[taq_review]A7 Sony Camera Review
I am currently shooting with Sony’s amazing new A7. I was attracted to the camera because it has the full frame forgiveness that I have come to expect with the best professional quality DSLRs available today, with only half the weight (at 465 g the A7R is less than half the weight of the Nikon D800E). I am also able to use the E-Mount lenses from my Sony NEX6 camera and the A-Mount lenses from my Sony A99. Sony Australia is currently offering an adapter for Nikon, Canon, Leica or Sony up to March 2014 for any customer that buys a body only. Although the lens line-up for the A7 cameras is not great at the moment you can pretty much use what you already have and add the new FE lenses (Full Frame E-Mount) as they become available in 2014.
The A7 and A7R are full-frame mirrorless cameras or ILCs (Interchangeable lens Cameras). They join the outrageously expensive Leica M, which is the only other full-frame mirrorless camera on the market. Being a Mirrorless camera, the viewfinder is electronic rather than optical. A quick glance through an electronic viewfinder (EVF) in a photo store may put some photographers off ownership, but my advice is that once you have used one for a month you will be hooked. The OLED EVF of the A7 offers a large (as large as a full-frame optical viewfinder), high-resolution and constant ‘Live View’ that allows you to use the exposure compensation dial intuitively. All information relevant to the capture (including a live histogram) and camera settings can be access and changed without moving your eye from the viewfinder (as I said; ‘addictive’ viewing). Another great advantage of the EVF is Sony’s Focus peaking option that makes manual focus a breeze (much easier than using Leica’s rangefinder). Basically you can choose to show edges that are in sharp focus highlighted with a colour of your choosing. For really critical work you can magnify the view in the viewfinder.
The A7 uses a 24 Megapixel sensor, which is similar to the one found in the Sony’s top of the range A99 DSLT, Sony RX1, Nikon D600 and Nikon D6100. The A7R uses a 36 Megapixel sensor, which is modified version of the sensor found in the Nikon D800E. This sensor does not have the Anti Aliasing filter (also known as the Low Pass filter), to enable sharper detail at the expense of an increased risk of Moiré (secondary patterning). See http://www.lifepixel.com/blog/anti-aliasing-low-pass-filter-removal for a full explanation of Anti Aliasing filters and Moiré. If you were not aware, Sony’s full frame sensors are currently the best imaging sensors on the market (as tested by DxO Labs http://www.dxomark.com/Cameras/Ratings) and if you like to recover highlight and shadow details from scenes with extreme subject brightness range, or work at ridiculously high ISOs in very low light, the full frame experience is the only way to go.
The high ISO performance is so good Sony offers the option of working with Auto ISO in Manual Exposure Mode. You get to set the ideal aperture and shutter speed to suit your creative idea and let the camera adjust the ISO so that you can achieve the correct exposure. The dedicated Exposure Compensation dial allows you to override the Meter Indicated Exposure and the viewfinder gives you live feedback of the effective exposure by rendering the image brighter or darker. After this style of ‘EVF experience’, I feel a sense of loss when having to work with an optical viewfinder again.
The size and weight of the A7 and A7R cameras reminds me of the smaller 35mm cameras that I used in the 1980s (Olympus OM1, Nikon FM, FE and FG cameras). The A7 is also the same size as the mirrorless ‘Olympus OM-D E-M1’ with a 4/3 sensor (smaller than an APS-C sensor). The weather-sealed magnesium alloy construction of the A7 and A7R gives a beautifully solid build quality and the amount of buttons and dials that can be fully customized makes working with the camera an absolute joy. I now only have to enter the menus to format the card. The camera does not have a remote shutter release port, but given that you can use a smart phone via WiFi or NFC (Near Field Communication) to control the camera this is a bit of a non-issue.
I have chosen to work with the A7 over the A7R because I like the option of having the on-sensor Phase detection autofocus for tracking moving subjects that the A7 offers, compared to the higher resolution sensor of the A7R that has no Anti Aliasing filter. The A7R camera would appeal to the landscape, portrait and architectural photographers where resolution and fine detail is of primary importance. I have, however, been capturing images with the A7 and the Sony/Carl Zeiss FE 35mm F2.8 lens and found the images to be amazingly sharp. Because most my output is for Books, Magazines and prints no larger than A2, I am more than happy with the resolution of the 24 Megapixel sensor. The Primary advantages of A7 system ownership for me are:
- Less Weight: I will be able to pack my camera, three FE lenses, carbon tripod (a [Pro]master 525T with Manfrotto 494RC2 head), charger, batteries, external SSD drive and MacBook Pro in my 7KG carry-on luggage. This is simply not possible with a DSLR kit (I can get my DSLR kit down to 11KG if I put the tripod in my checked baggage).*
- The ability to work from a hip bag rather than a backpack.
- Class leading full-frame sensor.
- Sharp as a tack, lightweight Sony/Carl Zeiss FE lenses.
- Fully Customizable user interface that nearly eliminates the need to enter the camera’s menus.
Queenscliff by Mark Galer
Sony A7 with E10-18mm F4 OSS
1/125 sec at f/8 100 ISO
APS-C Size Capture set to Off
Effective focal length after crop and Lens Corrections in Lightroom is approximately 20mm and results in a 15 Megapixel image (5000px x 3000px).
Profile for the E10-18 lens acquired from: