Sony A7 and A7R – Do Sony’s New Full Frame Mirrorless Cameras Live Up to the Hype?

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When Sony released the RX1 Fixed Lens Full Frame System a year ago, we wondered out loud how long it would be before there was an interchangeable lens mirrorless system to go along with it.  Our query has now been answered, as Sony have now released their all new interchangeable lens system cameras, the Sony A7 and Sony A7R.

But just what is the difference between these two cameras, and do they live up to the standards that most people associate with the term “Full Frame?”

Chris Niccolls and Jordan Drake from The Camera Store got their hands on both models and took them out for a little Autumn shooting to test out both the still photo and video capabilities of Sony’s new Full Frame Systems.

TCS writes…

“We’ve been hoping for someone besides Leica to make a full frame, interchangeable lens mirrorless camera, and Sony has finally produced the cameras we’ve been waiting for! In this episode The Camera Store TV’s Chris Niccolls checks out the new Sony A7 and A7R, full frame mirrorless cameras with killer specs for the price. See if they live up to the huge promise they offer.  Also, Jordan Drake takes a look at the video functionality.”

My 2 Cents

There’s no doubt that the Sony A7 and A7R are hitting the market with a lot of promise.  One of the biggest arguments levied against mirrorless systems by the pixel peepers and forum trolls is that the smaller sensors in most mirrorless systems can’t compete with those in their huge, full frame sensored DSLR-a-sauruses (more on that in our follow up article).  Enter the A7 and A7R, which have a spec pedigree to match any of the big boys and juicy 24mp and 36mp Sony Full Frame Sensors respectively to boot, all packed in the smaller and lighter body of a mirrorless system.  Let me reemphasize that these are Sony sensors, because let’s face it, Sony make some of the best sensors in the game, which is why they’re used in so many cameras that do not carry the Sony moniker.  So right out of the gate, you get that Sony power while enjoying one of the chief advantages of going mirrorless – smaller size and lower weight.  But does this translate into greatness for the new Sony Systems?

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly…

The Good –  The A7 and A7R do indeed, deliver in the area of image quality (no surprise here).  You’ll get crisp and clean images, even at higher ISO, and each camera is tricked out for video as well, complete with mic input and headphone jacks.  They’re both ruggedly built and ergonomically friendly with smartly laid out controls.  They have cool, retro styling (much like the Olympus OM-D), and wi-fi is an added bonus (and is becoming a necessity in this day and age).  Price wise, they represent a huge value for the investment, especially when compare to top of the line, full frame DSLR systems, and by using an adapter, such as the Metabones Speedbooster, you can use all of your legacy lenses.

The Bad – Unfortunately, there just isn’t much native glass for these systems as of yet.  There are a few tasty Zeiss lenses you can get and Sony promise more in the future, but for now, you’ll have to rely on native zooms and legacy lenses with adpaters that will negate some of the size advantage you’ll have with an A7 system.  Sony have made strides in the area of autofocus tracking, especially on the A7 – which has phase detection pixels at the center of it’s sensor (the A7R relies entirely on contrast detection), but neither of these is ideal for fast action sports.  You’ll also have to rely on Optical Image Stabilization (OIS), as there’s none built into either body, so if your lens is not so equipped, make sure you’re using a tripod.  Also, the batteries are a bit on the smaller side, so make sure to order extras.

The Ugly – Nothing to call ugly here…  unless you don’t like the color black, because that’s the only way they come.

Conclusion

The Sony A7 and A7R hold their own very well against top tier DSLRs in most respects, and should have great appeal for the Pro Photographer and ardent enthusiast to whom a Full Frame Sensor will matter the most.  The A7R, with it’s weather sealed, magnesium alloy body and 36mp of full frame power will no doubt entice it’s share of portrait and landscape photographers, but this one’s best left on the tripod.  The 24mp sensor on the A7 is no slouch in the performance department, and this camera is actually much better suited for street photography and video (in our opinion) than the more expensive A7R.  It doesn’t have it’s more expensive siblings magnesium alloy boy, but it’s still weather sealed and solidly built.  Both of these are tremendous cameras that should have a broad appeal to high end photographers looking to move over to mirrorless, and we’re giving them Editor’s Choice Status.

Order the Sony A7 or Sony A7R on Amazon Here

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