Digital Crave

Hotter Than The Hunger Games?

Digital Crave

There's a new camera creating almost as much buzz as The Hunger Games.  And like the hit movie, reviewers have used words like "amazing," "exciting," "wonderful" to describe it. In a world where you can get a discount on almost everything, this new camera sold for $1,000 over list on eBay during the holidays and still has a premium on the site today.

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Sony NEX-7

From the day it was first announced in August 2011, online forums were filled with anxious photographers trying to get their hands on one. The camera has received almost universal acclaim from tweaky photography as well as mainstream tech sites. This digicam may not be as hot as Jennifer Lawrence but it's certainly shaking up the usually staid camera biz.

We're talking about the Sony alpha NEX-7, a 24.3-megapixel Compact System Camera, that not only takes great pictures but captures very high-quality movies. Although it doesn't have instant communication gifts of an 8MP iPhone 4S, its imaging capabilities are so far superior, it's amazing.

The reason I'm so psyched about this interchangeable lens camera is the simple fact I've used it for weeks and been thrilled with the results. It's not perfect—no camera is—but the positives wildly outweigh the negatives. One of the secrets behind the camera is the fact it has a large 24.3MP sensor, the same size as those used in much bigger and heavier DSLRs such as Sony's SLT-A77 or —A65. No other DSLR including the highly-rated 16-megapixel Nikon D7000 or 18MP Canon EOS T3i has as much pure picture power. And no compact digital camera is even in the same ballpark. In order to top the NEX-7, you'd have to spend almost twice as much for pro-level gear.

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Sony NEX-7

Given the hype surrounding this camera, list price is the best you can expect to pay which is $1,199 for the body alone, $1,349 including a 3x 18-55mm zoom. Supply is extremely tight as buyers have queued up for months. Sony Electronics president Phil Molyneux said production should be ramping up in the weeks ahead to fulfill demand.

The buzzed-about camera is as sophisticated or simple as you want it to be. You can put it in into Intelligent Auto mode and it does all the work. Moving beyond this aim-and-forget setting, the NEX-7 has all of the tweaks and adjustments advanced photographers want. The camera uses a Tri-Navi system of dials that let you make minute adjustments. There's a bit of a learning curve but—like riding a bike—you'll get the hang of it with practice.

The NEX-7 has a sleek, compact design and looks especially best when paired with an all-black lens such as the $999 f/1.8 24mm lens used during the test period. The basic 18-55mm lens is also black. It has a very high-quality 3-inch LCD screen on the back you can adjust so you can shoot holding it over your head or at waist level. If you want to hold the camera to your eye like a classic DSLR, there's an extremely fine .5-inch viewfinder as well.

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Sony NEX-7

Another huge plus is its movie-taking capability. You can capture videos at the highest quality level, referred to as 1080/60p. Colors are very accurate and have a richness that looks great on a newer HDTV. No Compact System Camera, DSLR or digicam takes videos as good as a decent camcorder like the Sony Handycam HDR-CX260V but then again, no camcorder takes stills as good as the NEX-7. And really that's what this camera is all about—taking great photographs. This is a package that's about as good as it gets in 2012—and worth every bit of the hype and buzz.

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