Sony Alpha 7 Review
While the Alpha 7 and 7R are E-mount cameras, Sony has mercifully installed the tab-based menu from the company's DSLRs instead. While a drastic improvement over the NEX menus, this system still has 131 options spread over 24 pages, which can be overwhelming at first.
In general, the most commonly accessed settings are near the front of the menu, though a few things could be moved around. Overall organization could be a lot better, as finding the setting you're looking for can be like finding a needle in a haystack.
The rear dial can be used to scroll through pages, while the front dial scrolls up and down through the options, though it doesn't loop onto the next page if you reach the bottom or top of the page you're on. Naturally, you can also use the four-way controller on the rear of the camera to navigate through the menus. We don't like how much button pressing it takes to switch tabs. Unlike Canon and Nikon, you must scroll all the way up to the top of the menu to reach the tabs, and which point you can switch between them.
|The optional NEX-like Tile Menu allows you to jump directly to the section of the menu that you desire.|
For those who miss the NEX-style menus, Sony offers the Tile Menu shown above, though it's merely a gateway to the normal menus.
|You'll often bump into 'grayed-out' menu options, which display vague error messages if you select them.|
One of the most frustrating aspects of both the a7 and the NEX models that precede it are the frequent, unhelpful errors that pop-up when a menu item cannot be selected. Often these errors simply tell you what mode you're in (see above), rather that would mode you should be in to adjust a certain setting.
The seven shooting menu pages contains the most commonly used settings, which include image size, focus mode, ISO sensitivity, and white balance - plus several options related to movie recording.
|Option||Values / Actions||Notes|
|[Stills] Image size|| • L: 24M (20M in 16:9)
• M: 12M (8.7M in 16:9)
• S: 6M (5.1M in 16:9)
|- 6000 x 4000 (6000 x 3376 in 16:9)
- 3936 x 2624 (3936 x 2216 in 16:9)
- 3008 x 2000 (3008 x 1688 in 16:9)
|[Stills] Aspect Ratio|| • 3:2
|[Stills] Quality|| • RAW
• RAW & JPEG
• Extra Fine
|Raw & JPEG creates a Fine JPEG|
|Panorama: Size|| • Standard
|Only available in Panorama mode|
|Panorama: Detection|| • Right
|Only available in Panorama mode|
|[Movie] File format|| • AVCHD
|[Movie] record setting|| • 60i 24M (FX)
• 60i 17M (FH)
• 60p 28M (PS)
• 24p 24M (FX)
• 24p 17M (FH)
|Drive mode|| • Single shooting
• Continuous shooting
• Speed priority cont.
• Self-timer (continuous)
• Continuous bracket (AE)
• Single bracket (AE)
• WB bracket
• DRO bracket
• Flash off
|Flash comp.||• -3EV to +3EV||In 1/3EV increments|
|Redeye reduction|| • On
|Off is the default|
|Focus mode|| • Single-shot (AF-S)
• Continuous AF (AF-C)
|DMF (direct manual focus) lets you use both auto and manual focus at the same time.|
|Focus area|| • Wide
• Flexible spot
|Flexible spot offers three focus point sizes: small, medium. and large.|
|Focus settings||• Adjust focus point||Lets you move around the focus point.|
|[Stills] AF illuminator|| • Auto (on)
|Exposure comp.||• -5EV to +5EV|
|Exposure step|| • 0.5EV
|ISO|| • Multi Frame NR
• 50 - 25600 (1/3EV steps)
Multi Frame NR combines several exposures into a single image in order to reduce noise., and is only available for JPEGs.
You can select the minimum and maximum sensitivity for the Auto ISO setting. ISO 50 - 80 are 'extensions'.
|Metering mode|| • Multi
|White balance|| • Auto
• Warm white fluorescent
• Cool white fluorescent
• Day white fluorescent
• Daylight florescent
• Underwater auto
• Color temp/filter
• Custom 1/2/3
• Custom setup
|The color temperature range is 2500K - 9900K. All white balance settings can be fine-tuned in the amber-blue and/or green-magenta direction.|
|DRO / Auto HDR|| • D-R Off
• DRO (Auto, Lv1 - Lv5)
• HDR (Auto, ±1EV - ±6EV)
|HDR is only available for JPEGs.|
|Creative Style|| • Standard
• Night scene
• Autumn leaves
• Black & White
For each of these you can adjust contrast, saturation, and sharpness.
Up to six custom Styles can be saved in memory.
|Picture Effect|| • Off
• Toy camera
• Pop color
• Retro photo
• Soft high-key
• Partial color
• High contrast mono
• Soft focus
• HDR painting
• Rich-tone mono
|Several of these effects can be adjusted to your liking. None are available when shooting Raw.|
|Zoom|| • Optical zoom (w/power zoom)
• Digital zoom
|If a power zoom lens is attached, this option will operate it. You can also add in 'clear image zoom' or traditional (lossy) digital zoom.|
|Focus magnifier||• Activate||Enlarges the frame when manually focusing so you can confirm proper focus.|
|[Stills] Long exposure NR|| • On
|[Stills] High ISO NR|| • Normal
|Lock-on AF|| • Off
• On (start w/shutter)
|Attempts to track a subject which you've selected. The start w/shutter option is only available in C-AF mode.|
|Choose from slight, normal, and big smile for the last option.|
|[Stills] Soft skin effect|| • Off
|Choose from low, middle, and high settings.|
|[Stills] Auto obj. framing|| • Off
|Will automatically crop photos using the rule-of-thirds. The original (uncropped) image is saved.|
|Auto mode|| • Intelligent Auto
• Superior Auto
|Choose which point-and-shoot mode you wish to use. Both offer automatic scene selection, with the latter adding multi-shot modes like HDR.|
|Scene selection|| • Portrait
• Sports action
• Night scene
• Hand-held twilight
• Night portrait
• Anti Motion Blur
|The hand-held twilight and Anti Motion Blur modes shoot a series of images and combine them in order to reduce noise and blur.|
|Movie|| • Program Auto
• Aperture Priority
• Shutter Priority
|Select the exposure mode when the mode dial is set to the 'movie' position.|
|SteadyShot|| • On
|Turns on image stabilization when a compatible lens is attached.|
|[Stills] Color space|| • sRGB
|[Movie] Auto slow shutter|| • Off
|Whether the camera uses a slower shutter speed when recording movies in low light.|
|Audio recording|| • On
|Audio rec level|| • Up (+)
• Down (-)
|Adjusts the mic level when the mode dial is set to 'movie'|
|Audio out timing|| • Live
• Lip sync
|Whether audio and video are synced|
|Wind noise reduction|| • On
|Memory||• Adjust||Save your favorite camera settings to the MR 1/2 spots on the mode dial.|
Custom settings menu
You'll find many of the less-commonly accessed settings in the custom settings menu. Some notable items include focus peaking and button customizations, as well as an item for disabling the movie recording button.
|Option||Values / Actions||Notes|
|Zebra|| • Off
• 70 - 100+
|Shows a zebra pattern over parts of an image that exceed the brightness level you've chosen.|
|[Stills] MF assist|| • On
|Enlarges the frame for ease in manual focusing.|
|Focus magnification time|| • 2 sec
• 5 sec
• No limit
|Amount of time that MF assist is displayed.|
|Grid line|| • Off
• Diag + Square grid
• Square grid
• Rule of 3rds grid
|Audio level display|| • On
|Peaking level|| • Off
|Peaking color|| • White
|Exposure set. guide|| • On
|Displays a shutter speed/aperture guide at the bottom of the display.|
|Live view display|| • Setting effect on
• Setting effect off
|Whether or not images on the LCD/EVF reflect exposure, white balance, Picture Effects, and Creative Styles.|
|Phase detect area||
|Displays the areas of the frame covered by the phase detect AF system.|
|Camera continuously focuses, even without shutter release halfway-pressed.|
|Zoom setting|| • Optical zoom
• Clear Image Zoom
• Digital zoom
|What occurs when you select the 'zoom' option mentioned above. Clear Image Zoom is lossless (but requires lowering the resolution), while standard digital zoom reduces image quality.|
|[Stills] Eye-start AF|| • On
|Starts focusing when you put your eye to the EVF. Only works with A-mount lenses using the LA-EA2/EA4 adapter.|
|Finder/Monitor|| • Auto
|Use the eye sensor or select the display manually.|
|Release w/o lens||
|[Stills] AF w/shutter|| • On
|[Stills] AEL w/shutter|| • Auto
|e-Front curtain shutter|| • On
|Shortens the lag time between shutter releases.|
|Superior auto image extract|| • Auto
|Whether all images taken continuously in Superior Auto mode are saved.|
|Exp. comp set|| • Ambient & flash
• Ambient only
|Reset EV comp.|| • Maintain
|Whether exposure compensation value set in the shooting menu is maintained when camera is powered off. Only functions when EV dial is set to 0.|
|Bracket order|| • 0/-/+
|Face registration|| • New registration
• Order exchange
• Delete all
|Registered faces get priority when multiple faces are detected.|
|APS-C size capture|| • On
|Whether camera automatically reduces the resolution to 10M when an APS-C lens is attached. The 'on' setting crops the image regardless of the lens. You can also turn off the crop feature, if you don't mind a lot of vignetting.|
|AF micro adj.|| • AF adjustment set
|Only available with A-mount lenses|
|Lens comp.|| • Shading comp.
• Chromatic aberration corr.
• Distortion comp.
|Functions are only available with E-mount lenses. Distortion correct may be fixed at 'Auto' with certain lenses.|
|Function menu set.|| • Function upper 1-6
• Function lower 1-6
|See table on Controls page|
|Custom key set.|| • Control wheel
• AEL button
• AF/MF button
• Custom button 1-3
• Center button
• Left button
• Right button
• Down button
|See table on Controls page|
|Dial setup|| • Rear: shutter, Front: aperture
• Rear: aperture, Front: shutter
|Dial EV comp.|| • Off
• Front dial
• Rear dial
|Allows you to adjust the exposure comp. when one of the dials. Main EV dial must be set to zero.|
|Movie button|| • Always
• Movie mode only
|Prevents the user from accidentally recording video in still shooting modes.|
|Dial/wheel lock|| • Lock
|Lock option deactivates all dials, unless the Fn button is held down.|
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