Experience of using the A7R coming from the 5D3

Started Nov 30, 2013 | Discussions thread
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Avobanana Regular Member • Posts: 383
Experience of using the A7R coming from the 5D3

Hello guys, this is my first post in DPR. Having learned a great deal of information from this forum I would like to give back a little by sharing my impression of the A7R, particularly for those coming from the DSLR world. I consider myself an enthusiast. I take mainly portraits, which mostly mean my kids nowadays and also some landscapes / travel photography. I currently own the 5D3 and before that the 5D2.

My initial moltivation for getting a mirrorless camera is to have a lightweight casual bring-everywhere camera beside my 5D3. I love the handling of the 5D3 but I just couldn't stand lugging around that beast everywhere. I initially planned to get the OMD EM1 for this purpose knowing that it was an improved version of the much raved EM5 (which first got my attention last year), it hit many right spots, but I hesitated due to the compromise in IQ. I know I would have to compromise something in such a small body, but I wasn't sure I was ready to sacrifice IQ. On the other end of the spectrum, the Sony RX1/R were extremely tempting (light weight, great IQ, great fast lens), but not having the flexibility to swap lenses just kill the value proposition. It also lack a viewfinder.

The A7/r annoucement was an absolute stunner for me. I have heard about a FF NEX rumor before, but I could believe they could cramp so much into such a small and lightweight body and it comes with a viewfinder! This was the first time I came across a camera with almost everything I wanted: state of the art IQ, lightweight, built-in viewfinder and ability to use my EF lens!!! Plus its resonably priced to boot. I was ready to sacrifice other aspects like AF, framerates etc since I have the 5D3 for those occasions that demand it. For me, comparison with other candidate products was not even in the equation. A 36mp Exmor sensor with 14 stops of dynamic range and no AA filter? I WANT IT NOW. I preordered it with the FE 35 f/2.8. First time in my life I preordered something. I thought people become more patient as they grow older.

Today, I took it out for a family trip. My impression of it turned out to be quite bi-polar. There are some things which I absolutely love, and somethings that I vehemently hate about the camera. Let me break it down, I will start with the negative first since thats what struck me first:


This really jumped at me. Part of it was perhaps due to my lack of familiarity with the camera, but I genuinely feel a little awkward using it. I have already spent several night getting used to know where are the settings and setup my usual back-button-focusing, continuous AF etc. Still, buttons were too close together and too small (I guess thats a compromise with a small body), they don't nearly provide the kind of solid feedback I am used to in 5D3 (depression is too shallow?) and everything seem to lag. This is a bad combination since sometimes I do not know whether I have pressed the button properly or is the camera just lagging. Switching to viewfinder from the monitor took like 0.5 second and most button response seems to have a noticable lag.

With the fancy technologies all cramped into this body with limited external controls, settings can also get quite obscure. I am still trying to figure out how to keep one of the back button for continuous focusing, and maintain focus peaking at all times. I also have problems trying to autofocus using the Iphone Play Memories App through the remote control application on the camera. If I cannot control focus remotely, the remote control is useless to me.

I don't have big hands, but the grip is a little too small for me. After wrapping my finders around the grip there is still some unnatural space between my fingers and the camera body. Overall the camera feels a bit like a premium compact (good construction and technologies) in use and lack the feeling of a highly refined precision instrument (the feeling I get from 5D3). I never realized this myself, but now I thought about it, the 5D3 is probably one of the most responsive and highly ergonomic camera currently on the market. The experience actually made me value my 5D3 more.


You already know what I am going to say about this. Coming from 5D3, I took good AF for granted. I got into this with my eyes open but it was still shocking to me. No more pictures of my kid running around. He loves running. My success rate with 5D3 was about 50%-70% if I do it right. With A7R and the native FE35? Almost 0. Its not a problem of the camera, the PDAF works as claimed but if you come from a DSLR background, just do not expect any miracle. PDAF always do several "sweeps" to find the plane of sharpest focus, just imagine doing that on a moving object towards or away from the camera. It just "hunts".

Having said that about the AF speed, the AF accuracy itself is actually extremely high (as expected of PDAF I guess). To me the A7R is for static subject/object, period.

Facial tracking was brilliant when it detects a face, but the face detection itself can be spoty at times. Often times when the subject's face move a little or turn a little, the tracking box may suddenly dissappear. Often times, faces in the shadows failed to be detected.


Everything I read has been raving about EVF and how its supposed to be ready to replace OVF. The A7R is supposed to have one of the best EVFs in town if not the best. Coming from an OVF background, I have to say its actually very dissappointing. All that is bugging me when I look through the viewfinder is the lag, the lack of contrasts and the lack of dynamic range.

In bright sunny day light, the lag is still there. I am not sure if there is something funky going on with the frame rates in the EVF, but the LCD actually seems smoother. Also the highlights often gets blown into whites on the EVF even though the picture you took could come out looking much more natural. It seems that the EVF has a very limited dynamic range. Certainly, I face no major problem using that for composition, but its definitely not as enjoyable and natural as the bright pentaprism viewfinder of the 5D3.

Image Quality

This was the key reason I bought the camera. My experience of using the camera has thus far remained firmly in the negative zone. But after I downloaded the RAWs into Lightroom 5.3, it positively blew me away. Some of random images I took with the Sony today could easily be the sharpest images I have ever taken (if you pixel peep) and I assure you I have some good EF lenses. I believe this is most likely due to the lack of the AA filter. Why did they ever put AA filter on the sensor in the first place?

The dynamic range was nothing short of stunning compared to the 5D3. I could never lift the shadows liberally on the Canon since funky noise patterns and color shifting comes in fairly easily. With this Exmor sensor, I could easily lift the shadows 100% and see details in there like a properly exposed part of the picture. You may say, how often do you use that kind of dynamic range? My answer is actually "fairly often" since I love taking backlit environmental portraits with natural lighting for dramatic effect (eg. a portrait of a kid with a setting sun at the back). I know I should have a fill flash but its just too much to carry and it takes too much work to make it look natural. This really comes in handy now that I have so much more headroom to play with natural light. Clearly it also help a great deal in landscape images.


With some of my landscape pictures taken with the A7R today, I noticed the blur when the shutter speed goes below 1/60. For a 35mm lens 1/60s is fairly fast shutter but I am getting those blur nonetheless.  I do not have this problem with the 5D3 even without IS. On the A7R it could be the shutter shake or it could be the lighter body or it could be the higher resolution sensor, but most likely its a combination of all 3.

Sony Zeiss 35 f/2.8 FE

Many people dismissed this lens for having a tiny aperture for a prime. I love fast lenses too but I bought this because I wanted a lightweight package. Now, based on the shots I have today, I can comfortably say this lens easily outresolve the 36mp sensor, wide-open and across the majority of the frame except the extreme corner. Its SHARP. Clearly this is a lens designed for high mp sensor and resolution is a key requirement.

I also own the Sigma 35 f/1.4 lens for the EF mount which is known to be a bitingly sharp lens. I cannot do a direct comparison since I have not purchased the Metabones adaptor yet. But based on what I have seen, at f/2.8 I would say the Zeiss seems a hair sharper and probably also more consistent across the frame.

Unfortunately I see some CA in high contrast situation. This tends to degrade sharpness a little. For the size and sharpness, I think this is a very attractive lens.

My Back

After a full day of shooting I don't feel tired at all from carrying the A7R. In fact, it doesn't feel like I had carried anything at all. I could never say that for the 5D3 which weight is always a PITA.


Having said so many negative things about A7R, I have to admit I do not regret this purchase even though I have this love/hate feeling towards it. The outputs justify it for me. Since I am still keeping the 5D3, having the A7R is great since it has better IQ than the 5D3 for when I want maximum quality or lighter weight. When AF and responsiveness is important, I will just whip out my 5D3 instead.

 Avobanana's gear list:Avobanana's gear list
Canon EOS 5D Mark III Sony Alpha a7R Nikon D810 Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM +4 more
Canon EOS 5D Mark III Sony Alpha a7 Sony Alpha a7R
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