Sony NEX-7 – A Week in Havana

Sony was gracious enough to send me the NEX-7 camera for my photo trip to Cuba.  Now that I am back in the states and have internet access once more, I wanted to take a moment and share with you my impressions of Sony’s new “wunderkind.”  I brought both my Canon 5D Mk II as well as the Sony NEX-7.  While I have a bevy of lenses for the Canon, I was only able to obtain the kit 18-55 and the 55-210 lenses for the Sony.

So, how did the NEX-7 fare?  In a word, “Amazing!”

Viva la Habana
1/1000 sec., f/10, ISO, 400, 55-210mm @ 80mm

I have been a professional photographer for some time.  These days, I work almost exclusively with Canon gear, and I am quite comfortable with it.  I know its “ins and outs” and have everything configured just the way I like it.  I only had a few days prior to the trip to become familiar with the Sony, so, I am not professing to be an expert in the system.  That being said, the system is quite easy to get around, and it took almost nothing to become comfortable with it.

Now, this is not going to be a review in any sense.  This camera has been so poked and prodded that if you want to know any detail you can easily find it out online.  I am also not going to provide images for the “pixel-peeper”set.  There are also tons of these images available, and they are of no interest to me.  I shoot photographs, not pixels.

I had the opportunity to shoot with the camera in a unique setting, for real work, for a week.  This write-up is going to be strictly about my experience with the camera and my feelings about it.

1/100 sec., f/5.6, ISO 250, 18-55mm @ 55mm

Day One –

We arrived the day before.  This was my first day roaming the streets of Havana.  I packed both the Canon and the Sony and headed out.  Given the size of the Sony, I packed both the kit lens and the 55-210.  Given its size, I bolted the 24-105 on the 5D MkII and packed the 50mm.  Wandering the streets you quickly are confronted with almost too much too shoot.  The decay is everywhere and the people are so friendly and unique.  Almost everyone wants you to take their picture.  This was the problem.

I did not want to take “posed” shots.  Every time I picked up the Canon, someone turned on their smile, gave me “thumbs-up” and posed for the camera.  Not the shots I wanted.  However, I found with the Sony I could simply flip up the screen, hold the camera at waist level, grumble as if I was secretly having problems with the camera, and get the shot.  This was perfect.

We spent the entire day wandering through the vast network of streets photographing everything that we came in contact with.  We were feeling our way through an entirely different culture – one very much suffering from arrested development.

When I got back to my hotel I was anxious to see how the images came out; to see how the Sony compared to its Canon brethren.  To my surprise, there was very little difference.  Ok, so the Sony lenses are not quite as sharp as the Canon’s.  Ok, so I made a few more errors getting to know the Sony (hit a few buttons I shouldn’t have).  However, the images on the Sony looked great.

One hitch though, I was shooting RAW+Jpeg.  The Jpeg engine in the Sony is not very good.  There is no way to turn off the noise suppression; you can only set it to LOW.  The Jpegs come out quite “smeary” and overly compressed.  However, once you load the images into Lightroom (ver. 3.6 is in testing), you really begin to get what this camera is capable of.

Aged Cuban
1/60 sec., f/1.4, ISO 1600, 50mm (soft focus)

Day Two –

More wandering the neighborhoods.  Havana is a LARGE city; housing over two million people.  There is a lot to see.  This time I bolted the 70-200 f/2.8 IS II on the Canon and headed out.  Without a question, the Canon lens is sharper than the 55-210 on the Sony.  That is to be expected.  One costs over $2,000 and the other, just over $300.  However, if you stay away from the extremes on either end of the 55-210, it is an excellent performer, and quite sharp.

Today I got a little frustrated with the Sony.  You see, I kept hitting the RECORD button and the camera went into Movie Mode.  Once you are in Movie Mode, you are kind of stuck.  I couldn’t find an easy way to get back out.  When reviewing images, you are either looking at stills or movies.  Once I deleted my accidental movie, my display showed that there was nothing else to review – when I knew I had more than 300 still images on the card.  I panicked!  I eventually got back to still image mode and found all my images, but I can’t remember how I did it.  I need to check the manual, but this should be easier.

Also, I found that the Menu and Focus buttons are reversed in where they should be, and I found no way to change them in the Menu.  You see the Menu button is naturally under your thumb when shooting, while the Focus button is at the bottom of the camera’s back, a little awkward.  I hope this one is easily fixed in FW as they are not labeled on the camera and are just soft-buttons.

Got some great shots today, but due to the nature of using the camera, I found that I used the Sony about 75% of the time and the Canon only about 25% of the time.

Sneaky Pete
1/250 sec., f/6.3, ISO 500, 55-210mm @ 161mm

Day Three –

Went to a Tai Kwon Do tournament and a Boxing tournament today; fast action in low light.  Put the 50mm on the Canon, and put a Canon FD 50mm on the Sony with an adapter from Fotodiox.  Both lenses are f/1.4.

Got great shots with both cameras.  Using the Focus Peaking feature on the Sony I was easily able to focus, even in really low light.  Used the Auto ISO on the Sony.  I really wish they let you set the possible ISO range (another future FW update I hope).  ISO 800 is great, with 1600 just beginning to get a bit too noisy (though I found Noise Ninja cleans it up nicely).  Auto ISO will only go up to ISO 1600, though I would have restricted it to 800.

At the end of the day, I retired to the hotel’s rooftop bar.  Took out the Sony and took some great sunset panoramas.  Then I discovered the vertical panorama function.  This is very difficult to do with a standard camera/tripod setup and a breeze with the Sony.  Loved it.

Today, about 50%-50% with images from the camera.

Blood Red on the Tracks
1/160 sec., F/5.0, ISO 400, 55-210mm @ 86mm

Day Four –

Took a ferry across the bay to some of the small towns across from Havana taking as little gear as possible.  Once again I am carrying the entire Sony kit, as well as the Canon with the 24-105.  Trying to shoot with the Canon as much as the Sony, but the Sony is just so much better suited to street photography.  Decided to try out some of the “Creative Functions” on the Sony.  Turns out I dislike them just as much as I do any camera.  Great for the novice, and not really worthwhile for anything but vacation pics.

Also, the bracketing on the camera is basically useless as the range is not enough, only .3 EV.  This definitely needs to be addressed in FW.  Others have mentioned this, and I really want to be sure I add my voice to theirs.

Once again, most all of my images are from the Sony.

Tai Kwon Do
1/60 sec., f/1.4, ISO 1600, 50mm

Day Five –

Hired a guide and driver and headed out to Hershey, Cuba.  Yes, you read that right, the Communist version of Hershey, PA.  Also founded by the Hershey Company in the 1920’s to process sugar for the purpose of creating chocolate.

The place is falling apart these days, but there are still the remains of the factory, some parts of which are still in operation, though not making sugar for Hershey or anyone else.  There are also the remains of the planned town (think Levittown) and the electric train which Hershey built to move people to and from the major city centers.

I have decided that, since we will be walking quite a lot today to leave my Canon at home.  This is going to be a 100% Sony day.  I know I am taking a risk here, but so far, the camera has proven to be a real winner.

Since I was using the camera exclusively today, I ran out of battery and had to swap with the spare.  When I did that, I noticed that the camera lost some of its settings (most noticeably the settings for the EVF – in which I had a histogram display).  No problem to reset, but I am hoping that this is corrected in the final FW.  I shot over 1,000 images today and went through two batteries.

Also, found that the electronic switch for the eye-control on the EVF prevents the camera from going to sleep.  You see when the camera is hanging on your neck, the switch is constantly activated, thus the camera never goes to sleep.  Another simple FW change to only use a button push to wake the camera, would solve this problem.

However, all in all, a good day.

Boxing Feet
1/500 sec., f/10, ISO 400, 55-210mm @ 55mm

Day Six –

Today was spent in Casablanca, Cuba.  Just to be fair, I took the Canon and its complement of lenses with me this morning.  What can I say, heavy and cumbersome.  I got some great shots, but I also think there are shots I didn’t get because of the size of the system.  No “sneaky shooting” here.  I screamed “PHOTOGRAPHER” wherever I went.  I tried to get into the shipyards, but was waived off.

I couldn’t help but wonder what I would have gotten had I had my little Sony with me.

In the afternoon, I put the Canon aside and once again set out into the city with the Sony.  It is the last day in Havana and I want to get the most out of it.  I need something light and fast in order to get what I am after.  I head into Chinatown (yes, Havana has a Chinatown) and start shooting.  I wetn into stealth mode and no one knew what I was up to.

In the end, I am very pleased with what I am able to capture, and I am already planning my return trip.

Mark’s Car
1/160 sec., f/9.0, ISO 640, 55-210mm @ 82mm

Conclusion –

First, let me mention some items which I overlooked in my overview.

Once you use the EVF in the Sony you will miss it on every camera you own.  While it is not quite as clear as a true optical viewfinder, it is extremely close.  The ability to immediately see the changes to your images as you make them is invaluable, as is the ability to view the histogram in the bottom right of the display.  Shooting dark complexions against bright, colorful backgrounds was only possible with this feature.

The shutter responsiveness is truly lightning-quick.  This is not to say the autofocus is fast; it isn’t.  It is serviceable, though like most contrast detection autofocus systems, it hunts in low light.  However, when you press the shutter, the response is instant.  There are a few photos I could not have gotten without this feature.

The fact that the viewfinder is on the far-left edge of the camera is also a major plus and a definite advantage over those who add an EVF to the hot-shoe.  This way you can place the camera up to your right eye and leave you left eye open to see the scene and what is about to come into frame.  Photographing the old cars of Cuba was much easier when I left both eyes open.

The big Achilles heel of the NEX-7 is the availability of quality lenses at reasonable prices.  While the kit lens and the 55-210 are competent, they are nothing to write home about.  Given the capabilities of the system, it cries out for new and better lenses to go with it.  While the APS-C sensor in the NEX is clearly superior to the Micro 4/3rds sensors we have seen to date, Micro 4/3rds has the distinct advantage when it comes to lens quality and selection.  Hopefully, that will change with time.

I have briefly covered my experiences with the camera over a week in Cuba.  I should note that the FW version of the camera I had available to me was version .06, so I am certain a lot of the FW issues I mentioned will be fixed prior to, or just after the camera’s release.

In the end, I am now totally convinced that the future of digital photography will incorporate high-quality EVF in almost all cameras.  This is just the beginning of this technology.  Also, the need for the large SLR may also be starting to end.  Given the capabilities of the new mirror less cameras, I see no reason for overly large bodies (except that they can currently support much larger batteries).

I am already planning my return trip to Cuba.  The country is a photographer’s dream.

My Canon gear will be staying at home.

UPDATE – December 9, 2011

I have just heard from Sony that the NEX-7 (body only) will begin shipping the week of the 12th (next week).  These will be limited availability direct from Sony, with the Kit version and sales through third-parties following shortly thereafter.  This is great news for all who have been waiting.

At the same time, I should be able to post the PDF version of the manual so that anyone interested can begin to prepare for the arrival of their pre-orders.

Lastly, for those looking for a great, in-depth review of the NEX-7, how it works with third-party lenses, and just about anything else you would like to know, check out Luminous Landscape’s Rolling Review of the NEX-7.


124 responses to “Sony NEX-7 – A Week in Havana

  1. APS-C. Not APC.

  2. Great read! Thanks for sharing your experiences with the camera.

  3. sorry, but I found the sony to be sub-standerd just about every way… if you want to shoot stealth, try a Canon G12 (or 10, 11) or better yet a Leica m9, if the Sony impressed you the Leica will blow your mind. As a pro, there are much better street choices than the Sony -Steve

    • Steve – just before setting off with the Sony I had the chance to attend a photo expo in Chicago at Helix Camera. There they had a representative showing the Leica M9. Quite frankly while I find the glass outstanding and world-class, the electronics are sub-par. Responsiveness is slow, write times to the card are painful, the user-interface is clumsy, the ISO range is limited and most importantly, I do not think you could be any more “stealthy” with the M9 than the NEX-7. Don’t get me wrong, in the right hands the M9 is an outstanding camera. However, in my opinion it is more of an expensive status symbol than a camera for the professional. For those that can afford it and love it – and there are many – my hats off to you. You have an amazing machine capable of taking amazing pictures. However, given the price-point and capabilities, the NEX-7 is going to be used by a lot more quality photographers than will ever use the Leica M9. Me personally? I want to see what Leica deliver next. Oh, and I’ll bolt their glass on to the NEX any day.

      As for the G12, I shot with the G11 for a while. So long as you are converting to B&W, it is a fine pocket shooter and a step up from a P&S. Not a big step up, but a step. Check out the new Canon S100 with a CMOS sensor though if you are looking for impressive shots out of a cheap, pocket camera. Very impressive.

      • Being a dedicated hobbyist since age 10, turning into an international pro for 3+ decades and teaching at college level, I believe I have a clue about photography and cameras. True, M9 and it’s optics are unsurpassed. I’ve been a Leica user since the early 70s, had other spare cameras, Canon, Nikon, Sony, etc, including a few point and shoot. Great optics are a must when your work is for publishing and large printing. Otherwise, any camera and optics that are used accordingly to what they offer and matching the subject matter will be perfect. Many of my most successful gallery images were shot with a plastic lens medium format (Diana) and sold many, many large exhibit prints. In fact, Talking about stealth? I’ve created a good number of fantastic shots with my iPhone! So, it is the eye of the beholder and not the gear what creates great and unique shots.
        Good work!

    • strange
      I have an M9 and I find the Nex7 to be excellent
      The 24mm f1.8 zeiss and 50mm f1.8 are the perfect travel combination for me

      The M9 is sharper at the edges of the frame, especially when wide open. I also love the M9 way of taking photography, but for most ‘street’ I actually prefer live view as its more subtle.

  4. Very impressive pictures of cuba, capturing the richness in color! Will you produce a photo book of this trip?

  5. great post, thanks a lot! Very nice pictures!

  6. For me the Sony system really comes alive when you put a good fast small non- slr manual prime on it. The Sony lenses are competent but do little to inspire any love. Shoot it in manual with a tiny good prime and it is an absolute joy. The most fun I’ve had shooting in years…

    • Agreed. Really enjoyed the Canon FD 50mm on the NEX-7. And some of these lenses are fantastic and can be had for less than $100 on eBay, though I expect that to change as people begin to realize their value to a new generation of shooters.

  7. Thanks for the write up! Found it very informative.

  8. Hey Peter,
    Your “write-up” was extremely informative! I just recently bought a Sony Nex 5, suppose I can consider myself an “enthusiast”. The camera body itself is great, but I was looking into perhaps upgrading to the 7 in the future. I’ve always wondered how a professional photographer thought of the interface and the features available on the Nex systems and their personal take on how the mirrorless systems actually affect their photography. Any further insight aside from needing further FW tweaking?

    D. Wong

    • I am actually very impressed with the ease of use of the interface – even over that of my DSLR. The Tri-Navi interface is nothing short of brilliant and makes working with the camera extremely easy without having to remove your eye from the viewfinder. I also rarely notice the information in the DSLR finder as it is hard to see most of the time, here it was trivial to use. Also, the use of the histogram in the viewfinder, along with the finder replicating the shot, made it very easy to capture dark skin tones in bright light. This is often quite hard to do with a standard DSLR and requires taking a few shots at different EV values, thus probably missing the shot – not so with the NEX.

  9. Thanks for the thoughts on the NEX 7. Always nice to read reviews from the field. I would just comment that your statement regarding EVF placement assumes one is right eyed. Of all my photography aquantainces, about half are left eyed, myself included.

  10. I never actually thought of how functional it would be if a viewfinder was placed on the edge of a camera until you mentioned it. While it is ergonomically fitting, I also just realized I like to look with my left eye (even though I’m right handed?) when I use my brother’s DSLR. Do you find the LCD screen still to be functioning and perfectly fine when seeking a certain image or something?

    • The LCD screen is one of the best features of the camera. In fact, it makes an outstanding eye-level finder. I do not understand companies like Canon who, when they make a flip out LCD, insist it goes out to the left of the camera. This is no good, as it also advertises that the camera is being used to take a photo. The Sony placement and hinge is perfect for quiet, unbeknownst street photography, and is quite visible in bright sun.

      • The Canon design of flip-out LCDs allows them to be rotated 180 degrees which Sony can’t do. Still, I agree that can be a giveaway sometimes.

      • Yes, you can get a similar view, but it is clear that you are taking a photo, as the display is to the side of the camera. Not too “stealthy” if that is your goal. Both have value, but for different uses. However, I am stymied by the fact that you only find this on their “low-end” consumer SLRs. Do they not think professionals would ever use this feature?

  11. Thanks for a very interesting and informative article. It is nice to read a piece that is written from a pro shooter’s perception rather than a purely technical treatise. I am one of those who is very excited about the ability to put small manual focus primes on this camera body. I sometimes shoot in circumstances where a DSLR’s size and recognizability as a camera make it difficult for me to get the shot I want. At the same time there are situations where the DLSR is the better tool. And to me, that’s what it’s all about…..choosing the tool that best helps me get the image I’m after. Too often people think that because a camera is very expensive it must make better photos. That’s a mistake, in my opinion, because the artistic quality of the photo comes from the artistic vision of the photographer. Take a look at the work of early masters, such as Paul Strand and then realize that his photographs were made with cameras that are considered very primitive today. And then realize that there are photographs in major museum collections that were made with a Holga, or a cell phone. Go read the decade-old interview with Jay Maisel that’s available online and you’ll find him extolling the qualities of his Nikon D-1 and the printer he was using then. Jay most likely uses a more modern camera now, but if you handed him a D-1 today I’m sure he could go right out and make great photographs with it, although it is also possible that improvements in digital technology enable him to make certain kinds of photos today that would have been impossible with his D-1, just as the D-1 made some photos that he could not make with his F-series film cameras. Some may derive more pleasure from debating the technical merits of cameras, lenses, software etc than they do from making photographs, and that’s okay. But if you are really interested in shooting, get out and shoot. Don’t be drawn into debates. Shoot, then look at your photos critically and train your eye. And then go out and shoot some more. Use whatever camera you can afford that works for you as a photographer.

    Thanks again for an insightful piece.

    • I took a class with Jay several years ago. He would tell you that the equipment is irrelevant (past a certain point I am sure). Totally agree with you though. The technology is just the toys we like to talk about. No one asks first about what equipment was used when they first see a photograph – they first admire the image…

  12. What a great review of a new camera many of us have been wondering about. I have been seriously considering it. I do a lot of street photography around the world Nicaragua, Mexico, Morocco, New York, and Even Cuba, (I was there several years ago for two weeks wandering around old Havana) I agree with your take on carrying around a big SLR. In fact in many locations it is downright dangerous (Morocco) In some of these situations I use an old Canon G9 in an attempt to look more like a tourist and am always on the lookout a camera that is faster with a bigger chip…This Sony looks like a great candidate.

  13. Thanks for this very interesting article. In my opinion Sony’s e-mount series is the greatist development from 2010/2011 and the top NEX-7 includes now much right now, anyway for amateur shooters as me. There are probably 2 issues I do not like still, as no camera in my hand – high ISO1600-3200 IQ (alternative model with 16MP sensor should be surely better for me) and absence of better menu (something like on my present Sony a700).
    I see your comments about unnoticeable shooting. Unnoticeable shooting is one reason, why I like to swich from DSLR to mirrorless.

    What about sounds when pressing shutter button? Can the sound be heared in seminary room? Can the shooting with NEX-7 be unnoticeable, not confusing other people in this room?

  14. Mr. Sills, I forgot to mention in my earlier post how much I enjoy your photographs. I like them a lot. Thanks for putting up this blog.

  15. Hey Peter, thanks for sharing this detailed log of your experience with the NEX 7 in the real world. This is what photographers need, not test charts.

    I’ve been a Canon user for several years, my workhorse is currently a Canon 7D, but i’m more and more relegating it to specific tasks, like action sports or studio use. In the quest for good IQ and portability i’ve settled on a Micro Four Thirds kit, mainly because of the availability of high quality small fast primes, but i see a NEX7 in my near future.

    It looks NEX7 got almost everything right, I would like you some questions if you don’t mind.

    What was your experience regarding AF speed and general operational speed? Is it enough for candids? I’m mainly a people/travel photographer, and speed is crucial for capturing the decisive moment, expressions at the peak of the action, you know. This is an area where DSLRs have traditionally excelled at, and where the new brethen of mirrorless cameras have struggled a bit. I know my GH2 has one of the fastests AFs of mirrorless cameras, and I would still say it nails it but just.
    How usable are higher ISOs? Say 1600 upwards.

    What about build quality? Would you say this is a camera that can be taken on the road?

    And about the Cuban experience, how would you describe shooting in Havana? Where you hassled by Jineteros too much? Is it safe to walk around with your camera in hand? Is people “camera friendly”?

    I’m leaving for a 3 week long trip to Cuba and would really appreciate any perspectives or tips from a fellow photographer.

    • A lot of questions, let me see…

      First, as mentioned, my primary camera is a Canon 5D MkII. I also had an Olympus E-P1 with several lenses. Now my wife has an Olympus E-P1 and several lenses.

      The autofocus of the NEX-7 is Contrast Detection. Fast is good light, and not so in poor light. It will hunt when the scene gets dim. However, there are also no fast lenses out yet (the Zeiss 24 is just beginning to ship now) and using Focus Peaking and a Canon 50mm f/1.4, I had no problems with manual focus. It is fine for candids. I feel that the camera is made for street-shooting, almost more so than ANY camera I’ve ever used. It is light, and there are some great manual focus fast primes which work well with it. The build quality is top-notch and every bit as good as my Canon 1Ds MkIII, really solid.

      ISO up to about 1600 is very usable, especially from RAW, and you do get more noise the higher you get. It is probably on par to half a stop worse than the 7D – which is pretty amazing.

      Avoid big, noticable cameras in Cuba, unless you want everyone to smile into your lens and give you a thumbs up! The people love to have their photos taken and you have no problems there, unless, of course, you want candids. This is one of the primary reasons I left my Canon alone so much. Take at least two extra batteries though for a day with the NEX. Where you can get by with one or two for the Canon, figure only about 300-400 shots on a battery with the NEX.

      Cuba is an amazing place. I hope to get back there soon.

    • Hallo Freund, beste Grüße aus Deutschland.

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  18. Excellent review and great pictures. I love real world shooting and testing than looking at charts and graphs.

    Photography is just a hobby for me and have been doing so since I was in high school. I have went through so many point and shoot cameras thinking one is better than the other but was always left disappointed. I finally got my first dslr few years back, the Nikon D40 followed by the Canon XS then upgrading to the Canon 50D as I needed a faster camera for my shooting (mostly street photography and indoor basketball games). Like many, I find myself leaving the dslr at home more and more as I hated carrying the camera with the 70-200 f4 lens around. I eventually sold the 50D and lenses and got my first micro 4/3rd camera, the Panasonic GF1 with the 20mm pancake lens. At first I thought it was the perfect camera for me but then found myself missing the performance and image quality of a real dslr camera. Ended up selling the GF1 and went to the Nikon D7000. Fell in love with photography again! But again, started to leave the camera home more and more due to the size. Well I went back to micro 4/3rd, this time trying the Panasonic G3 followed by the Olympus E-P3 both with the kit lens and 20mm pancake and the 100-300mm lens. In the end I was still never really satisfied with it as a whole. Maybe I’m too spoiled by the performance and image quality of a dslr? I finally looked into the NEX series and the Fujifilm X100 as it uses the APS-C sensor.

    I’m hoping to get the NEX-7 with the kit lens and the zeiss 24mm lens and be set since I find myself never using the longer telephoto lenses and I LOVE the 35mm equivalent view that’s why I was looking into the X100 too. I love the retro look and image quality of the X100 but have been reading how slow it handles.

    As you can see, I went through quite some camera in a short period of time. Do you think the NEX-7 will be the perfect choice for me? Sorry for the long post, felt like I told my life story lol

  19. Really enjoyed this discussion and the photos, and I’m sold (although I was teetering before this review). I used a 5D MKII for a few years, then switched to a Pany GF1 3 years ago in the hope the m4/3 sensors would improve dynamic range over the years ( the GF1 was a slight downgrade from the MKII in DR). Sorely disappointed with m4/3 sensor roadmap.

    My question is did any of your preferences for the images from the Sony have anything to do with the high DR of the sensor? That characteristic seems to have added a lot in your pictures, especially with the dark skin against light background. Do you agree? BTW, I am from a film background, and love digital, but often blow highlights having been trained to expose for shadow.

  20. The DR of the Sony is significantly better than I was getting with my previous m4/3rds gear. However, this is not something which swayed me one way or the other due to the post-processing I do in LR to the RAW files.

    However, the overall ease-of-use and intuitive nature of the camera, coupled with the amazing EVF is what sold me – especially for the image you mentioned. It is very hard to photograph a dark-skinned individual in bright light, with a traditional SLR. Generally it involves several test shots to determine the proper exposure. The EVF made this incredibly easy, and allowed me to get the candids, without being noticed fiddling with the camera first.

  21. I shoot RAW only and post process in LR too. Wouldn’t have it any other way. If I shot Mark’s Car with an m4/3 and got the exposure correct for Mark’s eyes under his cap, then the highlights on the hood of the car would be blown, and no way to recover. That makes the picture look cheap (for lack of a better word) and significantly detracts from the ability of the viewer to get a feel for this picture. Can’t think of a way to expose it for the highlight using m4/3 (or MKII for that matter) and get decent texture in the shadows. It’s that quality in this picture that makes it, IMHO. (A great shot)

    • Guy, thanks for the kind words.

      This is all very easy using the EVF, as you are looking at the tones and the histogram at the same time you are framing the image.

  22. engaging photos. while all the technical speak is foreign to me, I know i enjoyed viewing what you caught on film.

  23. Such incredible character in those faces … I’m not sure about the technical aspects of the camera, but I can tell the camera operator has an incredible eye for art!


  24. Great captures and great review. Traveling through Mexico, Central, and South America for a big trip soon. Trying to figure out a decent way to get to Cuba. What was your experience traveling around Cuba like? Was it easy to roam around?

  25. Very interesting piece, much appreciated, tho slightly more tech than my brain will absorb. Some great images many thanks

  26. cuba es el corazón de américa, la habana, la habana es esto

    CUBA FELIZ- lagrimas negras

  27. Such character in those men’s faces you photographed. I’d love to have the Sony, if I knew how to use it (just a food blogger here!). I have a Kodak Z812 (I think that’s the number), the write time to the card is slow and I find myself getting impatient waiting for it. It has an auto focus and a large preview screen on the left, like the Sony, I also like being able to shoot with both eyes sometimes. Do you have any posts about close ups of food (i.e. f stops)?

    Congrats on FP!

  28. I honestly don’t care one lick about the camera, I came for Cuba– the home country I’ve never known except thanks to photos like yours. One day, when it’s a free nation, I’ll get to know her in person but until then, I feed off images like yours for a boost to the soul. Thank you for sharing.

  29. Your work is nothing short of incredible and I’ll be sharing your blog. Despite the fact that I’m an amateur at best, you’ve inspired me to consider purchasing the Sony NEX-7 and learn, learn, and continue learning.

  30. Hallo, Freund.
    Freundliche Grüße aus Deutschland.

  31. Great post with loads of attention to detail, really like the shots too. I have also used a Sony with EVF in the past to get those natural looking shots without the startled ‘is he pointing that at me?’ look (and in the odd ‘no photos allowed’ zone). Thanks for the tip on the Canon S100 for mobility too, I will have to check it out.

  32. Great read and awesome pictures. So do you think the nex 7 holds up to the great reviews it receiceved??

  33. Really beautiful images!

  34. Very inspiring photos! I wanna grab my camera (Nikon D3100) immediately and go for a photo walk. But it’s in the middle of the night (Sweden) and snow outside so I guess I have to wait.

    Hopefully, I will get the opportunity to visit Cuba. It seems like a beautiful place.

  35. Nice images.. am using the NEX-5n with kit lenses (18-55 and prime) myself, currently to capture the city of Istanbul (
    Big fan of the Sony NEX system, especially its small size and light weight is important for us as we often shoot in dodgy areas where you have to be able to sneak it under your jacket quickly.

  36. You think Sony would be nice enough to send me one, too? I owned a disposable camera once!!

  37. I’ve always wanted to go to Cuba. Your photos are beautifully composed vignettes of life. Thank you very much for sharing them with us,.

  38. Such warm portraits and beautiful shots. Sony did well! i’d love to try one of the new mirrorless cameras. Sony seem to be leading here.

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  40. Blood-Ink-Diary

    What a stunning, inspiring and profound photo-essay! I thoroughly relished each photo and the text. Havana is special place and I am grateful that you have shared your journey. Keep clicking as your camera is inspirational.

  41. I enjoyed this article quite a bit. rather than focusing on all the “lingo,” you went into practicality. I am no expert in photography, though I do plan on making that my minor when I make my triumphant return to school this fall.

    I am a hobbyist, and at that, I have only owned point-and-shoot cameras until this last November. I picked up a Sony NEX-5 bundle on Black-Friday, which came with the normal 18-55mm lens and a 16mm wide-angle lens. This was a win for me in two ways; I finally got into the interchangeable lens world, and i started with more than just a single lens… not breaking the bank was a very nice bonus as well. The bundle (with carrying case, the extra 16mm lens, and an 8GB SDHC class 10 card) was less than $800, after the cost of a 3-year protection plan! I think I got a steal.

    So far I have noticed that the quality of pictures I can take are FAR higher than the ones I could take with my Kodak Z710. The menus are pretty simple, and the write speed to the card is phenomenal.

    Perhaps I made a mistake in not waiting for the NEX-7, with the built-in EVF, and (from the look of pictures on sony’s website) more quick-access options. The extra 10mp don’t really matter much to me, as I am not taking photos for print and 14mp is plenty.

    I am still thinking of a clever way to write up a review on the camera, and you have inspired me to take a trip to Chicago, and tour a couple nearby state-parks. I love winter photography, and the fresh blanket of snow Wisconsin just got will help that along nicely.

    +1, and followed.

  42. Great review, thanks for posting. I’m using the NEX-7 with the Zeiss 24 1.8 and Zeiss Planar T 50/2 for a few weeks now (next to my canon 5d mk2) and it really my all time favorite! If you like check my blog for some sample pics:

  43. well said. nice post, i enjoy it.
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  44. Enjoyed the photos and reading your experiences. Want to say thank you for sharing such valuable information for us photo enthusiasts. I shoot with a Fuji Fine Pix S2 Pro, but looking to add another camera.
    Have a great day!

  45. Ingenious way to capture candid shots!

  46. poppiesandlilieslifestyle

    Gorgeous pics and like the blog

  47. the picture of the litle red and white car is cool…havana probably has the best deposit of old cars on the planet!

  48. Great read. Cuba has been on my travel list for a while but I think you pushed it a few spots closer to the top.

    I had the original Nex-3 for about two years. I run it with an adapter and a whole bunch of old Canon FD lenses. I’ve got some great results and had so much fun. I’d recommend the Nex range for sure,

  49. I love your photos! Especially the ones of the older gentlemen.


  50. Hi Steve, I shoot with a Sont NEX- 5N and it’s incredible. I can only imagine how cool the NEX 7 is! Thanks for sharing! I will be sure to follow you blog and see what more great advice you might have in store for shooting on the NEX.

  51. Wow, i love the “butterfly” picture, and yes got to love canon’s 50mm f/1.4… hehe… i also use it for musicvideo’s actually… ;)… what is you fav. lens with the 5d mark II?

  52. Beautiful. It seems that Cuba is like stepping back into the 1960’s.

  53. Wow. I mean, beyond the technical aspects of the camera, I really appreciate you taking the time to share the photos of everyday life in Cuba. It seems like, despite the advances of technology, the people of Cuba and their everyday lives are easily overlooked where I am (NYC in the U.S.), and it was nice to see some pictures that made me feel like I was standing there myself. I hope that you plan on posting even more pictures in the future, because although I am a photography and equipment buff myself, I found myself wanting more of a look at the inner-workings of Cuba.

  54. Hi, Your website is so cool, thank you and keep it up very nice job,, it is also a good and amazing website hope you would like it check it out here ok

  55. Beautiful photos and great review! What are your thoughts on NEX-7 versus the EP3? Thanks!

    • The E-P3 is an amazing camera as well. Very fast auto-focus and extremely small and light. Also has some amazing lenses as well. The NEX is a different beast and better suited for street shooting IMHO. However, the lenses are not yet there for the NEX.

  56. coulden’t agree more with you psills, the 70-200mm F/2.8 from canon is perhaps canon’s best lens… 🙂

  57. Some beautiful shots. Thanks for the review. I’ve been looking for a new camera for a while and the NEX-7 was on my list. This review really helps to narrow down my search.

  58. Any thoughts on the really small
    stuff? I like to photograph flowers
    and insects – but can’t figure out
    if my camra can’t do that – or if I
    just don’t know how.

  59. Your photos are amazing! I would definitely like to follow you.

    I am chronicling the year with a photo a day — trying to find the inspiration in everything — every day!

    Would love for you to follow me in my journey too!

  60. Nice read. I am planning to buy a camera with a bigger sensor in the future (currently using a Canon s95). It seems that mirror less options are on the top of my list after reading this 🙂

  61. Interesting trip with the Sony! And much more interesting your claim that I shoot photographs, not pixels.

  62. Hello Peter,
    sehr schöne Fotos, kontrastreich und scharf.
    Did you edit the photos?
    Best wishes from Germany

  63. Loved this: “However, I found with the Sony I could simply flip up the screen, hold the camera at waist level, grumble as if I was secretly having problems with the camera, and get the shot. This was perfect.”
    I have the Sony a55 which has the same “innards” of the NEX-7 and I love it! And the only reason why I chose the a55 over the NEX-7 was the cost of quality lenses. Great writing! Thank you for sharing!

  64. i love the blood red car’s photo

  65. I love the images! Can we see more? Pretty Please!! I have been dying to go one day to Cuba but kinda scared to..

  66. The files are all converted from RAW.

  67. I am really interested in heading out to Havana! Thanks for sharing these awesome photos. I have been searching for a new camera to take the perfect food photos for my blog. I am torn between Canon and Nikon. Let’s see…. Congrats on being freshly pressed.

  68. Castro should be proud of what he has done for Cuba. Connie

  69. Great informative post Peter, thank you. I have been looking at a smaller camera than my 5D Mark II for street shooting. WHile i have been loving the iPhone 4S for that purpose there’s just something else about a dedicated camera with a viewfinder. The NEX-7 looks like a great option and I personally would only use it with a Zeiss lens (I even have the Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 Planar T* EF for my 5D2). However, I am now very interested by the Fuji Xpro-1. It would seem that at least one advantage the NEX-7 would have over the Xpro-1 would be that flippy-uppy screen used at waist level like a vertical or TLR viewfinder. The Xpro-1 would have the same problem as you did with the 5D2 in Habana I would imagine. Nevertheless it will be interesting to compare when the FUJI is released and the reviews start coming in, and if SONY get around to procuring or making more high quality lenses for the NEX-7.

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  71. the picture is great, thx for sharing.

  72. My husband ordered the Sony NEX-7 for me for Xmas… eagerly awaiting it’s arrival. Thanks for the review! Great photos.

  73. Indeed very expressive shots. I was in Havana too, not for photographing but the feeling I get when I remind myself of this is exactly what these pictures say.

  74. have family ties … but not many photos … this photojournal is very beyond words … the camera captures it all i love it

  75. very interesting, the photos are really good.


  76. GREAT PHOTOS- love staring at them and notcing all the little detail

  77. thetravelexpert

    Thanks for such a great article. I am a professional travel consultant and a cigar lover, so it is a dream of mine to go to Cuba. I hope to someday make it there. Your pictures were awesome. Thanks again.

  78. Photos from communistic countries are always the most interesting.

  79. My Sony NEX arrives today! I’m so happy to have come across this post. The excitement continues to build!

  80. Seaky Pete is my favorite, hell he is my new idol 😉

    Great shots, thanks and congrats
    How To Be A DJ

  81. Amazing photos. Thank you for sharing.

  82. Only One Life to Live

    Fantastic photography! Very impressive!

  83. Love the pictures so much I am a new follower of your blog! Great Post

  84. Exelente post BRAVo!

  85. Cool stuff! I have a passion for Cuba myself and will get around to writing up details of my adventure a few years ago. Loving your blog!

  86. Never been a fan of Sony, I’m more of a Canon guy, but reading this post makes me actually want to try this brand. ;p

  87. I just found your site today from a link on Luminous Landscape. I enjoyed your images of Cuba. I was recently in Havana myself and agree with many of your finding about the country and people and I too hope to return soon. I didn’t get my NEX-7 in time for my trip there but my 5DII worked well. As you have shown, it’s not the camera but rather the photographer, their eye, their perception and humanity that is what makes a great image. Thank you for your insights.

  88. Excellent . I have The NEX-VG10 and I love it, although at times the stock lens loses focus and automatically stops recording. I sent it to Sony and they didn’t fix it. I bought the SEL18F50 this week. I will see bow hood it is…Tony

  89. Thanks for the great write-up, lots of very useful information you supplied there! I’m currently trying to make up my mind between a NEX-6 and a NEX-7.

  90. Do you mind if I quote a couple of your articles as long as I provide credit and
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