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Readers Comment on the Sony A7 / A7R

Samyang 14mm f/2.8 for various brands, about $399 at B&H Photo.

Many people are thrilled with the Sony A7 and A7R, but no camera is right for everyone.

Alfred C writes:

The cameras (both A7 and A7R) seem to deplete the batteries beyond the level where (external) chargers can charge them again. I have special chargers for my Leica M9, M, S, Hasselblad H, Canon standard cells and all other cameras from Braun and Ansmann, the latter supplier of chargers to Leica. Only with the Sony cells do I have this problem.

I "destroyed" 3 cells that way already, only one was salvageable by loading the cell in camera. I returned two to the shop and they immediately gave me new cells, with the dedicated Sony charger not being able to charge them either.

Oh and, the A7R is back to service having developed an air bubble between the sensor and the cover glass. Never ever seen anything like that before.

DIGLLOYD: it’s never good to over-deplete a battery, but ideally a device is somewhat conservative. Still, I have played games with my D800E under power duress (battery empty: shut off, take 2-3 frames to fool it, repeat)—no issues.

One tip: I’ve had luck with some over-depleted LiIon cells by quickly shorting the terminals; this can reset some internal “smart” thing and allow charging. Use caution when doing this of course!

Leo G writes

For what it's worth to others: The whole A7R thing was a very costly mistake. I cancelled my 24-70 back order and I will now dump the camera. (BTW, I own the RX1R and LOVE it!)

A7R ... for me, in 35mm, D800E is far better in every way.

For landscape, I have a MF camera. I also carry the RX1R DAILY for everything else photographic, and for landscape it is for great for scouting and stitching should the need arise.

Animals: I use Sony's A77 for the VERY convenient angles of the LCD, but only interior. Exterior shots make the LCD worthless, so the Nikon is better again. A7R is totally a waste on animals, even interior, because of the focus issue. It is NOT both Phase and Contrast, and nothing is ever in focus with animals who breath!

That said, I have an A7R with both initial lenses for sale. I have shot maybe 100 shots with it, it is that bad. Before I put it on eBay, maybe one of your people would like it. I may be able to take a partial trade on something useful to my other systems. Or maybe pro video stuff for shooting broadcast B-roll.

DIGLLOYD: out of my area of shooting style (animals as in animal rescue and shelter). The D800E is a workhorse for sure, as I know firsthand from tens of thousands of frames. Warts and all, there is no better 36MP choice when reliable and versatile imaging counts.

Matti K writes

Just received my new A7 and while I was trying out some long exposures I came up with something weird in the image data. Excessive banding and garbage which does not happen at all with "short" exposures under 30 seconds.

DIGLLOYD: see discussion.

Wayne S writes:

Any reason not to get the Nikon F mount Samyang 24mm T/1.5 for use with the Sony A7 via a Novoflex adapter, as well as with my D800E?

The total size of the F mount lens + adapter is nearly equivalent to the E-mount version. I realize that Nikon and Zeiss offer excellent 24mm/25mm F-mount lenses - but at a much greater cost. Could the Samyang be a worthy/usable 24mm option on the Nikon?

DIGLLOYD: this is an approach I used for years: Nikon F mount on both Nikon and Canon. It should perform similarly on Nikon.

Maurice D writes:

Is there any comparison in Mirrorless between A7 and A7r.

DIGLLOYD: See the Red Barn comparison. The A7R has 1.22X the linear resolution of the A7. But with shutter vibration easily being 1/5 of a pixel and sometimes much more, I value reliable results (A7, EFC shutter) over the small increase in detail. I cannot perform valid tests on the A7R; the vibration invalidates all lens tests over a wide range of useful shutter speeds as clearly seen in the Red Barn example. Vertical (portrait) orientation is particularly bad for the A7R. Theory and reality are two different things.

Rob L writes:

My understanding about the A7 and the A7r is that they both have the offset micro lenses. I've seen conflicting information on this.

And, is it valid to evaluate edge and corner performance up this close? I'm referring to the test shots of the Moots mountain bike. These seem very close and the edges are going to be out of focus at this distance because they are so much farther away than the center of the shot. By the same token, the extreme ray angle issue shows up worst at infinity. I ask this because I have an A7 and several film Leicas and this is a lens that I lust after.

DIGLLOYD: My understanding is that the Sony A7 and A7R differ in that the A7 has micro lenses and an anti-aliasing filter, that the A7R has no micro lenses and no anti-aliasing filter. Both have detail-reproduction technology and diffraction-reducing technology in the Bionz X image processor, which in part explains their resistance to the dulling effects of diffraction when stopped down.

As far as relatively close range evaluation with M lenses, this is actually more favorable because the ray angle is less severe; as the lens is focused closer the ray angle decreases (becomes more “friendly”). Moreover, wide angle lenses generally demand a close-range item of interest to work well compositionally. And of course the slow-speed Leica wides are excellent across their range too.

Stephen O writes:

Was wondering if you had any thoughts as to a lens longer than 90mm for use on the Sony A7r? I have been considering the Leica 180/3.4 APO as it seems reasonably priced (just over $1,000 and I have about $2500 burning a hole in my Paypal account after selling a lens or two;) and is supposed to be a very fine performer at infinity.

DIGLLOYD: My main thought is that shutter vibration that will make it a frustrating experience at 180mm on up, particularly vertically, unless shutter speeds are held to 1/3f or higher. A similar vibration issue exists on the Leica M240.

James K writes:

James K is a NYC pro photographer.

I must confess that after seeing my Sony A7 raw files shot with the new 55mm FE f1.8 I have a hard time looking at my E-M1 files.

The A7 and the 55mm are a great looking combo. I would say they are the best files I have ever seen. Clear, clean and super sharp. Real eye openers. Just beautiful. They seem to make ordinary subject matter look extraordinary.

DIGLLOYD: Agreed. The Olympus E-M1 files look gritty and 'stressed' by comparison; the sensor is just too small and the files cannot take much pushing or adjustment in dark areas: MFT is evolving into a video platform it is a dead end for still photography quality and has no real size advantage over APS-C or even full frame, as the A7/A7R prove.

The Sony 55/1.8 has exceptionally high micro contrast and is stunning when used optimally (bokeh is another matter). The A7/A7R have detail reproduction technology and diffraction-reducing technology in the Bionz X image processor. It all adds up to (usually) awesome image quality, but there are some downsides and the A7R shutter vibration pricks the elation balloon.

Paul I writes:

Thanks for your timely article on the Sony FE 24-70mm. I’d be very interested in knowing if the optical stabilization can compensate for the vibration problem with the A7r.

I picked up an A7R (with the 55mm) in order to do my own testing, and found the same issues as you did (no surprise). I ordered the 24-70mm when it was originally scheduled to ship on February 2, but now that shipment is delayed I’m hoping it will arrive time to test it before my 30 day exchange window (for an A7) comes up at the end of this month.

By any chance do you still have the A7R to see how it works with the 24-70mm? If not, if you’re up for it I might be able to swing by with mine some time in the next week or two. I think it would be interesting to see if the optical stabilization would be a patch around the vibration issue with the A7R.

DIGLLOYD: in my experience with Nikon and Canon, I’ve found that optical image stabilization (OIS) carries its own risks; the mechanism actually creates blur by attempting to compensate for transient vibrations. I always turn off OIS when shooting on a tripod unless it is used only as a weight-support solution where I’m holding/pressing on the lens with one hand and pressing the shutter with my finger.

In DAP for example, see Image Stabilization: Not Always a Win as well as Image Stabilization (IS) on a Tripod (Canon 200mm f/2), both of which show the damage the OIS can cause on a tripod: the “cure” is far worse than the “disease”.

Richard R writes:

I know water on the front lens element would have made the results of the rainy day tests impossible to evaluate. But…both the 24-70 lens and A7r are spec’d for moisture resistance. Are you concerned about that claim by Sony not being accurate (hence the umbrella)? Or was it purely a matter of convenience?

DIGLLOYD: with both camera and lens on loan, I don’t tempt fate with gear that is not my own. When I want a shot, I don’t care if the gear is allegedly sealed or not; I make the shot(s), then wipe off the gear and get it into a box with silica gel after. But for test shots, they’d be ruined with water droplets, so self-defeating.

Herb C writes:

I am thinking of converting the A7r to IR, thus leaving me a good D800E for work that would need 36mp, and an IR that would also have the same resolution. IR work is almost always tripoded, so that would leave me with the A7 for work that would possibly require the quieter shutter, such as street shots, etc.

DIGLLOYD: IR work should not require a tripod any more than visible light work since normal shooting speeds are usable with infrared after conversion. An A7R for infrared sounds very interesting, but the shutter vibration will be just as much of an issue. Given lens performance in infrared, I’d convert the A7 and avoid the shutter vibration headache since most lenses can’t deliver the goods in infrared on a 36MP sensor anyway.

Derrick K writes:

With your recent findings on the A7R shutter vibration issues, what would your recommendation be for an enthusiast photographer who wants to buy a camera for landscape shooting?

I'm a Canon user (5D2) but none of Canon's new bodies excite me. I'm thinking:

• Nikon D800E - great sensor (dynamic range, resolution), great UWA lens, poor Live View. Big and heavy.

• Canon 5D3 - average sensor, can use existing lenses. Magic Lantern support. Big and heavy.

• Sony A7R - great sensor. Could adapt Canon lenses. Vibration issues. Concentric ring color shift when shooting tonally uniform scenes.

• Sony A7 - very good sensor. Could adapt Canon lenses. Concentric ring color shift when shooting tonally uniform scenes.

Personally, I'm leaning towards the A7 or sticking with the 5D2 until Canon finally releases a decent update. But I would love to hear your thoughts.

DIGLLOYD: I feel grouchy about these choices (all have annoying shortcomings), and so my advice is to wait until later in 2014.

Consider the new Sigma dp Quattro in the interim (~April) and see real detail, feel the pain of no EVF, then decide. It ought to easily match or exceed the A7 , augh at the Canon 5D Mark III, approach the D800E and even look better for large prints. With no shutter vibration.

And/or the combination of the Sony RX1R (leaf shutter, no vibration) plus Ricoh GR (fantastic portability, great features). Lenses? Learn to shoot well with one focal length or two and that will serve you well for your life. More is less and less is more.

For a proven workhorse, the Nikon D800E with a great selection of lenses. I won’t touch the A7R—I have the right to screw up in execution, but a camera that builds auto-blur into the design is not one that will go into my bag.

Antal K writes:

You have the most comprehensive and unbiased blog on the Internet. Yet, you are wrong... or Sony says! I did not know that there were sand dunes in Japan! In So/Cal :) maybe?

I am so tired of these marketing committee engineered half baked products in the photo, sorry, (electronic) industry. I am out of the chase for a new camera or system at the present, but a full frame mirror-less is definitely in my future. Especially since Zeiss started to produce "modern" lenses.

My bewilderment extends to the weight issue as well. Yes, quality materials are "heavy", but where did we go so soft? The end result supposed to be the Photo, the Image, not how many compromises, usually unforgiving, did we get away with. Good Enough, eh ?....

Why is the "convenience" more important than thoughtful tool selection. And why did "we" forget the lessons of old? In one instance, it is forgotten that "photojournalistic" wedding event coverage was coined by a master, a MF shooter!

I keep on reading your work! Excellent and thorough.

DIGLLOYD: I think the shutter vibration thing is more about saving face. If Sony fixed the shutter vibration and as a bonus offered a real 14-bit format, then the A7R would clearly be the best sensor on the market. Which it sort of is already if one excludes those two things! But if the queen had balls she’d be king.

Given that the lenses make the A7/A7R non-pocketable, I’d have preferred a slightly larger and heavier camera (say by 20%); more metal, bigger battery, more generously sized controls and buttons.

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