Sony Alpha 7R Review
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:
|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 magnesium alloy 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.
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:
|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.
24mm full-frame lens - APS-C Crop Off
24mm APS-C lens - APS-C Crop Off
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?|
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.
|scrum break away by al booth|
from Sport competition
|Chinese Acrobat by lim yau tong|
|Parking Deck by Olaf R|
from Your City - Parking Garage
|Communication Tech by alberto_b|
|With & without by OBellini|
from Empty - Full
When one of his friends got a filter stuck on his $1,700 Canon EF 24-70mm F2.8L, former MythBuster Adam Savage removed it using an unlikely, terrifying tool: a band saw.
The New Yorker asked Magnum's famed photographers, in town for the agency's 70th anniversary, to go out and capture 'the fleeting beauty of New York City's golden hour.' This is what they shot.
Roger Cicala is a difficult man to impress, but he's been waxing lyrical over at Lensrentals about Sony's new 12-24mm wide zoom.
Glassware is one of the most challenging subjects to photograph, especially against a white background. This tutorial shows you how to do it with hardly any gear.
Handevision is now shipping its all-metal Iberit 90mm F2.4 short telephoto lens for Leica M-mount 35mm and full-frame cameras.
Isocell comprises four sub-brands: Bright, Fast, Slim and Dual which are tailored to specific mobile device market demands.
The new store will be located at the Fotografiska center for contemporary photography in Stockhom, Sweden and carry the full range of Hasselblad products.
A recent vacation gave Richard a chance to think about the needs of travel photography – and how our reviews might recognize the perfect travel camera.
Need more evidence that 2017 is the year analog begins its comeback? Well, welcome another new film stock to the world.
The winners of the 10th annual iPhone Photography Awards have been announced, and they're striking.
If you were disappointed by reports that the Sony a9 struggles with adapted Canon glass, you might be able to take some comfort from Metabones' latest update.
Blackmagic Design has dropped the prices of its Video Assist external monitor/recorders for a limited time. Prices of the SD card-based recorders will be reduced in all markets, while supplies last.
Instagram has started testing a new feature called 'favorites' that enables users to share photos with only certain people. Only a small number of users have access to the feature at this time, though it may roll out to everyone in the future.
Lensbaby has announced the Velvet 85 F1.8 for interchangeable lens cameras. The lens is available in Canon, Nikon, Sony E, Sony A, Pentax K, Samsung NX, Fuji X and Micro 4/3 mounts.
It's the end of an era. Parent company Micron has announced that they are discontinuing the Lexar retail brand. This includes 'memory cards, USB flash drives, readers, and storage drives.'
Youthful trainspotter turned adult photographer, John Sanderson has traveled across the United States, documenting the country's railroads. But you won't find any trains in his pictures.
Sony's new CMOS sensor is backside-illuminated and offers an all-pixel global reset function which should drastically reduce rolling shutter effect when panning.
Shoulderpod has converted its offerings into a lego-like modular system by offering all individual parts of existing products separately, allowing users to build exactly the rig they need for a specific project or simply replace a damaged part.
Photographer Felix AAA has spent the past ten years touring the world with a variety of musicians, capturing behind the scenes shots and portraits. He talks about some of his favorite images on the FujiFilm Blog.
A roll of film discovered in an Argus C2 from an Oregon Goodwill turned out to contain some incredible images – and has been re-united with the original owner's family.
Nikon's 28mm F1.4E ED appears to roundly complete the company's updated lineup of fast, professional prime lenses. We've already seen some initial images from a Nikon ambassador, but we've worked through a gallery of our own, with a lens of our own over the past week. Take a look.
Google is holding a competition that could see your Pixel photos gracing millions of screens.
Nikon's 100th birthday party continues worldwide as a distributor in Italy organized a one-of-a-kind feat: assembling the world's largest 'human camera' from over a thousand volunteers.
Ricoh has dropped the price of its Theta SC 360 spherical camera by to $199, a reduction of roughly $50. The camera features two 12MP sensors and can record Full HD video in addition to stills.
Photojournalist Pete Souza served as the presidential photographer for both Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama. In an interview with fellow photographer Marcia Nighswander, he discusses several of his most noteworthy images.
Photographer Michael Wolf has been documenting the crowded conditions of Tokyo's subway trains since the 1990s. The photos have gone viral regularly in the years since he started the project, and he just published the final edition in the series.
The just-launched OnePlus 5 is getting a minor update that should improve camera function.
A Belgian camera shop is showing off an extremely rare, limited 'Rex Edition' Nikon D500. The cosmetic alterations were provided by a customer's German Shepherd Rex, who got ahold of the camera within a day of its purchase.
Adobe says that many of its users have been relying on SkyBox for VR editing and it therefore made sense to make the plug-ins available to all subscribers through Creative Cloud.
The Pictar grip provides a number of customizable physical controls for your iPhone camera, but at its price point we would like to see better materials and build quality.