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Sony A7R / A7: What’s Coming

See my evolving review of the Sony A7R/A7 system in Guide to Mirrorless.

Based on reader inquiries, I felt it important to discuss what I have planned for covering the Sony A7R (and to a lesser extent, A7). I am one guy low on sleep, and for every hour of shooting, there are 4-5 hours of analysis + writing! With short daylight and frigid temps, this makes it even harder.

My goal as always is to Serve my readers in making the right choice for themselves, which I aim to do by presenting a variety of objective analysis and examples along with no-holds-barred reactions and experiential findings in the field, the reality of usage being even more useful than any “performance” data. As the last decade of using a huge variety of gear in the field informs me.

I always aim to introduce (also) my own subjective reactions, as long ago I found that this type of thing can be more useful than anything else (and it can be ignored, too, for good and personal reasons, but it serves as a 'lever' against which one’s own views can be set, which itself is useful).

Seminal camera

As the first compact high-resolution full-frame mirrorless camera with interchangeable lenses, the Sony A7R / A7 is a seminal digital camera. Other vendors will have to follow suit because in this form factor there is no other way to compete on image quality*, and the real cost is about the entire system (camera + lenses) and versatility, e.g. I love what full frame can do under myriad and challenging lighting conditions. I also love the fact that I can crop off a 36MP image and still have high resolution: again, versatility.

I expect the A7R to pressure the Leica M Typ 240 (but only partially because of wide angle lenses), but particularly Canon and Nikon, which have a yawning chasm in their camera lineups vs the A7R. However, just add a high-res EVF to the DSLRs without the mangled subsampling mess (Nikon) and for me the gap closes a lot, camera body notwithstanding (best glass in native mount for one thing). On that point, the A7R Live View makes the Nikon D800E Live View look like garbage.

The existence proof is now there on size/weight in both camera and lenses (see Sony A7, A7R: Breakthrough in Image Quality in a Compact Package with Killer EVF and LCD Too). The lens selection is not so good, but it will evolve. The A7R is a “back” akin to a medium format “back” and requires the same hassles to select the lenses that please oneself.

It is only a matter of time before the Sony full-frame ecosystem evolves, and even better models will surely arrive over time. Operational warts and gotchas exist (menus and shutter vibration), but the A7R represents an aggressive push forward.

* Why would I invest in a 16MP APS-C system with oddball sensor artifacts or a tiny sensor (MFT) system when I can shoot a full-frame camera? There are *some* reasons, but they get specific and none of them add up for me except in specialized circumstances.

Sampler

A sampler of some of the areas I intend to cover:

  • Performance across the ISO range in outdoor light (perfect studio light holds lower interest vs real-world shooting).
  • The “best”: what can that 36MP sensor do with a world-class lens?
  • Feasibility: is it realistic to shoot the A7R with DSLR lenses (ergonomics, speed of working, etc).
  • EVF: just how good is it for focusing?
  • Some sense of DSLR and rangefinder lens performance, a sampler.
  • Vibration: does the shutter vibration make the camera a tricky business with longer lenses or those mounted via a tripod foot?
  • The Sony FE 35/2.8: how does it compare to better DSLR lenses?
  • Sony 55/1.8 (not available yet), and the Sony FE 24-70 f/4 ZA.
  • With more experience (every camera deserves this option): my summary findings on when and where the A7R 'works' or not, where I would use it or not use it, etc. I am already developing some sense of this, but it is premature to publish that yet as I want to offer well-founded advice.
  • Whether the A7 is better for some uses over the A7R (partially addressed here).

I like to let my reviews evolve: a strong “wind” that is intriguing might sail it in one direction or another based on what earlier shooting reveals as interesting.

The A7R and A7 are not inexpensive, and anyone with a Nikon D800E should not feel in hurry to get rid of it. Already I see times when my D800E is just a better solution, as much as I love the EVF of the A7R. Temper enthusiasm with patience, and the A7R supply will only improve anyway.

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