170 of 180 people found the following review helpful
A good working tool,
This review is from: Sony a7R Full-Frame 36.4 MP Interchangeable Digital Lens Camera - Body Only (Electronics)
Our Sony a7R arrived five days ago and we, my wife and I, have had a chance to put the camera through its paces. Although, it does not have a kit lens, we also have a Sony a7 that comes with a 28-70 mm lens. Our experience with the a7R reflects using that lens.
As we expected the camera works great, delivering consistent exposure in dim or bright light. We have found autofocus speed to be good under daylight conditions. We have used it indoors and have been satisfied with its automatic focusing speed, although in dim light it takes a tad longer. We have used the Sony NEX-6 and NEX-7 and found the a7R's focusing speed comparable to those two cameras. For most subjects, the focusing speed is fast enough and we found it satisfactory.
We rely heavily on manual focusing, especially for our scientific photography work. This camera makes manual focusing a pleasure. The camera has two modes for facilitating focus. One is the traditional increase in viewfinder magnification: the center of which is magnified for close inspection of fine detail. The increased magnification sacrifices the field of view. The other is peaking. This provides a pseudo colored fringe around in-focus edges and provides us the advantage of seeing the whole field of view. We have used both and find them to be powerful working tools when focusing lenses manually.
The electronic viewfinder works very well with a diopter control for focusing ones eye to the screen and various aids for evaluating exposure. Not only does the viewing screen vary in brightness as one departs from the recommended exposure, but there is a histogram displayed in the viewfinder. In addition, there is a "zebra" mode. This causes over exposed highlights to display stripes and is a good indicator of when and where you will lose your highlight detail.
We have taken some great shots in dim lighting conditions. For us, we took advantage of Sony's Image Data Converter software v. 4.0 and opened the images into this program; however, we note that this program immediately applies an aggressive noise reduction filter so that in regions with fine detail the image appears "smudged". We found it preferable to turn off the noise reduction in that program and save the image as a 16-bit tiff. This picture can then be processed in Photoshop where we used Noise Ninja to reduce the effects of noise without losing fine detail. We were happy with pictures taken at ISO 3200.
The a7R's major weakness, in our opinion, is the paucity of full frame Sony autofocus lenses for this camera. While you can use the NEX series of lenses, this will use only the central part of the sensor. When you do so, the camera crops down and provides a 15-megapixel (4800x3200 pixels) image. If you are willing to sacrifice autoexposure, autofocus, and image stabilization you do have the option of using non-Sony lenses. We have used a 20 mm AIS Nikon and while we need more time to check the image files to evaluate edge sharpness and chromatic aberration, our initial results look promising. We used these lenses in Aperture-priority mode, letting the camera set the shutter speed while we set the lens diaphragm. With the camera operating in "stopped down" mode, it gave us a real time depth of field display. It should be noted that when using the camera in Aperture priority or Manual mode, the lens is always used in a stopped down mode. So autofocus speed of E mount lenses will be slower when you use smaller apertures. In dim lighting conditions, using these modes will also cause the lens to "hunt" for focus when the aperture is closed down or if you are using a slow lens. If focusing speed is an issue, try using P or S mode on the camera..
There is a lot more to describe about this camera, but in a nutshell it is a reliable photographic tool. We have noticed that it does consume batteries. We ordered a couple of spare batteries by the second day. We also prefer to use an independent battery charger rather than charging the batter through the camera body.
We have been working with the LEAE4 lens adapter for the a7R and we are very satisfied with the combination. As noted in our review, we felt a weakness of this series of cameras is the lack of full frame autofocus lenses that can be used with this camera. One solution is to buy the LAEA4 adapter that accepts Sony's A mount lenses and maintains full autofocus capability. This adapter is quite complex and as a result it is expensive. It contains a semi-transparent mirror that directs a fraction of the light to a set of focusing sensors. This unit takes over focusing and, essentially, converts the a7R to a SLT camera. In essence it replaces the contrast detection focusing system with a phase detection one. This has a couple of advantages. First, there is an increase in focusing speed over the contrast based system. Second, it appears that this unit has more sensitivity for working in lower light levels. Finally, this unit will work with the older, discontinued, Minolta AF and Konica-Minolta AF lenses. Many of these lenses rely on a focusing motor housed in the camera body and this adapter contains such a motor. So as a consequence, this adapter will autofocus with older discontinued Minolta products and it will autofocus all of Sony's A-series AF lenses. The adapter weighs only 4 ounces and does not adversely affect camera handling. Also, it is well designed. If you use a Sony A series lens which is designed for an APS-C sensor, the unit will "crop" down and use only the center of the a7R sensor to provide an image free of vignetting.
With this adapter we have used a 500 m f8.0 Minolta AF Mirror lens, their 100-300 mm APO zoom telephoto lens, and a Tamron 90 mm f/2.8 macro lens. We also used the kit lens from our A77 to test the "auto crop" capability of the adapter and camera combo. With these lenses, the unit autofocuses the lens rapidly in dim lighting conditions.
Although this adapter is more expensive than the LAEA3 adapter, we feel its expense is justified. The former adapter will only autofocus those lenses which have a focus motor built-in the lens barrel while the latter will focus all autofocus lenses in the A line. In addition, the latter unit focuses rapidly. These two features make the additional expense more acceptable.
Recently I decided to upload some Apps from Sony's online store. As you may know, Sony NEX cameras and the a7/a7R camera have wireless capability that enables them to transfer images to smartphones and tablets. In addition, this capability can be used to download apps to your camera to provide it additional features. For example, Sony does not have time lapse capability in its NEX-6 or a7R camera, but you can install an App to provide that capability.
One of Sony's free Apps is their Smart Remote Control and this useful feature has undergone improvements since its been first released. For example, when I first used Smart Remote Control I was overjoyed that it would work on my iPAD mini. It was tremendously convenient to have a large screen for focusing and composing images. For macro work it was nice to put the camera low to the ground and position it without having to hunch down and get close to view the tilted LCD screen. However, when I found that the first release of that software could not save RAW files to the camera's memory card, I abandoned using it.
Well, I revisited the Sony App store and found they updated and improved the program. Most importantly, they allow the saving of RAW files to the camera's memory card. You cannot just save RAW files however. You must save RAW + JPEG and I presume this is necessary so that the smaller size files could be uploaded, wirelessly, to either a tablet or a smart phone. I don't use this feature, but prefer using it as a replacement for a remote cable release. For what it is worth, while a smartphone can be used, I find the mini tablets and tablets to be preferable since their larger screen provides a larger preview of the subject. For those who manually focus their cameras, the enlarged image is detailed enough to accomplish this task with ease.
Although I have the cable release for the a7R, I find that I hardly use it. The Smart Remote Control App will work with smartphones. It seems I always forget to take my cable release, but I never forget my smartphone. Considering that the Smart Remote Control is free, it is well worth getting.
Another nice thing about the App store. They keep track of the Apps you have downloaded to your camera. So, if you have to do a total reset of the camera's settings and values (this wipes out the apps) you can download replacement Apps at no charge.
One final note, you are not penalized if you buy a new Sony camera. In my case, I had downloaded the time lapse App for the NEX-6. For a time this was unavailable for the a7 series of cameras. Well, it recently became updated to work with these cameras and I was not charged when I upload it to my new Sony camera.
I loaded the new firmware on the a7R camera so now I am using version 1.02. The camera functions much as it did before and I did not see a dramatic increase in focusing speed or focusing accuracy in AF-S or AF-Continuous under outdoor lighting during the day. But, then I was reasonably satisfied with the original firmware. When using the CZ 24-70 mm f4.0 lens, I felt that the new firmware did improve the focusing accuracy under dim lighting. There was less "hunting". The most dramatic improvement I observed was the performance of the Object tracking function. The performance of that was much improved and the camera did a better job of following objects and maintaining focus on the targeted subject.
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Showing 1-10 of 19 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 8, 2013 10:25:51 AM PST
Stephen Ng says:
i heard if you turn off wifi, nfc function when you dont need it it will significantly help the battery life
In reply to an earlier post on Dec 8, 2013 11:08:27 AM PST
Brian Matsumoto says:
I am still experimenting with power saving strategies. I have put the camera on "airplane mode" which turns off the WiFi and that seems to help. There is a Pre-AF which is a default which drives the focusing motor continuously before you press the shutter button. This function should speed up the time to find focus, but turning it to Off should prolong battery life. Part of our delay in reporting on battery saving strategies is the number of variables in the camera setting mode. Continuous AF and continuous drive mode will use more power than autofocus single and single shot drive mode. We have been playing with as many of the camera modes as we can. Our report on battery consumption reflects using the camera in its default modes and as you note, turning off some of these features may prolong the its life. Having said this, my subjective impression is that our a7 series cameras goes through batteries faster than our NEX-6 camera. This camera also has WiFi which is On, but we felt we could get through a day's shooting with just one spare battery. Generally, one battery was sufficient and occasionally we would use the spare. However, we the a7 we feel we have to have a spare for a day's shooting and for insurance we now carry two batteries. It seems we are using our spare battery frequently and having one extra is our insurance.
Posted on Dec 19, 2013 12:08:25 PM PST
Have you noticed any vignetting in wide-angle, wide-aperture lenses? I have several such lenses that I could use with the LEAE4 lens adapter. BTW, adding the LEAE4 causes the loss of 30 percent of incident light, which is the equivalent of one-half stop.
In reply to an earlier post on Dec 19, 2013 12:09:25 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 1, 2014 7:43:48 AM PST
I covered some of these power-saving strategies in my review of the A99.
Posted on Feb 1, 2014 4:14:40 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 1, 2014 5:14:53 PM PST
Thanks for your comprehensive review.
Doesn't the use of the LEAE4 lens adapter more or less negate the advantages of a mirror-less system (cost, smaller size and weight), essentially converting it back to an SLR almost like an A99?
I am also wondering if you have tried using this camera with Leica lenses. Thanks for your time.
In reply to an earlier post on Feb 1, 2014 7:42:41 AM PST
The question about the LEAE4 is a very good one that I hope Brian will answer. I'd like to have a sense of how bulky and heavy the adapter is. I was thinking I'd probably only use it with short primes. If I wanted to use big lenses and an adapter, I might as well use the A99, which, I believe, has the same sensor as the A7. BTW, the A99 sensor is WONDERFUL.
David, read Steve Huff's review of the A7r. He did extensive work with the A7 and 7r with several Leica lenses. It was he who said the 7 and 7r actually did better with the Leica lenses than an M9. Hard to believe, I know, but Huff is a big Leica fan, and a lot of his following is made up of Leica people.
In reply to an earlier post on Feb 1, 2014 8:12:48 AM PST
Brian Matsumoto says:
David, as you note LA-EA4 converts the Sony a7/a7R into a SLT hybrid camera. It does not compromise the handling of the camera. The weight of the adapter is 5.6 oz, the a7R weighs in at about 15 ozs. while the A99 weighs in at 28.8 ozs. So with the adapter your a7/a7R gains in weight, but it is still 8 ozs lighter than the full frame A99. In regards to cost, the a7 costs $1698, the a7R costs costs $2298 the LAEA4 adapter costs $350, and the a99 costs $2798. So the adapter and lens provides a significant cost reduction over the a99 when you use the a7 and only a slight cost benefit when you use an a7R. So you do lessen some of the advantages gained by going mirrorless; however, this is offset by the benefits of acquiring greater access to autofocusing lenses. Also if you need to shoot in continuous focusing mode firing at multiple frames per second, the adapter allows you to do this with the a7/a7R.
I have not been able to test Leica lenses on the a7/a7R--no access. However, I had good luck with a 20mm f/2.8 Nikon and its performance was good. In addition, I have used a 55mm f/2.8, 105 f/2.8, and a 180 mm f/2.8 Nikon lens with good results.
In reply to an earlier post on Feb 1, 2014 1:56:09 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 1, 2014 5:17:28 PM PST
Thanks Brian, that's a very convincing argument. Except for one thing--the A99 has image stabilization built in to the camera body and the A7/A7r do not. Because Sony chose to put image stabilization in the bodies of the Alpha SLR cameras, none of their A mount lenses have image stabilization. So the wonderful Sony/Zeiss lenses such as the 135mm f/1.8 Carl Zeiss Sonnar and the Carl Zeiss Planar T 50mm F1.4 will be image stabilized on the A99 but not on the A7/A7r. I've already invested in the 135mm f/1.8 Carl Zeiss Sonnar because I saw one at a good price but this poses a dilemma!
One thing to note about terminology--the A99 is actually a hybid and some even refer to it as a "mirrorless" camera. It has an EVF not an SLR prism viewfinder. So you get the same electronic sensor view as the A7/A7r but with the advantage of phase detection focusing. (I've sure you guys already know this.)
In regard to Leica lenses on the A7r, I have read some of Steve Huff's reviews and also some tests run at Lensrentals.com. In general, the A7r out-resolves the Leica with Leica lenses, EXCEPT near the edges and corners. Apparently the microlenses on Leica sensors are angled in the edges and corners, maximizing the sensor's performance with their own lenses. The image quality tests that Ken Rockwell posted also showed that the corners don't look as good with Leica lenses on the Sony bodies:
In reply to an earlier post on Feb 1, 2014 4:03:50 PM PST
The lack of in-lens auto-stabilization is the big compromise. I too have the Zeiss 135, which is the best lens i've ever used that wasn't a Leica. I look at it like this: The 7 and 7r give excellent low light performance, which reduces, but doesn't always eliminate, the need for auto-stabilization. Don't know if you guys are familiar with the standard Sony feature set they've been putting in their higher-end bodies. The multi-frame noise reduction (MFNR) can easily buy you a couple of stops for static images (but you have to settle for a jpeg). Sony pioneered several compositing features that other manufacturers, however, are now copying. I assume all these features are present in the 7/7r bodies. If I buy a 7r, I'll definitely buy the adaptor, knowing that I'll not have auto-stabilization out of my A-mount lenses. I'd rather haul the adaptor than the A99 body in many circumstances. This is why I say I expect to use the adaptor more with short lenses: the short lenses are light, they have wide apertures, and they naturally require less stabilization. And then I carry a bean bag for "manual" stabilization.
In reply to an earlier post on Feb 1, 2014 5:33:30 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 2, 2014 4:16:34 AM PST
Thanks Tim. How do you support a bean bag up at eye level when you're walking around taking photos? I never understood that.