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Sony Alpha NEX-7 Digital Camera Review$1,349.99
Low Light Performance
We were impressed by the low light performance of the NEX-7, as it was able to cope with limited light levels in a variety of shooting scenarios. We did find that its contrast-detection focus system struggled when light was truly down, but this is common of all contrast-detection systems. The other area that can be a bit of an annoyance is the electronic viewfinder and rear LCD, both of which show considerable pattern noise and banding when used in low light. These artifacts don't appear in your final image, though high ISO shooting in low light obviously brings with it a host of noise issues as well.
The Sony NEX-7, like other Sony DSLRs and NEX cameras, does not allow you to deactivate noise reduction. In the system menu you are allowed to merely select from one of three strengths: low, normal, or high. While the feature is titled "high ISO noise reduction," shooting in RAW and JPEG shows that there is some level of reduction taken even at ISO 100. Overall, though, we found the low level of noise reduction to be effective in producing printable shots at ISO 6400 and lower, with higher NR settings keeping noise lower at the expense of fine detail. More on how we test noise.
The Sony NEX-7 allows for users to select from any ISO setting from 100-16000. The 16000 ISO ceiling is a little odd, but it's 1/3rd of a stop better than 12800. While it seems like a bit of a marketing ploy at first glance, we found that the noise levels were impressive enough at that ceiling our only wonder is why Sony didn't just push it all the way to the next full stop of 25,600.
Video: Low Light Sensitivity
Low light sensitivity was the only video test where the NEX-7 didn't excel. The camera required 17 lux to produce an image that is considered bright enough for television broadcast. This isn't a great showing compared to the NIkon D5100, but the NEX-7 is on par with the Olympus E-P3 in this category.
Shooting with the camera's 24p record mode does give it a boost in low light situations. The camera needed just 13 lux of light to reach the same brightness levels at 24p than it needed for 60i and 60p (both at 17 lux). Also, keep in mind that the type of lens used with the camera can make a huge difference in low light sensitivity. A faster lens with a wider aperture setting should be better than Sony's kit lens for recording low light video.