These two cameras are Sony’s biggest bet in terms of photography in recent years, for several reasons. First, the A7 and A7R are the first compact system cameras with a Full Frame sensor.
Also, this movement not only reveals the strong commitment of the company with professional users, but also shows they rely heavily on the development of their mirror less cameras. Just taking a look at these two cameras lets you realize that they have been designed to compete against any Full Frame DSLR camera from Sony’s main competitors, Canon and Nikon.
Since its launch in late 2013, the A7, and to a greater extent, the A7R, have made its good share of fans from both the press and users, who have not hesitated to speak highly of them in many Internet forums. Is it really a big deal? That’s the question we try to answer throughout this analysis. But first, we will review the most relevant specifications of these new cameras, which, as you will see below, have much in common, but are by no means identical.
The A7 sensor has a resolution of 24.3 megapixels, while the A7R sports 36.4 megapixels. Unlike its "twin", the latter lacks optical low pass filter (OLPF). The focus is also different. The A7 takes a hybrid approach while the A7R uses a contrast detection approach. It is also important to note that the A7 incorporates an electronic curtain and reaches a 5 FPS burst mode, while the A7R lacks it and stays at 4 FPS. Let’s take a closer look at both.
Sony A7 and A7R construction and ergonomics
Despite the small size of its body (hard to believe that Sony has been able to feature full-frame sensor technology within such a small space), both the A7 and the A7R offer a clear sense of sturdiness. In this section, his body sealed with magnesium alloy conveys confidence.
Even so, this is just a subjective perception, as we prefer the slightly rough finish of the body many DSLR cameras have, or even the Sony RX10 we had the opportunity to analyze several weeks ago. In any case, its design is impeccable, as one would expect from a camera in this price range.
Both feature identical dimensions but their weight varies slightly. It is possible that users who are accustomed to using a bulky DSLR, such as the Nikon D4 or Canon EOS 5D Mark III, miss a slightly stronger grip, but it doesn’t mean these cameras’ grip is bad.
Probably only users who want to use these cameras with a very heavy A-mount lens, which logically requires an adapter, will miss a bulkier grip. But in this case the solution is to buy the additional VG-C1EM grip, which, as usual, improves the autonomy of the camera by adding two more batteries.
We would also like to emphasize that the design of both the chassis and the command dials is flawless, and the battery, connectors and storage cards covers is also excellent.
According to DxOMark, the A7R’s sensor is one of the best you can find on the market. And if we compare it with the performance of the cameras we had analyzed, we can only agree. In the tests, the sensor has reached a score of 95, the same obtained by the Super Nikon D800 and just one point less than the D800E. In fact, the authors speculate this analysis, given how much they have in common, with the possibility that these sensors are actually three almost identical versions of the same chip. And that seems highly likely.
As we have seen, the main difference between the A7 and the A7R lies precisely in its sensor. Both are full frame, and its size is almost identical (the A7R of is larger), but the resolution of the latter amounts to 36.4 megapixels, while the A7 has only 24.3 megapixels. Moreover, the A7R lacks optical low pass filter (OLPF), while the A7 does have it, so the higher-resolution camera should offer, on paper, a greater level of detail and a slightly sharper catches, which actually seems to be the case.
Detail shot taken with the A7 (125%)
If you look closely at the two pictures just above and below this paragraph, you will find that the picture taken with the A7R offers better detail, sharpness and overall quality. However, as discussed below, the performance of the A7’s sensor is also fantastic, and also this camera surpasses the A7R in some regards.
Detail shot taken with A7R (125%)
The first is, of course, its price, which is considerably lower. The second is its faster auto focus, which, by being hybrid, benefits from the combination of detection technologies and phase contrast, while the automatic A7R approach relies solely on contrast detection.
Interface and connectivity
The interface of the A7 and A7R is virtually identical to the other latest generation Sony cameras, such as the RX10 we had the opportunity to review a few weeks ago. It’s a very easy and user-friendly interface.
At first, like any other camera, it requires some effort, but it quickly becomes quite intuitive. In any case, its interface is very complete and straightforward, which is required in a camera in this category.
The quality of the 3-inch TFT Xtra Fine LCD screen (with a resolution of 921600 pixels) is high, and it is foldable. This feature, as you know, allows us to take photos without raising the camera, which sometimes can be very useful. However, an articulated screen would have been even better.
Anyway, it is always preferable to use the viewfinder, allowing the LCD screen to be used for other tasks, such as access to the configuration parameters of the camera or reviewing the photographs that we have taken.
Connectivity-wise, the A7 and A7R perform commendably. They feature many ports (micro-USB, micro-HDMI, headphone jack and more), and in regards to wireless connectivity, they’re also great. Both incorporate Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity, so it is possible to connect it to a Smartphone or tablet without using any cables and thus transfer your photographs and videos instantly. There’s also the possibility to control the camera and takes pictures remotely using a smart phone.
And if you have an NFC-compatible device, all you have to do is get the camera and your device near each other. The connection will take place automatically so you do not have to worry about configuring anything.
However, to take advantage of the remote control of these cameras, it is necessary to install on your tablet or smart phone the PlayMemories Mobile application from Sony, which is available for free on Android and iOS. This tool is not bad, but it seems a bit limited because it only allows you to manipulate a handful of the camera’s settings. Hopefully, Sony will soon update it and release a more flexible version.
Our experience with it
Using these new Sony cameras is a delight. As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, they’re very comfortable to use and transmit an undeniable feeling of sturdiness. It has two dials that can be manipulated using the thumb and middle finger, while keeping the index on the shutter button.
This makes it possible to modify parameters such as aperture and exposure time without your eye on the viewfinder. Also, the feel of the dials seems very correct, they are not too hard, as in other cameras, nor too soft, so they don’t get damaged easily.
The OLED Tru-Finder viewfinder these cameras feature is one of the best we have used. Its resolution is very high and has a better response than other similar viewfinders, allowing us to compose the image with precision and comfort. Moreover, its field coverage is 100% and offers a 0.71x zoom. Truly one more formidable component.
Both cameras’ auto focus modes work really well, though, as expected, the performance of the A7 and A7R is not the same in this area. The A7’s hybrid approach is faster, which can translate into a critical picture in a decisive moment.
In regards to video recording, the two cameras have identical performance. They can record HD video (1920 x 1080) at 60 FPS in progressive mode. Its definition and color range will satisfy even the most demanding users, but what we most liked in this area is its focus, which makes possible a panoramic video that focuses on an object, even if it’s quickly moving.
The lens we have used for our tests is the EF 28-70 mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS Sony includes along with the A7. Its quality is decent, but it is not very bright and, in fact, Sony has much better lenses – at a higher price, of course. Even so, it has allowed us to fairly accurately determine the image quality these two cameras can offer.
Image captured with the A7 f/5.6, 1/500 and ISO 1600
The results yielded by both the A7 and the A7R in all tests has been very good, although the latter is the one that offers the greatest level of detail as a result of the removal of the optical low pass filter (OLPF) and sharpness and its higher resolution sensor. The dynamic range of both cameras is very spacious, allowing them to reimburse an extensive color palette that can perceive tones in the real world, which, in turn, makes them suitable to tackle professional jobs.
Image captured with the A7 f/4, 1/640 and ISO 1600
The way you can produce pictures with intense contrasts with both the A7 and the A7R, although, again, the results show the latter is slightly better than its sister. In any case, both cameras offer an excellent level of detail in the shadow areas without overloading the highlights, which, in my opinion, is capable of competing with professional DSLR cameras from Sony as well as Canon or Nikon.
Image captured with A7R f / 4, 1/125 and ISO 100
Regarding the noise, cameras like the A7 and A7R must be put to test, and the truth is that both have responded very well, although the result is not the same as you would expect for two solutions equipped with different sensors. If you wish, the two deliver high-quality JPEG files with an almost negligible presence of compression artifacts. But I undoubtedly prefer to shoot in RAW because of the vast improvement in quality.
The first thing we feel compelled to note is that both provide excellent results even with very high ISO settings, allowing greater sensitivity. Below ISO 6400, the noise level always remains under control in both cameras. And, above this value, the noise begins to increase more clearly, although it is possible to use a very high ISO that would be unthinkable in other cameras. However, the performance of the A7 with very high values is slightly better than the offered by the A7R, as you can see in the pictures that illustrate this section.
At 25600 ISO, a value that we would not normally use, the noise produced by the A7 is significantly smaller than the A7R’s. Still, the difference between the two cameras below ISO 6400 is practically imperceptible.
Sony A7 and A7R: Conclusions and opinions
In our humble opinion, Sony has made an excellent job with these two cameras. It is very difficult to resist the charm of two CSC so well designed, and above all, equipped with two full-frame sensors of such quality. In addition, both offer a perfectly comparable experience to a very good DSLR, and its image quality is extraordinary in any scenario. Unfortunately, we’ve only had a chance to try them with a single lens, but Sony has in its portfolio with various E-type Carl Zeiss models.
Faced with the dilemma of being forced to choose between the Sony A7 and the A7R, we would stay with the latter due primarily to the absence of the low-pass filter and its consequent greater detail. However, as we explained before, the speed of approach of the latter camera is somewhat inferior to what his sister offers his, so in some scenarios, such as sports photography or wildlife, the A7 would be better.
I think it’s clear that both cameras are excellent, but not perfect. In very low light scenarios, the autofocus speed suffers in both cameras, but it’s nothing dramatic. Also, boot speed, though not irritating, can certainly be improved. Its battery life, though not extraordinary, is also great.
If you’d have to get a mirror less camera right now, one of these two is excellent, even knowing that cameras like the Fujifilm X-T1 or Panasonic Lumix GH4 will soon hit the market. The A7 costs 1698 Dollars, while the A7R is priced at 2298 Dollars.
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