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HolidayBuyer's Guide

Noise

Noise, ISO 1600, no noise reduction

ISO 400, raw vs. JPEG

ISO 1600, raw vs. JPEG

Sharpness

Color

Creative Styles

Continuous shooting

Bokeh, 18-55mm lens

Bokeh, 50mm f1.8 lens

Bokeh, 24mm f1.8 Zeiss lens

Flash

The Sony Alpha NEX-7 produces clean JPEGs through ISO 200, and if you look closely you can start to see noise-reduction artifacts starting at ISO 400 (look for halos on the text at ISO 400 and the beginning of detail degradation on the tape measure at ISO 800). That's not to say that the camera produces noisy photos; on the contrary, it generates relatively low-noise images up through ISO 1600. It just overdoes the processing.
Caption by / Photo by Matthew Fitzgerald/CNET
This is the noise in an ISO 1600 shot without any noise-reduction performed. Pretty darn good.

(1/60 sec, f8, AWB, spot metering, 24mm f1.8 ZA lens)
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
Even at ISO 400, the JPEGs show a combination of too much luminance noise reduction (which blurs) and oversharpening, which results in a type of artifact that makes it look unnatural. You can tell the camera is fixing the fringing, as well. It's too bad, because the raw shot has relatively little noise-reduction applied--it doesn't really need it. Though the camera has a setting for increasing or decreasing the NR, you can't set the ISO sensitivity at which it kicks in (and the documentation doesn't tell you what it considers "high ISO").

(1/60 sec, f2.2, AWB, spot metering, 24mm f1.8 ZA lens)
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
Here you can see that even at ISO 1600 you can get some really clean results by shooting raw instead of JPEG.

(1/30 sec, f3.2, AWB, spot metering, 50mm f1.8 OSS lens)
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
At low ISO sensitivities, the camera can produce some sharp yet natural-looking JPEG results.

(1/125 sec, f6.3, AWB, spot metering, ISO 100, 18-55mm lens at 18mm)
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
The camera renders colors very well and relatively accurately.
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
The default Standard Creative Style still pushes the colors a little, but it's not bad. I still prefer Neutral for accuracy.

(1/125 sec, f22, AWB, pattern metering, ISO 100, 18-55mm lens at 53mm)
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
The EVF is good enough, with a fast-enough refresh rate, to be effective while panning.

(1/125 sec, f9, AWB, pattern metering, 50mm f1.8 OSS lens)
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
The out-of-focus highlights in the kit lens are decent, but lack the clarity of the primes.

(1/125 sec, f13, AWB, spot metering, 18-55mm lens at 53mm)
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
I was a little surprised at how polygonal the bokeh on the new 50mm prime is, though it's not bad for a relatively inexpensive lens.

(1/30 sec, f2.8, AWB, spot metering, 50mm f1.8 OSS lens)
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
This lovely bokeh is one of the reasons I heart the pricey Zeiss 24mm lens.

(1/30 sec, f1.8, AWB, spot metering, ISO 800, 24mm f1.8 ZA lens)
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
This demonstrates the advantage of an on-camera flash that can be tilted. While the proper exposure is probably somewhere between the two settings, using the flash indirectly preserves more depth in the image and lessens the harshness of the light.

(1/125 sec, f1.8, AWB, pattern metering, ISO 100, 50mm f1.8 OSS lens)
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
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