+++ The File is continuously updated with the latest A7(R) reviews and hands-on reports. See further below. +++
Sony, in another bold move, raises the bar a full frame and demolishes the status quo: its long rumored, eagerly anticipated and latest imaging device is palm-sized, takes interchangeable lenses, has a very responsive focus system, large bright state-of-the-art OLED EVF and is the world’s first mirrorless full-frame camera. A bit of a challenge for the competition. While Canon and Nikon keep on churning out past-century DSLRs (did they hear about EVF?!), Sony sets a new digital photography format standard with the announcement of its revolutionary flagship cameras, the Sony A7 and A7R with 35mm full-frame equivalent sensor — probably the same, but tweaked and improved sensor for the 7R as the D800(E’s). Earlier rumored as the NEX-9 and NEX-FF, the hybrid design of the new single-digit Alpha series convinces with the latest in imaging technology, rugged build quality with weather-sealed body, classic (fake) pentaprism bump and a refreshing departure from the squarish NEXish look. With a groundbreaking camera system that will stir up the market, the Japanese camera maker sets a new benchmark in digital photography. Considered to be a photographer’s pipe dream only a year ago, Sony engineers succeeded in drawing up a compact full-frame system camera with conventional E mount that matches the weight and size of Micro Four Thirds and APS-C cameras. Competitively priced — we’re talking full-frame — at $1,698 the 24.3MP A7 and $2,298 the 36.4MP A7R, the ascent of Sony’s compact digital 35mm system will likely send full-frame camera prices down and ignite a development push among other camera makers to follow suit. But by then Sony will already be another step ahead in its attempt to kill your DSLR.
The A7 (specs) and A7R (specs) are very closely related, with the Sony A7R being the higher resolution of the two models — and I do mean high resolution. While its sibling isn’t exactly a slouch in terms of resolution, the Sony A7R matches Nikon’s impressive D800 and D800E for pure sensor resolution, yet with a much smaller, mirrorless body. It does have some disadvantages compared to the less megapixeled (still 24.3MP) A7 in other areas, though. If shooting performance is more important to you than resolution, you’ll want to take a look at the Sony A7. Yet despite the A7R’s higher megapixel count, in terms of ISO performance they’re neck and neck. Both are dust- and moisture-sealed while the A7R enjoys a bit more premium finishing.
Sony has — again — real winners on their hands with spec sheets of much larger cameras. Who still needs medium format? It’s hard not to be impressed, even though the As lack, probably due to the lack of space, in-camera stabilization which speaks for Olympus’ unmatched 5-axis system. Shipping starts in November.
+++ You can order the Sony A7 and A7R from:
The new lenses are:
New adapters and battery grip:
Plus the best Leica M to Sony E mount adapter:
+++ Now what do reviewers and photographers say about this breakthrough camera? Read our definitive, continuously updated Sony A7(R) Reference File bringing you all the relevant hands-on reviews and field reports that matter (latest update on top).
DxOMark tests the A7 and asks: mirrorless marvel? “Excellent score,” they say:
The Sony A7 achieves a DxOMark score of 90 points and is ranked in 9th place overall just behind the medium format Phase One IQ180 at 91 points and just above the full-frame Nikon D4, which scored 89 points (…)
With only a very small hit on sensor performance, the A7 compares very well against the Nikon D610 and has a very competitive performance against firm’s A99 and RX1 models. It also compares favorably with the Leica M. That said, the A7 is unlikely to match the output from that model’s sensor with its offset micro-lenses and built-in profile corrections, at least with wide-angle lenses. When used with the native lenses the A7 promises excellent image quality, and at the price it’s a very tempting proposition.
Photography Blog on whether you should pick the A7 or A7R:
After shooting with both the A7 and the A7R side-by-side, we’d be hard-pushed to choose between them, as both are remarkable cameras in their own right. On paper at least the A7 should offer faster auto-focusing and less noise at high ISOs than the A7R, but in reality there’s not a big enough difference between the two cameras in either regard. Instead we’d choose the A7 instead of the A7R because it’s significantly cheaper, it produces more manageable file sizes, has a higher flash sync speed, slightly faster burst shooting and a quieter shutter release (…)
In terms of value-for-money, the Sony A7 is something of a steal, being roughly equal to the cheaper full-frame DSLR models from Canon (the 6D) and Nikon (the D610), and not being too much more expensive than top-of-the range compact system cameras like the Olympus OM-D E-M1 and the Panasonic GH3.
If Sony had only released one A7 camera, rather than two, then the A7 rather than the A7R would probably have been the sensible choice to bring to market. As it stands, though, Sony have made two outstanding cameras that will suit different users – you just have the very difficult task of deciding which one best suits you!
The Sony Alpha A7 is a mini marvel with a big point of interest: that full-frame sensor. This is as affordable as large sensor snapping can get, and it could open up a whole new set of interest from more casual photographers, as well as pros looking to obtain a smaller system to work with.
It’s not perfect, though, but most of the shortcomings we can forgive because each time we go and look at the images again they make us smile. However the battery life is really poor, so be prepared to invest in multiple batteries — and if you don’t like the idea of that then this probably won’t be the camera for you.
The 28-70mm kit lens is a weak link, too, because of soft edges to excess at the wide-angle setting. Avoid it, nab the 35mm F2.8 prime and you’ll quickly begin to grasp why the Alpha A7 is as special as we’d at first thought: it’s small and will make a great street photography camera alternative if something like the Fujifilm X100S doesn’t take your fancy or the Nikon Df looks too big and pricey. But it’s more than that: we’ve shot some spectacular landscapes, portraits, candids and everything in-between. There’s versatility here, and that will grow as the E mount FE lens system expands.
The Alpha A7 is a camera out there all on its own. It doesn’t feel quite comparable to a full-frame DSLR, but we mean that as a positive. It’s a different system, with a different ethos and, combined with the right gear, it’ll bring you one thing that’s the same as any other system worth its salt: glorious full-frame pictures.
Boom! Leica Boss suggests the new Sonys could be the new Leicas:
The reality is that Leica is now a luxury brand, inaccessible to most photographers and impractical for still more. The real Leica Bosses had to find a niche that works for the brand. This focus is simply different than when they started out. The first 35mm cameras and lenses were a revolution and Leica was carrying the flag.
So now Sony is carrying the flag for the original vision of Oskar Barnack — and the release of the A7 and A7R represent a great milestone in this pursuit. Boom.
Pop Photo calls the A7R “2013 Camera of the Year”:
The Sony Alpha 7R represents not only the most substantial refinement of the interchangeable lens compact (ILC) camera to date, but also a redefinition of the entire concept of the high-end system camera. The camera that best refined or redefined photography in 2013? Unquestionably, it is the diminutive (but full-frame) high resolution Sony Alpha 7R.
“So long DSLRs, Hello Future of Photography,” titles Gizmodo. Should you buy it? And if yes, which one?
If you’re a photo junky who values a low-profile, compact setup, you should run to get this camera. Your only other options for compact full-frame bodies are the Leica M, which is an unworldly $8,000, or the Sony RX1, which is great but has a fixed lens. Sure there are tradeoffs with the A7 series like poor lens selection and battery life, but those problems just fade away as you bask in the glory of the full-frame system.
If you are a pro who shoots sports or a studio photographer, you’re probably better off with a DSLR. The ol’ clunkers still rule in focus tracking and burst speed. The other companies offering high-end, feature-rich compacts are Panasonic and Olympus with their micro four-thirds sensor bodies. The $1,400 Olympus OM-D E-M1 is more ergonomic, faster to focus and offers tons of great compact lenses. But that small sensor with inferior low-light performance and narrow scope will nag at your soul.
Forking over $1,700 for the A7 seems like a lot, but it’s around the same as the cheapest new full-frame DSLRs like the Canon 6D or Nikon D600. On the other hand, $2,300 for the A7r does seem like a huge price bump for more larger images. Please take a good hard look at whether you really want to pay $600 extra for 36 megapixels but lesser performance. If you’re shooting for giant wall-sized murals then I suppose it makes sense. Otherwise, we recommend the A7 for almost all shooters.
DP Review has a hands-on shooting experience. So which one’s the preferred camera, A7 or A7R?
After shooting with the A7 and A7R for some time, I preferred the A7R for its faster, more reliable autofocus and better images overall. Naturally, I wanted to prefer the A7 with its lower resolution 24MP sensor and lower price. The main reason I preferred the A7R: I liked the images better, and I liked the experience better. The A7′s JPEG noise suppression looks quite overprocessed, giving even out-of-focus areas a brush-stroke appearance, and its phase detect autofocus isn’t as fast nor as accurate (we’ll be testing further to confirm and characterize this). With either camera, I would like a way to lock the EV compensation dial, but I could very easily see using the A7R as my main camera for a number of uses, including portraiture (if anything, its detail is unnecessarily high; hence my wish that the 24MP A7 were a little better).
As for the overall product strategy, this is the one Sony should pursue. Compared to other full-frame alternatives, this camera design finally brings both camera body and lenses down to a reasonable size, while still offering a good set of controls. I still don’t quite understand constraining themselves with such a small mount that designing bright lenses might be difficult, just for the sake of maintaining compatibility with NEX lenses, but I can’t argue with the results so far. It sure beats adding ambitious, but difficult-to-learn controls to big, bulky bodies — things like the A99′s silent control dial, which relied heavily on the LCD to see what you were doing. Instead, most of the controls on the A7 and A7R are straightforward and reasonably simple to understand and use by touch.
Camera Labs‘ rather enthusiastic verdict:
I’ll cut straight to the chase: the Sony Alpha A7R is one of the most impressive and exciting cameras I’ve ever tested. This is a camera which delivers the quality of the Nikon D800e in a body which weighs half as much and costs almost one third less… most high-end photographers I speak to cite the absence of full-frame models with AF as what’s holding them back from dumping their DSLRs and adopting mirrorless. Well Sony’s now removed that barrier with not one but two full-frame mirrorless bodies (…)
The Alpha A7 and A7R are a wake-up call for the photographic industry, especially to Canon and Nikon. Here are two cameras which not only match or outperform top selling DSLRs in many respects, but which also can use their lenses, in some cases with minimal compromise on handling. If Canon and especially Nikon aren’t careful, they could find themselves becoming lens manufacturers with a niche body business in pro sports photography.
Imaging Resource asks if the A7 is the king of the 24MP cameras:
High contrast detail is also important, pushing the camera in different ways, so we like to look at it, too. Both the Sony A7 and A7R show a fantastic amount of high-contrast detail all the way from ISO 100 to ISO 6400. There is also a difference in the default level of contrast applied to in-camera JPEG across these different models and brands. While all cameras here do well in the ISO 100 comparison, the two new Sonys really pull out ahead with much improved sharpness. It’s even more noticeable as the ISO rises, with ISO noise taking its toll on fine detail and contrast. The Canon 6D does quite well at the higher ISO levels, but the Sony A7 (and particularly the A7R) really maintain a high level of fine detail, contrast and low noise at the higher ISO sensitivities.
Unsure whether you want the A7 or A7R? Gizmodo:
As for the cameras themselves, they’ve both got their foibles. It’s going to take a lot more testing and some intense pixel peeping to know for sure, but my sense is that it’s a mistake to see these two cameras as “the good one and the less good one.” You could argue that Sony didn’t know which camera it wanted to make. Given the company’s recent history, that’s totally possible. But I think they’re also just different cameras for different types of photographers.
The truth is that most people, including many pros, don’t really have any use for the super resolution that the A7r is capable of. The sluggish autofocus, the finicky pixels, and the larger file sizes will be an inconvenience. The A7 is faster, and the difference in image quality is small enough that many people wouldn’t notice. Of course, the people who can tell the difference are the same ones willing to drop thousands on body and glass.
DxOMark asks whether the A7 delivers the highest ever full-frame image quality. Conclusion:
Although we can’t provide any commentary on image sharpness at this stage in our tests, the sensor in the Sony Alpha 7R performs exceptionally and is on a par with that found in the D800 models. Given the Sony’s small size, low weight and outstanding sensor performance, it’s one of the most intriguing and compelling new additions in recent times.
Steve Huff enjoys a Sony press event in Nashville. Check the nice samples. Says Steve:
What can I say after a couple of hours with the camera? It’s nice, feels great, the shutter is clunky sounding (but not an issue for me), the images can be razor-sharp with the right lenses (the two Sony lenses rock) and the JPEGs are not bad at all. Sony seems to have improved their JPEG rendering (…) I expect to get some superb results.
The Verge posts an “unpossible” hands-on demo with untouched full resolution A7R files:
Compared to my own NEX, the new Alpha cameras are heavier, but no more awkward to handle or operate one-handed. When you strap on a sizeable lens, such as the kit 28-70mm one, you do feel the heft of a substantial camera in your hands, but again, that’s more reassuring than bothersome. The extra controls certainly mark an upgrade from the mid-range NEX series, while the reduction in size from a full-frame DSLR is enormous. I’ve spent a day shooting with the Nikon D4 previously, and that was a workout for both my arms. Either of the new Alpha 7 models should be able to do a comparable job without all that labor.
Trusted Reviews‘ first impressions, pointing out the weakness of the lens range:
First impressions of the new Sony Alpha 7 and 7R are very positive. Sony has produced what are by some margin the world’s smallest and lightest full frame interchangeable lens cameras, both of which feel extremely well made and feature different but equally ground breaking features that should appeal to two different areas of the serious enthusiast and pro market.
For the specifications and build quality offered they seem very competitively priced, too, putting them in direct competition with the two most affordable full frame DSLRs, the Canon EOS 6D and Nikon D610.
The Achilles heel of the cameras at the moment is lack of lens support, especially compared to its Canon and Nikon rivals, so Sony will have to work hard to deliver a comprehensive range of good quality optics as soon as possible, as promised.
Australian Photo Review posts the first extensive review. Their summary:
Sony’s new ILC-A7 cameras are certain to excite both professional photographers and serious enthusiasts alike – and they could put a dampener on enthusiasm for Olympus’s new OM-D E-M1 camera. Although the E-M1 is significantly cheaper than the ILC-A7, it simply can’t compete with the quality obtainable from the latter’s much larger sensor. And the higher resolution of the A7, provides an increased incentive to look in its direction.
We feel the new Sony cameras present a challenge to other camera manufacturers to take a different approach and bring some excitement (and competition) to the middle and upper ends of the interchangeable lens camera lineups. We’d like to see some innovative products emerging from the Canon and Nikon stables — and maybe Pentax/Ricoh could use their innovative low-pass filter technology to revive to K-01 line.
Olympus and Panasonic will likely feel the hot breath of competition on their backs. It will be interesting to see which directions they follow, whether towards full-frame CSCs or further innovations and improvements to their Micro Four Thirds products. Whatever happens, this appears to be the beginning of a great time for digital photographers.
Here’s a peek at the Sony FE full-frame lens roadmap:
Excerpt from venerable Luminous Landscape‘s A7 hands-on impressions, saying Sony’s “Alpha and NEX get hitched”:
The A7R feels terrific in hand. There is heft, but it’s not too much. It is a small camera, but not so small that the controls don’t fall conveniently to hand. Frankly, I find it to be one of the nicest cameras to hold and use in a long time. Sony has been known for bringing out some cameras these past few years, that are, shall we say, a bit interface challenged. Not the new 7 series (…)
It’s frankly astonishing how small the A7R is when you realize that it’s a full-frame interchangeable lens camera. If you imagine it without the grip (which really is helpful for just about any sized hand) it’s hardly larger than the diminutive RX1. It is smaller than just about any APS-C sized compact system camera, including the Fujifilm X-Pro1 and is a close match in size to the new Micro Four Thirds format Olympus OM-D E-M1. Put another way, this is the smallest interchangeable lens full-frame camera ever made, and that includes the Leica M8, M9 and M 240. It’s a hefty beast, though its mass speaks well of its robust construction.
This is a full-frame camera for people who always said that full frame cameras were too large.
And they highlight the “question of lenses”:
The A7R has a new lens mount based on the NEX E mount. It’s called FE, with F obviously standing for full-frame. Even though the mount is Full Frame rather than APS-C, all Sony NEX compatible E mount lenses fit without an adaptor and work normally. Of course since they only cover the APS-C format the camera recognizes this and the frame is cropped automatically. You end up with roughtly a 24MP APS-C camera, akin to a NEX-7.
There are several new FE mount lenses. These are full frame lenses when used on an A7R or A7. You can also use them without problem on a NEX camera. You can also mount Sony Alpha mount lenses, with full automation using the new Sony LA EA4 adaptor, though I found that than older EA3 adaptor seemed to work just fine. I did not have either the new adaptor or the time to check this out in detail, though it did seem to work properly with the Alpha mount lenses that I have available.
Steve Huff posts some delicious images of the 50mm Summilux on the A7R — irresistible. Adds Steve:
Some have been asking me questions about the shutter. Yes it is loud and clunky. Does not bother me but for those who want a quiet shutter it may be an issue. Also, this camera does not have the NEX Menu System and no, you can not switch between NEX and Alpha menus. There was an Australian video posted by Sony misrepresenting this fact.
There is a simple one page graphical menu where each choice takes you to the main menu, which is Alpha based. Same menu as RX1, A99, etc. You will not see or be able to access a NEX menu. Also, this camera is not a NEX or Cyber-shot camera, it is an Alpha camera. Some have been confused thinking it is a NEX, it is not and from what I was told, all future cameras will now be “A” cameras and the NEX menu is now history.
Despite their gigantic sensors, both the Alpha 7 and 7R (Sony’s dropping NEX from the branding here) include a footprint not much larger than other models in the company’s mirrorless lineup. Both cameras ship with a new BIONZ X processor, enabling 14-bit RAW, a 25,600 top ISO, improved area-specific noise reduction, upgraded detail reproduction and diffraction reduction technology that helps eliminate the blurriness you may experience when shooting at higher apertures (…)
On the performance front, the 7 can capture consecutive shots at 5 fps, while the 7R can accomplish the same at 4 fps. The 7 also features superior auto-focus, with 117 phase and 25 contrast-detect points teaming up for Sony’s Fast Hybrid AF. The 7R, however, only includes the 25 contrast detect autofocus points. Performance is still fine, but based on our brief time with both cameras, it was easy to identify the 7 as the champ in this discipline.
Lloyd Chambers calls the new Sonys a “breakthrough in image quality in a compact package with killer EVF and LCD too.” Excerpt:
Readers know that the Sony RX1R was a stellar camera in my testing, but the A7R has a high resolution EVF built-in along with an ultra high resolution rear LCD (much higher than Nikon/Canon) and hence is very attractive. But there is a lot more than that to the new Sony offerings and so the folks over at Nikon and Canon might want to change their soiled underwear: the Sony A7R (and A7) are the cameras that could really eat into the sales of the inertial nothing-really-new-it’s-still-2008 DSLRs. Heck, neither company has yet to understand than an EVF is a terrific addition to any camera. You see, the A7R offers the resolution, and the A7 covers the focusing and frame rate angle (excluding serious sports and action shooters, but that’s a small market).
(You might also want to read Chamber’s elaborations on the illusionary weight/size advantage of Micro Four Thirds and APS-C considering what these Sony deliver; right, much larger sensor but same size and weight…)
From DP Review‘s first impressions, highlighting the (D800′s?) sensor and “lens freedom” you’ll enjoy:
The big story here are the two full-frame sensors found on the A7R and A7. The A7R’s 36 megapixel sensor (sans optical low-pass filter) is likely the same one used in the Nikon D800E. Sony says it is targeting this model for the photographer looks for the best image quality possible – if you don’t mind a little moiré. The A7R uses a ‘Fast Intelligent’ contrast-detect autofocus system that Sony claims is 40% faster than the system on the NEX-7.
For those who don’t need 36 million pixels, there’s the A7. This camera uses a 24.3 megapixel CMOS sensor with a low-pass filter and on-chip phase detection. This ‘Hybrid AF’ system will result in speedy focus times, and the ability to shoot at 5 fps with continuous autofocus.
The two cameras may also catch the eye of video enthusiasts. Both can record at 1080/60p and 24p, with manual exposure control, headphone and mic ports, an audio meter, zebra pattern, XLR support (via optional adapter) and live, uncompressed, HDMI output (…)
It’s well worth noting that the A7(R) will also be able to accept a huge range of other lenses via readily-available third-party adapters, including old manual focus lenses from long-dead systems such as Minolta MD, Olympus OM, and Canon FD, as well as those from current systems such as Nikon F, Pentax K and Leica M. What’s more, in principle these lenses should offer the angle of view they were originally designed to give — so a 24mm will be a true wide angle again, for example. So if you have a cherished collection of old manual focus primes sitting a closet, the A7 may be just the camera to bring them back to life. However the tight fit of the full-frame sensor within the E mount, coupled with its short flange distance, leads us to wonder whether some adapters could give vignetting in the corners — time will tell.
The Camera Store TV‘s hands-on field test:
Imaging Resource‘s first impressions of world’s first mirrorless full-frame:
Life is all about compromises, but fans of full-frame and mirrorless cameras will be thrilled to hear that Sony has just removed a compromise we’ve long taken as an unfortunate fact of life. If you wanted a mirrorless camera, you had to live with — at best — an APS-C sensor. If you wanted a full-frame sensor, it had to come along with a bulky mirror box. There was no middle ground — at least, not until now. With the simultaneously-launched, full-frame Sony Alpha A7 and A7R mirrorless cameras, the company has demolished the status quo (…)
Overall, we’re very impressed with the Sony A7R’s handling and capabilities. It’s surprisingly compact for a full-frame interchangeable lens camera, and packs an impressive set of capabilities. We love its control interface, and it has arguably the best EVF we’ve ever seen on a camera. It handles great, feels solid and if the images are anything like we expect them to be (at least as good as those from the RX1), we think Sony has a real winner on their hands (again).
Gizmodo‘s a bit more hesitant, asking whether we’ll get lenses that make sense with this type of compact body:
Mirrorless fans have been aching for a full-frame model, and it is no surprise that Sony, having led so aggressively in the development of mirrorless cameras, finally indulged them. The A7 series seems incredible on paper, but roadblocks to true greatness still loom. It’s not clear that the E-mount lens system will be able to evolve fast enough to satisfy hardcore enthusiasts who want a lot of options in glass. It’s also not clear how far the engineering can be pushed to build full-frame lenses that fit the small makeup that makes sense with this type of body.
CNET likes, among many other things, the full-framers’ “reasonable prices”:
Want it fast or want it fine? Sony gives you the choice, introducing not one but two full-frame interchangeable-lens cameras after years of rumors and anticipation.
Sony’s rationale for naming them so confusingly closely is that they’re identical — with the exception of the autofocus system, sensor, and target buyer. As performance and image quality are the primary characteristics that define a camera, that makes these signifcantly different cameras. Not identical at all (…)
Sony makes a rather arbitrary distinction between the potential buyers of these cameras, designating the A7R for professionals and advanced amateurs and the A7 as the dSLR alternative/compact system camera step-up buyer. If you need both resolving power and autofocus speed, you’re out of luck for now. But these are trade-offs that advanced photographers have learned to accept. And while the A7 may deliver fast autofocus, it still can’t keep up with its bigger-bodied competitors for continuous shooting performance, unless you forgo dynamic exposure adjustment. Sony does introduce some new variable AF area size options and zone autofocus into the line.
+++ You can order the Sony A7 and A7R from:
The new lenses are:
New adapters and battery grip:
Plus the best Leica M to Sony E mount adapter: