Body and handling

The a7C shares of lot of its spec with the a7 III but the loss of the viewfinder hump significantly reduces the camera's size.

The a7C's body is significantly smaller than that of previous a7 cameras yet it retains essentially all the capabilities of the a7 III. However, the smaller size does mean some changes to the ergonomics and shooting experience.

Key takeaways:

  • Monocoque construction lends a very solid feel
  • Grip is shallower than other Sony full-frame models, but not uncomfortable
  • Three dials, but you use your thumb for all of them
  • No AF joystick, but touchpad AF makes up for this somewhat
  • EVF is on the small side
  • Truly excellent battery life

Although it looks a lot like an a6000-series model, the a7C itself feels extremely rugged in a way that those cameras don't. It's housed in what Sony calls a magnesium alloy monocoque: a combined, single-piece chassis and shell, akin to what US car-makers would call 'unibody' construction. This ensures there's no flex or give anywhere in the camera. It also means there are fewer body seams to seal against the elements.

The grip is considerably more shallow than on recent Sony a7 models, but if you place your finger on the shutter button, then wrap the rest of your finders around the grip, you should find it settles comfortably and securely with your hand at 45 degrees to the camera, without the need to wrap all your fingers around the front of the grip.

Three dials

All three dials on the a7C are controlled using your thumb, but the provision of a dedicated exposure comp dial is a distinct benefit, compared with the a6000-series models it resembles.

Whereas the a7 III has four dials (front and rear of the grip, one on the back plate and a dedicated exposure comp dial on the shoulder), the a7C only has three: a dial on the rear of the grip, another on the back plate of the camera and a dedicated exposure comp dial.

This may not sound like a big change until you consider which digit you use to operate each one: all three are controlled using your thumb. In addition, reaching to the vertical dial on the rear face of the camera is likely to mean relaxing or re-positioning your shooting grip on the camera.

No joystick

Another difference between the a7 III and the a7C is that the new camera has no AF joystick. Instead it gains a huge AF-On button, much like the ones on the a9 II and a7R IV. This isn't the significant omission it might sound: the latest Sony tracking system works well enough that you're more likely to point the camera at your chosen subject and recompose, rather than having to pre-position the AF point.

Equally, the a7C has a touchscreen that lets you position the AF point. It's not quite as slick as a good joystick, but that's one of the trade-offs of a small camera.

Viewfinder

The viewfinder is perhaps the most recognizable compromise made to keep the camera size and price down. It's a more like the kind of finder we'd expect in a high-end compact, rather than a full-frame mirrorless camera. But its presence is likely to be welcome outdoors in good light, despite this.

The most striking thing that's different about the a7C is the viewfinder. It's mounted on the top left of the body, more like those on the a6000-series, but the biggest change is that it's a significantly smaller and lower-resolution panel than we've become used to on modern cameras.

The 2.36M dot resolution is comparable to the a7 III and more recent Panasonic S5 (though is behind most of its other peers), but the use of a smaller panel gives a magnification of 0.59x, which is significantly smaller than most mirrorless cameras offer.

When shooting with the camera, this is the most noticeable trade-off that Sony has made in order to make the camera so small.

Image stabilization and shutter

Sony has developed a new, smaller image stabilization system for the a7C. It's still able to correct shake in 5-axes: pitch, yaw, rotation and both horizontal and vertical translational movements. Like previous Sony cameras, this delivers a CIPA rating of correction equivalent to 5EV.

The shutter is also new. It extends to 1/4000 sec, with the option to use a fully electronic shutter up to 1/8000 sec in 'Silent Shooting' mode. Flash sync is 1/160 sec.

Storage

The a7C has a single SD card slot. It's behind a plastic door with a latch on the outside. There's a subtle rubber seal around the slot itself but the door doesn't push into this at all, to create a more complex seal. The slot supports UHS-II cards.

We'd recommend using the fastest card you can: the main and Fn menus are unavailable while the camera is writing to a card, which can mean quite a long wait if you're shooting bursts or uncompressed Raws. You can still take photos during this time but can only change basic exposure settings.

The a7C gains 5Ghz Wi-Fi, which should allow faster connections to smart devices and home computers. But, while it includes Bluetooth, this is used solely for receiving GPS data from a phone, not for maintaining a constant connection to speed-up Wi-Fi engagement.

Auto ISO

The Auto ISO system lets you specify lower and upper limits for the ISO and also lets you specify the minimum shutter speed that must be maintained. This threshold can be defined either as a fixed shutter speed value or in relation to the current focal length. The 'Standard' option uses a shutter speed of 1/[Focal Length], and there are four other options that use shutter speeds faster or slower than this.

Auto ISO is available in Manual Exposure mode, in both stills and video modes. This means you can choose an aperture and shutter speed, then have the camera use the ISO value to maintain a target brightness. This target brightness can be adjusted using exposure compensation.

Battery

The large battery in the a7C means you aren't sacrificing endurance to enable downsizing. This significantly boosts its capabilities as a travel or family camera.

The good news is that Sony hasn't achieved its downsizing at the expense of the battery. The a7C still finds room for the large NP-FZ100 battery that powers the camera to a class-leading rating.

This is impressive: poor battery life is often the price you have to pay for downsizing, but the inclusion of a large battery really supports the a7C's credentials both as a travel camera and as a general everyday camera that's easy to live with.

CIPA ratings are more conservative than most people's usage, and a rating of 740 shots per change can easily result in twice that number for many users. That's likely to be enough for the most committed shooting session or for multiple days of travel without the need to think about recharging. As you'd expect, the battery can be topped-up over its USB Type-C connector.