The Sony NEX-7 – I’ll take a pass (for now).

Lenses, they say, are forever.  Not so with camera bodies… especially in the digital age.  They are essentially electronic devices, ultimately to be disposed of – regardless of the initial purchase price.

Despite this, last year I purchased a Leica M9 – a decidedly expensive digital camera.  The obvious question, in light of the above, is:  Why?

Well, the M9 has the form factor, sensor size, rangefinder focusing, performance at base ISO, and accompanying M lenses that make it a formidable photographic tool.  To the point:  it was the only camera currently out there that had all the traits I valued… it was the only game in town, so to speak.

But I know that one day it will fail beyond repair.

And, as an avid Leica “M” platform shooter, one of the things I think about is whether I’ll be able to afford another Leica M camera when my M9 eventually fails.  Every year, the good folks at Leica increase their prices and – in one fell swoop – prove wrong all those reasonable folks who believed the gear was overpriced in the first place.  I don’t know when the M10 will arrive, but I can guarantee you that it will cost more than the M9P, which cost more than the M9, which cost more than M8.2, which cost more than the M8… you get the “picture”, right?

Given this, I’ve tried to build some security into – tried to future-proof – my M camera system by securing film Leica M bodies that will last “forever” (or at least my lifetime… or for as long as film continues to be manufactured 🙂 ), but let’s face it, sometimes the convenience of digital calls out like a siren song.

But now is an exciting time for photographers.  New mirrorless interchangeable lens camera systems are being introduced at a quick pace that – via an appropriate adapter – will work with all of my beloved M lenses (Leica, Voigtlander, and Zeiss).  The camera in this class that is currently getting the most attention, for a variety of good reasons, is the upcoming Sony NEX-7.  Yup – upcoming, as in: it hasn’t even been released yet.

So this is a long preamble to get to the crux of this post, but here it is:  I’m not buying into any of the announced systems.  Not yet, anyway.

No thank you Olympus, no thank you Panasonic, no thank you Samsung, no thank you Ricoh, and no thank you Sony.  All of you are tempting me, but… no thank you.

However, the truth is, you guys are the future and I will eventually turn to you.

Why am I not buying now?

Admittedly, Sony’s NEX-7 and Ricoh’s A12 “Leica M-mount” module represent exciting developments in digital photography.  I am genuinely excited about what these manufacturers are doing because – first and foremost – they appear to be listening to the enthusiasts out there.   But I’m not buying into any of these systems yet because I believe Sony, Ricoh, and the others can and will do better.

In what way?

At some point, somebody will release a NEX-7-like camera with a “full-frame” (24 x 36) digital sensor – the kind that, similar to the M9, will take full advantage of the optics in the M lenses I value.

Regardless of whether I’m using my lenses on a camera body with a micro four thirds, APS-C, or larger “full” frame sensor, they remain the size they are, so I may as well use them on a body with a 24 x 36 sensor that will exploit them to their full potential.  And as good as the new crop of APS-C sensors are, the same technology in a larger sensor will yield better image quality – that’s a physical reallity.

The first manufacturer, other than Leica, who places a 24 x 36 sensor in a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera can count me in as a customer.  I have no doubt that at some point, somebody will do it.

Until then, I will resist the temptation to buy.  I mean, I already have an M9 so I have no immediate need to purchase another camera body… although I understand the attraction for those who are without a digital M and are just itching to use their old beloved M lenses on a digital sensor, or for those without legacy lenses who plan on buying the new lenses that are being offered with the new platforms.

Yes, I’ll continue to shoot with my M9 – and hope that it doesn’t fail…

…at least until Sony, Ricoh, or somebody else, finally does what we’ve all been waiting for.


13 thoughts on “The Sony NEX-7 – I’ll take a pass (for now).

  1. Guy Platt says:

    The first manufacturer, other than Leica, who places a 24 x 36 sensor in a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera can count me in as a customer. I have no doubt that at some point, somebody will do it.

    Me too.

    Before I bought the M9 I had bought Olympus, Panasonic (twice) and Sony bodies with adapters for the M lenses. SInce acquiring the M9 I pretty much only use it, but I do use the Sony Nex on occasion. I will never buy another m43 body but I will almost definitely buy a full sensor mirrorless body, especially if it comes with peaking and some of the other manual focus aids.

  2. Interesting read, thanks for the thinking. A full frame mirrorless camera, with interchangeable lenses will be for sure interesting.

  3. Gerald Chew says:

    You said it well…spot on actually! I found myself coming to the same conclusion: and bought an M9 that was almost too expensive (for a normal working person without the trust fund) because it’s the only full frame game for the lenses I love. With Leica going the way they are – and I guess who can blame them – I hope the “other’s” will soon be able to offer something competitive for a reasonable price. But Leica should listen to this! Great as their bespoke, handmade, manufacturing model maybe – if they want to maintain their foothold, something needs to happen internally and structurally to keep their prices competitive. The others hopefully are coming! As you point out: “you guys are the future!” And maybe, just maybe, most ‘normal’ aficionados of the M approach to this craft will be offered some alternatives and respite from the budget busting Leica upgrade cycle.

    • Prosophos says:

      I believe Leica *can* survive making only extremely expensive cameras, if they manufacture and market them as premium, luxury goods. In fact, that’s what they’ve always done and, despite many flirtations with going out of business, they are still here as we approach the end of 2011 and are very healthy financially. But, at these prices, theirs will always be be a niche product – which is fine.

      At least though, if the others get into the “full-frame” mirrorless game, there will be other options for those of us who like to use M lenses (be it Leica, Zeiss, Voigtlander, Konica Hexanon, etc.) but who need “respite from the budget busting Leica upgrade cycle.” Thanks for the very thoughtful comment Gerald.

  4. Trevor says:

    I agree–but I did give in and get a Fuji X100, and I love it. Have you tried it?

    (Great blog, BTW…love your images.)

  5. HinVan says:

    Zeiss, please bring out an Ikon with a full frame sensor at a reaonable price and seize the market share…

  6. Hugo says:

    Very nice read, despite I just bought a Nex-7 with Zeiss ZM Planar T 50/2 😉

    • Prosophos says:

      Hi Hugo, and thanks. Good for you! The combination you now have is a formidable shooting system, so I know you’ll be very happy. As I mention towards the end of the post above, I completely understand (and would be very tempted) to get the NEX-7 or Ricoh if I was without an M9… but for *me* it doesn’t make much sense, given my current gear. Cheers, and thanks for your good-natured take on the article.

  7. Mike says:

    I agree with this too, with an addition. I have not yet seen an EVF that I really want to use. So perhaps Fuji will be first with their hybrid viewfinder. The other issue is of course focus. In spite of the calls, I suspect that the system cameras are best used with their af lenses.

    I hope that Zeiss find a suitable partner for a digital Ikon.

  8. Trevor says:

    You know, I think that what we are seeing now is that companies are happy to stick with APS-C. It seems to be the sweet spot in terms of price, size, and performance. After Fuji’s recent announcement of their most recent X-Pro 1 offering, I have lost hope that another company beyond Leica will make a FF digital mirrorless camera. It just doesn’t make sense for anyone to do so. The only exception is Leica, who are in the business of making lenses for FF…the other companies are more interested in creating new mounts (Sony E, Nikon CX, Fuji X, etc) than making a quality body for your M lenses. Sadly, the only company that cares about selling M lenses will make bodies for them and continue to escalate the prices as long as people buy them.

    I wish it wasn’t so, but pragmatically it isn’t in Fuji/Sony/Olympus’ interests to make anything other than a platform for selling their own proprietary lenses.

  9. […] the last time I made an exception was for another Sony product (see The Sony NEX-7 — I’ll take a pass for now)… probably because, when it comes to cameras, Sony is doing a great job pushing the […]

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