Monday, October 21, 2013

Sony A7 and A7R Full Review.... Ok Kidding. Just Some Thoughts

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). 






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. 

60 comments :

  1. I think it's pretty impressive what Sony has managed to do with these cameras... Fitting a full-frame sensor into a body that size is quite a feat. That said, it has a lot of the same issues that the NEX system, and the RX1, have... Mainly lenses! I mean, obviously you can use your legacy lenses with these cameras, which is great for people who are hoarding those these days, but right now there aren't enough proprietary lenses to make this system really shine, and the ziess lenses that are coming down the pike are, well, expensive. Which leads me to the other issue: cost. 1600USD for the basic body isn't terrible considering the technology involved, but then you have to add another 1000$ to that if you want to put a lens on the thing. The costs add up pretty quickly. I know that's not a big deal for some people, and if you're thinking about a Leica then this camera seems downright cheap in comparison, so perhaps that's their real game. I'm rarely the target market for things like this. All that aside, it's certainly revolutionary and this is a very interesting time to be a photographer indeed. I'll stick with my M43 though, it's cheap (relatively), gives great quality, and has a proven system. Besides, can anyone tell a difference on the computer screen? Nope, not likely, not without pixel-peeping. Also, did they indicate that it has any weather sealing? it should, for that price, but I suspect it doesn't.

    Also, your night shots are great. I never used a tripod with my OM-D at night, never needed to.

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    1. Hey Tony,
      You were right, the cameras are weather-sealed. And it is true that lenses will be one problem as well, considering many will be Zeiss lenses and the pricing being rather high. Nonetheless I applaud Sony for making such a bold move. At this moment lens choice surely is limited but they have to start somewhere. Sane with Olympus and Panasonic many years ago with their first micro four thirds camera. Took years to develop a complete lens collection. I am sure Sony will come to that and I do hope they commit fully to the system this time.

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    2. I've always wanted a FF someday, the body was too big and troublesome as a full package, hence I got into the m43 system.

      However, the A7/A7r really brings it home in terms of body weight and size, and my FF camera dream is back again. I will most likely wait for the second generation and hope that Sony will add in body stabilization and have ways to reduce FF lens somehow and then decided if I want and can afford a second system.

      Problem with Sony is they innovate and never stay long enough...

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  2. There are plenty of small mirrorless ILC bodies available from various systems and manufacturers, but to me the real issue is lens size and weight. I had a Sony a77 system, but wanted something smaller and lighter. It didn't make any sense to buy a mirrorless APS-C body because I would still be stuck with large and heavy lenses. That's why I went m4/3 -- in addition to a nice small body with great image quality (OM-D E-M5), the greatly reduced size and weight of the lenses was the primary consideration. Unless full-frame lenses can be developed which are much smaller and lighter, I don't really see the big attraction of cameras such as these new Sony models. In fact, with larger lenses, the smaller size of the camera might make it much more uncomfortable to use compared to a larger, heaver body, which would balance better with such lenses. I think m4/3 strikes the right balance between the overall system size and weight on one hand and the equipment and image quality on the other.

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    1. Hey Brian, you hit it on the nail when you said micro four thirds system strikes the right balance between size, weight and performance. Surely the Sony system seem like they may require larger lenses but I also think that prime lenses can be made small, though nowhere as small as the Olympus and Panasonic primes and pancakes.

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  3. I'm thankful for all the companies who push things forward like Olympus, Sony, Fuji and Panasonic. I grew up with Canon cameras, I've used them for more than 15 years but they're so used to their own habits and technologies that they'll be surpassed by all the "underdogs" if there doesn't happen any big change inside their company soon. It's kind of funny and sad at the same time that these underdogs push new systems without a problem while Canon releases it's EOS-M without a new lens system or any kind of love and passion for this new technology. Same about Nikon.

    I love my Olympus now and in many situations I'm happy that it has a slightly smaller sensor than APS-C because it's the first time I really use the lenses wide open. With a fullframe at f1.8 it gets often a hit or miss game and in most cases the depth of field is just too small. But this is just a personal perference and depends much on the subjects and style people photograph. It was a fantastic idea to share the same mount with Panasonic, Blackmagic and some others. Canon and Nikon could change so much if they would embrace the new technology and share a new lens mount - but this will never happen. I guess there is no "working together" in their mindset.

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    1. Hey Leif, thanks for sharing your thoughts. Indeed canon and Nikon will refuse to change, after all they are still dominating the market, and the question now is for how long? Surely the sun will set and mirrorless will take over, and Ee have seen how mirrorless technologies evolve drastically over the years. They should be threatened.
      Not many people are willing to accept the fact that camera size is not the most crucial thing anymore when it comes to considering a capable camera system.

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    2. Once dominating companies who refuse to innovate will end up eliminated in the end.

      E.g. Nokia, Blackberry....

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    3. Nicely pointed out, Ju Wu.

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  4. Gr8 images...for one moment I thought they were from sony....ha ha..
    Ultimate aim in photography world would be ease of use be it cellphone cam or ff. The future is portability & Sony, oly, pany r fast expanding their line-up with this in mind.

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    1. Dear Nikhil,
      Heap, I sure hope to see that come true in the future!

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  5. Love that last photo, Robin, just beautiful!

    The Sony cameras look interesting, but at that price point, I won't be trying them anytime soon. I'm still exploring all the things I can do with my EM-5!

    Regards,
    Steve

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    1. Dear Steve,
      There so much we can do with our tiny E-M5!

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  6. I'm glad to hear your thoughts on the Sony cameras. It would have been weird to not hear you talk about that since it's really such a major event. Comparing the shots I took with the E-M5 and the a99/RX1, there really is not a huge difference. It comes down to a balance of performance, lens selection, and price.

    Right now I'm using a Nikon D600 because the performance is top notch, it was dirt cheap refurbished (mine does not have oil problems), and the lens selection is huge and affordable. The problem is that it is large, heavy, and I haven't bonded emotionally with it.

    The aggressive price of the a7 with kit lens means I can sell the Nikon gear without much loss. It's actually cheaper than the E-M1 with 12-40 lens. That said, I think I would enjoy shooting the E-M1 with the sweet looking 12-40 more. The problem is price. I know the build quality and performance is much better with Olympus, but the value for the dollar is just not there compared to the competition. Video is just as important to me as stills and this is another area the E-M1 would fall short for me.

    The E-M1 is still on my wish list though. I really, really want that 12-40mm lens so maybe it's time I'm reunited with the E-M5 if I can find a good used price for it. I think the combo of the 12-40mm with the 75mm 1.8 would be all the lenses I'd ever need for what I shoot.

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    1. Hey Wataru,
      Of course I would say a thing or two about the new Sony cameras, after all I still have many friends who shoot with Sony and I personally still own a small Sony system.
      That 12-40mm lens is a gem and surely coupled with the E-M5 will make it a very versatile combo. I personally would use the prime lenses but I also acknowledge the flexibility and importance of using a bright and good quality zoom lens.
      I am sure you are enjoying the D600 but it is by no means small and is still very heavy. That is the main point which the Sony A7 and A7R are attacking, making their cameras so much smaller and lighter.

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    2. Just a side note, I've heard some pretty negative comments regarding the A7 kit lens. Most people are recommending a pass on that one. FF sensors are really demanding on glass...

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  7. Robin, glad you have a toe in another camp! But......Sony, ahh, Sony. There is no doubt they have done a cool engineering job on this new system, but here's a Sony story.....They betrayed me when I was about 13 years old, and I never forgave them. My Dad brought me the tiniest Walkman ever made from an overseas trip ( http://www.walkmancentral.com/products/wm-10 ).

    It was gorgeous, and tiny. Smaller than the packet a tape came in! It was a marvel of miniaturisation, and it was a piece of shit. When it ran, it would only run for an hour on one AA battery. It had plastic cogs that stripped teeth, and would develop a dent if a cat even thought about knocking it off a table.

    That's why I won't touch Nex with a bargepole, and am unlikely to get this FF marvel of miniaturisation. Sony do great, geeky tech, that wows everyone. Olympus do strong, reliable products. Sony flip flop, changing their proprietary systems every few years. Olympus stays the distance, being relatively predictable, and improving their range iteratively. I know which camp I'd rather be in!

    Olympus, Panasonic and Leica (IIRC) got together over four thirds and agreed on a sensor format from scratch, designed for the digital age. It work, it has the right set of compromises for most applications, and it just gets better as the field of electronic engineering advances. Compare the Olly 45/1.8 and the Sony NEX 50/1.8...115g compared with 212g!

    What do we truly gain from a FF sensor? Less noise, perhaps....but that is becoming a more level playing field as sensor tech advances.

    Shallower DOF for portraits? Sure, but how shallow a DOF do you need? Surely the Olly 75/1.8 is as shallow as most users need.

    For most other uses, I would argue that m43 is more than good enough. Your demonstrations comparing FF DSLR prints to prints from the E-M1 are good example. Another good (5 year old )demo is this essay from Luminous Landscape, comparing the output from a Canon G9 with a Hasselblad / P45. Note, this was comparing a compact with a medium format 45MP digital 5 years ago!

    So, I don't think any of your images above would be better if a FF was used. And there is no way I'll be shelling out $1500 for a FF body, and then another $999 for a 55/1,.8 for it! What would I spend $2000 on? I have a system already, micro four thirds. No way do I want to buy a body for a new system. What I would spend $2000 on, is a point and shoot. A medium format point and shoot. If some manufacturer was to say " Sod full frame, we're gonna leapfrog to MF", I'd be very interested in getting on board for landscape purposes. The camera I have in mind of course is a digital version of the "Texas Leica", the Fuji GW690. http://camerapedia.wikia.com/wiki/Fujica_GW690

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    1. Sorry, left out the Luminous Landscape link: http://www.luminous-landscape.com/reviews/kidding.shtml

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    2. Tom.... You have echoed my thoughts exactly. After seeing first hand, the Olympus "shoot out" they did at the Melbourne Photography Expo, it is obvious that the OMD EM1 is more camera than most will ever need. It out does APS/C's for image quality, and when printed to poster size, easily matches F/F cameras. Why spend loads of money going full frame when many people would never need to. My first digital camera.... the Canon G2, was 4mp's. It could print a 10x8 inch picture with exceptional clarity. Going on those sizes, the EM1's 16mp's should be able to do a 40x32 size print with ease..... which they can!!! Who need full frame now?????? Not me!!!

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    3. Hey Tom, no worries, I have read that article from Luminuous Landscape before and yes what you have said was very true indeed. The difference between smaller and larger sensor size is getting less and smaller sensor can do very well these days.
      Interesting was of comparing what Olympus had to offer in comparison to full frame system. Olympus has always emphasized on advantage having smaller and lighter weight system, without sacrificing much of quality and performance. They have been doing so since the beginning of Four Thirds system, though the real potential came during the Micro Four Thirds time.
      You were also right when you mentioned I could not have done any of the above shots better with any other cameras. They looked more than satisfactory to my eyes and I have enjoyed using the E-M5, and I believe that was the most important part, being able to enjoy using your gear!

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  8. I respect what Sony is doing from an creative disruption perspective. Goodbye NEX, long live Alpha. It's very much like when Steve Jobs discontinued the best-selling iPod mini and introduced the iPod nano. He killed the best selling player dead, to push the market toward an even more innovative product. He decreed that floppy disks and internal DVD drives were no longer needed, so he just eliminated them. Nobody even looked back after he moved the industry forward.

    I'm not buying an A7 anytime soon, but I'm glad to see what Sony is doing.

    Can you imagine Canon or Nikon having the guts to kill off the xxxD or Dxxxx series, respectively to replace them with a modern mirrorless design?

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    1. Hello Robert,
      Thanks for pointing out what happened to IPod mini, surely things changed and people never looked back.
      Yes, I too will be interested to see what canon and Nikon will answer.

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    2. "Can you imagine Canon or Nikon having the guts to kill off the xxxD or Dxxxx series, respectively to replace them with a modern mirrorless design?"

      % wise, Canon and Nikon have all other companies sales outnumbered , and their brand recognition in the public marketplace is tremendous. The incentive deals to the retailers to sell their products is also hard to compete with. Until the retailers start 'pushing' more of the other brands it will remain so.
      Another factor I equate to is corner drug pusher. Nikon and Canon have so "hooked" their user existing base that it will be a long time and few that will be able to go strait so to speak, and kick the DSLR habit. ;-)

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    3. hey David,
      Very well illustrated. From sales point of view being the larger companies canon and Nikon do offer more attractive incentives and having so, the retailers will push their products more. I do hope that in this digital age consumers are more prepared and knowledgeable to decide what they want before entering the shop.

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    4. In the American market I've often wondered why it's nearly impossible to find m43 cameras in big box retailers while Canon, Nikon, & Sonys are everywhere. Even the 5DIII with 24-105 kit can be found at Best Buy for $3800, while I've never seen any Olympus cameras above the P&S level.

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  9. When I saw these two, I marvelled at the technology and laughed at the horrible design. It looks as though they started with the Nikon 1 design, enlarged it enough to put a 135 format sized sensor inside it, and plopped on a viewfinder and grip.

    Sony designed the outsides to follow the outsides, like an electronics maker would--who cares about ergonomics? Photographers care.

    I'm glad they're pushing the market forward, but I don't expect many but Sony fanatics will buy them. After all, Sony has been selling 135 format digital bodies for a while, and they haven't had great success. Still, they have to be on Canon's mind, as everyone whittles away at their dominance.

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    1. While I agree that the design of these Sony A7 and A7r are less to be desired, I don't think we should underestimate its capabilities. I believe they will sell well, and will threaten the canon and Nikon entry level full frame DSLR. Surely there are flaws but bear in mind this was their first generation of such camera and will definitely improve.

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    2. I'm not underestimating their capabilities at all. I'm simply saying that Sony has a difficult time making sales happen. Besides, I'm sure that NEX users are still waiting for lenses, so hopefully Sony will not disappoint, but they have a difficult past. I used to like Sony for many products, but I don't use any--even those I still have, as they went from excellent to average.

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    3. Agreed that their commitment for NEX line was less than expectations. But hey, they promised 15 lenses for the full frame cameras within the next 2 years. I am sure that is making a big statement in itself.

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  10. Hi Robin,
    Your blog is great! I bought an em5 after seeing your pics and have been very happy with it. I preordered the A7. I like the em1 also but I have never owned a full frame and want to see if there is a difference for me. If there isn't a big difference I plan on returning it for the em1. Since I already have an Em5 I don't see a huge difference in photo quality between the em1 and 5. Mainly though I like the hdr features, focus peaking and better focus system. Although I wish the new pdaf focus tracking also worked with videos, It's the biggest weakness with my em5 all the focus searching when taking videos of my kids... One thing that is actually interesting about the A7 is sony just added an api to develop apps for the camera. Depending on if or what gets developed this could be great if it allowed for new features: timelapse, hdr, etc. It would be great, if Olympus did something similar.

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    1. Hey Jeff,
      For now camera manufacturers are bing conservative and would not open up for outside developments, mainly because they want to ensure the camera being as much bug-free as possible. Nonetheless I do agree that the future can be more interesting if we make the camera somewhat an "open source" project, where the users get to have their say in what they want in the camera and how they control it.
      Surely the Full Frame will somehow give you different image output, with shallower depth of field and perhaps better low light shooting conditions, both highly sought after by many photography enthusiasts. It all comes down to the question: is micro 4/3 system sufficient in these regards? To me I felt that the micro 4/3 system is already more than adequate and does fulfill my shooting requirements.

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    2. Hey Robin, Just wanted to update you. I did order the A7 but ended up returning it and getting the EM1! The A7 was a nice camera when everything was just right. I think if I mostly shot static scenes on a tripod I would have been happy with it. However I mostly shoot my kids:-) When I performed some tests against the em5 (at the time didn't yet have the EM1.) In low light I actually was preferring the em5 where I thought the a7 would have excelled. Basically there just isn't good fast lenses for the sony yet. Also no IBIS in the sony really negates almost all of the advantages. So the advantage of the full frame sensor was more than negated by the fast lens and IBIS of the Olympus. So for me the EM5/EM1 is just a more versatile system. I think it just depends on what you are after. For me mostly shooting people the EM1 wins hands down.

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    3. Hmm seems it posted from my blogger account instead of Jeff McMorris. But anyway I am just replying to my original post.
      Anyway keep up the great work. Love reading your blog.

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  11. I think Sony is great at making sexy appliances that people crave for. The A7 brothers are hot bodies. And there have been people salivating for a mirrorless full frame. Because of higher megapixel enlargability, lower high ISO noise and shallower depth of field. It's a mantra they continually chant. As if this is the complete essence of the photo.

    But what about reality?

    Sony is a "aim premium" company. Olympus has a different policy. In general "good" lenses for Sony will be Zeiss. Zeiss quality, Zeiss price. Consider the whole package, not just the body.

    f/2 full frame lenses on a mirrorless camera will be shorter (thinner body). But they can't be light nor can their diameter be small. You have a small body but the f/2 lenses will be large, expensive, heavy.

    You can avoid the size of the lens by making f/2.8 and f/4 lenses. That is what Sony and Zeiss will focus on. Sony will use ISO 6400 and higher as a way to overcome the darkness. But that kills the idea of going to the shallowest dof reason for full frame.

    You can use all the manual focus Leitz, Zeiss and other Japanese brand film MF full frame lenses. The modern MF lenses will be sharp but they won't be cheap and you pay so much for no AF. The old film MF full frame lenses - not everyone is 2013 quality - film was more forgiving. And the shiny sensor causes back element flare, reduced contrast, fringing from light scatter. So unless you are having Leitz or Zeiss high class film lenses, you are buying an expensive FF Sony body to use old MF lenses that are below par.

    I don't mind having Micro Four Thirds gear as the primary, general system and a second full frame Sony system for low light, high ISO. Yeah, I would also like to work half less, go to more travel destinations and retire soon. :)

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    1. Completely agree with you.

      m43 as primary with primes and zoom (have much smaller size lens) and Sony A7/A7r as secondary with a small prime or two with at least F1.8 or 2.8 or FF DOF advantage is pointless.

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    2. Hi Robin.. glad to hear that you are at the place to see and view this product.. I can't join on that day Coz I need to send my son to the hostel after Hari Raya holiday... I need to test this poison gear with a full frame sensor inside that compact body.. want to know what the best and what the worse.. anyway thanks for the review..

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    3. Thanks Ju Wu for pointing out the key differences, and it is true that even these days Micro Four Thirds system has no issue rendering very nice shallow depth of field.

      Hey Nik Hadi,
      Was wishing to see you there! No worries, I am sure there will be future Touch and Try sessions by Sony Malaysia with their new cameras.

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  13. I think Sony is doing a lot of innovative stuff, and definitely pushing the envelope. However, I've seen little that would convince me that going full frame would make a big difference in my images. MFT has plently of great choices if you want shallow DOF for portraits, and is compact and mature. My concern with Sony is that they don't seem to have a plan (like Fuji). They keep inventing mounts and lens systems. Any manufacturer that tries to do slr, mirrorless, aps-c AND full frame has a focus problems - they inherently focus on pushing you into the top of the line. And they end up crippling smaller units to keep the products line in order, as you mention with D600 versus D800.

    I like MFT precisely because it is only one snsor size for all bodies, big (pro) and small (GM1!). If I buy a lens it works one way on all the cameras in the system. Up front it is for video/still, and thus works in the EVF and LCD exactly the same way. Bottom line, Sony is too 'all over the map' for me to buy in. They feel like they haven't made up their mind yet on where they are headed.

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    1. Hey Brad,
      You are completely right, it is disturbing to see how Sony can drastically change their mind on their camera and lens line-up, and just make a whole new one in a blink of an eye.

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    2. I read your post after typing in my own rant (sorry for that) but I couldn't agree more with your assessment. Sony has focus problems (no pun intended) indeed, but great potential no doubt. MFT indeed offers the best of many worlds for many.

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  14. Sony is doing some pretty impressive stuff. They certainly have the money and the engineering prowess to pull that off. What I don't like that much about them is that they are all over the map with their photographic offerings - they have tried just about anything, to see if it sticks with the market. With mirrors, without mirrors, translucent mirrors, full-frame, APS-C. I can understand why they try everything: after all their sales numbers completely pale in comparison with the big two. And these two new cameras are impressive.

    Still I think any declarations (by fanboys) of "game over, Sony wins" is hogwash. No doubt these are impressive cameras, but the lenses are not yet there. The focus speed is not that great I hear. Their Zeiss offerings are quite pricey and many of the Sony-own lenses are not mediocre. So Sony has a long way to go. No doubt they can do it - don't get me wrong. But a nice camera does not a system make.

    Now lets compare that to Nikon, Canon, and Olympus. These guys have systems - meaning wide, balanced, reliable offerings. Olympus being the "underdog" perhaps in absolute sales numbers, but certainly not in engineering, capability, and customer satisfaction. Their optical and mechanical design capabilities are legendary. The offerings of lenses is superb, and together with everything else makes a true system one can happily and reliably invest in. Same goes for Nikon and Canon.

    Let us not make the mistake to assume that both Nikon and Canon have become complacent and are (irresponsibly) resting on their (ample) laurels. Both have colossal design and marketing potential, and both are market leaders. Alert to Sony: the rumors have it that Nikon will be launching a full-frame compact DSLR a la the beloved FM formula. That would be a fantastic camera, if executed well, and there is no reason to assume it won't be done well.

    I do agree with you that mirrorless technology will likely be the wave of the future. Let's face it, economy dictates that too, not just technology. DSLR's with mirrorboxes are expensive and complex to make. Mirrorless simplifies things. Nikon has already shown that they do have the knowledge and resources to make fantastic performing mirrorless cameras. With a tiny sensor, yes. So what? For many these things perform more than good enough. And that series of cameras doesn't mean they can't do the same with bigger sensors.

    In short: it is a fantastic time to be a photographer! There is much wonderful stuff in the pipeline, and far more to come. As a Nikon user, I wish Oly the best - the have fantastic cameras, wonderful lenses, and the engineering to make it all really and reliably happen. And their secret weapon? Why, Robin Wong of course! :-)

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    1. Hey Andre,
      I agree with you on how Sony can be all over the place when it comes to experimentaing the market response. truly it seemed like they are rather indecisive on their future plans.
      Surely this was their first release of the new Full Frame mirrorless system, and they will need time to tweak and fine tune the camera. Same case happened to everyone, Olympus first generation E-P1 and E-P2 were nothing to shout about too, similarly goes to Sony NEX3 and NEX5. It took a few years of adjustments and correction to get where the systems are today.
      Yeah, I have heard that Nikon rumor, and interesting times indeed, should it come to fruition, that would mean Nikon would be joining the mirrorless bandwagon as well. Surely that is no good news for traditional DSLR market.
      And oh dear, I never see myself being a weapon!

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    2. Ah, my friend, just a cursory glance over your (fantastic!) night shots here proves conclusively that you are the best possible "ad" for Oly they could wish for. What you wring out of these cameras and lenses is nothing short of superb. So yes, a secret weapon - of the nice kind :-)

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    3. Thanks for the kind compliments Andre!

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  15. "not mediocre" should be "not entirely up to snuff" or words to that effect. Apologies.

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  16. Frankly the bodies look great. And when paired with compact native or M mount primes they should give a similar size to a comparable m43 kit when you are talking the wide-normal range (up to 100mm or so).

    Where it all falls apart for me is when you start looking at longer lenses or zooms. Face it, the E-M1 kit with the 12-40 and Panasonic 35-100 is going to be significantly lighter and smaller than the A7(r) with ZA 24-70 and 70-200G. And better weather-sealed (the sealing on the A7 bodies & lenses is dust & moisture, not shower-to-clean like the E-M1 and 12-40).

    I think the A7's will be a hit for Sony. And I welcome them. They'll also be superb for a most-weather prime-based kit. But for all-weather, minimum-lens or ultralight kit they aren't going to approach what can be done with m43. And if you mix with a NEX body to get closer you lose the benefits of a single-format system, as you will need NEX-specific wides. With my m43 system (E-M5 and E-PM1) I can mix & match my lenses as needed between the two bodies, going from a completely small jacket pocketable system (E-PM1+ 14-42+ 25/1.4), to a fully weather sealed (E-M5, 14-54 II) and anywhere in between as needed, I pick the body to fit the need and also the lenses, with no need to consider format differences between my main body and my ultra-compact body.

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  17. Hi, about the OMD capabilities: Noticed in your picture of Eva, that her hair is mushed up like due to noise reduction. Did you use
    high ISO for this shot? Thats one limitation of smaller sensors IMHO...

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    1. Dear Crix,
      Her hair was "mushed" up due to shallow deptth of field. I believe full frame will render even worse "mushed" up effect due to much shallower deptth of field.

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  19. if I see those pictures made with a 4/3, I ask myself why the heck everyone wants a FF. Is that just a mania?

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  20. No, FF is not mania and no, smaller sensor cameras do not provide the same IQ as FF all things being equal. We had the same debate with film with Leica maniacs claiming their cameras produced LF like results. As for the Olympus stand showing EM-5 results that looked as good as, say, a 21-24MP FF, well, anyone with experience will know how easy it is to manipulate these things if you carefully select images of a certain type. Go for something with lots of fine detail (grass, fine twigs in trees, small leafed foliage etc) and blow it up big and the sensor lens combo's capabilities becomes painfully obvious. The only issue is what suits your needs. If you print A3+ and no larger, 12 MP is all you need, but if the image has lots of fine detail in it and will be printed large, 36MP and great lenses will help you on your way. The difference between a 15 MP 4/3 or 16 MP APS-C camera and a 36 MP D800, with top lenses, printed to 40 inches, using a scene with lots of fine detail is not subtle. The difference is huge, however, at A3+ there is ZERO difference.

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  21. Hi Robin,
    The Olympus EM5 and EM1 that I own together with their gorgeous line up of lenses have ended my days of being a camera floosy. The photos above that you took with the EM5 - breathtaking - gorgeous.

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  22. Can't decide to get the A7, A7 with kit lens, or A7r, but based on the NEX series, all Sony E-mount lenses are worth $0, and the Nex 5-n (16mp) actually had better images abover 400 iso than the Nex 7 (24mp). The Nex 7 definitely used the same sensor but stretched the images. Looking at a few A7/A7r photos coming out, looks like the A7r is stretching the same image to 36mp. Anyone tried that 41mp phone? Exactly what I mean.

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  23. Hi, i think it is quite harsh to say that Fuji "somehow just couldn't get it right" on AF, as they are quite new to this segment though. X100 and X-Pro 1 are both their first try on mirrorless compact and ILC (which at the time of launch i think would not have been worse in AF than EP1/GF1) and are both quite capable now with firmware updates. They did make significant improvements from X100s and now XE-2 which are IMO on par, if not better than almost all micro 4/3 (sans OMD of course) and also entry - mid level DSLRs.

    On the other hand, I do hope that the emergence of A7 (heard that its priced about 1500 USD?) will cause other brands to reduce the price of full frame :) Anyway nice article!!

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  24. Never visited your site before, Robin, and have been very glad to come across it in the Sony a7(r) debate. I'd set my sights on an EM-1 and can relax now and know that is right for me when I can afford it. The new Sonys had me unsettled for a bit, but I've never really bonded with my NEX C3, though it's given me very good results - particularly with the 55-200 zoom and the Sigma 30mm. So I won't be jettisoning it. But going winterised with good image quality is important, and the EM-1 felt just right in my hands when I held it recently. Thanks to you and everyone for a very helpful discussion.

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  25. Hi Robin. Nice review though. Well, I did went to Sony Event launch and poison myself deep. Haha...only to realize my surrounding folks that turn up all is Leica user. >< But I did a good and quick play session. But am still too early to say whether it is to one's liking but definitely Sony coming up with some good one for once.

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  26. Thanks for review, it was excellent and very informative.
    thank you :)

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