One outrageous camera
The Sony A7 series is a manifestation of a dream once thought impossible – the ability to make a compact mirrorless system camera with a big full-frame sensor inside. While the A7 is already a technological achievement, the A7R takes it to the next level by including a 36MP sensor inside; the only other camera with an equivalent pixel count and lack of optical lowpass filter is the Nikon D800E. DESIGN & HANDLING The Sony A7R isn’t ugly, but it’s not pretty either, it just is. Form certainly follows function here, and Sony has crossed the minimalistic line to plain plainness. Its smallness astounds though, every time I pick it up I have to remind myself that I’m holding a camera with a 36MP full-frame sensor inside – Nikon’s 36MP D800E DSLR is way bigger and is two times heavier.
Auto-focus (AF) is competent, but the A7R is not an action camera, nor is it a conspicuous one. The A7R’s shutter is loud; when you hit the release you and the people around you will definitely know it. It takes about two seconds to power on, focus and fire its first shot. If you enable Continuous AF, the A7R can manage to fire off a shot every one to two seconds depending on how fast your subject moves.
The A7R handles like a prosumer camera with an odd blend of physical and digital controls. The two main control dials can be customized, but there is a dedicated exposure compensation dial. There are a host of options for customization with ten custom dials in all, including the ability to customize the scroll wheel and d-pad controls, so you can set the camera up just the way you like.
You can’t easily change AF points with the default settings out of the box, but I changed the left d-pad direction to go directly into focus settings. So when I’m in Zone or Flexible Spot AF modes I can easily change the AF points just by pressing left. Needless to say, there’s a lot to like in how much Sony likes you customize your A7R just so.
Being digital has its advantages. Sony brings focus peaking to the A7R, which makes it easier to confirm manual focus. It also has a zebra function, which you can turn on to see if your highlights are being clipped. Since the viewfinder is electronic, you can use both features on both the back monitor and the EVF. Electronic viewfinders will never be as good as optical viewfinders, but the question isn’t if the EVF is equal but if it’s good enough. I found the A7R’s responsive and clear, even in low-light, and didn’t miss an OVF.
An Fn (Function) button brings up a menu of common settings, which can be customized. However, while you can change Focus Area modes here and shift AF points after, the camera backs out of AF point selection once you hit the shutter release, and there is no easy way to go back to selecting AF points again.
Shifting around 36MP files takes a lot of power, but the A7R handles this with aplomb; I could squeeze off about 35 JPEG frames in succession before the camera started slowing down, when shooting in RAW I could manage about 20-odd frames (I was using an SDHC I Class 10 card with a touted maximum read/write speed of 94 MB/s). The camera will occasionally lock down menus and playback if it’s writing to card, but you can usually still take pictures.
Battery life is slightly better than its spiritual predecessor, the RX1, which was rated 220 to 270 images per charge. The A7R is rated 340 images per charge, and we shot about 280 images to get to about 20 percent power. It’s not great, not poor, and just average. But I love how Sony shows how much power you have left in percentage, so you’re not left guessing what the battery bars mean or have a sudden drop in-between two battery bars.
Unfortunately, an external charger doesn’t come with the box, you can only charge via USB in-camera if you don’t want to pay
extra and get one. USB charging is slower, and you won’t be able to use your camera as you’re doing it.
I didn’t think that Sony could squeeze a 36MP full-frame sensor into such a small body and make it work, but after looking through the images I’ve become a believer. There are some tradeoffs, but the sensor should prove more than enough for its target audience of enthusiast shooters.
The biggest reason I’m convinced is how noise-free the images stay even at sky-high ISO levels. I have pictures at ISO 10,000-16,000 which remain impressively free of noise – that’s a level of performance I’ve only experienced on the highest-end DSLR cameras like the Nikon D4.
The second-biggest reason is how rich the 36MP files are with detail. The A7R benefits not just from a large sensor with a high megapixel count, but also the lack of an optical low-pass filter, which allows more fine detail to be captured at the risk of image artifacts like moiré appearing. A high megapixel count also means that mistakes like slight camera shake or off-focusing are more readily apparent. But when you nail that shot, the texture you can capture is incredible, and that’s what I’m seeing with shots from the A7R.
The Carl Zeiss FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA lens is a pleasure to shoot with, the lens is sharp from corner to corner with imperceptible corner softness and no vignetting (although we wonder if that last part is handled in-camera, as some shots seem to have a hint of vignetting while others do not). There is slight barrel distortion where the image curves into the center though, so you’ll need to apply a profile correction in post.
With the A7s, things are different now. No longer does full-frame belong squarely in the realm of large DSLR cameras. I was skeptical that it could be done, but the A7R outperformed all my expectations. The image quality is superb, with ISO performance astonishingly good.
If there are any problems, they’re not with the camera. For one, a higher resolution image demands better shooting technique from the photographer. Any small mistake, like slight camera shake or off-focusing might be masked in a lower resolution picture, but will be magnified with the A7R’s 36MP.
The second current problem with the A7R is the lack of lenses for Sony’s new full-frame mirrorless series. Right now at launch there are only two native lenses for the A7 and A7R, the aforementioned FE 35mm f/2.8, and a FE 2870mm f/3.5-5.6. Unfortunately, the 28-70mm is only available as a kit lens for the A7, if you want it for your A7R you’ll have to try and get it second-hand.
You can mount existing E-mount lenses on the A7s, which use an E-mount; the camera will automatically crop the capture area to avoid vignetting but you can opt to turn that off. You can also mount Sony’s A-mount lenses, but you’ll have to use an A to E-mount adapter. The A7s can also mount lenses from other systems via third-party adapters, including manual focus lenses.
For most non-professionals, 36MP is sweet overkill, and the camera is clearly an aspirational rather than practical choice for this group. If you can’t resist the lure though, be warned that you’re buying into a system that for right now, only has two native lenses in its stable.
Hello people! My name is Ted Adnan and I earn my living as a commercial and editorial photographer. As such, many of you would presume that I spend a majority of my time in a studio, but that’s not always the case. Whenever possible (with the approval from the significant other), I try to squeeze in a little play between work. Traveling not only allows me to relax, it also gives me the opportunity to practice my hobby as well, which is of course, photography.
You may not think it’s important, but planning ahead of your trip is vital. Back in the day, I used to read through Lonely Planet guides that were obtained from a friend. When perusing those guides, I would let my imagination run wild thinking about all the people and places I could shoot (with my camera, of course!). Sadly, more often than not, these places did not live up to expectations. Fortunately, the technology we have today allows one to quickly do a search on Google and voila! One is presented with a myriad of textual information and visuals about a particular location. Most of this information is also honest as they are (mostly) presented by average person. Put simply, by planning ahead, you’ll know where, when and what to shoot.
GLANCE MOUNT AT A
126.9 x 94.4 x 48.2mm
RM6,999 (body only)
Images from the A7R look as good as those from the 36MP Nikon D800E.
Chalk it down to user error, but I’ve accidentally switched off the camera more than once while reaching for the control dial.
The A7R comes with both zebra (for blowout warnings) and focus peaking (to aid manual focus).
There are lots of options for button customization.
Try to look for photos with contrasting colors. This kid in red really stands out from the blue.