I’ve been using the Sony Nex-7 for almost a year now, and I have to say, I really love the camera. It took me some time to get used to it and appreciate it for what it does, but now, that I’m comfortable with it, I really enjoy shooting with it, and I really like the images it produces. The little Sony get’s a lot of (frankly unfair) criticism, especially for its control layout. I think many people dismiss it without giving it a fair evaluation, and never get to see just how good it can be. Once you learn to use it, and configure the camera to your taste, the controls aren’t that much of an issue. In fact, they become second nature after a while. But I don’t want to get sidetracked with addressing the critics. What I want to talk about is one aspect of the Nex-7 where it really excels. It produces fantastic black and white images.
Normally I shoot raw. Well, I usually shoot Raw+Jpeg, but I usually only ever use the Raw files. With the Nex-7 though, when shooting black and white, the jpegs the camera produces are so good that I use them straight from the camera. I only ever tweak a little. (for these shots I’ve added a little grain in Lightroom) There’s something sentimental about going with what the camera gives you. It’s almost like shooting film in a way. There's the same anticipation as you load the images into your editing software. I know you can see them on the LCD but it doesn’t do it justice. You only get the full effect when you view them on a big screen.
I have tweaked the black and white picture profile in my Nex-7 to add some contrast. I have it set at +3. Other than that the settings are all the camera defaults. So what is it that I like so much about the monochrome images the Sony produces? I just love the tonality of them. The blacks are really rich and almost creamy. I think that there’s something very filmic about it. Sure you can get similar results processing the colour raw files, but the fact that they work so well straight out of the camera is a real bonus. In fact I often find that if I do need to use a raw file to recover a blown highlight for example, I often find myself trying to re-create the look of the jpeg.
The other great thing about it is that with the focus peaking and a good lens adaptor you can use any lens on the camera pretty easily. I’ve used some old (and new) nikon lenses with the Nex-7, and while they have all sorts of fringing issues, in Black and white, they look amazing, again, straight out of the camera. There’s a certain character to old optics that works really well in monochrome. I’m sure people could make the argument that their camera produces black and whites that are just as good, and I‘m sure they do a good job, but In my opinion there is something special about the files the NEx-7 produces. I’m not saying it’s the best there is (I wouldn’t dream of starting that flame war) but it’s really REALLY good.
Here's a few more images taken with the Nex-7 using the in-camera jpeg in black and white