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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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….
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
Here’s two comparisons of the cameras at ISO3200 & 6400:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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
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:
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).
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.
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
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