on January 13, 2014
There are many excellent reviews on here, so I thougt I would focus (no pun intended) on how to get good inexpensive lenses for the camera that will make it shine and give you a well rounded start at your kit without leaving you begging for food on the freeway exit ramp. I purchased the A7K (the one with the 28-70 kit lens). I do semi-pro work with photography and videography. I know good glass, but on the photography side have elected to stay away from the larger 5D MIII AND D800(E) cameras ... Just wanted to be more portable and stealthy in my street photography. I own a Sony RX1 with a DXO RATING OF 93 on the that sensor coupled with the excellent Zeiss f2.0. The sensor on the A7K has a DXO rating of 90 so it's a little less than the RX1. That's not to say the A7 is not sharp ... It is very, very sharp ... Just not with the kit lens.
So ... I took my excellent Sigma 30mm f2.8 from my Nex 6 and removed the baffle ( a common mod since then the Sigma can cover full frame). And there is a very, very tiny amount of vignetting at f2.8 and is actually very good up to around f4. All the vignetting is so light it can easily be removed in Lightroom. But that lense is absolutely tack sharp in the IQ department. Check all the reviews ... This is a $199 lens that rivals the new Sony FE 35mm f2.8 at a fourth of the cost (with the baffle removed ... 3 tiny screws and 3 minutes of work).
Then I researched and got the Samyang 14mm f2.8 super wide. This lense retails for around $348 on amazon, and has been tested by different mags and dozens of reviews to be practically equivalent to a $1400 super wide. You can get this lens under the Rokinon branding. The only thing is, of course, is that you have to use this lense with an adaptor to the e-mount. Since I use the inexpensive Sony LEA-1, it does not auto focus (the lens would not support it anyway) ... So you have to manually focus. I find that with this lens, the A7 peaking function is a little off or uncertain, so I simply assign the C1 custom button to the focus magnifier function and eyeball it without peaking instead.
But ... My star lens is the Sony A-mount SAL50M28 50mm f2.8. I put this beauty on the A7 via the LEA-1 adaptor, and beautiful things happen. That A7 is predictable and dead on accurate. And the peaking is full off until exactly (not almost) in focus. That makes manually focusing with mid level peaking fast, effortless and very accurate ... An absolute pleasure to use. This is the only lense I have used thus far that makes me feel just as comfortable shooting as I do with auto focus shooting. Plus (the very best part) the lense is unbelievably sharp and flat across the frame. When I saw that 16 people on Amazon gave it five stars, I was skeptical ... But now, I'm a believer. Amazing sharpness and even though, yes 50mm is handy for macro work, this lens is da bomb for street photography. Chances are I will rarely take this lens off my camera. Even for 50mm landscape shots, a 100% crop reveals individual pine needles on a pine tree at 120 yards away ... With dead on color and absolutely no noise or optical distortion. The lens is completely flat and is about 1:1.1 or 1:1.2 ... In other words, subjects in your images look the same size as what your eyes see.
This $598 sony 50mm just boosted the sharpness of my A7 to what seems to be slightly beyond 5D MIII territory. And finally that lens, with the small Sony adaptor attached is about the same size as the original A7 kit lens. Before, I just had a pro camera ... Now I am getting pro images out of it. What a difference! All else with the camera is high quality, pro build and everything I could hope for in manual control functions that are all easily assignable to the many physical controls that are easily and intuitively placed around the camera. So now, with an Nex-6, a Canon T2i, a Sony RX1 and my new A7, I finally feel like things are reasonaby well covered. But the A7 takes me into another league altogether. It's easy to carry with me, I get pro results, it's rock solid, ultra configurable to the way I want to shoot, etc. We're having fun now.
UPDATE: I was so impressed with the leap in IQ from the Alpha A-mount lenses that I purchased the LA-EA4 adaptor. This is the adaptor you want ... fast AF and actually much smaller looking and feeling than what the pictures of it on the camera would seem to indicate. If fact, I am so impressed by the auto focusing response and lightness of the unit that I decided to simply make the A-mounts my lens collection. Of course I save a lot of money, but once I research the lenses for 5 star average reviews, I can buy them at around 50 to 60 percent what the FE lenses would cost. So far, in addition to the (not so sharp) 28-70 kit lens that came with the A7, I have the A-mount Sony 50mm F2.8 ($450), the Sony 50mm F1.4 ($550), and a SUPERB Sony 100mm F2.8 ($800). These are all full frame lenses and the pros who have used them are virtually unanimous on their virtues.
At first glance it may seem that I do a lot of macro work since the 50f2.8 and 50f1.4 and 100f2.8 are all hyped as macro lenses. But, even though they seem to be superb at macro shooting, my purpose was use in street photography. Everyone knows the 50mm is preferred by many street photographers, thus the purchase of the two 50mm lenses. But, sometime I don't want to get too close to my subject so that I can capture the moment without them feeling uncomfortable or ruining the look and feel I am trying to capture. The 100mm f2.8 gives me that bit of telephoto but is still razor sharp like a good quality prime should be. It let's me be about twice the distance away while shooting and still fill the frame with my subject scene.
IMHO ... A KEY TO GREAT IQ ON THE A7 ... No matter what you've heard about 1/60th of a second being fast enough to freeze the action in street scenes, switch to M (manual mode) on your mode dial. Then set your Aperture to either shallow depth of field (f1.4-3.2, etc) or deep depth of field (f8-16) and put the shutter speed at minimum 1/320th second. With this camera you have nothing to worry about when in Manual mode. Your auto focus still works, you select the aperture you want for bokeh or for focus across the frame with one of the two horizontal dials, then set, and forget, the shutter speed to 1/320 to 1/500th second with the other horizontal dial.
The reason why this setup is key is that the lack of sharpness the A7 sometimes exhibits in images can be traced to too slow of a shutter speed. Now you may be thinking, "Well ... DUH?" But remember, in addition to hand steadiness, you can also have camera vibration from the shutter event itself. Your hand may be relatively steady, and your subject relatively still, but camera vibration can still sabotage your shot ... even at 1/60th of a second. A fast shutter speed will capture the picture before the vibration "echoes" reverberate through the camera body. Forgive the technical stuff, I'm a scientist by training :) When you leave the shutter speed at this fast speed, you only have to decide which effect you want your aperture to have and set it. THE COOL THING IS ... the A7 will continue to set the ISO automatically for you, if you have set the menu selection for ISO to AUTO. So, your shot always turns out! You can even set the bracketing for AUTO ISO in the menu system to make sure the camera does not select an ISO that is too noisy (higher than 3200 or 6400). While the A7 can remain relatively noiseless until around 3200, a shot at 6400 is completely usable in all but the largest print sizes ... and 6400 shots are better than missing the shots. That's why I set my upper ISO limit to 6400. Shots that have a little ambient light usually never take my A7 above 1600-3200 ISO so I'm usually safe.
So, you can see that shooting in M, with the shutter frozen at faster speeds, then simply choosing Aperture for whatever you happen to be shooting that day, can be like an AUTO mode since the camera will make it all right for you with the AUTO ISO. I usually agree with the ISO the AUTO ISO sets, so I'm happy. The end result of this coffee-powered write-up is that, with the shutter speed at 1/320 to 1/500, the 100% crops on my images have improved in sharpness by close to 300% from what they were when the camera selected 1/60th to 1/80th sec shutter speed. Again, I think this is likely due to camera vibration rather than lack of steady hand ... though both are important. With the kit lens, I now have a family of 4 lenses, 3 of which produce great IQ, that auto focus fast and produce very good results. It may be a long time before I feel the need to buy any FE lens. I know they will be good, but they are somewhat expensive. With the A-mounts, I spent a lot less getting my kit outfitted (and let my wallet cool off), plus, I have everything I need today ... instead of having to wait a year or two. The key to this plan was the LA-EA4 adaptor which only adds about 10-15% to the overall size and mass of the camera plus lens unit. You have a great camera! Enjoy it.
on December 1, 2013
I picked up my a7 directly from the Sony Store on November 15th in Hong Kong. The first one I received was okay except it had a mushy delete/c3 button (it didn’t click when pressed), so I refused it and had to wait until the next day to get another one. The second body had all buttons and dials working properly, so I took it home with a giant smile on my face. I purchased the camera, body only. I also purchased the Zeiss 35mm F 2.8.
Why I chose the a7 over the a7R.
1. It has less megapixels. Yes, you read correctly. 99.9% of the photos I take live in iPhoto. The only thing 36mp does compared to 24mp is take up more drive space. Also, I have a 20” x 30” blown up photo in my living room that I took on my old 12mp D300 and it looks amazing. So, 24mp is way more than enough for me.
2. It has Phase Detection Auto focus (PDAF), and the a7R does not. I wanted this faster focus because I will mainly use this for photographing my 6-month old growing up.
3. It has the low pass filter. I don’t want to have to remove moiré in photoshop or GIMP. I don’t even want to deal with photoshop or GIMP except for maybe that .1% of photos that don’t live in iPhoto. Also, this camera is also the home camcorder, and it is very difficult to remove moiré from video. (however, from test shots I have been seeing, the a7r doesn’t appear to have significant moiré problems, so this may not be all that important.)
Now that you understand where I am coming from, here is my review.
This is by far the best camera I have ever owned. Just in case you got here by accident, this is the smallest and lightest full frame changeable lens digital camera ever made. Full Frame just means that all the lenses out there for 35mm film cameras will look the same on this sensor. The pictures are amazing, the autofocus is lightning fast, and everything just feels like it should. It makes taking pictures very easy and fun. I moved to Sony NEX because I would often leave my Nikon D300 in the hotel, or at home because it was so darn bulky and heavy.
You can stop reading now. It is a 5 star camera. The rest of the review consists of my comments about the various features on the camera.
FIT and FINISH: The a7 feels extremely well put together, and exudes quality. The a7 has two differences from the a7R build. The a7 has a polymer front plate instead of magnesium, and it has polymer dials instead of aluminum. But, I cannot tell the difference between this camera and the a7R. They feel the exactly same to me (but this was only a showroom examination). If you owned both for a while, you could probably determine the difference, but it is really hard to. The a7’s weight is about 1/3oz more (9g).
CONNECTIONS: This camera has a standard mic in port, headphone out port, micro USB, and a micro HDMI out. It also has Sony’s new MI hot shoe. This is based on the standardized hot shoe size. There are extra contacts at the front for using all sorts of attachments, but it will also fire off a regular Nikon or Cannon flash (you will need to use manual mode, though). It also takes the regular SD cards (but will also accept the Sony memory stick type). It uses the same battery as the NEX-6, which is the Infolithium-W, so all those accessories or AC adapters and battery chargers will work here.
BATTERY: This camera does really burn through the battery. It depletes noticeably faster than the NEX-6. You should buy an extra battery and a wall charger. The camera is designed for “in camera” charging using the USB cable. However, this means your camera is out of commission while the battery is charging (which is 310 minutes in the camera according to the user manual). The wall charger is a must… and ONLY buy Sony batteries, and only from a big box store, a Sony store, or reputable camera shop. There are fakes even on amazon (many are only “fulfilled by amazon”). The last thing you want is a fake battery melting inside your $1,699+tax camera. Six months ago one of mine (marked Sony and bought through amazon) did melt, but it melted in my wall charger and not my NEX-6. Thank goodness.
HOT SHOE: This camera uses the new style Sony hot shoe. So, if you have a lot of “auto lock” accessories, you will need an adapter. But, the good thing is that the new hot shoe is the standard kind, so it will fire even off brand speed lights (although, you will need to use the manual metering mode on the flash… it only receives the “fire” command from the camera, not all the settings). It is the same hot shoe as the a99 and the NEX-6, and is the shoe Sony will be using on all new products that have a hot shoe.
SHUTTER SOUND: Some have complained about the “loud shutter.” It is louder than the NEX-6, but not by much. I would not consider it “loud.” The a7 has the electronic front curtain shutter, so it is quieter than the a7R. Anyway, this is NOT the camera to bring to the gym locker room to take illegal pictures of your fellow members, but it’s not so loud as to get you ejected from a friend’s wedding.
VIEWFINDER: The viewfinder is beautiful. Also, the sensitivity for detecting your eye is better implemented than on the NEX-6. Now, it will usually stay on the rear LCD and only change when your eye is against the finder. On the NEX-6, it would often think anything nearby is an eye and turn off the LCD. Also, Sony has done something with the lens in the finder. I find the screen to look VERY sharp and VERY easy to see. It is a large improvement on the NEX-6 (and I love that finder).
ERGONOMICS: The ergonomics of this camera are simply amazing. The only downside is that the shutter release may feel a bit high (it is on the camera top, not the grip top like the NEX-6). I thought so at first, but now it feels normal. I love the two dials and the rear wheel. However, it is easy to accidently hit the rear wheel and change your ISO. You can lock this wheel and require hitting the “fn” to unlock it, but I haven’t found it to be that disruptive.
MENUS: I love the menus. They are not the NEX style menus, but a single menu screen with all of the various groupings across the top. It is very easy to navigate to find what you are after (I still forget where certain things are on my NEX-6, with its awkward menus). There is an option to overlay the NEX style “tiles,” but that is just a top screen. Once you are past that top screen, the menus are the same.
THE MODE DIAL: Sony took the mode dial from the NEX-6 and fixed the two complaints I had about it. They added 2 custom slots to store all settings. So, if you are shooting and have everything set up perfectly for a common situation, just hit memory in the menu and set it to “1” or “2.” Now, when you turn the mode dial to “1” everything is exactly as you had set it. The second thing they did is get rid of having 2 different “auto” settings. Now, you have just one “auto” slot and pick if you want it to use “intelligent auto” or “intelligent auto+”. And… if you thought that two autos on the mode dial was a good idea, you can always put the second auto in one of your custom slots. So, everyone is happy.
AUDIO: This camera lets you adjust your microphone input gain. It also shows you your recording levels, so you can see if you are getting your volume blown out or have your gain set too low.
VIDEO: This camera has a dedicated “movie” location on the mode dial which you can set up any way you like. You can also press the movie record button from any of the other modes to record a video. The advantage of the movie mode is that the standby time is optimized for video. So, you can see your audio levels and have zebra striping on before you start recording.
CUSTOMIZABLE BUTTONS: This camera lets you customize almost all buttons. I think “menu,” “play,” and up on the click wheel are the only buttons that don’t allow some level of customization. C1, C2, C3, and left, right, down, and center on the click wheel are 100% customizable. The Fn menu is customizable, but the Fn button always will go to this menu. The shutter release is customizable to remove AF and AE on 1/2 click (stop the camera from trying to refocus and re-meter when you snap a shot). The AF/MF – AEL button is fully customizable. Movie button can be turned off while not in movie mode. And the main front and back dials can be swapped between aperture and shutter speed. The rear click wheel is customizable, but I think the default of ISO is the best.
LENSES – NON-SONY: The wonderful thing about the mirrorless camera is that the film plane is much closer to the lens mount than the SLRs. This means that you can fit an adapter in there and run old SLR lenses exactly how they were meant to be (i.e. the distance to the sensor is the same as the lens makers designed the lens for). I have an adapter for Nikon lenses, and love using them on the camera. Just make sure the adapter is “full frame” compatible because some adapters were designed for NEX’s smaller sensor and will block light around the edges. One cool thing is that Metabones makes a smart-adapter for Canon lenses that allows full electronic control and focus of the Canon AF lenses. Most adapters require manual aperture and focus, like the one I have for Nikon (but the camera still works just fine and meters perfectly). And all the leica rangefinder lenses are manual, anyway… so it works just the same (but with TTL viewfinding and focus peaking and focus zooming!!!).
MANUAL FOCUS: Because adapted lenses will mostly be focused manually, manual focus is important. Sony has a brilliant system for this. They use a thing called focus peaking which puts a highlight on hard edges (you can chose white, yellow, or red). Anyway, if something is in focus, it will get this highlight (I use yellow in general). Also, it has a focus zoom function that will give you magnification into a very small part of the picture. So, if you are focusing a portrait, you can zoom in so that the person’s eye fills the whole view finder. You can get that focus sharper than you could ever hope for using an optical view finder. It almost feels like cheating.
LENSES –SONY FE-MOUNT: The a7 / a7R are the first of a new line of cameras. So, native FE-mount full frame lenses are limited. In fact, there were only 2 when I bought this camera. The kit zoom, and the Zeiss 35mm F2.8. The Zeiss 55mm F1.8 will be out by Christmas. And, a Zeiss 24-70 F4 and Sony 70-200G F4 are coming in Q1-2014. So, there will be 5 native lenses in a couple months. Sony has published a roadmap and will have 15 lenses out in the next two years. However, you can get the Sony adapter so you can use all the Sony A-mount lenses (with full autofocus!). That adapter is about $400, and the one without the special autofocus motor is $300. One thing to be warned about is that all of the native lenses are… um… kind of pricy. Some would say, overpriced.
LENSES – SONY E-MOUNT: The camera is also backwards compatible with all of your NEX lenses that were designed for the smaller APS-C sensor. By default, the camera will use those lenses exactly as they appeared on one of the APS-C cameras, by cropping down the full frame image. (On the A7, pictures will be 10.5MP, on the a7R it is 15.75MP) This means you will use only an APS-C sized section of the image sensor. You can turn this off and use the whole sensor, but you will get heavy vignetting because those lenses were not designed to cover full frame. (Note: The SEL 10-18 zoom is one lens that will cover the full frame at 16mm-18mm. No other SEL lenses will cover the frame that I know of, but all will actually cover more area than APS-C… you will just need to manually crop the image later and decide how much vignetting you will accept.)
1. I have the PAL version of the camera, but set it to NTSC video mode. For some reason, the camera gives me a warning “Running in NTSC” every single time I start the camera. I mean, every single time. This is annoying. Sony needs to come up with a way to disable this alert. If you buy from USA Amazon, you should not have this issue unless you switch to PAL mode (I assume).
2. If you are wearing glasses , the viewfinder has to be up to your eye in just the right way before it will recognize your eye and turn on. It works flawlessly with contacts or no glasses. I wish there was a “glasses mode” that would make it more sensitive. However, I still prefer this to the over-sensitive NEX-6 which thinks everything anywhere close to the back of the camera is your eye.
COMPATIBILITY WITH ACCESSORIES – (That I have actually tested)
Stereo Microphone - ECM-XYST1M: The Sony web page says this is compatible, but it is not really. If you put it on, it will record sound. But, under the current firmware, you are unable to adjust audio levels. You can see my Amazon review for this microphone about its way too sensitive auto setting that will crank up the microphone during silence so you always get a low hiss in the background. I thought this would be resolved with the a7’s ability to adjust input gain… but for some reason, the audio levels feature gets disabled when you attach this microphone. The menu item just grays out! Do not buy this for use with the a7. (I have notified Sony about this and will update here if a firmware update solves this issue)
MI Shoe External Flash - HVLF20M: This is the small one, not the giant speed light that is larger than the a7. I really like this flash. It meters through the camera and is small and light. It folds down out of the way (which also turns it off). It can only point forward or bounce off the ceiling, but that is okay for most needs. If you want more than that, you probably need to get creative with tape and a 3x5 index card to direct the light where you want. For what it is, it’s great. It takes AAAs. But, be careful… there is an identical looking version that is for Sony’s old style hot shoe and it will not fit on the a7 without a separate adapter. Be sure the version you get is for the MI Shoe (you can just copy and paste the item code I mention above).
on April 13, 2014
As an enthusiast photographer, that I am, I wanted to give a review from that perspective rather than a more technical perspective from , perhaps, a professional, which I am not capable of doing just yet
Upon opening the box for the first time, I was immediately struck by the small form factor (and somewhat retro look - but just my opinion) and light-weight of the camera body. Indeed, I wasn't sure, at first, there was my camera inside the Amazon box UPS handed to me upon delivery (and UPS will require your signature for this item. Otherwise they are going to leave with nothing and come back another day).
This camera body looks sharp. It's not completely magnesium metal body like its A7R higher priced sibling, but, rather, a mixture of metal and better plastics. But very hard to tell the difference. Point being, no one's going to accuse you of having anything less than a fine well-built camera. It feels good in the hand. A good grip for your right-hand. It's built like a tank. And it's weather sealed.
All the buttons are where I want them to be. Perhaps the shutter button could be a little farther forward but it should be just a matter of getting use to it. The menu system is far easier to use and navigate than on my NEX6. And the NFC between the camera and my Android phone (Galaxy S4) is fast and convenient. The remote control function works very well. Checking latency revealed a very, very slight hesitency. But so minor. You'll hardly notice it. Just a nit-pick on my part (like the shutter button-certainly no game changers).
I bought two lenses (there are only 5 of the FE lenses out as of this writing but Sony is releasing a total of 15 by 2015). The 35mm (very light) and the 55mm somewhat heavier and built well. I use the 35mm as a walk-around street lens because it compliments the light-weight and portability of the full-frame A7. In fact, this is why I bought the A7 in the first place. For street photography and scenics. At first I thought it would be a good 'stealth' camera for the street, but I have come to realize that with todays digital age we're just fooling ourselves if we think they don't know what we're doing. These two lenses, by the way, are Carl Zeiss and they have received some of the highest praise of any lenses on the market today. (A word of note, Sony is coming out with a 70-200mm lens full-frame for this camera April 20 2014 here on Amazon, $1495.00).
So yes, the lens are expensive. But they are proving their worth. But one of the great advantages of these Sony cameras are their absolute adaptability too legacy lenses given numerous availability of lens-mount adapters for Minolta, Leica, Hasselbad, and then, of course, there's Nikon and Canon, as well as some others. So there is a way to get around the expense if you have legacy lenses laying around. Or you can buy some great glass on ebay cheaply which I'm told can rival, in some cases, some of the great glass of today.
Finally, another great accessory which I bought, is Sonys Battery Grip which allows the use of 2 batteries and has a great form factor for the camera giving it a great grip, especially for larger hands as I have. Also I like the button placement.
As you can see. I can't say enough about this camera. But it's totally worth it. In fact it's a steal at this price for what it does as a full-frame camera. With the 35mm lens (minus the battery grip), you can throw it in your shoulder bag or pocketbook, go about your day, and take stellar pictures. You won't regret this purchase.
[...] Have a great day. Richard
on March 10, 2014
As a 20+ years Canon shooter, leaving Canon is one the hardest decision I have ever made. But at the end, SONY's little Alpha 7 have won me over. Let's be perfectly clear, this Camera is not right for everyone. Whether or not you like this Camera, will depend on your shooting style, shooting history, and technical competency. Here is a list of pros and cons for me:
* One of the best full size sensor currently on market
* One incredible performer in low light
* A beautiful electronic viewfinder and under most conditions make you forget you are not using an optical viewfinder
* Very helpful focus aid for manual focus shooters (peaking and magnification)
* Professional quality bodies with well thought out designs
* Very small and light (with the right lenses)
* Short flange focal distance means almost all vantage manual focus lenses can be adopted
* Body very aggressively priced at $1700. With discount, it is an even better deal.
* Good WIFI implementation and connectivity to the web and smartphones. A well thought-out strategy for social media/sharing
* Paucity of full frame E lenses and lenses are very expensive
* Battery drains fast
* JPG quality leaves something to be desired
* Doesn't come with a dedicated charger
* Some control are less intuitive and not as conventional
* AF is still sluggish compared to high end DSLR
* Lack accessories to support studio shooting (ie. wireless flash controller)
While sports and bird photographers will be underwhelmed by the lack of lenses selection and slow AF performance, street and travel photographers would be equally delighted by this camera's image quality, weight reduction and portability. Case and point, A7 with a 35mm Zeiss prime lens weights a mere 530 g or just only slightly over one pound! For discreet street photography, it doesn't get any better than this. In this regard, A7 probably best approximate the Lecia M9 rangefinder experience for street photography. Of course, Lecia will sets you back $7000 for body only!
One reason for me to pickup this Camera is its ability to shoot many (or should I say almost all) of the legacy manual focused glasses. Any vantage glasses from the famous last year (Canon, Lecia, Nikon, Olympus, etc) can be adapted to be used on this camera. If you don't mind working in manual focus mode, these lenses produces very respectable images with classical 60/70/80s flares. Working with these lenses bought me back to the days when I was learning how to take pictures on my father's Canon AE1. In fact, I took very first few pictures on this Camera with his 50mm FD lenses. Although I bought my Camera with a nicely appointed 35mm Zeiss 2.8 lenses, it left neglected in my covered while I was busy exploring one vantage after another. A7's ability to use these lenses its full frame glory, is nothing short of a revelation. SONY's ability to focus peak and magnify view finder on the fly, make using manual focus vantage lenses a joy. In fact, I think this Camera is best enjoyed with small and fast light prime lenses from the 80s. For example, the Canon FD looks to be made for the SONYs both in style and performance. Lecia glasses are simply stunning both in quality and appearance when mated to the A7.
A7 is an extraordinary complex camera with a lot of options. It is a sad thing that SONY didn't include a manual with the box and the online manual doesn't help but scratch the bare surface of its capabilities. It will take time, dedication, and no how to master this camera. Even thought some of the control and menu still feels some what less thought out comparing to professional photography tools from Nikon and Canon. With this said, a little familiarization and work is all that stood between hours after hours of enjoyment.
I find working with A7 is a more deliberate picture making process. This is not good or bad, just different. This again reminds me how I used to take pictures shooting film. With this said, A7 has no shortage of modern gadget appeals. SONY has a well implemented WIFI application suite which is sure to please many. Right in the camera, you can establish direct link with smartphone/tablet, upload photos to computer and post pictures to facebook/flickr. The remote shooting application is intriguing and sure to delight my kids' self addictive generation. SONY also have downloadable applications which you can get/buy to compliment this Camera's appeal.
To summarize, A7 is a beautifully crafted piece of engineering marvel and a perfect balance between artistry, gadgetry and nostalgia. It may not be a perfect camera, but SONY gets my vote for its forward thinking and innovation.
on February 6, 2015
Solid camera when you consider the price point. I've owned and shot lots of Sony cameras including the A900, A77, A77II and A99 a bit. While I have not owned the smaller APSC cameras, I do own a full M43 Olympus system- all high quality primes. Here are my thoughts after a few months of use.
1) Grip is fine. Shutter placement is overstated- you learn to adapt quickly. Although, the placement of your thumb is a much bigger issue. Zero place to put it in the back and you often reach for the edge of the viewfinder to get a grip. Hump on top means no thumb grip- bummer.
2) Dials are very good. I love the ISO dial up top- nailed it! Controls are fairly easy to use and default settings are quite intuitive.
3) Wobbling mount? You'll hear this smack talk from time to time. It's not a problem- it's a minor issue. It's so minor to not even be an issue. I've hung a 135mm 1.8 Zeiss off the front no issues. My thoughts- be mindful of how you hold your camera.
4) EVF eye sensor could be placed higher. It trips easily when the back screen is pulled out. Very annoying- a fix on the A7II.
5) I find if you have fast modern glass it's a bit of a pass. Doesn't match well and feels a bit off balance.
6) Manual focus lenses are good, but adapters add bulk. Best option is VM lenses from Zeiss, Voigtlander. Even Contax are a good option. I use Minolta MD right now and I'm satisfied.
Battery life is not good. Is it a big deal? No- but many modern and modest priced DSLR's can do up to and beyond a thousand shots on a single battery. FORGET ABOUT IT with the A7. This translates into frustration if you spend a lot of time composing with the camera on. It eats batteries since you can't shut the camera off while doing so- such as in the case of a big OVF. You either like it or you don't. Deal breaker- no. Work around needed- yes.
Native lens selection is costly and limited at this point (minus the new 28mm 2.8). Get ready to shell out $$$$ and still be stuck with so so AF and slower options for zooms (think f4). The 55mm 1.8 is a bargain for what it can do- I agree on that lens. 35mm 2.8? Mediocre and overpriced. All of the lenses they have slated coming out this year are big. They are BIG...not like 'big' but literally BIIIGGGG. Add to that almost zero third party lens support.
This leads me to the thought process for most consumers getting around this camera- adapted lenses. It's worth it depending on what quality you are use too. Some of Minolta MD's are becoming harder to find, but 50mm, 135's- all day long and cheap. Don't want 6 bladed harsh bokeh and poor wide open contrast? Step up to Contax, Zeiss, Voigtlander- but get ready to pay more. Contax will give you AF with a good adapter- score!
Want wide? This is where it gets tricky. The rangefinder lenses below 35 suffer from vignetting due to the short flange distance and digital sensor. You need to adapt over DSLR lenses- bigger adapter and often bigger lenses. Still doesn't completely solve the problem, but it's workable. However, this is were this camera should be able to excel- small lenses at modest focal lengths. It's the sweet spot. I don't think it's worth mounting anything over 50mm on it...certainly not anything fast over 135 at 3.5.
I digress, because I do like the camera. My conclusion is that it is a niche product at the present moment. Want to shoot a wedding with it? Pass. Better options for far less. Want to do fast sports or fast tracking- certainly not. Can it be done? Yes, but we're comparing how your $$$ translates from one camera to the next. You can stretch the dollar seriously further elsewhere.
A nod to Loxia. Loxia lenses make sense on this camera. These small Zeiss manual only lenses balance well, but they are 1k or more for performance you could get elsewhere at half the price. Most of those adapted lenses with inexpensive adapters will also give you zero EXIF data. Even worse, many of those cheap adapters do not tell you what aperature your are at. They simply indicate "open- closed."
It's a good camera for the money and it's fun to play around with. No need to explain much further other than the basic user experience is solid. However, I'd be cautious investing INTO the system beyond a body and some manual focus lenses. Got a draw of em'? This is your guy. Want fast modern or specialty lenses and plan on it being your primary system? You can always adapt a zeiss Canon onto an A7- not the other way around. Think about economies here. It's still very much a system in the making.
Keep in mind- Voigtlander is coming out with a new 15mm 4.5 III hellinar. It's great, but the price announced is 200 euros more than the previous version- get ready to pay yet again. If you want wide, you can't do it cheap yet with this system. You can't. Don't think a Tokina 17mm RMC 3.5 will cut it either. Those older lenses have horrible contrast despite really good sharpness- I've tried. You can't fix it all in post processing. Biggest problem is flaring and ghosting wide open.
Many of you will buy it because it's cheap. I find Olympus and their "cheap" 25 and 45 lenses offer a lot of bang for the buck at a better price. There bodies and lenses are all modern and a product of a digital design. Hard to tell the difference in many casesl. Except, I like the colors and dynamic range of sony sensors- can't argue with that. Doesn't always matter. If your reading these reviews it's because you want the camera. I'm a camera addict, so what can I say- nothing will change that. What I am saying is before you buy...grab an A77II, Pentax K3, Olympus EM10....there are some sick products out right now much better suited to a wide variety of situations with excellent IQ. If you have to have that full frame then consider the fact that even D800's can be had for 1700 used these days- even less. Just saying. Happy shooting.
I still have it. I'm about to break a record as I rarely go above a few months before selling off my camera for another. The reasons aren't quite as straighforward I'm afraid. For one, Sony keeps slashing the price like crazy on this. It is now worth less on the used market than a 7 year old Sony A900- which has retained it's value for the past 2.5 years at around 900 dollars. The fast release cycle Sony is putting out is literally killing any resale value these first round of A7's should have had. I feel sorry for the folks who bought this brand new and 1.5 years later have taken a 1k hit should they sell it on ebay (I'm factoring in seller fees).
With that said...you know...it's a pretty tight camera. It gets the job done and doesn't complain. The build isn't great, but it's not bad either. The shutter noise is annoying and hallow sounding but not too annoying that you want to smash it. It's light- that's for sure. You get to appreciating that after a long walk. At this point, I'd chalk it up to being above average in image quality and just average in overall execution of hardware. It's still worth it though. At the prices these are going for you're really getting a steal. Just remember that by time it reaches your door step it'll probably be worth 100 bucks less than when you bought it. I would not be suprised if in a year it's going for 600 or less slightly used. The first 500 dollar barely used Full Frame easy to grab on the market- folks, it's quickly becoming a reality.
This is crazy- but here it goes. I'm selling this camera and going back to an a900. Let me explain. For the past few months as you can see I've been using this camera. I like it- it does a lot of things right, but it's just to quirky. For one, no image stabilization is a bigger let down then I initially thought. Not that big of a deal until you start working with slower adapted lenses. If that's not your thing- then don't worry about it.
Second, I have other small cameras but this grip- I just can't seem to love it. It's not bad- but it's not great either. Any big lenses just make zero sense on this thing. ZERO.
The biggest factor is the native lens selection. The kit lens is very good for the price- get that if you can. 24-70 Zeiss F4 has gotten terrible reviews. 7 blades and poor corner performance for a grand? I'll let the F4 slide, but come on Zeiss and Sony- you really messed up an essential lens. 55 is a gem- that's one lens. 35mm 2.8 has poor corner performance as well and busy bokeh beyond 3.5- it's also 800 bucks. Look up the reviews. It's got the Zeiss color rendition, but I can get that for hundreds cheaper elsewhere. 16-35 does not balance well enough and it's expensive while still failing to be quite compact.
This system is expensive. The depreciation is atrocious. It doesn't mean it's a bad deal- but to squeeze the advantages out of it you have to open your wallet up VERY WIDE. I've thought about the trade up to the A7II, but I'd be out 700 bucks easy. That's just horrible and I have little faith that camera will not share the same fate as this one. Wait until it comes under 1k in value.
Lastly, my olympus gear gives me pretty much the same quality with the primes. You don't have to take my word for it- I've gone over this over and over and over and over again...side by side, comparison after comparison. I can't deny what I see and that older legacy glass underperforms- it just underperforms. Now you can go Contax G or Voiglander but the prices are still rather high- and your stuck adapting lenses which is never the superior choice...yet that is. A7RII seems very promising.
If you don't own other systems feel free to grab this camera. It's not bad, it really isn't. However, the cost of lenses, lack of third party choices (good ones like the Tamoron 15-30, Sigma ART 35mm 1.4, yada yada) just takes away the buzz I get from small and light. Sony is being so aggressive with these cameras that it's killing owners in terms of resale. It's actually the A mount gear that's the better bargain for sure. After picking up the A77II and running them for awhile together- I feel the A77II is far superior. Plus, I'd rather use a beercan 70-210 for 60 bucks over the overpriced Zeiss 70-200 for about a grand. Think economies here. I do have the Zeiss 50 and 135 in A mount. I've shot the 55 1.8 and 50 together. The differences are so minimal that I'd be hard pressed to recommend one over the other. For the cost right now, I can get a used 85mm 1.4 and 24mm F2 Zeiss for less than the price of the Batis 85mm. If you don't think cheap like me, then no problem- I completely respect that. However, I'll take some of that extra chroma down low for all the great qualities Zeiss has at a fraction- a fraction of the price.
Folks, this system will shine in the future no doubt. It's a complicated affair between wants verses needs verses hype, etc. This camera is now a great deal, but for the love of God try it out first. I personally am going to wait it out until the crazy dust settles on this new system....maybe jump back in after a year or two. I have faith Sony will continue to provide better adaptability options down the road. Good luck folks.
I am a professional photographer/graphic artist but will not be reviewing this camera from the perspective of comparing it in any way to specialized pro gear. That would not be fair to any camera or anyone considering the A7 as it fits into its own niche. There are dozens of reviews on the internet written by authors who have a long and extensive experience in publishing camera reviews. I suggest you do a search and read them all from beginning to end, especially the very in-depth analysis at dpreview. Then of course, consider the many reviews posted here at Amazon, some of them very well written and, as always, some of them based more on personal opinion and brand preference than fact. This review will strive to hit the most important things you should know when considering this very unique camera and justifying to yourself the worth to you at a price very close to $2000.
WHAT IS THE A7?
When a new product category is innovated it is hard to peg it into a nice neat box. Putting aside its price for a moment, the A7 is neither a pocket camera, bridge camera, enthusiast DSLR nor pro-grade shooter. As a full-frame, small body, interchangeable lens mirrorless camera it stands in a very uncrowded field. It is too large to appeal to pocketcam fans, way too expensive to match the super-zoom bridge cameras on price, about 3X as expensive as popular enthusiast DSLR's with kit lenses and all-around lacks almost everything a pro photographer looks for, particularly ruggedness and easy access to a wide variety of industry-standard lens mounts and other accessories. Yet it is being cited time and again as one of the most exciting cameras of the era and for good reason. My assessment (backed by Sony) is that the A7 is directed at someone who is serious about image quality and willing to give up things like fast burst shooting, ultra-fast auto focusing, i.e. the classic Leica rangefinder photographer who doesn't have a Leica budget and isn't ready to give up some technological assistance quite yet in favor of strictly manual photography. For many it might be considered an ideal street camera because of its unassuming looks and shoot-from-the-hip capabilities.
WHAT IS THE BEST APPLICATION FOR A CAMERA LIKE THIS?
One answer might be "if you've got the bucks for a top-end toy, go for it". Most people do not have an extra $2k laying around for a camera. The question might be better answered that the A7 is not a do-all, perfect solution for everyone camera. The ideal target user is one whose creativity demands the image quality of a full-frame sensor but does not intend to use the camera in the rough and tumble world of photojournalism or sports photography. Someone who can take the time to compose and adjust a camera manually and finds that freedom lacking in point-and-shoots or bridge cameras and despite the higher image quality of prosumer DSLR's finds them too cumbersome as a compact takealong street camera. For me it has finally satisfied that niche I needed and wanted to produce images the way I see them and imagine them without the compromise of tiny image sensors or the bulk and complexity of my pro gear. In other words an oversized pocket camera created for perfectionists.
WHAT ARE ITS STONG POINTS?
The physical size of the image sensor is what makes this camera sizzle. Regardless of "megapixels" there is simply no way to produce the best possible imagery using smaller than full-frame sensors. The abundance of manual controls and customizable presets, interchangeable (and sometimes superb) lenses, a smooth-feeling zoom and focus ring, a best-in-class electronic viewfinder (so good you forget it's not optical), excellent ergonomics, solid and water-resistant body construction and electronics that don't get in the way of creativity go a long way toward making this camera worth it's hefty price tag. Once you get past specs and opinions and get it in your hands you get a satisfying feeling of the glory days of photography and an urge to push it to its limits.
WHAT ARE ITS WEAK POINTS?
I often tell my students that a camera doesn't make a photograph, a photographer does. And the A7, as a photographic tool, give a creative photographer much of what s/he needs to create superb imagery. But in the physics of camera design there is no such thing as perfection. The most egregious error that could be made is to waste the A7's potential by never exploring beyond the kit lens. Don't get me wrong, the kit lens is very capable and when purchased in combo with the body is very attractively priced, but it imposes limitations on a camera that is so much more capable. Putting aside what I do for a living and any comparison to high-end pro gear if I never took the kit lens off the camera I would be missing out on much of what Sony had in mind in designing it. While Sony is in the infancy stage of offering quality lenses specifically designed for the A7/R (as of this review's date there are 4 with more to come), the brilliance of the design plus the ingenuity of after-market manufacturers translates to there being several affordable adapters that permit you to use many of your existing lenses (even non-Sony lenses) or specialty lenses that may fit a particular need of yours.
* Slightly slower startup time than the typical DSLR but nowhere near unacceptable
* Shutter sound a bit loud for stealth photography but not as bad as some reviews would have you believe
* Battery life is just okay, there's a lot going on in this camera electronically and the battery just doesn't have the stamina to keep up with it. Hint: keep the WiFi set to the airplane mode and your battery life will increase substantially.
* Stiff shutter button (the detent feels great but the pressure to release is just a little strong)
* Too easy to turn camera off when trying to use front control dial. This is probably the most serious design issue I've found. Nearly every time I use the camera my forefinger either shuts the camera off when I am trying to use the front dial or, possibly worse, accidentally changes a setting while I am reaching for the shutter release. Simply put, the front dial is in the wrong location
* My personal preference would have been that Sony designed the manual focus switch to be a mechanical switch/button rather than a menu item. The autofocus is pretty accurate but not as accurate as my eye and brain. It is a multi-step process to switch to manual focus (which is focus-by-wire, by the way) ... neither being a positive feature for a camera in this league.
* But there is a nice happy ending to the focus button issue which, after a little menu setup, can work out quite well. The AEL button doubles as an AF/MF button. It's placed in an easy-to-access location and simply what it does it permits switching momentarily from MF to AF to take a quick "read" then taking control back over from there to fine-tune the manual focus for the shoot, OR it will momentarily switch from AF to MF to let the camera do all the focus thinking and first and then switch to MF (which gives a temporary enlargement to assure perfect focus). I know it sounds a bit complicated but it is brilliant in actual use. Personally I'm getting in the habit of letting the camera tell me what it thinks is right but taking quick corrective action if I suddenly decide to switch to a different point of focus. PS-there is a third focusing option which is Direct Manual Focus. Similar to both of the above the camera defaults to autofocus but when the user turns the focus ring they can take direct control to touch-up focus.
* Sony's downloadable PlayMemories software is very consumer-oriented, but it is necessary if you wish to take advantage of the camera's built-in WiFi. It is good for quickly downloading a few files but snail-like if you have more than about a dozen files to download. Its worst feature is by default it wants to search your hard drive and load every photo it finds into Sony's album organizer. You can turn that feature off but it switches on again automatically every time you connect the camera. In my case I have about 100,000 photos stored on several connected hard drives and PlayMemories insists it knows better how to organize them than me. It doesn't.
BOTTOM LINE - PICTURE QUALITY - DOES IT DELIVER?
If you read the paragraph above you understand that for my non-business (i.e. family time, vacation, fun excursions) usage I have finally migrated from a decent enthusiast DSLR to a this nice mirrorless camera. The ultimate bottom line is that sensors, processors and other components have simply gotten better and the A7 is simply more capable than my 60D (which was equipped with one of Canon's best lenses rather than a kit lens). When used with a Leica prime lens on the A7 I can accomplish some photographic magic that transcends marketing hype. I have this sense that nothing mechanical (other than the misplaced front dial) about the camera is holding me back. Let me edit that ... the camera, mechanically, is not the most capable for high-speed sports photography and will sometimes struggle with autofocus (which I rarely use) in low light. But as a manual camera for exacting creative projects the A7 may rank as one of a handful of best-ever photographic tools and when used as such its little trivial foibles simply melt away. The A7 is especially adept in the role of a "street camera", one that does not impose or intimidate and is capable of a good degree of stealth photography due to having the tiltable live-view view screen on the back as well as a very good eye-level viewfinder.
Here are some random thoughts that did NOT directly affect how many "stars" this product earned:
* The packaging, for the selling price, is very low grade to the point of being cheap. I don't feel Sony adequately protects a $2000 product nor presents it in a way befitting its price.
* There is a comprehensive instruction manual included in the box, but it small with a tiny typeface and printed on the cheapest paper imaginable. At the time I received my camera there was no comparable PDF file at the Sony website available for download.
* There are no software disks in the box. Sony directs you to a special website to download their Personal Memories software, which is very consumer-oriented. More difficult to locate is Sony's unique RAW file converter, developer, editor available at their website as well as a third bit of software. The RAW file editor crashed and would not work. That gave me my first opportunity to deal with Sony's tech support which was inadequate, I kept getting off-topic responses from them to the point where the rep simply gave up and I had to request the issue be escalated, and as of this review nothing has been able to fix the issue.
* There isn't a starter SD card included in the box. That is not a big deal because anymore most people (especially those who buy a $2000 camera) want to carefully select exactly which card they feel best suits their needs.
* Sony obviously hit the mark with a perfectly sized, ergonomically excellent, lightweight camera body. How much better would this camera have felt if the kit lens was about the same overall volume in size and about the same weight as the body? Of course it's possible, especially at Sony, a kit lens that is half the size and weight would have put this camera over the moon.
* I have owned over 100 film and digital cameras. I strongly suggest that despite your skill level you live with this camera set to the "Auto" position for at least the first few days. During that time take note of your shooting habits before ever delving into the menu system. There are a staggering number of different configurations you can assign to each "Custom" button plus dozens of other user-defined setups. Resist the urge to start setting them all until you get the feeling for the overall camera. Then proceed slowly. I assure at some point you will feel this camera is an extension of your brain if you take the time to set it up properly.
* If you are used to having a built-in flash you will have to get unused to it and that's not necessarily a bad thing. Pro photographers don't use built-in flashes for a very good reason; they can absolutely ruin what would have been a great photograph. Take the opportunity to learn to work with light and if there is no light, add it judiciously rather than have a xenon bulb explode a torrent of light flatly and directly at your subject.
* Anyone reading this should be clear that virtually any camera stumbles when using auto-focus in low light. The A7 is actually better than many others in low light for two reasons ... it has probably the brightest AF illuminator I've ever seen, it's been able to focus on someone's face across a darkened room. Use it if you want to autofocus in low light conditions. And the manual focus has some features that make it easy to use and accurate in near darkness, specifically the aforementioned superb viewfinder and the ability to temporarily magnify a select part of your subject to permit precise focusing.
* I also have a Sony "bridge" camera that has both an electronic viewfinder and a rear screen. Many of the reviews for that camera criticize the fact that it requires a manual switch to go from using one viewfinder to the other (it doesn't sense your eye to switch automatically). I totally disagree, I much prefer to choose which viewfinder manually. One reason is I don't want my entire face lit up by the bright rear screen when I am taking candid photos in a darkened area. To set it to one or the other you must dive deep into the menu to choose one viewfinder or the other. The eye sensor is also too sensitive ... I can be using the rear screen to compose a shot and if I move my hand to use one of the rear buttons the sensor thinks that's my eyeball and shuts off the rear screen. That can be very annoying when it happens just as I am about to capture an image.
Final score about 4.75 stars. Since Amazon doesn't permit fractional ratings the A7 will be rounded up to 5 stars. There really are no compelling negatives to not consider this camera once you are really fully aware of what it does, and what it doesn't do. And that has to be a decision that you alone make, not based on brand-name fans or anyone else's reviews.
on December 3, 2013
BOTTOM LINE (if you're in a hurry): A fantastic camera that has delivered consistently excellent results for me across a range of lenses. The A7R has a better sensor, but there have also been some shutter vibration issues with that more expensive body, which you might want to research before making your choice.
I'm an experienced amateur street and art photographer; I don't make a living from photography, but I aim to produce professional-quality images. I'm good with gadgets and can find my way around menus. I think anybody reviewing a camera owes it to the reader to provide this kind of context right off the bat. If you're a wedding photographer or just want to take snapshots of your kids, your criteria and concerns are likely different from mine.
I bought the A7 with kit lens to complement my Nikon D800 and lenses. I wanted something smaller, lighter, and less conspicuous without sacrificing too much in image quality. I sold my OM-D E-M5 and lenses to finance this purchase; the E-M5 is a great, very responsive camera but ultimately I felt the image quality wasn't good enough for my purposes now, and certainly wouldn't be good enough 2-3 years from now. High ISO images, in particular, had unacceptable levels of noise. Cropped images looked awful. This is also why I decided to pass on the E-M1, which sounds like a beast, performance-wise, but doesn't improve substantially on the E-M5's image quality, especially in low light. Only about 10% of the shots I keep were coming from the E-M5, while 50% were coming from my D800, 20% were coming from my Sigma DP2 Merrill, and another 20% from my Ricoh GR (APS-C sensor), which I take everywhere. I've also recently owned a Sony RX100 (first version) and a Canon Rebel T2i. The cameras just named are my current-generation points of reference.
Before opening the box I'd read discouraging things about AF speed. I'm not sure what camera and lens those reviewers were using, but my A7 with kit lens focuses very quickly, even in low light with the focus assist lamp turned off (some have reported that turning the lamp off actually seems to help). Furthermore, focus on this lens is extremely quiet--at first I thought nothing was happening, but lo and behold, the shots were in focus. In daylight it seems to focus almost as fast as the E-M5
High ISO noise is minimal at 1600, well-controlled at 3200, and still usable at 6400. I can't say that about the E-M5, which I didn't dare push past 3200 lest I get harsh chroma noise that that no amount of post-processing could redeem.
Before receiving the A7 I also read complaints about the JPEG engine. I only shoot RAW (I'm now editing the files with Lightroom 5.3RC), so this isn't an issue for me. I realize this camera is meant to be an entry-level full-frame, but I assume if you're willing to pay more for full frame it must be because you want the best in image quality; if you want the best in image quality, you need to go RAW. If you want to shoot tons of casual JPEGs and can't be bothered to post-process, there are plenty of wonderful APS-C options from which to choose, including the Fuji X series cameras, which deliver beautiful JPEGs right out of the camera. The Olympus M43 JPEGs are also very nice as long as you're not shooting under extreme conditions.
Image quality on the whole is excellent, standing up to comparison with my D800, with files only two-thirds the size. Sony sensors (including that in the Nikon) tend to deliver images that feel way too cold and digital to my taste unprocessed, but the D800 and A7 give me enough detail, dynamic range, and color depth to process and crop to my liking.
The kit lens isn't the sharpest (I prefer primes anyway), though I haven't yet encountered the chromatic aberration noted by another reviewer. Many reviews have been lukewarm, but I think it's an accomplishment in its own right: small, extremely light, quiet, stabilized, and great value. I wouldn't use it with the 36MP A7R, and if one wants to shoot landscapes or portraits or night shots one obviously needs to use more specialized lenses, but this is a solid daytime walkabout zoom. I think it's definitely worth the $300 kit price bump, though maybe not the $500 it costs when bought new separately.
The menu system is a bit involved, but it felt familiar to me after living for a year with the RX100.
The body is larger and heavier than the E-M5 if you do a careful comparison, but not by enough to really notice when you're shooting. In real-world situations, it feels about the same.
Now some CONS:
The startup time is very slow, maybe the slowest of any camera I've ever used. I hope a firmware update will improve that a bit.
Battery life is poor and there isn't a charger included. Big deal! You can pick up a Wasabi two-pack with charger for $27. Problem solved.
The shutter is loud. I was hoping that the electronic first curtain would make for a stealthier shutter sound than the honking A7R, and it IS better, but still far from stealthy.
In sum, this camera isn't perfect, but it has met my early expectations and exceeded the dampened expectations caused by a few early reviews. I don't regret selling my E-M5 for a second. And while it isn't perfect, it's a very impressive first effort at a full-frame mirrorless body for the masses. Future iterations will only get better, and as the lens selection fills out I think we'll eventually see a dramatic shake-up in the format landscape. It's becoming increasingly absurd to have slapping mirrors in front of super-high resolution digital sensors, and if you can get full-frame this small and this inexpensive, M43 mirrorless is also very much under threat, as are Leica bodies. Where M43 really has the edge is with compact telephoto lenses, an advantage that the M43 players haven't fully exploited with top-notch long lenses (the Olympus 75 1.8 is a notable exception, though it isn't really that long).
As the system stands today, I'd say this and the A7R are best for fine art, street, and travel photography. Event and sports photographers and photojournalists will obviously stick to their fully-evolved DSLR systems for now, while casual shooters are probably best off with one of the countless APS-C options available in all sizes.
In the coming days I'll do some testing with a Leica Summarit 90mm 2.5f that I purchased especially for use with this camera, as well as with my Zeiss ZF lenses, and update this review. The ability to use this camera with most, if not all, of the stellar legacy lenses already out there was another major factor in my decision to buy, and I'm looking forward to seeing what it can do. I'll also be picking up either the 35 2.8 or 55 1.8 ZA lens once my wallet cools off a bit.
I've had a chance to try the body with the Leica Summarit 90mm f/2.5, the Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 ZF.2 and the Zeiss 100mm f/2 Makro-Planar ZF.2. I'm a photographer and not a gear tester so my experiments weren't rigorously controlled, but here are some subjective impressions.
The Leica works like a dream with this camera. I could get derailed singing the praises of this lens, but since this a review of the camera I'll just say that the A7's two-stage MF magnification assist is great and the focus peaking function is even greater, especially when you don't have forever to focus. It's MUCH easier to use non-native lenses with this camera than with the Oly E-M5. Now I see what I was missing in not having a NEX. Manual focusing is also easier and more accurate than with the D800/Zeiss combo.
I was wondering whether there would be any vignetting or corner smearing with the Zeiss 21, as these issues have been reported with some super-wide M-mount lenses. No such issues with the F-mount Zeiss, I guess because of the much longer flange distance.
The Zeiss 100 more or less performed as expected, but there is one fly in the ointment: I did notice greater night-time haloing and flare from bright lights at the same aperture with the Zeiss than with the Leica or with the same Zeiss mounted on my D800 (on which that lens also exhibited some haloing, more than the Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 VR II at the same focal length and aperture). This could be remedied by stopping down, but sometimes that isn't always an option. There was some haloing (though much less) with the 21 as well. This might be a function of my adapter (I'm using the Vello) or it may be something that can't really be remedied with this combination. I'm not an expert in optics so I can't really say (if anybody reading this is, please enlighten me!). With the Leica in my bag I don't plan on using the 100 much with the A7 anyway (except for occasional macro work), and both Zeiss lenses made everything a little too front heavy. I did buy this camera for the lightness and compactness, after all, and slapping an all-metal DSLR lens on the front kind of negates that benefit.
A lot of people are currently testing the gamut of legacy lenses on this camera with more rigor than I have; you can find links to those tests on the Sony Alpha rumors website or do Google and Flickr searches if you're curious about how a particular lens plays with this camera. For my part, I'm both excited and financially terrified at the prospect of getting more M-mount lenses to use with the A7. It really is a great combination--one just has to do one's homework on the super-wides before diving in. Focal lengths 35 mm and higher generally seem to be fine. (UPDATE: The Zeiss Biogon 35 f/2 ZM has very blurry corners with the A7 according to the tests I've seen. I'm revising my recommendation: One should check the tests for any non-native lens that one wants to pair with the A7 before purchasing. The results can be unpredictable.) Many of the Voigtlander and Zeiss M-mount lenses are excellent and reasonably priced, and peaking makes manual focusing as easy as pie. Amazing. This camera just may displace the D800 as the one I use most.
DxO has given the A7's sensor a rating of 90, compared with a 96 for the D800E, a 95 for the A7R and the D800, a 94 for the D600 and 610, and a 93 for the RX1. I was hoping the A7 would score closer to the D600, which has a very similar Sony sensor, or at least the RX1, so I am a little disappointed, as I do trust the objectivity of DxO ratings. The A7 does have the advantage of slightly faster PDAF focus, but given that neither the A7 nor the A7R is really suited for action photography, that's not a very compelling selling point. The A7R also beat the A7 at high ISOs, despite having higher pixel density. The A7 still outperforms the Leica M Typ 240 (84), and is well ahead of the Olympus EM5 (71) and EM1 (73). I'm still happy with my purchase, but if this were to be my only camera and not a complement to the D800, I would certainly pay the $600 extra for the A7R body.
There have been reports of vibration issues in certain specialized with the shutter of the A7R. You can Google it, or go directly to the Sony Alpha Rumors website to learn more. This is not an issue with the electronic first curtain shutter used on the A7. In light of this emerging problem--disappointing for a $2300 camera--I'm happy to stay with the A7, which has continued giving me excellent results in the three weeks I've had it. I've been putting it through its paces on a trip to Tokyo, where I've been using a large number of (incredible bargain) legacy Nikon lenses with outstanding results. I'll update with a fuller report soon.
on September 15, 2014
I am a pro. I have been shooting for close to 20 years as a cannon photographer for weddings and babies. A few years ago I got sick. I now have a disease that makes my joints unstable and weak. My beloved Cannon Mark III became to much for me. To continue to do the job I love I had to switch to something much lighter.
I love the low light capability but I have to say the focusing leaves much to be desired.
I shot in Venice at night and did not have to use a flash pretty cool. I shot all over Italy and my shoulders and neck were saved. I still cheat in the studio and pull out the Mark III but it could be that I just know it better then the new sony
on April 1, 2014
After about 6 months of research and waiting, I got my a7, knowing that it is not a perfect camera, but that it is exactly what wanted. There are a ton of reviews of this camera out there telling you the pro's and con's and its features, you can read about them or watch a ton of video reviews, there is no lack of information about this camera on the internet, especially after it was named camera of the year by pop-photo magazine. So to variate from a typical review, I will give you a different perspective from a camera junkie who loves photography and has been doing it for a long time...
This camera is targeted to the semi-pro or high end consumer who wants great quality pictures in a small package (you know that already) what I'll tell you is that, as that semi-pro, I'm surprised and very pleased with my new a7. I've been shooting it for about 15 days now, I have the Zeiss 55mm f1.8 and the 24-70mm f4. The zoom lens is great (though it's gotten some bad reviews), but I really like the 55mm F1.8, which couples great with the full-frame sensor on this beast. But since this review is for the a7, I'll focus on the camera it self:
In my opinion, the camera really delivers in the Image Quality department, IQ is truly awesome and distinctive, specially if you compare it to other mirror-less cameras. No doubt the best IQ for any mirror-less camera option up-to-date (APR-2014), I had a Canon 5D mk3, (which I eventually got rid of due to its size and weight) and the pictures from this a7 are just as good as the 5Dmk3, in my opinion (without getting into technical details); however, its performance is not up-to-par with a pro-level-full-frame DSLR. This camera has some really cool features, but there are some annoying things that could be improved, like way the camera does auto ISO, the way apps work, and the (sometimes sluggish) focus system. Yet these are things that you can easily overcome by learning how to use the camera and tweaking it your way. Which brings me to another point: this camera is HIGHLY customizable, unlike previous versions of the NEX. Like any DSLR, you have to learn how to use this before you can start to get great shots consistently.
The reason why I could not give it 5 stars is because I do not think its performance is optimized. By performance I mean the focus system, the battery life, the time it takes to turn it on, the slow FPS rate, the lack of stabilization-system (in-camera), and the AutoISO. But again, these are things that you can easily overcome.
There is a large selection of compact mirror-less options out there, what makes this camera stand out is the large full-frame sensor, which produces some really special shots, better than any other mirror-less option out there. I also have an OMD EM5, which I love, and enjoy much. But it does not produce the quality images that I get from this a7. They are two different cameras, that in my opinion complement each other. Keeping in mind that the Sony FE system is still relatively new, the lens selection will hopefully grow for native mount full frame lenses, but having the option to adapt lenses from other systems and use the focus peaking system, makes this camera a ready-to-go option as well.
The camera is easy to use, having had NEX cameras in the past, I feel that this menu system is an improvement, though there is still the need to dig around to find what you want. With the difference that you can customize the a7 to have all the features you use and need assigned to any button you want! Overall the camera feels rugged, solid/sturdy, not too heavy, not too light, VERY portable for a full frame with this type of IQ, and it is a total pleasure to use with just about any lens.
There are complaints about the quality of the JPEGs, and clunkyness of the shutter vibration, which may cause camera-shake in long exposures. I recently updated the firmware, which is supposed to improve the IQ of JPEGs, and I really find the quality of my pictures (JPEGs and RAW) very nice, which is the main reason why I got this. Though I have to admit that for my special shots I only shoot RAW, then I work in post production using Lightroom 5, which has worked very well.
As far as video, I don't use it often. Yesterday I went to a botanical garden and shot some video of flying butterflies, and I found the video quality of the MP4s in HD pretty decent, the camera does a great job focusing while panning and following moving objects. Again, I do not use the video much, and I'm not a video expert, but it does a decent job for what I've seen so far.
Overall this is great buy, for $1600+ (at the time of this writing) it is the lowest priced high-end camera with a full-frame sensor, not to mention all of the features it has and the weather sealing... That's GREAT value! I think Sony will work out the kinks of the shutter noise and other performance issues in a later version of the camera, and me being the camera-junkie that I am, will probably upgrade when that comes out. That is not to say that I would upgrade right away. This is a very capable camera, that is a pleasure to use, and it produces pro-level images. In the end, as much as you love new technology and fancy features, good pictures are NOT taken by a good camera, they're taken by a good photographer! Which is why I really value how the camera feels when I am using it, the more comfortable you are with the camera, the better your pictures will likely be. I know you are reading this as part of your research to help you make a decision, so what I say to you is that: Understand that this is NOT a perfect camera, and that there are some things that a DSLR will do better, but if you want to have a very portable camera, capable of producing pro-level, high quality shots, with a few shortcomings, at a relatively affordable price for a full-frame, then this is your best bet right now. But if you don't mind carrying around a bigger camera, bigger lenses, and you have more money to spare, then there are better choices for you. I hope this helped you get closer to making a decision... Happy Shooting ;)
UPDATE (for HDR lovers):
I've had the camera for almost a month now, recently took it to a trip in which I had a long lay-over in Paris, so I decided to go sight-seeing and took bracketed shots of the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, and other monuments. Then I put the shots together using HDR software. The results are absolutely stunning! this camera is spectacular for those who love to do HDR photographs. Let me be clear though: Not the HDR pictures that come out straight from the camera, but rather taking bracketed shots at different exposure levels then using HDR Efx pro or other software. The reason why this camera is so good for HDR is because of the different bracketing options, and the amazing dynamic range in each shot, even in low light and hand held (using the 24-70 that has OSS) I got surprising results that I have not had with my beloved OMD- EM5. I am really pleased with this camera.
on February 19, 2014
Over the past few years I've collected Canon 5 and 6Ds, and Nikon D600s/800s
I have a full frame fetish for sure. Once the A7/A7r were announced I was really excited, the biggest problem I've had with the full frame DSLRs is size especially for travel or quick runs around town.
I wanted something easier to travel with, and because these cameras are mirror-less and very easy to adapt to the wide variety of full frame lenses I have - Canon, Nikon, Rokinon, Sigma as well as a couple true video lenses I have, I was really looking forward to this system.
I've tried some of the M34 systems and was left feeling....well not impressed.
When I got the Sony I was over the moon, stunning image quality, much faster than expected autofocus, lots of manual control. OLED viewfinder that was just awesome and a very well functioning semi-articulating screen.
While I'm not a pixel peeper, there isn't a lot of terrible bad things you can say about this camera - it's a new class and performs really well.
Here are my biggest gripes, that for me have forced me to just exchange the camera.
1. With the Sony Kit lens there is an unacceptable amount of rotational play at the mount. Now, I'm not talking and inch or something, but the wiggle is there at the mount point. Its somewhere between a 1/16 and 1/32nd of inch. Yeah I know, a little OCD.
2. The wiggle would be fine if it not for the copy of the kit lens I got. The zoom ring is very stiff, which is usually a good thing. But because of the torque required to spin the zoom barrel, the lens first rotates at the "wiggle point" on the mount and then the lens barrel moves. Its a weird feeling, but not a huge deal, but its a detail that I've become obsessed about. Its super annoying and gives me doubts about the system build quality.
To be fair, I went to the Sony store and EVERY lens I mounted to the a7 in store as well as my own copy did this. Additionally, their other DSLRS like the A99 did the same thing. BUT, only with Sony lenses! If I put an adapter on for my Canon or Nikon lenses no problem at the mount point. I don't know what to say here. I can't figure out why Sony lenses (not Zeiss) have this problem.
Frustrating for sure, as no Canon or Nikon body/mount I have had as ever done this.
3. This is actually my biggest gripe, and I'm not sure it can fixed on the current version of the A7.
The front panel (where it connects to the mount) is plastic, not metal as compared to the A7r. With the kit lens and the torque involved to turn the zoom barrel on my copy of the lens, to the right side of the lens mount (when looking at the camera right below the a7 logo) there is a noticeable amount of body flex and an audible "creak" at that point. It's like there is a screw loose on the inside of the body itself.
The kit lens is light. So while annoying, I could live with it. However when I put some old Nikor Lenses (all metal) on the body or even my newish Rokinon 35mm Cinema lens even with slight movements, the body flexed this panel and gave an audible creak.
Sorry, this is not something I want on a $2k kit. I've initiated a exchange with my current setup, however I'm worried because of the torque needed on the kit lens and the fact that the front panel is plastic this will continue with the replacement.