My first play with my dream camera, the Sony A7r by Josh Perera

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My first play with my dream camera, the Sony A7r by Josh Perera

Ever since I first got into the Sony Nex system cameras early in their inception with the Nex5, I knew there was something special about these little cameras and their 18mm e mount. Packing the power of an APS-C DSLR sized sensor into a tiny package that can easily be thrown in your girlfriends handbag, it was pretty easy for me to fall in love with it. The only thing that held it back was the lack of lenses. We originally started out with the 16mm 2.8 prime and the 18-55mm kit zoom. The zoom is satisfactory but the surprise of the two was the great little 16mm f2.8 prime lens, which is a great little wide-angle.

Wanting something more but disappointed with the lens selection available I turned to third-party manufactures after Sony made the prophetic decision to make the e mount spec freely available for third-party manufacturers to produce for. I had read about the ability to mount old slr lenses on the nex via adapter but this seemed daunting so I went looking for propriety e mount lenses first. The first to pop their head up and try to cater for this new market of e mount shooters was a company called SLR Magic. I purchased their 35mm f1.7 manual focus lens which I reviewed here, and their 28mm f2.8 manual focus lens which I reviewed here.

These two lenses introduced me to manual lens photography on the Sony Nex system and I was hooked in minutes. I continued to shoot them exclusively for about 4 months until I decided I wanted more. Like all good GAS starts. I looked on eBay and quickly found a Minolta 50mm f2 I was interested in (I always had an affinity with Minolta since I was a boy) after winning that auction I then ordered a cheap adapter and waited. This was all the start of my obsession with mounting vintage glass on the amazing sensors of the sony Nex’s. I still shot my Nex5 but have since also purchased the fantastic Sony Nex5n who’s 16mp sensor was a great improvement on the previous 14mp version.

As much as I have loved my Nex’s there are two things I have always craved, a viewfinder, so as to feel even more connected with the shot, even though I do now love shooting them waist level like a medium format camera…and a fullframe sensor so i can enjoy my lenses in all their glory at their actual focal lengths instead the 1.5x crop that happens with an apsc sensor. I kind of new the day was coming where Sony would release just this for a long time now, so I invested in the system even more, with more lenses and more adapters etc. and started saving my pennies for what I knew eventually must come.

Then earlier this year the rumors started to surface that there was in fact a Sony e mount full frame mirrorless camera being tested around the traps…and then the rumors started come more frequently and we knew it was finally coming.

Little did we know that Sony in fact had two new full frame e mount cameras for us, the cheaper A7 with 24mp sensor, slightly less robust build and phase detect af, and the flagship more expensive A7r with a 36mp sensor minus AA filter with entire magnesium alloy body, but only had contrast detect af. I of course straight away wanted the 36mp version with out AA filter as it would give me access to the absolute best (or worst) my lenses could offer, that and I had always tried to purchase the robust version of the nex in the past thus why I started with the Nex5. So it felt only right to go with the A7r for me.

So I placed my pre-order and waited and saved the last bit I needed and enjoyed my nex’s in the mean time. Then just last friday rumors started to surface that they had started shipping. So I rang the Sony store in Perth where I had placed my pre-order and was informed they were unpacking them as we spoke and would put mine aside for me to pick up. I was beside the moon and of course rushed in to grab my prize.

Getting home I was keen to un box my baby, but at the same time I wanted to take my time and savor the occasion. haha. The first thing I pulled out which impressed me was that Sony is giving away a free mount adaptor (which reminds me I need to apply for mine) to help deal with the lack of native lenses at this time.

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After getting past the manuals and such I finally came to my beauty and I was instantly impressed by the styling, which reminds me of the old x700′s, the size which is not much bigger than my nex5n and the weights, which too was not much more than my nex5n.

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The text around the mount just makes me smile every time I read it.

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It took me a few minutes to adjust to the new controls and figure out how to set it up to my shooting style but was ready to go in no time. I am still being blown away by how much this feels like shooting one of my film slrs, it really is enjoyable to shoot. Oh, and I was quite surprised by how quiet the shutter was, many initial reports had stated it was really loud, but it is no much louder than on the Sony Nex’s.

Of course I had to get in some test shots around the house before the light faded too much. All images taken from camera jpg as i have no way of editing the raw files at this stage unfortunately.

(click on images to view larger)

As many of you may know my two dogs feature prevalently in my test shoots, this day was no different. haha

Shot on the voigtlander 35mm f1.4 manual focus lens, iso 50, s/sp 1/20

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Shot with my Zeiss Pancolar 50mm f1.8 manual focus lens, iso 200, 1/50

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I was short for options as the light was fading fast, so just shot what I could on my street with what lenses were lying around my desk for now, I will delve into testing everything properly in the future.

shot with Nikkor S 35mm f2.8 manual focus lens, iso100, s/sp 1/800, wide open

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Shot with Zeiss Pancolar 50mm f1.8 manual focus lens, iso 64, s/sp 1/400, @f2.8

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Shot with Zeiss Pancolar 50mm f1.8 manual focus lens, iso 100, s/sp 1/400, @f2.8

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Shot with Nikkor S 35mm f2.8 manual focus lens, iso 100, s/sp 1/400, @ f4

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So that was about it for my testing on the first day before the light faded too much. However the next day I needed to get out of the house (I have been busy finishing mixes for my bands latest release) so decided to go for a walk at a nearby nature reserve and try my hand with the A7r and a wide-angle. I had recently gotten this Spiratone 17mm f3.2 manual focus lens back from being serviced by Max, so thought I would test this guy out. I was not expecting much as it is not a name brand lens, however what did surprise me was how it’s imperfections actually add a nice uniqueness to the shots. It’s not particularly sharp, it is low on micro contrast and it vignettes on the full frame sensor, but there is some thing beautiful and character about the way it renders. Of course I cannot fully judge any lenses on sharpness until I can edit the raw.

Shot with my Spiratone 17mm f3.2 manual focus lens, iso 50, s/sp 1/1250, @ f5.6

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Shot with my Spiratone 17mm f3.2 manual focus lens, iso 50, s/sp 1/1250, @ f5.6

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Shot with my Spiratone 17mm f3.2 manual focus lens, iso 50, s/sp 1/320, @ f5.6

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This one is my favorite of the batch from this walk, this huge lone tree just standing there in the middle of this field of dried grass. I started walking through the tall grass to get closer for my shot when I realized I was only wearing thongs not enclosed shoes and this was rather snake friendly grass, so I quickly took my shot and got out of there. haha. I will return again in the future with the proper footwear and frame my shot as I see in my mind’s eye.

Shot with my Spiratone 17mm f3.2 manual focus lens, iso 50, s/sp 1/800, @ f8

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Shot with my Spiratone 17mm f3.2 manual focus lens, iso 50, s/sp 1/800, @ f8

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As we climbed the hill to return to the car to leave, a jogger ran past us which caused me to turn and realize the view I had missed, so I framed and quickly snapped trying to make sure I got the jogger in frame.

Shot with my Spiratone 17mm f3.2 manual focus lens, iso 50, s/sp 1/1250, @ f5.6

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Like I said that combo is far from perfect and I believe resolving well below the sensors capabilities, but it still produces pleasing shots. Food for thought that maybe not everything is sharpness.

Later that night was my sisters 16th birthday party. She was having a black light party and had asked me to take some shots for her. This was a perfect excuse to test the A7r in low light shooting with manual glass and an off camera flash. I used a Yongnuo 560II with remote trigger off camera. I had to zone focus in the really dark situations which I am used to from my nex’s, all in all I am impressed by how the combo performed.

Shot with Voigtlander 35mm f1.4 manual focus lens, iso 250, 1/160, @ f2.8

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Shot with Voigtlander 35mm f1.4 manual focus lens, iso 200, 1/160, @ f2.8

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Shot with Voigtlander 35mm f1.4 manual focus lens, iso 250, 1/160, @ f2.8

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Shot with Voigtlander 35mm f1.4 manual focus lens, iso 250, 1/160, @ f2.8

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What a great weekend that was. I can’t believe how quick it went. haha. I thoroughly enjoyed shooting my new Sony A7r, in fact when I showed it to my partner within 2 minutes of her having a go she said I had to buy another one for her. haha. Only gives me hope for the future.

I truly enjoy this camera already, it has more than performed fully straight out of the box. I look forward to more thorough lens testing in the future, make sure you keep checking back, I also look forward to be able to edit the raw in the future too.

Unfortunately it is Monday and I am back at work, so until next time, happy snapping.

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69 thoughts on “My first play with my dream camera, the Sony A7r by Josh Perera

  1. After being delighted with a Sony RX100 II pocket camera, I recently took a deep breath, jumped in and bought an A7R with the Zeiss 55 1.8. This was a big deal because it meant I was switching systems, not just a camera. I had very happily used a Canon 5D Mark II as my main camera for the last several years. The Canon was excellent, so I wasn’t prepared for all that the Sony has delivered. It is beyond expectations.

    Having chased digital technology since starting with a Nikon 990 perhaps 14 years ago, I’ve gone through a succession of Canons. This is quite simply the most massive improvement I’ve ever seen. The quality is shockingly good and all the more so because it’s coming out of such a tiny device. Giddy is an apt word for how I feel about this little jewel.

    I realize that I probably won’t be seeing the same lenses as I had for my 5D II any time soon or perhaps ever, so I bought a Metabones adaptor, but haven’t used it yet because I don’t want to spoil the 7R by hanging big, clunky lenses on the front of it. I love its compactness, so I’m now planning on living with less range than Canon’s 24-105 and 100-400 provided by getting by with Sony’s coming 24-70 and 70-200. The extra resolution may almost make up for the missing 200-400 portion and the incredibly tack sharp images are a bonus the 5D II simply could never provide(!) The size, very useful viewfinder plus the live back screen are further big bonuses.

    As a landscape photographer, speed isn’t that important to me and the “noisy shutter issue” is way overblown. Battery life may prove a slight nuisance, but it’s so easily resolved that it’s hardly worth mentioning. At the end of the day, this amazing device delivers by FAR the finest quality images I have ever seen. It’s shocking that they come out of something so small.

    I never expected to be getting rid of all my Canon equipment and certainly not for a Sony. So now I’m in Sony’s camp and can’t even imagine what they might dream up to tempt me to switch again. If they ever succeed, it will have to be something truly out of this world.

  2. Having just calibrated my screen (via Spyder Pro 4) I’m struggling a little here.

    It’s that vague and overworked term “awesome” to describe what I see as perfectly serviceable test shots but not showing much difference to APS-C shots. Now, I think there would be observable differences when printing the same files, though. But what makes them “awesome” here?
    Does it mean a poster cannot find words to describe some technical details? Or are the scenes and compositions so staggeringly wonderful the poster is left speechless? Or something else..

    I’ll support a fellow Aussie any day but we rather shy away from overblown hyperbole (or as a recently turfed out (yay!) PM said, “hyper-bowl”..).

    The A7r will be great, no doubt about that. Interesting to see the responses next from Canon and Nikon. If Nikon has imagination it will use the S2 as a retro platform (but smaller) for an answer.

    1. I did not talk tech specs because it was not my intention to do a full review as this will be covered by plenty of others including our own Steve Huff here. I am merely sharing with you my first weekend with the camera and a little of my story with e mount cameras leading to this point.

      My screen is calibrated with spyder pro 2…

      I’m sorry you can find no joy in my post. Maybe I will be able to please you next time huh. hahahaha 😉

      1. Find “joy”??! I’m delerious…he he.

        No, I found it interesting and useful. In other words, worthwhile. And that is pleasing. So don’t be disappointed at all.

        I was having a little dig at the over-the-top brigade and its inane and monotonous use of “awesome”. When they see something really good they’ll have no convincing vocab left.

  3. Great camera with no lenses is just a brick. I don’t understand Sony. For instance, I want to buy 7r, but with no matching lens I don’t want it. The worst thing for Sony is that by the time when there’ll be lenses, other brands will release something more interesting. So many of us, who could spend money on this system, will take our credit cards somewhere else. Poor marketing from Sony.

    1. Yes it had occurred to me to do this comparison. I will try to do it this weekend if I get the time. I can also do a comparison to the Nex’s with lens turbo as well if you desire?

      1. Yes, please. And if you have time, compare the video in crop with lens turbo and in full frame (aliasing and moire). I’m hoping they are reduced with vintage glass but if by any chance they are gone in the crop i will know for sure the A7r is my next camera.

  4. Awesome photos Josh!

    How is manual focus with peaking? Is it enjoyably easy?

    It’s cool to see someone from Perth on Steve’s Blog!

    1. Yes, it is just as fluid as ever. One thing I always preferred on the nex5 to the nex5n (yes some thing were better on the original in my opinion) was that the magnification was greater. They reduced this on the nex5n and I always found it a little harder to guarantee critical sharpness compared to the ease of the nex5. Well the a7r has returned these greater magnification settings which is great in my oppinion. 🙂

      1. Cool. Thanks!

        How do you think you would go with street shooting with a 35mm or 50mm using the EVF with peaking but without magnification? I don’t think I’m good enough to know my framing exactly while using the magnification 😛

        1. Magnification is an on off thing to check critical focus. I basically frame, meter, get focus pretty close with peaking click on magnification to confirm critical focus then fire. I have gotten this all down to within a second. You can use just peaking but you may be disappointed that you are often just off. To increase peaking efficiency always set peaking to low. The less area it is showing as in focus the more accurate it is. The higher you set your peaking amount the more chance you have of missing focus in my experience. 🙂

          1. That, sir, is a great advice, i own a 5n and use the peaking to medium and 75% of the time is ok (40% spot on). I will try it on low tomorrow… Great review by the way 🙂

  5. Some very nice pics, even with the vignetting I really like that Spiratone… I’m working away in Malaysia so it made my day to see Lake Joondalup! I live like one street back from Neil Hawkins park & it’s a favorite testing ground for manual lenses on my OM-D. Do yourself a favor & get some Russian glass to play with, I have had some great results with the Jupiter lenses (3,8,9 & 11) & the Helios-44, even better with full frame I would expect.

    1. I have Russian glass too. Haha. This is just a few lenses that were sitting on my desk. I have well over 130 lenses in my collection at last count. I am keen to test some of my more exotic glass when time permits. Glad to here a few locals saw the shots, yes maybe I will see you around. Are you on Facebook? I run the photographers in Perth group, you might be keen to join us on a photo walk in the future. 🙂

  6. A few words about the A7 and the Kit lens…and a big cry for help if any of you can…

    The camera feels great and is really comfortable in your hands, I took about 150 pictures and must say some are great others are not, mostly of all I guess because of the lens…some are sharp but mostly not. Manual focusing mostly helps. When it’s a bit dark sometimes AF lags. but I was used to the NEX-7 which was way worse, so I’m mostly satisfied with the speed, but already think about how to save up money for a Zeiss lens!;-/

    Coming to my problem: If some of you might already have their A7’s as well, maybe you can tell me about the eye detection focus function (not eye start af), I mean AF centering on the eyes, I programmed my user buttons with that function and cannot seem to activate it, am I doing something wrong or does my A7 not work correctly? Thats a function I definitely want to have!

    Please, if someone has an advice? I’d really appreciate it!

  7. Thank you to Steve for sharing my article. It is truly an honor, and thank you to all of you for taking the time to read my article, that is the even greater honor. 🙂
    I really appreciate the kind words and questions and I will happily respond as best I can and even knock up some more test’s with other lenses over the w/e if that is desired. 😀

  8. Cool! Finally some good pics with the A7r, now we can get an idea of what it can do.
    What I notice first and most importantly and what i love is the camera takes on the personality of the lens used. This is vital. It is very reassuring to know the camera will allow the uniqueness of the lens to shine forth.
    Thank you!

    1. Thank you for taking the time to read. 🙂

      Yes it is great that the camera really does take on the character of the lens. This truly is a great tool in the arsenal of the creative manual lens photographer. I cannot wait to finish work again for the week and be able to get back out there and test more of my lens collection. I have a wedding to shoot this weekend so that will put it through it’s paces as well as test the video. So another solid weekend of shooting my new baby ahead of me, I can’t wait. 😀

    1. Totally lens dependent as I replied earlier to someone else. This spiratone 17mm is an old cheap lens from the 70’s/80’s. I will shoot some samples over the weekend from some nicer wides like my Minolta 21mm f2.8 and 16mm f2.8 and share them on my page so you can see that it is the lens creating the problems not the camera. 🙂

  9. Some good shots here, the colors on the Zeiss 50mm Pancolar road shot look delicious! The pool shots too. You have somehow managed to get the most natural looking, laid back A7R shots.

  10. I didnt get one from Sony in NZ 🙁 but Olympus had an offer in Australia with the Em1 plus free 4/3 adapter so perhaps Sony were responding to that? The Oly offer made it’s way to NZ though. Both great cameras for different things, now I need some vacation time to really get to use them.

    lightroom 5.3 candidate release has RAW support for the A7r now btw Josh.

    1. Yes, I signed up for creative cloud only to realize they only support windows 7 now and I run pc’s with xp and vista, so no new adobe for me unfortunately. So I will have to wait now till one of the third party raw developers like RawTherapee pics up support for the a7r raw… or I will have to save more pennies and buy a new pc. hahaha 🙂

  11. I also had it at home … and it is great!

    I do not regret that I sold the Leica MM is not as well built as the Leica, but the image quality is ok ..

    Autofocus is fast enough, too, has no problem and CZ 35 mm 2.8 is good!

    I’m just concerned about the dust protection, construction does not seem very reliable.

    1. That vignetting is from the lens, it is a cheap lens from back in the 70’s/.80’s and not of the highest optical standards. This is not from the camera and I did not add it in post. I have since tested with nicer wides and it is definitely lens dependent. haha
      I’ll do some samples up over the w/e with my Minolta 16mm f2.8 and 21mm f2.8 amongst others. 🙂

  12. Ok, I’ve been on the fence about this camera but I think this review has finally convinced me to save my pennies and buy one. I own a NEX 5n as well and I’ve really loved using it, but full frame would be fantastic and it doesn’t seem like one is sacrificing too much in the way of size.

    Plus, it will be wonderful to use my Nokton 40mm and actually have it be 40mm again…

  13. “Ever since I first got into the Sony Nex system cameras early in their inception with the Nex5”

    Sony Alpha Rumor says 2014 will see Nex5 body with FF.
    Priced right lets say $899 ($400 less tha A7 due to no evf no new body) it will the hot potato and the digital caemera I have hoped for.

      1. Nex5 size FF negates any other mirrorless (for me).
        M adapter : 50cron / 90elmar / 135elmar.

        (28mm covered by Sigma DP1M
        Anything above 200mm covered by Sony HX50V 24-720mm).

  14. Nice post and pics Josh.
    That is sweet of Sony to give out free adapters – really shows goodwill to the photographer by accepting that they have other systems. Smart move too – this may attract customers who would have shied away.

    This Sony is looking better and better to me..

    1. I have two copies of this lens, one is the 18mm f3.5 spiratone in fd mount and the other is this 17mm f3.2 spiratone. Yes you are correct that it is apparent that they are the same optical design, and I have read that it was actually manufacturer dependent on where they split the line and rated the lens. For example, one run may have been made by tokina and they may have rated it one way, and the other batch may have been made by sigma and they the other. Or simply there may have been refinements to the optical design over time. I can take pictures of the two side by side if you wish. There are definitely differences between the two. 🙂

      I also have the spiratone 20mm f2.8 which is a world above this 17mm. haha

  15. Congrats on the new axe, nice shots here. I totally get what you are putting down here, Nex5n shooter, a little too poor for Zeiss quality, but my Minolta 58 1.4, Canon FL 55 1.2 etc. seem to do me just fine. Can’t wait to enjoy lenses of every type and quality on full frame, 2nd tier quality vintage manual focus is the crazy older brother who beats the crap out of you but always has your back. Your review just gets me so gassed up for next year or a little latter when I’ll be moving on up to the deluxe apartment in the sky that is an A7.

        1. I would imagine he refers to the fact that there is no Nikon G mount, but F mount. Not that it matters much.
          G series Nikon lenses do however exist for the F mount, for all I know the adaptor may only work on those.

  16. I’ve noticed a lot of giddiness in the people getting this camera around the world. It’s exciting to see this many people having so much fun in photography (and with their gear).

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