Sony Alpha 7 Review
The a7 has a distortion correction feature for use with E-mount lenses. Whether correction is applied depends on the lens. For the 28-70mm and 55mm FE lenses it's active, while it's off for the 35mm.
Below are examples of the distortion correction feature in action, first for the 28-70mm kit zoom. The corrected versions are straight-out-of-the-camera JPEGs, while the Raws were processed with ACR 8.3 with lens distortion correct turned off.
|28mm - corr. off||28mm - corr. on||70mm - corr. off||70mm - corr. on|
The 28-70mm kit lens has plenty of both barrel and pincushion distortion, which the correction feature dramatically reduces, without a significant hit in image quality. Up next, the 55mm prime:
|55mm - corr. off||55mm - corr. on|
The 55mm F1.8 prime needs a lot less correction than the 28-70, and again, the distortion correction feature does its job, with no ill effects.
Neither of these is necessarily problematic (it's not unusual for mirrorless lenses to be designed with correction as part of the concept), but the high price of the Sony lenses, combined with the differing results achieved by shooting in JPEG (where the correction cannot be turned-off), and Raw, where the correction parameters don't appear to be available to third-party converters, isn't ideal.
The Sony a7 (and a7R) use a content-sensitive noise reduction system that attempts to protect areas of fine detail while applying higher levels of noise reduction to smooth, featureless areas. The results are mixed.
|ISO 16,000, F1.8, 1/400, 55mm F1.8 lens||100% crop|
|Raw image, processed with 61% luminance noise reduction in ACR 8.3 beta||100% crop|
On the plus side, the JPEG has done a good job of preserving detail in the face, while smoothing the beige wall to the left. Our processed Raw file uses the same noise reduction over the entire image, meaning a balance has to be struck between smoothing the background and retaining detail. As such, our chosen settings, while appearing to retain more detail, have neither the well-defined edges or smooth background of the camera's JPEG.
Where the context-sensitive approach falls down is at transitions between areas it concludes to be smooth and those it considers detailed - leaving a pronounced 'halo' of noise at the edge of smooth regions. This, combined with the camera's tendency to sharpen edges, can leave a rather unpleasant result if you zoom in. Our test scene suggests the problem becomes visible around ISO 12,800.
We printed the central 19 x 13" of a similar image to the one shown above (such that the whole image would have been 30 x 20") and, although the effect was clearly visible, and the radical difference in noise levels across the image is slightly unusual, the results were pretty usable.
Heavy-handed noise suppression
Overall, the noise suppression is too aggressive in the JPEGs, making particularly the a7 images seem artificial at times. Naturally this can be turned down, but the default settings look way too much like a brush stroke filter has been applied. This gets worse as ISO rises.
|100% crop - Camera JPEG|
|ISO 640, F7.1, 1/250, 53mm w/28-70mm||100% crop - ACR conversion|
The birds in the above ISO 640 image look plastic, and the grass looks like a poor paint job, with very little definition. It's the opposite of what we'd expect from a 24.3MP camera, while the Raw looks noticeably better.
Overall image quality
Despite this two-page Image Quality section being full of little complaints, we were actually generally pretty impressed with the a7's image quality - particularly if you shoot Raw. The JPEGs are rather over-processed and prone to exhibit some or all of the above flaws and limitations, depending on the subject matter. Overall, they're not terrible, but we're disappointed to see such potentially limited and limiting files from a camera at this price.
In addition, despite having an anti-aliasing filter, the a7 can occasionally exhibit moiré, but it's something we only saw once or twice in the hundreds of images we shot.
One of the advantages of a full frame sensor is that its large surface area means it has the chance to receive more light, at any given set of exposure settings, than a smaller sensor. As expected, the Sony a7 performed well in low light (with the caveats we've already mentioned). Image quality from the a7 was very good in low light when detail was high, making shooting as high as ISO 6400 an easy choice.
|Sony a7 ISO 2500, F5.6, 1/80, -1EV 28-70mm lens @69mm|
Whether the degree of Raw compression concerns you is a decision for you to make for yourself. From a philosophical perspective, we're not at all happy to see this approach being taken in a camera at this level (and that becomes an even bigger concern in the a7R). As it is, the real-world impact is likely to be small, and will only have any effect from time-to-time. We're not sure buyers should have to tolerate that extra uncertainty from what is likely to be the camera they turn to for optimal results.
Raw files for download
Below are a few Raw images that you can download and tweak to your heart's content:
|Well Hello There by evancj|
from My Best Photo of the Week
|Normally Amsterdam by Rudolph Arnstein|
from Your City - Biking
|laboratory glass by bombelpl|
|57 BelAir Chevorlet by TexasGal|
from Car Shows 2018
On a hot and hazy afternoon, DPR staffer Carey Rose took the Panasonic Lumix GX9 and Lumix G Vario 35-100mm F2.8 lens to a neighborhood music festival to gather some impressions of the autofocus system. Here's what he found.
The European Imaging and Sound Association has announced the winners of its 2018-19 awards, with Sony doing particularly well and coming away with five of the eighteen prizes.
When it was introduced earlier this year, Google's new cloud storage service wasn't available to new customers. Now, anyone in the US can sign up for a Google One plan, starting at $2/month for 100GB of storage.
DJI has launched a new video teasing its upcoming launch event. The August 23 date is more than a month later than the original July 18 event date given by DJI back in June.
A veteran wildlife photographer and typically a Nikon shooter, Aaron Baggenstos took the Sony a9 on a recent trip to the Alaskan Wilderness. Find out his impressions of the camera and see some of the incredible images he was able to capture.
Parent company Longsys has announced that Lexar will be back "in full production" and shipping globally this fall.
Owners of V-mount Hasselblad lenses will now be able to use their modern and historic glass on the front of the Hasselblad X1D. The XV adapter hinted at late last year has now been officially announced and will cost €199 / $249 / £179.
Scottish whisky producer Macallen has teamed up with photographic cooperative Magnum Photos to create a single malt whisky in collaboration with Steve McCurry, Martin Parr, Paolo Pellegrin, Mark Power, Gueorgui Pinkhassov and Alec Soth.
The photography competition seeks "pictures that show the importance of health in society and the impact health issues have on people and communities worldwide."
Nikon has posted another teaser video for its upcoming full-frame mirrorless system featuring some classic Nikkor lenses. Perhaps the most notable thing about the video is the lens that's shown first...
Following the CES 2017 announcement of its revival, Kodak Alaris has started shipping test rolls of its new Ektachrome to photographers for beta testing.
Take an inside look at the work that goes into testing Nikon cameras from drops, dust, water and debris. There were definitely cameras harmed in the making of this video.
In a press release issued this morning, Sony announced it has sold more full-frame cameras than any other brand in the US over the past six months, measured both by units sold and by value.
Yuneec has introduced the Mantis Q, a consumer drone with an integrated 4K camera, electronic image stabilization and voice control.
The new 3 Legged Thing Patti is a compact tripod that doesn't break the bank.
Alex and Kathryn are photographers, friends and Tokyo residents who love exploring Japan's hidden cultural treasures. They each brought a Canon EOS M50 on a recent trip starting in bustling Tokyo and ending in the peaceful riverside town of Gujo Hachiman.
The triple-camera in Samsung's 2019 Galaxy S10 smartphone is expected to use three sensors with varying pixel counts.
Net SE, the parent company behind the likes of Oprema Jena, Meyer Optik Görlitz, Emil Busch, C.P. Goerz, Ihagee and A. Schacht products has filed for bankruptcy and removed itself from the German stock exchange.
Canon's latest 70-200mm F4L comes with a five stops of image stabilization, a new coat of paint and impressive sharpness. We've been shooting with our copy for several weeks now - see how it stacks up in our sample gallery.
Special 4K and 6K Photo modes may be one of the most under-appreciated features on recent cameras. In this week's episode, Chris and Jordan take a closer look at these modes and explain why – and when – you'll be glad to have them on your camera.
Ten years ago this month Panasonic and Olympus announced a new concept called Micro Four Thirds. We're now on the brink of full-frame mirrorless from at least one major player, so perhaps it's a good time to take a look back at where it all started – and how far we've come.
Ted Forbes of The Art of Photography breaks down five 'hacks' for organizing your camera equipment.
The City of Redding has published a series of aerial images showing the devastation caused by the ongoing Carr Fire in Shasta County, California.
Sigma full-frame Art lenses are finally available in Sony E-mount. Here's how the 85mm F1.4 Art looks on an a7R III and a7 III.
Sigma is now shipping the FE versions of its 14mm F1.8 DG HSM, 70mm F2.8 DG MACRO, and 135mm F1.8 DG HSM Art lenses that were announced in February.
We got some quick hands-on time with Samsung's newest, biggest Galaxy smartphone at the company's launch event. Here are the most noteworthy camera features we uncovered.
Leica has released the Elpro 52, a close-up lens adapter that works 3with more than 20 Leica M and TL lenses.
Nikon has released yet another teaser video for its full-frame mirrorless camera set to be announced August 23rd.