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Sony NEX A7 and A7r: 24 and 36 Megapixels on Full Frame?

Sony NEX, EVF

SonyAlphaRumors.com has been reporting credible information of an announcement of a 24 megapixel and 36 megapixel NEX announcement very soon.

NEX A7: 24 megapixels (full frame sensor)
NEX A7R: 36 megapixels (full frame sensor)

I don’t normally spend much time on rumors, but questions from readers keep popping up and I deem it wise to wait just a little if one is contemplating a full-frame camera purchase soon.

See the review of the Sony NEX-7 in Guide to Mirrorless.

Optical filter pack

The optical filter pack has an influence on the image sharpness; see an exploration of that idea in Nikon D800E vs Canon 5D Mark III: the Nikon D800E Optical Low Pass Blur+Unblur Filter Pack.

What this means in practice is that the promise of 36 megapixels might or might not be met: the lens has to be high grade, and the sensor construction has to be friendly to various lens designs which might or might not be computed for optimal performance on a particular thickness of sensor cover glass. There are ray angle issues also, microlenses (or not), and so on. It is best not to assume that any particular lens will perform optimally.

However, telecentric designs such as the Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 Distagon can be expected to deliver very high performance.

That EVF thing

See Old Geezers Need an EVF: the Rear LCD and Presbyopia are a Bad Combination For Aging Eyes.

One might go so far as to say that a high-res EVF on a full-frame NEX (likely built-in!) could possibly make it the camera of choice for manual focus DSLR lenses for many situations: for focusing accuracy and vision reasons and leveling the camera while shooting handheld, for the sheer enjoyment, for perfect 100% framing and so on. Assuming the ergonomics are solid.

Inertial trapped-in-the-past thinking means that DSLRs still have no EVF option. And it is why Canon and Nikon are skating on thin ice. Forcing buyers (like myself) to put up with impaired usability for no technical reason is a serious danger to the C/N hegemony.

Leica M and Zeiss ZM lenses on NEX?

Leica M lenses (particularly wide angle lenses) suffer from ray angle and color shading issues even on the NEX-7 with its cropped APS-C sensor (half the area of full frame). Leica handles this in the Leica M cameras with a custom sensor having microlenses that partially mitigate it.

So the question on a full-frame NEX would be whether (a) the sensor cover glass is friendly to the ray angle (thick glass is a negative), and (b) whether there are micro lenses to avoid severe ray angle and color shading problems.

The sensor must deal with ray angle isuses because of the short flange to sensor distance. Therefore I expect the A7/A7R to include micro lenses akin to the Leica M and to include color shading correction. Whether the accommodation at the sensor level is enough for 18/21/24/28mm Leica M lenses is an open question, since even Leica M cameras have some difficulty with those. But we can expect the native lenses for the full-frame NEX to use telectentric designs to minimize the ray angle and color shading issues.

I’ll be testing Leica M lenses on the new NEX (but note that Zeiss and Leica lens tests go into their respective guides, regardless of camera platform).

Color shading with Zeiss ZM 21mm f/4.5 C-Biogon on Leica M9
Color shading with Zeiss ZM 21mm f/4.5 C-Biogon on Leica M9
(worst case lens)

Reader comments

Steven K writes:

With the release of the new E mount cameras in the next week, yeah they look really nice but I hope in the future Sony does not do what Olympus did, basically release a hybrid type camera that accepts both e mount and a mount lenses via an adaptor.

I know everyone wanted a FF NEX which we are going to get, yet the lens situation looks very dismal. A few Zeiss primes nice but not shipping for a while and some F4 zooms. No way to make faster zooms or primes and keep the size small.. I would have preferred a new A mount mirror less camera with the improved EVF, 24 MP and no AA filter. Yeah it would have been larger then the new NEX but the lenses are all ready there.

I also think that all those people hoping to use there Leica/ Zeiss ZM WA lenses on the new FF NEX will be disappointed . The new Sony will not be a Leica killer. At least at 35mm and wider.

36MP FF NEX, I don't think any of the lenses being announced will do this camera any justice. I think Sony just should have stuck with a 24mp FF solution. 36MP is for the big boys only.

Don't get me wrong a new FF mirror less Sony is very cool, and I would buy one the day it comes out if they did what Fuji did, come out with the camera with 3-4 nice primes. 24/2, 35/2, 50/2, and maybe and 85/2. F2 to keep the size smaller. What I assume is going to happen is it will be literary at least 6 months for most of us to get our hands on the new Zeiss lenses. Heck remember how long it took to get a the E mount 24/1.8 lens? It took forever.

DIGLLOYD: The rumored Zeiss-designed Sony 35mm is an f/2.8 lens. By giving up one stop of brightness, certain aberrations are reduced by 9X, thus a 35/2.8 could in fact offer very high performance. The 35/2 in the Sony RX1R is a full stop faster, but it is also engineered to recess into the camera body (large than it appears), and for a specific sensor. If Zeiss can make a 35/2.8 matching the 35/2 at f/2.8 , then the quality will be as good as anything the Nikon D800E can deliver. So this does not sound disappointing to me at all. With any new camera line, it takes time for the lens lineup to fill out.

The premise that more megapixels exist primarily to capture images with higher pixel dimensions has been the case over the past decade, but it is an error to take that premise forward. Oversampling with more pixels is always higher quality assuming equivalent sensor tech; it is a signal processing and Nyquist sampling situation seen also in the audio world: the best 24MP image is one from a downsampled 36MP sensor (versus a 24MP sensor). So a 72-megapixel NEX could output a 24 or 36 or 48 megapixel raw (or JPEG) files from that sensor, files all but free of digital sampling artifacts. Ditto for any brand.

I’ve already covered the Leica M ideas in my post above. It will be what it is.

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