Sony’s full frame, interchangeable-lens camera has finally arrived. What’s more is that it now comes in two models – the Sony A7 and A7R. Perhaps you feel that SLR cameras look sleeker, or perhaps you find that using your phone to take pictures grants you greater convenience. From the looks of Sony’s NEX camera’s hot sales, however, “HD photos + compact size” are definitely becoming the trends for future high-quality cameras. Also, the full-frame CMOS sensor has undeniably improved the performance of Sony’s interchangeable-lens system. But first, let us make a comparison between the specificationof both cameras.
Sony A7 vs A7r Specs Comparison：
|Sony A7||Sony A7r|
|Body Type||Magnesium alloy||Magnesium alloy|
|Body material||SLR-style mirrorless||SLR-style mirrorless|
|Max resolution||6000 x 4000||7360 x 4912|
|Image ratio w:h||3:2, 16:9|
|Effective pixels||24 megapixels||36 megapixels|
|Sensor photo detectors||25 megapixels||37 megapixels|
|Sensor size||Full frame (35.8 x 23.9 mm)|
|Sensor size notes||No optical low-pass filter|
|White balance presets||10|
|Custom white balance||Yes|
|Optics & Focus|
|Autofocus assist lamp||Yes|
|Number of focus points||117||25|
|Screen / viewfinder|
|Minimum shutter speed||30 sec|
|Maximum shutter speed||1/8000 sec|
|Built-in flash||Yes (via Multi Interface shoe)|
|Continuous Speed||5 fps||4 fps|
|Resolutions||1920 x 1080 (60p, 60i, 24p), 1440 x 1080 (30p), 640 x 480 (30p)|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||340|
After looking through both specifications, many might realize that, in terms of sensors, both the A7 and A7R are strikingly similar to Nikon’s D600 and D800E. This can satisfy both the needs of relatively conventional users as well as photographers requiring better pixel quality. The difference between Sony and Nikon cameras is that both Sony’s interchangeable-lens camera models have completely consistent exterior designs. If you were to cover the model markings on the cameras, you would practically be unable to differentiate between the two (though both models have slightly different outer skins). Other than this, Sony’s all new BIONZ X image processor and focusing system also brings a noticeable upgrade to the cameras’ performances.
SONY A7 and A7R Sensor Comparison:
Both Sony’s A7 and A7R use a full-frame CMOS original sensor which provides two choices: the low-pass filter’s 24 million pixel program, or the 36.4 million pixel program without the low-pass filter. I still agree with this method of doing things. Low pixels allow for a better control over noise and a faster speed when taking multiple shots; and while high pixels do not have a low-pass filter, it does give better details. Besides the fact that this reflects on the parameter, it also shows that Sony has greatly enhanced the A7R’s CMOS.
Improvement 1: Gap-less Micro Lens Technology
The idea of gapless micro lenses was first brought up at the 2008 conference for Canon’s 5D Mark II. Due to eliminating the gap between the sensor and micro lenses, Sony is able to increase light collecting efficiency, allowing the latest CMOS sensor to give an outstanding performance in comparison to the earlier CMOS sensor models. By comparing Sony and other 36 million pixel products, it can be seen, in terms of high ISO noise reduction, that the new sensor has, even in the worst of conditions, at least a 0.5 file improvement. An analysis of past products shows that, after sizes exceeding APS-C, the effects of enhanced ISO through lens optimization are clearer and more noticeable as compared to similar back-lighting technologies.
Improvement 2: Offset Micro Lens Design (Only For The A7R)
The offset micro lens design refers to shifting the micro lens of the CMOS sensor towards the center. Why the shift? The answer is simple. Due to the fact that Sony’s full frame NEX lens system does not work to allow incident light entering the periphery, the pixels on the edge of an image, especially in the use of a wide-angle lens, absorb light that is practically tilted. Thus, shifting the micro lens slightly allows it to catch more light, including incident light, and gives the camera a greater capacity to capture light. Judging from the effects offset micro lens gives, it can improve edge imaging as well as darken an image’s peripheral brightness or saturation.
Summary of the section on CMOS: In terms of sensors, Sony’s all new, 36.4 million pixel sensor comes with many technological improvements. In fact, it can be seen as the enhanced version of Nikon D800E sensor. I believe that Sony, with its abundant experience in the development and research of image sensors, can bring about noticeable improvements in the image definition of its high density, full-frame CMOS sensor. At the same time, the 24 million pixel CMOS used by the A7 is widely regarded by those in the industry to be the most appropriate, pixel-wise, product to date. Performance of a similar product, the Nikon D600, has also won the approval of many. Two cameras: one with the best resolution, but with a hefty price tag, and large image files; one with gentler, softer pixels, and a slightly better control over noise. Which would you choose?
Intelligent AF: Change in the Focus Quality Brought By Micro Lenses
After Sony and Olympus tightened their partnership, we have been hoping for Sony to use Olympus’ pride – the high-speed Auto-focus system – as well as the five-axis image stabilization system. We do not know for sure if Sony has gotten the aid of the latter, but Sony’s new micro lens focus system (Sony calls it: Intelligent AF System) has definitely gotten an upgrade. For specific reasons, Sony gives the new Bionz X image processor and all new focus algorithms a majority of the credit. Actually, in terms of contrast detection AF, we can easily understand how to raise the speed of the AF: Under the condition that the driving force of the lens motor remains unchanged, an increase in the contrast detection frequency can improve the focusing speed significantly. Because Bionz X’s processing speed is stepped up, its detection frequency is, as compared to the past camera models, faster three-fold. This, in turn, speeds up the focusing speed of the camera. At the same time, the use of improved algorithms has made the focusing speed ever more evident.
A7’s Advantages: Blending Auto Focus and Continuous Shooting Together
Due to the A7’s CMOS being a relatively newer model, the CMOS (as was previously mentioned in the previous paragraphs) is seemingly no different from the similar RX1, while the A7R is equipped with a variety of high-tech features; When it comes to auto focus systems, however, A7 finally shows the advantage it has over the A7R, as well as the second generation Sony CMOS chip phase AF system. In comparison to the first generation auto focus system (the one where 5R started coming up with a bunch of small, close focus points in the center), the new generation products not only have up to 117 focus points, but also a significantly enlarged coverage area. This further reflects the fact that Sony tends towards giving the A7 a stronger mechanical power. In fact, not only does the A7 have the edge over the A7R in terms of AF systems, it is also capable of shooting at a burst rate of 5fps, beating the A7R by one frame. For that reason, we can simply understand thing: the A7 is more suitable to taking moving objects.
Summary of The Section On Auto Focus: Sony NEX’s auto focus system was a micro lens short board at its debut, but after the improvements of the 5N and 5R, one can see the distinct improvement of the auto focus speed. At that time, however, Olympus and Panasonic had raised up the quality of their auto focus systems to a higher level, pulling open the gap between the APS-C Camp once more. However, thanks to the features such as small lenses, small frames, and vertical incidence, the M43 already had a foundation which allowed Sony to easily improve its auto focus systems. Furthermore, Sony’s boundless effort to catch up this time has paid off, for we can say that Sony, usage-wise, has completely satisfied even the pickiest of photographers.
SONY A7 And SONY A7R Hardware Performance comparison:
This time round, both SONY’s latest DSLR camera models use the BIONZ X image processing engine. While everyone usually brushes off the image processor as irrelevant, the BIONZ X is, in recent years, the processor with the most functions. And while BIONZ X remains the hardest part of the camera to explain quantitatively, it has given us plenty of pleasant surprises this time. Because both SONY A7 and A7R come newly equipped with this processor, each of the cameras present a few all new features: area-specific noise reduction, diffraction correction, and the ability to output 4k images.
Area-specific Noise Reduction: Enhance Shadows and Dark spots.
Does not everyone comes across the same problem when using the camera: when the camera’s DNR function is turned to a high, the image’s shadow is clean, but its brighter details end up destroyed; on the other hand, when the camera’s DNR function is turned low, the image’s bright details get enhanced, but its noise turns out ever more noticeable. SONY’s area-specific noise reduction feature uses the image processor to identify bright and dark areas, and apply different amounts of noise reduction accordingly. The editor found this feature extremely useful. Also, the area-specific noise reduction feature improves the image’s JPEG quality considerably which is good news for the amateur photographer. Meanwhile, this feature would be quite useful to sports reporters who have to publish their photos almost immediately after taking them (though I feel that the present single-lens reflex is not suitable for photographing sports.)
Diffraction Correction: Good News for The Camera’s Aperture (Only for A7R)
As the camera’s image sensor draws closer, the effects of its aperture’s diffraction becomes more noticeable. SONY’s A7R uses a unique diffraction correction function aimed to correct such effects. This distinctly improves taking images with an aperture as low as F11. This current trend in digital technology clearly shows that certain problems due to the structure of optical lenses can be corrected later on. One such representative problem would be chromatic aberration; with the A7R, an image with chromatic aberration can basically get corrected in one step once it is in a softcopy. As for correcting the aperture, things are looking good. Whether it’s SONY’s internal technological designs or Canon’s DLO feature, both SONY and Canon cameras have been able to markedly reduce diffraction in images.
However, SONY A7R’s diffraction correction feature does not support RAW images. The editor feels that to be able to fish out and prevent diffraction problems makes one practically a serious photographer. And to such photographers to be restricted to only improving an image’s diffraction problem on a JPEG file just might make things seem impractical. Of course, to use only a BIONZ X and a 50MB and above RAW image to correct diffraction would only waste considerable time, so we can only hope that the future camera models’ image processor can, like Apple phones’ image processors, keep on coming in new and improved versions.
4k Image Output: For the Future
4K televisions may be all the rage right now, but this world has practically no device that can store 4K images and files. With BIONZ X, we now finally have another 4K playback device – even if it is currently only able to output still shots (for still photography, SONY A7 and A7R supports 1080 50/60 quality).
SONY A7 And A7R Sensitivity Differences comparison:
At the press conference, Sony specially prepared two groups of highly sensitive photos taken with the A7R and the A7 for us. The photos were all taken with a 35/2.8 lens, and shrunk to a 4000 width thumbnail. Sony, to some extent, must have felt very confident of their camera’s photo quality to release such photos. Nevertheless, we relied on the actual results before us to make our judgments.
From the photos, we could see that the Sony A7R and the A7 performed pretty well in the sensitivity department. Furthermore, both models met our expectations for full-frame, high-sensitivity cameras; ISO 1600 basically doesn’t have any effects on the image, ISO 6400 is usable, and ISO 25600 retains a fixed amount of details. From the look of the photos, however, Sony A7R did perform a little better than A7. Perhaps this is due to the gapless micro lens design as was mentioned earlier on. All in all, we still look forward to both camera’s final performance!
Let us take a look at Sony A7R’s performance in taking sample photos. This model is equipped with the highest pixel count out of hundred and thirty-five cameras, a gap-less set of micro lenses, and does not have an optical low-pass filter. With such features, the photo detail produced by this camera is well worth our expectation. Let’s take a look at the sample photos taken:
Shutter speed: 0.8 sec. Aperture: F11. EV Comp.: -1.0 EV. ISO: 400. WB: Daylight white balance
Shutter speed: 1/125 sec. Aperture: F5.6, ISO: 100, WB: Manual white balance
Shutter speed: 1/500 sec. Aperture: F2; ISO: 100; WB: Auto white balance
From the group of sample photos taken with the A7R, we can see that Sony A7R does produce images in very high qualities. In particular, the details wrought by the camera’s 36.3 million pixel feature left us with a deep impression. Of course, we could, in ISO 3200 and other similar environments, see A7R’s high sensitivity performance was very, very outstanding. Its performance is definitely worth our approval.
Now let us take a look at Sony A7. Because the A7 has a low-pass filter as well as a mainstream 24.3 million pixel function, it is inevitable that the image quality produced by the A7 would not be as astonishing as the A7R. However, the A7 is, after all, a full-frame camera, and we can predict that its image quality performance isn’t too bad. But it’s best to go with the conventional procedure, and take a look through the A7’s sample photos.
Shutter speed: 1/125 sec. Aperture: F5.6, ISO: 100, WB: Manual white balance
Shutter speed: 1/250 sec. Aperture: F2.2, ISO: 400, WB: Manual white balance
Shutter speed: 1/100 sec. Aperture: F5, EV Comp.: +0.7 EV, ISO: 400, WB: Auto white balance
We can see that the image quality produced by the Sony A7 is pretty satisfying. It must be known that Sony A7 is currently the cheapest full-frame camera, but its image quality is not one bit behind its expensive rivals. In fact, the colors and tolerance level of the A7 fare very well. For users who don’t pursue ultimate image resolution, the A7 actually doesn’t fall too far behind the A7R.
The difference between both the Sony A7 and Sony A7R is the same as the previous differences between Sony RX1 and Sony RX1R. From the outside, Sony A7 and Sony A7R are completely alike. While the Sony A7R sits a little taller, and uses a 3.6 million pixel sensor without a low-pass filter, Sony A7 uses a 2.4 million pixel sensor. Other than that, the Sony A7R includes a better auto focus system and a continuous shooting speed. In terms of prices, the A7R is about 600 dollars more expensive, reaching 2,298 dollars. I recommend for you to make your decision according to your actual needs – you would be just fine that way.