Sony Nex 7 vs Sony A7 review: Which camera should you get?

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When Sony annouced the A7, the question in the minds of many was: What camera should I get? And for those who had the Sony Nex7: Is it worth it to upgrade? To answer this question, here's our Sony Nex7 vs Sony A7 comparison review.

 

Introduction:

 

One thing that must be stated before getting into the comparison: I am comparing two different sensor sizes, namely APSC & Full Frame. For those who don't know, the bigger the sensor, usually the better image quality, the better low light performance, the better the Bokeh.

 

sony-a7-vs-nex-7-sensor-size

 

In boxing, there's different classes, like featherweight and heavyweight, and boxers head-butt each other in their weight class. I would be unfair to put a heavyweight in the same ring as a featherwight. Likewise in cameras, cameras should be compared by sensor sizes. But why THIS comparison then?

Well first of all these are two very similar cameras in many ways, they have the same design philosophy, the same E mount, the same Megapixel (24) power, etc. But fact is the NEX7 is a very very good camera that is very hard to beat. It rivals and sometimes surpasses quite a few full frame cameras in many aspects, so this particular comparison is really to see how far the gap is between the two cameras because the NEX7 sometimes spills into Full Frame territory when it comes to image quality.

So in other words, is the NEX7 so good to make the A7 irrelevant? Or is the A7 that good to make it worth the purchase over the NEX7? I suspect that the NEX7 is so good that it would make the A7 not that much of a good buy, but hey, that's what this review is about 🙂 Let's dig in and find out shall we?

 

Sony Nex 7 vs Sony A7 review

 

Setting up: Nex7
The NEX7, is one of the most straightforward cameras you can find. When I got it, it took me 5 minutes to set up. I mean, how easy can the controls be when you have the dials you need right at your fingertips? One dial for ISO, the other Shutter Speed, the other Aperture, that is if you are in Manual mode of course, other modes have different uses for the dials.

 

Made with NEX 7
Made with NEX 7

 

 

Actually at a wedding I was shooting, I pressed the wrong combination of buttons and ended up locking my ISO dial. That never happened before so I didn't know how to fix it. I quickly reset to factory defaults, put in RAW mode and I was back up to speed in under a minute. That goes to show how straightforward the camera is.

 

Setting up: A7

 

Likewise, when I got the A7, it was as straightforward as the Nex7. RAW, put my screen to black and white (my preferred method of shooting) and I was good to go. Barely 2 minutes. There was no figuring out the controls: one dial for Aperture, the other Shutter Speed, the dial in the back for ISO, it's as basic and good as you can get

 

Buffer


The Nex7's buffer is about 9-10 images before it locks up and needs a few seconds to breathe. It's nothing short of impressive. The Sony A7 doubles that. If offers about 20 images that you can fire rapidly before it locks up for a few seconds. It's really something!

 

Stealth

The NEX7 is stealthier than the Sony A7. The reason being that the shutter sound is more DLSR like in the A7, whereas it's more mirrorless like in the NEX7. The A7's shutter sound is sexy though….

 

Handling: NEX7

One thing that hit me after I picked up the Nex7, is how comfortable the camera was, that grip is a wonderful thing! Everything is well placed like the shutter release button, the dial on the back is accessible by your thumb, the front dials are also dealt with with your thumb. Some people had issue with the movie record button being pressed without the user's knowledge but that can be turned off. The A7 has the same feature but it's so far to the right of the camera's back grip, that you will never possibly hit that button by mistake.

 

Made with A7
Made with A7

 

Handling: Sony A7

The A7 is much heavier and feels more solid than the Nex7, the superb grip is still there, and it's the kind of camera that you would not be afraid to dangle with one finger on the grip. It's well balanced. Coming from the Nex7, I found the shutter release placement of the A7 a bit awkward, it's on top, while the NEX7's is on the grip and slightly at an angle.

Plus I found the shutter release small and too tall. But eventually this became an non issue very quickly and I actually grew to like the A7's handling better than the Nex7. Both cameras share the same look, the A7 being a larger NEX7 with a viewfinder on top.

The NEX7 menu had some icons and was grey, the A7 is much more pragmatic and it's all text menu. One thing I have found with the NEX7, it's that I really do not know where the settings rae, sometimes I am looking at the icons and wondering if such and such setting here or here?? The A7 removes the possible questioning and you can just go through the menus really fast.

 

Made with NEX 7
Made with NEX 7

 

The truth about the SLR form factor

The SLR form factor is a deal breaker for some, the argument being that it hinders your other eye from looking at the scene. Well the viewfinder isn't psysically that big, and your other eye is pretty free and can look at the rest of the scene without any issue.

Truth of the matter is, I had both cameras in my right hand and while I was making images, it's all a blur as to what I was using, Sony A7 or Nex7. That goes to say that the new form factor of the A7 isn't THAT different than the NEX7. I expected to be, but in the end, it wasn't as big of a deal as I believed it would be.

 

Made with A7
Made with A7

 

Dials

Let's talk about one of the most important aspects of cameras in my opinion: The dials. The Nex7 has two dials on the top and the rolling dial in the back. Aperture, Shutter Speed, Circle in the back as ISO. Sweet and simple. The Sony A7 takes a more traditional DSLR approach and puts a dial in the back AND one in the front. I really cannot tell you which one is the best system because they both are comfortable, but the most important thing stays the same: You always have your controls right under your finger.

 

Made with NEX 7
Made with NEX 7

 

The Nex7 has pretty much an empty top part, but the A7 has a dial that is not on the Nex7: An exposure compensation dial. If you like shooting in automatic or semi automatic mode, this dial still gives you some form of overall control over the image. If you shoot Manual, it would be cool if you could transform this dial into something like an ISO control, but no such luck.

 

Image quality


The NEX7 needs no introduction (See DPReview NEX-7) when it comes to image quality, like I said previously, it kicks some fullframe cameras in the nutsack. As a camera manufacturer, if you make a very good camera, the pressure is on you to top that. But as much as the NEX7 is VERY good, the A7 simply stole my heart. The larger sensor really gives images, especially portraits have a sort of 3D pop when you are at higher apertures. It's downright gorgeous.

 

Sony-A7-Sample-image-3
Made with A7

 

The Sony A7 has a certain je-ne-sais-quoi look that I just can't get on the NEX7. It has that certain look that I can't help but miss. Superb tonal range, contrast and extremely maleable files in Post Processing. I was underwhelmed with the A7 when I just took some snaps, but when I started to really shoot with it….my jaw dropped.

Look, the NEX7, is an amazing camera, arguably one of the best ones out there. I'm used to getting some nice images out of it…but the Sony A7 is really something above that. Sony really outdid themselves with this fullframe camera.

 

Made with NEX 7
Made with NEX 7

 

Low Light

While I was at a wedding ,there was gorgeous, gorgeous light. The best any photographer would have asked for. But my heart started to beat fast as there was an issue with the bride getting ready…and the light was dropping, and dropping, and dropping…In my opinion the NEX7 gave up the ghost at ISO6400 when it came to color & BW. The A7….man, the light was dropping and I was pushing the ISO, up to 10.000. And things were still not falling apart.

NEX7 @ ISO 6400
NEX7 @ ISO 6400

Now ISO quality is RELATIVE because every one of us have different view on when things fall apart in low light. I'm personally comfortable with the NEX7 at ISO1600, 3200 is I have to, 6400 I'm sweating. The A7, I'm comfortable at 6400, ISO 10.000 if I have to, and I haven't found my sweating point yet.

Sony-A7-ISO-10000-Color-1
Sony A7 @ ISO 10000

 

The image above is the A7…the colors are still holding strong, perfectly usable image. Here's a processed BW version, where I made the Guru a saint:

 

Sony-A7-ISO-10000-BW-1

 

This is good news for available light photographers like me, who want the maximum juice they can get out of the available light. Get a lens for Sony A7 with a 1.8 or 1.4 aperture and you have a killer Sony A7 Kit. The light was very dim, I couldn't see well myself but the A7 held strong with it's ISO power.

 

ISO Comparisons

Here's two comparisons of the cameras at ISO3200 & 6400:

iso3200
Nex 7 on left | A7 on right | ISO 3200

 

sony a7 vs nex7-ISO6400
A7 on left | NEX7 on right | ISO 6400

 

Other Considerations
Besides the head to head comparison, there are a few factors that must be taken into account, I find them minor but others might find them major. Here's a few:

 

Compability of accessories

In case you decide to get both cameras, what's really cool is that both cameras work with the same batteries. That's good news for people who have lots of batteries and chargers and makes the transition smoother. The Nex7 has the Sony-Minolta hotshoe, meaning it's not standard and you can't use a majority of standard flashes. It's really is a great hotshoe though, the flash is well locked in once place and will not slip out.

 

Sony-A7-Sample-image-4
Made with A7

 

 

You can always buy a hotshoe adapter but the big issue about that is that the flash gets to be high on top of the camera, and it feels like the flash will break the hotshoe because it's balancing too high on top of the adapter. The Sony adapter isn't that tall but still a weak point on top of the camera.

 

 

Sony-Nex7-Metz-Flash-1

 

The Sony A7, like the Nex6 has a standard hotshoe adapter. So one flash cannot go on both cameras without one having an adapter.

 

Built in Flash

The NEX7 has a pop-up flash built-in, you can even hold it with your index finger and bounce vertically. But the Sony A7 has no pop-up flash at all. But by the same token it can go at higher ISOs than the NEX7.

 

Made with NEX 7
Made with NEX 7

 

Wifi

The NEX7 doesn't have wifi, the Sony A7 has it. It's a pretty useful feature because it saves you from going to Lightroom, when a friend or so nags you for an image. The process is, you install an app on your iphone or Android, you open it and put in the camera's password and you are done.

There's even a dedicated “send” button that you can use while reviewing the images on the back of the camera. You can also transfer images to PC, etc.

 

Made with A7
Made with A7

 

Apps

The Sony A7, like the NEX6 has PlayMemory app capabilities, the NEX7 has none. Basically these are apps that enhance the capabilities of the camera software side. So you can have a new multiple exposure feature, etc. Some apps are paid, some are free.

Double battery

sony-a7-double-battery-grip


The A7 has an optional double battery grip that, well, extends your battery life (in addition to bulk!). You can have that on the Nex7 too, but's it's a 3rd party accessory.

 

Sony-Nex7-double-battery-grip-1

 

Sony Nex7 vs Sony A7: So which one should you get?

It all comes down to this, doesn't it? This whole article is about telling you which one you should get….And the short answer is….The Sony A7. The long answer is, when I got the Sony A7, I wasn't expecting much because the Nex7 was such a good camera that it would be difficult to surpass.

Heh. I was proven wrong. Long story short, if you can afford it, get the Sony A7, if it's not in your budget, get the Sony Nex7, you can't go wrong with either.

 

Made with NEX 7
Made with NEX 7

You get lots of camera for your money in both cases. Actually I think the A7 should be more expensive for the amount of camera you get, likewise for the Nex7. So the real question is not really which camera you should get, it's really which one you can afford. Both of the are worth every penny. If you have the Nex7, the A7 is well worth the upgrade

 

Made with A7
Made with A7

 

Better together

One thing I'd like to mention is that these two work GREAT as a pair, provided you have Fullframe lenses. Let me explain. The Sony E mount lenses come in two varieties: Crop sensor lenses (most NEX-7 Lenses) and Fullframe lenses .

You can use fullframe lenses on crop sensors like the Nex7 without an issue
You cannot use crop sensor lenses on fullframe sensors like the A7 because the image circle is too small. Here's what I mean:

 

fullframe-vs-apsc

 

On the left we have the lens making a circle. The circle engulfs the fullframe rectangle (the larger one), so it's all good, the resulting image is below. Now on the left we have a crop sensor lens (most NEX E mount lenses are crop). The circle engulfs the APSC rectangle (smaller one), so it's going to give you a normal image, but since the circle doesn't hit everywhere on the corners of the fullframe circle, we will have black areas on the corner. This is called vignetting.

 

If you buy both Sony Mirrorless Cameras and have fullframe lenses like the Sony Zeiss lenses or the flabergastingly small and amazing Voigtlander lenses, you can have one lens but have TWO focal lenghts at your disposal! For example a 35mm on the A7 gives me a 35mm field of view. Putting it on the Nex7 gives me a 52.5mm field of view (35mm x1.5 crop factor=52.5mm).

 

Made with NEX 7
Made with NEX 7

 

Granted you could always shoot the A7 in crop mode but you loose 10 megapixels for doing so (15 megapixels if you have the A7r). With the A7 and Nex7 side by side, you get to keep your megapixel power while getting two focal lengths with two lenses. I tried both cameras and they are a match made in heaven. So if you can get both Mirrorless Digital Cameras, get both, the NEX7 can become a second and/or backup body.

 

Made with A7
Made with A7

 

Closing comments

 

When I received the A7, I wan't expecting much. As a camera reviewer, you review cameras and then they go back. But while using the Sony A7 and making photographs, I was gulping my own spit. And now that she's gone….it ain't no sunshine. Yep, I fell head over heels for the A7, it's THAT good, and it's worth it. But only your budget will determine if you can get it, in the end, you can't go wrong with either. Be yourself, stay focused and keep on shooting.

 

Where to get it

If you like the way the images are processed, they were made with these presets. If you buy the cameras by clicking below, not only you pay it forward to us (they give us a small commission) BUT you also win Karma points for whenever the Mayan apocalypse points it's head!!

 

Sony A7

bhbutton  or Amazon

 

 

Sony NEX7

bhbutton or Amazon

 

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37 thoughts on “Sony Nex 7 vs Sony A7 review: Which camera should you get?”

  1. Excellent review! I always wanted to read a comparison between these two; about a month I wanted to get either the NEX 6/7 or the A7. I’m glad I went with the A7! I have one question: Does the Voigtlander lens you got work with autofocus on the A7, or is it only manual? I have tried my Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 (DX actually) on the A7 and even thought is in cropped mode, I love the results eventhough it’s manual focus. But I’m not using the full frame capablity of the camera. Need to get FF lenses.

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  3. Olivier… This article makes me wanna go back to Sony.
    I bought NEX-7 and returned it because of the way the EVF works. A7 is the same. For some reason I have a problem with EVF viewfinders that activate by eye sensor. I need it on from the moment I turn on the camera. Olympus, Fuji and some Panasonics, allow you to switch the sensor off. (Fuji offers: viewfinder + eye sensor or just: viewfinder.)
    Are you aware of any work-around that issue on Sonys, other than physically blocking the sensor?
    Thanks!

      1. A7 is a Top Cam ..but..
        i think its a heavy mistake in the firmware with the Eye Sensor.
        If i wear the A7 with neckstrap, the A7 cant go in standby,
        because the eye sensor waked up the cam.
        Its a bad solution to switch allways the cam on/off after
        every image. If you forget switching off, the battery is
        quick empty. Olympus shows the right way, disabling the
        eye sensor. I hope Sony add this feature in next FW update.
        greetings, Andreas (Berlin)

  4. Thanks Olivier, I’ll try to wrap my mind about approaching the camera differently (it’s just frustrating). Anyway, was the image of a brunette with the earrings, sitting at an open sky reception made with A7 and 40/1,4 Nokton SC? :

    That lens/look is my biggest motivation to get into Sony A7.

  5. Thanks Olivier! There is a picture of a woman sitting next to a grey-haired man and I am wondering if that’s made with A7 and 40mm Nokton SC. Could you please confirm?
    I love 40mm (or equivalent) field of view and this look may get me back to Sony.

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  7. “But only your budget will determine if you can get it, in the end, you can’t go wrong with either.” And by “either” I hope you mean the a7 or the a6000.

  8. Great review. Beautiful photos. Can you indicate which lens you used for each shot? Did you get a chance to test the 16-70 on the NEX vs the 24-70 on the A7? If you have those lenses, can you comment on each of those. Thanks!

  9. Oliver,

    I have a nex 7 which I use with metabobes speedbooster. Considering the 1stop advantage of full frame is offset by the speed booster, do still recommend an upgrade?

    Thanks forvthe review,
    Damaru

    1. Ah yes it gives you the actual full frame focal lenght and makes it faster. That’s really a good question and I would still recommend the A7. The overall IQ is better and the ISO is great!

  10. I loved this comparison and the photos! I wanted a great camera I could handle and read thousands of reviews prior to choosing the Nex-7 in 2012. I have small hands and a right hand joint replacement so I needed a camera I could hold and manipulate with that hand. I tried the Nex-7 and found it was the only camera that felt comfortable for me. Naturally, I bought a number of lenses and accessories and have been waiting for longer telephotos. Now comes, the A7 after what for me was a large investment and I worry that I won’t be able now to get the longer lenses due to the A7 being on the scene. I watched the B&H webinar yesterday trying to find a compelling reason to try to adjust to the A7. Now your review convinces me that my Nex-7 was a great choice for me. I still want to take a look at the A7 and see if it is something I should switch to. I understand from your review that the A7 is better yet, but I wonder if you have any suggestions for me. I mostly take nature shots and birds in particular. Thank you!

  11. Great write up. I have the NEX7 and the A7r and I had debated selling the NEX7 for weeks until I came to the conclusion that they are a fantastic pair. In addition, I have a Minolta CL that I can share the M-mount lenses with too so the CV15 is a 21 on the NEX7, a truly fantastic 15 on the CL with viewfinder, and an Artsy 15 on the A7r. The CL’s 28,40 and 90 are all fantastic on the Sonys as well. I did buy the 55 1.8 and it is fantastic on the A7r and an awesome portrait lens on the NEX7. My CL is jealous.

    The NEX is typically set up for street photography with the CV15 (~21mm) and an orange filter. I carry a hotshot adapter and a small flash with diffuser and 3′ flash cable. the whole kit fits in a messenger bag.

    I love this combination and the image quality all around.

    T

    PS the CV 40 1.4 SC is fantastic. if you are considering a walk around lens for either camera, don’t hesitate. It is better than the CV35 1.4. The MC one is great too but the SC really excels for simulating Portra’s muted colors and B&W.

  12. Awesome photography!! Totally..
    But just to throw it out there, what do you think of the newer a6000? Does it inch closer to the a7 in terms of low light performance and overall features? I’ve been torn between the a6000 and the NEX-7 for a while now and I’d sure appreciate your thoughts. Thanks

    1. Sorry for the late reply, this comment slipped my tired eyes! Thanks so much!
      I truly wouldn’t know, I do not have an a6000. All I know is that it’s been reported to be better than the Nex 7 in that area.

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  14. My NEX7 inspired me to become a better photographer (I am still crap.). I traveled the world with it. When I travel I don’t buy souvenirs. I bring back photos, trying to capture the simpleness and excitement of every day or night: sitting in a coffee shop in Sydney, touring a museum in Brussels, staying on a scuba diving boat in the Caribbean, stumbling upon a street performing violinist in Vienna at night, photographing an empty square in Rome at 5 AM.
    Sadly I was just notified my NEX7 is damaged beyond repair. Fortunately I am getting a warranty refund. I am taking the opportunity to upgrade to the a7 series. Can you make a recommendation for a7, a7r, or a7s to replace my NEX7? If the more expensive one is better for me I would consider it a good investment, much like my investment in my NEX7. On the other hand I don’t want to throw away money on something unnecessarily. Any advice would me much appreciated. Thanks.

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  16. I still have my NEX7 after all this time and I can’t seem to part with it. I am really attached to it like no other camera. I have now put the new Voigtlander 40 f2.8 collapsable heliar on it and it is just wonderful. I also added r.luther metal buttons to it, set it up for 12MP file size and black and white. Peaking is set for low, fine JPEG and set all the buttons up the way I like it. This little camera is a go everywhere kit that produces fantastic OOC jpegs for color and black and white. setting the camera to 12MP samples down the images in a way that I don’t really ever need to touch the BWs. I like them the way they are. For those of you thinking of selling it to get the a6000 or possibly A7000, I suggest you give it another year as a street shooter and really get to know its navigation well. I have an A7r and many film cameras that I love but no other camera I have has taught me as much about composition, technique and confidence as this one. There is no reason (for me) to look at another camera in this class. Also, after have been using wide angle lenses, I find that the effective 60mm with MFT of about a foot of a FF 40mm manual lens is just about right for street, portraits and almost anything. In these days of iPhone photos, 28-35mm is really becoming banal. it is a challenge to compose with a wide angel lens but we are all used to seeing them now. the standard look of a 35 or even 50mm lens on FF is saturated. 60mm gets you in a hair tighter and is unusual. Give this combination a try and your NEX7 can give you another few years of enjoyment. with the lens collapsed, it slides into the old pentax point and shoot case I have that has a belt loop. it will even slip into a coat pocket. get shooting and keep rocking the N7!!!!

  17. I’m trying to decide one whether to buy the A7 or NEX7 and the only thing that makes me question the A7 is the vignetting i keep reading about. Supposedly anything under 35mm and a relatively fast lens. like, lets say, a 24mm or 20mm 2.8 shot all the way open produced an incredibly unattractive vignette. It went away around 5.6 and up. What if you’re shooting indoors in a cramped area with limited lighting and you have a 20mm f/2.8 mounted?

    Would it make more sense to have an NEX7 with metabones speedbooster that would bump it up a stop and have nearly full-frame? Or the ISO hog A7 that will vignette if you shoot all the way open?

    1. The decision between those 2 models should be more about FF vs Crop. The vignetting issue, color smearing and color cast are issues that both models share with wide lenses and some do it more than others. Rangefinder lenses for one, do exhibit some problems on both the A7 and the Nex 7. Different lenses and different models of NEX and A7 series cameras do different things however between those 2, you are looking at similar problems with color and smearing due to pixel pitch and the angle the light passes through the lens. Old legacy manual lenses are better on both. If you intend to use wide angle lenses on either, stick to E mount or legacy lenses. for 28mm, the CLE 28/2.8 M-Rokkor is the only one that I found that is not subject to some issue. Full frame will certainly show more vignetting than crop but it is fixable in post. If you already have lenses you want to use, search them with NEX 7 and A7 on Flickr to see if there are examples. If you are buying the A7 or Nex 7 and you don’t already have lenses, save yourself the trouble and buy modern lenses. There are some adaptable SLR lenses that work fine too if you prefer. I have tried many combinations and after a lot of trial and error, I think the best thing to do is to buy as many E mount lenses over adapted lenses as you can. the performances is generally better. I still have the Nex 7 and the A7r. I consider selling the A7r frequently but not the Nex 7. Its a great camera that produces amazing photos within ISO 100-400 and very good to 1600. The only reason to go the A7 series is iff you really need what FF offers. Even the A7II is not going to give you much better IQ for stills in good light is your objective.

  18. Great article. I love my NEX7. It’s light and small. I had an NEX5 that got stolen so I decided to upgrade to the NEX7. Then I notice problems with focusing and lighting. With the NEX5 I never had a problem with backlit subjects. The camera would adjust to wherever I was focusing. And this was all on auto because it was simple not to think for me. With the NEX7, it’s not doing that. It keeps adjusting for the background light and I have to go around and try to remember the crazy menu to figure out how to adjust. Any suggestions on the settings for backlit subjects on the NEX7? I do love my auto but I’m even noticing that the Intelligent Auto and the Programmed Auto are both finicky.

    1. Hey Fran, thanks!
      It might be how the camera is reading the exposure. Get the manual and search for metering mode, and put it in center weighted mode. You might want to check this video out that i made:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fNZv-UfrpnA

      Long story short, the center weighted will give priority to whatever is in the center, while now your camera might be reading the whole image. Truth be told it shouldn’t behave that way, but I’m not there to check.

      Alternatively, you can do that manually, I think if you start rolling the scroll wheel in the back, it should adjust the exposure. So if you see your subject is dark, roll it to the right and it should light up by increments….let me know if that fixes your issue!!

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  20. Thank you so much for this thorough review and also the many images to understand the difference. I have had the Sony Nex7 for several years and really love it and was considering upgrading. Your article was super useful, thank you so much!

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