bunch for the mFT version”.

So you can order  this lens now if you desire and what is even better is that if you bought one of their older 35 1.7 toy lenses you can trade it in for a $90 credit towards this new lens (which is a much nicer lens than the toy lens in build and IQ). Also, if you order by Feb 2013 you can take $70 off of the price:

“We have two programs

A) Owners of the SLR Magic 35mm f/1.7 can ship their lens back to Hong Kong for trade-in at $90 value to upgrade.

B) If bought by Feb 2012 from us we have a $70 promotional rebate program.”

So if you buy this lens by Feb 2013 it will come in at only $279. Great buy for any mirrorless camera system if you want great Bokeh and a unique quality. This lens is not a pin sharp lens when used at 1.4 or f/2. It sharpens up by F2.8. I will be reviewing this lens as well with the Fuji X-E1 so stay tuned!

A couple of OOC JPEGS to show Bokeh Quality and expected sharpness at 1.4

“Best Beer in the world Part 2″

351.4bar

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“Goodbyes”

351.4air

 Remember that this is an all manual lens so you will have to manually focus and manually set Aperture on the lens barrel. Much like using a Leica M lens on your mirrorless camera. Both of these new lenses also have clickless aperture rings as they are “Cine” lenses which happen to be great for videos as well.

So if you want to order this 35 T 1.4 lens for your system you can e-mail SLR Magic for details at [email protected]. My full reviews will be coming soon on both of these.

 

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Sep 112012
 

The new Sony RX1 – Full frame compact with gorgeous 35 f/2 Zeiss lens – 1st look report!

UPDATE! PRE-ORDER THE RX1 NOW AT AMAZON!

PRE-ORDER THE RX1 at B&H PHOTO

I am aware that this camera has leaked over the past few days but I was not allowed to write about it until just now at 9PM, Sept. 11th because this is the official date and time of announcement. Last week I was visited by Sony and they brought along most of their new products. I held the RX1  in my hand but only snapped a few shots in my living room to test AF speed on a pre-production unit (and it was quick). I did not get a review unit yet, just a “hands on” for about 40 minutes but I should be shooting with one in about 2 weeks. Below are my first “hands on” thoughts on this new RX1 from Sony. Enjoy!

Can I get a huge HALLELUJAH? Finally….finally! A camera company has listened to the wants, the needs and the ever so lusted after desires of photographers, enthusiasts and even advanced hobbyists. Yes indeed there is a camera that has just been OFFICIALLY announced by Sony called the “RX1″ that is indeed a GAME CHANGER in our little world of camera seeking. I handled it..I shot with it (but only in my living room) and I fondled it for about 40 minutes while Sony was at my house last week giving me demos and the low down on all of their new products. I was not able to take any images to share here but can tell you that the focus was pretty quick, the feel and build was superb, and I am not excited about any other camera release at Photokina this year more than I am this one (ones that I have heard about so far that is). Mark my words…This camera may just be “the” camera of the year. Shipping in November, just two short months away.

Why am I so excited? THE SENSOR and THE LENS. BTW, This is NOT the D800 sensor..it is even better (according to Sony). This RX1 is the bad ass father of the RX100, and we all know how awesome that little powerhouse is :)

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First things first…what is the Sony RX1 and why is it so special?

As I already stated, I am aware that the RX1 leaked out on to the rumor sites over the past few days but I could not write my thoughts until Sony officially announced this camera. Some may be disappointed that this is not a full frame NEX, but not me! I am happy about this one as a FF NEX, much like the new A900 camcorder using a full frame sensor and E mount would require a thick adapter to use full frame lenses. E mount lenses would be cropped meaning…no full frame qualities. So I would rather have a camera like the RX1 which is built from the ground up for IQ and performance than a half baked FF NEX that required an adapter to use a full frame lens and all of the sensor. No contest. Remember, E-Mount lenses are NOT full frame lenses so they can not be used on a full frame sensor without being cropped much like Nikons DX lenses do on a D800.

THE RX1 is a FULL FRAME 14 bit 24 Megapixel camera with an all new designed from the ground up sensor (this sensor is NOT in any other camera besides the new full frame Alpha A99 and it is NOT the sensor in the D800, in fact, according to Sony it is even better..hmm..wonder if it is M10 worthy?) that literally goes toe to toe with cameras like the Nikon D800 and Canon 5DII and not only meets them… but from what I have heard and seen…it may just pass them in overall IQ, Dynamic Range and high ISO noise levels. The sensor in this camera is amazingly special and is the latest and greatest in tech and quality that is available anywhere. The key is..IT IS FULL FRAME 35mm so we get the depth of field, the dynamic range, the amazing high ISO capability and the deep color and quality that comes from a quality sensor. The sensor is the HEART of any camera and from what I have seen and heard…this one is pretty special and may just be the best full frame sensor created to date.

The RX1 has native ISO up to 25,600 and can go all the way up to 102,400 ISO using multi frame. The high ISO performance is astounding on the RX100..at least that is the promise Sony is giving and I believe it. They are using the A99 sensor here folks and this is good because this sensor is EXCLUSIVE to these new full frame Sony cameras. I could tell the Sony guys were truly excited about this camera and they knew I was :)

The RX1 has a FIXED 35mm f/2 Carl Zeiss lens. Yes this is a FIXED lens camera not the full frame NEX that has been reported about in recent weeks (there is NOT going to be a FF NEX camera anytime soon due to the reasons I mentioned) and the lens is very beautiful and even has the capability to focus down to .3 meters. Aperture is controlled ON THE LENS!!! Yes, like I said…many thought this would be a full frame NEX system camera. Sony could have done this but they would have had to add a large adapter to the body to take full frame lenses as current E mount lenses are not large enough to cover full frame. So the RX1 was built from the ground up to have the perfect sensor and the high quality fast prime lens to match. Much like a Leica X2 or Fuji X100 but so much better. This is a real Zeiss 35 f/2 lens and when paired with this body and sensor we will not have to worry about different lenses not working well with the body. The RX1 is built to perform as it is and it can fit in a jacket pocket.

35 f/2 Zeiss

The Sony RX1 has a magnesium allow body and it felt like it. It has a professional build so it is made to last. Good stuff.

The Sony RX1 is not much larger than the pocket rocket RX100! This is pretty incredible… The RX1 is small but it oozes quality. I only saw a prototype/pre-production unit but am told the final version (which is going to start shipping this NOVEMBER) will be of even better build, feel, finish and quality. THIS is the most significant camera release for Sony…EVER. What company has even come close to delivering something like this in this price bracket? NONE. You can see the image below with the RX1 next to the RX100. Not too much larger but I can tell you that it feels GREAT in the hand. Very solid and pro build here. It will also have a brand new all black EVF available as well as a “thumbs up” type of grip. With these two accessories the RX1 will be one hell of a street shooter. Imagine ISO 6400 or higher, black and white, full frame, 35mm f/2 with a slick EVF shooting at night. Not a problem for the RX1.

 The new Full Frame Sony RX1 on the left and the small pocket RX100 on the right – shot with the new 10-18 E Mount ultra wide lens (which is a beauty)

The Sony RX1 offers what the Leica X2, Fuji X100 and other fixed lens cameras never did. The RX1 is not only coming in at about the same size as a Leica X2 (maybe a tad larger) and X100 (tad smaller) but it gives us the full frame sensor, it gives us the amazing high ISO capability (up to 102,000), it gives us the ZEISS 35mm f/2 lens that is a real 35mm f/2 (think of a Leica 35 summicron lens..it cost over $3000 just for the lens), it gives us amazing HD video quality using AVCHD 2.0 and the ability to shoot with shallow DOF, it gives us fast AF and speed (though it only uses contrast detect focus) and it seems almost as speedy as the RX100 though not quite as fast. It gives us the ability to attach the all new Sony OLED EVF that is now all black and has a new connection to the camera through the shoe so it will look stealth and have the best EVF on the market to go with it. It gives us total silence when shooting because it uses a leaf shutter and finally it gives us everything else we love. A high res 3″ LCD, great all new designed menu similar to the RX100 menu and above all the SIMPLICITY of one lens and one camera with a better than Leica M9 sensor. WOW. No other camera company is offering anything like this. Say what you while about “I wish this was an interchangeable lens system”…the fact is that is Sony made it with interchangeable lenses then there would have been maybe one great lens to start with anyway. My guess is that if this is successful by next Photokina Sony will release an IC (interchangeable lens) version.

I have written many articles about the one camera/one lens experience and I always said a Leica M9 and 35 Summicron or Summilux is the perfect combo and all one really would ever need. Well..at about $7300 cheaper you can have this combo of a full frame sensor and fast 35mm f/2 glass that will fit in your coat pocket. It also gives nothing up in the build quality to any other camera manufacturer. So $2700, while expensive is priced about right IMO. I would have preferred $2499 but think about it..you can not get a digital camera like  this ANYWHERE else when it comes to size, features, quality of sensor and lens, build and lust factor. :)

If you get the sense I am excited you are correct as no other camera release this year..none..has excited me more than this one. Sony did this to push the envelope..to give us what WE want and to show the other camera companies that yes..it is possible to make a full frame sensor high quality fixed lens compact. They did it because it was the right thing to do and so many have been asking for this for the past few years, myself included. Think about it..when the Leica X1 came out what did we hear? “Why didn’t Leica make it full frame with an f/2 lens..I would have paid $3500 for that”. The “experts” said it couldn’t be done because the lens would be huge at f/2..they said a FF sensor would not fit. Well, Sony has done it and they did it very well for their 1st attempt.

The attached Zeiss 35 f/2 Sonnar is a beauty. You can even set the distance and get as close as 0.2 meters – the image below is of a pre-production model RX1.

As I watched the presentation from Sony in my living room about this new camera and all of the others they are announcing like the A99 (which looks amazing BTW) I got the sense that Sony has gotten “it”. They know what we want and they are not afraid to take the chance to give it to us.

The RX1, while not perfect is pretty close to what I would have done. What would I have changed in this camera?

I would have preferred a built in OLED EVF and a $2499 price point but really, that is about it. The fact that it is a full frame with a 35 f/2 attached cinches the deal for me. It is also not cheap coming it at $700 more than a Leica X2 but let us look at the facts. The X2 is an APS-C camera with a fixed f/2.8 lens. It is still slower in operation than the competition and has an old low res LCD. The EVF is an extra $500+ and the camera, while gorgeous, is not even in the same ballpark as the RX1 when it comes to high ISO capability, DOF capability, DR capability, etc. We have yet to see the IQ of the RX1 but from what I was shown by Sony I have no doubt it is the real deal.

It’s on: Sony vs Leica vs Nikon vs Canon vs EVERYONE

With the slow selling Leica X2 sitting on shelves Leica has to come out with something groundbreaking this year at Photokina. While I have heard rumblings of the M10 as well as the LEICA “ME” I have no idea what they really have in store for us but here is Sony that just released a kick ass product that has a full frame sensor, Zeiss 35 f/2 lens, amazingly crazy high ISO capability and the best Dynamic Range of any full frame sensor to date. All in a small jacket pocket pro built camera body at $2799. If Leica releases the “ME” which many say is a dumbed down M9 (whatever that means) it will surely be around the $4500-5000 mark without a lens. If they release a new mirrorless it will most likely NOT be full frame and will probably come in at $3500 without a lens. I think Sony has a winner here and while it may not do massively huge in sales just due to the cost I think it will gain a reputation for being a damn good camera. Again, I have not taken it out to shoot with it yet but from what I have seen and from what I have been told it is supposed to be pretty special.

As for Nikon and Canon..for $2700 you can not buy a D800 or 5DII and the RX1 will offer the same quality but with less versatility due to the single lens. But this is not a DSLR, it is a take anywhere camera of extremely high quality and capabilities. For those who do not fear the 35mm focal length, and do not want to shell out $10,000 for a Leica M9 and 35 Cron or even $8000 for an M9 and Zeiss 35 Biogon, the $2799 RX1 may be just what you have been looking for.

As of today, there is nothing like the Sony RX1 and I think it will be one lusted after and highly back ordered camera. Even at $2700 it is pretty expensive but those who have been waiting for Leica or Nikon or Canon to release something like this will flock to this. Sony is really pushing the envelope and I am now an even bigger Sony fan than I already was. They are on the right track..the NEX5n, the NEX-7 and now the NEX-5R, NEX-6 (which is also delicious), A99 and new camcorders tell me that Sony is the only company today really pushing things and showing no fear when it comes to putting out cameras for enthusiasts and photographers. Hell, I almost want to say they are like the new Leica..doing things Leica used to do by making real tools for real photographers. Wow. Did I just say that? Yea, I did.

Kudos again to Sony. Last year they grew some balls with the 5n and this year they grew an even larger set to overtake the big guns at Photokina. I have no clue what Canon or Nikon has in store for us but I imagine the RX1 to be the big hit at this Photokina. My pre-order is in.

PRE-ORDER THE RX1 NOW AT AMAZON!

PRE-ORDER THE RX1 at B&H PHOTO

How about the new NEX-6 and Alpha A-99? New E Mount lenses?

The NEX-6

The NEX-6 on the right and the 7 on the left. The 7 has the 16mm pancake and the 6 has the new 16-50 OSS power zoom attached (as well as the new hot shoe)

After handling and looking over the NEX-6 I found it a no brainer for those seeking a new NEX camera to go for this OVER a NEX-7. To me it felt the same in the hand, was a bit more attractive with a nicer matte finish and has what is in my opinion a better sensor. Better high ISO, faster contrast and phase detect focus, better video, WiFi capability and apps (which I admit look super cool), and much cheaper. Coming it at $999 with a kit 18-55 this camera is a no brainer if you want the best NEX camera to date (Megapixels are NOT everything). You get the same OLED EVF that we get in the NEX-7 and while you lose the Tri-Navi controls the camera still has dials to use so it is just as easier to shoot with. To me it feels amazing in the hand and at $999 this will sell like hotcakes. What you see below is the NEX-6 with the new 16-50 OSS lens attached. This lens is about the same size as the 16mm pancake but of better quality with a powered zoom. It looks larger than it really is in the photo below because I was shooting with a NEX-7 and new 10-18 ultra wide E-Mount which exaggerated the lens size :) I would trade my 7 for the new 6, end of story.

Pre-Order the NEX-6 and 16-50 Kit Zoom from Amazon!

The NEX-6 with 16-50 Power Zoom

The A99

The new Alpha A99 DSLR looked insane! The presentation Sony gave me on it made me want it right then and there and I am not a DSLR kind of guy! I am telling you that the Sensor in the new A99 and RX1 seems to be pretty damn special. From IQ to Video this is one serious as hell DSLR and I plan on shooting it in a couple weeks along with all of the new Sony stuff at the Sony media event in San Francisco. There I will get to try the RX1, the NEX-6, the A99 and all of the new lenses including the 35 1.8 which I shot a few frames with already (and again, a must own lens for NEX users). So look to this blog over the next few weeks for a slew of things about the new Sony cameras and lenses as well as anything else worth reporting about from the Photokina show. I will not be there as I could not attend due to the Photo Cruise I have going on next week but I will be updating from the ship with the news and articles! Am hoping to get a hold of a review RX1 camera to put it through its paces! I also want to thank Sony for coming to my house with all of this new gear. I loved handling it all and seeing the new goodies! More images below!

The new E mount 10-18 Ultra wide Zoom – This guy is SHARP!

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The new 16-50 Power Zoom E Mount lens

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The new fast 35 1.8 prime for E mount!

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Stock pics of the RX1

PRESS RELEASE ON THE RX1:

Sony Introduces the World’s First Full-Frame Compact Digital Camera

New Compact Cyber-shot® RX1 Camera features 35mm full-frame image sensor and wide aperture f/2 lens

SAN DIEGO, Sept 12, 2012 – For the first time, all the benefits of full-frame digital photography are available in a palm-sized compact camera.

The extraordinary new Sony Cyber-shot® DSC-RX1 digital camera packs an advanced 35mm full-frame 24.3 MP Exmor® CMOS sensor and exceptionally Carl Zeiss T*t 35mm f/2.0 fixed lens into a highly portable, lightweight camera body. Measuring approximately 4.5 inches wide by 3 inches tall and weighing just over a pound, it’s significantly smaller and lighter than any full-frame DSLR yet sacrifices nothing in terms of image quality, HD video quality or manual control.

“The new Cyber-shot RX1 is truly ‘one of a kind’, offering a unique combination of size and performance that’s never before been realized in the world of digital cameras,” said Yosuke Tomoda, director of the Cyber-shot camera business at Sony Electronics. “With its highly advanced sensor and fast 35mm f/2.0 lens packed into a small, portable camera body, professionals, enthusiasts and advanced hobbyists can experience the world of full-frame imaging in new and different ways than they ever thought possible.”

The new camera’s unified lens and body design allows performance that few interchangeable lenses can match. The Carl Zeiss lens not only delivers spectacular image quality all the way to the edges of each frame, it incorporates a near-silent in-lens shutter and is far more compact than comparable lenses of interchangeable design. The camera also features full manual control options and an intuitive user interface, making it easy for photographers to adjust all settings quickly and easily.

The 35mm full-frame sensor inside the RX1 camera more than doubles the area of APS-C sensors commonly found in much bulkier DSLR cameras, allowing it to take in significantly more light while capturing content. With an effective resolution of 24.3 megapixels, it’s capable of resolving the finest image details and most subtle textures for rich color reproduction and an impressively broad dynamic range.

The large sensor size also boosts the camera’s sensitivity range to a generous ISO 100 – 25600, with the option to shoot as low as ISO 50 in expanded sensitivity mode. Similarly, ISO settings as high as 102400 can be achieved using Multi Frame Noise Reduction. This allows the camera to capture natural, low noise handheld images in near-dark conditions without needing flash.

The fast, bright Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* 35mm lens is a versatile choice for portraits, street photography and everyday shooting. This premium lens features newly designed optics including an Advanced Aspherical (AA) glass element, which contributes to the camera’s extremely compact dimensions without sacrificing optical performance.

The lens’ wide F2 maximum, 9-bladed circular aperture enable beautiful background defocus (‘bokeh’) effects to rival or exceed professional-class DSLR camera lenses. Additionally, it features a macro switching ring on the lens barrel which instantly shortens the minimum focusing distance to approximately 20cm (from image plane), allowing the camera to capture small, close-up subjects with exquisite detail.

The Cyber-shot RX1 camera also features an enhanced BIONZ® processing engine that rapidly handles data from the Exmor® CMOS sensor and also powers full-resolution burst shooting at up to five frames per second. The powerful processor can output image data in 14-bit RAW format, giving advanced users total freedom to express their creative vision throughout the shooting and post-production processes.

Despite the camera’s extraordinarily compact dimensions, the new Cyber-shot RX1 model offers a full range of manual control modes on par with typical high-end full-frame DSLR cameras. Dedicated lens rings allow for fingertip control of focus and aperture, while a DSLR-style Focus mode dial on the front of the camera enables easy switching between focus modes. Top-mounted exposure compensation and mode dials are strategically placed for simple access and operation, while custom function and AEL buttons on the back panel are also easily accessible.

The new camera features a Quick Navi mode that allows fast, intuitive adjustment of camera settings. This is especially useful when using the camera with an optional viewfinder (sold separately). A memory recall (MR) mode is accessible via the mode dial so photographers can store and instantly recall up to three sets of camera settings.

Other refinements include a MF Assist function that magnifies a portion of the image while framing to simplify fine focus adjustments, as well as a Peaking function that highlights sharply-focused areas of the image on screen.

Additionally, the RX1 camera features By Pixel Super Resolution digital zoom technology, which allows for magnification of image size without sacrificing pixel count. This results in far higher quality results than are achievable with conventional digital zoom.

A Smart Teleconverter function crops a central portion of the image sensor, boosting effective magnification by 1.4x or 2x realizing an effective 49mm or 70mm focal length. With the extremely high pixel count of the full-frame image sensor, even zoomed and cropped images maintain generous amounts of fine detail when blown up for large print sizes.

In addition to beautiful still images, the Cyber-shot RX1 compact camera can capture high-quality, low-noise Full HD movie footage in all lighting conditions at a choice of 60p or 24p (progressive) frame rates. There’s a full complement of P/A/S/M exposure modes during video shooting for creative flexibility.

The new camera also features 13 different Creative Styles for fine-tuning images, plus a wide range of Picture Effect treatments. Further, it has Auto HDR and D-Range Optimizer, bracket shooting (Exposure, DRO or White Balance) and Auto HDR shooting modes, and there’s a Digital Level Gauge that indicates camera pitch and camera roll on the LCD screen for straight, even landscape and architectural shots.

New Accessories for Cyber-shot RX1

Shooting possibilities for stills and video are broadened by the camera’s Multi Interface Shoe that accepts a growing range of accessories. Options include a high-quality OLED XGA OLED Tru-Finder™ EVF (model FDA-EV1MK) which allows for even greater manual focusing precision as well as an external optical viewfinder featuring Carl Zeiss optics (model FDA-V1K).

Also available are a thumb grip (model TGA-1) for sure, comfortable handling as well as a lens hood (model LHP-1) and jacket case (model LCJ-RXB).

Sony PlayMemories Services

The Cyber-shot RX1 comes preinstalled with PlayMemories Home™ (Lite Edition) software, allowing easy image transfers to a PC for managing, editing and printing. Available for free download, a full version of PlayMemories Home software adds movie editing and disc burning.

Also available for download, PlayMemories Studio™ allows game-like editing of photos and videos on PlayStation®3 systems. Images can be shared easily via PlayMemories Online™ service, the cloud-based sharing service from Sony that simplifies ‘any time, any place’ viewing on a wide range of connected devices.

Pricing and Availability

The Cyber-shot RX1 compact, fixed lens camera will be available this November for about $2800.

The FDA-EV1K electric viewfinder and FDA-V1K optical viewfinder will each be available at launch for about $600 and $450, respectively.

The thumb grip, lens hood and jacket case will also be available at launch for about $250, $180 and $250, respectively.

The new camera and all compatible accessories will be sold at Sony retail stores (www.store.sony.com) and other authorized dealers nationwide.

Please visit blog.sony.com/rx1 for a full video preview of the new Cyber-shot RX1 compact camera and follow #SonyCamera on twitter for the latest camera news.

Aug 162012
 

LENS LUST: The Leica 50 Summilux ASPH on the Olympus E-M5 and NEX cameras

Lots of people wonder if spending the bucks for a Leica lens is worth the crazy cost when shooting with a NON Leica camera. We all know how insane the prices on these lenses are these days and the legendary and drool worthy Leica 50 Summilux ASPH is no exception. Coming in at around $4000 these days, this 50 Summilux ASPH is one of Leica hottest selling lenses right above the new 35 Summilux ASPH FLE. With rumors of a new 28 Summilux 1.4 for September coming one can only imagine how much these lenses will be going up in price (and value) in the next year or two. Leica raises prices every single year and I do not see them stopping this practice anytime soon.

My now 16 year old Son Brandon – OM-D with the Lux at 1.4

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One good thing we can say about these prices is that those who have owned the best Leica lenses for a long time have seen their lenses appreciate like mad. Those who are buying new TODAY…well, that is a different story. With the cost of the lenses so high, many have been asking me if it is worth it to buy them for use with a Micro 4/3 or even NEX camera. I have shot the 50 Summilux ASPH on the Sony NEX-5n with gorgeous results.

On a NEX, the 50 becomes more like a 75mm equivalent making it nice for portraits (though you still get the characteristics of a 50mm).

The Leica 50 Summilux on the NEX-5n wide open, where it is meant to be used :)

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On an OM-D E-M5 this lens becomes a 100mm equivalent, which is quite long. You still have the light gathering of an f 1.4 lens so in reality it is like shooting a 100mm f/1.4 though your DOF will be different due to the smaller sensor. With the new Olympus 75 1.8 out any moment now at $800 buying a $4000 Leica lens may not be the smartest decision financially but if you want to feel that Leica quality in your hand and see  that quality in your photos then it is worth it. Plus, if you hold on to the lens for a few years you may not lose any money when you sell, and you may in fact make money on it when Leica releases the snazzy new M13 :)

What a gorgeous lens. Well worth lusting after :) Wide open again at 1.4 on the OM-D E-M5

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A lens like this is WELL WORTH it when shooting in a Leica M camera as you will see the full beauty of it. It is well worth it when using them how they were intended to be used and in my opinion they become a little crippled on other smaller sensor formats like Micro 4/3. Using them on the NEX or Fuji X-Pro 1 may be a different story though because you have an APS-C sized sensor which gives us more of the lens goodness to work with. The more of the lens surface we can use the more beautiful the results.

With that said, shooting a 50 Lux ASPH on an OM-D is quite nice and it will give you beautiful results that prove that it is all about the lenses. Even on the E-M5 you can see the Lens character shine through and it looks “Leica”-ish. This shows that the lenses are what makes the Leica magic, not the cameras (though the full frame M9 rocks because it uses all of the lens like an M7 or MP or M3 would).

Using a legendary Leica lens like the 50 Summilux ASPH even on the new Olympus OM-D or the established NEX-7 can be quite magical. This goes to show that it is indeed all about the glass when it comes to photo image quality, and in my opinion, Leica M lenses are the best in the world and well worth their high cost if photography is your lifetime passion.

So should you be one of those who are wondering if a Leica lens is worth it to own for your Micro 4/3 or NEX cameras or even Ricoh GXR..I would say…yes and no. Yes if you desire quality in build, feel, and want that Leica look to your images (and yes, there is such a thing as the Leica look) and you have some cash in your wallet. Leica glass is always a good investment though I can not say the same for buying a brand spanking new M9P as the value will drop on the cameras every time. Lenses though, they will eventually appreciate. On a NEX system this lens really shines due to the larger sensor. It may not be full frame but still, it is great on the NEX cameras.

I said NO because I think that with a system like Micro 4/3 there are so many great lenses already available for much much less that you could buy the full set of 12mm f2, 25 1.4, 45 1.8 and 75 1.8 for MUCH less than this one 50 Summilux 1.4 ASPH. $2700 vs $4000. You will not get the same look as this 50 Lux with any of those but you can get close (with the new 75 it appears). I found the combo of the OM-D with 50 Lux to be a pretty damn impressive combo and I had zero issues focusing. None were OOF.

Brandon at 1.4

I guess what I am trying to say is that this lens on the mirrorless cameras is gorgeous and you would NOT be disappointed. At the same time, it is not needed to get gorgeous photos with these systems. Again, like I said about the Monochrom, it comes down to what you WANT more than need :) I love the combo and when this lens is attached to the OM-D it feel amazingly solid. I used the EVF for all of the shots here and it was a joy to use.

The Leica 50 Summilux ASPH is still a tough lens to find in stock but you can always try Dale Photo, PopFlash or email Mr. Ken Hansen for availability. This is one lens that will always be a great investment as it is Leicas top selling lens and most desired lens as well. If you want to try it out on your camera you can also rent it at lensrentals.com (which I have been using quite a but lately BTW, they are great)!

One thing this lens has is amazing micro contrast as well as contrast, sharpness and color. It gives photos an almost “glassy” look. 

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed this little snippet of Leica lens lust. The 50 Summilux ASPH is a legend and the best 50mm in the world, well, until that new 50 Summicron APO hits. :) This was not meant to be a review of the lens as I wrote one LONG ago and you can see that review HERE. This was just a piece to say that I still love this lens and is my 2nd fave Leica lens ever. My 1st? The new 35 Summilux FLE.

Steve

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Apr 132012
 

Sony NEX-7 with the SLR Magic Hyperprime 50 T0.95 and other ramblings…

I recently updated my rolling  review of the SLR Magic “Hyperprime” 50mm T0.95 lens, which is their statement Leica mount lens. I Just added a few images shot with it on the Sony NEX-7 and have to say it did great. You can see my full review of this lens, which again is a Leica mount lens, HERE.  FYI, SLR Magic sold out of their initial order run after just a couple of hours of being made available for order a few weeks ago. Not sure when they will be accepting more orders but do know that many are really excited to get their hands on one soon. The images embedded in this article were all shot with the NEX-7 and the SLR Magic lens. 

Bonding with your camera

It has been a while since my NEX-7 review. In fact, it seems like it has been a really long time and in fact it was about half a year ago already that I wrote about this new Sony flagship from their NEX series of cameras. Now that I have my own NEX-7 and have been using it more and more for my personal photography and family snaps I can say that I am really enjoying this camera more and more. That is saying a lot because remember, it is hard for a guy like me to stick with one particular camera due to the fact that it is my job to try out all of the new stuff!

The only camera that has always stood the test of time with me has been my Leica quite simply because I never found anything else I enjoyed shooting with more. But that doesn’t mean I do not enjoy shooting with other cameras, because I most certainly do. But I feel it has taken months to really get to know my NEX-7 like I know my M9. Not because it is so difficult to get to know, but because I really just started getting serious with it a few weeks ago. These days I have been shooting it more than my Leica M9 and I admit, for me, I have been preferring it to the Fuji X-Pro 1 as well mainly due to the fact that when I shoot with the NEX, I do not have the quirks I find with the Fuji but damn, I so love the Fuji IQ and look. The NEX-7 is not perfect but I have to say it makes a wonderful companion to the M9 and it is especially good with Leica lenses.

These days it seems to be about the latest and greatest for many shooters and gear heads. For others, they are happy to stick with the older ‘classics” and this is good as they can often times get BETTER results because they KNOW their cameras well. I am preparing an article on this subject because I find it so important to really get to know your camera. If you bond and know your camera as well as you know yourself, then your images can go to a whole new level of great. I feel this “bond” with my Leica M and this is the camera I pull out when it is time for me to get serious, simply because I KNOW THE M well. The same can be said for anyone, doesn’t have to be a Leica though. That is just my camera of choice. My #1 pick. Anyone can easily bond with whatever camera they really enjoy.

With so many mirrorless cameras coming out at a blistering pace I have narrowed down my faves to what you see on the “My Gear” page but there are always new cameras on the horizon so if a camera sticks around the Huff household for longer than 3 months that is pretty impressive :)

Choose your digital film stock

The fact remains, even in todays digital world, that a camera and lens is simply a box that gathers light. Instead of that light hitting a frame of film, it now hits a digital sensors. Most digital sensors today are good but all are different and when shooting different cameras it is almost like shooting different film stock. For example, Fuji cameras will deliver a different look due to their color signature and tonality. Sony is the same way as is Leica, Canon, Olympus, and others. So choosing a camera today can almost be like choosing a film stock in the past. Sort of. This is true when you shoot JPEG as the camera will process the colors, the contrast, the sharpness and any effects you choose. Shoot RAW and you will be controlling this using the software you prefer. Even with that said, there are differences in sensors and cameras even when using RAW files.

The way the camera renders a scene…

The Sony NEX-7 is sort of neutral in my opinion. Fuji gives us nice dynamic range and very bold colors. Canon gives us softer more pastel like colors. Nikon goes for rich lifelike colors and detail and Olympus has a signature many love with it’s great rendering of blues and reds. Leica gives us the much sought after “Leica Look” (which yes, does indeed exist) and colors but most of that is down to the lens and full frame sensor of the M9. After years of shooting these brands I can usually see an image and get a feel of what camera shot what image. Not all of the time, but most of the time.

But in this article I am talking about the NEX-7, which is a great “all around use” kind of camera – great reds that at times can get a little too bold if you are not careful, but nice natural yellows and greens and great depth when using a good lens. It is true what you hear, that lenses are the heart of any camera system. Once you pick your “film stock”, which is your brand and type of camera with the sensor you desire, you need a great lens to go with it. Attaching cheap kit zooms will give you decent results but attaching great glass will give you much better results. This is why Leica has the reputation it has these days. It’s not the camera bodies as much as the amazing glass they produce. I can safely say that todays Leica lenses are the best lenses made in the world. Period. If someone says otherwise they are either bitter at Leica prices, jealous, or has never seriously tried a Leica M lens. My Leica photos have always stood out more than others it seems and I would not be saying so if I did not believe this.

Now I am not here saying that the Leica M9 is the best camera ever made as it has been filled with flaws, cracked sensor glass, SD card issues, focus issues and the higher ISO of the M9 is not that great by todays standards. I love the usability of the M9 but at times it has been frustrating so taking breaks from it and shooting these smaller mirror less cameras has been great fun for me, and at times, eye-opening. I LOVE and ADORE my M but these days there are many great alternatives that get you in the same ballpark for much less cash outlay. None will feel like a Leica or give you the RF experience though.

Back to the NEX

I was out and about shooting the NEX-7 with an all new Leica to NEX adapter made by SLR Magic and was very happy with the results, even in the full ugly and harsh AZ sun (which is horrendous for photographers). Keep an eye here for news on this adapter because it is very unique. It is an adapter that you can twist and make the minimum focus distance limitations of the M lenses disappear! Yep,  you can focus super close now with your M lenses on the NEX system, so this is really cool. The adapter is not ready for sale just yet but seems to work very well though I did have a teeny bit of play when mounting my 35 Lux ASPH II and Hyperprime. The only adapter I have found that has no play at all is the $250 Novoflex adapter which is super pricey but rock solid.

I have been told this new adapter from SLR Magic is almost ready to be released so when it is I will post about it and show you how it works, and how to get one. The fact that you will have the ability to focus super close is pretty cool. As for the Hyperprime, I continued to be impressed with it and I believe it is one of the coolest lenses you can get for your Leica M. It looks damn good on the Sony as well.

On the NEX-7 and super close focusing using the all new adapter from SLR Magic.

So I guess what I am saying here is that I am still digging the NEX-7. I am NOT happy about the video capabilities anymore though as my camera has been overheating after a few minutes of constant video shooting, at which time the camera just shuts down. Other than that I have had no operation issues whatsoever. Great design, great body, great versatility and the ability to shoot Leica glass with focus peaking is fantastic. I have been enjoying the EVF quite a bit as well as the tiltable LCD. While its image quality and rendering is quite a bit different from the Fuji X-Pro 1 it is a great solid camera that one could easily bond with. :)

You can buy the NEX-7 kit here at Amazon.

Feb 082012
 

Just Announced! The Sony NEX “E” Mount Lens Roadmap 2012 and into 2013 – 8 new lenses!

Just received this roadmap from Sony today which shows the new lenses coming down the pike for their NEX system.

Looks like we have a High Performance G Standard Zoom, a new High Magnification Zoom, a normal standard zoom and wide-angle zoom for 2012. In the prime department we will be seeing a Large aperture standard lens in 2012 as well as a middle tele prime and pancake lens. Looks like Sony is invested in this system and will be delivering what many NEX users have been asking for. MORE LENSES. The G zoom and large aperture standard lens seems the most intriguing to me along with the new pancake. Seems like 2012 is shaping up to be one of the most release filled years ever for photography gear.

 

Dec 152011
 

Sony just released new firmware on their blog that will allow you to use their new LA-EA2 Mount Adapter, enabling phase-detect AF capabilities for the nEX-3, NEX-5, NEX-C3 and NEX-VG10. Not a huge update but for those interested in the new adapter and using Sony Alpha mount lenses, it is a great update. You can download it HERE direct from Sony.

Oct 262011
 

Ok here you go! I have had a ton of requests for this test and I will be adding it into my official NEX-7 review as well. Many wanted to know how the newly released NEX-5n stacked up against the high megapixel but same size sensor NEX-7 in the high ISO department. So I set up my gorilla pod and did some testing.

DETAILS:

I shot the scene with both cameras using the Zeiss 24 at f/5.6. I shot one at ISO 100, then followed  that with 800, 1600, 3200, 6400, and 12,800. I processed each file from RAW using Capture One which is supporting BOTH cameras. I left everything at default but turned off Noise Reduction so this was at 0 for each file. I wanted to show the RAW performance of each sensor not the JPEG Noise Reduction performance.

ALSO, I did NOT match shutter speeds. I shot these at f/5.6. Same lens as stated above. I did NOT match shutter speeds as I prefer to test a camera for real world use. In other words, if camera “A” chooses one exposure and camera “B” chooses a slightly different exposure then that is what you can expect from each camera. Matching shutter speeds when and if a camera chooses one slightly different is not showing what you will get from the camera when out shooting with it, and to me, this is the ONLY way one should test a camera. REAL WORLD as I have said from day one. Not “Scientific” as “Scientific” is not how we shoot.

I made 100% crops of each at full resolution. 24 megapixels of the 7 and the 16 of the 5n. I then resized  the NEX-7 files to the same size of the 5n files to see how they stacked up in this way. Below are the results, let me know what you think!

First a web resize to 1800 pixels wide (click for that size). The NEX-7 at ISO 3200

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and the same image with the 5n, resized to 1800 pixels wide – ISO 3200

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and now the 100% crops from the NEX-7 and 5n at all ISO’s tested and at the native resolution of each camera

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and finally, the 100% crops with the NEX-7 files resized to the same size as  the 5n. 

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It is no question that the 5n does a bit better at high ISO. The NEX-7 is using the same size sensor but crammed way more pixels on to it. This will cause more noise which is why I am a big believer in large sensors and less pixels :) But overall, they are not really THAT far off. Up to you to decide how important higher ISO shooting is. The files above were all straight RAW conversions and again, with ZERO noise reduction. Hope this helped some of you who were looking for this test!

Oct 232011
 

Sony NEX-7

Sony NEX-7 Digital Camera Review

By Steve Huff  

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Buy the NEX-7 at B&H Photo HERE!

I will start off this review of the long awaited Sony NEX-7 by saying that this is probably the hottest and most anticipated “Enthusiast” camera to be announced in a long time. No scratch that… IT IS the most anticipated camera to come along to us camera and gear nuts… well, probably EVER and for so many reasons. As I said before in a much viewed post, SONY GREW SOME BALLS and produced a camera that so many of us wanted to be made! Yes, the NEX-7 is HOT. Even more so than the super hot and hyped Fuji X100 (which I am still in love with by the way). So lucky me…I have been fortunate enough to have been shooting with the final production version of the NEX-7 for the last two weeks and have learned its ins and outs as well as its strengths and weaknesses. I’ve been studying it, shooting with it, and even waking up at night from nightmares of a NEX-7 floating above my bed. No joke! Guess I really get into my job and my passion huh?

I know many have been waiting for this and I am going to say it like it is in this real world use write up/review. I also want to say thanks to Sony for flying to my home to hand deliver this review unit to me along with the Zeiss 24 1.8 and Sony 50 1.8 lenses! THANK YOU SONY!

(NOTE – Due to the devastating floods in Thailand, this camera MAY be delayed in the USA but also MAY NOT BE. I spoke with Sony and they said they are still investigating if there will be a USA delay, so there might not be one. Still,  a camera release means nothing in comparison to what so many have lost in Thailand. My heart goes out to all who were affected by the flood.)

Me with the Sony NEX-7 and Zeiss 24 1.8 in my hotel in Chicago – White balance was way off in the original and still a bit off here. To be fair, the X100 had the same issue with AWB in this room.

Sony NEX-7 with Zeiss 24 1.8 Self Portrait - stevehuffphoto.com

The Myth, The Hype..the NEX-7!

There has been a lot of suspense about this camera and wether it is even possible to live up to the hype that has been spread like wildfire online. Of course on paper it looks amazing. The build, the design, the features, the video capability, the new sensor, the built in OLED EVF (which is super duper uber FANTASTIC), and the tri-navi controls are everything the enthusiast market has ever wanted in a small take anywhere camera. Hell, I suspect the NEX-7 may even create more of us crazy gear heads because even when Uncle Joe sees this camera he is going to want one. It has a way of making people wonder what the hell you are shooting with, and when they learn about it they seem to want to own one for themselves. This has happened to me three times while out and about shooting with the NEX-7. BUT the real question for me while shooting was to determine if it did indeed live up to the hype and was worth shelling out $1200 for the body alone, which to be fair is $6800 less than a Leica M9-P and you can still mount your favorite Leica, Zeiss ZM and Voigtlander M mount glass on to! Hell, you can mount just about any glass to this NEX-7, which makes it pretty damn special right there.

So sit back, relax, and enjoy reading my flowing thoughts on this camera in 9,000 words. As I write I am just basically talking and spewing my thoughts about what I feel and what I have experienced while using the camera and lenses. My reviews (as most of you know) are non technical and always have been. I just write about the real world use of the camera. Its feel, its usability factor, its image quality, ease of use and speed. Also its versatility. I test what I can with what I have so what you see in this review is the result of my passion, my excitement, and my love for photography. I also am a HUGE believer in actually showing REAL photos in my reviews. It’s not always easy to go out an find new things to shoot when I am always reviewing gear but I do my best. I feel seeing real photos instead of photos of walls and newspaper is a much better test of a camera.

The mirror less camera market has been interesting recently and most releases to date have been really good but lacking in one way or another. Could the NEX-7 be the “One”? Hmmmm, you never know.

Keep in mind that I will be adding to this review over the next 1-2 weeks as I shoot more with the camera. This review should be final by the end of October or 1st week of November. BTW, this camera is scheduled to ship by mid November.

Also keep in mind that most images in this review were shot as JPEGS because RAW processing is not available in lightroom, aperture, or photoshop yet. I did get a copy of the Sony software but found it painfully slow and lethargic on my iMac so I ended up using Capture One on a few samples. Capture One is supporting the NEX-7 in its latest release and it did great, even better than Sonys own software. Go figure.

First things firstA Video Overview

Below is a video showing the menu system, build, and controls. It is 18 minutes but goes over many of the features of the camera. Yes, you should watch it!

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So as you can see, the NEX-7 is jam packed with all kinds of goodies and features that just over a year ago would have had most of us drooling. The only thing lacking in this camera body in my opinion is IN BODY image stabilization. If it had included that, from a design, control and functional standpoint it would be perfect. As it stands now, in those three areas it is just about perfect. No complaints. So far so good, so let’s get deeper into this camera.

Below:  Shot with the Sony 50 1.8 AT 1.8!! I dialed in -1 Exposure Comp using the easy Tri Navi dial system and brought out the richness of the scene. I shot this from my car on the road (was not moving). This was converted from RAW using the Sony Software (which is PAINFULLY SLOW)! But when you click on the image to see the larger version you can see some nice detail and again, this was shot at f/1.8 with the new Sony $299 50mm.

The Sony NEX-7 and Zeiss 24 1.8 Tests-

Below: NEX-7 with the 24 1.8 at f/2, ISO 100, JPEG. This lady called herself  “Mrs. State Fair”. 

Zeiss 24 1.8 Sony E Mount on the NEX-7

A QUICK HISTORY OF THE NEX SYSTEM

For those who may not be aware, the NEX-7 evolved from a line of cameras Sony introduced just over a year ago. The NEX series of cameras were brought out to market to compete with cameras like the Olympus E-P2/E-P3 and the Panasonic series of micro 4/3 cameras. Also, cameras like the Fuji X100 and Leica X1 are in the same kind of category due to the larger sensor and small bodies.But the Fuji and Leica, while being FANTASTIC picture taking machines do not have the ability to change lenses, and they are sort of slow with the auto focus so shooting your moving kids will be pretty tough, especially for the Leica X1. The Sony NEX line all had pretty fast AF and interchangeable lens capability, which is what MANY of the photographer hobbyists want.

Son one day, Sony decided to design and create the worlds smallest interchangeable lens camera system with a larger APS-C size sensor. They did this with the original  NEX-3 and NEX-5, I remember reading about them and then seeing them in a Sony Store in Las Vegas. I immediately bought a NEX-3 and 5.

These were pretty amazing cameras in many ways but mainly because they were the 1st TINY bodies with large sensors that also had incredible high ISO capability. Problem was… I had a love-hate relationship with the original NEX-5 due to the fact that the only lenses out for it were the 16mm pancake and the 18-55 Kit zoom. The 16mm was good but nothing to rave about and the 18-55 was large and had quite a bit of distortion. So early on with the NEX system, while super cool suffered from lack of lenses, a bad control system, and an odd menu system. The potential was there but it would take Sony a while to straighten out all of the quirks, which they soon did with firmware updates that added button customization, focus peaking, and eventually by releasing the Sony NEX-5n. The 5n brought us one step closer to an enthusiast camera but for us crazy camera nuts it wasn’t enough. Good for most but for someone like me..I still wanted more control and a built in EVF. But the NEX-5n is a fantastic little MONSTER OF A CAMERA!

The NEX-7 at F/4 from outside my car window. OOC JPEG, ISO 100

Zeiss 24 1.8 Sony E Mount on the NEX-7

The Zeiss 24 makes for great up close portraits

Below – ISO 160 at 1.8 with the 24 to show Bokeh

Below – 24 1.8 at F/2 and ISO 100

Zeiss 24 1.8 E Mount Bokeh

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When the NEX-5n was made available I reviewed it immediately and that review became one of my most popular reviews ever with almost 100,000 views on its first day. This told me that not only enthusiasts are interested in these small “do it all” cameras but everyday consumers are as well. The NEX line is coming into its own and with these latest updates Sony has taken one step closer to creating the “Perfect” walk around camera system. The 5n is superb with amazing high ISO capability and a TINY body that can take great photos AND video. The only negative with that camera is the size may be a but TOO small, and the controls are not the best due to the lack of buttons. There are also the lenses, which are huge when compared to the size of the body and this seems to be a big complaint among many readers here. On the 5/5n the lenses do seem large.

So Sony decided to listen to photographers who wanted a solid body with manual control dials and a built in EVF. When Sony designed the “7″ they designed it for you, me and all of us who enjoy not only photography but also quality and capable equipment. We are “The Enthusiast” and the NEX-7 is sort of like the “Bionic NEX” – they made  the 5n better, faster and stronger :)

After just over a year of pumping out the NEX line, Sony now has announced the NEX-7 and there are currently 7 lenses available for the system. They now have the 16 2.8, 18-55 Zoom, Zeiss 24 1.8, 30 Macro, 50 1.8, 18-200 and 55-210 zoom lens. With past complaints about lack of lenses, I think those worries can start to fade because the new 24 1.8 and 50 1.8 are REALLY REALLY good lenses. Also, this camera can mount almost any lens via adapters and when using old manual glass the focus peaking feature kicks some serious booty! The lens size issue has not been addressed but I was told by Sony they are WELL AWARE of this and also told me it is not really possible to create small tiny lenses for a sensor of this size, but they are working on it and trying. Not sure how Fuji did it with the X100, but to be fair, the X100 lens is a bit soft wide open so maybe the Zeiss 24 1.8 is better? Also, Fuji only had to concentrate on ONE Lens for the X100 as it did not need to be compatible with other lenses and to be fair, the X100 lens is just as fat as the Zeiss 24 but the Zeiss is longer, and also a little faster at 1.8 vs 2.

The Zeiss 24 1.8 QUICKLY became my favorite lens on the NEX-7. While it is not clinicaly  sharp, it has character… and to me, that is way more important that hyper sharpness. Remember, click images for larger and better versions. The Zeiss Sonnar has a “smooth” character.

Sony NEX-7 Black and White

NEX-7 and Zeiss

So what are the main features of the NEX-7?

The “7″ is jam packed full of features and no one in their right mind could complain about everything Sony packs in this little body. Take a look at all of the good stuff below:

DSLR Quality in Your Pocket (It would NOT fit in your pocket with a lens attached)
Here’s the same APS-C sensor size as a DSLR, with higher resolution than most DSLRs and the interchangeable lenses that make DSLRs so attractive. Yet the camera is about half the size and weight of a typical DSLR camera. Removing the conventional mirror box and viewfinder makes it possible
24.3Mp Resolution
You get incredible detail and gorgeous enlargements thanks to a 24.3 megapixel sensor. It’s the highest resolution among pocket cameras as of August 2011
World’s First OLED Viewfinder
There’s never been anything quite like the Tru-Finder OLED electronic viewfinder. For size, speed and brightness even after sunset, this is a gem. This eye-level, through-the-lens, viewfinder begins with 2359K dots for amazing resolution and high contrast ratio for incredible depth. OLED reduces motion blur to a bare minimum. You can also see the results of camera adjustments in real time with superb color and detail
Up to 10 Frames Per Second Shooting
Capture the decisive moment in sports and get the ideal baby photo. Up to 10 fps continuous shooting at full 24.3Mp resolution with exposure and focus fixed at the first frame. Standard continuous shooting at up to 2.5 fps
DSLR-Class APS-C Image Sensor
Sensor size is the key to picture quality. The APS-C class sensor provides gorgeous imaging with 58% more area than Micro Four-Thirds sensors and an amazing 13 times the area of a point & shoot image sensor
Full HD Movies at 60p/60i/24p
Capture HD Movies in your choice of super-smooth 60p, standard 60i or cinematic 24p, all at Full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution. AVCHD codec delivers stunning picture quality. MP4 codec offers smaller files for easier upload to the web
HD Movies with Full Manual Control
Now you don’t need to surrender control when you shoot HD movies. Enjoy the full expressive potential of Program, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority or Manual (P/A/S/M) control in HD movie mode
Tri-Navi Manual Control
Perfect for experienced shooters, Tri-Navi control gives you three separate control dials for direct, hands-on access to three settings at a time. As just one example, the dials can set aperture, exposure compensation and ISO
Built-In Pop-Up Flash
Enjoy the convenience of flash photography everywhere you go. Guide Number 6
Hotshoe for Alpha System Flashes
Take your photography even further with access to the entire range of Sony Alpha system flashes and flash accessories
Accepts A Mount Lenses Via Adapters
Both the LA-EA1 and EA2 adapters (sold separately) allow you to attach the full range of Sony A mount lenses
Phase Detect AF with Adapter
The LA-EA2 lens mount adaptor (sold separately) is the world’s first with Sony’s award-winning Translucent Mirror Technology. This provides super-fast and accurate Phase Detection AF when used with Sony A mount lenses
Tiltable 3.0″ LCD
Sony’s 3.0″ Xtra Fine LCD monitor has 921K dots for superb resolution. The TruBlack screen includes a special resin layer to suppress internal reflections, increasing contrast compared to conventional LCDs. Sunny Weather mode boosts visibility even further. Tilts down 45° and up 80° to frame high- and low-angle shots that would otherwise be hit-or-miss
Object Tracking AF
Locks onto a specified object and maintains focus even as the subject moves. Unpredictable subjects stay in focus even while zooming. You can concentrate on composition without worrying about focus
World’s Shortest Release Time Lag
Helps ensure that the image you want is the image you get. Once auto focus occurs, release time lag is the delay between fully pressing the shutter release and when the camera actually starts taking the picture. Long lag makes it harder to capture fast-moving objects. The Sony NEX-7 boasts the shortest release time in the world (as of August 2011) at only 0.02 seconds
Accepts Sony E-Mount Lenses
Compatible with Sony’s expanded line of E Mount lenses. These smaller, lighter lenses are specifically designed for Alpha compact interchangeable lens cameras. Opens up a world of creative options
Peaking Function
Manual focus becomes much easier because peaking highlights the edges that are in focus in your choice of three colors (white, red, or yellow). This is especially helpful during macro or portrait photography where your focus setting can make or break your shot
3D Sweep Panorama Mode
Capture vast scenic vistas and 16:9 shots in spectacular 3D. As you sweep across the panorama, the camera records separate right-eye and left-eye images that make landscapes come alive on your 3D television7. Records both JPEG and MPO file formats
Sweep Panorama Mode
Capture expansive landscapes automatically. Press the shutter, sweep vertically or horizontally. The camera does the rest, continuously shooting images and stitching them together
6-Image Layering
Leverages the fast BIONZ processor to capture six images in a fraction of a second, and then combine the data. The result is an incredible single image that controls blur in Anti-Motion Blur mode or gets cleaner, sharper nighttime pictures in Hand-held Twilight mode
Auto HDR
High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography captures more scene contrast than a single exposure can handle by combining the best highlight detail from one shot and the best shadow detail from another for one incredible shot
P/A/S/M Modes for Video and Stills
Enjoy a full range of controls for video and still shooting from the beginner’s iAUTO mode to P/A/S/M: Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and Manual. On-screen prompts help you refine your skills, build your confidence and exercise greater creative control
Intelligent Auto Focus
Pre-focuses as you compose the shot, further reducing focusing time to a bare minimum
iAUTO Mode
Unifies and simplifies Sony intelligent technologies. Takes advantage of Intelligent Scene Recognition, Face Detection technology, and Optical SteadyShot image stabilization without leaving auto mode so you always get the best shot
BIONZ Image Processor
The brain of the camera is a Sony’s BIONZ image processor substantially upgraded for the demands of 24.3 megapixel photography. Chroma noise reduction delivers high-resolution, low-noise photos even at ISO 16000 sensitivity. Also enables fast processing for up to 10 fps continuous shooting of data-intensive 24.3Mp images, 2D/3D Sweep Panorama modes and 6-image layering
Dynamic Range Optimizer (DRO)
Improves results with backlit subjects and recovers details hidden in shadows. Settings include Auto, Level with a choice of five operating levels and Off
Accepts Non-Sony Lenses Via Adapter
You can use the camera with a universe of lenses from Canon, Nikon, Leica, Olympus and others. The success of Sony’s NEX series, combined with the ultra-short 18mm flange back distance has inspired third-party manufacturers to provide lens adaptors. In addition, Sony has disclosed the E Mount specification to Carl Zeiss, Cosina, Sigma and Tamron
25-Point Auto Focus
25 sensors cover a very wide area of the scene, for accurate focusing even when the subject is far from the center of the frame
HDMI Output
Enjoy HD movies and stunning still images on a compatible HDTV. The camera includes an HDMI output
Stamina Battery Power for Up to 400 Shots
Take up to 400 shots on a single charge with Sony lithium ion Stamina battery power (using LCD monitor). Sony’s InfoLITHIUM battery system enables you to see the percent of power remaining, so you can keep shooting in confidence
Sony Exmor CMOS Sensor
Sony Exmor technology uses column-parallel A/D converters for high resolution and high frame rates. Double noise reduction minimizes image noise, even in low light
11 Picture Effect Modes
Discover innovative ways to make your images and videos pop. These include Posterization, Pop Color, Retro Photo, Partial Color, Soft High-key, High Contrast Monochrome, Toy Camera, Soft Focus, HDR Painting, Rich-tone Monochrome, and Miniature
Ultrasonic Anti-Dust System
Dust on the image sensor leads to blemishes in the picture. To protect the sensor, Sony incorporates an advanced ultrasonic system, which effectively shakes dust off the sensor surface

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The Zeiss 24 at 1.8, OOC JPEG, 1/60s, +.3 EC – Window light in a dark room.

Sony NEX-7 JPEG portrait

The GREAT things about the NEX-7  - Shooting with the NEX-7 – The build, feel, and usability factor..and best features.

The Sony NEX-7 and Zeiss 24 1.8 Tests

Many of you have been waiting and waiting for the release of this camera because on paper it seems just about perfect for so many of us. The Size, the build, the sensor, etc. On paper I have to say that the NEX-7 and Zeiss 24 1.8 actually is the PERFECT camera for taking with you wherever you go. When I got a hold of it I was crazy excited and I told myself I would be shooting with it every day for two weeks to learn it and to shoot as much as I can with it.

When I hold the camera it feels REALLY good in the hand. The nice grip protrudes perfectly for my hands and the Tri-Navi dials are incredible in real life use. The Tri-Navi system consists of three dials. The top of the camera has two dials and the dial to the left controls my Aperture and the right dial controls the Exposure Compensation (when I am shooting in “A” mode), which you can see the effect of in real time on the LCD of OLED EVF. The control wheel on the rear, which is the 3rd control in the Tri-Navi system controls ISO. Just a quick flick of the wheel at any time and you can change the ISO as easy as you change your socks. Well, even easier actually. The Tri-Navi control system make all the difference in the world and is reason enough to buy the 7 over the 5n if you have the budget. It is that good. There is a demo of this in the video above if you did not watch it yet.

The beautiful EVF!  The OLED masterpiece of an electronic viewfinder that is in this camera is splendid! The clarity, the color, and the contrast is all TOP NOTCH and makes the Olympus VF-3 or Ricoh EVF look like an old 70′s TV playing a VHS tape. The OLED in the NEX-7 is more like a modern HDTV and that is a good thing. In fact, it is so good I think I am done with cameras that do not have a built in VF. Shooting the Fuji X100 and now the NEX-7 made me feel that way and there is no excuse for Olympus to NOT have a built in EVF. It just makes shooting so much more natural sometimes AND when there is bright full sun, it makes it MUCH easier to see what you are shooting. This EVF to me is the best I have ever shot with. Period. It is the same as the one in the external EVF they sell for the 5N but feels great being built in to the body. There is no swivel feature like the external but it works well.

The 3″ 920k  swivel LCD on the back is big and looks great. Its swivel mechanism is a bit different than the one on the NEX-5n and is super easy to swivel out and up and down. The shutter button and on off switch is perfectly placed and the shutter SOUND is MUCH better than the old “5″. The 7 sounds much like  the new 5n due to it’s new Electronic First Curtain Shutter. Only one shutter movement is required now so instead of a click and thunk, we here a smooth and quick “snick”. Much improved but if you like the old snick and clunk you can always turn it back on in the camera settings menu, LOL. I demo this in the video at the top of the page.

Also, this camera has the WORLDS SHORTEST SHUTTER LAG, and this is AMAZINGLY cool. When you press the shutter on the NEX-7, it is going to fire instantly and you will not miss your shot. Many cams have longer shutter lag which means if you are shooting something coming into the frame, and it is fast, you may miss it with other cams due to the lag (time difference between when you press the shutter and when the picture is actually taken). The NEX-7 is excellent in this area at only 0.02 seconds!

The weight. Even with the Zeiss 24 1.8 mounted the camera was still pretty light but at the same time it felt solid. The 24 is about the same size as the kit 18-55 zoom lens but maybe a tad lighter. So overall, in the build, handling, and usability department this camera gets a super high score and if I were doing a 1-10 kind of deal, it would get an 9 in this area. Usability and control is MUCH improved over the 5n. So much so, it is like a totally different animal (and it is). Even the HD video is amazing and I found no clicking noises while testing the video recording. If I had to say something I would say that the Zeiss lens..it would have been great if it were a bit smaller but overall it has a nice feel and balance on the camera. Does not feel awkward at all.

The Zeiss 24 wide open (1st pic) and at 2.2 (2nd pic) – from JPEG – May have been set to VIVID

Zeiss 24 1.8 Sony E Mount on the NEX-7

The GOOD things – AF speed & HIGH ISO Noise levels & My thoughts on the color and sensor

HIGH ISO NOISE. The big worry from many of you who were waiting for this camera is the high ISO capabilities and noise. Many feared that with so many megapixels (24) being squeezed on to the sensor that the low light/high ISO noise would be worse than that of the NEX-5n. Well, after shooting at all ISO’s with this camera I can say that it is a little worse at high ISO when in low light than the 5n. This is to be expected but at the same time, shooting at up to 1600 in low light is acceptable and ISO 3200 is easily usable. I was using the camera with Noise Reduction set to WEAK as I hate when the NR is high and smears the details. Overall, the 7 is just about what I expected when it came to high ISO noise performance. Still excellent but not as good as the 5n. But  me, I have been happy with the M9 high ISO of 2500 and feel most of us top out at 1600 anyway. In this regard the NEX-7 is great.

Keep in mind that with ANY camera when you shoot at high ISO in LOW light you will get much more noise than if you shot it in decent or good light at the same ISO. The next there samples below were indoors with no lights on in the room and using the 24 1.8 at 1.8 and ISO 1600.

The following two photos were shot indoor in low light at ISO 1600 and shot as JPEGS. Do you see noise? Yes… but remember, there were no lights on and the curtains were closed so you will see noise even with the 5n or most other cameras at 1600. 

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Super High ISO – Is it even usable? 

The NEX-7 is a camera that can go as high as ISO 16,000 but for the most part, when cameras include these crazy ISO’s they are useless. The only camera I have shot with that had usable ISO past 6400 is the Nikon D3s, and I am still not sure how they did it as no one else has matched them to date. I went out to my front yard one late night and set the NEX-7 to ISO 16,000 and snapped a pic of a tree. You can click the image below to see a larger version with a 100% crop embedded. Now keep in mind, this was NIGHT time and the only light was the two light bulbs on my garage. So, it actually did better than I thought and if you were in a pinch and needed ISO 16,000 you COULD use it if your end result was the web or a small print.

Click the image below to see a larger version and a 100% crop from this ISO 16,000 image…

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…and what review would be complete without some high ISO crops? The 1st image was shot at 1600.

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So the NEX-7 may not be as clean as the NEX-5n at higher ISO (you can see my high ISO 5n tests HERE) but it is still as good as most will ever need. It could have been better if Sony stuck with the 5n sensor, but again, I have no complaints on the high ISO as I rarely go above 1600, and 3200 if needed. Both of which is acceptable for web or print from the NEX-7. See a 6400 ISO shot below resized  to 1200 pixels wide. Not bad, and there was no light source. This was in my office with a window ABOVE the boxes and the blinds were closed. No lights were on in the room.

Here is the ISO 6400 shot resized to 1200 pixels wide, JPEG, NR set to WEAK.

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More….ISO 3200 processed from RAW using Capture One

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And two of the same fish – One with the NEX-7 and Kit Zoom at ISO 1600, the 2nd with the Olympus E-P3 and SLR Magic 12mm at ISO 1600

1st – NEX-7, 18-55 at ISO 1600 – Click for larger

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and the Olympus E-P3 at ISO 1600 with the 12mm SLR Magic lens…

As you can see, when resized to 1800 pixels wide the Oly and NEX-7 seem almost neck and neck at high ISO quality. The Olympus pops more due to the 12mm 1.6 aperture lens. Both cams are very useful at 1600.

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HIGH ISO – NEX-7 vs the NEX-5n

Ok here you go! I had a ton of requests for this so I decided to add this to the review. A high ISO test of the NEX-7 vs the NEX-5n.

DETAILS:

I shot the scene with both cameras using the Zeiss 24 at f/5.6. I shot one at ISO 100, then followed  that with 800, 1600, 3200, 6400, and 12,800. I processed each file from RAW using Capture One which is supporting BOTH cameras. I left everything at default but turned off Noise Reduction so this was at 0 for each file. I wanted to show the RAW performance of each sensor not the JPEG Noise Reduction performance.

ALSO, I did NOT match shutter speeds. I shot these at f/5.6. Same lens as stated above. I did NOT match shutter speeds as I prefer to test a camera for real world use. In other words, if camera “A” chooses one exposure and camera “B” chooses a slightly different exposure then that is what you can expect from each camera. Matching shutter speeds when and if a camera chooses one slightly different is not showing what you will get from the camera when out shooting with it, and to me, this is the ONLY way one should test a camera. REAL WORLD as I have said from day one. Not “Scientific” as “Scientific” is not how we shoot.

I made 100% crops of each at full resolution. 24 megapixels of the 7 and the 16 of the 5n. I then resized  the NEX-7 files to the same size of the 5n files to see how they stacked up in this way. Below are the results, let me know what you think!

First a web resize to 1800 pixels wide (click for that size). The NEX-7 at ISO 3200

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and the same image with the 5n, resized to 1800 pixels wide – ISO 3200

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and now the 100% crops from the NEX-7 and 5n at all ISO’s tested and at the native resolution of each camera

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and finally, the 100% crops with the NEX-7 files resized to the same size as  the 5n. 

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It is no question that the 5n does a bit better at high ISO. The NEX-7 is using the same size sensor but crammed way more pixels on to it. This will cause more noise which is why I am a big believer in large sensors and less pixels :) But overall, they are not really THAT far off. Up to you to decide how important higher ISO shooting is. The files above were all straight RAW conversions and again, with ZERO noise reduction. Hope this helped some of you who were looking for this test!

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AUTO FOCUS SPEED – Not the fastest in the world :)

As for Auto Focus speed, I am happy with it but not THRILLED. The Micro 4/3 format Olympus E-P3 beats the NEX-7 for AF speed but it should! Olympus boasts the fastest AF in the world on the E-P3 and their pro E-5. The NEX-7 is good, but not blazing. In low light it hunts a teeny bit but that seems to be an issue with most contrast focus cameras. I also had a few “misses” in low light with the “7″ which tells me the AF could have been improved a bit. Now do not get me wrong!! The AF is fast… much faster than the Leica X1 or Fuji X100, but not as fast and accurate as the E-P3′s AF. I set the review sample to the center point which is how I ALWAYS shoot with ANY camera and sometimes it still wanted to focus on what was BEHIND my subject. For me, the E-P3 remains the contrast detect focus champion in regards to AF speed and accuracy. The NEX-7 is about the same as the NEX-5n, so it is fast, just not BLAZING.

The NEX-7 and the Sony 50 1.8. At $299 this lens is a must own for any NEX owner. This shot was taken at f/4 but the lens focus quickly and accurately. 

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Shot with the Zeiss 24 at 1.8 – processed from RAW with Phase One’s Capture One

Sony NEX-7 and Zeiss 24

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and another with the 24 1.8 at 1.8 using the JPEG High Contrast B&W setting

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THE NEW 24 MP SENSOR – My Thoughts on it and the NEX-7  JPEG output

I am in the camp that says Sony probably should have stayed with the same sensor they used in the NEX-5n. The 5n sensor seems to be a perfect medium of resolution, ISO noise performance and file size. The 24MP sensor in this NEX-7 means more pixels on the same size sensor and this means more noise and sometimes more issues. I know some manufacturers try to wow us with super high Megapixels but it is not needed. I am hoping Leica sticks with under 20MP for their M10 and they concentrate on noise, but I have a feeling they will pull a 30+MP sensor out and wow everyone with super high res stats. For the majority of us, 12MP of resolution is PLENTY! Even the old Nikon D2h had a measly 4MP but those were some GREAT Megapixels! Big and fat which provided super color and a unique feel to the photos. I also printed many 20X30′s with that camera that were beautiful. While this sensor is VERY good in its performance, I just feel like my 3 year old iMac is getting bogged down when I process these RAW files. But I guess I can not complain, the sensor puts a good quality image and that is all that matters at the end of the day when it comes to sensor technology. With that said, Canons new pro DSLR, the 1d-x has only 18MP and shoots 14FPS. Seems Canon may know that the MP race was starting to get out of hand. Damn, I remember when 2 Megapixels was a BIG deal and considered “pro”.

With that said, the JPEGs out of the NEX-7 are really good but I know it will get even better with fully supported RAW conversions. Most of us will be shooting RAW as soon as Adobe and Apple release compatibility for the 7 but the JPEGS have been great so far. As already mentioned, some of the images in this review were RAW’s converted with Capture One which does support the NEX-7 files somewhat. It worked GREAT and better than the Sony software. They have a free demo here if you want to give it a shot with your NEX files.

But with that said, the three shots below are from camera JPEGS!

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The HD Video Performance of the NEX-7 – Two samples

The HD capabilities of this camera are pretty astonishing. The NEX-7, like the 5n has a plethora of options when it comes to shooting video and you are only limited by your imagination and lens you attach. The NEX-7 provides much better video quality than the Olympus E-P3 mainly because it not suffer from the nasty Jello effect that plagues many other digital cameras and this made me very happy. With the E-P3 you can not even shoot video unless you use a tripod due to the Jello effect where the video gets wavy and unstable. No issues here and the video looks great in low light as well. It’s pretty amazing because I used to be big into video and remember the old video cameras would always choke at night with horrible grain and bad color. I remember paying $1600 for a video camera back in 1990 that was AWFUL in low light and just OK in good light. Today we have a camera like the NEX-7 that costs $1200 and provides amazing HD video in any HD format you desire and does amazingly well even at night. Technology is good. No complaints here. Want to shoot at 24P? No problem! 60P? No problem! 60i? Go for it! 1080 resolution? Of course! Sony obviously knows video and it shows in this camera.

The video may not be as rich as what you get from a full frame camera like the Canon 5DII or the upcoming Leica M10 (Hmmmmm) but for the cost and what it is, this makes the NEX-7 worth it just for the video! The 18-55 kit lens and 50 1.8 also have Optical Steady Shot. The Zeiss 24 does not even though the video below was shot 100% hand held with the Zeiss 24 at 1.8.

UPDATE: After obtaining my own NEX-7 I have come to realize that the camera will overheat and shut down after just 3 minutes of continuous video. NOT good. So much for making the NEX-7 the official stevehuffphoto.com youtube video camera :)

Sample 1: Hand Held but static shots – Here is a sample video shot at 24p at night, various ISO’s from 100-1600

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Sample 2: Handheld with some movement – LOW light and HIGH ISo, no JELLO effect. All KIT Zoom Lens!

*Shooting Leica Lenses on the NEX-7 - Yea it’s GOOD!

The Leica 50 Summitar is one of those classic lenses I just love. I’m shooting only classic Leica glass right now and love it. So does my bank account. The shot below was converted from RAW with Capture One.

Sony NEX-7 with Leica 50 Summitar at f/2

Below: The SLR Magic Hyperprime T0.95 Leica Mount

This review could not be written without at least SOME shots taken with Leica glass. I have had about 50 e-mails asking for requests to shoot the NEX-7 with every Leica lens under the sun. Sadly, I am not rich, I am poor. SO, I do not own any wide angle Leica lenses. :) Contrary to popular belief I do not have a room loaded with Leica cameras and glass. The good news is that LENSRENTALS.COM sent me out a few wide angle Leica lenses at no charge just so I could test them here. SO THANK YOU LENSRENTALS! If you ever need to rent a camera body or lens, you must check out their site.

As most of you have seen I have been shooting with the Ricoh GXR A12 M mount module as well and because of this I was able to decide which camera I liked better for shooting old manual Leica glass with. Read on…

I can say RIGHT NOW with 100% CERTAINTY that the NEX-7 is a DREAM to use with manual focus Leica glass, or any manual focus glass for that matter. The combination of FOCUS PEAKING and the gorgeous built in EVF seals the deal. It just feels amazing with a Leica lens attached. As I have stated, I did compare SIDE BY SIDE with the Ricoh GXR A12 M mount module and I took both of these cameras out on three occasions and each time had the same conclusion. The NEX-7 won every time in the usability department, this was NO CONTEST. Now the NEX did not only win in usability but I also preferred the IQ from the NEX-7 most of the time when shot with a 35mm or longer lens. Check out some shots below as well as a side by side FROM RAW. Some may prefer the output of the GXR but I am telling ya, usability is amazing on the NEX-7.

1st the NEX-7 shot at f/4, then the GXR at f/4 – BOTH from RAW conversions – NO PP – You must click the images for the larger versions and TRUE 100% crops.

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I had a blast shooting in this way and the NEX-7 made it so easy and foolproof. Their focus peaking just works, a big thumbs up. BUT all is not perfect! When you shoot a Leica lens 21mm and wider be prepared for the magenta color shift issue. Yep, it is here on the NEX-7 but it is NOT on the GXR (or the 5n)! So if you plan on shooting wide angle Leica glass and are looking for a small body to do so, I would suggest the Ricoh or the Sony NEX-5n. If you want a body for longer than 35mm lenses, the NEX-7 would do the job nicely.

The magenta color shift is here when using Leica mount wide angle lenses 21 and wider. See it here on the 15mm

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NEX-5n with Voigtlander 15 – No color shift.

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Two more shots with the Leica/Nex combo with the 50mm and 35mm Summilux ASPH – more are at the end of this review.

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with the 35 Summilux ASPH

The Sony/Zeiss Lenses – The Zeiss 24 1.8 and Sony 50 1.8

As you can see from all of the photos in this review, I have shot with the Zeiss 24 1.8 quite a bit, and I like the lens a lot. It has a very smooth classic character with good color and contrast. It is not a cheap lens but I feel that anyone who is going to buy a NEX-7, and NOT use it with Leica glass or other manual focus good glass, well, the Zeiss is mandatory. It just goes with the camera so well. It’s not perfect and it did not really WOW me at 1st but the more I used it the more I appreciated it. Same with the NEX-7 itself. It is not a beginner camera! It took me about a week or so to really get a feel for what it can do and how to use it properly. But the Zeiss lens is fantastic and from what I am told even comes with snazzy packaging, a lens hood and nice pouch. You can order the lens at B&H Photo or Amazon and the cost is $999. But hey, It’s a Zeiss :) I HAVE A FEELING this will be one of those “Very hard to find lenses” for a while. I pre-ordered mine on day one of the Amazon Pre-Orders so I hope to get one in December when it is released, just in time for Christmas! Below you will see a wide open 1.8 shot and I will be adding some f/8 and f/11 tripod shots soon to this section.

Wide open indoors at 1.8 – OOC JPEG

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The Sony 50 1.8 lens is $299 and IMO a MUST own if you are buying a NEX-5n or NEX-7. It’s priced right and puts out gorgeous results with color that pops, contrast that pops and it’s sharp even wide open. You can order this lens at B&H Photo. Here are a few more from the 50…

Shot at f/4 with the Sony 50 1.8 during the “Golden Hour” – click for larger – This is an OOC JPEG

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This one was shot at 1.8 as I got the stare down from this dog in the street…JPEG

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and check this one out at f/2.8 with 100% crop – JPEG

Accessories for  the NEX-7

As of this writing there are not many accessories for the NEX-7 but I predict that this camera will be THE MOST POPULAR OF ANY SONY CAMERA MODEL IN 2012. PERIOD. I expect many accessories and I was already sent a prototype tripod bracket by J-Tec who made some awesome cool accessories for the NEX-5 and they are getting ready to launch some cool things for the 7 as well. So keep an eye on their site and this site as when they are released I will write about them. One accessory you will want to buy for the NEX-7 or even the 5n if you plan on shooting Leica glass with it is the BEST Leica lens adapter available. It’s not cheap but as I said in my 5n review, I have had three cheapie Leica adapters that I picked up on Amazon and over time they became loose, and that affects performance. The only adapter that has withstood the abuse and test of time has been THIS ONE by Novoflex. If you want a cheapie you can buy this one at Amazon. My thought on this is that if you are using LEICA glass, you want a good adapter. Makes sense.

As for other things for  the NEX-7, you will want a good SD card and I recommend THESE LEXAR PRO cards if you do not want to spend a fortune or if you want the super fast bad ass cards, this one is FAST. The NEX-7 puts out some big files when shooting RAW!

Compared to…all the others 

Here we go. I will get the question! I always do. WHICH ONE SHOULD I BUY? Well, as always, I can not answer that question! It is all personal preference. Do you want an interchangeable lens system? Would you prefer smaller? What features do you need? Ask yourself if THIS camera will FILL ALL YOUR NEEDS. If so, then it may be for you. Look at the features, the size and the sample photos above and then decide if the NEX-7 could be the “one” for the long haul. If that doesn’t work…

Look below for a QUICK written comparison against the usual suspects.

NEX-7 vs The Olympus E-P3 – The E-P3 focuses faser, has better lenses available, and has a cool retro design. In silver it’s simply beautiful. But it still has the same 12 MP sensor as the E-P1. The ISO noise is not far behind the NEX-7 at 1600 but the E-P3 does not have a built in EVF or a tilt able LCD. The 7 has a larger APS-C sensor, the E-P3 has a smaller 4/3 sensor. In all fairness the E-P3 is more fun to shoot and provides results that you just can not complain about. It has a cool factor and some serious mojo even with its limitations and I own it and am keeping it. BUT the NEX-7 is more serious with more potential. NEX has to win this if we are taking body to body. Lenses, Oly wins but then again, Leica glass just works better on bigger sensors, and the NEX-7 has the bigger sensor.

NEX-7 vs Fuji X100 – Totally different cameras. The X100 is a fixed lens 35 mm equivalent. You can not change lenses, it is slow and quirky to operate BUT it’s files are gorgeous and I prefer the colors of the Fuji over the NEX-7, NO CONTEST. But usability and versatility go to the NEX-7. Apples and Oranges. Classic vs Modern. If you can live with a 35mm f/2 and slow operation, go for an X100. GREAT camera. If you want versatility, speed and ease of use, go with a NEX.

NEX-7 vs Leica M9 – Again, totally different. The NEX-7 is NOT an M9 killer by any means. You do not get the Leica glow or the feel of a manual rangefinder camera even with the Zeiss lens but mount a good Leica lens to the NEX-7 and you get closer but again, totally different camera, feel, and price point! M9 is full frame and all manual. NEX-7 is APS-C and more like a hand held computer. One is $1199, one is $7-8,000 :)

NEX-7 vs NEX-5n – This one is important to many readers. The 5n I reviewed was SUPER. BUT….if you are going to invest in the NEX system, and are trying to decide between the two, go for the 7. The body, the controls, the whole package. It IS better in that regard. The high ISO may be a little better on the 5n but that is about it. The built in EVF of the 7 makes all the difference in the world as does the Tri-Navi controls. if you already have a 5n and EVF, you are really only missing the controls and larger body style. In that case, buy yourself the Zeiss 24 and call it a day. :)

NEX-7 vs GXR with Leica Mount – If you are looking for a cheaper solution to shoot Leica glass with besides an M9 or are looking for an M9 backup and have been thinking of the NEX-7 or GXR I feel the NEX-7 offers much more in this regard. Ive shot both side by side and the Sony is easier to shoot with and gives just as good results IN MY EXPERIENCE. The OLED EVF in the 7 is large and vibrant and Ricoh’s is small and dull looking in comparison. The Sony will switch to the EVF when raised to the eye, the GXR has to be manually changed via button. Focus peaking on the 7 is better and easier to use than on the Ricoh. Picture quality wise I slightly preferred the Sony files. Again, this is just MY opinion after shooting both. I love Ricoh but have to give credit where credit is due.

NEX-7 vs Leica M8 – Now this is an interesting comparison. A used Leica M8 runs anywhere from $2000-$2600. The NEX-7 is $1199. So almost double for an M8. If you buy an M8 you MUST buy the UV/IR filters for each lens you own, and the tops ISO for that camera is around 640 before it starts getting unsightly. It’s an M though and a joy to own and use. The M8 has a 1.3 crop and the NEX has a 1.5 crop so the M8 will be using more of your lenses than the NEX-7 will. If you are only shooting in light and want an RF, and M8 may be the way to go. If you want to shoot in all lighting situations and use higher ISO, the NEX is the way to go. Again, all personal preference but the M8 will most likely give better image quality if you have light, plus…it’s a Leica!

Pros and Cons of the Sony NEX-7

Pros

  • SUPER body, Great control and the new Tri-Navi setup  is a godsend
  • Build is solid but camera is fairly light
  • OLED EVF is best ever (at the time of this writing). Period!
  • Swivel LCD is useful, should be on all digital mirror less cameras
  • Best mirror less body by far (to date) for using Leica lenses (besides a Leica)
  • Customization is amazing with many programmable buttons (see video)
  • The NEX-7 and Zeiss 24 make a great pair, could be one lens on body combo
  • ISO goes up to 16,000, but really usable up to 3200.
  • 24 MP is plenty enough for ANYONE
  • Camera is fast in operation, not sluggish at all with a fast SD card
  • Kit Zoom performs great on the camera
  • Nice presentation box, strap, lens cloth all included.
  • Sony’s new 50 1.8 is exceptional in real world use
  • I feel the cost of this camera makes it a deal.
  • HD video capabilities are wonderful and the video does not suffer from the “Jello Effect”
  • Has a built in sensor dust shaker to keep dust bunnies off your photos
  • This is Sony’s Bionic Camera – Better, Faster, Stronger.
Cons
  • High ISO is not as good as it is with the cheaper 5n
  • Sometimes focus hunts in low light and sometimes misses its mark
  • Auto Focus is not as fast as the Olympus E-P3
  • Lenses are bigger than they should be
  • Sometimes the camera would underexpose when using the Zeiss 24
  • Rear LCD not as gorgeous as the one on the E-P3
  • Images do not have much 3D “POP” with the Sony lenses. Leica glass cures this.
  • No in body IS. Boo.
  • When shooting Leica glass with an adapter, lenses wider than 24mm have some magenta color shift issues while the 5n does NOT.

The Bottom Line Conclusion and my full thoughts on the Camera

Ok, so there you have it. I shot with this camera each and every day that I had it. I shot it with the Zeiss 24 1.8 and the new Sony 50 1.8. I even slapped on a Leica lens and did a side by side with the Ricoh GXR.  Sony did in fact “Grow Some Balls” when they decided to design and release the NEX-7. On paper it appeared to be absolutely PERFECT and I ordered one through Amazon the day they started taking orders. In fact I pre-ordered the 24 1.8 and the NEX-7 kit. I just KNEW it had to be amazing. A small body, great build, EVF, fantastic controls and a 24 MP sensor that has Sony tech behind it. I mean, how could the NEX-7 be anything but absolutely GORGEOUS?

Well, when I first started shooting with this camera I was not that wowed or impressed. But I am jaded. I am used to my Leica glass and the M9 putting out stunning 3 dimensional beautiful files and that is what my brain has gotten used to. There has not been any camera that has come close to the M9 IQ until the little Fuji X100 came along, but as wonderful as the Fuji is, it is still tough to shoot with (at certain times) due to its slow speed and clunky interface. Another favorite of mine that I adore is the Olympus E-P3. The new lenses for Micro 4/3 are nothing short of spectacular and helped  to make the E-P3 a daily shooter for me along with it’s super speed and great out of camera color. The one problem I have with the Olympus though is there is no built in EVF or swivel LCD. Once I shot with the Sony for over a week I was spoiled with its best ever OLED EVF and swivel LCD.

So here I am raving on and on about the perfect body of the NEX-7. What about the image quality? Well, judge for  yourself. I posted tons of images in this review with all lenses. I posted out of camera JPEGS, I posted RAW conversions and I posed a couple of comparison shots with a GXR and E-P3. What I noticed with the NEX-7 files during this whole process is that they seem a little bit flat out of the camera, but this is the same look that every NEX camera has had, even the 5n. Nothing that can’t be fixed in a RAW conversion or by using a good old fashioned Leica lens. When I attached a $300 Leica 50 Summitar the 3D pop surfaced.

The NEX-7 is not a camera you will open up and shoot on day 1 and get amazing results with. You have to shoot it, learn it, learn the controls, and learn when to apply Exposure Compensation (which is simple with the Tri Navi controls). Once you dig in and set it up to your liking you will be able to shoot just about anything with this camera. In many ways it is like a computer instead of a camera, but that is Sony for you.

Lenses…

Sony now has 7 lenses for  the NEX system. The 16 2.8, the 18-55, Zeiss 24, the 30 Macro, the 50 1.8, 18-200 and the new 55-210 zoom. The ones to buy in my opinion are the Zeiss and the 50 1.8. I hear that Sony has a new Zeiss lens planned for 2012 as well and I am guessing it will be something like a fast portrait prime. So for those of you who are saying there are no lenses for the NEX system, there are plenty. In addition, this camera can mount hundreds of other lenses using adapters. Mount Nikon, Canon, Leica, Zeiss glass….Just buy the adapters and go to town. This is where this camera really shines…as a body for all of your old glass, well, sort of. Just know that if you want to shoot wide angle lenses that you may get some magenta color shift at the edges of your photo. This is a disappointment because the NEX-5n does NOT have this problem, and it is the cheaper NEX body. Makes me REALLY think now that Sony should have stuck with the 16MP sensor of the 5n for the 7.

With that said, using the camera is a breeze and so enjoyable with the focus peaking and huge and super clear EVF. It really is a joy.

Video..

The video on this camera is the best I have shot with in a non full frame camera. The options are a plenty and the quality, even in low light is GREAT. Pop on a lens with IS and you will get smooth and saturated jello free HD video. You can shoot at 24P, 60P, 60i all in 1080 resolution. The video of the stock NEX-7 kit is exceptional and beats most $1000 video cameras.

The things I did not even talk about in this review..

There are a few things I did not even go over in this review mainly because it would have been a rehash of the 5n review. Things like SWEEP PANORAMA and the other cool features built into the NEX-5n are all here in the 7. The way I look at it is that the NEX-7 is an enthusiast camera and most of these gimmicks will not even be used by those who buy this camera. The Sweep Pano is the one I would use but the others not so much. So this camera has everything you can imagine inside. Huge resolution, great HIGH ISO, superb video, amazing body design and usability….the list goes one.

Would I buy one? I already had my pre-order in and am keeping it. It’s not perfect (see my con list) but it’s REALLY good and the lenses being a little big did not bother me at all in real use. The body is bigger than the 5n so it’s a bit more comfortable to shoot with the Sony lenses. Yes, the “7″ is here! So as I wind up this 10,000 word review all I can say is that I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the camera and lenses. It doesn’t compete with the M9 but not much does in my eyes, and besides…it is $5800 cheaper than an M9 body. :)

All in all, this is a killer camera system and the NEX line has now matured into a camera that most of us have been asking for over the past 2-3 years. This will be a big one for Sony. Mark my words!

Where to Order/Buy?

UPDATE MARCH 1st 2012- Appears B&H just listed the NEX-7 as IN STOCK for the body only. 

Amazon was accepting pre-orders but took them down after news of the flood in Thailand that destroyed the Sony factory there. B&H still has it listed but you can not pre-order at this time. I expect it to pop back up soon for pre-order. AMAZON is still taking Pre-Orders for the Zeiss 24.

UPDATE: I will leave you with a few more images from the NEX-7 and Leica glass, this time with some post processing (which I did not do to any of the images above) – click on them to make them larger and ENJOY!

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