Ten reasons why the Sony A7s is the best A7 body yet..
I will keep this simple and quick but many ask me “why did you choose the A7s over the A7 or A7r”? For me it was a no brainer, simple and easy after using all three extensively.
1. It has faster Auto Focus – This helps and is useful when you need it. The A7s will AF faster than the A7 or A7r.
2. It will focus in near pitch blackness, even without focus aids! – I was shooting last week in almost near darkness and the A7s with 35 2.8 was focusing fast and accurately, even when my own eyes could barely see the scene! No AF assist either. Amazing.
3. Has the best color and rendering of the three in my opinion! – Richer color and more 3D pop is what I see. A bit warmer in the AWB than the A7 and A7r.
4. I can still print gorgeous 20X30’s with the A7s – I have printed two 20X30’s so far and they are gorgeous in-depth, color and yes, even detail. All I need!
5. The files are smaller than the A7 and A7r! – No need to have a super computer to process the files!
6. High ISO capability is there when you need it! – No need to stop at 3200 or 6400. Nope, go up to 32,000 or even 80,000 in those super low light situations and get a usable image.
7. It’s the best A7 yet for Leica M glass use! – Wide angle M mount lenses do not do well on the A7r and A7s (though the WATE does) but on the A7s you get the most compatibility with wide-angle M lenses. Lenses such as the Zeiss 21 2.8 or Voigtlander 15 4.5 do much better on the A7s than the A7r and A7.
8. It has a silent mode! – If you want to be super stealth turn on silent mode and no one will ever know or believe you took a picture. 100% silence!
9. Makes for a great ANYTIME, ANYWHERE camera! – This one camera will do what you need in any light. Bright, low or none. Versatile as all get out!
10. Best video yet for an A7 body – Has the most customization of the video to date for an A7 body and can do 4K (though I will not use that feature).
So there you have it. Took me about 7 minutes to come up with 10 reasons and write them down. I have used all three A7 bodies extensively and my favorites are the A7s followed by the A7 and then the A7r. The A7s does everything I need and to date, with almost daily use since launch I have never had an issue, a mis focus or a problem. It has not let me down (unless I made a mistake) and has been reliable, quick, and has provide for a couple of beautiful large prints. To those who trash it for only being 12MP, well, you are missing out. That’s about all I can say. The Sony A7s is still my pick for camera of the year 2014 SO FAR..unless something comes out and gets shipped before 2015 that knocks me off of my feet.
You can buy the Sony A7s at B&H Photo or Amazon. My review of the A7s is HERE.
I got a wonderful Sony a7S for my 14y.o. daughter and the Mitakon 50mm. Wonderful combination, but very specific, There are so many choices of the optics available and I can’t make my mind to find the kit which will be not so expensive all together and give the space for art. And so so big.
Prime lenses or zooms.
Could you please advise where to start
Wow, I bet your Daughter is happy!! The Mitakon and A7s is a great combo as long as she is OK with manual focus! Sounds like you are off to a great start! I’d recommend a wide angle of course, I use the Sony 16-35 F/4 mostly. If she wants a zoom, a decent priced zoom from Sony is the newer 70-300. So many choices though and depends on what she needs and wants.
Any color fringing on the A7S when paired with Voigtlander 21mm f4 Color Skopar? Thanks Steve!
Don’t now as I do not have that lens. Sorry!
Photographers absolutely LOVED the Nikon d700 (at 12.1MP) and many wish they still had them, or could even get them back after they “upgraded” to d800’s. I think the megapixel wars are largely fought in marketing departments and have less real consequence out here where the rubber hits the proverbial road.
It would be great if we could have some insight from Steve on the AF in the A7s. I gather it beats the other two bodies but nowhere can I find a decent illustration or opinion on the AF or how it copes with moving subjects etc.
I mentioned and talked about this a few times, even in my review of the A7s. It has faster AF than the 7 and 7r and will focus in the dark without an AF assist light. Amazing AF capabilities.
I bought an A7s and have been experimenting with it on the fly. Love the low light performance. Now that I have a couple of days between trips, I’m trying to sort out some of the quirks. The one that is driving me nuts is that I can’t figure out how to get the monitor to show me the scene I’m looking at. All I have is the Quick Menu stuff. I want to see my subject in the monitor – or, if I put the camera up to my eye – to see it in the viewfinder. As it is, I can only use the viewfinder. There has to be a way and I’ve been through all the menus, the manual, and something isn’t clicking in my brain. Can you point me to a solution??
I never had this issue, in fact, all you need to do is press the “display” button to cycle through the different display options on the LCD.
The Alpha 7S certainly looks like the best of the three for me, too. I’m fine with my OM-D E-M5’s 16MP sensor as far as printing large at ISO 200 is concerned, so 12 million huge pixels is fantastic. I’m totally content with my OM-D, but the a7S does make me quite jealous 🙂
Steve – I have been seriously contemplating upgrading my M8 for a used M9. Whats your take on how the A7S stacks up against a Leica M9?
Much different rendering. IMO, nothing renders like an M9, not even an M240. But the A7s will have much much better low light capability (by a large margin) and more dynamic range (pretty good margin as well). The A7s will have AF and a much better LCD screen. EVF of the Sony is super as well. The M9, if buying used, you have to be careful as there could be issues like an out of calibration rangefinder which will be a nightmare in use or the potential for cracked sensor glass. The M9 will limit you to ISO 1250 max for low light. The A7s will equal the M9 at 1250 at around ISO 32,000. Much different cameras. The M9 will feel amazing, look amazing and let you use the Leica M lenses to their fullest potential but the A7s would be my choice if choosing between it and an M9. If you adore the RF experience though you will feel uninspired by the Sony. Guess it is all personal preference.
Steve – any feedback on physical durability of the 7s? I found my Nex7 rubber covering peeling off after 2 years hard labour. One thing with Leica is the build and that they hold together, but then we pay for that. Do you think the Sony’s are built to last?
I have not had any issues with the A7s build – at all. I have had the leather of one of my Leica’s peel off after two weeks (X2) and one after 2 months (M9), so all cameras can have issues in that department.
Ok Steve. Sounds like my next camera purchase is secured (A7s). Thanks for your great reviews and posts.
Leather on an M9..?
I dont think that this is possible… still you are looking at two totally different price categorys here… Leica Camera are useually “over-build” in terms of quality… which is a wonderfull thing. But can´t expect that from a camera which costs much less than half of the camera
I need 16-20px, because I don’t use zoom or 50mm and almost always 35mm attached, then crop my photos.
well then stop that
As for some people’s comments about printing, one of the best printers available is the Durst
Lambda which makes absolutely gorgeous prints and its native resolution is 200 dpi. I don’t do prints at home, I send mine to a pro lab and that’s the way they want the arquives – 200 dpi.
But why do you have to use a larger FoV if then you have to crop? Would not be better using a tighter FoV and retain the whole image quality?
Agree. Move closer if you can but change lenses if you can’t.
I’ve never seen so many experts on extra large prints! As I understand it, the sensor pixels are larger on the Sony A7s and will often get you a low light shot without intrusive external lighting that other cameras would struggle with.
With large prints there are two parties. The artist and the client. The artist dictates what means he uses to create his/her work and the client either likes or dislikes and has the choice to buy or not. As someone said, if the client wants to look at the work a few inches away then so be it. But the work is that of the artist (photographer) who dictates how the work is displayed.
Personally, I don’t go up to a bill board or bus shelter advert and look at it a few inches away. In my opinion it’s meant to be viewed in it’s entirety….which is many feet away.
There are so many snobs or pixel peepers in photography or know it all’s in photography. The other argument that raises it’s head all the time is the size of the sensor – so many dismissive of anything less than 35mm.
Does it REALLY matter? Just get out there and shoot. If the artist or the work is good enough the client will want it – I doubt if they know what a pixel is!
The simple way to think about it is to relate the larger sensor pixels to film grain. Fast film is more light sensitive than slow film, but has larger grain. So, unless you want a grainy unsharp image you cannot print really large images.
Slow film is less light sensitive but has finer grain, and you can print sharp large images. Both can be the same ‘sensor’ size eg 35mm.
Pick the one you want. But one does not replace the other which is why Sony makes the A7r as well as the A7s.
Does it really matter? Of course it does, depending on the intended purpose of use.
I think fine art prints are really beautiful and it’s a pity that photo enthusiasts seldom ever seem to print these days. I remember seeing some medium format prints at an exhibition (digital Hasselblad I think).
They were absolutely in a different league and it was beyond debate. I appreciated them on an artistic and technical level. By way of fairness and balance I have seen equally beautiful prints done with smaller cameras even film cameras. It is very much depends on the subject matter. We should all try to get some of our best work printed especially by a fine art print studio.
Curiously enough super sharpness can detract from the story in a documentary style photo and yet can make a still life or natural life subject come alive. So choose well and print some of your photos.
Thanks all above for your interesting insights.
Steve, without wishing to pile yet more work on your plate with Photokina in sight and all, I was wondering if the more extensive test of the A7s with wide angle lenses as mentioned in your A7s review is still on the cards, or whether pressure of work has shifted it onto the back burner. I’d really love to see that article when you find the time. Thanks.
Of course that should read wide angle M mount lenses.
I`m going to buy large scale printer and paper makers stock as all of a sudden everybody seems to do large scale fine art quality prints;). The vast vast majority of gear heads does not even print, neither small nor large.
Tried a Sony A7s out at the Sony Store today for the better part of an hour. Takeaways?
The horizontal orange banding across the frame when shooting in silent shutter mode inside the store was just atrocious. They had fluorescents and probably mercury vapor lighting, so no real surprise there.
The noise from the regular focal plane shutter is almost identical to the A7 and A7r, btw … a noisy clack-clack-clack.
In reduced light the autofocus hunted pretty bad with the Sony FE 70-200mm f/4.0 G OSS lens … though was nice and snappy with the shorter zoom / short prime focal lengths.
The viewfinder appears to have significantly better clarity than either the Olympus E-M1 or the Fuji X-T1, but with less magnification.
Ergonomics are ok, but not on the same level as the E-M1, which is a more responsive and enjoyable camera to shoot.
Great post. As someone who is wondering if A7s or EM1 ir the best option (I already have all zuiko primes and an EM10), in terms of pure image quality, can the EM1 be even compared to the A7s or is the Sony in just another league of its own?
The E-M1 is fantastic when using any of the great Micro 4/3 lenses (primes and pro zoom) and can put out IQ equal to most APS-C cameras. It will never give the full frame look in regards to depth of field (shallow) but for color, sharpness and overall IQ it is one of the best IMO. The A7s will kill it for low light or any situation where you want a nice big fat shallow DOF. The E-M1 feels better in the hand, is weather proof and fast. The A7s is a little more clunky in the hand and not weather proof and not quite as fast. All depends on your needs. There is a larger lens selection for the E-M1 as well.
I was about to take Olympus OMD to my trip to China and then came this; I am now re-organizing my Ryker bag. You have a way of upsetting my planning.
I totally agree. I got a A7s on Friday just in time for a wedding that I had to shoot yesterday here in Athens.
Moving on from the M9-P and not knowing the camera made me anxious: – what if the camera doesn’t deliver the Leica quality that I was so used to and what about manually focusing Leica lenses on it?
Fortunately anxiety went quickly away after only a few test shots and learning to work with focus peaking.
Quality is really there, as good as Leica IMHO. Subjects pop out like on the M9, colors are full, and ISO is amazing. I would have not made the job with the Leica, because the little church had so little light that I had to use up to 32000 ISO with the 21mm Voigtlander at F1.8.
The A7s is the only camera that made me really think of selling the Leica, and after only two days of using it I am more than convinced that it was a great move.
And a big PLUS is that I could finally take out the 15mm Voigtlander from the drawer in which it had been sitting since the day that the M8 was replaced by the M9-P… I loved the 15mm before, and love it even more now on the A7s. Along with the 21mm 1.8, the 28mm cron and the 50mm lux they are going to be my main combo for many years to come…
Thanks Steve and Brandon for helping us with real world reviews and views!
I can vouch, too, for the terrific results on the A7S with the Voigt 15mm and 21mm f1.8 – and with the Leica 50mm f1.4. Brilliant.
More test shots with zm Biogon 35mm 2.0 plz?
If you are going for fine art quality prints 12 mp is not enough for 20 by 30 prints. Telling your customers that they need to stand three feet back to view the pixelated print does not cut it. Fine art prints are to be viewed as the customer wishes, whether it is with his nose an inch from the print or from across the room.
There is a very real reason that Sony/ Nikon offers a 36mp sensor. There is a very real reason that Pentax/Leica/Hasselblad etc offer medium format digital sensors. It is not for the amateur market where people post pics of their cats online to show ‘sharpness’, but to create ultra high quality large scale prints for paying customers.
You think 12 mp cuts it? Shoot the same scene with the same glass, lets say the A7s and A7r using the Zeiss Otus. Fine art print that, on museum quality paper, at 20 by 30 or higher. The difference will be very real.
Don’t care about making super high quality prints? Then next to anything will do.
Yep, there’s clear difference between output from 12mp and 33mp sensors on 20×30, the only lower mp sensor that scales well (from my experience) is Foveon Merrill, output from that is almost as good as from 33mp (Leaf Aptus).
It’s question of how much detail one needs, not whether one will see a “pixelated print”. Pixelation from a 12mp sensor is never a problem, no matter how big the print. Photoshop and other programs will scale a 12mp photo up to any size without pixelation. Even at billboard size, it may be blurry when viewed up close, but it will never be pixelated. The only reason one would ever see pixelation in a large print is if the photographer did not up-res in Photoshop or a similar program.
Exactly. And you don’t view a billboard from 2 feet away.
With respect to fine art work, we’re back to the horses for courses argument again. Though there aren’t TOO many photographers running that particular course. Few photographers (even pros) are shooting fine art work, largely because only a few rarified shooters can make any significant money at it.
For everyone else shooting for magazines or making up to A1 size prints, a 16 megapixel m4/3 sensor or a 12 megapixel “full frame” sensor is plenty sufficient, assuming your shot discipline is good.
You can substitute pixelate for bluriness. One results in the other.
There is no way that a 12 mp A7s going to print the same quality as a 36 mp A7r at large sizes.
Pixelation and blurriness don’t look the same. Historically they have different causes, and they are interpreted differently. Of course, you’re right that the 12mp A7s isn’t going to print the same quality as a 36mp A7r at large sizes. But that only matters to people who print at large sizes. Some (perhaps most) photographers don’t ever print at large sizes. Many photographers don’t do fine art at large sizes, or fine art at all. And many photographers don’t have customers at all, or have customers who don’t want large sizes. So the printing at large sizes argument only applies to certain photographers.
Everyone seems to be worried about how well a 12mp sensor will print at 20×30. But have you ever wondered how a 36mp sensor will print at 8×10 or 11×14? If you took a picture with the A7s and A7r at iso 12000 and printed both at 8×10, would the A7r be noisier? I doubt you would see much difference. A larger image sensor is only noisier at the pixel level. If you down sample, you get rid of a lot of noise. The more megapixels your sensor has, the more versatile your camera–large prints and low noise when printing small. The best of both worlds. However, this is not the case with video. The 12 mp sensor on the A7s is optimized for video. That is the ONLY reason Sony chose to use such a small mp count. (It might also be easier to design an autofocus system around a smaller mp sensor.) But sometimes there are more important considerations than image quality. A silent shutter and low light AF to name a few. The A7s is a video camera that does amazingly well as a stills camera. The A8 with a 36mp sensor, silent shutter, and an autofocus system that is as fast as the A6000, and can focus in as low light as the A7s would be the ideal stills camera.
I believe sensor size is at least as important as number of mpix count. I am a pretty skilled printer and can already at A4 (210x297mm) print see the difference between m43, APS-C and 24×36. However mpix count has importance as well. There is a difference between Fuji 16 mpix and Sony A6000 24 mpix.
I would say Steve, that a direct comparison between the A7s and the A7r large printed would show a visible difference. After all there are different levels even of excellence…..
Steve, I agree with you at least on paper, but I have not used an A7 body. I have a couple of comments and questions on some of your points (anyone is welcome to push back on these):
6. High ISO:
One would be foolish to reject higher usable ISO. However, ISO seems to be like handbags: the bigger they get, the more that women seem to find to put into them! The highest ISO I’ve ever needed was at a wedding. I used 6400 at 1/30 sec with a 200mm lens on a full frame DSLR (these days I’d be all mirrorless). Perhaps an extra stop of ISO may have helped, but 400,000? Well… I reckon you’d need a very long article to talk about ISO!
7. Leica M lenses.
You’re 100% right. The A7 and A7r are nowhere near as good with M lenses as M bodies are. Even stopped down, edge performance suffers.This is a fact and can be easily demonstrated.
8. Silent mode.
Above all, this is the most important feature IMHO. This is a digital camera being true to itself. Film needs physical shutters. Digital sensors of today don’t. However, does the electronic shutter cause chromatic aberration as seen here with the NEX-5N’s electronic first curtain?:
I’d like to suggest that the bargain of 2014 is the A7. Forget Leica M lenses, but for most purposes it’s an amazing camera for a very fair price. Big sensor, compatibility with just about any SLR lens ever made (allowing you to use cheap-but-good lenses) etc.
6. High ISO:
“..I used 6400 at 1/30 sec with a 200mm lens on a full frame DSLR..” ..I don’t know if you were shooting for fun, or as a paid wedding photographer. But if the latter, I wouldn’t dare go as slow as 1/30th with a 200mm lens for fear of shake on an absolutely unrepeatable photo!
You’ll know the old rule: use the reciprocal shutter speed, meaning with a 200mm lens, use at least 1/200th shutter speed to avoid shake! (But maybe you had the lens resting on something to preclude shake; I don’t know.)
If that shot were handheld, then it’d be prudent to use 1/250th. By going down (shorter speed) from 1/30th to 1/250th, that’s three stops’ difference (1/30th, 1/60th, 1/125th, 1/250th). So to use that 1/250th shutter speed you’d need 3 stops higher ISO ..that’s 6400 > 12800 > 25600 > 51200.
The A7S – unlike many other cameras – delivers ISO 51200 with tolerably little ‘grain’ or ‘noise’.
7. Leica M lenses.
“..You’re 100% right. The A7 and A7r are nowhere near as good with M lenses as M bodies are. Even stopped down, edge performance suffers.This is a fact and can be easily demonstrated..”
It’s a fact with the A7 and A7R. But it’s a whole different story with the A7S. The larger sensor elements deliver excellent images with Leica – and other brand – wide-angle lenses.
8. Silent mode.
“..does the electronic shutter cause chromatic aberration as seen here with the NEX-5N’s electronic first curtain?..” ..dunno, because my colour vision isn’t good enough to notice any – if there is any. But I don’t see any – enough to be of any interest to me – on that kayak picture, anyway.
It didn’t seem to be all that noticeable to the kayak photographer, either, because he writes “..A 100% crop shows massive CA and overall loss of contrast in a scene that had good light, note the CA in the water at the paddle blade..” ..but he has had to make a massive enlargement to show that.
In normal viewing, at a reasonable size, I’d say it’s unnoticeable. What I do notice at 100% is a fuzzy picture. Notice that the kayak photographer used a “Nikon 75-150 f/3.5” lens for that shot. Not a Sony lens. Sony cameras generally remove colour fringing – and correct any geometric distortion – when using Sony lenses on a Sony camera body. So some of what the photographer’s seeing may be caused by using a non-Sony (that is, “unmatched”) older zoom lens, and at its widest aperture, and with the camera unable to correct for any fringing. The photographer says “..The issue is exacerbated in older lenses like the Nikon 75-150 f3.5 Series E, used here..” to which I’d say “Then don’t use older lenses like the Nikon 75-150 with your Sony NEX!”
He makes no mention of any adaptor used, so we don’t know if it’s used as a 112-225mm with a glass-less adaptor, or if he used a ‘Speedbooster’ – with extra glass inside – to bring it back down to approximately 75-150mm.
Others have described ‘electronic first curtain’ producing some extra fuzziness with some cameras, as if there’s more shutter bounce (!) when ‘efc’ is used.
I’ve never seen or noticed any colour fringing (‘chromatic aberration’) when using the A7S with its silent electronic shutter ..and that’s how I use it all the time!
But perhaps I’m just blind to it.
Waiting for A5100s. I don’t know how I will stop myself from buying that!
Indeed, I agree with Steve that the A7s is a pretty special camera! However, there is one thing that
drives me to distraction. When in aperture priority mode on a tripod the ‘steady shot’ icon blinks and
can’t be turned off when slower shutter speeds are selected (this by the way does not happen with
the A7 body). Alas, by putting the A7s in either shutter speed or manual mode the icon doesn’t appear. However, does anyone know how to disable the ‘steady shot’ icon in aperture priority mode while set
up on a tripod?
Just shoot in M mode. You don’t need AP on the A7s. Auto ISO doesn’t work correctly in AP anyway, so I wouldn’t use it. I use M mode even with the Sony Zeiss glass, set the aperture, set the shutter speed and let the ISO float (using Auto ISO) between 100 and 100K.
This camera loves to be shot this way…
I use A mode and Auto ISO on the A7s without any issue whatsoever.
They must have fixed it then, because it is a known problem on the A7/A7r…
To clarify, we are talking about there being no way to set the minimum shutter speed with AP. The camera defaults to 1/60 which is way too low for street shooting.
I shoot 1/125, 1/250 or 1/500, regardless of the focal length.
It’s SUPER APERTURE PRIORITY MODE. Try shooting manual mode which is great on this camera as mentioned above – because you still have auto ISO and exposure comp too! Just think of it as a kind of aperture priority mode where you can tailor minimum shutter speed for every shot if you want to or just leave it at 1/250 or whatever standard minimum you prefer.
“..When in aperture priority mode on a tripod the ‘steady shot’ icon blinks and
can’t be turned off when slower shutter speeds are selected..” ..that’s as described in the manual (page 58) ..it’s normal.
The manual also says (page 58): “When using a tripod, de-activate the SteadyShot function because there is a potential for malfunction of the SteadyShot function”. Not that there are that many lenses which DO have a SteadyShot function built-in.
So just ignore it ..or switch to ‘AutoISO’, in which case the camera will increase the ISO – avoiding the potential for any shake, and will keep the shutter speed relatively high. But if you want control over the ISO, then if you choose a low ISO, and have the camera in ‘A’ mode, and have a slow shutter speed selected, the ‘potential camera shake’ (or ‘SteadyShot is turned off’) warning will continue to blink. It doesn’t appear to be possible to disable this warning.
(You can include a shortcut to the SteadyShot settings in the Function Menu – the one which appears when you press Fn – by going to Menu>CogWheel(custom settings)6>Function Menu Set and allocating ‘SteadyShot’ to one of the spaces on the upper or lower row of the Fn choices. But SteadyShot can only be enabled or disabled when a suitable lens with a built-in stabiliser is attached to the camera.)
So the briefest answer is: it doesn’t appear possible to disable this warning.
The pixel issue is way overblown. I used to run a commercial photo lab that printed a ton of digital large format images. When the first digital cameras came out at 2MP the images were good for about 5″x7″. As pixel counts improved, acceptable print size grew.
The real eye opener was the Canon 10D at 6MP that made stunning enlargements well above its “theoretical” limit.
The difference was that while small point and shoots were making resolution improvements, they were not making the IQ jumps seen in the DSLRs.
The files were dramatically better. Comparatively noise free, they could be enlarged with scant penalty. RAW processing ensured that post processing was non-destructive. As the pixel count grew there were improvements in IQ but not nearly what the manufacturers would have you believe.
The issue today is that few ever make prints of any size. They generally pixel peep on monitors at 400% and issue pronouncements as to camera quality or worse, quote specifications.
To paraphrase Twain. “There are lies, Damn lies and Specifications.”
Spot on post Mark. When did it get to the point that people stopped looking at beautiful prints and running to DXO to check what stats were instead? lol So very sad.
I think (?) it was Steve who posted an article recently about the Fuji S series DSLR’s and their merits, now there’s yet another older camera series that proves your point as regards a digital camera exceeding it’s so called statistics with the images it produces. There are many, many more besides that too the Leica M8 being an obvious one that comes to mind even now in 2014.
One of the finest exhibitions I’ve seen in recent years for stirring the emotions was Don McCullin’s “Shaped By War”. Large, grainy prints shot on a Nikon F with Tri-X 35mm and not once …. not one single nano second did I ever stop and think – those photos would have been far superior shot on a modern Nikon D4 and showing no grain.
I really wish some people would get away from the nonsense they insist on absorbing about photography in our modern era as regards what makes a good photograph or a good print.
I totally agree with Mark
People love prints! If you have a good print on the real thing called paper, people understand what your work is all about. I am still able to sell large prints made with a D200. If you are not a print-magician you can always find a student… who can make your raw files shine. I guess the pixel war is over. That said I would be more than happy if someone could send me an A7s, I simply like the small sized body of this gem 😉
When it comes to ever increasing MP specs, I believe it was Twain who also said “That don’t impress me much.” 🙂
I couldn’t agree more with your points on pixel peeping at 400% etc. The internet tends to exaggerate small differences into serious shortcomings far too frequently.
If most people today pixel peeped a scanned 35mm chrome at 400% on their monitors, they’d declare 35mm film “crap”.
> pixel peeped a scanned 35mm chrome .. they’d declare 35mm film “crap”
This is exactly right. Anyone that chose to shoot with, say, Kodachrome 25 *knew* they were in for a challenge to get it right, but when you got it right, the results were staggeringly beautiful. But a drum scan of an award-winning image on KC25 thrown against a modern entry-level DSLR snapshot wouldn’t stand a chance when the viewer ignores the content, or assigns more value to the decimal places than the moment of the capture.
I love my A7s for the reasons mentioned and I own many cameras. In fact, I’ve recently left my 5D3 at home and used the A7s for two photo shoots for clients. Some readers seem baffled that superb results can be had with only 12 megapixels. In my experience, perceived sharpness and detail is affected my many factors including the quality and direction of light. Of course it is best not do do extreme crops with the A7s files which I think is the main potential limitation with 12 megapixels. For this reason, there have been a FEW shots where I wished I had more megapixels – but not many. The other virtues of the A7s greatly offset this one occasional downside.
For me, the silent shutter mode is a killer feature. With advance permission, I’ve shot several performances from the first row using the silent shutter, the A7s stabilized on my knee, and the LCD tilted for framing. Shooting this way can be completely non-intrusive.
The context for my comments on the A7s is that I’m photo journalistic In style. I mostly shoot events, context portraits, family, and street. I don’t do landscape or studio. The A7s is an excellent tool for what I do. Though a D4s would be better for a dedicated sports shooter, the autofocus of the A7s is fast enough for a reasonable keeper rate even for kids swing shots and sports especially with some pre-focusing.
Or maybe it’s not that clearcut as I thought. It appears you need the extra megapixels to get that higher perceptual megapixels. When I look at the 12 megapixels MFT sensors, they can’t achieve 12 megapixel perceptual sharpness. So you need that 16 megapixels sensor to get that 12 megapixels sharpness. So 16 MP sensor seems to be the magic number for MFT and around 20 MP for APS-C. But then, it’s always a compromise between sharpness and low light performance / noise.
My a6000 with its 24mp has astounded me with the sel 50 1.8. A lot more fine detail than my 16mp 5n. So you are talking Portuguese to me.
According to DXO, that SEL 50 F1.8 resolves 13 Perceptual Megapixels on a NEX-7 24 MP sensor, while it resolves 14 Perceptual Megapixels on a Sony A5000 20 MP sensor.
So yeah, on a A6000 it would resolve more than on a NEX-5N. That was my point.
Just to give another example. The Canon 85mm F1.2 USM resolves 15 Perceptual Megapixels on a 5D Mark II 21 MP sensor and 18 Perceptual Megapixels on a 22 MP Mark III. The Zeiss Planar T 85mm f/1.4 resolves 14 Perceptual Megapixels on a Mark II and 17 on a Mark III.
So in sharpness, your A6000 combo is about the same as a 5D Mark II lens combo in sharpness. This is not about noise performance, though.
What I’m saying is the true sharpness is almost every time below megapixels count, but higher megapixels does yield better sharpness, but there seems to be a limit in the megapixels needed.
But it is possible for a 12 MP sensor to resolve 12 Perceptual Megapixels. For example the 85mm F1.2 USM on a 5D yields 12 Perceptual Megapixels on that 12 MP sensor. Yet put a 50mm F1.2 USM on that same 5D would yield 11 Perceptual Megapixels.
Put into another perspective, on MicroFourThirds, going from a 12 MP sensor to a 16 MP sensor would yield about 2-3 extra Perceptual Megapixels. But never does a 12 MP sensor achieve 12 Perceptual Megapixel sharpness, and the 16 MP sensor achieves only 12 Perceptual Megapixels max.
Remember, this isn’t just about megapixel quantity, it’s also about megapixel quality. I can guarantee you that this 12 megapixel sensor in the A7s will outperform the 12 megapixel sensor in the Nikon D700. We already know that it has significantly more dynamic range, for example.
You simply don’t need more than 12 megapixels for most applications, unless you’re making enormous prints, or cropping aggressively (perhaps time to work on that composition technique, or lens choices?).
Today, in our digital age, we have a whole generation of photographers weaned on the idea that ultimate “image quality” is an essential ingredient for a successful photograph. Actually, it isn’t. Many of the greatest photographs of all time were far from technically perfect.
Remember, it’s about the content.
Personally, for me, a camera that can shoot under a much wider array of lighting conditions is far more valuable than a camera that can enable me to make A0+ size prints.
But another’s needs may differ. Peter Lik and Nick Brandt would doubtless go for max megapixels (though, perhaps ironically, they both shoot large format film).
Oh, and btw, I learned to take DxO Mark with a very large grain of salt a long time ago. They’re not a bad place to go to get a general technical baseline — if you feel you need that — but they’ve made so many erroneous assertions over the years that I’ve lost count.
To add to my previous post, on MicroFourThirds 12 Perceptual Megapixels is the highest achievable with the best glass, and that’s with the Nocticron. This means that Panasonic and Olympus gain nothing with having sensors higher than 12 MP — which the first generation all had — other than marketing purposes. It means that if they also went back to 12 MP sensors and with current technology, low light performance would be much better.
Maybe Steve can elaborate on this. My understanding is that these are not the same kind or sized pixels. How could it be the same if they can see in the dark so well? They must be handling light better. There has to be an apple vs. oranges thing here. I also wonder who out there really wants to buy a whole new computer and extra “cloud” space just to use a new camera. Didn’t we all just do that a bit ago to handle the 12 to 16/18 MP sensors? This camera has a newly designed sensor, not an old one cut down to 12 MP.
I’ve read that when it comes down to megapixels, the sensor / lens combination usually can’t resolve the full extent of the megapixels that are on board. So many times, it’s a waste of pixels and image size. It is, of course, more apparent for APS-C sensors than full frame. For example DXO gives the Carl Zeiss Sonnar 35mm F2.8 a total of 22 Perceptual Megapixels on A7R’s 36 MP sensor. So an A7 would suffice in this case. Now on a Sony NEX-7 it becomes only 12 Perceptual Megapixels. A waste of that 24MP sensor, right?
The Carl Zeiss Sonnar 55mm F1.8 fares better with 29 Perceptual Megapixels on that 36 MP sensor. So having that A7R gives you the edge. The same lens on a NEX-7 gives you 15 Perceptual Megapixels on that 24 MP sensor. Again a waste of file size and low light performance.
What this mean is that indeed on full frame sensors and using great glass, the higher megapixels will give you great extra sharpness, much more than the 12 MP of the A7S. But there’s something to be said of the super low light performance of the A7S, also in video. And when it comes to APS-C sensors, usually 12-14 megapixels is the best achievable with the best glass, and much worse when using zooms, usually below 10 MP.
Consider that the RX100 II with 20 MP sensor only gives you 6 Perceptive Megapixels! Such a waste, right?
so you actually worry about all that abstract BS…? OK, that’s fine if you like it. I like to take pictures. The a7s is a great tool for certain situations. If I had to commit to one body for an unknown situation this one would be a very strong contender. It does everything well, and is stellar at some things
No camera is perfect but this one is very very good for walking around
Hi, I currently own a Nikon D700 for my full format pictures and have been happy with the results over the last few years. However, the hype through various sites and marketing campaigns suggest I should move on to a newer 24 or 36MPS cameras. My GAS is very tempted! Light, mirror-less cameras are the way to go and I have bought into a M4/3 OM-D-M1 which I love,and I have been very impressed with the quality produced by this system. Do I abandon all my full frame equipment or update it? Your recommendation goes against the current trend for more of everything. If we believe we have reached a level of sufficiency for most photographers does the lower pixel A7s perform any better than my D700 from a picture quality point of view. Seems to me some photographers are discovering the virtues in our older equipment. Would be interested in comments. Thanks Steve for an unusual review.
I don’t care much for Ken Rockwell, but I do like his post on upgrading: If you have to ask, the answer is No.
The D700 was a pro standard for 4 years or so. Plenty of Nat Geo images came from that sensor. If it still meets your needs, then keep shooting with it!
As for the debate on megapixels, the real benefit I see is the ability to significantly crop an image. For printing, 12 MP is plenty for most prints. Like Steve said, nobody stares at a print from 1 inch away and checks for resolution.
GAS can only be cured with true love. 😉 what will be the camera you’ll end up going back all the time?
I think a D700, a M240, F3, M6, … Are these kind of cameras. A A7 of any kind doesn’t come to my mind.
Why? Lenses, natively non-adapted excellent selection of Lenses and flexibility to use all sorts of non-adapted lenses of multiple vendors.
And select my favorite out of these.
I understand people who feel MFT has reached that maturity, and Fuji may get that far in a few years, too, or break it with full format.
I love my Fuji x100.
And my D700, M, M6.
Most used, X and M.
Yup ..I bought one for three reasons: 1 – completely silent shutter; 2 – use with tiny lightweight Zeiss Contax G2 autofocus lenses (via adaptor); 3 – high ISO.
Having used it – like Steve – since it came out, I can add 4 – excellence with Leica and Leica-fit lenses, including extreme wide-angles (with a simple cheap adaptor, which also gives close-focus); 5 – easy manual focus with those lenses, with magnification and easy-see focus peaking; 6 – full-frame shallow depth-of-field with suitable wide-aperture lenses; 7 – lightweight, small body and decent life battery (two batteries are supplied in the box with the camera); 8 – considerable customisability (almost as good as the E-M1); 9 – fast and accurate autofocus (almost as fast as E-M1); 10 – easy jump between pictures on Replay when pics are magnified, with no need to zoom out before moving to next picture.
The 12mpxl sensor allows less post-shot cropping than with a 16mpxl or 20mpxl sensor, but if you frame reasonably well while shooting, then minimal cropping is needed afterwards, in which case 12mpxl is almost always sufficient.
There are insufficient native auto-focus lenses available for it yet, but with its very short lens-mount-to-sensor distance (like the other A7 and NEX cameras) just about ANY lens ever made (e.g; Olympus OM zooms) can be used, via adaptors.
..And I haven’t even used the video capabilities yet!
CORRECTION: “..And I haven’t even used the video capabilities yet ..for a complete movie, though I’ve shot many test sequences and its performance is exquisite, but without the in-built stabilisation of the E-M1.”
HI, Steve/Brandon – a great summary! I love my A7s and when I shoot in low light I’m astonished where all the light comes from. Sometimes you have to look again to remind yourself how dark it was.
I bought the Voight 15mm and adapter on your advice and am very happy. I am looking at a 35mm and notice you are using the Zeiss F2.8 (auto focus) but I noticed you also recommended the Voigt 35 1.2 (manual focus). You still using both and is the Zeiss your preference?
You used to have the Nikon V1 as one of your cameras. Is that long gone now?
Great site. Keep up the great work
I have and love both M240 and A7s. The focus peak works well with Lecia, Zeiss and Voigtlander M mounted lens extremely well. I prefer to use these manual focus lens most of the time with the A7s and only at times use the Zeiss AF 55mm lens.
i know you are asking Steve, not me, but I do have the A7s and the Voight 35 1.2 and find them to be a wonderful combination. That lens lives on the camera. I skipped the 35 2.8 but did opt for the 55/1.8 in the event that i want autofocus, or just need a very lightweight set up (the Voightlander lenses are solid, but heavy). And, like you and Steve, I am loving this camera. Sold my A7R (did not like it as much, because of the noise on anything over 800).
The 35 1.2 is so good on the A7 bodies, highly recommend it 100%. It’s a bit large for a 35 but it is probably the best Voigtlander M lens made.
To me, the A7s is the most exciting camera that has come out in ages. It’s because finally a company comes out with a product without thinking about protecting product lines and future iterations. At least, that’s how it feels. It’s a very “pure” product. Yes, from what I read, there is some room for improvement — the lack of internal 4K recording, for one. But in every other aspect, it’s just so focussed on bringing the very best. And it has been a while since that has happened. Previously, I always had the idea that companies try to hold back with an eye for future products. Even Sony did it with the NEX line to certain extent. I think Sony now sees that you just have to bring the very best and that’s the best focus for a company. It’s the old Walkman spirit. That’s what I see in the A7s. Canon and Nikon don’t show that mentality. Olympus sometimes seems hesitant to embrace new things, such as the video market. And Panasonic can do more to go all out. The A7s is a camera that when you see it, read about it, and don’t have the money, you keep thinking about it. But not because of simple gadget lust. No, because it stands for something, like a dream being realized. That sounds a bit crazy, right?
Hi Guys, I understand that this camera has wonderful features but are we blinding ourselves to reality here ? Has it achieved these by downplaying on the pixel count and how can this not seem to affect the overall image quality and print size resolution? If every other camera is aiming at pixel counts above this -why is it that we can discount this factor in this case but not others ?
I know a guy who still uses an old Canon 1D with 12M pixel and he swears he can achieve beautiful prints as good as other cameras with higher Pixel counts (though not as good as the more modern Canons)
This issue is confusing to me and I am sure to others. For example I have heard my friend say that screen resolution comparisons even 100 selections are less important -it is print quality that determines the true resolution -Help I am confused !
There’s plenty of explanatory material if you google, but think of it this way for prints – the PPI (pixels per inch; for now an interchangeable term with dpi)) x (multiplied) by the dimensions. So for example a 10 inch print (long dimension) at 360 ppi (what most high-end epsons & other printers want) needs a file that is 3600 pixels long. Getting there without up-res’ing is better.
It’s not quite that simple, because the resolution ratings on inkjet printers are actually printer “spots” per inch; a spot (addressable point) is made up of multiple overlapping ink droplets, so its outline is irregular and depends to some extent on the color being printed. If you want to find out the critical value for YOUR eye and YOUR printer, you can take a detailed file of the type of subject you typically photograph, print it at higher and higher resolutions, and then note the point at which you no longer see improvement. Maybe my eyes are crummy, but on my Canon Pro-10 pigment printer, I can’t see any output difference between a 360-ppi source file and a 240-ppi source file… and a 200-ppi source file doesn’t look a heck of a lot worse. That means I probably could be fine with 12mp captures for most of my prints — as long as I didn’t have to crop.
I’m aware of the ink dot ratings on the printers e.g.2880×1440. I don’t think that is helpful to Fergus’ quest to find the relationship between the file size produced by a camera and the required, or ideal, file size for a given print size & resolution.
I do agree that what is satisfactory is a very subjective and personal thing and depends on an infinite number of variables. As they say “whatever floats your boat” 🙂
“I can still print gorgeous 20X30′s with the A7s”.
I don’t get how this is possible unless of course there are large swaths of plain sky or other smooth areas. I mean most epsons like 360dpi at the print dimensions. Sometimes you can get away with 240dpi and at in a real pinch (once again depending on the image) a little less. If you’re going to up-res the file from ACR or PS’ bicubic smoother (or hird party app) that’s some jump.
It is easily possible. I still have 20X30’s from my old 4Mp D2hs around here and they still look great. The secret? Most people do not stand 1″ away from a print looking for flaws or what is or is not there. They look at them from a few feet away and enjoy the actual photograph, not the “details” that may or may not be there.
I don’t agree but OK I can’t argue with that. “Quality” is subjective. And most ideal viewing distances are relative to the print size.
I do agree, however, that the image and how it feels, or ‘speaks to you’, is way more important than technical precision.
Henri Cartier-Bresson said that “sharpness is a bourgeois concept” 🙂
I always wonder how folks lived in tge age of 5mp full frame camera’s & prints? Must have been like trying to look through oatmeal!
I am with Steve on this. It is the quality of pixels not the quantity. My old Canon 10D had 6MP but I was able to get 40″x60″ prints from its files that many were certain they were from MF. My Canon 5D files at 13MP still compare well to the 22MP files from my mkIIIs. Yes, the subject matter make a inference but a whole lot less than you think.
I have stopped paying attention to the MP issue for a long time now.
Totally agree Mike, which is why I still LOVE my 5D classic!
13MP has been enough for me, throughout several weddings, wildlife, street and landscape shoots. The larger photosites on the sensor allow for sharp and detailed images, despite the ‘smaller’ amount of mega pixels.
Sometimes, less IS more.
Sorry, I meant to type ‘Mark’ not Mike!
Bad force of habit …I know a lot of MIkes!! 😉
I too had a Canon 10D and I made a 24x36print (used all the file-no cropping with a Canon 17-35 f2.8 wide open) and it was stellar!!! Couldn’t believe how nice it came out. Had to up-rez to 150 DPI as the file wouldn’t get that large. However, if it was cropped and printed to the same size I’m sure it would not have been nearly as good. 12MP would be terrific if cropping is minimal. If Steve praises the A7s this much -he’s replaced his Leica as his #1 camera with the Sony as #1 I’m sure it’s good enough for at least two people on the planet….
I can think of applications for which people do view large prints from close distances and expect to see detail — retail point-of-sale displays being one. But if you’re doing that kind of photography and insist on using an A7-series camera, you probably want the A7r.
Having said that, I admit that there are plenty of occasions on which my 16-megapixel Olympus doesn’t seem like quite enough (mostly run-and-gun situations in which I have to shoot first and frame later by cropping) and that makes me suspect 12 mp might be a bit too much of a step backward. If you’re a considered, deliberate shooter, and you’re not doing retail banners of double-page magazine spreads, the A7s is probably the best of the As. Wonder how long it will be before Sony upgrades the higher-megapixel models with the improved AF and silent mode?
The A7s sounds amazing, but I have to admit a bit of wariness on the resolution question. It is so subjective and UNCONCIOUS how we respond to an image, and it’s not all about print size. I’ve found that my medium format film pictures have some kinds of special magic that I can see even when digitized and viewing on my iphone–better than my APSC digital, and better than 35mm film. There’s something so vivid and life-like when the original image has ample resolution to render the image so clearly. Or maybe it’s just that the capture surface is larger and the light is bent so much. There are so many variables at play however, and it’s hard to say what exactly imparts the response in the eye and the heart. I certainly have many low-resultion pictures I love. I guess I won’t know for sure until I give the A7s a try, or maybe it’s successor. It won’t be long.
Just like film, it is the size of the sensor that matters most when pulling big prints. 24×36 looks great from my old M8. I take my M9 files to 40×60 often. And I use my S2 to photograph art to make prints up to 40×60 all of the time. On the other hand, I don’t like taking the files from my wife’s 16 MP Olympus larger than 20×30. When it comes to big prints, big fat pixils rule.