Sony NEX-7 - Zeiss 24mm f/1.8

Sony NEX-7 Zeiss 24mm f/1.8

Of all the lenses available for the NEX system, the one that has caused the most interest is the Zeiss 24mm f/1.8. I reviewed it with a NEX-5n here:- http://soundimageplus.blogspot.com/search/label/Sony%20Zeiss%20e-mount%2024mm%20f%2F1.8%20Review and was very impressed with it. It is no less impressive with the NEX-7. 

The advantage of the wide maximum aperture can be seen in this comparison with the 18-55mm kit lens.

Sony NEX-7 Zeiss 24mm f/1.8 and 18-55mm kit lens comparison

At f/4 the 18-55mm lens is quite soft, whereas the Zeiss 24mm is beautifully sharp.  When the kit lens is stopped down to f/8 and f/16, there is much less difference. When I tested the 18-55mm, I did find that it is a very good lens at its optimum aperture, but only average at all others. However from the examples below, it does seem to be slightly better at f/16 than the Zeiss, though this would hardly be regarded as a strong point for a fast prime.

Sony NEX-7 Zeiss 24mm f/1.8 and 18-55mm kit lens comparison

Sony NEX-7 Zeiss 24mm f/1.8 and 18-55mm kit lens comparison

The Zeiss comes into its own in situations with less light. The NEX-7 certainly doesn't have the same performance at high ISO's as the NEX-5n, for example, so its a good idea to avoid these higher settings. The Zeiss helps with this, and its excellent performance at its wider apertures makes it very useful indeed.

Sony NEX-7 Zeiss 24mm f/1.8
1/60th. sec. f/4 ISO 320

Sony NEX-7 Zeiss 24mm f/1.8
1/60th. sec. f/4 ISO 1000

Sony NEX-7 Zeiss 24mm f/1.8
1/60th. sec. f/4 ISO 1250

Sony NEX-7 Zeiss 24mm f/1.8
1/60th. sec. f/4 ISO 1600

Sony NEX-7 Zeiss 24mm f/1.8
1/60th. sec. f/3.2 ISO 1600

Sony NEX-7 Zeiss 24mm f/1.8
1/60th. sec. f/4 ISO 1250

Sony NEX-7 Zeiss 24mm f/1.8
1/60th. sec. f/4 ISO 640

Sony NEX-7 Zeiss 24mm f/1.8
1/60th. sec. f/4 ISO 1250

Sony NEX-7 Zeiss 24mm f/1.8
1/60th. sec. f/4 ISO 1250

Sony NEX-7 Zeiss 24mm f/1.8
1/60th. sec. f/4 ISO400

The last shot above also shows another advantage of the Zeiss 24mm, in that it is sharp across the frame and has very little distortion. Though it would be disappointing if a lens of this quality and price were any different, its good to see. For a lens to be sold as a premium prime, at a premium price, it does have to have significant advantages over a kit lens, say, and the Zeiss 24mm certainly does have those.

In terms of the cameras performance at these higher ISO settings, its certainly not bad. I'm not sure that I'd want to go to ISO 1600 very often, but below that its not too bad.

I would mention here that Sony's jpg processing at these higher ISO settings, is actually pretty good. Though I much prefer processing in raw and applying my own settings, Sony seem to have come to a reasonable compromise between noise reduction and retaining detail. Up to ISO 1600 there's less of the destructive smearing that I've seen with both the Samsung NX200 and to a lesser extent the Panasonic GX1. Certainly the NEX-5n high ISO jpgs. were excellent, and this seems to have been carried over into the NEX-7.

MORE THOUGHTS ON THE CAMERA.

I do get the feeling that this blog may become quite boring pretty soon. Regular readers will have realised that since I've started using Sony NEX cameras, not much else has got a look in, apart from the occasional burst of reviewing activity. As I said in a previous post, the NEX-5n was an unusual camera for me in that I liked it more the more I used it. This, as opposed to my normal burst of initial enthusiasm, followed by a gradual lessening of that enthusiasm, as the realities and difficulties of actually using the camera became evident. 

Since the NEX-7 has most of the advantages of the NEX-5 for me, and to a large extent improves on that camera, I have the feeling that this blog is going to become very NEX-7 centred in the near future. 

The old cliche of "it ticks all the boxes" is very much the case here. I wrote in a previous post about how the NEX-7 could be considered as the ultimate travel photographers camera. Well, for me, its pretty much the ultimate stock photography camera as well. 

The results are everything I was hoping for, and the handling is a bonus. I did wonder how it would feel to use it, and it has exceeded my expectations. It very much lets me work in my comfort zone, with the EVF and the grip, and the very well thought out layout and controls.

Having had it only a few days, I'm surprised at how familiar it has become, so quickly. Obviously having used Sony NEX cameras for a while now, I'm more familiar with their design philosophy and way of doing things, but I don't feel that I'm having to make any compromises with the camera. Obviously those coming to it from other systems may find difficulties and it isn't going to suit everyone, but its certainly an excellent "fit" as far as I'm concerned.

I was hoping that this would be the case, and despite evidence to the contrary, I really do, and always have, wanted to settle on one system, and if possible one camera. My initial thoughts, when this camera was announced, was that this might indeed be "the one". That finally these endless infatuations might be replaced by more of a long term relationship.

The NEX-7 has no glaring omissions for me. Its small, light, has an EVF, lots of MP's, it handles smoothly and efficiently, its quick when I need it to be, I have great lenses for it, its not so expensive that I handle it with kid gloves, it seems it won't drag in dust like a hoover, the files have great colour and are satisfactory in terms of sharpness, my picture / stock libraries will love the large, high - resolution files and aethetically I love it. A bit like all the best bits of all the cameras I've used over the past few years put into one.

Micahel Reichmanns rolling review of the camera at:-http://www.luminous-landscape.com/reviews/cameras/sony_nex_7_rolling_review.shtml and Dpreviews extensive review at:- http://www.dpreview.com/news/2011/12/14/sonynex7review are both extremly enthusiastic about the camera. Dprview have stated that in their opinion the NEX-7 is "the best APS-C sensor camera on the market." Though I'm a long way from finishing my "review" of the camera, I'm not going to be concluding anything substantially different to that. 

When it was announced, it was a surprise, and when it arrived on my doorstep a few days ago, it was also a surprise. It is however one of the nicest surprises I've had for many years, in terms of photographic equipment, and my ongoing disappointment at never finding a digital camera that would be close to perfect for me, has been turned on its head. 

Finishing finally back at the Zeiss 24mm, there are occasionally lenses that I buy that I have great trouble removing from the camera. I remember my first Panasonic 7-14mm, which got used almost exclusively over a period of time, often innapropriately, simply because I loved it so much. The Zeiss is a similar lens. As well as its excellent results, it just feels so good on the camera and in the hand. People sometimes refer to cameras and photographic gear as toys, well the Zeiss is no toy, neither is the NEX-7. These are serious, beautifully made, high performing photographic tools. Something like this gives me much greater pleasure than any "toy" ever did or ever will.