Recently announced, but previously unfondled, the Sony NEX-7 has made an appearance at IFA 2011, along with the latest and greatest Sony cameras. Never one to pass up a chance to fondle a new model, we got our hands on the range-topping compact system camera from Sony.

What does range topping mean? Well for us it means that it offers a number of features that you won’t find elsewhere on the NEX range and, for us, essentially that means controls.

From a design point of view, the NEX-7 looks technically more sophisticated than other NEX cameras. The dual dial arrangement on the top means that your thumbs can be put to much better use. For example in aperture priority mode one dial controls the aperture, the other exposure compensation.

Just as some high-end compact and DSLR cameras offer you two dials to manually adjust settings, so too does the NEX-7 and it’s all the better for it.

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We’re still not totally convinced about the lack of a mode dial, but it seems less of a big deal given the other controls you now have direct access to. It feels more like the sort of camera that a photographer who wants control will want to use.

Sony also seems to have nailed the vari-angle display. It’s discrete on the NEX-7, fitting snugly against the back of the camera ready to be deployed if you think you need a low angle shot, or just fancy watching the action whilst you film it.

Partnering the display is a viewfinder, with an eye-detector, so it activates when you look through it. It’s a feature common on DSLRs (turning off the display when you have it against your face). Naturally it’s an electronic viewfinder and we’re impressed that Sony has managed to squeeze it into the corner so well.

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We’ve seen a number of compact system cameras with viewfinders, from the traditionally-styled Panasonic Lumix GH models, to the more compact Samsung NX11. The Sony NEX-7 is more compact than both these models, but the viewfinder doesn’t seem any lesser for it.

EVFs don’t always have the natural clarity that optical viewfinders do, but being able to read off all the information in the EVF has always appealed to us - as well as being able to see the changes live before your eyes.

Internally you'll find a whopping 24.3-megapixel APS-C sensor, which offers you ISO from 100-16000, continuous shooting at 10fps as well as Full HD video capture.

Of course all this comes at a price and at the £1000 asking price, you could pick up a mid-range DSLR.

How the viewfinder and the camera performs out in the wilds we’ll have to leave until we get our hands on it again for a full review.