Why I have replaced my D800 with the a7r

Started Dec 10, 2013 | Discussions
shigzeo
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Why I have replaced my D800 with the a7r
Dec 10, 2013

Because my needs are simple, I have replaced the D800 for two very simple reasons: Built-in Wireless Tethering and Live View quality. I have written at length about the two .

I sit or stand and move things around over some sort of desk all day long, day in, day out. Relying completely the camera back or OVF/EVF to frame and shoot a single exposure means back and forthing that ruins work flow. Similarly, relying on a fixed laptop or computer for wireless or wired tethering can mean reorienting left/right synapses, and often in small still life studio situations, the computer may be obscured by the lights, reflectors, flags, c-stands, etc. The ability to wirelessly tether stock, with no required adapters, is great. Free play memories (awful name) app, pretty much endless possibilities. Generally, I will use the camera's rear LCD to frame and focus the shot. Then I will travel around the studio and make necessary changes visible through my iPhone or iPad. Update is fast enough but frame rate is poor. Because I don't need absolutely clear vantages at that point, the combo works perfectly.

But before I ever get there, the a7r's live view amazes- at least when placed next to the D800. Both have the same resolution sensor, but the a7r's implementation of live view is phenomenal. Even with the lens stopped down in a rather dark studio, it maintains somewhat usable update frame rates. The D800's live view screen will go nearly black.

When framed and focused wide open (typically what I do), it is even less of a comparison. Even at ISO 100 in an only somewhat dark studio, the D800's live view is grainy, low resolution, pixellated, and extremely noisy. It also doesn't obtain the same magnification. That is, though it zooms way in, the final image in the live view is blown up many times to unusable proportions, where what I see is like an 8-bit video game console vs. the a7r's 16 bit console screen. Usable resolution is probably less than half that of the a7r.

I have been living with this for over a year. While it works better than what I used before, until I took an exposure, I could never be 100% sure that the exact spot I aimed for was in focus. With the a7r, I can. I use the same lenses via a NEX-NIK & ASTAT tripod collar from Novoflex. True, I dislike the a7r for pretty much everything that isn't inside a studio, but for my work (which could be considered a boring sort of work), it is world's better than the D800.

Below is one illustrative image from a more detailed review I wrote here.

 shigzeo's gear list:shigzeo's gear list
Nikon D200 Fujifilm X-Pro1 Nikon D800 Sony Alpha 7R Fujifilm X-T1 +6 more
Nikon D800 Sony Alpha 7R
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steveperry
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Re: Why I have replaced my D800 with the a7r
In reply to shigzeo, Dec 10, 2013

Thanks for the info - I was wondering if the a7r had better live view than the 800. I shoot most of my landscape work using live view and when the light gets dim, it does become unusable. I was planning to replace my D800 with one of these (still keeping the 800e), and this makes me want to do it sooner rather than later.

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shigzeo
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Re: Why I have replaced my D800 with the a7r
In reply to steveperry, Dec 10, 2013

steveperry wrote:

Thanks for the info - I was wondering if the a7r had better live view than the 800. I shoot most of my landscape work using live view and when the light gets dim, it does become unusable. I was planning to replace my D800 with one of these (still keeping the 800e), and this makes me want to do it sooner rather than later.

For landscape work (since you are working generally in a much larger 'studio') the difference shouldn't be as acute. However, you will be able to use smaller lenses if you want, and when going low or high for macro or other work, the flippable screen will be a life-saver. I stopped using the D series for what little landscape work I do and began using the X-Pro 1... which works well enough, but has a number of problems the a7r doesn't such as sensor grid lines appearing in final exposures, and way more EVF/LCD lag.

I'm glad that I've been able to help.

 shigzeo's gear list:shigzeo's gear list
Nikon D200 Fujifilm X-Pro1 Nikon D800 Sony Alpha 7R Fujifilm X-T1 +6 more
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paris1968
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Re: Why I have replaced my D800 with the a7r
In reply to shigzeo, Dec 11, 2013

I see the Sony A7s as an updated Konica Minolta A2/A200. Introduced about seven years ago, the A2 was the most well designed camera I ever owned, and far ahead of its time. Sadly, it lacked resolution. Although I have an 800e, when the a7r came out I knew I would have to get one and use my Nikon lenses with an adapter for the reasons you cited (1) useable live view that tilts (2) a high res EVF, and (3) the mirrorless design with its attendant smaller size. I am quite comfortable with manual focusing and manual exposure. Its how I learned to shoot anyway, and good live view makes it easy. Why Nikon continues to be so dense, I don't know. Why they don't see the high value of good live view, and why we are chained to the tilting mirror design from the film days is a frustrating mystery.

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shigzeo
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Re: Why I have replaced my D800 with the a7r
In reply to paris1968, Dec 11, 2013

paris1968 wrote:

I see the Sony A7s as an updated Konica Minolta A2/A200. Introduced about seven years ago, the A2 was the most well designed camera I ever owned, and far ahead of its time. Sadly, it lacked resolution. Although I have an 800e, when the a7r came out I knew I would have to get one and use my Nikon lenses with an adapter for the reasons you cited (1) useable live view that tilts (2) a high res EVF, and (3) the mirrorless design with its attendant smaller size. I am quite comfortable with manual focusing and manual exposure. Its how I learned to shoot anyway, and good live view makes it easy. Why Nikon continues to be so dense, I don't know. Why they don't see the high value of good live view, and why we are chained to the tilting mirror design from the film days is a frustrating mystery.

Well, I am a fan of the OVF. Using the a7r out and about is a chore of immense proportions next to the D800 on the same lenses:

85/1,8K
50/2 Ai
Both lenses pop into focus on the D800 and even D200, but on the a7r, they require magnification. Peaking can help, but only generally. The EVF isn't high enough resolution or contrast to make fast lenses work with the reliability they work on their native mount.

The only exception I would say is Leica lenses, which can be more accurate, but again much slower. A good rangefinder or a good OVF are so much faster and generally more accurate than peaking. Assuming EVF is the wave of the future, there are very large, very tall hurdles to overcome for it to be comparably wieldy, fast, contrasty, and highly resolving, not to mention the inability to focus a lens wide open and have it automatically stop down to the preset aperture. That I really really miss.

 shigzeo's gear list:shigzeo's gear list
Nikon D200 Fujifilm X-Pro1 Nikon D800 Sony Alpha 7R Fujifilm X-T1 +6 more
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DuxX
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...and why I don't want to replace my D800 with a7r
In reply to shigzeo, Dec 11, 2013

Some main reasons:

1. undoubtedly better sensor and overall IQ. No matter of the same sensor core, Sony has never had that edge.

2. much better/faster AF

3. much wider range of lenses with better quality/price ratio

Don't get me wrong. Sony is very good system, especially A7R that undoubtedly has its advantages but in my case it's simply not enough.

Regards

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 DuxX's gear list:DuxX's gear list
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sgoldswo
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Re: Why I haven't i replaced my D800 with the a7r
In reply to shigzeo, Dec 11, 2013

Principally size and paucity of native lens options. I was never particularly enamoured of the experience of the RX1 either and this seemed to be more of the same with worse build quality. I was also so deeply alienated by the experience of owning a NEX-7 that I'm staring at the floor every time I see a Sony, lest someone ask me to take their picture with it. I just don't think Sony get photography or photographers.

I also found the Df to be a far superior camera in hand than the A7, so it was an easy choice for a second FF camera.
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