My Nikon D800 with Nikkor 35mm 1.4G side-by-side with my new A7r mounted with a Leica Summilux 35mm 1.4 ASPH lens. Quite a size difference for two cameras that are so equal in other ways!
I have been wanting a Leica M240 or Monochrom ever since I realized that my D800 was a heavy camera, particularly when it had my Zeiss 15mm 2.8 ultra wide-angle lens mounted on it. It hadn’t seemed so bad at first, because it felt great in my hand and was comfortable to shoot, but carrying it in a backpack all day along with a backup lens caused back pain long before I was ready to get on a train and go home. Another thing that made me curious about the Leica was that it looked much less intrusive than the Nikon. When I would pull my Nikon out of my bag, people nearby would often step back and say “whoah!” as if I’d just pulled out a cannon or some other weapon. A camera that would not draw attention to itself sounded pretty good to me, but at €6,299 for the M240 and €6,899 for the Monochrom, any kind of Leica seemed out of reach.
It wasn’t just the tiny form factor that I wanted, because there were those magical Leica lenses. The photos I’d seen taken by these amazing little gems had a quality that no other lens could reproduce. I loved my Zeiss 15mm and my 100mm Makro-planar, but their smooth, creamy rendering style didn’t suit some subjects as well as others. My two 1.4G Nikkor didn’t either. Each of these lenses served a useful purpose and I liked them, but none could provide the kind of gritty high contrast realism the Leicas consistently produce. It didn’t matter though because it would cost about €10,000 to get a minimal Leica system plus lens, and I couldn’t afford to do that. I tried the I-shot-it contest a few times, but didn’t even get close. Unsurprising, considering the numbers of professionals entering for a chance at the Monochrom plus enough money to buy several good lenses. Then, I had a spot of good news: Christmas was coming up and someone felt I should have a Leica. Problem solved!
Now that I was being asked to pick out my own Christmas gift, I realized that I wasn’t so sure that I wanted a Leica camera after all. I had read some things about it on the internet that I didn’t like. One of the reviewers I read said the M240 would lock up frequently right when he needed it, forcing him to pop the battery and reset the camera, but that was complicated by the design, which forced him to remove the tripod mount before he could open the battery compartment door. Who wanted that hassle from a €6,299 camera? Even as a gift I’d feel guilty about spending money on something like that. And then there was the 24MP sensor. I liked the D800’s 36MP sensor and didn’t want to take a step back while spending three times as much money for the privilege. I had all but decided to get a new Zeiss Otus as my Christmas gift when I ran across an article here about the A7r. A camera smaller than the M240, without the lockup problems or stupid battery door design (from Steve: NOT, I never have had any lock up with ANY M 240 I have shot, and i have shot with several), a 36MP sensor, and it could mount Leica lenses. Perfect!
About a week later, I had the A7r in hand, with a Summilux 35mm 1.4 ASPH lens to see through. Nice! Now all I needed was something to shoot. I was sick for about ten days, preventing me from doing any serious shooting right away, though I did get a few shots, then this weekend I went out with the A7r and my D800 to see what the differences were. Before I get into that, here are a few things you need to know about using Leica glass on the A7r:
The Sony .ARW RAW file format has not been shared with Adobe. They have a new update for Photoshop and Lightroom that can read the files, but because it is reverse-engineered, it does not do as good a job at reading these files as Sony’s free ARW image conversion utility. However, and this is really important, the Sony software stinks big time. All it will do is read the file correctly and spit out a TIFF or JPG image for you. Forget about doing any fancy RAW editing there because the software really stinks. For this reason, I prefer to use the Adobe software even though it immediately reduces the sharpness of the image a little bit. Maybe I’ll change my mind later, but this is how I feel about it right now.
I used the Novoflex Leica to Sony adapter ring to mount the Summilux on the A7r. This adapter does not communicate any lens data to the A7r (unlike the Phigment Tech adapter I’ve heard about) so you will not get much in the way of EXIF data shooting this combination. It also means that for this article, I had no idea what f-stop I was using on the A7r. For that reason, I decided to ignore f-stop comparisons and just look at image quality.
Now for the review. To test the cameras, I put a pair of top quality 35mm lenses on each. For the A7r, I had a Summilux 35mm 1.4 ASPH. The D800 had a Nikkor 35mm 1.4G AP-S. I would have liked to try the D800E with a Zeiss 35mm 1.4, but I didn’t have either, so this is what I used. Besides, I wanted to test the difference between the AF Nikkor and the MF Leica lenses.
Shooting these two cameras is a very different experience. When taking pictures of anything moving, the D800 is able to quickly fire off a half-dozen shots or more while the A7r gets only one image and then the subject is gone. At first this really irritated me, but then I learned to be more careful when I tripped the shutter on the A7r. It meant that I wouldn’t have any backup images if I got the timing wrong, but on the other hand, I found I tended to get the composition I wanted more often than with the D800. I think this was because the rapid burst-firing of the D800 had made me lazy about composition, so I would just shoot a bunch of shots and then sort out the compositions later. With the A7r, I had to see that I had the composition (or was just about to) before pushing the button.
Crossing the bridge, shot with a Sony A7r + Leica Summilux 35mm 1.4 ASPH
Crossing the bridge, shot with a Nikon D800 + Nikkor 35mm 1.4G
Another difference between the cameras is the Live View and EVF on the A7r vs. the Live View and OVF on the D800. I didn’t expect this to be a big difference, but it really was. The resolution of the LV and EVF on the A7r is double that of the D800 LV, and the EVF is much easier to use than the D800’s OVF because of focus magnification. This may be because, at 48 years old, I need the extra resolution to see what I’m doing, but I had the distinct impression that my eyesight got worse whenever I switched to the D800, because it could only show so much on the LV due to its low maximum resolution. I had asked Steve about this by email and he suggested that I use the EVF on the A7r without focus magnification because it is much faster than trying to use focus mag. I tried it his way along with focus peaking (another cool feature of the A7r) and my way with focus mag. He was right that focus mag slowed down the process, but sometimes I felt it was necessary, so I used it anyway. Either way, I found that I got the focus more often with the A7r than with the D800. This was not because the Nikkor 35mm 1.4G was incapable of matching the Summilux (I assume) but because I couldn’t see what I was doing as well with the D800 as on the A7r.
Keeping warm by the canal. Shot with a Sony A7r + Leica Summilux 35mm 1.4 ASPH
I had both cameras in the same big camera backpack, but found that whenever an unexpected opportunity for a shot arose, I grabbed the A7r by reflex. Maybe it was because it was smaller and easier to grab, or because it was less obtrusive. Whatever the reason, it was my instinct. All of my favorite shots were made this way: unexpected, quick, and without a D800 shot to compare with (sorry) because the opportunities came and went too fast to use both cameras. I did, however, get plenty of shots that were good comparatives, so let’s get into those.
Dynamic range test shot, St. Antoniuuskerk Kathedraal. Shot with a Sony A7r + Leica Summilux 35mm 1.4 ASPH
I took a number of shots inside a couple of cathedrals in an old medieval town in the Netherlands. In St. Antoniuuskerk, I wanted to test the DR capabilities of the two setups. In my opinion, the Sony was much better the Nikon. Of the 30 shots I took, below is a side-by-side comparison of the best from each camera. Keep in mind that I have no idea what the f-stop settings were for the A7r so I didn’t bother comparing that. For all I know, these are totally different f-stops. However, these are the two best shots from either camera for DR, regardless of f-stop, so it shouldn’t matter.
Nikon on left, Sony on right. The Sony clearly has a lot more detail than the Nikon, and this was true of all the A7r shots vs the D800.
Figure 7 Another DR shot, made with the Sony A7r + Leica Summilux 35mm 1.4 ASPH
The shot I took of the canal above was one of those fast shots I hadn’t planned on taking, so I don’t have a D800 shot to compare it with, but this a pretty decent shot for checking out the DR capabilities of the A7r sensor. This is not an HDR image, but a single image with some tweaking in LR to adjust the shadow brightness. Importantly, the shadow, darks, and highlights are not clipped anywhere in the image despite the fact that the sun is (almost) in the image and there are reflections everywhere.
Auto focus comparison. Nikon D800 on left, Sony A7r on right
This test really surprised me. On my D800’s Live View screen, it looked like the D800 had nailed the focus on the “GIANT” lettering on the down tube of my bike, but it is soft compared to the MF of the A7r + Summilux combination. I used focus mag and the EVF on the A7r for this shot, and it seems to have worked really well. In other shots, moving and static, I consistently got this result. Only rarely were the Nikon shots focused better, regardless whether I used AF or MF (I tried both after I noticed the problem.) Maybe this is because my eyes are 48 years old now, but it is still important to know, because I’m not the only person out there that has to wear reading glasses.
Another focus example, D800 on left, A7r on right
The aperture on these two shots is clearly different, with the Summilux more wide open than the Nikkor, but the important thing is that it is sharper. I really think this is because the higher resolution EVF allows me to see the details better than the D800’s LV or the OVF.
Colour test, D800 on left, A7r on right
I took some deep woods shots because of all the highly saturated colours to be found there after a recent rain storm. The A7r + Summilux always gave a wider colour range, though on a couple of shots I preferred the Nikkor results. In this example, we are looking at a pile of leaves from slightly different angles, but they are the same leaves. The D800 + Nikkor clearly has less colour range than the A7r + Summilux. In addition, despite the things I’d read about a magenta cast on the A7r when using Leica lenses, in this shot the Nikkor looks more magenta than the Leica.
Sharpness comparison, D800 on left, A7r on right
This comparison really surprised me. I took about 40 shots each with the D800 and the A7r of people crossing this bridge on foot and bicycles, as well as several of the bridge without any people around, and all of them are like this. The A7r shots are always sharper at the point of focus than the D800 shots. This doesn’t mean I always focused on the right subject with the A7r, I didn’t, but wherever the point of focus was, it was sharper than the D800. Because the people were sometimes moving quite fast, I did a better job of focusing on my subject with the D800 when the person was on a bicycle, but when walking, I had better luck with the A7r.
Shot with Nikon D800 + Nikkor 35mm 1.4G
Shot with D800 + Nikkor 35mm 1.4G
Shot with A7r + Leica Summilux 35mm 1.4 ASPH
Noise test, D800 on left and A7r on right
One of the few tests the D800 consistently won on was noise. It seemed like the A7r always had more noise. Maybe I just am not used to the camera yet, but it seemed like there was always noise in the A7r shots, no matter how low the ISO was.
Close-up sharpness test, D800 on left, A7r on right
In this tripod shot I could have sworn the focus on the D800 was perfect. At least, based on what I could see in the viewfinder, that’s what it looked like. And yet, the A7r is sharper. On the D800, I used Live View magnified to the maximum. It looked as sharp as could be detected with its resolution, but there was still some play in the lens where there was no discernable change in focus, meaning I needed more resolution to see what was going on. If my eyes were sharp enough, I might have been able to see the difference with the OVF, but with the EVF of the A7r I could see the difference and that got me better focus.
Another colour comparison, D800 on left, A7r on right
My wife likes the colour of the shot on the left better because of the more saturated blue reflections in the puddle, but I prefer the variety of greens in the A7r shot on the right. At first, I liked the D800 shot better also, but then I adjusted the tones a bit in LR and then I liked the A7r shot better. Perhaps it is just a matter of taste.
Market day, shot with the Sony A7r + Leica Summilux 35mm 1.4 ASPH
And that’s it! Now I’m off to a conference in the UK, where I hope to get a few hours to take some more shots with the A7r. I’ll be carrying it on a tiny hip pouch, which is all that is needed for this extraordinary camera.
By Didier Godme – His Flickr is HERE, his blog is HERE
I started being more serious about photography when buying my first Canon DSLR (20D) a few years back and then upgraded to the 5DMII. After 3 years of good use, my neck started feeling bad (especially with the 35 f1.4) so in 2011, my wife convinced me to cut my arm in order to be able to afford the M9-P…
I am not the type of guy who always buys the latest stuff, but since I’ve had 2 important failures in less than 2 years on the M9-P (wrong exposure + sensor dead), I decided to go for the Sony A7R. By chance it came out just when I had the 2nd failure and Leica lend me another M9-P during the 4-6 months repair time (no joke…). As a consequence, I had the opportunity to benchmark both. The goal of this article is not to say that M bodies are crap in terms of quality because it’s certainly not the case and not everybody had the same (bad) experience as I did.
My idea is simply to list all the great advantages from the Sony A7r over the M9-P which led me to stop using Leica M bodies.
- Weight: 465 vs 600 gr. OK, we’re talking peanuts here, but you can feel it straight away.
- Size: My dream has always been to get the smallest and lightest possible full frame camera. My M9-P was the first answer to that but Sony is now clearly the winner on both even if the difference is small.
- Ergonomic: I had to buy the grip for the M9-P to be able to have a strong control of it. The Sony is just perfect the way it came out from the factory.
- Iso:No need to go in depth on this one…M9 is already 4 years old and technology made loads of progress since then.
Sony A7r with Zeiss 55
Leica M9P with 50 Summilux
Sony A7r with Zeiss 35 2.8
Leica M9P with 35 Summilux at 2.8
Sony A7r with Zeiss 35 at 2.8
Leica M9P with 35 Summilux at 2.8
- Viewfinder: Although I really love the rangefinder type of viewfinder because it’s huge, clear and you can see what’s happening out of the frame, I always scratch my glasses because of the metal on the M9-P. It’s a detail, but now with the Sony A7R, I will not have to change glasses every year or think about wearing lenses each time I want to shoot.
- Framing: When using rangefinders, there is always a little shift between what was in the framelines and what you get. With the Sony A7R, what you see is what you get.
- Screen:There is no possible benchmark between the one from the M9-P and the Sony A7R. The one from the M9-P was already outdated when it came out and the Sony represents the last generation so the advantage is obvious. It’s not on this point I want to argue but on the tillable screen. It’s a simple option but it allows to increase framing possibilities tremendously and get more original pictures.
- Manual Focus:I’ve been using rangefinders for 5 years now (M7-M9-P) and have no trouble focusing manually on rangefinders. When I first read about focus peaking I had no idea what it was (I know…it’s a shame!) but Steve Huff wrote in his review that it was quite easy to focus manually with Leica M lenses on this body (http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2013/11/29/the-sony-a7-and-a7r-camera-review-by-steve-huff/). I tested it in the store where I bought it and was convinced in less than 30sec. In opposition to the rangefinder system where you need to use the center of the frame to focus, with focus peaking you can focus everywhere in the frame. The big advantage is that you don’t have to focus and then frame but can do both at the same time.
Sony A7r and 35 Summilux at ISO 6400
Sony A7r and Zeiss 35
Leica M9P with 35 Summilux
- Auto Focus: As I said, I am used to manual focus and like to control it. My wife however is not really keen on manual focusing and doesn’t take many pictures because of this. When purchasing the A7R I decided to go as well for the Zeiss 35 F2,8 so that she can use it and shot our baby. She (and I) just love this lens and now can use it on the camera. Just impossible on Leica M bodies…
- Speed: Leica M9-P goes up to 1/4000 sec while the A7R up to 1/8000 sec. Again, a small difference, but quite useful when shooting at 1.4F in daylight!
- Image Quality: Although the CCD sensor from the M9 is quite famous and my people LOVE it, I did some comparisons and find the Sony way more detailed. I also prefer the way colors come out.
- Sensor cleaning: Automatic sensor cleaning on the A7R, not on the M9.
All these reasons convinced me to go 100% for the Sony A7R. I am now waiting to get my M9-P back from repair to sell it straight away. The only thing I am going to miss from my old buddy is its legendary design…
To close the loop, standard warranty on my A7R is 4 YEARS!
Around the World with the Sony Nex 7 and the Metabones Speedbooster
By James Vanderpool – His website is HERE, his Facebook is HERE
Hello all. I’ve been a fan of Steve’s site for a while, among others. I’ve always liked his real world reviews, and one thing that seems to not have many reviews in terms of photography is the speed booster from Metabones. (The vanilla way to get full frame in mirrorless!) I got the Nex 7 in about July of last year and had been using it almost weekly on photo trips. Though I was mostly pleased with the camera, there were a few things I was unhappy with like the low light performance and APS-C cropping of my all manual full frame lenses. When this adapter came out, I was extremely excited and purchased it almost immediately. Some things turned out like I expected, but there were a few surprises.
The very first time I used this adapter was shooting an event for a Roller Derby team. The adapter really came in handy that day, because the scrimmage was indoors and light was fading fast. I was able to get shots at much lower ISOs than I thought possible.
50 1.4 1/125 250
50 1.4 1/125 640
50 1.4 1/125 500
One thing that did surprise me was the focusing. When I first got my adapter it couldn’t focus any lenses to infinity. Though I had read it about it online in EOS HD’s preview of the Metabones adapter, I hadn’t thought it would make it to the final product. This was really annoying, actually, as the farthest away I could focus was about 15 feet! (Which is why I’m almost stepping in on the action in all of my shots there, haha.)
The next day, I had the opportunity to be an assistant on a portrait shoot for the Derby team. The adapter really felt better suited for this sort of work. I could get in real close to get some amazing shots, and it worked wonders for isolating the subjects. You can see in two of my shots below that I also appreciated the extra space it gave me over a standard APS-C adapter.
50 1.4 1/4000 250
50 1.4 1/2000 100
50 1.4 1/1000 100
50 1.4 1/500 100
It took me a while to figure out how to properly adjust my adapter. To fix it: I had to 1) find tiny screwdrivers, 2) guess and test. Both steps took a few days, but number 2 was particularly difficult. The biggest problem was remembering that there wouldn’t be as much detail in landscapes (my testing method) as there would be in the standard adapter. When I remembered this, I checked my 35-70 zoom at 35mm with the standard adapter against my 50mm with the Metabones. They matched up, mostly. Since I don’t want to take up all Steve’s storage space, I won’t show all the photos I took but there are a few good examples of low light, landscapes, and street you should see. (Demonstrating speed, wide-angle, and ability to focus in an unstaged environment.)
50 1.4 1/80 200
50 1.4 1/4000 200
50 1.4 1/640 100
35-70 3.4 1/320 100
35-70 3.4 1/500 400
35-70 3.4 1/400 100
The next place I went to in my travels was Shanghai. Truthfully, I was only there for a 24 hour layover. But when I got an offer I proffered my wallet and went on a tour. (When was I going to be in Shanghai again?) I only took along my 50 1.4 for this trip. No tripods, no wider angled lenses. I had a lot of landscape shots, and a few street. I spent the most time (about two hours) in the Shanghai Pearl. When I got to the top I really wished for my tripod, but so it goes. Make do.
50 1.4 1/800 200
50 1.4 1/400 200
50 1.4 1/80 200
50 1.4 1/640 100
I was able to stay in San Francisco for quite a while after I got back on account on free-living space. It is, to my mind, the perfect city for photography. You can walk anywhere and everywhere is beautiful, has character, and is full of history. I wish I could live there and photograph forever, but alas, it’s a pretty big investment to live there with no job already lined up. I’ll have to content myself with images for now and plan to visit again in the future.
50 1.4 1/250 100
50 1.4 1/4000 100
50 1.4 1/250 400
50 1.4 1/200 400
50 1.4 1/1000 100
50 1.4 1/2000 100
So by now you’ve seen the ISO, the shutter speed, and the lenses I use. I tried to keep ISO below 200 when possible, but I also tend to use my camera on shutter priority when not shooting landscapes. Before I get a bit deeper into the pros and cons of this adapter, I wanted to be sure you saw the pictures I shot with it. Though I may not be as talented as some of the posters on this site, I’d like to offer these as proof that yes, the Metabones does give your APS-C camera most of the characteristics of a full frame. Yes, you can take good pictures.
Now, for you detail oriented types.
You know what my second favorite thing about this adapter’s ergonomics is? It’s small. With my 50 1.4 on the Nex 7, it’s barely larger than the 24 1.8 E-mount I started with. Considering that A) it gives a full frame field of view, and that B) on the Metabones adapter, it’s effectively f/1 in terms of light gathering (but not depth of field!) that is quite an incredible feat. Even my 35-70 3.4 is APS-C sized when you consider that it’s about an 24-50 f2.3 equivalent. Eat your heart out Sigma! (Only 17.6 oz, compared to the Sigma 18-35′s 28.8.)
My favorite thing about this adapter’s ergonomics is the tripod mount on the adapter. It is incredibly sturdy, so you can mount other accessories on an accessory. Madness! My personal favorite is my L-bracket from Really Right Stuff. Why not just mount it on the camera? Well, unless you have really expensive tripods you will always have a bit of drop between when you lock the camera into place on the tripod and when you let it go to take the pictures. This is especially a problem using the Nex 7 with my Contax lenses, as they’re often heavier than the camera. (I suppose with light enough lenses that wouldn’t be a problem, but then you wouldn’t be considering this article would you?) By attaching the camera to the tripod at the adapter instead of the camera, you change the center of gravity and make focusing much easier.
What bugs me, ergonomics-wise? Well, I can’t put my camera in the bag with the L-bracket attached. Time to bust out the Alan wrench!
Now for the details! If you read the white paper, or the lens rentals blog post about the adapter you’ll know that resolution is better in the center with pretty much any lens. Also with any lens, it’s worse in the corners. Well, how bad? Have you noticed it?
At lower apertures, I wouldn’t focus anywhere near infinity. I’ve had a few photos I had to throw away because the corners were bad enough to distract from the image. However, this problem mostly clears itself up at higher apertures. Not entirely, but I don’t think you noticed and I certainly wouldn’t be afraid to print large. Here’s one last picture of San Francisco, followed by a ~90% crop at f/8.
50 1.4 1/640 100
So, if you’re worried about corner softness just remember this: it’s only a few blades of grass.
After the initial troubles with infinity, I found this was easier to focus on my Nex 7 than the standard Novoflex adapter due to the increased control over depth of field. In generous light, I don’t even need to use focus magnification to get critical focus. When the light isn’t so generous (admittedly 80% of the time) I still need to use focus magnification, but it’s a quicker process of getting in range before I activate my focus magnification function.
That being said, this will not make it easy to focus on fast-moving subjects like athletes, or even subjects just moving at street speed. It takes time, practice, and in the case of sports hundreds of exposures. (With the 50 1.4. My 100-300 4.5-5.6 was much easier to focus, but that is telephoto lenses, smaller apertures, and an APS-C depth of field.) Even though this allows you to use film lenses with most of their functions intact from 35mm it will not replace a split prism or rangefinder focusing system, let alone pro level phase detection autofocus. (For pro phase detect, think Canon 1 DX/C.)
My one true disappointment with this adapter was that it wasn’t compatible with all of my Contax lenses. My 100-300 4.5-5.6, a beautiful (if massive) lens had stabilizing metal flanges coming from the lens mount. Due to the glass elements of the Metabones adapter, this was impossible to mount. Other large lenses might run into the same problems.
Those same lens elements that stop me from mounting my 100-300 lens also protect my sensor from harm. A silver lining, indeed.
Well, in a little over 1500 words now I’ve told you everything I know how to tell you about my adapter, and a little bit about the travels I took it through. Feel free to ask me any questions about the adapter I didn’t already think to answer, or give me comments or criticism about some of my photos. I’m still learning.
Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed the article!
For the past three years, I have been taking my family to Ixtapa/Zihautanejo, Mexico, for a January vacation. We stay in a beautiful condo right on the beach, and for two weeks life could not get any more idyllic.
The first year we went, I did get out one day to attempt some serious photography. I hired a taxi driver and said “take me out to the country, where there aren’t any tourists!” I did enjoy this, and got some interesting local people shots, but after doing so realized this was probably sort of a dangerous thing to do.
So the last two years I just took my most basic kit, a Sony NEX-7 and the 18-200mm zoom. This lens is obviously slow and a real compromise, but realistically I’m just looking to get some vacation snaps, right?
This is the kind of “postcard” sort of shots that I would get. Nothing wrong with that. Except that I got frustrated. Here I was in this beautiful place, and I’m making post cards? Isn’t there something more? That night I went to bed (after a few rum “painkillers”) trying to imagine what I could put together photographically.
The next morning, as is my custom, I went for a walk on the beach. The entire round trip is four miles, so it’s pretty nice. As I was turning the door handle to leave, I realized I didn’t have my camera. “Why bother?” was my first thought. More postcards? But something told me I should grab it anyway and I did. (My grandmother always said: play your hunches.)
I walked along and tried to quiet my busy mind. Although on vacation, my thoughts turn to work, the other various things that occupy my life. I had the Sony on a shoulder strap, and my hand on the body to keep it from flailing around as I trudged through the morning’s wet sand.
All of a sudden a pelican appeared to my left, in my peripheral vision. As I swung the camera up to my face, I depressed the shutter to awaken it. I kept my left eye on the pelican and moving the camera quickly to try to get the bird framed I was totally startled. The EVF had this smeared image that lasted for a little over a second. My brain was totally confused as I still had both eyes opened, but I had seen this completely strange and unreal view in my right eye.
And at that second I recalled my dream, sometime during the previous night. Flight. I often dream of flying. Sometimes, it’s like a Superman thing. I take two steps downhill and I’m airborne. Most often though I’m in some kind of wacky flying craft. A platform, something like out of the land based Star Wars crafts. It’s nearly always semi-dark and I float along over a lit up city, small forests, that kind of thing. I have done a lot of private flying, and a private pilot’s nemesis, power lines, often appear in my dreams.
But not last night. No, I was a bird. Not just any bird, evidently, as the images from the dream began to appear in my brain. They were such a mess that I just sat down on the sand, closed my eyes, listened to the crashing Pacific Ocean waves and marveled at the dream replay. This was perhaps a jungle bird, a flying sasquatch. From another time. Slow, maybe just having one eye, as the colors and lack of acuity were so surreal. I considered that this bird every so often emerges from the jungle, only early or late, to briefly reconnect with the Ocean and the creatures along the shore.
This bird would take in the modern birds, faster, more refined, able to see right through the water to catch fish. And those strange upright creatures without wings. Unbelievably fast and loud creatures which carry the upright beings on their back. Once in a while, even a creature that had not changed that much from the prehistoric times, something I could recognize.
These images from my dream were different from I had ever dreamt before, and as I picked myself up from the sand I determined to attempt to make images that week that would represent these strange visions.
Over the course of the next few miles along the beach I developed the idea that I would use a slow shutter, early and late in the day, and create my version of this ancient being’s vision. Processing in Lightroom 5 completed the recreation.
In closing, I’d like to make a brief point. To the extent I was successful, I believe it was mainly because after the dream, I was shooting with a real purpose. I intended to make certain types of images. I find I create much more compelling images when I shoot with a purpose, as opposed to “seeing what I can find.” This particular theme was pretty complex, but it doesn’t have to be. You can say “today I’m going to shoot yellow!” Or shadows, or only looking down or up. It doesn’t really matter what it is, but having a purpose orients our brain to find subject matter in a more interesting way.
Just arrived! The new Sony Music Video recorder and it is already sold out at Amazon on release day. There is a reason for this as this camera is like no other on the market. It is basically a video camera like a Go Pro style with a wide angle lens, full HD 720 or 1080 shooting, full color LCD on the side and high quality microphones built into the front. It is a pretty nifty little device and comes in at $299. Sony is marketing this towards musicians, singers and bands who want to record themselves but it can also be used as an everyday video shooter WITH great quality audio. It even has a low lux night mode for good video quality at night.
I did up a video on it to show you guys what it looks like, how small it is and how cool it looks. The camera comes with a USB cable for charging and uses the same battery as the Sony RX100 and RX1.
The camera also records to Micro SD cards. $299 at Amazon or B&H Photo (B&H has stock at this moment).
USER REPORT: The Sony A7R and Voigtlander 35 1.2 by Gianmaria Veronese
I spent this weekend in Paris in company of the new Sony A7R and the Voigtlander 35mm 1.2. This article will therefore be a summary of the on-field-test of the new Sony A7R.
Before I get into the review I would like to make an introduction about what you will find in this article and what is not. Well, I tell you now that you will not find photos of walls or pencils to see how sharp the lens is or how much resolution the A7R has. I can assure you that, with 36MPX and without AA filter, the limit on the size of your prints will be your walls and not the sensor. This article is designed to give you an idea of how the camera behaves on the field and whether if it’s possible to leave your DSLR in favor of this Sony A7R.
First let’s understand the ergonomic feeling and what are the differences from a traditional digital SLR. Well, the first thing that catches the eye and the touch is the size. It is really small (relative to the size of the sensor of course, FX 24 × 36 remember). The fact that it is small, however, has both the pro and cons.
The pros are definitely weight, size and discretion. When you travel, you just need nothing except body, lenses and battery charger. Dedicated backpacks are just a distant memory. In addition, the smaller distance from sensor to bayonet, allows you to mount any lens in circulation (with an adapter of course)! I used the excellent Novoflex. Impeccably made, it can be combined with an L-shaped bracket for heavier lenses (in my case the Nikon 14-24 that I didn’t bring to Paris).
The counter is a small body that in your hand is comfortable, but not as much as a DSLR (especially for those who have bigger hands). In short, after a while you feel a little ‘lack of something more comfortable in your hands, but I did survive without major problems.
In terms of dials, you’ll find the same of a classic DSLR, nothing new a part of the exposure compensation dial. Very comfortable to have it available, but a little ‘less practical to use. Looking through the viewfinder and looking for it with your thumb, it is easily confused with the dial on the back (the one for shutter or f-stop), but location aside, it’s a good thing there is.
Regarding buttons, in my opinion, there’s too many. I would have preferred a more essential camera (more like a Leica M than a DSLR), but well, since most of these are customizable, I’d say better to have them and ignore them rather than the reverse. The thing that I do not like instead is the shutter release button. It ‘s too backward on the body and, being upright, your finger stays in an unnatural position. Also, the worst thing is that no threaded hole has been designed on it for an eventual soft release in order to get a more comfortable feeling.
Let’s come to more interesting part of this camera, the electronic viewfinder (EVF). Let me reassure you by telling that it works very well. The vision is quite natural, and the eye does not get tired as I feared would happen. The possibility to customize it is the real gem. We can preview the final exposure and we can also see the final image with picture style such as Black & White, Sepia, etc. Moreover, the presence of the EVF translates into the possibility of using the focus peaking and live magnification of the image. In practice, we have a chance to see highlighted in red (or yellow or white at your choice) areas of the image that are in focus, helping us in the correct focusing, especially with manual focus lenses. Manual focusing with this feature is very handy and works very well, but it will take a bit of practice (especially with fast lenses). For those who care about pixels, the live magnification will allow you to perfect focusing, good for peace of your monitor magnification. In short, focus is not a problem, as all the instrument, you just need the proper period of training. Unfortunately I cannot say anything about autofocus, because I haven’t any AF lens.
Let’s come to the battery, the real sore point. It discharges very fast and you cannot stay without a second battery. Especially at the beginning, when you go through all the menus looking for the function you need, the battery consumes impressively fast. The thing is exacerbated by a severe lack: the impossibility of leaving the display turned off and only use the EVF. Or rather, you can use ONLY the EVF, but the main screen becomes completely inhibited even by turning to the menu and viewing images. In practice, we can do everything only through the EVF (i.e. going into the menu and reviewing taken pictures). Not really a good thing. The alternatives are to use ONLY the screen with liveview (completely inhibiting the EVF) or leave it in AUTO mode, where the screen turns off only when eye is approached at the viewfinder. But in this case, every time I walk away the eye from the viewfinder, the screen turns on again showing you all the settings. I did found the possibility to customize one button in order to switch off the screen, but it turns only black while remaining backlit! Incredible! I sincerely hope that this management is improved with new firmwares.
Another thing I do not like much is the shutter sound. Of course it is fantastic, sounds like an old SLR, sounds solid. But it’s definitely too strong! In street photography this is not a good thing at all. In short, from a machine without a mirror I would have expected a lighter “click”.
Nothing to say except notes of praise on the image quality. Optimal dynamic range and very malleable files in post-production. The behavior at high ISO level is very good. We can work safely at 3200IS. Going over it is certainly possible, but you must expose very correctly. By the way, I personally think that over 6400 is completely useless.
In conclusion I would say that this is an excellent camera, which can easily replace our dear old DSLR. Reactivity to shoot and feeling are identical to an DSLR and I am fully satisfied after just few days of use, then I can only hope well for the future.
All the shots below were made with Sony A7R and Voigtlander 35mm 1.2 freehand.
Both had Noise Reduction turned OFF to see the true sensor performance at high ISO (NR smears details).
Both focused just fine here.
You can click on each image for the full size from camera JPEG. You can see the Nikon vs Sony color signature here as well. The Nikon is known to be the best current production low light champ and high ISO shooter with that D4 sensor inside and the Sony A7 is the new sensor on the block. How do you think they stacked up?
Hello, friends! I am back with a user report and second perspective to the review that Steve’s put together for the much-anticipated and ballyhooed Sony A7R, which I had the privilege of shooting over the past week-end, just ahead of its U.S. release. Interestingly, the U.S. appears to be the last major market to receive the A7R, and while many of you around the world have already begun to use the camera, it’s been rarely seen in these parts. All of that said, I was one of the lucky few to get a taste, and here’s my report.
The Sony A7R, as you know, is an incredibly compact mirrorless camera, housing an impressive 36-megapixel sensor, which forgoes an accompanying low-pass (Anti-Aliasing) filter. It’s a not so distant cousin to the 36 megapixel sensor found in the Nikon D800e, which was also produced by Sony for use with Nikon cameras.
Sony has been very ambitious with this camera from the get go. The A7 and A7R bring a new compactness to a body capable of holding a full frame sensor, something that previously only the Leica M9 and M240 were capable of providing. In fact, the A7R feels even more compact in hands, in heft, and in feel. It’s a robust feeling camera, feeling solid, and Sony credits it with at least partial weather sealing (when using Sony’s own FE lenses).
I became interested in the Sony A7R when I began hearing whispers of this camera online. Having been a devotee on the Sony RX1 and RX1R, I have had the joy of working with incredible images produced by these cameras, which produce results that are hard to ignore. As is well known now, Sony’s full frame sensors tend to produce the highest DXO Mark ratings, and while many (myself included) are not fans of such schemes to rate sensors, there is no denying that Sony has been making incredible sensors. When paired with the incredible Zeiss 35 mm f/2 Sonnar lens of the RX1, what is produced can be pure magic. Additionally, I am one of those individuals who decided against upgrading my primary rangefinder system, and I have kept both the Leica M9 and M Monochrom as my primary system. As I scoured the internet trying to find reasons to be convinced to buy the Leica M240, I ultimately felt that I would be best served staying put with my M9, due to availability, cost of upgrade, and the sensor’s interplay and color reproduction with M lenses, some which have reported to be “less sharp” on the new CMOSIS sensor housed by Leica’s latest offering. I know that my opinion is controversial, but many Leica devotees out there share it. Whatever you may call it (CCD look, etc…), the M9 brings something unique to the table with its rendition at base ISO, but it is a crippled camera beyond ISO 800, as its low light capabilities lag far beyond modern cameras, including the M240 and RX1R.
With all of this in mind, I have long had my antenna up looking for signs of another camera that might be adaptable to M lenses and produce solid results. I spent over a year with Fuji’s APS-C offerings, but ultimately the X-trans RAW conversion issues, and APS-C crop pushed me away. While I enjoyed by time with Sony’s NEX-7, the same APS-C crop factor and the sensor’s limitations in bringing the full charm of M lenses to the table pushed me away. I even considered picking up the lovely Olympus EM1, but the m4/3 crop has never been for me, despite all of the camera’s other advantages, which I hope trickle down to Sony someday, now that Olympus and Sony are partners in the camera making business.
Into the fray arrives the Sony A7R, a sensor delivering a whopping 36 megapixels of AA-less goodness, a true test for M lenses. My curiosity was so piqued that I ordered one from my local dealer a week BEFORE the camera was even announced. Having been thrilled with the output of the Sony RX1R, I vividly imagined the possibilities of an AA-less Sony sensor paired with my stable of M lenses. Would this be a modern sensor by which to play with my M lenses, a camera that I could take out into the night to make color pictures without worry of ISO limitations? Would it be worthy second camera to my now principal camera, the Leica M Monochrom?
Thankfully, one of my great friends Chris Y, a Leica friend of the highest regard, emailed me last week. He had received an A7R from an overseas distributor, and he wanted me to give the camera run with my stable of M lenses. I jumped at the chance, and was able to use the camera extensively, exclusively with M lenses using my Novoflex M-to-E mount adapter, for a 3 day period. Let me just say that the experience was both exhilarating and educational. Did I find the A7R to be the long lost solution for which I had been waiting? Was it a cheaper full frame camera capable of using M lenses of all sorts and producing high quality results? Was it a camera that I would enjoy, having to rely on an EVF with focus peaking and magnification to make images? I would soon find out.
For many folks who are planning an upgrade from an APS-C sensor camera to the A7R (i.e. you NEX users and Fuji folks), the upgrade is certainly worthwhile on several levels and difficult on a few other levels. APS-C sensors, with their cropped imaging plane, can hide many faults that would otherwise be an issue outside of the cropped field of few. Rangefinder lenses tend to have small exit pupils and provide short incident paths of light between the closest posterior lens element and senor. This and other factors, such as the chief ray angle of light bent by the lens, require a sensor, which is able to see light that’s been bent at a steep angle. If a sensor does not accommodate these matters with “offset microlenses” (i.e. hot topic word of the month), then one might expect to see quite a bit of light fall off at the periphery of the images. Further, these steep angles can also produce shifts in color reproduction at the edges of the full frame field of view, and one can see magenta casts and other color shifts that can pollute image quality. The Sony marketing team claims that the A7R includes offset microlenses to help address the issues described above, and the A7R was originally trumpeted as the camera to get for those of us interested in adapting our RF lenses to a full frame mirrorless solution. Did Sony work it’s magic again? Well…sort of….
First off, I will tell you that the shooting experience of the A7R with M lenses can certainly be pleasurable. If you are a SLR shooter, you will have to adjust to using lenses with manual focus, focus peaking, and magnified views to achieve critical focus. If you are a RF shooter, you’ll have to adjust from shooting manually using the RF parallax solution to focus peaking/magnification. I have used Sony NEX cameras, and so the experience was not unfamiliar to me. It took me about a day of heavy shooting to become accustomed to the A7R’s “way of seeing the scene”. Unlike the Rangefinder, with its fixed viewfinder and frame lines, in which one can see around the field of view and predict what may be entering or exiting the scene, the A7R offers a tunnel view that’s become common and comfortable for SLR devotees. Shifting from one version of shooting to the other can be disconcerting, even more so when using RF lenses, but after about a day, I was off to the races and enjoying the experiences.
As Steve has mentioned, focus peaking must be seen only as an aid to shooting. Unless you are shooting wide lenses or are shooting stopped down past f/4, you will likely need to use the camera’s magnified view to achieve critical focus. This can be disconcerting, as by “zooming in” while trying to grab focus, the photographer loses the framing and composition for a moment, before being able to zoom out and recompose as necessary. After a day of shooting, I felt more comfortable “zone focusing” using focus peaking, then rapidly magnifying to get critical focus before zooming back out to make the image. This method is not nearly as spontaneous as focusing using AF or rangefinder focusing, but it works and suffices to capture images that are less mobile. Shooting kids, pets, or birds, using this method is challenging, but less mobile scenes, including street scenes, are easily captured once you get used to the method of focusing. Keep this in mind when shooting the A7R.
As I continued to shoot with the camera, one concern began to dawn on me. The shutter of this camera is loud, and it’s not very well dampened. This is not necessarily a camera by which to shoot events that require quiet. For example, the shutter could be distracting at a wedding or quieter music venue. On the street, it’s not an issue, in terms of noise. The vibration generated by the shutter was of concern to me while I shot. While I have no scientific way of proving it, I was worried that the vibration generated by the shutter and translated to such a compact body could make for un-sharp images, particularly when coupled with a 36- megapixel camera. To compensate, I tended to shoot at the fastest possible shutter speeds, limiting myself to shutter speeds no slower than 1/200th of a second. This is actually not a major issue, as the Sony A7R’s ISO capacity is really solid. Despite it’s high pixel count, it’s an entirely adequate and solid low light performer, doing just fine through ISO3200, and sufficient through ISO 6400. Relying on higher shutter speeds in dim settings forces one to choose high ISO’s, and this isn’t as big an issue as I worried about.
Having moved past the focusing method and shutter sound/dampening matter, I really began to enjoy the camera on the streets and at parties in all different lighting settings. I found the EVF and tiltable LCD’s to both be fantastic. I really enjoy articulated LCD’s as they offer the photographer the ability to shoot at difficult angles without guessing. That being said, whenever possible I relied on the camera’s fantastic 2.3 mp EVF, which is awesome. While it’s not quite an optical viewfinder in terms of image clarity, it has very little shutter lag and allows the photographer to see a wealth of information (shutter, aperture, histogram) at his or her discretion. It’s really a lovely tool that Sony seems to be mastering. I found the EVF and LCD to be entirely adequate for focusing and composing.
On returning home, I downloaded Adobe Lightroom 5.3 (release candidate), which is capable of reading Sony A7R raw files, and I was greeted by a host of images of incredible detail many of which you see here. The first thing I noticed were the colors. Sony has done an incredible job to bring, vibrant, yet not over the top, life like colors to the fray. They seem to be true to the scene, and I was rapidly able to process them in a manner to look like files from my beloved CCD camera, the Leica M9 (with the added benefit of superior ISO performance, of course). To me, this was HUGE. Having a camera with a modern sensor, putting out files comparable to my M9, was what I have been looking for and craving for years now…..and here it was.
To boot, one of the less discussed “features” of the A7R is it’s top shutter speed of 1/8000 of a setting. For fast-lens geeks like me, having this feature is amazing, as it allows us to shoot wide open in daylight, while foregoing the use of an ND filter. Lenses like th Noctilux f/0.95 can suddenly be used in daylight circumstance…a world of creative possibilities thus opens up with ultrafast lenses on the A7R!
So was all well in the world?!? Well, in a word, NO! As I started to look around at images, I began to see a few issues with colorcast. Given the way the rangefinder lenses manipulate and bend light, I could easily see colorcasts and detail smearing at the edges of the images made with lenses wider than 28 mm. Once I pulled out my 28 mm Summicron, I was slightly more satisfied, as there was no substantial detail smearing, but the color casts, while less objectionable, remained. At times, the edges would take on a magenta hue. In other circumstances, a slightly bluish hue. The effect seemed to be far less noticeable for 35 mm lenses such as the 35 mm f/1.4 Summilux Asph Pre-FLE and FLE, but it is still there and noticeable if shooting shots of the sky or uniformly bright, backlit scenes, such as the “foggy morning” captures presented here. What surprised me is that I found this color shifting and vignetting to be present at times even with my 50 mm f/1.4 Summilux aspherical. It turns out that M lenses are really demanding on these full frame sensors, demanding enough that Leica once claimed it to be impossible to design a full frame digital rangefinder. Well, they eventually did find away, but it took a lot of cunning, know how, and a bunch of in-camera color cast correction applied to RAW files before they ever got onto Lightroom. Unfortunately, the Sony A7R does not have such software corrections. It’s offset microlenses do not suffice to correct these color casts, so if you decide to buy this camera and shoot your RF lenses, be prepared for some frustration and to adjust your post-processing techniques to accommodate for these matters. There are programs, such as SilkyPix, a RAW converter that allow one to create lens profiles and correct such color casts. There are workarounds in Lightroom 5.3, such as using the digital graduated ND filter creatively, that help reduce the effect of these color shifts. One other issues is chromatic aberration, which tends to show itself when lenses are pitted against demanding sensors. In fact, lense such as the Noctilux f/0.95, which have known CA issues, seem to even more prone to showing CA on the A7R. In summary if you are looking to seamlessly shoot your M lenses on the A7R, be prepared to pause.
If you are a black and white shooter, color casts and CA won’t matter, and then it gets down to correcting for some vignetting, which is more easily accomplished within a LR workflow. IF you only shoot telephoto lenses, then you are safe with the A7R, and I would argue that you will find yourself getting far more consistent results with lenses such as the 75 mm Summilux, as the focus peaking/zoomed focus method works really well to achieve critical results here. However, if you plan to use lenses wider than 35 mm, the results can occasionally be objectionable. For photographers like me, who prefer to work between 35 mm and 90 mm focal lengths, you’ll be plenty satisfied most of the time with files coming from the A7R. It’s not a panacea for the photographically inclined, but it’s worth the effort. That being said, Sony will hopefully partner successfully with Zeiss to offer a range of high quality AF lenses in its FE lineup. At this time, there are reports that they will release as many as 15 AF FE lenses in the 2 years following the A7R’s release, and we’ll see if this holds true. For many of us, simply having a 35 mm, 55 mm, and an 85 mm lens will suffice.
As I didn’t have these lenses on hand, I cannot comment on the A7R’s autofocus capabilities, but it seems that they will suffice for most types of shooting, save sporting events.
All in all, I found my time with the Sony A7R to be pleasurable. Was I won over? In the end, I’d answer a cautious “yes.” It produces wonderful files that are full of detail when properly exposed and captured, and in most circumstances, will give you results with which you can be proud. Just be prepared to adjust a bit in your workflow.
Thanks for taking the time to read. As you might imagine, all images presented here were taken with the A7R and a host of M and LTM lenses including the:
Well here we are near the end of 2013 and finally…in my hand is the Sony A7 and A7r cameras (and they have been for a few weeks), the two little powerhouses that are poised and planned to take over the mirrorless camera world with their small tough design and their full frame class leading sensors. No one else had the balls to make such a camera yet Sony plowed right in, listened to the enthusiasts and DID IT. NOPE! Not Nikon, Not Leica, Not Olympus, Not Samsung, Not Pentax and certainly NOT Canon who have been doing nothing exciting or innovated at all lately in my opinion (I am speaking about Canon in that last statement).
BUT after extensive real world use with these cameras I am left scratching my bald head…”WHY did Sony make two cameras”? I think they would have been better off with ONE A7 model which IMO would have been the A7 minus the AA filter. Done deal. By releasing TWO it has made everyone confused. I have now spoken to several who have canceled their pre orders only to order the other version and then cancel again because of the conflicting reports online of each model. Poeple are flooding me with questions on a daily basis “which one should I buy”???
Well, to all of you who are confused, let me ease your mind…the A7 is just as good of a camera for 99.2% of users as the A7R is. You will lose nothing and may even gain some by shooting with the A7 over the A7r. But I will get more into this later on..for now, let me get back to my talk about Sony being revolutionary in the camera world..because they are really the only ones who are at the moment with Olympus right behind them.
The A7r with the Leica 75 Summilux Lens – Stunning Combo. Used the Simple Studio 1344 LED Light kit here. A light kit that is easy to use and packs a HUGE punch. Superbly made as well.
Nope, no one else has managed to come in and create something like the A7 series of camera. No one has attempted to put a full frame sensor into a small mirrorless body besides Leica, and they have been doing it since the M9 days (but expect to pay dearly for those red dots). There is a huge enthusiast, amateur and even pro audience for a camera like the A7 and A7r because the price point of the Leica M 240 is out of reach of so many photographers. Many of us wanted a small full frame solution that would not bankrupt us and now it is here in both the A7 and A7r.
After shooting with these new Sony cameras for a while I can safely say that my favorite is…BOTH! I just wanted to let that out up front. I feel the sensor is a little better in the A7r, the detail is better and the camera overall “seems” better when I am out shooting but of course much of that is mental due to the powerhouse sensor. But at the end of the day, more keepers came from the A7 for me, and it has a quieter shutter. So to me, that sums it up in my mind. Both are fantastic, both can do amazing things and both have the same flaws. Either can take a great image.
The A7 is fantastic but if you want that extra ounce (and I do mean OUNCE) of performance, the A7r is the bell of the ball though for anything besides uber large printing no one will see a difference. Now if you are the type of shooter who sets up his sturdy tripod and does landscape, then the A7r will do the trick for you but shooting handheld in all kinds of light, the A7 gets the nod for me.
Why these cameras are game changers
The new A7 and A7r have created a whole new genre. Now we have the best full frame sensors available in a smaller package and to be honest quite affordable for what they bring to the table. No, $1700 and $2300 is not cheap by any stretch of the imagination but it is for what you are getting here. So first of all, the price is right. Many of us thought this camera was going to come in at $4500 and no one knew there would actually be TWO of them with one UNDER $1700 and one just under $2300. So in that respect they are game changers already.
I think the costs are lower due to the fact that these cameras are made in Thailand instead of Japan. But no biggie as the cameras seem very solid in the build and reliability department. If Sony made these in Japan I bet the cost for the A7r would have been over $3k, so I welcome the lower price as long as the long term reliability holds up.
Another way that the Sony will separate itself from the competition is by being able to mount and shoot SOME/MOST Leica M mount lenses with fantastic results and in the full frame native format. No other full frame camera can do this (besides the Leica M itself). We have been able to use these lenses on APS-C sensor cameras but that was not the best way as we were really not using these lenses to their full capacity when using them with a cropped sensor.
Most Leica M mount lenses are full frame lenses and they are gorgeous in size, build and feel. The good news is that 85-90% of them work amazingly well on the A7 and A7r. I found some of the best performing lenses on the A7 and A7r came from Zeiss with the Zeiss ZM line. Lenses like the 50 Zm f/2 Planar and the 50 Sonnar 1.5 are wonderful. They also come in at a much lower cost than the Leica counterparts. Also, one of the most magical lenses I have tried on these cameras has been the 75 Summilux. Gorgeous.
So we now have something that is important and very welcome..a choice!
GRRRRRR – A7r – ISO 800 35 2.8
So those with Leica M lenses, you now have a full frame alternative to the Leica M.
The Leica M is of course the preffered camera to shoot these lenses with but as I said, not all of us have $7000 to spend on a camera body. Some of us have Leica M’s but want a backup and do not want to spend $7k TWICE :) The Sony A7 and A7r, IMO, are perfect for shooting Leica M mount glass from 28mm and up. I have tested and shot with the Voigtlander 35 1.2, the Zeiss 35 Biogon and 50 Planar ZM and they were amazing on the A7 and A7r. Especially the A7r. The color, the pop, the depth and the detail was all there and dare I say, even more so than with the Leica M in many cases.
In case you missed my earlier reports from a few weeks ago, below are links to each and every one and they have TONS of samples with M glass..
With those reports plus this longer term use review most of you should get an idea as to how the Sony A7 and A7r perform. So yes, these new Sony cameras have paved the way and are leading the mirrorless pack just for these reasons alone. But NO, they are NOT perfect and I do have some negatives I can speak about later. It is just that the IQ will NOT be one of them!
The Zeiss Otus is AMAZING in it’s IQ with the Sony A7 series..these three will show you that :) You can buy this lens HERE. I USED THE Canon Mount with an Adapter.
Full Frame Compact Mirrorless Digital Camera
The Sony Alpha a7 incorporates a full frame 35.8 x 23.9 sensor into the compact, lightweight form of an E-mount mirrorless camera providing the imaging prowess of full frame and the convenience and versatility of mirrorless.
A7: 24.3MP Exmor CMOS Sensor
With 24.3 effective megapixels, the Exmor CMOS sensor captures high-resolution, low-noise images with rich tonal gradation and low-light sensitivity. The normal ISO range on the Alpha a7 is 100-25600.
A7R: 36.4MP Exmor CMOS Sensor with No Optical Low Pass Filter
The 36.4MP resolution and outstanding performance of the Alpha a7R are optimized by removing the optical low-pass filter. In combination with the new BIONZ X image processing engine this design increases resolution and enhances the reproduction of the finest details. In addition, the sensor includes a new gapless lens design that fills the space between neighboring pixels to significantly increase light collecting efficiency and realize high corner-to-corner image quality. Differing from the Sony Alpha a7, the Alpha a7R with its omitted low-pass filter, gapless lens design sensor and contrast-detection AF provides the utmost in high-resolution, finely detailed capture. With 36.4 effective megapixels, the Exmor CMOS sensor captures high-resolution, low-noise images with rich tonal gradation and low-light sensitivity. The normal ISO range on the Alpha a7R is 100-25600.
A7R: Gapless, On-chip Sensor Lenses
Sony optimized the design and positioning of the sensor’s on-chip lens (OCL) covering every pixel to significantly enhance light-gathering efficiency. A gapless on-chip lens design eliminates the gaps between the micro-lenses to collect more light. Moreover, each on-chip lens is optimally positioned depending on its location to accommodate the sharper angle of light entering the periphery, which is caused by larger sensor dimensions being teamed with the E-mount’s short flange-back distance.
BIONZ X Image Processor
The new BIONZ X image processing engine reproduces textures and details in real time via extra high-speed processing capabilities. Together with front-end LSI (large scale integration) that accelerates the earliest processing stages, it enables more natural details, more realistic images, richer tonal gradations, and lower noise whether you shoot still images or movies.
A7: Fast Hybrid Autofocus
Enhanced Fast Hybrid auto focus combines speedy phase-detection AF with accurate contrast-detection AF, which has been accelerated through a new Spatial Object Detection algorithm. Phase-detection AF with 117 densely placed phase-detection AF points swiftly moves the lens to bring the subject nearly into focus, then contrast-detection AF with wide AF coverage fine-tunes precise focusing. A7r does not have the hybrid AF.
A7: Up to 5 fps Continuous Shooting
New faster, more accurate AF tracking, made possible by Fast Hybrid AF allows you to capture action shots and that ‘perfect’ moment with 5 fps continuous shooting in Speed Priority Continuous Shooting Mode. Differing from the Alpha a7R, the Alpha a7 provides a Hybrid Focus system that enables faster focusing and frame rates for photographers who favor performance speed.
Compatibility with Sony’s E-mount Lenses and New Full-Frame Lenses
Maintaining its lightweight form, the Alpha a7 is fully compatible with Sony’s present APS-C E-mount lens system and the new line of E-mount compact full-frame lenses from Carl Zeiss and Sony’s premier G-series.
3.0″ Tilt LCD Monitor
The tiltable 3.0″ Xtra Fine LCD Display offers a 1,229K-dot resolution and makes it easy to photograph from low or high angles, swinging up 84° and down 45°. WhiteMagic technology dramatically increases visibility in bright daylight. The large display delivers brilliant-quality still images and movies while enabling easy focusing operation.
2.4M-dot OLED Electronic Viewfinder
With its 3-lens optical system the viewfinder faithfully displays what will appear in your recording, including the effects of your camera settings. You’ll enjoy rich tonal gradations and improved contrast. High-end features like 100% frame coverage and a wide viewing angle enable comfortable and stable eye-level composition.
Full HD Movie at 24p/60i/60p with Uncompressed HDMI Output
The Alpha a7 supports in-camera AVCHD codec frames rates in super-smooth 60p, standard 60i or cinematic 24p. MP4 codec is also available for smaller files for easier upload to the web. Also, it is possible to capture Full 1080 HD uncompressed clean-screen video files to external recording devices via an HDMI connection in 60p and 60i frame-rates.
Built-in Wi-Fi and NFC
Connectivity with smartphones for One-touch sharing/One-touch remote has been simplified with Wi-Fi/NFC control. In addition to Wi-Fi support for connecting to smartphones, the Alpha a7 also supports NFC (Near Field Communication) providing convenient transfer of images to Android smartphones and tablets. Users need only touch devices to connect; no complex set-up is required. Moreover, when using Smart Remote Control – a feature that allows shutter release to be controlled by a smartphone – connection to the smartphone can be established by simply touching compatible devices.
Direct Access Interface
Quick Navi Pro displays all major shooting options on the LCD screen so you can rapidly confirm settings and make adjustments without searching through dedicated menus. When shooting opportunities arise, you’ll be able to respond swiftly with just the right settings.
New Eye AF control
Even when capturing a subject partially turned away from the camera with a shallow depth of field, the face will be sharply focused thanks to extremely accurate eye detection that can prioritize a single pupil. A green frame appears over the prioritized eye when focus has been achieved for easy confirmation. Eye AF can be used when the function is assigned to a customizable button, allowing users to instantly activate it depending on the scene.
14-bit RAW Output
14-bit RAW image data of extremely high quality is outputted by the Alpha a7. This data preserves the rich detail generated by the image sensor during the 14-bit A/D conversion process. When developed with Sony’s Image Data Converter RAW development software, these images deliver particularly high quality photographic expression and rich gradation.
Wired Remote Control with Video Capture Control
Remote Camera Control allows you to control your Alpha a7 from your computer using a USB cable. It has been updated to include video capture control.
The Alpha a7 features the advanced Multi-Interface Shoe that dramatically expands compatibility with Sony digital imaging accessories such as flash units, microphones, lights, and monitors thus increasing the potential of your photo and movie shooting.
OK, so what about this funky looking body that some are calling ugly and some are calling beautiful?
I feel that the Sony A7 and A7r bodies have a 70′s retro vintage vibe mixed with a bit of modern style. In one way, the square body and EVF hump remind me of the old film bodies yet the glossy black and SONY logo do not. For me, I liked it from about 36 seconds after I saw it, especially with the funky thin grip attached. It made me feel like I was holding an old school yet modern camera and when holding it, it gives you that feeling of confidence.
The build is solid on the A7 and A7r. Both have magnesium alloy build with the A7r having a little more metal in the front and within the top dials. Speaking of dials, Sony did it right with these cameras. There are manual dials for anything you need to control and once set up to your liking you will never need to delve into the menu system. Need to change aperture? No problem, turn the thumb dial. Need to change ISO? No problem. Shutter speed? No problem. EV comp? No problem, use the dedicated dial.
After using these for a few weeks it is obvious that Sony did their homework. To some, it may seem like there are too many dials but there is not. To those who appreciate manual control and being able to instinctivly change a setting, the Sony’s are a treat. Makes me wish my Leica M had an Exposure Compensation dial as I use it often and on the Leica M it is a pain to change. So as you can see, the top of the A7 and A7r have two dials, one for shutter speed, one for aperture. They also have a mode dial and an EV dial. On the back there is a dial that can be programmed to control whatever you want and the C1 button up top can also be set up to do whatever you command it to do (ISO, focus mag, etc)
So with some long term use I grew to really enjoy the feel, design and control scheme of the A7 and A7r. The build of the cameras is solid and feels good in my had. They do not feel as solid nor as good in my hand as my Leica but remember, these bodies are thousands less than the Leica yet offer the same or better IQ.
Sony A7 and 50 Noctilux F/1
That LOUD Shutter!
The #1 thing that made waves throughout the online photo community about these new A7′s is the LOUD shutter. Yes, it is louder than about any other digital camera I have used. Is it a big deal? No, not really. I can see where it may be a big deal to those who need to shoot in quite locations but if that is the case, only digital cameras with silent leaf shutters would work anyway. No big DSLR has a quiet shutter so the A7 is about the same as all other major cameras. It has a real shutter.
The A7 is not as loud as the A7r because when you shoot it you will hear ONE shutter click. The A7r has TWO shutter clicks. This is just how it is and I was told it is all due to sensor design and the sensor in the A7r needs that 2nd click. With the A7 you can set the shutter to either way by choosing “first curtain” in the menu to on or off. The A7r does not have this menu item.
Below is a video I did showing the shutter sounds of the Sony and the Leica M side by side:
So if you need to know ANYTHING at all about these two models it is that the shutter is on the loud side so do NOT expect silence when shooting :)
The Native Sony and Zeiss Lenses and my thoughts
The Sony A7 cameras have a total of THREE Native lenses at or near launch. The Zeiss 35 2.8, the Zeiss 55 1.8 (coming a few weeks after launch), and the 28-70 Kit Zoom. The 35 2.8 and 55 1.8 are SUPERB lenses and for me the 35 takes the cake for the best launch lens. It is small, fast to AF and has a gorgeous Leica like quality about it. Even being an f/2.8 lens it is fantastic and gives off a shallow DOF that I would not expect from an f/2.8 lens.
The kit zoom is average. It is somewhat larger than the other two, and a slow aperture zoom that I just could not get into..at all. I am expecting the upcoming Zeiss 24-70 to rock it out of the park but this kit version is just average when it comes to kit zooms. Still one thing I will never understand. Why does a company release an amazing camera with a sensor that can resolve the most detail EVER in 35mm but they release it with a slow below average kit zoom lens? Makes no sense other than it makes the kit cheap and more affordable which is good for sales but bad for image when people are like “Hey, my images do not look like those I saw on the internet”..
The Zeiss 35 2.8 is a GREAT lens for the system.
The 35 at 2.8 and ISO 500
The 35 2.8 at 2.8
IMO, the 35 2.8 is a must buy lens for anyone with an A7 or A7r. It seems like it was made for the camera and was my fave during the review period.
The Zeiss 55 1.8 is also fantastic and not as large as many have made it out to be. Sure it is larger than a Leica 50 Summicron, and much lighter, but it is still fantastic. The AF speed is good but not amazingly good. I have had this lens miss the AF point when shooting in low light as well as up close. Still, it is amazingly brutally sharp even wide open.
I still find the AF of the A7 and A7r to be quicker and more accurate than the last Fuji bodies I have tried.
The A7 and 55 1.8
DETAIL EXTREME: In the Studio with Nikki Leigh and the Zeiss 55 1.8
So how much detail can we expect from the A7 or A7r? My quick answer? Either one will offer PLENTY of detail and resolution. Here is proof.
I shot model Nikki Leigh using the A7 and A7r using some FANTASTIC new LED lights..in fact, they are the best and coolest LED lights I have ever seen or touched. You can check them out here but they are small, compact, built like a tank and pack 1344 LED’s into each unit. They are dimmable and VERY easy to set up.
The results were great and the Sony/Zeiss 55 1.8 showed its stuff, even wide open and close to it. The two photos below were converted from RAW with some sharpening applied but these are the full size files. Click on them for the full size.
Note both are from the A7 as the same shots I did with the A7r were actually softer for some reason. So to those who were afraid of lack of detail in the A7, no worries :)
The A7 and 55
The A7 and 55
and here is a video of me using these lights
I am not usually a light guy but these little powerhouses come packed in their own pelican style case and are ultra portable. I have never seen this kind of power from an LED. If you are into lighting and do not want to mess with strobes, these can be a great alternative. Very very cool and super high quality. The Simple Studio 1344′s are very simple but very serious lights. Again, they can be seen HERE or HERE.
DETAIL EXTREME: Sony A7R and Zeiss OTUS 55 1.4
The most mystical, magical and sharpest lens I have used on these cameras (as well as having the best color) is the Zeiss Otus lens in Canon EF mount. An adapter is required but MAN this lens is AMAZING. Probably the best lens I have used in the 50mm range, ever. BUT the main drawback is that it is HUGE and pricey at $4000. Click the image below and you will see the full size from RAW file. Focus was on the eyelashes.
The EVF and Manual Focus of the A7 and A7r
The EVF (Electronic Viewfinder) in the Sony A7 and A7r is the same EVF that Sony sells for $450 (for the RX1, RX100II, etc) so yea, it is good, and BUILT IN. While not as large or clear as the Olympus EVF-4 that resides in their flagship E-M1, the Sony has the 2nd best EVF I have ever used. These days I much prefer a good EVF over an optical VF (though I love the rangefinder and VF in the Leica M equally).
So for those afraid of jumping to an EVF..don’t be. This is 2013, almost 2014 and EVF quality has come a long long way in the past 10 years. It can be a beautiful thing when looking through the EVF as what you see is what you get. No need to worry about VF coverage or any of that. It is easy to frame and you know what you are getting when you press that shutter button.
I have no complaints on the EVF in the Sony A7 and A7r. BOTH have the same EVF.
The Speed and overall usability of the cameras
The A7 and A7r both feel good in the hand but both have loud shutters. Some love the sound as it takes us back to the old mechanical days of a real shutter firing. Some shutters are quieter than others and the Sony A7 and A7r are on the louder end of the spectrum and I think that due to this it gives us the impression that the camera is slower or clunky. These cameras do indeed feel slower than an Olympus E-M1 or RX1 in use and I kind of compare them to shooting medium format. Slow paced and steady. Aim, compose, fire. These are not the cameras for sports shooters or machine gun blazing shutter crazies as they are not. Still, I managed to catch this little horse pulling this guy in a buggy and they were CRUISING! But oh..I shot it with a manual focus Zeiss Otus :)
Still, the A7 and A7r are faster to AF than the NEX-7 and most Fuji X bodies. So it is not slow, it is just not blazing fast. Also, do not expect too many frames per second with that A7r (up to 4).
The Menus & WiFi
The Sony A7 and A7r menus are a BIG step up from those found on the NEX series. In fact, the A7 series now has the Alpha menu so those who are familiar with the RX1, A99 or any A camera of recent times will be right at home with the menu on the A7 series of cameras. I find the menu clean and quick and easy to navigate. You can see more in the video below:
Below is my video I shot when I was able to use these cameras at a Sony Media Event in Nashville, TN – I go over the cameras and give my early thoughts on them.
WiFi is also included and it works like a charm. It is super easy to set up and start sending images to your tablet, phone or device. I was taking shots out on the road, instantly sending them to my iPhone and then instantly posting to Facebook. Amazing how far technology has come in the past few years. Amazing.
The battery life
The Battery life of the Sony cameras is not the best. I do NOT shoot at a high frame rate and I calculate my shooting. If I see a shot, I frame it and take it. I am not into chomping too much either. Usually with the A7 and A7r I found myself at 40% left at the end of a day with 150-200 shots taken. Others who shoot with the A7 find themselves running out of battery mid day so I would suggest buying 1-2 extra batteries with this camera. The good news is that it uses the same battery as the NEX series so if you are upgrading from a NEX system camera you already have a spare or two. They will deplete faster than a NEX-6 or 7 will.
The High ISO Performance of the A7 and A7r
High ISO performance is as good as can be expected. I ALWAYS test these without ANY noise reduction, so NR is OFF 100%. I also test indoor under low light, not with studio light as that makes zero sense..at all. No one shoots high ISO in the studio or in good light so the best way to test the ISO performance is under low light, indoor, when most of us will want to use it. It boggles my mind that so many sites still test high ISO with studio lighting. Below is a test scene in my office with 100% crops of each ISO from 640-25,600. The A7 and A7r are so close in high ISO it really is a draw when it comes down to looking at the images, weather resized or prints.
Take a look below but you MUST click on the crops to see them as 100% crops.
Shooting with Leica lenses is a treat for me because this is one part of the camera I was really excited about. When you shoot Leica lenses for many years it is tough to go back to cheap plastic primes and zooms and when I realized that these two cameras were coming I knew it would be huge for those who shoot Leica M glass.
I tested this camera with loads of M mount lenses including those from Leica, Zeiss, and Voigtlander. All worked great besides the ultra wide M mount glass (Though the Leica W.A.T.E. 16-18-21 works very well without any real issues). The Zeiss 35 Biogon f/2 performed wonderfully for me as did the 50 f.2 Planar. The Voigtlander 35 1.2 Ii was amazing (the image above was taken with this lens) and the Leica 50 Noctilux f/1 and 75 Summilux also knocked it out of the park with results bettering what came out of the Leica M for me. Crisper, more detail from the A7 and A7r.
So for me, the A7 and A7r represent a tremendous value because I can take it out and shoot with the fabulous auto focus 35 2.8 Zeiss or use a Leica M mount lens and fire away.
Shot with the A7 and Zeiss 35 Biogon at f/2 inside a music studio
Below – the A7R and Leica 50 Noctilux F/1 – Amazing combo. One can find a used Leica Noctilux F1 for around $5k these days..add that to the $1700 A7 and you have a drop dead gorgeous combo for less than the cost of a Leica M alone. This lens works just as magical as it does on any Leica M camera. I manually focused this shot at f/1 and did not use peaking or magnification. Focused on my eye and due to the large EVF, it was easy to do.
The Zeiss 50 ZM PLanar f/2 is a tremendous bargain in the M mount world. Competes with the $2200 Summicron at less than half the cost but provides the same sharpness but with punchier color and more 3D pop.
For mounting the M lenses I mainly used the best in th ebusiness M mount to Sony E mount adapter, the Novoflex. It is expensive for an adapter but when you are using lenses that are worth multiple thousands of dollars, spending $250 on the best adapter should not be an issue. But if you do not want to spend $250 on an adapter or are all tapped out from the camera and a lens, then you can also buy a $15 adapter from Amazon, as they work also. They are not made as well, have looser tolerances and can come loose after a few weeks but $15 vs $250..you cold buy 10 of them and still save $100.
I bought my adapters before the big A7 and A7r storm and as of this writing they seem to be out of stock everywhere but should be back in stock soon.
So the bottom line is that the Sony A7 and A7r will both work with most Leica M mount glass but some wide angles or ultra wide angles will give you bad color shifts on BOTH cameras so just beware of some lenses 28mm and under as some will work, some will not. I have no way to test them all so search around the internet for more info on this subject.
Manually Focusing with the A7 or A7r
As for manually focusing these lenses, I had NO PROBLEM. I did NOT use focus peaking as I found that when shooting super fast aperture lenses at f/1 or f/1.2 it hampered the focusing. I also really did not use the focus magnification as it took too long to activate with two button presses. When I looked through that big fat EVF and just used my eyes to see when the image was in focus, it just worked. So concentrate and use your eyes. Your mileage may vary depending on your eyesight and comfort level. If it is tough for you to manually focus just by using the EVF, feel free to use the peaking feature or the magnification. Both tools are there for this purpose.
An OOC JPEG from the A7r and Voigtlander 21 1.8
The Sony A7 and A7r both offer full HD video and Sony usually does video very well. I have not yet had the time to test video but will be doing so soon and then will add my thoughts and video sample HERE. So check back soon!
The Pros and Cons of the A7 cameras
Full frame in a smaller sized and well made body
Monster resolution for both cameras!
Super rich files!
No AA filter in the A7r should give you a little more detail to work with.
Solid buid, small body – yum.
Built in EVF is fantastic..big, clear and easy to frame
Easy to navigate menu system
Dials, dials and more dials. Easy to manually control!
Focus Peaking is helpful but not necessary.
Works great with classic manual focus lenses, a joy to use.
Easy to adapt many lens mounts! Canon, Nikon, Leica..
Price Point is perfect!
Nothing else like it anywhere near this price – PERIOD
Cameras feel slow/clunky in use.
Shutter sound is loud, especially with A7r
Kit Zoom is lacking in quality.
Some wide angle Leica M mount lenses have issues when adapted (but this should not be a con)
Lack of lenses at launch (only the 35 and kit zoom on launch day)
Very High ISO is a little better on last years RX1 and RX1r it seems.
May cause you to spend more money on M mount lenses :)
The A7r can indeed be a little challenging to handhold in lower light without blur.
My Final word on the Sony A7 and A7r
I really enjoyed the A7 and A7r cameras. At launch I was insanely excited about them because there is simply nothing else like them at this price point, and even my beloved Leica M..well, the A7 and A7r surpass it in overall IQ. While they do not offer the same build, feel or joy of use as my Leica M, they can compete and surpass in overall IQ, and do. At a fraction of the cost as well.
Still, I love and adore my Leica for many reasons, not just the great IQ. To those who own one and shoot with one you will know exactly what I mean. It is the quintessential photographers camera.
As for the Sony, you will get a ton for your money with these guys but not everyone will fall in love with them. While there is nothing to complain about in the image quality department, the camera does have some quirks. It has a loud shutter sound, so forget about being sneaky..at all. They feel a little but slow and clunky in use and it may just seem that way due to that noisy shutter – a mental thing. Which one to choose? I feel that Sony should have released ONE camera as even for me reviewing them and trying to connect with one of them..it was tough. BOTH are fantastic and there really is not enough separating the two to warrant two separate models. That is just my opinion but a super A7 with a mix of both cameras would have been great at $1995.
The build is good but not Leica M or Nikon D800 or Olympus E-M1 good. They are sort of an in-between. They feel more hefty than the NEX-6 and NEX-7 but not up there with the top of the heap. Some things could have been made to be more sturdy..the battery door for one. With a premium camera and one that is making a statement I feel Sony should have REALLY made a statement like they used to do back in the day with certain products outside of the camera line (anyone know of the SCD-1)?. But it is what it is and the cameras are excellent but not perfect (No camera is though). Note that I am NOT saying the build is cheap or low quality as it is NOT, it just could be a little better.
One thing is for certain…the A7 and A7r do fantastic with old school manual focusing lenses. I had no issues focusing, even when testing out a Leica 50 Noctilux f/1 and I do not even use magnification or peaking..just the big EVF and my eyeballs. There is no question that these offer huge bang for the buck and some of the best IQ you can get in 35mm but is that enough to overlook the fact that there is really only 2 quality lenses available at or near launch? (the 35 and 55).
The EVF is fantastic, 2nd only to the one in the Olympus E-M1. The files are rich, detailed and full of information. Creamy, dreamy and shallow if you so desire. The lenses have great quality and bokeh and would really be all I needed with the camera.
Like I said, I really enjoyed these cameras and I took many fantastic images without any issues or problems but for the 1st 2 weeks I was not bonding with them, and I could not put my finger on it as to why that is. Then it hit me.
I like the build, the feel, the design and the features but I think the response is just not there when compared to my Olympus E-M1, which is lightning fast in response. I have been shooting that E-M1 like mad and when I switched it up to the A7 and A7r it seemed like I was working in slow motion..and I am not talking about AF, just overall response time of the camera.
So after I realized this I started to take out the A7 and I thought of it as a medium format rig. It is right at home when shooting it slow and steady and by doing so it can reward you with some astonishing files and images. In fact, I started to like it more and more and more because in this regard, it started to remind me of my Leica. Slow..steady..and take that one shot you know will be a keeper. Now it is faster than a medium format camera but when you go out with that mindset you can bring home some amazing imagery.
That is when it started to attach itself to me and I really saw the beauty and the value in the A7 cameras.
At the end of the day, if you want a fantastic full frame camera that is at the top of the heap in the IQ department, one that is smaller than all of the bulky SLRs and one that is much less expensive than the Leica M, take a long hard look at the Sony A7 or A7r. If you want to shoot Leica M glass or even Nikon or Canon glass..you can. If you have a stash of Sony Alpha DSLR glass, you can also shoot with that (with adapters of course). So the name of the game with the Sony’s are VALUE. You get a lot of BANG for your BUCK, especially with the A7.
These are an EASY recommendation and if you are out there trying to decide which model to go for, I can not see anyone being unhappy with the A7 over the A7r. At under $1700 for the A7, it is a steal for what you are getting. The 1st lens I would get is the Sony/Zeiss 35 2.8. It has a gorgeous rendering that reminds me of the highest quality Zeiss lenses of the past.
I love what Sony is doing and I can only imagine that in a year or two these cameras will get even better, faster and slicker. I am happy to support a company that just “gets it” when it comes to what we want in a camera. Go Sony GO!
**Later tonight or tomorrow I will post a first look review from Ashwin Rao who shot the A7r with a slew of Leica M mount lenses. So if you want tons of results and thoughts on that subject, be sure to come back here later or tomorrow for more! Thanks for reading!
The 7R at ISO 1250 with the 35 2.8
WHERE TO BUY THE A7, A7R and Accessories such as Lens Adapters, Lenses, etc.
The A7 and A7r where to buy page is HERE but you can also use the links below:
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Week one with the Sony a7R and Zeiss C-Sonnar 50mm By Raymond Hau
By Raymond Hau
A photographer is someone who defines himself by what he does, perhaps for a living or as a life passion. I am not a photographer; I merely enjoy taking photos that document my life travels in as beautiful and satisfying way as possible. This is my take on the new Sony ILC-7R, otherwise known as the a7R.
A started out with photography in my teenage years with a Contax, B&W film and a dark room losing interest soon after moving to university. No longer with access to a dark room, I got bored pretty quickly until that was the digital revolution had arrived for me with the purchase of a Canon 350D. That was 2005 and it had remained my faithful until this year wherein it was retired for something new; I have always had access to newer and better but I always remained with the Canon because it was such a joy to use. But with the advent of new technology, why carry around a 5D3 when I can get the same thing in something more manageable? I now shoot the X-E1, RX1 and for the past week, the a7R.
I never intended to purchase the a7R, I was happy after retiring my Canon system for the RX1 and X-E1 – both are excellent cameras for my needs (the RX1, exceptional). However come launch day, I could not resist walking past and not testing the new Sony cameras. I walked out with the expensive one.
I have been shooting the a7R and vertical battery grip with a Novoflex adapter and the Zeiss C-Sonnar 1,5/50 ZM for the past week and it is an absolute joy to use; I do not regret spending money on a new and as yet untested system. I would say I am smitten but interestingly enough, not as smitten as I was when I first handled the RX1. The RX1 is a hero camera and by that I mean a top-of-the-line showcase of technology and awe in the tried and tested ‘because we can’ fashion but it works and it is an amazing thing of beauty. The a7R is amazing but is not without its quirks.
Let me get the positives out of the way first.
This camera is a beauty, the image quality from the a7R in combination with the C-Sonnar really showcases the Zeiss ‘pop’ and is dangerously good looking for a square block when the vertical grip is attached. Although the C-Sonnar will show heavy purple fringing in high contrast areas wide open but it is controllable; for those that wonder, the C-Sonnar is also sharp in the centre wide open and when stopped down to f/8, is sharp across the frame. I will make no great comments on auto-focus performance much more than to say it is faster than the RX1 in good conditions and about the same in bad; I prefer to manually focus and I maintain a decent hit rate not to need to worry about needing auto-focus.
Noise and Dynamic Range.
I was rather surprised to find more noise than I expected to see, especially compared to the RX1, there seems to be more noise at lower ISOs. I was not sure what to expect but the overall image quality was surprising me and so I have not thought about it since. Dynamic range however, does not appear to be as clean as the RX1 when pulling out detail; more specifically there appears to be slightly more noise in the shadows and if white balance is not correct, the colours can appear off. The RX1 files are able to handle 100 point movements in the highlights and shadows sliders without an issue, the a7R not quite so.
The handling is actually quite uncomfortable.
The grip appears to be a great idea but falls short in actual use that I would go as far to say I would prefer the a7R without a grip, similar to the RX1. In comparison, the Olympus E-M1 grip is fantastic. Saying that, once the vertical grip is attached the handling of the a7R changes and becomes rather good to use, so much so that I now have the vertical grip permanently attached. It does increase the weight and size, but not uncomfortably so even if I do shoot it handheld without a neck strap. The option is always available to remove it when size or weight becomes a priority.
The lens eco-system is appalling.
I love my wide-angles, but there are none for the a7R unless I use adapters. I can deal with that but then there are issues with size versus performance. The size of the Voigtlander 15mm Heliar was perfect; the image quality was not. As others elsewhere have noted, magenta creep and smearing everywhere you looked. The LA-E4 adapter and Sony 16-35mm F2.8 ZA SSM works well but the monstrosity in size (as well as price) was a turn off.
At the other end of the spectrum, looking at 85mm options, for me only the Zeiss 85mm F1.4 is my preferred choice. The native 85mm ZA lens with the attached LA-E4 adapter looks comical in proportions but I was not laughing when it came to actually using the thing; two hands are definitely required here. I will be testing at some point soon whether a Novoflex adapter and the Nikon ZF version fares any better. The lack of a lens roadmap is of real concern; I would like to know whether Zeiss will be releasing their famed 85mm f/1.4 to the FE format or whether I should plump or an adapted version.
Battery life is as bad as expected.
Everything should already know this and therefore should hold no surprises that a single battery will not last a day of shooting. I turn the LCD off, preferring to only use the viewfinder and yet the battery dies amazingly quick. The vertical grip obviously helps, as do the four extra batteries I have purchased.
No button to switch between the LCD/EVF. Why this is the case I am not entirely sure as for a camera where battery life is an important consideration, I presume many people like me would prefer to turn the LCD off when shooting. Fuji has implemented this correctly by automatically previewing shots on the LCD when in EVF mode. This is a small issue but extremely annoying one in any case.
The shutter button is too sensitive. A mere swipe of my index finger and any actions I am performing are cancelled i.e. focus peaking magnification. This was an annoyance at first but now I have adjusted to hover my index finger above the button instead. Even though, it is still annoying.
I see myself keeping the a7R (along with the RX1) for a very long time, perhaps as long as I had the 350D. I have not delved too much into image quality as in my view, with the current state of camera technology as it stands, that conversation is moot. The image quality from cameras such as the a7R, RX1 or X-E1 will be more than enough for the majority of users like me. The minority who really need the finest of details are probably out earning their bread rather than reading a review written by me.
In closing. After a week of using the a7R, if the only issues worth writing about are the ones above then I am happy. I was looking for a camera that could last me the next 7 years and I think I have found one; it is an enjoyable camera to use, especially with small rangefinder style lenses. All controls are at my fingertips; a little finger acrobatics are required at times but that is to be expected in something built this compact. Also, never having to worry about whether the camera can keep up with the images I want to take is liberating. I am used to ‘working within the limitations’ of cameras to get the shots I want and this was especially true with the old Contax and Canon. Great shots were there, you just had to work harder to get them. With the a7R, I maintain the enjoyment of the photo-taking process without feeling the equipment getting in the way or limiting my options.
If I could love a camera, I would marry this one (but keep the RX1 as a mistress on the side!).
Many thanks to Steve Huff. All photographs shot in RAW format with the Sony a7R, Zeiss C-Sonnar 1,5/50 ZM and processed through Lightroom 5.3RC.
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.
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.
The text around the mount just makes me smile every time I read it.
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
Shot with my Zeiss Pancolar 50mm f1.8 manual focus lens, iso 200, 1/50
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
Shot with Zeiss Pancolar 50mm f1.8 manual focus lens, iso 64, s/sp 1/400, @f2.8
Shot with Zeiss Pancolar 50mm f1.8 manual focus lens, iso 100, s/sp 1/400, @f2.8
Shot with Nikkor S 35mm f2.8 manual focus lens, iso 100, s/sp 1/400, @ f4
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
Shot with my Spiratone 17mm f3.2 manual focus lens, iso 50, s/sp 1/1250, @ f5.6
Shot with my Spiratone 17mm f3.2 manual focus lens, iso 50, s/sp 1/320, @ f5.6
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
Shot with my Spiratone 17mm f3.2 manual focus lens, iso 50, s/sp 1/800, @ f8
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
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
Shot with Voigtlander 35mm f1.4 manual focus lens, iso 200, 1/160, @ f2.8
Shot with Voigtlander 35mm f1.4 manual focus lens, iso 250, 1/160, @ f2.8
Shot with Voigtlander 35mm f1.4 manual focus lens, iso 250, 1/160, @ f2.8
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.
Three quick pics! Sony A7r, A7 and Leica M 240 – From RAW, full size.
Just for fun!
Hey guys, yes, I am working on the Sony A7 and A7r review so hang in there. These things take time :) Below is a quick snap I shot in my kitchen, handheld with an A7r, A7 and Leica M. The Sony cameras had the Zeiss 35 2.8 and I shot it at f/3.5. The Leica had an old 1950′s 35 3.5 Summaron attached.
You can click them for full size.
Also, here are a couple of shots from Nashville, but these were converted from RAW this time :) EXIF is embedded in each file if interested. The 1st shot of the woman on the horse was shot with the 55 1.4 Otus, The 2nd shot of the man was shot with the Sony 35 2.8 and the third with the Zeiss Otus once again.
See my Leica M review HERE. Pre-Order the A7 cameras HERE.
Midnight Crazy Comparison! HIGH ISO – Sony A7, A7r, Leica M and E-M1!
It’s just past midnight and probably will be 1Am before I am finished writing this post but I just can not sleep and am not sure why. In fact, I feel wired for some reason. Maybe it is the fact that tomorrow I will be yet another year older and hitting the age of 44 yet my brain is telling me I am 25 and full of energy :) Nahhh. I think it was the fact that I was laying in bed thinking about what the high ISO performance of the Sony A7 and A7r is like side by side. I decided to get up from bed to go to my office and do a quick and dirty high ISO test between them. While I was at it I added the Leica M 240 and the Olympus E-M1. All cameras were using a 35mm or equivalent lens and all are OOC JPEGS without any NR turned on.
I noticed some reviews of the Sony were claiming mushy details at high ISO. Well, that is because they were using Noise Reduction. TURN IT OFF on ALL of your cameras for best results. It is my opinion that NR should not even be an option for a camera as it always obscures details and adds odd side effects to your images. Almost like a painting. The 1st thing I do when using a new camera is I turn off all noise reduction. It is off on my Olympus E-M1, the Sony RX10 ,the A7′s and the M 240 does not even have it as an option (from what I have seen) so Leica did it right.
The A7r…I am bonding with it…
The Sony A7r has been really attaching itself to me. After a few days I prefer it to the 7 in all ways..even shutter sound. It may be longer but it is a little more “silkier” it seems. I also prefer the higher resolution as it is something I just do not have in any other camera. Having no AA filter is only good IMO and my favorite cameras do not have them (Leica M, E-M1, RX1R, etc). Also, the Sony/Zeiss 35 2.8 is THE lens to order with this system. I like the 55 1.8 as well but the 35 has something about it and I can tell it has those Zeiss qualities. Many have asked me how the A7r with Zeiss 35 2.8 compares to the RX1 or RX1R. Well, the A7r focuses faster, is higher resolution, just as sharp but you lose that f/2 and have to settle for f/2.8. But at f/2.8 you still get a great look to the image. Full frame + f/2.8 is good :)
A quick snap while in Ikea today with the A7r and 35 2.8 Zeiss. f/2.8 at ISO 400. JPEG.
So again, my full review is in the works for these new A7 cameras, so check back soon for the full detailed report with loads of images. I will also be in Los Angeles next week with some buddies at a studio testing out these cameras in a studio situation as well as some quick street work. Can’t wait and these images and my report on them will be in the full review.
The Crazy Comparison – HIGH ISO!
Hey! This was supposed to be a High ISO Crazy Comparison! Lol..well, here you go!
The Sony’s had the 35 Zeiss 2.8 mounted, the Leica has an old 35 3.5 Summaron mounted and the Olympus had the 17 1.8 mounted for a 35mm Equiv. ALL shots were JPEG, noise reduction OFF, OOC color and Exposure and AWB. The Sony and Olympus were shot at f/2.8 and the Leica f/4.
It is not a sharpness test but a noise test so here we go!
So there you go. Olympus did the worst with AWB, Leica did the best. As for noise at ISO 6400? What do YOU think? 100% crops are embedded so you must click the images above for the larger size. What I think is that ALL of them did great for a midnight indoor high ISO test in my office at ISO 6400 :). These days, high ISO is great on all decent cameras.
It is now 12:51 AM..and I am ready for bed..finally :) Have a great night (or morning) everyone!