Design & Handling (I)
The top and front shells of the NEX-7 are made up of magnesium alloy. One thing we noticed when we first picked it up was how substantial the camera felt in our hands. The heft (544g when mounted with the color matching 18-55mm kit lens), the sticky rubber texture of the grip, the sharp angles, and the cold metal body reminded us of a film SLR in the days of yore, or dare we say, a Leica camera. We had the same sensations when we handled the equally drool-worthy Fujifilm FinePix X100. Outwardly, the NEX-7 doesn’t have a rangefinder’s classic look; on the contrary, its black coat, minimal adornments, and unmarked buttons make it look rather inconspicuous (but timeless, nonetheless). That being said, the NEX-7 isn’t quite a pocket camera, though it’s close if you were to pair it with a 16mm pancake lens and wear a jacket with a huge pocket. But here’s a fashion faux pas: there’s no black version of the 16mm lens; that’s only available in silver. The other black-colored E-mount lens you could get is the 24mm, F1.8 Carl Zeiss Sonnar T*.
Cameras with electronic viewfinders (EVFs) are usually looked upon with disdain by serious photographers - and quite rightly so, as they often have poor luminosities and horrible refresh rates that hamper usability. Since the launch of the SLT cameras, Sony has moved away from optical viewfinders. The EVF in the A55 and A33 was generally accepted to be good, but it was also known to suffer from color smearing (especially during panning), a problem common in field sequential displays. But on the NEX-7 (and the A77/A65), Sony has opted for an XGA (1024x768) OLED (organic light-emitting diode) viewfinder. And boy, the difference is night and day compared to the crummy EVFs out there; it’s like switching from an old-school SDTV to a modern HDTV. You get abundance of details (useful for determining focus and depth of field), good brightness, wide viewing angle, high contrast (Sony claims it’s 10x higher than A55’s EVF), fast response, and perhaps more importantly, accurate colors. And we’re happy to report that the smearing problem is nowhere to be seen. Another great benefit of an EVF is the amount of information that can be shown: shooting data, level gauge, histogram, effect simulation, you name it. When shooting in bright sunlight that makes viewing on the LCD screen difficult, this high-quality and highly usable EVF is a savior.
Speaking of the rear monitor, Sony has retained the 3-0-inch, 921K-dot, two-way tilt (90° up, 45° down) LCD. While it’s fully articulated, because it tilts downward, it's impossible to see the screen from the front when the camera is placed on a table or a tripod. We'd like to see the A77's 3-way tilt and swivel LCD on the NEX-7, but maybe we're asking too much here. So far, Sony has resisted a flip LCD with a side hinge, something which we could only attribute to stubbornness. Okay, a more plausible explanation is that they don’t want an LCD that’s not align to center axis of the sensor/lens.