Sony Nex and HDR

Article by Andrew Steel

I’ve been shooting with the Sony Nex-7 for what must be coming up to a year and thought it time to share my thoughts on this little package, although not as a general review as there are a plethora of those around. This is more of a personal view and also how this camera performs with my lens choice for HDR, so lets start with why?

I have been shooting DSLR since the introduction of the Canon 400D, later moving to the 50D and was just about to upgrade to a 7D, although I was  really loving the Canons I was always aware of the bulkiness of kit I was carrying around, in particular when shooting architectural shots when I’m really trying not to stand out.

This is when I noticed the compact system cameras making an impact on the market, I was particularly drawn to the Sony as the sensor was the same size as the mid range DSLR’s at the time (APS-C), I read the reviews, listened to other photographers with an online presence, got some touchy feely stuff in a shop and decided to delve into the ‘mirrorless’ market, so off I went and purchased an obsolete Nex-5 for next to nothing. It came with a pancake 16mm lens and I managed to get hold of a wide and fisheye adaptor, that was January 2012. Six months later and out of the 68 images I published so far that year only three of them were taken with the Canon, the Sony was just so easy to pick up and stick in my bag, I was no longer conscious about carrying a few kilos of camera equipment around with me, wherever I was or whoever I was with, I also noticed that I was not drawing the same amount of attention from other people.

Decision made, off I went and got me a Nex-7.

What I got was an amazing bit of kit that gave me lots of options for HDR, I’m not going to go into techy specs but the control wheels give instant access to exposure control making manual changes quick and easy allowing a far greater range of exposures than the standard bracketing method, with the firmware update this improved significantly to the point where it is for me as easy to take a nine exposure bracket at one stop intervals as it is to take three exposures.

Taking nine exposures may sound a little excessive but shooting architecture inside does tend to present the extremes of the dynamic range, it also allows a great deal of choice at the blending and editing stages.

Before moving on to lens choice I am going to highlight some significant weaknesses again aimed at HDR photography in the Nex-7: Bracketing mode limited to three exposures, no remote shutter release for bracketing mode, finger has to pressing the shutter throughout the three exposures, pronounced purple vignette on wide angle raw, appalling tripod mount, lens choice limited (but improving), autofocus lenses have a continuous focusing ring which hampers manual focusing in low light conditions.

Lenses, first choice is a Rokinon 8mm f2.8, this is just about my favourite lens ever (as you can probably tell), for architecture it gives some fantastic artistic effects, I’m also finding that if I’m out at night then this is the lens attached to the Nex. Drawbacks on this lens is flare can be horrible and the purple vignette produced by the Nex at this wide is annoying.

Lens number two is the Sony 10-18mm f4 ultra wide angle, absolutely top quality glass and my only downer is the continuous focusing ring.

For HDR along with a tripod these are the only bits of kit I take out with me, its all easily carried around in a small shoulder bag to the point that whenever I am out the camera is with me, even if I’m not planning a shoot.

After using the Nex range since the beginning of 2012 there is no way that I would ever consider going back to DSLR, Sony in my eyes are now a real contender in the mid to high end consumer digital cameras, pitching themselves squarely against Canon and Nikon but offering something truly different and unique to the market.

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  • Adrian Evans

    Great job and write up, you certainly do a great job with the Sony, i only managed to keep my nex7 for a few weeks still preferring my canon 5dmk2, but even that had to go and along came the nikon d800 – I must admit the size of the sony against a dslr is very very appealing :)