Sony A7 Review

 
Camera Reviews / Sony Cameras / Sony Alpha i Review
Basic Specifications
Full model name: Sony Alpha ILCE-A7
Resolution: 24.30 Megapixels
Sensor size: 35mm
Kit Lens: 2.50x zoom
28-70mm
(28-70mm eq.)
Viewfinder: EVF / LCD
ISO: 50-25600
Shutter: 30-1/8000
Max Aperture: 3.5
Dimensions: 5.0 x 3.7 x 1.9 in.
(127 x 94 x 48 mm)
Weight: 27.1 oz (769 g)
includes batteries, kit lens
MSRP: $2,000
Availability: 12/2013
Manufacturer: Sony
Full specs: Sony A7 specifications
24.30
Megapixels
Sony E-mount Full Frame 35mm
size sensor
image of Sony Alpha ILCE-A7
Front side of Sony Alpha ILCE-A7 digital camera Back side of Sony Alpha ILCE-A7 digital camera Top side of Sony Alpha ILCE-A7 digital camera Left side of Sony Alpha ILCE-A7 digital camera Right side of Sony Alpha ILCE-A7 digital camera

A7 Summary

When we reviewed Sony's A7R mirrorless camera, we were thrilled by its combination of a full-frame image sensor and a compact body. The Sony A7 offers both, and yet it's even more affordable. It also boasts better autofocus and performance, but trades off some of its sibling's epic resolution to achieve these. We already knew the Sony A7 would be great, but we wanted to answer which was better: The Sony A7 or A7R? Does amazing image quality trump performance? Are you better off spending a little more, or can you be thrifty and still get the best full-frame mirrorless camera money can buy? Read our review and find out!

Pros

Incredibly small body for a fully-featured, full-frame camera; Very high resolution; Hybrid autofocus is reasonably fast and confident; Significantly better burst-shooting performance than A7R; Excellent image quality even at very high sensitivities; Faster x-sync than A7R; Accepts existing Alpha-mount and E-mount lenses, and can optionally crop to APS-C image circle.

Cons

Grass-is-greener syndrome when compared to its higher-res sibling; Moderate performance; Loud shutter (but electronic first-curtain helps); Mediocre battery life when using electronic viewfinder; Weak low-light autofocus considering its price; Limited selection of native Sony FE lenses.

Price and availability

Priced at US$1,700 for the body alone, the Sony Alpha 7 is around one quarter less expensive than the higher-resolution Sony A7R. The Sony A7 kit, which includes the full-frame FE 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS kit lens, costs just US$300 more than the body-itself, for a final pricetag of US$2,000. Both variants began shipping in December 2013.

Imaging Resource rating

4.5 out of 5.0

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Sony A7 Review

Overview and Technical Info by
Extended Walkaround by Dave Etchells and Mike Tomkins
Shooter's Report by David Schloss

Preview posted: 10/16/2013
Review finalized:

Updates:
11/7/2013: Added Image Quality Comparison
03/07/2014: Added Shooter's Report Part I and Part II
04/18/2014: Added Print Quality and Conclusion

Sony A7 Review -- Front left view

A little over a decade ago, enthusiast photographers were clamoring for an affordable APS-C digital SLR. That dream has long since become a reality, but for some, the dream wasn't big enough. They've been asking for an altogether different -- yet still affordable -- camera. They needed it to have a bigger sensor, and to drop the bulky mirror box of an SLR. Until now, they could choose one or the other. Sony has changed all that, with the launch of the full-frame Sony A7 and A7R mirrorless cameras.

The two cameras are very closely-related, and in this first impressions review, we'll be looking at the Sony A7. It's the lower-resolution of the two models -- albeit still pretty high-res, compared to what's available in its mirrorless and DSLR rivals -- but it has some important advantages over the A7R in other areas. If resolution above all else is your goal, though, you'll want to take a look at our Sony A7R review, instead.

Design. Externally, there's very little to tip you off to which of the two cameras you're looking at beyond their badges. The Sony A7 is just slightly heavier than its sibling, but the difference is not one you'd notice, even holding the two cameras side-by-side. Despite being heavier, it also features just slightly more plastic in its construction. You can tell the difference by touch -- the A7's front panel is warmer plastic, and that of the A7R is cooler metal. The A7's Mode dial and Exposure Compensation dial are also just slightly different, with coarser knurling on the former, and a slight increase in height on the latter. None of these physical differences is noticeable unless you're looking very closely indeed.

Differences between the Sony A7, A7S and A7R
Camera Sony A7S Sony A7 Sony A7R
Body-only List Price Unknown US$1,700 US$2,300
Available in Kit with Lens Unknown Yes No
Body Materials Magnesium alloy Magnesium alloy and polycarbonate Magnesium alloy
Sensor Size 35.8 x 23.9mm 35.8 x 23.9mm 35.9 x 24.0mm
Sensor Resolution (Total) 12.4 mpix 24.7 mpix 36.8 mpix
Sensor Resolution (Effective) 12.2 mpix 24.3 mpix 36.4 mpix
Maximum Image Size 4,240 x 2,832 pixels 6,000 x 4,000 pixels 7,360 x 4,912 pixels
Standard ISO sensitivity (Still) 100 - 102,400 100 - 25,600 100 - 25,600
Expanded ISO sensitivity (Still) 50 - 409,600 50 - 25,600 50 - 25,600
Standard ISO sensitivity (Video) 200 - 102,400 200 - 25,600 200 - 25,600
Expanded ISO sensitivity (Video) 200 - 409,600 N/A N/A
Electronic First Curtain Shutter Yes, optional Yes, optional No
On-chip Phase Detect Pixels? No Yes No
Continuous Shooting Rate
(with continuous autofocus)
2.5 fps max. 2.5 fps max. 1.5 fps max.
Speed Priority Continuous Shooting Rate 5.0 fps max.
(No continuous AF)
5.0 fps max.
(Continuous AF supported)
4.0 fps max.
(No Continuous AF)
Autofocus Type Contrast Detection
25-points
Fast Hybrid AF
117-point (phase detect)
25-point (contrast detect)
Contrast Detection
25-points
Predictive Autofocus Tracking No Yes No
Flash Sync Speed 1/250 second 1/250 second 1/160 second
Maximum resolution for HDMI live view 3,840 x 2,160 pixels 1,920 x 1,080 pixels 1,920 x 1,080 pixels
Video codecs XAVC S / AVCHD / MP4 AVCHD / MP4 AVCHD / MP4
Maximum clip length 29 min. (XAVC S); 29 min. (AVCHD); 20 min. / 2GB (MP4) 29 min. (AVCHD); 20 min. / 2GB (MP4) 29 min. (AVCHD); 20 min. / 2GB (MP4)
120fps at 720p? Yes No No
S-Log 2 gamma option Yes No No
Picture profile function Yes No No
Time code Yes No No
Maximum Magnification (Playback) 13.3x 18.8x 23.0x
Battery life (Still) 380 shots (LCD)
320 shots (EVF)
340 shots (LCD)
270 shots (EVF)
340 shots (LCD)
270 shots (EVF)
Battery life (Video, clips with power-cycling and zoom) 60 min. (LCD); 55 min. (EVF) 65 min. (LCD); 60 min. (EVF) 60 min. (LCD); 65 min. (EVF)
Battery life (Video without power-cycling or zoom) 90 min. (EVF / LCD) 100 min. (EVF / LCD) 90 min. (EVF / LCD)
Weight (Body Only) 15.7 ounces (446g) 14.7 ounces (416g) 14.4 ounces (407g)
Weight (with battery and Memory
Stick PRO Duo flash card)
17.2 ounces (489g) 16.7 ounces (474g) 16.4 ounces (465g)

Full-frame sensor. It's under the skin where you'll find the important differences, though, and they relate almost entirely to the choice of image sensor. The 24.3-megapixel Sony A7 has one-third fewer pixels than its sibling, but its sensor includes a generous helping of phase detection pixels. That allows it to offer a hybrid autofocus system, where the A7R is contrast-detect only. The A7's hybrid system allows for significantly faster autofocusing, not to mention better AF tracking. It also provides a significant improvement in burst shooting performance, whether or not exposure and autofocus are locked.

Sony A7 Review -- Front right view

The higher-resolution sensor of the Sony A7R will be attractive for some for whom focus speed isn't such an issue, however, such as landscape photographers. (Even if the A7 is itself no slouch in the resolution department.)

Lenses. Speaking of lenses, the Sony A7 and its sibling will both accept existing Sony E-mount lenses, albeit with an APS-C crop or vignetting. They'll also accept Alpha-mount lenses -- be they cropped or full-frame -- with an adaptor.

Full-frame optics. Of most interest, though, are several brand-new, full-frame E-mount optics, branded as "FE" lenses. Five FE-series full-frame E-mount lenses have been announced for separate sale, and four have pricing and availability information. The FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA and FE 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS lenses were the first to ship this December, priced at US$800 and US$500 respectively. The FE 55mm F1.8 ZA prime followed from January 2014, priced at US$1,000. The first zoom option for the Sony A7R arrived in February 2014, in the form of the FE 24-70mm F4 ZA OSS for US$1,200. Finally, an FE 70-200mm F4 G OSS telephoto zoom is planned, but Sony hasn't disclosed when it plans to ship this lens, nor at what price.

Lens adapters. There are also two new full frame-specific mount adapters. One -- the LA-EA3 -- has been available for a while in a bundle with the NEX-VG900 full-frame camcorder. The other is the LA-EA4, and adds a Translucent Mirror plus phase detect AF sensor, much like the existing APS-C format LA-EA2. The LA-EA3 costs US$200, and the LA-EA4 costs US$350. Both shipped from early December 2013.

Accessories. Finally, there are several related accessories to choose from. The Vertical Grip for A7 and A7R costs US$300, and a leather case costs US$140. Screen protectors are priced at US$15, and a new W-series battery charger at US$50. Finally, an off-camera flash shoe is priced at US$50. All of these accessories have been available since December 2013 or January 2014.

Let's take a closer look at the Sony A7.

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Walkaround. The Sony A7 feels wonderful in the hand. Although its body couples magnesium alloy and plastic, it's still very solid, with a similar sense of quality and precision in its operation to that of the A7R. (In fact, were it not for the difference in the perception of temperature given by the metal and plastic panels, we'd probably have assumed the construction to be entirely metal.)

Controls provide good tactile feedback, and command dials strike the right balance between stiffness -- so they won't be jostled accidentally -- and ease of operation. (Although we might wish for just a tad less stiffness on the exposure compensation dial.)

Given that we were huge fans of the Sony RX1's user interface, and loved the "Tri-Navi" interface on the Sony NEX-7, it's probably no surprise that we found ourselves liking the user experience of the new Sony Alpha 7 a lot as well. It's something of a melding of the characteristics of the two previous cameras. In many ways, this new camera feels a lot like a big brother to the NEX line, but Sony has chosen to label it an Alpha -- perhaps hoping to associate it more with the higher end of their ILC line. While the Sony A7 and its higher-resolution sibling the Sony A7R have a lot in common with the NEX series, there are also some obvious differences.

The Sony A7 is bigger than the typical NEX-series camera, as you might expect given its full-frame image sensor and built-in electronic viewfinder, but it's not as large as you might have feared. Compared to the NEX-7,which features an APS-C sized sensor, it's around 1.1 inches taller, and 0.3 inches wider / thicker. The majority of that difference is due to its viewfinder, which stands well proud of the camera's top deck at the shoulders.

Sony A7 Review -- Compared to RX1

The body is somewhat larger than that of the Sony RX1, but maybe not as much bigger as we were expecting. The body itself is only slightly taller, thicker, and wider than the RX1's, the big difference being the large EVF housing on top, which adds greatly to the sense of bulk. The 35mm f/2.8 lens isn't actually too much larger than the 35mm f/2.0 optic on the RX1, but the combined bulk of body and lens (particularly a zoom) is enough that it really puts it into a different category than the RX1. The RX1 could be considered a coat-pocket camera, but you'd have to have an awfully big coat to squeeze the Sony A7 into it.

That said, we felt that the Sony Alpha 7 was quite well balanced with all three lenses we tried it with. I'd say it's still a two-handed camera, particularly given that you'll want to have a hand on the zoom and/or focus rings of the lens, but it feels very nicely balanced with a moderate-sized lens like the 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 kit optic attached, and it's no trouble at all to hold one-handed, as for over-the-head shots in a crowd.

Sony A7 Review -- Compared to A99

Of course, saying that the Sony A7 is bigger than the RX1 may not mean all that much: Compared to any other full-frame interchangeable-lens camera (apart, perhaps from the rangefinder-style and considerably less feature-rich Leica M9), it's downright diminutive. The current size extremes in Sony's Translucent Mirror range are the APS-C sensor-shod Sony A37, and the full-frame Sony A99. The Sony A7 is 0.1 inches wider and taller than the A37, but a much more significant 0.8 inches narrower and shorter than the A99. More importantly, it's 1.1 to 1.3 inches slimmer than both, without a lens mounted. Getting rid of the mirror box clearly still pays dividends on size for a full-frame camera, then.

The Sony Alpha 7's grip is wider than some, but not very deep. Our personal preference is for deeper/narrower, but we found the Alpha 7 very comfortable to hold. This is partly due to the nice thumb-rest on the back of the camera and the leather-textured rubbery plastic coating on the grip and right rear of the camera, the combination of which meant our hold on the camera always felt very secure. We also found the various dials mounted on or just beneath the top deck were very easy to access while holding the camera, and the shutter button was comfortably positioned as well.

Sony A7 Review -- Front view

Seen from the front, things are pretty straightforward. The Sony A7's front surface is mostly smooth and featureless, save for the hand grip, Sony E lens mount, autofocus assist lamp, and a few controls. Of particular note is just how large that full-frame sensor appears, occupying the great majority of the E-mount's interior. For a comparison, take a look at this image from our review of the Sony NEX-7, which features a more typical APS-C sized sensor. The lens mount release button sits snug beneath and to the right of the lens mount (as seen from the rear of the camera), right where you'd expect to find it.

The handgrip is relatively shallow and wide, as we'll see in the top view momentarily, with a slight indent in the front surface that helps give more purchase for the fingers. An infrared receiver sits behind a small oval window near the base of the grip. At its top sits the front control dial, partially recessed in a small plateau below the camera's top deck. Just above and to the left sits the bright orange autofocus assist lamp.

Sony A7 Review -- Top view

Jumping to the top of the camera, it's clear that it's aimed at experienced photographers. As well as the front dial crowning the hand grip, and another control dial peeking out from behind the Mode dial and Shutter button, there's a third dial dedicated to exposure compensation at the very right-hand end. In front of this sits a Custom button, and the Shutter button is encircled by a Power lever.

Moving left, the electronic viewfinder hump -- there's no prism here, since this is a mirrorless camera -- is topped by Sony's Multi Interface Shoe. From this angle it doesn't look like an intelligent shoe, but when seen from the rear you can just make out terminals tucked beneath its front surface that allow communication not just with strobes, but with other accessories such as a clip-on LCD monitor or external microphone adapter. On either side of the electronic viewfinder hump are two single-hole microphone ports, which together provide for stereo audio. A small two-hole speaker sits just left of the hump, alongside the focal plane mark.

Sony A7 Review -- Rear view

Switching to the rear deck gives a clearer view of that second control dial, but the dominant features here are the 3.0-inch tilting LCD monitor, and the electronic viewfinder which sits just above it.

The Sony A7's eye-level electronic viewfinder is housed in angular bulge very reminiscent of the pentaprism on an SLR. EVFs have been steadily evolving in recent years, and the one in the Sony A7 is a good example of the state of the art. It uses OLED technology, and sports no fewer than 2.4 million dots, a level of resolution that means we can only just barely see hints of pixels along the edges of letters, and not at all in images displayed.

Its very high resolution is only part of the story of the Sony A7's EVF, though. Perhaps more important are the optics that Sony's put behind it. Viewfinder optics are often an afterthought in camera design, with optical artifacts like coma, blur, and chromatic aberration all too common. Since they're not being used to take a picture through, they often receive short shrift in the camera-design process.

Sony A7 Review -- Electronic Viewfinder

Not so the EVF on the Sony A7. It uses a three-lens optical system similar to that found in the flagship Sony A99 SLT camera, although with a slightly improved configuration. The dioptric adjustment range for eyeglass-wearers is an unusually broad -4 to +3 diopters, very welcome for far- or nearsighted people. The net result is a very highly-corrected view of the OLED screen, that's sharp from corner to corner, with nary a sign of chromatic aberration anywhere, and a nice, wide field of view (0.71x with a 50mm lens focused at infinity). The OLED screen itself has also been enhanced a good bit, with three times the contrast of the one used in the A99. The result is a remarkably clear view with better than average dynamic range, although still not quite up to what my eye can see when looking through an optical viewfinder. There are some areas in which optical viewfinders still outperform EVFs, but there are at least as many in which EVFs surpass, and the one in the Sony A7 is truly state of the art for current technology.

The EVF has much higher resolution, with 2.4 million dots (1,024 x 768 RGB pixels), versus the 921,600 dots (640 x 480 RGB pixels) of the LCD monitor. If critical focus is key, you'll want to use the viewfinder. We'd imagine most Sony A7 shooters will be doing so -- we certainly did. Proximity sensors above the viewfinder are used to switch between this and the main display automatically, when you bring the camera to your eye, and away again.

The rear deck controls are fairly straightforward, with no NEX-style soft buttons employed. The Menu button sits above the monitor, as does a second Custom button. Beneath the rear Control dial is an Auto / Manual focus selector switch, at the center of which sits an Auto-exposure Lock button. Below is a Function button, which also serves to enable Wi-Fi sharing in Playback mode.

Further down, there's a cluster of four controls which bear a little more discussion. Another rear Control dial also doubles as a Four-way rocker, and during image capture is used to select the Drive mode, Display mode, or White Balance mode by pressing its left, top, or right sides. At its center is a Select button, used to acknowledge menu options, settings changes, and so forth. Directly beneath the dial are the Playback button, and a Delete button which also serves as yet another Custom button when in record mode.

Sony A7 Review -- Left view

Moving to the camera's left side and starting from the top, there's a neck strap eyelet with, unfortunately a metal D-ring. (Not our favorite thing to see on a video-capable camera, since the metal-on-metal interface tends to generate handling noise every time you so much as look at the neck strap.)

Beneath are two rubber flaps which cover most of the camera's side. The top flap conceals audio connectivity -- both a 3.5mm stereo microphone jack, and a 3.5mm stereo headphone jack. The lower flap covers Sony's Multi Terminal interface, which provides for both USB 2.0 Hi-Speed and standard-definition video output, as well as wired remote control connectivity. The same flap also hides the Type-D Micro HDMI connector, which you'll use to get your images onto a high-definition display.

Sony A7 Review -- Right view

The right side of the Sony A7 is as simple as can be: There's a second neck strap eyelet with D-ring, and a Movie Record button which is tucked into the side of the rear-panel thumb grip. Beneath is the memory card compartment door, behind which you'll find a single shared Secure Digital / Memory Stick PRO Duo card slot. Wi-Fi and NFC logos hint at the inclusion of these two wireless networking features, and the latter provides near-instant pairing with many Android devices, simply by holding them alongside the logo momentarily. (Apple doesn't, as yet, support NFC in any of its products.)

Sony A7 Review -- Bottom view

And in the interests of completeness, let's take a quick look at the camera's base. The Sony A7 features a metal tripod socket, nicely positioned on the central axis of the lens. (That's where you want it, to minimize parallax error during panorama shooting.) A battery compartment door resides in the bottom of the handgrip, and includes a small rubber cutout which provides ingress for the dummy battery cable of an optional AC adapter kit.

Sony A7 Review -- Tri Navi interface

User interface. We mentioned the Sony A7's user interface at the outset: Let's look at it in a bit more detail. It bears a passing resemblance to the Tri-Navi interface on the NEX-7, in that it has both a front and rear dial, plus the back-panel dial control to adjust settings with. In addition, there's a dedicated exposure-compensation dial on the right rear corner of the camera's top panel, in easy reach of your thumb.

Compared to the RX1, controls on the Sony A7 are equally configurable, but also have explicit default functions printed on the camera body next to some of them. The lack of such labels on the RX1 had a lot to do with how quickly we were moved to assign our own, custom function layout to them. That little nudge to free myself from the default functions was a big plus, but we imagine a lot of users would be more comfortable with having the default functions labeled, as on the A7.

Despite the presence of the labels, the Sony A7's user interface is exceptionally configurable. The C1 button on the top panel and the C2 button at the top of the rear panel are of course both configurable, as is the C3 button, which doubles as the Trash button in playback mode. All three of these buttons can have any of 46 functions assigned to them, or they can be left unassigned. Additionally, the center button of the rear controller can have any of 47 functions assigned, and the left, right, and down keys can each have any of 39 assigned to them. This surely sets a new benchmark for camera configurability. (There may have been a camera or cameras with more configuration options, we just can't recall any.)

Sony A7 Review -- Center Button options

While it takes a little while to settle on the best configuration for a highly-customizable user interface like this, and some more time before your custom configurations become second nature, the benefit to regular shooters is huge. Rather than cursing a multi-level menu system, the camera becomes a fluid extension of your creative process. The impact of the sort of deep configurability of the Sony A7's user interface shouldn't be underestimated.

Menus and on-screen controls. We rather liked the default menu system as well, being something of a hybrid between that used on the NEX line and the more conventional enthusiast-oriented menus of the Alpha series. The top level is more NEX-like, with six tiles offered to let you quickly access the particular category of functionality you're interested in. Once you select a tile, you're dropped into a standard Alpha menu system, but on the appropriate tab set. We found this a good bit quicker than having to scroll through all the menu tabs between wherever we entered the menu system and where we wanted to be, as is generally the case in standard tabbed menu systems. We'd have to time ourselves with a stopwatch to say whether the tiled approach actually ended up faster or not (you still have to scroll between tiles, after all), but it certainly felt faster when we were using it. You can disable this tiled front-end if you wish, though, via a setup menu function, and the menu button will drop you directly in to the tabbed menu system.

Sony A7 Review -- Bracket options

There's also a "Quick Navi" interface that provides access to a wide range of camera functions, accessed by default via the Fn button. The operation of this menu on the Sony Alpha 7 is a step forward from some other Sony models, in that you can immediately change a setting with the front/rear control dials as soon as you've scrolled the cursor to it with the left/right keys. Some cameras require you to press the center OK button before you can change the settings, which always caused a bit of a mental disconnect for us. On the Sony A7, though, you can immediately make changes with the front dial, once the cursor has highlighted a particular function. A number of settings have sub-settings for them (such as exposure bracketing, where you can pick both the number and size of the exposure steps), and in those cases, the front dial selects the main setting, and the rear one the sub-setting. It's a very fast, fluid, and intuitive setup.

As with the camera's many control buttons, the Quick Navi menu is also highly configurable. Each of the 12 slots in it can have any of 27 different functions assigned to it, or that slot can be left blank.

Sony A7 Review -- Focus Magnifier menu option

No more modal menu failures! In recent history, Sony's menus have been very modal, in that various options would be grayed-out if they didn't apply to the current camera configuration. (For example, a setting pertaining to manual focus would be grayed out if you were in an autofocus mode.) The problem was, the camera wouldn't tell you why something was grayed out! It was often a puzzle, and a guessing game of many steps to figure out why the @#! you couldn't change a given menu setting.

We suspect others complained to Sony about this as well, so it probably wasn't just us bringing it up every time we had a chance to talk with their engineers, but we're happy to report that Sony listened, and the new A7 actually tells you why you can't access grayed-out menu options! To our mind, this was the single biggest thing Sony needed to change in their user interface, and they've done it! Not every grayed-out menu has an information screen associated with it (a couple in the setup menus just say "this function is currently disabled"), but this is still a huge step forwards for ease-of-use.

 

In the Box

The Sony A7 retail box ships with the following items:

  • Sony A7 camera body
  • Sony FE28-70mm F3.5-5.6 OSS (SEL 2870) lens if purchased as kit
  • Front and rear lens caps (if lens included)
  • Body cap
  • NP-FW50 lithium-ion rechargeable battery pack
  • AC-UB10 battery charger (charges in-camera via USB)
  • Hot shoe cap
  • Eyepiece cup
  • Shoulder strap
  • Micro USB cable
  • Instruction manual
  • CD-ROM with Sony PlayMemories Home and Image Data Converter 4 software

 

Recommended Accessories

  • Extra NP-FW50 battery pack for extended outings
  • BC-VW1, BC-QM1, or BC-TRW battery charger (if you want to charge one battery while shooting with another)
  • VG-C1EM vertical grip (if you want portrait-orientation controls, and extended battery life)
  • Large capacity SDHC/SDXC memory card. Given the high resolution and large file sizes of the A7R, 32GB is a good tradeoff between cost and capacity. If you plan to capture HD movie clips, shoot image bursts, or shoot in RAW format, look for cards with UHS-I markings.
  • LA-EA3 or LA-EA4 lens mount adapters (to use Sony Alpha-mount lenses)
  • External shoe mount flash (HVL-F20M, HVL-F60M, or HVL-F43M), or other accessory flash
  • ADP-MAA shoe mount adapter (if you want to use an older strobe with Sony / Konica Minolta's proprietary shoe, colloquially known as an iISO shoe)
  • AC-PW20AM power supply kit with DC coupler
  • HVL-LEIR1 or HVL-LE1 video light
  • ECM-CG50 mono or ECM-ALST1 / ECM-XYST1M / XLR-KM1 stereo microphone
  • CLM-V55 clip-on LCD monitor
  • RM-VPR1 or RMT-DSLR2 remote commander
  • PCK-LM16 screen protector
  • Medium size camera bag

 

Sony A7 Technical Info

In-depth with the technical details of the Sony A7

by Mike Tomkins |

Sensor. The Sony A7 is based around a 24.3-megapixel, RGB Bayer-filtered, Exmor CMOS image sensor with approximately the same dimensions as a 35mm film frame. Total resolution is 24.7-megapixels, and the design includes on-chip phase detection autofocus pixels. Sensor size is 35.8 x 23.9mm.

Processor. Output from the Sony A7's image sensor is handled by a brand-new BIONZ X-branded image processor. Compared to the previous generation, BIONZ X has improved performance. Sony also says that it has improved area-specific noise reduction, which varies noise reduction strength across the image in an attempt to yield a clean result without disturbing image detail.

BIONZ X also brings two new features. Diffraction-reducing technology combats the effects of diffraction limiting, improving detail at smaller apertures. Interestingly, the effect applied is both lens and aperture specific, and said to work even with Alpha-mount lenses shot through an adapter. It also has what Sony bills as "Detail reproduction technology", which tries to draw out finer details without creating halos in the process.

Sensitivity. The Sony A7's sensor and processor combine to yield a sensitivity range of ISO 100 to 25,600 equivalents. The lower end of this range can be expanded to encompass ISO 50. There's also an Auto ISO function, ordinarily 100 to 6400 equivalents. Upper and lower limits for this Auto ISO function can be adjusted to match the photographer's needs.

Click to read about the Sony A7's technical details!

Click here for Sony A7 Tech Info

Sony A7 Shooter's Report Part I

Initial thoughts, performance and quirks

by David Schloss |

The Sony A7 and its sibling the A7R (which we've also reviewed) together mark a pivotal moment in the photographic world. Though at first glance it looks for all the world like a particularly nice fixed-lens camera, the A7 is in fact a full-frame, interchangeable-lens mirrorless cam. Its semi-pro grade body fires a shot across the bow of Nikon and Canon, both of which have taken a more cautious approach to mirrorless than some of their customers would have liked.

A more versatile option. At first glance the Sony A7 might not seem like a game changer, but it most certainly is. The camera pairs a 24-megapixel, full-frame image sensor and phase detection technology to create a camera that, in my opinion, is more versatile and groundbreaking than the higher-res (but slower-focusing) Sony A7R.

In my Sony A7R review, I noted that camera to be perfect for portraits and relatively-slow-moving subjects. It's great for wedding photographers, event photographers and enthusiasts photographing the occasional little league game. With its phase-detection autofocus capability and emphasis on greater performance, the A7 tries to capture a wider market.

Read more about my first impressions and hands-on experience with the Sony A7.

Read Shooter's Report Part I

Sony A7 Shooter's Report Part II

New glass, great pics, features and closing thoughts

by David Schloss | 03/07/2014

Great new lenses. I tested the A7 with the new FE-mount Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 35mm F2.8 ZA lens, which costs $800. I quickly fell in love with this optic: It only projects a little less than three inches from the front of the camera, and it's one of the sharpest pieces of glass I've used. That's to be expected from Zeiss, a company with which Sony has a long partnership.

Even though I found it hard to tear myself away from the Zeiss glass, I also used the Sony-branded kit lens that's available with the A7. The kit lens is a 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 optic, and it feels much more durable and substantial than most other kit lenses I've tried. Depending on the focal length, you lose 2/3 to 2 stops over the f/2.8 Zeiss lens, but the zoom is still a great and efficient piece of kit.

Plenty of detail. Images from the A7 are wonderful, though slightly less detailed than those from the A7R. That's understandable -- with 24 megapixels instead of 36, there's a lot less data in the A7's images, although it's still providing as much (or more) resolution than you'll get from the majority of cameras on the market. And that's borne out by my experiences.

Mount the 35mm f/2.8 Zeiss lens, and the A7 produces images that are indistinguishable in quality from what I'd manage with my professional cameras. Tonal and dynamic range of the A7's images are great, as are detail and exposure. That's not surprising to me, as my experience has been that Sony's cameras typically provide some of the best-in-class images. Still, it's amazing when this full-frame camera system is smaller than some Micro Four Thirds bodies.

Read on for more about the Sony A7, including my final thoughts.

Read Shooter's Report Part II

Sony A7 Image Quality Comparison

Can the compact A7 really compete with full-frame DSLRs?

by Dave Pardue

See our crops comparing the Sony A7 with the Sony A7R, Canon 6D, Fuji X-Pro1, Nikon D600 and Sony A99. The comparison between the A7 and A99 is particularly interesting, in that it's the same sensor in both cameras. Does the Sony A7's more powerful BIONZ X processor make a difference in image quality? Check the crops and decide for yourself!

NOTE: These images are best quality JPEGs straight out of the camera, at default settings including noise reduction. All cameras in this comparison were shot with our very sharp reference lenses.

Go on, it's okay to pixel-peep!

Image Quality Comparison

Sony A7 Conclusion

Should you spend extra to buy the Sony A7's more expensive sibling?

by David Schloss | 04/18/2014

Late last year, Sony set the mirrorless world alight with the announcement of not one, but two brand-new, fully-featured compact system cameras with full-frame image sensors. Realistically, the Sony A7 and A7R were -- and still are -- unrivaled.

The nearest thing to a competitor is Leica's M-system, but where the German photography icon's retro rangefinders place an emphasis on manual control, shunning even commonplace features like autofocus, the Sony A7 and A7R are fully-featured, modern powerhouses. And other rivals with a full-frame sensor have a bulky mirror box and an old-fashioned reflex mirror.

The advantages of the Sony A7 and A7R, then, are clear. But what's the difference between the two, and which should you be spending your money on? That's a harder question, because in most respects these two cameras are incredibly similar. Predominantly, the variation between the two relates to their choice of image sensor. The Sony A7 also replaces some of its sibling's magnesium-alloy body panels with plastic ones -- yet curiously, is also a little heavier. But this simply isn't noticeable in-hand: both cameras feel equally solid and comfortable.

It's their sensor-related differences that should make your decision for you. And there, the differentiation is clear. With roughly one-third fewer pixels and a quarter less linear resolution, not to mention the presence of an optical low-pass filter, there's no denying that the Sony A7's images don't provide the same level of detail as those from the A7R. It's obvious both in our image quality comparison, and in our real-world gallery samples. But for most purposes, the Sony A7's resolution will more than suffice: It matches or betters most current DSLR and mirrorless cameras, and even at 300dpi, there's enough here for a 20 x 13-inch print without interpolation.

Read the Sony A7 Conclusion for our final verdict on this revolutionary camera!

Sony A7 Conclusion

 



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