Sony once again, has turned the whole photography world upside down with their latest announcement of Full Frame camera in surprisingly small and compact NEX sized body, namely the Sony A7 and Sony A7R. I have had a chance to have a brief hands-on session with pre-production models of both the Sony A7 and A7R, thanks to Sony Malaysia allowing exclusive preview to their loyal Sony supporters earlier this afternoon, immediately after the photo sharing session by Dr Chen who was the winner of Sony's World Photo Award (Malaysia) last year. The whole world is talking about these two Full Frame small cameras, and I too, cannot stop myself from thinking about them!
For full specifications of Sony A7 and A7R, please go to DPReview's page here (click).
For full specifications of Sony A7 and A7R, please go to DPReview's page here (click).
I believe the photography world is changing, and it is changing very rapidly. The future is in the mirrorless compact system cameras, and soon the mirrorless system will replace the traditional DSLR as mainstay for both professional photographers and hobbyists. It is not difficult to see that DSLR cameras (extending from film SLR days) have not exhibited any significant jump of advancement, and the newer iterations of DSLR (such as Nikon D7100, Canon 70D and Nikon D610) only showed very minor improvements from their predecessors. The limitation of having a mirror-box mechanism is preventing the camera's potential from moving forward. Olympus, Panasonic and Sony realized this and considering how digital technology is improving exponentially, a lot of mechanical restrictions found in traditional DSLR design can be slowly mitigated. It is indeed an exciting time now, and if the team mirrorless (Sony, Panasonic and Olympus) play their cards right, they can very well surpass and take over the spotlight from DSLR giants.
When we mention full frame, often people cringe at the thought of professional looking cameras, bulky and very heavy, with equally monstrous lenses to match. Though Canon and Nikon have both introduced smaller sized full frame cameras in the incarnations of Canon 6D and Nikon D600, those cameras not only still are pretty large by today's standard of small cameras, they have been purposefully nerfed from achieving their full potential. For example: 1/4000sec shutter speed limit, 1/160sec flash sync, and too many other compromise in order not to threaten the sales of the bigger brothers such as Canon 5D Mk3 and Nikon D800. Yes, you get smaller DSLR Full Frame, which was not exactly small either, but you lose on certain compromises. I believe Canon and Nikon have every right to fear these new Sony A7 and A7R, both truly small camera bodies, with full frame sensors yet not compromising on functions and basic photography capabilities. That Sony A7R does not even have an Anti Alias filter to start with, and the sensor packed in 36 Megapixels, measuring up to the Nikon D800.
Sony knew that in order to fully realize the potential of these new cameras with ridiculously high pixel count, they will have to make new lenses optimized for the use of the A7 and A7R. It was actually shocking to me when they announced that 15 lenses, fully compatiable, and dedicated to these new cameras, are coming within the next 2 years. My initial concern was lens availability and choice, knowing the full frame sensors won't take in E-Mount (cropped) without losing the edges. What a bold move I dare say, to re-create a whole new eco-system. Very daring, but necessary, because somehow, Sony has got to start somewhere. The Sony NEX current system is doing fine, but why stop there? If you want to take on your competition, go all out and threaten them with full new system. I am very interested to find out how the camera war continues from here. I am also eager to see how Canon and Nikon respond to Sony's history making move in their Sony A7 and A7R.
I tried both the Sony A7 and A7R very briefly, and I shall not comment that much beyond what I can gather. Both cameras are very similar in design. Handholding was comfortable, and balanced (though the handgrip was not as steady and comfortable to hold as the E-M1, it was better than the E-M5). The cameras actually felt lighter in hand than the E-M1. The placements of the buttons were not too smart, you do have to get through the unconventional placements but I believe this should not be too much of an issue, once you have spent enough time with the camera to familiarize yourself with it. I find the electronic viewfinder to be large and clear, but lacking the "natural feel" of the E-M1's electronic viewfinder. Nonetheless, it is still very bright and huge and should not pose any issues when shooting. Everyone who have had their hands on the camera today were quite impressed with the Sony A7 and A7R, and it was not a surprise. These are the Sony crowd, and comparing the Sony A7 and A7R to the current NEX line of cameras, it is a huge step up in terms of build quality and handling. Not being cruel to Sony NEX line of cameras, but they just do not match up to Olympus cameras (both PEN and OM-D) in terms of how solid the camera feels in hand and how comfortable you are when you are operating the cameras. As I have said before, Sony does have a tendency to place their buttons and controls in some of the most inauspicious places around the camera.
Autofocus was quick with the Zeiss 35mm F2.8 lens, and it was very accurate as well. I think these days, the cameras are getting better and better in focusing, and there is very little difference between cameras. With only one exception: Fujifilm, who somehow just could not get it right, for unexplained reasons. Using the Sony A7 and A7R for short period of time, the focusing felt confident and was reliable. I want to say that it is still nowhere near as fast as the OM-D but I also realized that by saying this somehow... somewhere, some people will get offended. Oppps.. I have just said that.
Since both cameras were pre-production models, I did not test the image quality. Even if I could, I would not do such test in a rushed and uncontrolled manner. I would prefer to have the camera out on my usual shutter therapy session and really put it to test, and then scrutinize the image output.
The shutter sound was..... LOUD! Though there was no mirror.... but the shutter mechanism was screaming as it "clacked" away to each frame taken. The loudness of the shutter would be equivalent to an APS-C sized DSLR, and this was no joke.
In all honesty I do not understand why Sony would want to release TWO cameras, with minor differences and different megapixel counts. Yet there are some compromises in both cameras: the A7R does not have phase-detect AF and comes with lesser focusing points (all cramped in the middle of frame). Why not just release one camera first, with everything being optimized, and more importantly, add in the Image Stabilization inside the camera. Having built in body IS unit subsequently allows smaller lenses, which should be an advantage considering how the lenses for full frame camera are generally larger due to the lens size having to cover the larger sensor size.
Eva and Carlson, both strong Sony supporter.
Just mucking around with my 45mm f1.8 lens. Who says Olympus cannot render shallow depth of field and cannot shoot in low light condition?
With the release of Olympus OM-D E-M1, Panasonic GX7 and the new Sony A7 and A7R, the photography world is shifting and you will see how these systems will mature faster than expected.
No, I will not be reviewing the Sony cameras, for obvious reasons. I have never done any reviews for other cameras (except for the very short preview of Fuji X100s, which was not really a review anyway) except Olympus, and I see no reasons to change. This blog is a One-Man-Show, I am the only shooting, writing and handling all the comments, emails and facebook page interactions.
Besides, if I do review any other cameras, no matter what I say will not be taken seriously. If I say bad things about the other cameras, people will say I am biased and only say good things about Olympus. If I say good things about the other cameras, people will start to assume I was being paid by these other canera manufacturers.
After the hands-on session with the Sony A7 and A7R, I went to shoot some night scene of Kuala Lumpur with dear friend Meng Keat. I did not have a tripod with me at the time (it was decided last minute to do the night shooting) but I made do with what I can on the spot. I rested the OM-D E-M5 on guard rails and floor. I used my phone to propped the camera up so I can fit in more sky into my shots. My widest lens was the M.Zuiko 12-50mm F3.5-6.3 and I shot all the following images at 12mm widest.
What are your thoughts on the Sony A7 and A7R? Do you think this would be a system to challenge the existing full frame cameras from Canon and Nikon? Would you think that having larger sensor will be the ultimate goal in photography world? All the images in this entry were taken with a one year old OM-D E-M5, do you think in any areas would these images fare better if a full frame camera was used instead? Do share some thoughts, I want to hear what you have to say.