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Sony A7R: “Handheld Contradiction?”

Keith C writes:

A7r handheld usability: A contradiction?

One of the apparent benefits to me of this new A7r over the D800e to me is the size and weight. Critical landscapes and art shoots would be on tripod of course with remote release and Live View focusing. (So perhaps the LV focusing and a lighter kit to bring with really is an advantage to the Sony) but I would also want to use the camera in a more casual handheld set of situations as well.

In this regard, even though the D800e is heavier and larger, it would seem that its mass would actually assist with holding the camera slightly more steady and also dampen the shutter a bit.

Given that the Sony has no in-body stabilization, nor probably any OSS lenses other than the larger F4 zooms, how practical would shooting the Sony in these handled situations be? I would assume that a full 36MP image handheld would be out of the question in most part. So my question to you is, would a handheld image from this camera that missed the 36MP potential due to shake/blur result in a salvageable 18MP image, as that would be about my max size anyway for this type of image?

The reason I ask this, is that I would like to travel with one camera, not two systems, and my years spent on the computer doing scanning, retouching and prepress back in the long ago days before ergonomic mice and keyboards have left my right wrist a little weak and in pain. I know the kids at my camera store would tell me to just buy an OMD E-M1 already, old man, but seriously, I have no issues shooting my Mamiya RB-67 handheld. (But that hangs from my neck with the body being pushed down and tight against my chest) Ah maybe I should just invent a similar type of rig for myself. Thanks in advance if you choose to publish an answer!

DIGLLOYD: Using a start of the art 36-megapixel camera with handheld blur (camera movement) is still a win over an 18MP camera: the 36-megapixel camera has the latest sensor, and it is oversampling (Nyquist theory, information theory).

When 36MP is downsampled to 18MP the blur has not changed; it is simply the same blur spread over larger pixels. BUT, the total image quality is higher by virtue of the oversampling followed by downsampling, reducing digital artifacts. Edges are smoother, Bayer-matrix artifacts disappear, etc: more per pixel sharpness, fewer artifacts, smoother fine lines. More megapixels always wins, all other things being equal (which is not always!), and excluding ultra-high ISO values where color quality takes a hit.

As for mass, the A7R has no mirror to bang around (good!), though its shutter is among the most obnoxious that I have used short of medium format. But the key factor is mass coupling; see How to Hold a Camera Steady (Mass Coupling) in Making Sharp Images. The A7R has both an excellent grip and EVF, so proper technique is easily achieved for best results. I do wish that Sony had implemented support for leaf shutter lenses, and that the Zeiss 35/2.8 and 55/1.8 were leaf shutter lenses.

As for the Olympus E-M1: very nice camera body which must be programmed to avoid the menu system disaster, very fun to shoot, in-body IS, the files are truly lovely overall but just are not in the same league in robustness at the pixel level. Serves some valid purposes, but I for one feel no attraction for it now that the A7R is available, and the lenses are not cheaper. As for weight, the A7R + 35/2.8 weighs less than the equivalent E-M1 + 17/1.8. At any rate, full frame with 2 or maybe 3 lenses is vastly preferable to MFT with 5 or 6, so the size/weight thing does not persuade me at all for MFT.

Sony Alpha A7R with Sony/Zeiss FE 35mm f/2.8 Sonnar ZA
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