Sony Alpha A7 A7r review - official thread - reviewed!

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Re: Sony Alpha A7 A7r review - official thread - samples!

Postby Gordon Laing » Thu Nov 07, 2013 10:42 pm

Sony Alpha A7r with Nikkor 14-24mm via Novoflex adapter

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Sony Alpha A7r with Nikkor 14-24mm sample image by Cameralabs, on Flickr

Here's the sound desk and stage at The Ryman Theater in Nashville, famous for hosting The Grand Ole Opry back in the day - and today once more over Winter. I was lucky enough to enjoy a tour of the building followed by a concert with Sony last week as part of their event to launch the full-frame mirrorless Alpha A7 and A7r.

Knowing I'd get to play with these cameras for the best part of a week in some interesting locations really got my testing juices flowing. I knew I'd want to compare the quality of the A7 and A7r against the full-frame leaders from Canon and Nikon, the EOS 5D Mark III and D800e, but to also see how well third party lenses from both companies could work on the Alphas via an adapter. Indeed the combination I wanted to test most of all was the legendary Nikkor 14-24mm ultra-wide zoom on the 36 Megapixel Alpha A7r. So I put a call into the lovely people at +BorrowLenses.com to rent a 5D3 and D800e body along with the EF 24-70mm f2.8 and Nikkor 14-24mm and some appropriate adapters.

Fast forward and there I am in The Ryman Theater with this amazing view from the back looking over the sound desk. This was an ultra wide opportunity calling out to me, so I fitted the 14-24mm to the A7r using the Novoflex adapter. This turns the lens into an entirely manual experience for both exposure and focus, but luckily there's a few things you can do to make life easier.

The Novoflex adapter has a ring control which adjusts the aperture in Nikkor lenses, so I turned it until I knew the lens was wide-open at f2.8. I then balanced the shutter speed in manual at 80 ISO until the metering read 0EV. After that I knew if I turned the control ring until the metering read -1EV, -2EV and so on, then it would roughly correspond to an aperture of f4, f5.6 and again so on. I turned the control to -3EV corresponding to an aperture of f8 then rebalanced the exposure so the metering read 0EV.

Next up came the focus. I used a combination of focus peaking and magnified assistance to get the focus almost perfect, but after a couple of slightly soft images, I essentially focus-bracketed by hand until I got a result that was pretty sharp. It was a tough ask though as the front of the desk was only a couple of feet away compared to effectively infinity for the stage.

It sounds complex, but even on this first attempt it was quicker and easier than I thought. Indeed I'd be perfectly happy operating like this for tripod based work. I'm also impressed by the image quality, and if you'd like to pixel-peep the original file, you can find it on my A7r sample images page at the link below.

This proves to me the A7r - and the A7 - are perfectly happy working with some amazing lenses from third parties, which makes the gaps in the current catalogue less of an issue, especially if you're moving from an existing system. Indeed the more I think about the A7 and A7r, their key benefit is their ability to use third party lenses via adapters. Yes, I know this has been possible for ages with just about any mirrorless camera, but the key difference is the A7 and A7r are full-frame, so those ultra wide options suddenly act the way they should on their native bodies.

Exciting times!
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Re: Sony Alpha A7 A7r review - official thread - reviewed!

Postby Gordon Laing » Thu Nov 14, 2013 2:04 pm

Hi everyone, I've just finished my Sony A7r review! Check it out and let me know what you think!

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Re: Sony Alpha A7 A7r review - official thread - reviewed!

Postby nezorfio » Thu Nov 14, 2013 3:06 pm

Hi Gordon, great review.

I noticed a weight-related typo. The A7r+battery+card+lens should be lusted as 585g not 773g.
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Re: Sony Alpha A7 A7r review - official thread - reviewed!

Postby maynard » Thu Nov 14, 2013 5:17 pm

I noticed that you mentioned you had a Metabones adapter. Did you get any shots with Canon EF lenses?
I am just curious if the Canon (and third party) wide angle EF lenses have the problems that have shown up with the Leica wide angle lenses?

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Re: Sony Alpha A7 A7r review - official thread - reviewed!

Postby maxjj » Fri Nov 15, 2013 9:40 am

Hi Gordon, great review.

I always follow the Sony stuff with interest, I started with Konica Minolta and the Sony A100 was my first digital SLR. They have introduced some genuinely interesting products and stirred up Canon and Nikon. But its seems a bit to late, I am certainly not going to change back to a Sony DSLR`s, the company strategy has confused me.

The reason I left Sony a few years ago and bought the 7D was lack of equivalent body, lenses and lenses that are a sensible priced.

The APS-C sensored bodies have build in image stabilisation and to chase a bit of quality you need to buy expensive lenses. The way I see it, if its build in and for a smaller sensor they are overpriced by 30-50% in the real world. In addition many of the "G" lenses don`t have any weather sealing.

The ff bodies - A7 and A7r don`t have build in stabilisation and you can in future buy image stabilised lenses. Honestly those lenses are a few years too late and would love to see the price of those.....

Basically to buy and build on a Sony DSLR system requires a serious commitment in money and really picking your lenses carefully, its either for the beginner who doesn`t upgrade or the serious educated amateur. If I had stuck with Sony chances are I would mostly have a Sigma and Tamron, lens collection.

There is too many unknowns or simply Sony has taken a while to find a strategy and work towards it. Its seems that they were a bit lost after the take over of Konica Minolta and had no clear strategy moving forward.

On the other hand they have handled the E mount and NEX system much better.
It seems to me its what has saved them and now they are trying to apply the lessons learnt from the NEX bodies and E lenses into their other Systems.

What do you think about Sony path so far and are they finally on the right track?
Canon Powershot S95, Canon 6D,7D, Canon 40 2.8 STM, Tamron 24-70 2.8 VC, Canon 17-40 L, Canon 15-85, Canon 85 1.8, Sigma 30 1.4, 50mm 1.8, Canon 100 2.8L Macro, Canon 70-300L +Kenko 1.4 Pro 300DGX, Canon 430EX II and RS 4 Classic
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Re: Sony Alpha A7 A7r review - official thread - reviewed!

Postby aaton » Wed Nov 20, 2013 11:08 pm

Hello !

Nice review of the Alpha 7. Thanks Gordon.

I'm also very interested about the video capabilities of the A7. I noticed your video samples are made from 800 asa. But It would be fine and very relevant for a video professional point of view to compare the A7 to 5D and D800 at lower ISO. When you shoot professionally with DSLR, most of the shots are made at lower ISOs.

Also, Have you been able to try the HDMI output while shooting videos ? The main problem while shooting movies with a 5D is when you hook it to an external monitor with HDMI. First you can't use the 5D display anymore since it shut off. And when you launch recording there's a HDMI video resolution switch, and then a signal loss for few seconds on the external monitor. Boring !
Do you know if the A7 got these drawbacks too ?
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Re: Sony Alpha A7 A7r review - official thread - reviewed!

Postby RexGig » Thu Nov 21, 2013 12:18 am

I am quite open-minded regarding the A7r, especially if others get good results with adapted Nikkor and/or Canon EF lenses. Gordon's image, above, with the 14-24mm Nikkor is one such example, though I do not (yet) own that Nikkor. Fast AF is irrelevant when shooting landscapes/seascapes. I have good action-shooting DSLR cameras, already, and will not sell them if I buy a Sony high-resolution body. An A7r might well displace the D800E from my wish list.

There is nothing wrong with adding another good tool to the tool-box! :)
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Questions left unanswered

Postby rishio » Sun Dec 01, 2013 4:06 am

Hey Gordon,

Thanks for the informative review. That said I still don't find answers to some important questions that will help me decide which model to choose.

Issue 1 is autofocus. I shoot in low light, high iso fairly often. David Kilpatrick posted about why the A7r focuses better in low light or in apertures smaller than f/8 (which is when PDAF doesn't work). Here is what he said regarding the A7r:

"AA filters reduce fine detail contrast and tend to smooth the luminance peaks and troughs used by contrast detect focusing to decide when the image is most sharp. Removing the AA filter has a small but significant effect on the speed and accuracy of contrast detection focusing, along with an improvement in many irregular textures like distant woodlands, lawn grass and human skin. So if you incorporate image processing able to remove some of the resulting moiré, it makes sense. This is the route being taken by most other makers now to get the best possible live view auto follow-focusing."

src: http://www.photoclubalpha.com/2013/10/1 ... -classics/

Just wondering if you can confirm or deny that the A7r focuses more accurately in low light. This is a big issue for me.

Issue 2 is raw processing of 36 MP files. How much more strain does a 36MP Raw file put on your photo editing program than a 24MP Raw file? I currently use a sony nex 7 and it would be tragic if I bought a Sony A7r only to have my computer grind to a halt when processing the huge files. File size doesn't matter to me. Processing speed does. I'd be curious to know your thoughts on the issue.

Issue 3. When you say the A7r requires more care to shoot in low light, are you saying when the image is downscaled to 24mp, the results of the A7r will be less crisp looking than the A7 unless you handle it more carefully than the A7? That info would be very helpful to know for me.

thanks!


Thanks!
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Re: Sony Alpha A7 A7r review - official thread - reviewed!

Postby capital » Tue Dec 03, 2013 5:47 pm

Issue 2 is raw processing of 36 MP files. How much more strain does a 36MP Raw file put on your photo editing program than a 24MP Raw file? I currently use a sony nex 7 and it would be tragic if I bought a Sony A7r only to have my computer grind to a halt when processing the huge files. File size doesn't matter to me. Processing speed does. I'd be curious to know your thoughts on the issue.


Probably the best way as you will have a definitive answer, you can download some of the sample raw images found by camera reviewers and test this issue out.
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Re: Sony Alpha A7 A7r review - official thread - reviewed!

Postby rishio » Tue Dec 03, 2013 7:28 pm

capital wrote:
Issue 2 is raw processing of 36 MP files. How much more strain does a 36MP Raw file put on your photo editing program than a 24MP Raw file? I currently use a sony nex 7 and it would be tragic if I bought a Sony A7r only to have my computer grind to a halt when processing the huge files. File size doesn't matter to me. Processing speed does. I'd be curious to know your thoughts on the issue.


Probably the best way as you will have a definitive answer, you can download some of the sample raw images found by camera reviewers and test this issue out.


Yes - I don't know why I didn't think of it - but I downloaded a bunch of Nikon D800E Raw files and processed them in Aperture. Worked better than I expected. 36MP Raw files aren't a road block for me. I did however try my nex 7 with the electronic front curtain feature off to see how it feels using with the curtain going up and down more than once. Didn't like it at all. Not sure I'll be able to deal with that in using the A7r. I'm just waiting for a couple more reviews before I make a decision but leaning towards the A7 at this point. Wish some of the reviewers do a comparison of the A7r Raw versus A7 raw rather than jpeg.
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Re: Sony Alpha A7 A7r review - official thread - reviewed!

Postby capital » Tue Dec 03, 2013 8:28 pm

rishio, seeing as you have the NEX7, changing over to the full frame A7 has more monetary costs and weight costs than user interface issues. Sony has everyone over a barrel with these expensive full frame Zeiss lenses and Frankenstein-ing adapters for heavy 3rd party lenses (thinking for Canon/Nikon/Sony A mount). I think there was a time, several years ago where the argument for full frame image quality was stronger. These days, it may just end up be an exercise in wallet opening.
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Re: Sony Alpha A7 A7r review - official thread - reviewed!

Postby rishio » Tue Dec 03, 2013 8:52 pm

capital wrote:rishio, seeing as you have the NEX7, changing over to the full frame A7 has more monetary costs and weight costs than user interface issues. Sony has everyone over a barrel with these expensive full frame Zeiss lenses and Frankenstein-ing adapters for heavy 3rd party lenses (thinking for Canon/Nikon/Sony A mount). I think there was a time, several years ago where the argument for full frame image quality was stronger. These days, it may just end up be an exercise in wallet opening.


Thanks for the insight Captiol. However in this case I know what I'm getting into. Full frame in a compact size is what I have wanted for years. I actually get more flexibility in a smaller size with the A7 as compared to the Nex 7.

For example, with my nex 7 I use a 24 f/1.8. The equivalent, 35 f/2.8 combined with the A7 will actually be smaller than the nex combo. That and I'll get a lot more data to play with in the raw files. When you jump to the 55 f/1.8 with the A7, you've got an incredible low light/shallow depth/small size combo for the type of shooting I love.

I do professional photography and video work (http://www.rishio.com) and have used the nex 7 for all my work since it was released. It replaced my Canon 5d Mark II. The full frame in a mirrorless body fills the gap I was missing with my nex 7. The A7 or A7r fills a perfect niche for my needs.

But yes, when you add certain type of lenses the full frame mirrorless isn't as attractive for me. I value compact size and adding huge zoom lenses negate the benefit of having a full frame in a small body for me. However, I don't use zoom lenses and may main shooting lenses are 35mm and 50mm FF equivalent, which resonates better with a full frame sensor than any other sensor size.

I think there is also the myth that full frame means bigger lenses. When you make things equivalent, I think size is similar. How large would a m43 system be with the equivalent lens as a 50mm f/1.8? That would be like a 25mm f/.9 lens. The M43 combo in this case would be bigger (if even possible). The other issue is that it is easier to build a quality lens starting at f/2.0 rather than starting at f/1.0. So the fact that you need a more closed lens in FF to get equal size as a smaller sensor means that you get a lens that is likely easier to make, less expensive and higher quality than the equivalent for a smaller sensor.

I'm a fan a full frame sensors in a small body. Big benefit for me.
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Re: Sony Alpha A7 A7r review - official thread - reviewed!

Postby capital » Tue Dec 03, 2013 9:44 pm

It is good that you are able to make money from this upgrade and that it will fit with your shooting style. Frankly from a hobbyist point of view there is less ground to be gained vs. APS-C type cameras. To your point about quality large aperture lenses for full frame vs. crop, there is one other factor that weighs more heavily for full frame and that is maintaining a high degree of resolving power over the entire image circle, it becomes more expensive, just look at the Zeiss Otus and Thomas' comparisons to other full frame lenses.
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Re: Sony Alpha A7 A7r review - official thread - reviewed!

Postby rishio » Wed Dec 04, 2013 12:51 am

capital wrote:It is good that you are able to make money from this upgrade and that it will fit with your shooting style. Frankly from a hobbyist point of view there is less ground to be gained vs. APS-C type cameras. To your point about quality large aperture lenses for full frame vs. crop, there is one other factor that weighs more heavily for full frame and that is maintaining a high degree of resolving power over the entire image circle, it becomes more expensive, just look at the Zeiss Otus and Thomas' comparisons to other full frame lenses.


It's definitely not the cost friendly route! I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who doesn't understand what they are getting into. Could be a whole lot of money for not much improvement in results unless there is a specific tangible reason for going FF in mirrorless. For me there is value, but I'm in a niche category.

I bet next generation APS-C will have some advantages. Like faster AF, cheaper cost, maybe IBIS, quieter shutter and perhaps even higher quality video output (the last two would make me jealous).
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Re: Sony Alpha A7 A7r review - official thread - reviewed!

Postby Antony » Thu Dec 05, 2013 10:52 am

I love my NEX-7 still, and still using it a lot. I haven't taken many photos with A7R to be honest. My excuse for still using NEX-7: I only have one full frame lens for it (FE 35mm/F2.8ZA). (The other Sony E-mount full frame lens come with A7 kit only.) (I must admit that I don't see a big deal of full frame myself.)

I bought A7R mainly for the tethered shooting support. (We all know that Sony don't have good record of tethered shooting support, NEX-7 doesn't.)
Apart from the standard tethering via USB cable, you can tether A7/A7R with built-in Wi-Fi using included Smart Remote Control and the free PlayMemories Mobile app on your iPhone/iPad.
Remember to update the Smart Remote Control to version 2, and you will be able to control the focus manually on your iPhone/iPad by simply tapping the spot you want the camera to focus. I would recommend this free update to all A7/A7R owners, as it can overcome the lack of built-in touch screen as Gordon mentioned in the review.

(This update should also saves the need of a $300 CamRanger which does not support Sony anyway.)

NEX-7 is still lighter and I am familiar with NEX-7's controls.
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