Sony has surprised many when released RX1, a full frame sensor camera that easily fit in the compact range in terms of its size. I did not think then that the RX1 will be more than an experiment. Sony has experienced much in the photo domain, and in recent years the company has had success with NEX series mirrorless devices. In this respect, Alpha A7 might seem a logical extension of the range. We will see that, despite appearances, this device is an important step in photo industry in general.
Alongside Alpha A7, Sony has launched an Alpha A7R model. In terms of construction, the two are differentiated only by the name on the case. A7R, however, comes with another sensor and a different focus. If A7 is full frame 24 MP, A7R received a 36 MP sensor with optical low-pass filter. The focus is no longer made in the hybrid model that we tested here, being used only difference contrast method.
If you compare the size of Sony A7 with those of the smallest DSLR with full frame sensor on the market, you will understand why this is a very important model. Canon EOS 6D and Nikon D610 are much larger and heavier. This could be inserted a discussion of preferences photographers. They are not looking forward to Alpha A7 for several reasons, one of them being the weight. In other words, it is not hard enough. The ordinary working hours with top DSLRs do not have problems with a few hundred extra grams and greater weight make the device more stable in the hand.
The present review is not written from the perspective of a professional photographer, so the lower weight of the Sony Alpha A7 will be considered an advantage. To arrive at the figure of 474 g with battery included, its body is made of magnesium alloy. In addition, the housing is resistant to moisture and dirt. It appears to be formed of a metal block, which have been attached to various parts. Grip is covered with a rubberized material, extending the side and rear.
At first glance, Sony A7 should have very good ergonomics. Grip is not very high, however, at least not for the weight of the unit. Those who frequently use a DSLR will immediately feel the difference. Those familiar with other mirrorless cameras from Sony will notice similar design to the patterns of NEX-6 or NEX-7.
I appreciated every time the large number of buttons and rollers from a camera. Alpha A7 has no less than four wheels to adjust the camera parameters. I did not take into account the wheel for shooting modes. The ring around the shutter does not operate the optical zoom, but turns the device on or off. A first customizable button is next to the wheel to adjust exposure.
On the opposite side of the grip we find two plastic caps that hide the camera connectors. Under the first cover we find two 3.5mm jacks. They allow you to connect a pair of headphones and an external microphone. Under the second cover are microUSB jack and micro HDMI video output. First plug has several functions and can be used to connect a remote control, battery charging and PC connection. Card slot is easily accessible, being covered by a lid that closes securely. Being located in the back of Sony A7 fixing a tripod does not prevent access to the card. On the same side of the grip we find two symbols, a WiFi and one for NFC.
- Sensor: 24.7 MP Exmor CMOS, 36 x 24 mm
- Photo resolution: 6000x4000
- Image Processor: Bionz X
- ISO Values: 100-25600
- Kit lens: 28-70 mm of F3.6 - 5.6
- Focus: hybrid phase 117 points, 25 points contrast
- Exposure time: 1/8000 s - 30 and bulb
- Battery: FW50, 1080 mAh, 340 shots CIPA
- Dimensions: 127 x 94 x 48 mm
- Weight: 474 g (body with battery)
For those who are not familiar with the full frame term, it establishes a framework similar sized to camera sensor from the old 35mm film. This format was used in top digital models, dedicated to professionals photographers.
Usually a larger sensor needs a directly proportional mount. Sony surprised us using for Alpha A7 the E mount from NEX series mirrorless cameras.
Screen and optical eyepiece
The camera screen is not new. We're talking about a quality panel with good resolution and excellent viewing angles. It can be tilted vertically in both directions, is very useful in many situations. The images seem to show more than 30 fps, and the display has very low delay. I expected to be better eyepiece than the screen, but not quite so. OLED panel resolution is great, but the response time isn't significant.
Sony A7 has a hybrid AF, which should provide good performance. In practice, it is quite fast in most situations, the user having access to a range of options for the area of focus. Although it has a focus assist lamp in low light, I discovered that the camera focuses faster when it is disabled. Burst shooting is possible with continuous focus, but it must remain in the focus center of the frame.
Expectations are high from a camera with a full frame sensor and Sony A7 manages to impress in principle. A larger sensor means more light can be analyzed, so low light performance will be better home than the smaller sensors. The A7 can shoot frames at ISO 3200 without being stressed too much image quality. Unfortunately, Sony has implemented a very aggressive algorithm to reduce image noise. JPEGs are a little too processed and artifacts are easily visible. Level Noise Reduction can be changed, but most experienced photographers will prefer to work with RAW format. Visible results can be better and will highlight the true performance of this mirrorless device.
First mirrorless camera with full frame sensor from Sony is an impressive technological exercise. It brings to this market a new level of photo quality, accessible by now only at high end DSLR cameras. Compact and well-built body of the device offers a large number of buttons and wheels to control parameters. The screen is hinged with an electronic viewfinder, which however failed to impress.
Image quality is very good, but the full potential of the sensor is achieved with processed photos in RAW format. Sony A7 is an excellent camera for filming, with support for external microphone and manual adjustment of parameters. The presence of WiFi and NFC module allows users to quickly upload images on the Internet.