USER REPORT: The Sony A7R and Voigtlander 35 1.2 by Gianmaria Veronese
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.
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