When I first started taking photographs all I could afford was black and white film and black and white prints. They were much cheaper than color at the time. We grew up in photography convinced that nicely done black and white prints represented the apotheosis of artful photography and that color was something people did for work. It's hard to bust up long time habits of thought.
I'd come off a long week of working photography and post processing so the last thing I wanted to do today was walk around and shoot color images. I really did want to walk around and shoot black and white images and channel my first romps with Tri-X and its brothers. My first thought was to shove the Hasselblad in the car and go to it but I've decided to reserve that puppy for making portraits. Methodical and well thought out portraits. Instead I grabbed the Sony Nex 7 and the 50mm 1.8 OSS lens, a Hoodman 16gb SD card and some cash and I headed out the door for a brisk walk in the first afternoon of Austin's first brisk weather of the Fall.
I've worked with the Nex 7 long enough so that it falls to hand transparently and operates on an almost subconscious level. The focal length is perfect for most of the things I see and now I find that its black and white rendition suits my tastes as well. I usually end up brightening the image (but not much) and adding a little gob of contrast. No more monkeying around with the laborious black and white controls in PhotoShop "Adjustments."
When I shoot with black and white in mind I don't worry or even think about noise at higher ISO settings. I just shoot. I had my camera set up as aperture control (generally at f3.2) and the ISO set to auto. I used my EVF and I could see instantly, via pre-chimping, if the image was going to need a slightly increased exposure or not. After the settings were locked in I just enjoyed the looking and the shooting.
Working in close with the sparkly 50mm 1.8 Nex lens means having fun with limited depth of field and high sharpness. I was handholding these shots at the bar in Caffe Medici at around 1/20th of a second so I'm going to suggest that the OSS (optical super steady) works pretty well.
I spent a good amount of time just walking out the kinks from the recent structural failure of my back. (concerned parties may be interested to know that I was able to swim about an hour or around 3,000 yards this morning, without incident. Thanks to all who recommended ice packs and Advil....). I was also breaking in a new pair of shoes.
As a result of tests done with the Sony Nex 7, the 50mm 1.8 and lots of pixel peaking I'm ready to announce that the Nex 7 is one of the finest IQ and handling digital cameras I've ever had the pleasure to use. The files are far better, overall, than the files from my recently discarded Canon 1dsmk2 and even a bit better (dynamic range and low ISO tonality and sharpness) than my even more recently discarded Canon 5D mk2. Not at all bad for a camera that's roughly 1/7th of the 1DS mk2's original selling price and about 1/3rd the original selling price of the Canon 5D mk2.
We can argue lens choice all you want but with an ever increasing range of Zeiss and now Schneider lenses becoming available for the Sony Nex system I think the Canons are currently fighting a losing battle.
There is a caveat. The Nex 7 is not for action photographers. The contrast detection AF is really good but it is not up to the level of focus tracking and quick lock on that many amateur will expect. Not much of a bother for those that used to focus under dark cloths with 4x5 and 8x10 view cameras. I'm willing to give up a few milliseconds for the kind of imaging performance I am able to get from such a small, inexpensive yet powerful package. And I suspect that if you shoot the way I do you may too.