After having been leaked a couple of days ago, the Sony A7 and A7R have now gone “official”. Both cameras use the E-mount and share lenses with the Sony NEX Series. The FE premium lenses for full-frame sensors would be more adequate, but there are so few of them… Those cameras are the full-frame monsters that die-hard fans were hoping for, and they respectively use impressive 36 and 24 Megapixel sensors. In fact, that’s so many pixels that Sony has decided to remote the low-pass filter (blurring) on the Alpha 7R.
Let’s pause for a minute: these are FULL-FRAME cameras in a compact system camera form-factor that is not unlike the Olympus camera that we have reviewed not so long ago. This is pretty incredible, and nearly unthinkable just a couple of years ago. Also, the new design with a mix of classic and modern style rocks.
Both cameras mostly share more the same characteristics and design elements, but there are a couple of things that really set them apart: 1/ the A7R has a 36 Megapixel sensor 2/ the A7 has a phase-detection + contrast auto-focus (AF) system, while the A7R only has contrast AF. As a result, the A7 may be faster to focus under certain conditions.
My take on those two is that the Alpha A7 is more of the “generalist” camera that will give you a great performance in the majority of situations, and the phase-detection AF should prove to be an asset when it comes to photographing moving subjects. The Sony Alpha A7R is best suited for taking scenes that require the maximum level of details – typically nature scenes, landscapes etc.
Both cameras can record 1080p movies at 60FPS, which is great, but for those who are really picky about the video quality, you may check if the bitrate (24Mbps?) is sufficient for what you are doing.
Like the Sony RX10, both A7 and A7R come with the new BIONZ image processor that is supposed to be 3X faster than its predecessor. Since Sony doesn’t provide details on what metrics are used to compare previous and current BIONZ generation, it’s impossible to assess the true nature of the improvements. They also claim to have new anti-noise algorithms that don’t affect the sharpness of the photos as much as before.
For such powerful cameras, the lenses are possibly their Achilles heels. While the E and FE mount lenses have been moderately growing in numbers, it’s not easy to find something like an 18-55mm with an f2.8 aperture at a reasonable price. Don’t forget that E-mount lenses will induce from cropping since they are not build for the full-frame sensor. This is really where the DSLRs come in so handy. However, the overall light weight and smaller volume of these cameras are very sought-after in some specific markets.
It is possible to use an A-mount adapter to access a larger pool of lenses form the Alpha DSLR family, but I personally don’t see the point of getting a compact camera to only bulk it up later with lens adapters and other accessories, like the battery grip. Sure I can see a case for owning this camera and adding those accessories from time to time
As you may have expected, all this technology comes at a price: $2299 for the A7R body and $1699 for the A7 body, or $1999 for the A7+28-70mm f3.5-5.6 lens. If you decide that you want it, it will be available in “early December” says Sony. It may sound expensive, but at about 50% of the weight of a full-frame DSLR, it’s not hard to imagine why an enthusiast photographer would salivate on these cameras.