|Sony a7 Series: From Snapshots to Great Shots
by Brian Smith
|Expert Shield - THE Crystal Clear Screen Protector for: (Sony A7 Full Frame / A7R / A7S Crystal Clear)
|Foto&Tech IR Wireless Remote Control for Sony Alpha Cameras A9, A7R II, A7 II, A7 A7R A7S A6500 A6300 A6000 A55 A65 A77 A99 A900 A700 A580 A560 A550 A500 A450 A390 A380, NEX-7 NEX-6 NEX-5T NEX-5R
No other full frame, interchangeable-lens camera is this light or this portable. 24.3 MP of rich detail. A true-to-life 2.4 million dot OLED viewfinder. Wi-Fi sharing and an expandable shoe system. It's all the full-frame performance you ever wanted in a compact size that will change your perspective entirely.
Most helpful customer reviews
361 of 383 people found the following review helpful.
Razor sharp images ... With different glass than the kit lens
There are many excellent reviews on here, so I thougt I would focus (no pun intended) on how to get good inexpensive lenses for the camera that will make it shine and give you a well rounded start at your kit without leaving you begging for food on the freeway exit ramp. I purchased the A7K (the one with the 28-70 kit lens). I do semi-pro work with photography and videography. I know good glass, but on the photography side have elected to stay away from the larger 5D MIII AND D800(E) cameras ... Just wanted to be more portable and stealthy in my street photography. I own a Sony RX1 with a DXO RATING OF 93 on the that sensor coupled with the excellent Zeiss f2.0. The sensor on the A7K has a DXO rating of 90 so it's a little less than the RX1. That's not to say the A7 is not sharp ... It is very, very sharp ... Just not with the kit lens.
So ... I took my excellent Sigma 30mm f2.8 from my Nex 6 and removed the baffle ( a common mod since then the Sigma can cover full frame). And there is a very, very tiny amount of vignetting at f2.8 and is actually very good up to around f4. All the vignetting is so light it can easily be removed in Lightroom. But that lense is absolutely tack sharp in the IQ department. Check all the reviews ... This is a $199 lens that rivals the new Sony FE 35mm f2.8 at a fourth of the cost (with the baffle removed ... 3 tiny screws and 3 minutes of work).
Then I researched and got the Samyang 14mm f2.8 super wide. This lense retails for around $348 on amazon, and has been tested by different mags and dozens of reviews to be practically equivalent to a $1400 super wide. You can get this lens under the Rokinon branding. The only thing is, of course, is that you have to use this lense with an adaptor to the e-mount. Since I use the inexpensive Sony LEA-1, it does not auto focus (the lens would not support it anyway) ... So you have to manually focus. I find that with this lens, the A7 peaking function is a little off or uncertain, so I simply assign the C1 custom button to the focus magnifier function and eyeball it without peaking instead.
But ... My star lens is the Sony A-mount SAL50M28 50mm f2.8. I put this beauty on the A7 via the LEA-1 adaptor, and beautiful things happen. That A7 is predictable and dead on accurate. And the peaking is full off until exactly (not almost) in focus. That makes manually focusing with mid level peaking fast, effortless and very accurate ... An absolute pleasure to use. This is the only lense I have used thus far that makes me feel just as comfortable shooting as I do with auto focus shooting. Plus (the very best part) the lense is unbelievably sharp and flat across the frame. When I saw that 16 people on Amazon gave it five stars, I was skeptical ... But now, I'm a believer. Amazing sharpness and even though, yes 50mm is handy for macro work, this lens is da bomb for street photography. Chances are I will rarely take this lens off my camera. Even for 50mm landscape shots, a 100% crop reveals individual pine needles on a pine tree at 120 yards away ... With dead on color and absolutely no noise or optical distortion. The lens is completely flat and is about 1:1.1 or 1:1.2 ... In other words, subjects in your images look the same size as what your eyes see.
This $598 sony 50mm just boosted the sharpness of my A7 to what seems to be slightly beyond 5D MIII territory. And finally that lens, with the small Sony adaptor attached is about the same size as the original A7 kit lens. Before, I just had a pro camera ... Now I am getting pro images out of it. What a difference! All else with the camera is high quality, pro build and everything I could hope for in manual control functions that are all easily assignable to the many physical controls that are easily and intuitively placed around the camera. So now, with an Nex-6, a Canon T2i, a Sony RX1 and my new A7, I finally feel like things are reasonaby well covered. But the A7 takes me into another league altogether. It's easy to carry with me, I get pro results, it's rock solid, ultra configurable to the way I want to shoot, etc. We're having fun now.
UPDATE: I was so impressed with the leap in IQ from the Alpha A-mount lenses that I purchased the LA-EA4 adaptor. This is the adaptor you want ... fast AF and actually much smaller looking and feeling than what the pictures of it on the camera would seem to indicate. If fact, I am so impressed by the auto focusing response and lightness of the unit that I decided to simply make the A-mounts my lens collection. Of course I save a lot of money, but once I research the lenses for 5 star average reviews, I can buy them at around 50 to 60 percent what the FE lenses would cost. So far, in addition to the (not so sharp) 28-70 kit lens that came with the A7, I have the A-mount Sony 50mm F2.8 ($450), the Sony 50mm F1.4 ($550), and a SUPERB Sony 100mm F2.8 ($800). These are all full frame lenses and the pros who have used them are virtually unanimous on their virtues.
At first glance it may seem that I do a lot of macro work since the 50f2.8 and 50f1.4 and 100f2.8 are all hyped as macro lenses. But, even though they seem to be superb at macro shooting, my purpose was use in street photography. Everyone knows the 50mm is preferred by many street photographers, thus the purchase of the two 50mm lenses. But, sometime I don't want to get too close to my subject so that I can capture the moment without them feeling uncomfortable or ruining the look and feel I am trying to capture. The 100mm f2.8 gives me that bit of telephoto but is still razor sharp like a good quality prime should be. It let's me be about twice the distance away while shooting and still fill the frame with my subject scene.
IMHO ... A KEY TO GREAT IQ ON THE A7 ... No matter what you've heard about 1/60th of a second being fast enough to freeze the action in street scenes, switch to M (manual mode) on your mode dial. Then set your Aperture to either shallow depth of field (f1.4-3.2, etc) or deep depth of field (f8-16) and put the shutter speed at minimum 1/320th second. With this camera you have nothing to worry about when in Manual mode. Your auto focus still works, you select the aperture you want for bokeh or for focus across the frame with one of the two horizontal dials, then set, and forget, the shutter speed to 1/320 to 1/500th second with the other horizontal dial.
The reason why this setup is key is that the lack of sharpness the A7 sometimes exhibits in images can be traced to too slow of a shutter speed. Now you may be thinking, "Well ... DUH?" But remember, in addition to hand steadiness, you can also have camera vibration from the shutter event itself. Your hand may be relatively steady, and your subject relatively still, but camera vibration can still sabotage your shot ... even at 1/60th of a second. A fast shutter speed will capture the picture before the vibration "echoes" reverberate through the camera body. Forgive the technical stuff, I'm a scientist by training :) When you leave the shutter speed at this fast speed, you only have to decide which effect you want your aperture to have and set it. THE COOL THING IS ... the A7 will continue to set the ISO automatically for you, if you have set the menu selection for ISO to AUTO. So, your shot always turns out! You can even set the bracketing for AUTO ISO in the menu system to make sure the camera does not select an ISO that is too noisy (higher than 3200 or 6400). While the A7 can remain relatively noiseless until around 3200, a shot at 6400 is completely usable in all but the largest print sizes ... and 6400 shots are better than missing the shots. That's why I set my upper ISO limit to 6400. Shots that have a little ambient light usually never take my A7 above 1600-3200 ISO so I'm usually safe.
So, you can see that shooting in M, with the shutter frozen at faster speeds, then simply choosing Aperture for whatever you happen to be shooting that day, can be like an AUTO mode since the camera will make it all right for you with the AUTO ISO. I usually agree with the ISO the AUTO ISO sets, so I'm happy. The end result of this coffee-powered write-up is that, with the shutter speed at 1/320 to 1/500, the 100% crops on my images have improved in sharpness by close to 300% from what they were when the camera selected 1/60th to 1/80th sec shutter speed. Again, I think this is likely due to camera vibration rather than lack of steady hand ... though both are important. With the kit lens, I now have a family of 4 lenses, 3 of which produce great IQ, that auto focus fast and produce very good results. It may be a long time before I feel the need to buy any FE lens. I know they will be good, but they are somewhat expensive. With the A-mounts, I spent a lot less getting my kit outfitted (and let my wallet cool off), plus, I have everything I need today ... instead of having to wait a year or two. The key to this plan was the LA-EA4 adaptor which only adds about 10-15% to the overall size and mass of the camera plus lens unit. You have a great camera! Enjoy it.
106 of 111 people found the following review helpful.
Think about it.
Solid camera when you consider the price point. I've owned and shot lots of Sony cameras including the A900, A77, A77II and A99 a bit. While I have not owned the smaller APSC cameras, I do own a full M43 Olympus system- all high quality primes. Here are my thoughts after a few months of use.
1) Grip is fine. Shutter placement is overstated- you learn to adapt quickly. Although, the placement of your thumb is a much bigger issue. Zero place to put it in the back and you often reach for the edge of the viewfinder to get a grip. Hump on top means no thumb grip- bummer.
2) Dials are very good. I love the ISO dial up top- nailed it! Controls are fairly easy to use and default settings are quite intuitive.
3) Wobbling mount? You'll hear this smack talk from time to time. It's not a problem- it's a minor issue. It's so minor to not even be an issue. I've hung a 135mm 1.8 Zeiss off the front no issues. My thoughts- be mindful of how you hold your camera.
4) EVF eye sensor could be placed higher. It trips easily when the back screen is pulled out. Very annoying- a fix on the A7II.
5) I find if you have fast modern glass it's a bit of a pass. Doesn't match well and feels a bit off balance.
6) Manual focus lenses are good, but adapters add bulk. Best option is VM lenses from Zeiss, Voigtlander. Even Contax are a good option. I use Minolta MD right now and I'm satisfied.
Battery life is not good. Is it a big deal? No- but many modern and modest priced DSLR's can do up to and beyond a thousand shots on a single battery. FORGET ABOUT IT with the A7. This translates into frustration if you spend a lot of time composing with the camera on. It eats batteries since you can't shut the camera off while doing so- such as in the case of a big OVF. You either like it or you don't. Deal breaker- no. Work around needed- yes.
Native lens selection is costly and limited at this point (minus the new 28mm 2.8). Get ready to shell out $$$$ and still be stuck with so so AF and slower options for zooms (think f4). The 55mm 1.8 is a bargain for what it can do- I agree on that lens. 35mm 2.8? Mediocre and overpriced. All of the lenses they have slated coming out this year are big. They are BIG...not like 'big' but literally BIIIGGGG. Add to that almost zero third party lens support.
This leads me to the thought process for most consumers getting around this camera- adapted lenses. It's worth it depending on what quality you are use too. Some of Minolta MD's are becoming harder to find, but 50mm, 135's- all day long and cheap. Don't want 6 bladed harsh bokeh and poor wide open contrast? Step up to Contax, Zeiss, Voigtlander- but get ready to pay more. Contax will give you AF with a good adapter- score!
Want wide? This is where it gets tricky. The rangefinder lenses below 35 suffer from vignetting due to the short flange distance and digital sensor. You need to adapt over DSLR lenses- bigger adapter and often bigger lenses. Still doesn't completely solve the problem, but it's workable. However, this is were this camera should be able to excel- small lenses at modest focal lengths. It's the sweet spot. I don't think it's worth mounting anything over 50mm on it...certainly not anything fast over 135 at 3.5.
I digress, because I do like the camera. My conclusion is that it is a niche product at the present moment. Want to shoot a wedding with it? Pass. Better options for far less. Want to do fast sports or fast tracking- certainly not. Can it be done? Yes, but we're comparing how your $$$ translates from one camera to the next. You can stretch the dollar seriously further elsewhere.
A nod to Loxia. Loxia lenses make sense on this camera. These small Zeiss manual only lenses balance well, but they are 1k or more for performance you could get elsewhere at half the price. Most of those adapted lenses with inexpensive adapters will also give you zero EXIF data. Even worse, many of those cheap adapters do not tell you what aperature your are at. They simply indicate "open- closed."
It's a good camera for the money and it's fun to play around with. No need to explain much further other than the basic user experience is solid. However, I'd be cautious investing INTO the system beyond a body and some manual focus lenses. Got a draw of em'? This is your guy. Want fast modern or specialty lenses and plan on it being your primary system? You can always adapt a zeiss Canon onto an A7- not the other way around. Think about economies here. It's still very much a system in the making.
Keep in mind- Voigtlander is coming out with a new 15mm 4.5 III hellinar. It's great, but the price announced is 200 euros more than the previous version- get ready to pay yet again. If you want wide, you can't do it cheap yet with this system. You can't. Don't think a Tokina 17mm RMC 3.5 will cut it either. Those older lenses have horrible contrast despite really good sharpness- I've tried. You can't fix it all in post processing. Biggest problem is flaring and ghosting wide open.
Many of you will buy it because it's cheap. I find Olympus and their "cheap" 25 and 45 lenses offer a lot of bang for the buck at a better price. There bodies and lenses are all modern and a product of a digital design. Hard to tell the difference in many casesl. Except, I like the colors and dynamic range of sony sensors- can't argue with that. Doesn't always matter. If your reading these reviews it's because you want the camera. I'm a camera addict, so what can I say- nothing will change that. What I am saying is before you buy...grab an A77II, Pentax K3, Olympus EM10....there are some sick products out right now much better suited to a wide variety of situations with excellent IQ. If you have to have that full frame then consider the fact that even D800's can be had for 1700 used these days- even less. Just saying. Happy shooting.
I still have it. I'm about to break a record as I rarely go above a few months before selling off my camera for another. The reasons aren't quite as straighforward I'm afraid. For one, Sony keeps slashing the price like crazy on this. It is now worth less on the used market than a 7 year old Sony A900- which has retained it's value for the past 2.5 years at around 900 dollars. The fast release cycle Sony is putting out is literally killing any resale value these first round of A7's should have had. I feel sorry for the folks who bought this brand new and 1.5 years later have taken a 1k hit should they sell it on ebay (I'm factoring in seller fees).
With that said...you know...it's a pretty tight camera. It gets the job done and doesn't complain. The build isn't great, but it's not bad either. The shutter noise is annoying and hallow sounding but not too annoying that you want to smash it. It's light- that's for sure. You get to appreciating that after a long walk. At this point, I'd chalk it up to being above average in image quality and just average in overall execution of hardware. It's still worth it though. At the prices these are going for you're really getting a steal. Just remember that by time it reaches your door step it'll probably be worth 100 bucks less than when you bought it. I would not be surprised if in a year it's going for 600 or less slightly used. The first 500 dollar barely used Full Frame easy to grab on the market- folks, it's quickly becoming a reality.
111 of 116 people found the following review helpful.
A perfect balance between artistry, gadgetry and nostalgia
By Dr JS
As a 20+ years Canon shooter, leaving Canon is one the hardest decision I have ever made. But at the end, SONY's little Alpha 7 have won me over. Let's be perfectly clear, this Camera is not right for everyone. Whether or not you like this Camera, will depend on your shooting style, shooting history, and technical competency. Here is a list of pros and cons for me:
* One of the best full size sensor currently on market
* One incredible performer in low light
* A beautiful electronic viewfinder and under most conditions make you forget you are not using an optical viewfinder
* Very helpful focus aid for manual focus shooters (peaking and magnification)
* Professional quality bodies with well thought out designs
* Very small and light (with the right lenses)
* Short flange focal distance means almost all vantage manual focus lenses can be adopted
* Body very aggressively priced at $1700. With discount, it is an even better deal.
* Good WIFI implementation and connectivity to the web and smartphones. A well thought-out strategy for social media/sharing
* Paucity of full frame E lenses and lenses are very expensive
* Battery drains fast
* JPG quality leaves something to be desired
* Doesn't come with a dedicated charger
* Some control are less intuitive and not as conventional
* AF is still sluggish compared to high end DSLR
* Lack accessories to support studio shooting (ie. wireless flash controller)
While sports and bird photographers will be underwhelmed by the lack of lenses selection and slow AF performance, street and travel photographers would be equally delighted by this camera's image quality, weight reduction and portability. Case and point, A7 with a 35mm Zeiss prime lens weights a mere 530 g or just only slightly over one pound! For discreet street photography, it doesn't get any better than this. In this regard, A7 probably best approximate the Lecia M9 rangefinder experience for street photography. Of course, Lecia will sets you back $7000 for body only!
One reason for me to pickup this Camera is its ability to shoot many (or should I say almost all) of the legacy manual focused glasses. Any vantage glasses from the famous last year (Canon, Lecia, Nikon, Olympus, etc) can be adapted to be used on this camera. If you don't mind working in manual focus mode, these lenses produces very respectable images with classical 60/70/80s flares. Working with these lenses bought me back to the days when I was learning how to take pictures on my father's Canon AE1. In fact, I took very first few pictures on this Camera with his 50mm FD lenses. Although I bought my Camera with a nicely appointed 35mm Zeiss 2.8 lenses, it left neglected in my covered while I was busy exploring one vantage after another. A7's ability to use these lenses its full frame glory, is nothing short of a revelation. SONY's ability to focus peak and magnify view finder on the fly, make using manual focus vantage lenses a joy. In fact, I think this Camera is best enjoyed with small and fast light prime lenses from the 80s. For example, the Canon FD looks to be made for the SONYs both in style and performance. Lecia glasses are simply stunning both in quality and appearance when mated to the A7.
A7 is an extraordinary complex camera with a lot of options. It is a sad thing that SONY didn't include a manual with the box and the online manual doesn't help but scratch the bare surface of its capabilities. It will take time, dedication, and no how to master this camera. Even thought some of the control and menu still feels some what less thought out comparing to professional photography tools from Nikon and Canon. With this said, a little familiarization and work is all that stood between hours after hours of enjoyment.
I find working with A7 is a more deliberate picture making process. This is not good or bad, just different. This again reminds me how I used to take pictures shooting film. With this said, A7 has no shortage of modern gadget appeals. SONY has a well implemented WIFI application suite which is sure to please many. Right in the camera, you can establish direct link with smartphone/tablet, upload photos to computer and post pictures to facebook/flickr. The remote shooting application is intriguing and sure to delight my kids' self addictive generation. SONY also have downloadable applications which you can get/buy to compliment this Camera's appeal.
To summarize, A7 is a beautifully crafted piece of engineering marvel and a perfect balance between artistry, gadgetry and nostalgia. It may not be a perfect camera, but SONY gets my vote for its forward thinking and innovation.