Sony NEX-7 comparisons and review

Wednesday November 30 2011

Camera Review
Sony NEX-7 comparisons and review

Ever since we tested the Sony SLT A77, we’ve been very curious to see how the soon-to-be released Sony NEX 7 would compare. And today we have the answer: as we expected, the absence of a mirror gives the NEX7 some advantages. Below is a detailed look.

The Sony NEX-7 has the same sensor as the Sony A77 and Sony A65, but it’s not a single-lens translucent (SLT) camera — that is, it doesn’t have a partially-translucent mirror — and that makes all the difference, because it doesn’t have to contend with mirror-related light loss. Let’s take a look at how the NEX-7 fares against different kinds of cameras, starting with its Sony SLT relatives.

Comparing the Sony SLT A77 vs Sony SLT A65 vs Sony NEX-7:

Overall DxOMark scores show a difference of 3 points in favor of the NEX-7 (81) over the SLT A77 (78), even though the latter has a lower ISO sensitivity (ISO 50) than the NEX-7 (ISO 100).

In principle, lower ISO sensitivity means that the A77 should achieve better scores in low ISO categories such as color depth and landscape (as we explained when we compared the Sony A65 and A77).

So it is not surprising to see the A65 come in lower (at 74 points) than these other two cameras, given that it has no ISO 50 (advantage: A77) and a translucent mirror (advantage: NEX-7).

Comparing the Sony NEX-7 vs Pentax K5 vs Nikon D7000:

It’s a tie game among the best of the current APS-C sensors, whose DxOMark scores are all within a hair’s breadth of one another: 81 for the NEX-7, 82 for the K5, and 80 for the D7000.

We applaud the Sony for succeeding in matching its competitors’ image quality scores. This was not a foregone conclusion despite having a significantly higher resolution than either the Pentax and the Nikon, because of its smaller pixel pitch on a sensor of nearly identical surface size.

What’s more, the NEX-7’s minimum ISO of only 100 put it at a disadvantage compared to the K5’s ISO 80, and indeed the NEX-7’s low-light results are noticeably lower than its competitors’ (1016 points vs 1162 and 1165, respectively).

Comparing the Sony NEX-7 vs Olympus PEN EP3 vs Nikon 1 V1:

No surprises here: the NEX-7 is by far and away the leader with a DxOMark score of 81 points — 30 points ahead of the Olympus and 27 points ahead of the Nikon. All these cameras are ergonomically similar, compact and lightweight, but the NEX-7’s larger sensor gives it a clear advantage over its rivals.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the NEX-7 is a success in terms of sensor image quality. In light of its current  results, it’s hard to resist thinking about the kinds of scores a future “NEX-X” could achieve were it to add ISO 50 to its mirror-free advantage.... and about the kind of score a full-frame DSLR would achieve with the same sensor technology as the Sony NEX 7 or Sony A77.