Week one with the Sony a7R and Zeiss C-Sonnar 50mm By Raymond Hau

Sony a7R with Grip

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Speck of Plane over Vertical Hong Kong

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.

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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.

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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.

Man in Sunshine

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.

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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.

Alley

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.

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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.

For more photographs taken with the Sony a7R (as well as RX1, X-E1), please visit my tumblr website at http://jkspepper.tumblr.com (also flickr:http://www.flickr.com/photos/_dhermes/ and 500px: http://500px.com/jkspepper)

You can pre-order the Sony A7 or A7r at the links HERE.

 

94 Comments

  1. fantastic shots as always jkspepper. really love what you’ve been showing on the verge and am happy to see some new shots here from the new camera. The level of attention you pay to your shots really show and these newer shots are just mind blowing for me.

  2. I’m not detracting anything from the wonderful image quality is camera can achieve (with the right lenses), nor do I want to rain on anyone’s parade, but having handled the A7 (in a shop I admit) yesterday, I’m amazed I haven’t seen any comments so far on the very digital, blocky, experience the EVF gives when peering through it and moving the camera. It’s like it’s building up the image all the time. The E-M1 that I also tried was better in that respect, but still nowhere near what a good optical viewfinder provides (I compared the experience to the FE2 I had with me; the difference was shocking. The Df was better than the EVF’s obviously, but still nit nearly as good as the FE2). A major stumbling block for me.

  3. I am looking for a body for my Zeiss Sonnar 50mm as well. How has the lens faired on your XE-1? I love the pop you are getting in combination with the A7R but am surprised a bit by the busy brokeh. Thanks for the review!

  4. I’m impressed. With the handgrip, this thing becomes as pocketable as, say, a Nikon F5.

    I still am in awe of Olympus who were able, not so long ago, to stuff film full frame into a body as tiny as the mju II’s. The same is true for the Rollei 35 or the MInox 35 range of jewels. Ladies and Gentlemen, those were pocketable full format gems!

  5. Hi raymond, thanks for sharing! I do have a question concerning the A7r vs fuji xtrans sensors. how does the a7r compare with your xe1 in terms of 1)high iso noise and 2) dynamic range / 3D look? Is the A7r a significant leap over fuji xtrans? Thanks in advance and happy shooting!

    • In my view for both 1 and 2 it goes:
      Sony RX1 – clear winner both noise and DR by a country mile
      Sony a7R – noise slightly better than X-E1 DR slightly worse than RX1
      Fuji X-E1 – clearly the worse in noise and DR than the Sonys *however* it’s all relative as in real world use, the X-E1 is an amazing piece of kit for *only* 16MP and the above is only really noticeable if you peep or really push high DR in post.

  6. Picked up my A7R yesterday (I live in Oslo, Norway)… I have a Sigma DP2 Merrill; will the Sony beat the Foveon for pure IQ at low ISO? 🙂

  7. A brilliant camera and some exciting stuff from Sony, but it’s a shame the camera feels ‘cheap’. Plastic flappy doors, feels hollow and buttons are horrible. Sent mine straight back : (

    • “A brilliant camera and some exciting stuff from Sony, but it’s a shame the camera feels ‘cheap’. Plastic flappy doors, feels hollow and buttons are horrible. Sent mine straight back : ( ”

      That was my exact impression when I handled the A7 at the Sony store. It may have excellent IQ, but it is built like a P&S. It feels just like a NEX camera with a grip stuck on.

  8. Big thanks for this review!

    I have the Zeiss Sonnar 50mm, the Biogon 35mm F2, the C/Y 28mm, the Voigtlander 40mm Ultron, the Voigtlander 15mm Heliar and the Pentax 50mm SMC-A F1.4 all waiting for a try on the A7 or A7r.

    I now know from your review that the Sonnar will work very well on the A7r and that the 15mm Heliar will not. Boo hoo!

    Perhaps the Heliar will work on the A7???

    Your fifth shot from the top has a big old sensor spot at 1 o’clock.

    • And so it does, good spot! Thanks, I’ll have to remember to clone that out before I print.
      I loved the Heliar but not enough to pay HKD$4k for it and have to deal with the limitations – I wuld much rather wait for Sony to release a native FE UWA.

      One a side but related note, does anything think there would be a market for Sony and Zeiss to release MF only small rangefinder type lenses in FE mount? I’m not sure how big the market is for these but I surely would be a repeat customer.

  9. Hi Raymond,
    Thanks for the follow up post about the optional grip transforming handling. I was wondering if you could comment about how the handling is with the optional grip AND the LA-EA4. Does it balance well? with a large lens? I have some long heavy lenses like the A-mount Sigma 150mm F2.8 OS Macro and was wondering if the A7r, grip and LA-EA4 could substitute for a full sized body like the A99. Thanks in advance.

    • tested the zeiss 85mm f1.4 and adapter on my a7R and vertical grip – comical proportions and extremely front heavy, Doesn’t balance well at all

      • Well, for me the combination just works fine.

        WITHOUT the vertical grip.

        The combination has done more than 1500 frames with me since my LA-EA4 arrived in late March ’14.

        But then, I am used to shoot portrait with a 135 f/1,8 on a Pentax MX or an Olympus OM-2n without winder…

        Left hand under the LA-EA4, holding and supporting, right hand operating A7, and it works fine…

  10. I’m becoming tired of the meme that suggests an image is crap if it has more than three inches of depth of field. So it makes laugh to read, “the C-Sonnar is also sharp in the centre wide open and when stopped down to f/8, is sharp across the frame.”

    Please forgive me for pointing out the disconnect in buying a so-called full-frame body for its superduper bokeh, and then negating it by the need to stop down to F8 to get a sharp frame.

    • No forgiveness necessary.

      I was commenting on the lens specifically; due to it being a Classic Sonnar (C-Sonnar) design, I have read that a lot of people dismiss it because of this.

      From what I understand, it was designed *not* to be sharp across the frame wide open and people assume that it means not sharp at all. I was merely pointing out my experience that it is perfectly sharp at the centre wide-open and not in the edges (as it was designed to do) but to really get everything sharp at the corners, you do need to stop down with this lens.

      The other Zeiss, the 50mm f/2 Planar is a modern design, and like most modern lens, do not exhibit this effect being sharp across the frame whilst wide open.

    • Let me quote this from another source I found on google that explains it better than I:

      “The Sonnar “suffers” from field curvature and is overcorrected for spherical aberration. When used wide open, field-curvature and spherical aberration spreads the depth-of-field across the frame, giving a “3-D” or “plastic look”. A nice way of saying “soft,” but the C-Sonnar makes it look good. By F4, the image is sharp across the field.”

      This was what I was trying (unsuccessfully, as it seems) to explain. Wide open, the centre is perfectly but due to this effect you can’t expect the edges to be sharp, not until you stop down.

    • perhaps the photographer would like to be able to choose their depth of field? perhaps corner performance isnt important at max aperture, perhaps it is when you stop down to make the whole image sharper? there seem to be alot of posts here telling people why they have chosen one camera or lens over another and why they were wrong to do so, Shamael being the prime example. We can all make our own choices and enjoy them.

    • I agree with you Robert, it seems ridicules. People are caught up in the hype including me, but I just cancealed my A7 order that was due to arrive Dec. 4th. I had the GAS and I’m trying to get rid of it. My Ricoh GR can take images as good as what I’ve seen with the A7R unless I’m shooting images for a billboard.

      • So true! The GR is a wonderful camera with amazing IQ and snapshot mode. The A7 and A7R are, of course, wonderful cameras and in particular for people coming from heavy DSLRs/lenses, but the question is: Do you really need cameras like those or the Df (which isn’t that light, anyway). APS-C is the new FF! 🙂

        • In the Fuji, and pre-A7 Sony E formats, I’ll agree with you as the lenses are designed specifically for the “full frame” of the APS-C sensor. But 80% of the time, the term “crop sensor” is correctly applied to APS-C cameras using giant lenses designed for the “full frame” of a 35mm sensor. (yes, Canon and Nikon, I mean you.)

  11. Honest review, some great photos. Unfortunately we haven’t yet seen what the A7R is really capable of.
    Most have been shooting their lenses wide open for the artistic “bokeh” effect. Best I’ve seen are still
    those by jsvogel at dyxum forums. (the female model and butterly).
    Closing down the aperture produces some truly stunning results; as sharp or even better than the Nikon
    D-800E.
    Would like to see more of this with Canon and Nikon glass.

  12. All of you are so much impressed by the 7R. That proves again how much all of you are just pixel peepers and the only reason you chose 7R over 7 is the pixel count. I have seen pictures posted by Steve with 7 and 7R and here again, my choice is done, I will buy the 7. You are surprised to find more noise than you expected in 7R, I am not. There is no reason to get more pixels and less noise. RX1 has less noise, has 33% less pixels and 33% larger pitch, it’s as simple as that. You have to chose among more pixels, what is a religion for most, or you chose reason, less pictures and better shot. The resolution is something you will not see on a 40×60 cm print anyway, and i doubt that the 7R resolves more detail than the 24 mpix 7. If you count the few percent better resolution you get more with the 7R, it’s not worth the price you pay. But as always, the desire is stronger than the reason, and pixel peeping will on the end be the major aspect that makes you select 7R over 7. Fortunately, some people think sane and have a different view. If you take a mid format sensor at 4.5 x 6 size, and 80 mpix you have a pixel count to size ratio of 3.96, on a 36 mpix FF it is 4.16, on a 24 mpix it is 2.77. Now, a mid sized format is half way between a 24 and 36 mpix FF, one reason more to get a 24 mpix. With 32 mpix, you would match medium format resolution at 80 mpix, with 24 mpix you match medium format resolution at around 60 mpix. But, one can not compare both, the size of the body, the distance to the lens, give completely different aspects in sharpness and edetail resolution anyway.

    • I don’t disagree with your statements but I do disagree with the brush you are using.

      These cameras have only just hit the stores (and in some cases no even yet) and you seem convinced, without seemingly have handling them, to know why we bought what we bought.

      I used a Canon 350D as my main body from 2005 to mid-2013. If I was a pixel peeper with GAS who only cared about MP then why did I not upgrade to through the 5D variants? It’s not always about the sensor, it’s about the package, the handling, the sensor, the look, the system, the support and the my personal shooting experience.

      For me, the RX1 ticks a lot of boxes. The X-E1 then supplemented the need to use different focal lengths – why did I go from a 8MP Canon, to a 24MP Sony and then a 16MP Fuji if all I cared about was sensor tech? I bought the a7R after walking past a demo unit in a store and testing it, it was impressive enough that I walked out with one – it ticked a lot of my boxes and I liked the look of it, after a week of usage, it still ticks those boxes – nothing more, nothing less. It’s been less than a year since I bought the RX1 and less than 6 months since I dumped my Canon and collection of Ls – I’m still in the searching for my perfect setup phase but like I have commented in my post, I think I have found it with the a7R and RX1 – again nothing more, nothing less.

      • Well done to sticking up for yourself…not that you need.

        I am interested in the Sony because I have the little RX100m2 and the images I get out of it amaze me. Sony must be doing something right! I also have the EM1 and 12-40 but often pick up the little Sony because it does a great job and is so easy to carry.

        I’m looking at the Sony A7 and Fuji XE2. Again, nothing to do with sensor size just what they can do straight out of camera.

        I’ve no need to buy any more cameras but I like seeing what’s out there…and I can always sell on like you did if I need

  13. I don’t understand the advantage to the A7R over the A7. It seems to me unless you are doing extremely large prints whats the point. As mentioned the A7 shares the same sensor as the RX1 so the noise and dynamic range should not be an issue, The A7’s auto focusing is supposed to be faster than the A7R, and it’s less expensive and does better at video. Taking photos of people with 36MP can’t do them any justice unless they’re under 21 with no blemishes. I have both of them on order, but after reading several reviews and thinking more about what I photograph I’m probably going to cancel the A7R. Great review! It helped me decide which camera will be better for me.

    • It is price differentiation, just like Apple with their 16, 32 and 64 Gb models. Sony can make the A7 cheaper because many people happily pay more for more expensive model (A7R). This is great and everyone wins. More choice = better.

  14. There’s nothing special about the A7(R). I’ve come to that conclusion after having seen many reviews and first impressions with photos on this website and others. I don’t mean the photos that are posted are bad, it’s just that the IQ is very good, but not exceptional. But I guess it’s a matter of taste as well as how badly one wants a reasonably small (still too big imo) FF camera. I can imagine many were craving for this for a long time, but the “cybershot” is not for me. I was at a store today to take a few photos with it (the A7) and just to hold it in my hand. It didn’t feel good. I didn’t connect with the camera. Anyway, everyone who has the camera or ordered it: have lots of fun! And… post photos here or anywhere when you find the time. Bye, A7. Hello, (not sure yet).

  15. Sadly, I have yet to see anything appealing about this camera. 🙁
    There are almost no lenses available, poor battery life, slower focus than olympus, questionable button/dial placement, and more shortcomings compared to other options. The ONLY thing that makes me keep reading these reviews and hoping for more is the FF sensor. I had an M9 that I eventually sold for an EM5. The only thing I miss is the large sensor, and mainly due to the wide angle lens selection and shallow dof.
    And if you look at the published sony lens roadmap, even that isn’t very promising and the forecasted prices are insane. Also, I don’t understand the difference in megapixels. Why not offer the lower megapixels without the AA filter? The one thing I hate about my D800 are those massive files taking up way too much space. In this case I would choose the A7 just to have the smaller file size… if I was inclined to choose any at all.

  16. it was good to read your review being one of those with a Leica M9P interested in the A7 or A7r the more images I see the more satisfied I am with what I have already.
    I’m wanting to go with the excitement and hype but have found it’s best to wait and see how others find the equipment once they use it rather than just acting on initial impulse or GAS.
    Thanks for your contribution and lovely images.

  17. I too am puzzled. The biggest advantage of MILC is size and weight, at the expense of losing OVF, poorer AF and battery life. Once you put on a large fast lens or a handle for better grip, then what is point.

    In fact, unless you are using small prime lens, I have great difficulty understanding the advantage of MILC.

    • Artists use many sizes of paintbrushes. They rarely criticize their fellow artists for preferring one brush over another You can create art with any of them.

      An advantage of a MILC (at least the m4/3 models) is greater light gathering capability at the same depth of field, or greater depth of field at the same aperture. Presumption that OVF is superior to EVF is usually mad by those who have not used a good EVF.

      Small fast primes really are great, and they simply don’t exist in the DSLR world. But that’s not the whole lens story. Another advantage is shooting with a 150mm F2.0 with the same reach, double the light gathering, and one half the weight as my big white 300mm F2.8.

      • This is really not a discussion of m4/3 camera but a FF or crop FF MILC.

        I have an excellent camera with high resolution EVF, but my DSLR with OVF with 100% FOV is still better. Also it does not burn through battery after battery with full day of use.

        I buy primes lens for better background/subject separation, not for more DOF. You mileage may vary.

        The whole argument is not better IQ or better AF. It is about size and weight. But with that, comes a cost. To offset the penalty, you can carry more battery, add better grip, add flash with commander (which this camera does not have), and adaptor for non Sony lens -which then negates any real advantage (for FF or crop frame MILC) in size or weight.

        So it seems to be a great camera, but a niche camera and hardly a general purpose one.

  18. Hi Raymond,

    Keep on shooting! Thanks for the post and your honesty. Real reviews from “photographers” like you keep me coming back to this site. Best

  19. Hey Raymond,

    Enjoyed your write-up and pics! Love the bokeh and “pop” of your Zeiss Sonnar f/1.5 less! Very nice.

  20. Hi Raymond,
    Nice set of pictures! This Sonnar is one of my dream lens to get..
    I was wondering if you could tell AF performance of Sony adapter. I am thinking of getting one since I have several minolta A mount lenses.

    Thanks!

    • I can’t really comment as I have honest spent only half a day with the adapter and 2 lenses. I found the focusing felt considerable more ‘confident’ and speed and focus lock but that was in good light. The choice of PDAF focus areas/patterns was a bonus even though I remain stubbornly one of those centre focus and recompose guys.

    • @ashutosh:

      The LA-EA4 works very well with my Sony Zeiss Planar 85 f/1,4 ZA, some Sigma lenses for Minolta, Sigma 24 f/1,8 EX DG (Sony Alpha), Minolta 20 f/2,8 and Minolta 3,5..4,5/20..35.

      I tried it successfully as well in a shop with the Sony Zeiss Sonnar 135 f/1,8.

      Focus on all shots was fast and accurate, up to now no front- or back-focus issues found, which says something for the accuracy, given the depth of image with the 85 f/1,4 and 135 f/1,8 and the traditional ‘crank drive’ autofocus in these lenses.

      The AF motor is not silent, one can hear it work in quiet environments.

  21. Great honest review. The fact you are seeing issues even with a 50mm wide open has me concerned. Mine is on the way from B+H. I might not even open it and just pass it on. It just does not seem so far to be the magic bullet for an M alternative. Perhaps Fuji will pay more attention to that detail with a more classic RF look. Yes I want a more affordable digital M body..Great system otherwise though.

    • I really wouldn’t want to be the one to make you abandon a purchase because of what I said! Please what for a more formal review by Steve and others or at least test the waters for yourself.. you never know, you may like it 😉

      • Oh I know Raymond no worries. I have seen a number of posts where there are issues at 35mm from a number of different users, this might be the first 50mm issue I have seen. I know its not a big deal and can be corrected but still. Steve claims he has not seen any with 35mm or 50mm lenses he tried so there may be a variability of some sort either adapters or camera body. I will try it as I really want this to work.

        • The C-Sonnar 50 f/1,5 ZM is a very special lens. I like mine with the M4P on film, for the ‘dreamy’ effect it produces.

          However, it suffers from some flaws which impact it noticeably on full frame (and even some APS-C) digital sensors … problem are, as usual, the oblique angle light rays in the corner – combined with field curvature, which is very noticeable on that lens when wide open, and focus shift (at least in my sample).

          I can categorically state that I did not have color shift or softness issues with Summicron 50, Macro-Elmarit 60, various Pentax 50..55 Takumars, Canon FL and FD 50, Zeiss/Rollei Planars, Yashica 50 and Angenieux 50 as well as Zeiss Otus and Sonnar FE 55…

    • i think those issues are the result of the lens used , not the camera. other 50mm lenses may not do this (Planar f2 etc). It would seem that maybe a rental of the camera to try out the lenses you already have would be a good idea.

      • Early days for me, but the zeiss 50 planar f2 seems to give beautiful results, I dont mind the grip, though the EM1 is better. Need to take some more 35mm shots but the voigt 1.2 looks good so far, though it feels heavy on the body. Voigt 50 1.5 seems to have corner softness issues, fine at large aperture when theyll be out of focus anyway, annoying at medium aperture. Dont have the autofocus lens yet

  22. ‘If I could love a camera, I would marry this one (but keep the RX1 as a mistress on the side!).’ – LOL, that’s a very expensive mistress.

    Great no-nonsense review! Your sample photo IQ looks awesome.

  23. Fantastic report Raymond (and great images!)

    As you noticed a slight drop in noise performance and dynamic range (as compared to the RX1) it makes me think that the A7 (which uses the same RX1 sensor) may well show ‘notable’ gains over the A7r in these areas (and by ‘notable’ I mean in ‘real life / actual use’, and not just in lab testing).

    • i am sure, that a combi of lets say canon 6d + 35mm 1,4l usm beats the new sonys easily in terms of subjective quality, “breathing” and 3d pop, fast AF, handling, and and and ……. especially when it comes to colors. did nobody recognize the somehow strange colors of this sony? i didn`t see one review (except steve huffs reviews) that shows us nice, vivid colors with this sony machines.
      (i do not own a new leica. but what i see from the sample photos, the old M9 is also better in IQ than the new one)

      my decision is made, that i will switch to canon if i will upgrade from my old sony nex5n in the future.
      even if that means, that i cannot use my leica mount lenses with FF.
      (CV 15, CV 35/1,4, CV 40/1,4, CV 75/2,5, canon ltm 35/2, Canon ltm 50/1,2, canon serenar 100mm)
      i will use my lenses with the nex as usual and upgrade to FF when canon releases a FF with EVF and tiltable screen.

      in the meantime i will play with my new nodal ninja for hirez pictures.

      • Hi, sorry to tell you, but the problem of the pictures here is a wrong color profile. the larger ones are correct, but they are in ProPhotoRGB. You need a browser, which supports color management – and not Internet Explorer.
        The colors are great, they are the best, we can find at the moment.
        But I don’t know why not everyone uses sRGB? The other profiles are for printing only! And not for viewing on the web or the TV.
        Anyway the review is great 🙂

        • Yeah, I forgot all about the colour profile. I’m processing images so I can print to large canvas to hang on my wall and to print into a large hardback coffee table book. What’s the point in taking nice photos if they’re going to live on my computer, right?

          • Thanks Raymond for the nice pics.
            However I think michael from austria is right. The canon 6D with the 85 1.2L or the 35 1.4 would beat the sony easily, just have a look at Steve review in this website.

          • if you are using lightroom, you can define the color profile(conversion) in the export options menu. you can also define the name of a separate folder you are exporting in. e.g. jpg export srgb.

            changing the viewing option of the internet browser makes only sense if the monitor is capaple of showing the wider spread color values of adobe rgb. even my eizo monitor midclass DP-Monitor is not 100% adobe rgb compatible.

            greetings michael

    • The noise performance is a none issue for me. It’s noticeable because I probably expected something appreciably better when I first played with the RAWs but for all intents and purposes I haven’t thought about it since. It’s fine.

      What does make me think is the DR. I can be lazy with the RX1 or shoot directly into the sun knowing that I can pull back the highlights and reign in shadow detail. Even after a week, I still have a distinct instinct to check my exposures and levels properly if I feel there will be a need to recover shadows and highlights. Time will tell whether that gut feeling is correct but for now, it is something I am conscious of when shooting.

  24. Curiously, when you click on the images to see larger versions those files are more saturated and have a warmer color. I wonder why the preview images in the article are so different.

    • Apologies, that paragraph is confusing even when I read it back.

      To clarify, I think the built in hand grip is awful. I would prefer it either grip-less like the RX1 or moulded differently like the Olympus E-M1.

      However, when the additional vertical battery grip (VGC1EM) is attached, the handling is transformed and become as much better experience for me albeit with a size and weight penalty.

    • I was confused first too, but once I realised he is talking about the fixed grip as “the grip” and then the “vertical grip” is the ad-on, it is clear. So what he says is that the camera feels better with the added vertical grip than without.

  25. “…earning their bread rather than reading a review written by me”

    Well I for one read your article and I’m glad you wrote it! The Sony A7 with M lenses is going to be my main tool for 2014 wedding season, with a a99 and lenses for backup. I’m glad there are photographers like yourself that take the time to share the experience while using these little wonders. Best wishes João

    • I’m using for 2 days now the A7R with Novoflex adapter and Leica Summicron 35mm. All I can say is, that the image quality of this combination at any f-stop is extremely good. There is slight vignetting in the corners, but that can be easily fixed. Sharpness, detail and DR is mind blowing.
      Also focus peeking works extremely well for me and makes manual focusing very easy.

      Verdict: This body in combination with the Summicron 35mm and a good adapter like the Novoflex is a dream.

  26. Raymond, what an article. Well written and I liked the no bull approach. I’ll be following your posts and sites from now on…Steve, good on ya too mate for posting these. Cheers from Down-Under.

  27. I can only see this camera getting better once it is fully released as I am sure there will be updates to tweak things here and there.

  28. Thanks for the review, nice photos. I am loving this camera more and more. I have been using two of the NEX models so this is another delight to add to the addition. Curious, did you use a tripod to take these? I keep hearing so many comments saying that you need a tripod due to the megapixels which I find hard to believe.

  29. Hmmmmm…I have the A7r on pre order, already having the fabulous RX1r. If in fact if the A7r has more noise at low iso’s , especially at base iso, I’m sending it back! I’m looking for files as smooth as my Phase One back, or nearly so…last thing I want is more noise in this new sony!

  30. Hi,
    seeing that you are an ex C/Y user – any chance of your testing the A7R with C/Y lenses? Expecially the gorgeous 85 / 1.4?
    Otherwise very worthwhile review – thank you!

  31. Focus is hard manually at that F-Stop, I think the images look cool. How much pp was done, just curious I can’t imagine your life or the sensor is that desaturated. I like the look, just curious

    • Thanks! (and that goes to every one’s positive comment too). I think that is a side-effect from posting, the originals are warmer. Not much PP is done only high masking/sharpening to aid the Zeiss pop and VSCO Portra using Nikon profile, I find the Sony profiles too saturated and contrasty.

  32. I’m wondering whether people complaining about low light performance of the A7R are looking at 100% crops. Of course it will look worse on pixel level. At same magnification A7 and A7R should look fairly similar at the same ISO.

  33. Thanks for sharing this extensive review! You seem to be very enthusiastic about the camera, but very critical as well. Puzzling. The camera seems to lose all its size and weight advantages with the grip and that big lens.

    Interesting shots. Too “centered” for my taste (easier to focus?), and sometimes focus seems to be off (as in the smoking guy; his sleeve is in focus, the cigarette is not). That sensor must be very critical for correct focus, as per D800E.

    • Of course, there are _other_ advantages apart from size and weight.

      I find I use the tilt LCD all the time on my NEX bodies (something I really wish my Nikon D700 had).

      And as I often like to shoot tricky high-contract night images, I appreciate having a display that shows real-time exposure adjustments, and (although just a minor thing) not having to engage mirror lock-up.

      • Ricardo, you could be right. I’ve found myself setting a higher slowest shutter speed than inverted focal length with auto ISO on my D800 (f.i., 1/125 for the 58) and still sharpness is very critical.

        • Yeah, I forgot all about the colour profile. I’m processing images so I can print to large canvas to hang on my wall and to print into a large hardback coffee table book. What’s the point in taking nice photos if they’re going to live on my computer, right?

    • Waxing lyrical about the love of a camera gets boring even to me. I focus on the negatives and decide whether I can deal with it, if not then the camera goes.

      Many other people have also commented on my centred compositions; bear with me, I’m still in that learning phase! (also as an fyi, I was trying to nail focus on the smoke!)

  34. Thank you for the great write up on the A7r. Very well written and straight to the point.

    “If I could love a camera, I would marry this one (but keep the RX1 as a mistress on the side!).”

    Would you mind sharing the instances where you would use the RX1 over the A7? (assuming you have the 35 f2.8 as well)

    • I don’t have the native FE 35mm f2.8. I don’t believe in duplicating focal lengths and since I already had the RX1I didn’t buy the FE.

      I’m keeping the RX1 just because it’s a keeper, I love that camera. The scale tipped in the RX1 flavour because: a) it is smaller and quieter, b) the flash syncs up to 1/2000s, c) the 35mm Sonnar on the RX1 is amazing anyway, d) I hate changing lens in the field, so I walk around with 2 bodies and can quickly switch between the two and e) well, because I like it 🙂

  35. ” 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 bought an RX1. I couldn’t keep it because of the AF performance in lower light was just not tolerable for me and I shoot in those conditions quite a bit. Some reports suggested the AF in available light was better than the RX1, so this report is unfortunate if true.

    • I didn’t comment extensively on AF because I felt I didn’t have enough experience to really give an in-depth report. I just know from my initial testing that compared to my RX1, good light focussing is good and poor light (and I mean ISO64,000-12,800 stuff) is just the same as the RX1 i.e. I would rather just switch to manual & peaking instead.

    • 2014? Mine (A7R) just shipped from BestBuy of all places… in the US. BH started shipping preorders yesterday.

      • No, the color profile ist the problem. The smaler previews are converted from ProPhotoRGB to sRGB, but in a wrong way. Bigger ones are correct, when viewed in a browser, which supports color profiles. Or download them, and open them in Photoshop.

      • Agree the larger images have so much more colour, what’s going on there? Check out the girls laughing face, grey here on the site, lovely skin tones when you open up the image? Strange.

        But nice review Raymond, warts and all.

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