Body & Design

The photos in this review are of the a7, which is nearly identical to the a7R in terms of design.

The a7 and a7R are the world's smallest and lightest full-frame interchangeable lens cameras, by a considerable margin. The design is a mix of the Olympus OM-D E-M5, Sony RX1 and NEX-7, and it feels extremely solid. The a7R's body is made entirely of metal, unlike the a7 which has a plastic front plate and slightly cheaper-feeling dials. The body and FE lenses are sealed against dust and moisture.

Ergonomics are generally good, though some may not care for the relatively 'shallow' grip. The front, rear, and exposure compensation dials are all within easy reach of your fingers, though the menu button (on the top-left of the back plate) seems oddly placed. Sony's had issues on their RX-series cameras with the placement of the movie record button, which was easy to bump. On the a7R, the button is essentially on the right side of the camera, so it'll take some work to accidentally press it.

Top of camera

The a7R has a good selection of dials, though Sony is a bit limited for space here. On the far left you'll see one half of the stereo microphone. At the center is the hot shoe, which Sony calls the Multi-Interface Shoe. What this means is that the shoe can handle external mics, video lights, and an XLR adapter, thanks to a set of contacts concealed under the front lip of the shoe. Modern Sony external flashes can take advantage of the interface, and Sony offers an adapter to use with the company's older flashes and third party flashes made to take advantage of the old proprietary mount (Model number ADP-MAA). No accessory flash is included with the a7R.

Continuing to the right, we have a mode dial that has the usual P/A/S/M modes, as well as two custom spots. There are also positions for movies (which can be taken in any mode), Sweep Panorama, scene mode, and Intelligent Auto.

At the far right you'll find the shutter release (with power switch underneath), exposure compensation dial, a customizable button, and the front dial.

Size compared to Canon EOS 6D

The Canon 6D - one of the smallest full-frame cameras - still towers over the a7/a7R.

Until the a7R, the smallest full-frame interchangeable lens cameras were the Canon EOS 6D and Nikon D600/D610 (which are about the same size), unless you consider the very pricey Leica M9. As you can see from the above photo, the a7R is much smaller and lighter, due to the fact that it has no mirror to deal with. The camera isn't pocketable by any means, but it's much easier to carry around.

In your hand

The a7R has a sizable grip that makes it easy to hold (at least with standard-sized lenses). There's enough room on the back for your thumb to rest comfortably without pressing any buttons.

LCD and Viewfinder

Sony certainly hasn't skimped on the LCD or electronic viewfinder on the a7 twins. The tilting 3-inch LCD has 1.23 million dots and a 4:3 aspect ratio. As you'd expect, the screen is sharp, and outdoor visibility is decent at default settings. The LCD can tilt upward by 84 degrees, or downward by 45 degrees. One negative is that when the LCD is tilted down, the camera does not sit flat.

The a7R's OLED XGA electronic viewfinder (which Sony calls the TruFinder) will be very familiar to anyone who has used the NEX-6/7 or a99 cameras. The viewfinder is large with a magnification of 0.71x, and extremely sharp, with nearly 2.4 million dots. The OLED technology means that there's no 'rainbow effect' that can plague EVFs that use a field sequential system. The viewfinder eyepiece is large and is far away enough from the camera for glasses-wearers. It also does a good job of keeping incident light from leaking in.

One thing that we didn't care for is the sensitivity of the eye sensor which automatically switches between the LCD and EVF. If you're doing waist-level shooting with the LCD tilted up, the sensor will switch to the EVF while the camera is still 6 inches away.