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Sony A7R: Reader Inquiries

There is a lot of excitment about the Sony A7R. Extant in 3 months remains to be seen. I expect my A7R soon.

I am also excited about the A7R for reasons I discuss (and more), but I temper that with certain realities involving lens performance and lens support (vibration)—practical considerations often forgotten in initial enthusiasm. Realities that might limit the practical use, or at the least make it a demanding camera technically.

Moreover, big lenses via lens adapter dwarfing a small camera lose a good measure of their appeal once a 50+ megapixel DSLR with high-res EVF finally appears. And that kind of big lens + adapter + small camera is hardly the way to shoot innocuously. I suspect that some enthusiasm will abate once the physical awkwardness factor settles in (a key reason that Leica M lenses offer the greatest appeal on the A7R).

Like every camera, the A7R will have some very appealing aspects but to think it will not have limitations and disappointments is not realistic. To take one behavior, has Sony fixed the disconcerting autofocus-cycling behavior of the NEX-7?

Roy P writes:

Do you have your A7R yet?! I saw your commentary on the 75 APO Summicron-M vis-à-vis the Zeiss Otus 55/1.4 and the Sigma DP3, and looked over your DeChambeau Yellow Trailer (Leica 75/2 APO on M240) images. I can tell you it was quite depressing for me as an owner of the Leica 75 APO ‘cron. I am really eager to see how the 75 APO fares on the A7R.

I really want to buy the Otus 55/1.4, and the Otus 85/1.4 when Zeiss comes out with it. The only problem, I don’t know if I should buy the ZF.2 or wait for a Sony A or E mount version of the lens. It’s a real head scratcher that this lens is available for the two cameras that provide zero support for manual focusing, and not for the cameras that provide superb support for MF (Sony A99 and A7R). Do you have any insights on whether Zeiss plans to offer this lens in an A or E mount or both?!

BTW, I just got back from a trip to Asia, and had a chance to look at the new Sony RX10 at the Hong Kong airport. What a great little package! Superb handling, a lovely looking Zeiss 24-200mm equivalent lens at a constant f/2.8. Since you liked the RX-100, I thought I’d mention this camera. I damn near bought it, but I just can’t bring myself to buying any camera that has a sensor even smaller than a Micro 4/3. If Sony puts out even an APS-C version of this, I’d probably jump on it.

DIGLLOYD: I expect my A7R very soon.

Do not expect an A-mount or E-mount version of the 55mm f/1.4 Distagon. This is not likely to happen. For one thing, the design would have to build in another 29mm of extension for E-mount. And A-mount does not warrant the effort (market share). Zeiss is free to prove me wrong, and market conditions can change, but that is my present understanding.

As for the RX10, it solves a certain class of shooting challenges, has the same very nice sensor as the RX100, and I expect it has a place for some. See my in-depth review of the RX100.

William H writes:

When you get your A7R, would you please consider comparing it to your D800E using the Zeiss 55 f1.4 Otus, as well as some of your other favorite best lenses which can be used on both cameras? If possible, it would be interesting to see you add the DP3M into the mix.... (That barn is a great subject).

When mine (A7R) comes I'll compare it to the D800E with the same lenses - maybe the Leica 180 f2.0 and Nikon 60 f2.8 macro, as well as with M lenses. My widest M is the 21, and I have two 28s (the f2 and f2.8), the 35 f1.4, 50 f1.4 ASPH, Noctilux (I've seen some really nice examples of A7R lenses using this lens), both 75mm lenses (f1.4 and APO f2.0), 90 f2.8 and f2.0 and APO135 f3.4. I'll also add in the DP3M because curiosity compels me to compare it with the A7R and D800E.

DIGLLOYD: Well, the barn is a 600 mile round trip now, so that is unlikely.

I expect the two Leica M 28mm lenses to perform poorly, but wider angle lenses with telecentric designs might fare better. Lenses at 50mm and longer should do well, with 35mm likely also good, but likely with some impairment.

Comparisons are never an easy task under the best of conditions (“quick tests” are a laughable concept), focus-matching alone being a trick business. But lens support is an even thornier problem once shutter speeds drop below 1/125 second, a frustrating discovery with the Leica M240.

So making rigorous comparisons is in my view far less interesting than whether one can have a high hit rate (focus accuracy, vibration issue, hand-holdability)—this is a reality since the lens optics do not change for the same lens, and the sensor is allegedly the same. Still, I will no doubt do at least one analysis to find if the D800E sensor has any significant superior or inferior characteristics vs the A7R sensor. Electronics quality and software algorithms are also critical to image quality, so no assumptions other than general ones are valid for the “same sensor” idea.

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