Sony’s recently announced A7 and A7r are the worlds smallest compact full frame cameras. To that effect, these cameras offer most of the comforts of a high-end DSLR, but in the lightweight body of a mirror-less interchangeable-lens camera. It’s because of this marriage between full frame and mirror-less that Sony Electronics’ president and COO, Phil Molyneux, describes the Sony A7 as “groundbreaking”. And after spending a few days with it around Nashville, Tennessee, we have come to agree with that sentiment.
Full frame means that the sensor inside the A7 is larger than a traditional mirror-less camera, and on par with the same great full frame sensor quality you expect to find in a more expensive high-end DSLR. But not only is the A7 groundbreaking in terms of form factor, but its $1699 (body only) pricing is also very attractive.
Our first impression of the A7 was a bit of bewilderment – it’s a lot smaller and lighter to behold in person than we imagined it would be. We shlepped it around with us day and night for a few days around Nashville, and never felt like it was weighing us down. This is completely unlike the experience we’ve had with bulkier, high-end DSLRs, which we quit lugging around years ago, in exchange for more purse friendly mirror-less interchangeable lens cameras.
The A7 packs in a 24MP sensor, while the A7r packs in a 34MP sensor. Of course, although not for everyone, the benefits of the A7R are clear – 36mp means you can shoot and crop later to zoom in. Unfortunately, these extra megapixels come at a price – the A7r is slower than the A7.
During our testing and hands-on time, we came away impressed with how fast the A7 snaps photos and also how snappy its focusing system is. It’s manual focus is also a pleasure to use. Furthermore, we like that the user interface is quite easy to learn and a lot less clunkier than that of most DSLRs. We also like the inclusion of Wi-Fi and how easy it is to send pictures to your phone on the fly. The A7 and A7r also pack in a somewhat loud but satisfying shutter, which we wish we could optionally mute. Meanwhile, the viewfinder is sharp and clear and a pleasure to use, and the tilt display is also a welcome addition. The camera also packs in a basic selection of effects, including vivid, sepia and our personal favorite – black and white. This setting produces brilliant deep blacks; especially when you up its contrast settings.
Along side the A7 and A7r, Sony is also introducing 5 new full frame lens, including Zeiss branded lenses that really improve the image quality. In addition, the camera is compatible with Sony’s range of E-Mount lenses, and that includes compatibility with lenses made for Sony’s popular NEX series, except that you’ll have to crop down the photos you take with them if you’re using the A7.
Check out the gallery for sample photos we took with the A7. Keep in mind that all of these photos were taken with the kit lens, and they are quite impressive, so you can only imagine how much the upcoming Zeiss lenses will up the ante for the A7 and A7r.
Is the DSLR dead? Hardly, but at this rate, Sony is slowly sending it to its grave.
The Sony A7 is currently available for pre-order for $1999 with its kit lens, or $1699 for the body only. The A7r starts at $2299 with the body only. They are both scheduled to be released on December 1st.
Disclosure: Sony flew us out to Nashville to test their newest digital imaging products.