Previous page Next page

Sony Alpha 7R Review

February 2014 | By Jeff Keller
Buy on Amazon.com From $2,098.00


Review based on a production Sony a7R running firmware v1.0

If you're looking for our review of the Sony A7, please click here.

If there's one thing you can say about Sony's digital camera business, it's that they've experimented with many different concepts. From SLRs with dual autofocus systems and Translucent Mirror Technology to its NEX mirrorless line-up, Sony has gone down virtually every avenue in digital imaging. Its latest products - the Alpha 7 and Alpha 7R - may be the most exciting products to come out of the Sony labs in some time. The company has managed to create full-frame cameras which are about the same size as the Olympus OM-D E-M1. In other words, the Alpha 7s are much smaller than their full-frame interchangeable lens peers (such as Nikon's D610 and the Canon EOS 6D), an achievement made possible primarily because they're not SLRs.

In addition, Sony is also unifying the Alpha and NEX brands, so all future interchangeable lens cameras will now fall under the Alpha umbrella. Being mirrorless, the a7 would have otherwise likely been prefixed with the letters NEX.

The a7 and a7R are identical in terms of physical design, with the main differences being the sensor and autofocus system. The a7 features a full-frame 24 megapixel CMOS, while the a7R has a 36 megapixel CMOS sensor with no optical low-pass filter. The a7 uses a Hybrid AF system (with on-chip phase detection) similar to the one found on the NEX-6, while the a7R has traditional contrast detection. The a7 is also capable of electronic first curtain mode, which allows for a quieter shutter, and reduces the potential for 'shutter shock' vibration; this is absent from the a7R. Both cameras use Sony's latest Bionz X processor and also have XGA electronic viewfinders, tilting LCDs, Wi-Fi, and weatherproof bodies that resemble that of the Olympus E-M1.

Here's a quick summary of the differences between the a7 and a7R:

  a7 a7R
MSRP (body only) $1699 / € 1499 / £1299 $2299 / € 2099 / £1699
Sensor 24.3 megapixel 36.3 megapixel
Optical low-pass filter Yes No
AF system Hybrid AF Contrast detect
Front panel construction Composite Magnesium alloy
Electronic first curtain Yes No
Continuous shooting 5 fps 4 fps
Flash x-sync 1/250 sec 1/160 sec
Weight (loaded) 474 g 465 g

As you'd expect, Sony had to come up with new lenses to take advantage of the full-frame sensors, and they'll be known as 'FE-series'. Five lenses were announced to start with (listed below), with ten more promised by 2015. Existing E-mount lenses will work, though the image will (necessarily) be cropped. If you have A-mount lenses laying around, those too will work, as long as you pick up either of Sony's full-frame-ready adapters (the LA-EA3 or LA-EA4).

Sony a7R key features

  • 36.3 megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor with no OLPF
  • E-mount with support for FE, E, and A-mount lenses (with adapter)
  • Bionz X image processor
  • Sealed alloy and composite body
  • Built-in Multi-Interface hot shoe
  • 3-inch tilting LCD with 1.23 million dots (640x480, RGBW)
  • XGA (1024x768) electronic viewfinder
  • Diffraction correction technology
  • Continuous shooting up to 4 fps
  • Full HD video recording at 1080/60p and 24p; uncompressed HDMI output
  • Wi-Fi with NFC capability and downloadable apps

While the a7R is really focused on still image quality - due to its high resolution sensor without an AA filter - it's also quite adept at video recording. It records at 1080/60p and 24p, with manual exposure control, headphone and mic ports, an audio meter, zebra pattern, XLR support (via adapter), and live, uncompressed HDMI output.

Bionz X Processor

The company's latest processor, dubbed Bionz X for reasons that presumably made sense to someone, is considerably more powerful than the previous generation, allowing what the company says is more sophisticated processing.

Sony is being a little vague on specifics but is touting the new processor as offering 'Detail Reproduction Technology' which appears to be a more subtle and sophisticated sharpening system. The company promises less apparent emphasis on edges, giving a more convincing representation of fine detail'.

Another function promised by the Bionz X processor is 'Diffraction Reduction', in which the camera's processing attempts to correct for the softness caused by diffraction as you stop a lens' aperture down. This processing is presumably aperture-dependent and sounds similar to an element of Fujifilm's Lens Modulation Optimization system (introduced on the X100S), suggesting it's something we should expect to see become more common across brands in the coming months.

Finally, Sony says the Bionz X chip offers a more advanced version of its context-sensitive, 'area-specific noise reduction', which attempts to identify whether each area of an image represents smooth tone, textured detail or subject edges and apply different amounts of noise reduction accordingly. Later in the review, we'll show you just how well this system works, and also the problems it can create.

Lenses

While the a7R has an E-mount, you'll need to use Sony's new FE-series lenses to take advantage of its full-frame sensor. Existing E-mount lenses will still physically fit, but as they're only designed for use with APS-C sensors, their image circles won't cover the entire frame properly (just like using Sony's DT lenses on full-frame Alpha mount cameras). While five FE lenses were announced at launch, the 70-200mm F4 lens wasn't available to test alongside the camera. The 28-70mm F3.5-5.6 OSS will only be sold as a kit lens for the a7. All of the lenses are weather-sealed, but while the zooms include optical stabilization, the primes do not.

Here are the five FE lenses that have been officially announced:

Model MSRP Availability
24-70mm F4 Carl Zeiss OSS $1199/£1049 Now
28-70mm F3.5-5.6 Sony OSS Kit only Now
70-200mm F4 Sony G OSS $1499 Mid-April
35mm F2.8 Carl Zeiss $799/£699 Now
55mm F1.8 Carl Zeiss $999/£849 Now

Sony plans to have a total of fifteen FE lenses by 2015, including macro and ultra-wide models.

The first five Sony FE lenses include two standard zooms, two primes, and a tele zoom

We're slightly surprised by Sony's strategy here: it seems a bit odd to be making two different standard zooms to start with, rather than adding a wide-angle zoom. And while it's great to see a couple of primes, both look somewhat slow given their prices. The 55mm F1.8 is a bit long for a 'normal' lens too. We'd have loved to see a fast 'portrait' lens in the 85-135mm range early on, but hopefully Sony will offer one soon.

The two cameras are perfectly capable of using existing E-mount and A-mount lenses, and you have the choice as to whether the image is cropped. If you choose to crop, the resolution will drop to 10 megapixels on the a7, and the equivalent focal length will increase by 1.5X. Sony also gives you the option to not crop and use the entire sensor, though this is likely to lead to strong vignetting.

Image 1
24mm full-frame lens - APS-C Crop Off
Image 2
24mm APS-C lens - APS-C Crop Off
Image 3
24mm APS-C lens - APS-C Crop On

The camera offers three options for its APS-C crop mode - Off, Auto and On. With it switched Off, you'll see Image 1 with a full-frame lens and Image 2 if you're using an APS-C lens. With it switched to Auto mode, you'll get Image 1 or Image 3, depending on whether you're using a full-frame or an APS-C lens. And finally, with it On, you'll see Image 3, regardless of which lens type you put on the camera.

The a7R with LA-E4 A-mount adapter and 50mm F1.4 Zeiss lens

Sony's A-Mount lenses will require the use of an A- to E-mount adapter. Somewhat confusingly Sony now offers no fewer than four such adapters, which differ in their autofocus capabilities and format coverage. The LA-E1 and LA-EA3 offer contrast detect autofocus for lenses that have built-in focus motors (i.e. SAM and SSD), but only manual focus with other lenses, while the LA-EA2 and the new LA-EA4 use Sony's Translucent Mirror Technology to offer autofocus with all lenses. The LA-EA1 and LA-EA2, however, were designed for APS-C NEX cameras and will vignette strongly when used on the a7(R); the LA-EA3 and LA-EA4 are needed to give complete sensor coverage with full-frame lenses.

Adapter Full autofocus? Full-frame ready?
LA-EA1
No
No
LA-EA2
Yes
No
LA-EA3
No
Yes
LA-EA4
Yes
Yes

It's well worth noting that the a7 and a7R are able to accept a huge range of other lenses via readily-available third-party adapters, including old manual focus lenses from long-dead systems such as Minolta MD, Olympus OM, and Canon FD, as well as those from current systems such as Nikon F, Pentax K and Leica M. What's more, in principle these lenses should offer the angle of view they were originally designed to give - so a 24mm will be a true wide-angle again, for example. So if you have a cherished collection of old manual focus primes sitting a closet, the a7/a7R may be just the camera to bring them back to life. More on that later in the review.

Kit options and pricing

The a7R is sold in a body only configuration, for a price of $2299/£1699/€2099.

The most notable accessory for both cameras is an optional battery grip (VG-C1EM) - a first for an E-mount camera. This grip adds controls for vertical shooting and holds an additional battery, and will set you back around $300/£259.

The a7R does NOT come with an external battery charger, instead relying on internal charging over USB. USB charging is quite slow (and it makes having a spare button on hand more difficult), so picking up the BC-VW1 or BC-TRW external chargers is probably a smart move.

Other accessories include camera cases, an off-shoe flash adapter, wireless remote, and screen protector. One accessory that's surprisingly absent is a wired remote shutter cable (though the camera can be controlled via infrared remote or Wi-Fi).



If you're new to digital photography you may wish to read the Digital Photography Glossary before diving into this article (it may help you understand some of the terms used).

Conclusion / Recommendation / Ratings are based on the opinion of the reviewer, you should read the ENTIRE review before coming to your own conclusions.

Images which can be viewed at a larger size have a small magnifying glass icon in the bottom right corner of the image, clicking on the image will display a larger (typically VGA) image in a new window.

To navigate the review simply use the next / previous page buttons, to jump to a particular section either pick the section from the drop down or select it from the navigation bar at the top.

DPReview calibrate their monitors using Color Vision OptiCal at the (fairly well accepted) PC normal gamma 2.2, this means that on our monitors we can make out the difference between all of the (computer generated) grayscale blocks below. We recommend to make the most of this review you should be able to see the difference (at least) between X,Y and Z and ideally A,B and C.

This article is Copyright 2014 and may NOT in part or in whole be reproduced in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from the author.

Previous page Next page
584
I own it
626
I want it
140
I had it
Discuss in the forums

Comments

Total comments: 813
2345
neil holmes

Seems fair.
I do think the A7 is a better camera in many ways though.

Comment edited 7 minutes after posting
2 upvotes
gerard boulanger

I am surprised the "cons" in the conclusion does not mention the shutter noise. The A7r is even noisier than the A7.
I guess pro won't like the noisy shutter?

5 upvotes
samhain

Loud shutter should definitely be a con a 'pro' level camera (if that's what this is)

1 upvote
Max Savin

I have an A7 and A7r. They are both much quieter than my D800 or 1DSmk3. They are noisier than an NX7.

2 upvotes
Fredy Ross

very difficult to understand why there is no mention of e-mount lenses losing the OSS when used in cropped mode. After all this time you should be well aware of this and not say only that all e-mount are compatible.

2 upvotes
Cheng Bao

1. Not all aps-c e-mount lens lose OSS
2. mounting aps-c e-mount lens on A7r is never the intended use of it

3 upvotes
Photato

"Solving the corner vignetting problem"
Way before Sony A7, there was Leica M8 and M9.
Back them the main topic was Vignetting and Shifted Microlenses.
It is pretty odd that this topic has not been raised around these Sony Digital Rangefinders.

3 upvotes
Stu 5

If you are shooting 3200 iso it means the edges are over 12,800 iso because of the vignetting problem.

0 upvotes
Zoron

Sony:"Winning."

6 upvotes
Zerg2905

That's for sure for Sony. What about the customer? Cheers! :)

1 upvote
Zerg2905

Only Gold? This camera deserves a rare element not yet found on Earth. This is The First and (probably not) The Last, The Alpha and Omega of all cameras. Ever. And ever. A-men! Hallelujah! Cheers, and cheers again! :) :) :)

19 upvotes
kadardr

UNOBTAINIUM

17 upvotes
Zerg2905

Right. Cheers! :D :D :D

0 upvotes
PaulDavis

Bionztaniumx make? Which name made sense to some chemist.

2 upvotes
itsmeavi

Kryptonite :P

0 upvotes
bobbarber

OK. I'm convinced. Time to save up.

8 upvotes
petemod

Only Gold? This camera deserves Platinum!

33 upvotes
thx1138

A list of cons as long as the pros and not all of them are minor, it got a fair result. Now combine an A7r with say a good AF system like in a m4/3 camera, triple the battery life and improve several other annoyances and then it might warrant a 90%. At the moment it's a superb sensor wrapped in an ok body. If only Olympus could fit this sensor to an E-M1.

15 upvotes
Juck

m43 lol

16 upvotes
thx1138

Sorry what's the point of your comment ???

2 upvotes
Jabba23

@thx1138 with all of the things you want it to be, it becomes a dslr again. The compromises are there because not all of the technology is available yet or it is but it would put it out of the price range of far too many people to make it viable.

0 upvotes
Stu 5

Or being held back for the replacement camera or because the camera was rushed to market.

0 upvotes
thx1138

@jabba23

That's a ridiculously long bow to draw and completely incorrect. Yes tripling battery life would be tough, but they have to do better, getting 200 shots if you are conservative is just not good enough. Other than that there's no excuse for the AF given how good Olympus and Fuji are on that front, there's no excuse for the lack of electronic first curtain shutter, given the A7 has it and there's no excuse for the cumbersome menu system. None of these require the camera to magically grow in dimensions.

1 upvote
Yxa

thx1138
You mean the Nikon D800?

0 upvotes
fabio riccardi

I have a question about lenses for full frame mirrorless cameras.
I notice that pretty much all the Sony lenses for these cameras have relatively small maximum aperture. The 55mm normal lens is 1.8, vs the 1.4 we are accustomed to for normal full frames. Similarly for the rest of the line. I guess that bright lenses also mean heavier, larger, lenses, which don't quite make sense on smaller camera bodies.
This kind of defeats the purpose of a full frame sensor, where you can benefit from the shallow depth of field it allows.
On APS sized sensors, brighter lenses can still be fairly compact. Fuji, Panasonic, and Olympus lenses are all much brighter than the new FF mirrorless Sony.
Brighter lenses on APS sensors deliver equivalent DOF and look than the dimmer lenses on FF. At the end what is gained with the full frame is lost with the smaller maximum practical aperture.
What do you guys think?
- Fabio

Comment edited 4 minutes after posting
1 upvote
joao 43

I think you should consider the A-mount lenses, like Zeiss 1.4's and Sigma's 1.4. If that is not enough you still have Voigtlander 35mm 1.2, 50mm 1.1 and 1.5, 75mm 1.8 and Leica's 0.9, 1.4. Do you have any lens on Fuji or Olympus that gives you the same DOF and same light gathering? I don't think so....
I don't think Fuji or Olympus offered anything better on the first year.

Regards.

Comment edited 34 seconds after posting
5 upvotes
Max Savin

All sorts of fast lenses can be used on this camera and are available now. Various adapters allow me to use my Nikon, Canon, and Leica lenses. I would get a Sony adapter if I owned any Sony Alpha lenses. This camera is a dream come true.

3 upvotes
fabio riccardi

My point is that large aperture lenses are impractical on these bodies.
Sony is making small aperture lenses because they fit better the size of the A7.
On smaller sensors, large aperture lenses are still small enough to fit the size of the body.
I guess that my question then is: if small body/lens size is an important factor, does FF still make sense?
- Fabio

2 upvotes
HFLM

However most need adaptors and use manual focus. This is not for everybody. A landscape shooter may however be o.k. with it.
A-mount lenses are larger together with adaptor, as would be fast lenses. Even 2.8 zooms would be very large and heavy.
For me the A7s make sense only with smaller primes.

2 upvotes
Dennis

I think there are already FF cameras with faster lenses available. If you make bigger lenses, then what's the selling point versus those cameras ? Personally, when I had f/1.4 lenses on APS-C, I shot them at f/1.8 or f/2 for shallow DOF - f/1.4 on FF is too shallow for my tastes. Anyway, when you why people would choose this camera over a FF DSLR, I don't think the omission of f/1.4 primes is significant.

0 upvotes
Erik Magnuson

To be fair, the Zeiss is also T-1.8 while the other brands 1.4's are often darker than spec at T-1.6 or T-1.7. The real difference is much less than the f-numbers imply.

0 upvotes
TrojMacReady

Actual measured transmission values of the 55mm lens are similar to those of most f/1.4 lenses.

Also, the theory that FF offers no benefit when apertures are smaller, is limited to situations where the shutterspeed is the limiting factor. Which isn't always the case. Reminds me of the Sony R1, when people were making a similar argument about its smaller apertures compared to its smaller sensor predecessors.
Until the output made them realize that the R1 still showed clear benefits in many situations.

2 upvotes
ihv

While sometimes it might feel like gambling, Sony has to be congratulated for pushing new ideas.

23 upvotes
joao 43

It's such a shame a site like this one with so many mistakes.
I'll clear one, the kit lens is sold apart. Please Dpreview correct because your wrong.

"although because it's a kit lens only available for the a7 - and not currently available separately"

It's sold by Amazon and several stores. The current price is 549€ on Amazon.de.
You guys should really get the story right, specially after the A7 flop review.

http://www.amazon.de/gp/product/B00HSHFPD0/ref=s9_psimh_gw_p23_d0_i2?pf_rd_m=A3JWKAKR8XB7XF&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=1Z67CK07AP7NMBT3ZK0D&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=455353807&pf_rd_i=301128

Regards

Comment edited 4 minutes after posting
4 upvotes
Richard Butler

It's not so much a case of being wrong, it's a case of not knowing enough about other markets - it's not sold separately in the US and Sony US don't necessarily know what Sony Europe is doing.

I'll clarify the text.

16 upvotes
joao 43

It was a mistake. Error. Like many things in A7's review.... you should take advantage of A7's users here on Dpreview that might know more a thing or two... A simple quick search would do trick on this matter, since you took the trouble to write on the conclusion. It's been available quiet some time now, even US customers can buy things abroad. The US are not the world when you write to all other countries.

Regards

3 upvotes
Juck

You need a hobby mate

17 upvotes
RFC1925

I hear cameras and photography are good.

5 upvotes
ric63

Yes.
I have heard the same thing.
Mr Fox Talbot would be amused.

1 upvote
joao 43

Juck. :D I'm not the one reviewing cameras for a living, I use them for a living. The remark "not currently available separately" has been widely used before, and does consumers no good. It's available and a quick search over google shows it. Best wishes.

1 upvote
Ben O Connor

Conculution page; Mic jack-headphone jack/port written twice... Or are these two different thing ?

Comment edited 3 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
D1N0

Depriving people of their opportunity to complain about "only silver". How can you!

21 upvotes
MustangJoe

Don't worry. They'll find something to complain about.

3 upvotes
Ryan_Valiente

only gold?

what the hell DPR!

1 upvote
Kwick1

Interesting that, in the summary, there's no mention of high ISO capabilities - good, bad or otherwise.

0 upvotes
thx1138

Same as D800(E), so pretty good especially when downsampled.

0 upvotes
BobYIL

A well deserved Gold rating..

14 upvotes
Bervilat

Look at the tiny text on the studio image. Veeery nice IQ.

1 upvote
Total comments: 813
2345