Playback Mode displays

The NEX-7's playback mode will be all-too-familiar to existing NEX users. In other words it works, but not without some real irritations. It maintains an inexplicable and distinctly annoying separation between movies and stills, and completely fails to make any meaningful use of the camera's additional dials, which generally do exactly the same thing as the rear dial.

To browse through images, you can use any of the three dials, or the left/right keys. To zoom into an image to check sharpness, you have to press the 'OK' button; at this point all three dials control magnification, and the 4-way controller scrolls around the image. There's no way of scrolling through similar shots while in magnified view to check focus - a disappointing omission from a camera this expensive. It can't be that hard to control magnification with one of the dials and use another browse through images.

In the main playback view, you can switch between showing overlaid information (as here) or the image only. This third view shows histograms for each colour channel and luminance, along with highlight clipping warning blinkies.
To zoom into an image you have to press the 'OK' button. At this point all three dials control magnification, and the 4-way controller scrolls around. Pressing the 'down' button switches to thumbnail view. You can choose between 6- or 12-image views in the menu. The left/right keys and left and rear dials are used to select images, and the right dial and up/down keys jump through screens.
To switch between viewing still and movies, you have to use the left/right keys, left dial or rear dial to highlight the bar on the left... ...then press 'OK' to bring up this Folder selection screen.

The separation of stills and movies into different 'Folders' is particularly mystifying, and compounded by the fact that movies are further sub-divided based on format (AVCHD and MP4). It means you simply can't browse through stills and movies shot at the same event in chronological order, as you can on practically any other camera. Instead you have to switch view modes, which just seems illogical.

Once you've got used to it, this is merely annoying, but before you are fully aware of what's going in, it can be positively misleading. For example, if you have a card full of stills but no movies, then record a movie and delete it, the camera will display 'Deleting images...' then display a screen saying 'No images'; apparently insisting that all of your pictures have gone, and almost inevitably inducing a moment of panic. But if you shoot another still, all of your old images will magically reappear again.

Movie playback

One of the NEX-7's oddest habits is that when you play back a movie it doesn't actually stop at the end, like pretty well all other cameras do. Instead it insists on continuing through all of the following movies on your card as well, stopping only when it's reached the end of the most recently-recorded one. This might be a good idea as an option for playback on TV, but makes little sense as the only available way of viewing your movies on the back of the camera.

This may sound like nit-picking, but it can be genuinely problematic in practice. It means that playing through your movies with a view to deleting those you don't want becomes fraught with peril. You have to pay very close attention to what you're doing, as it's all-too-easy to decide to delete a movie, only to find the camera had moved onto the next file and you've deleted the wrong one.