Sony Alpha a7 Review

Even though the small system camera market is still quite new to the camera industry, it continues to be able to generate new cameras that cause a minor systemic disruption.

The Alpha A7 and Alpha A7R were Sony’s initial forays into the full-frame photography market. Although the Alpha A7 II and the Alpha A7 III have since supplanted it, it is still readily accessible and more affordable than before.

The Alpha A7 (also known as the Sony ILCE7KB by certain shops) is well worth a look if you’re looking for a very economical way to start into full-frame photography, even though performance is a little sluggish in comparison to newer versions.

With its persistent determination to lead the way in consumer electronics, Sony is no stranger to innovation. Therefore, it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that it introduced the first tiny system camera with a full-frame sensor to the market.

There are two versions of the A7: one with a 24.3 million-pixel sensor and the other (the A7R) with a 36.4 million-pixel sensor that offers better resolution but no anti-aliasing filter.

The A7 is a little more affordable than its AA filter-less sister, as one might anticipate. However, both seem to offer decent value for the money when compared to comparable full-frame cameras available on the market.

Building Standards and Design

The A7 is small compared to other full-frame interchangeable lens cameras like the Nikon D610 or Canon EOS 6D, despite the fact that the camera itself is significantly larger than NEX cameras, which have an APS-C-sized sensor.

Despite this, the grip is still very substantial and provides good support, especially when operating the camera one-handed. Some people will like the camera’s slightly boxy overall look, while others won’t.

It’s true that it lacks the classic beauty of Fuji’s X system cameras, but there’s something appealingly straightforward about it. The camera has a satisfyingly large number of dials and buttons, which will be valued by the aficionados it is targeting.

Another benefit of using the camera one-handedly is that the bulk of the buttons are clustered on the right side of the device and are simple for the thumb to access.

A mode dial for changing between the available exposure modes, such as aperture priority and shutter priority, is located on top of the camera. Additionally, there is room for up to two groups of configurable settings here, which is helpful if you frequently shoot in a certain environment, like low light.

Depending on the shooting mode, a scrolling dial is located just above the hand grip and can be used to adjust settings like the aperture or shutter speed. When operating the camera with one hand, it is conveniently located and feels like an extension of your finger.

There is a second scrolling dial on the back of the camera, where your thumb would normally rest, that may be used to adjust the aperture or shutter speed as well. Using the front dial for aperture and the back dial for the shutter speed when shooting in fully manual mode allows for a highly fluid workflow.

Another beneficial feature when shooting one-handedly is the exposure compensation dial, which is similarly located on top of the camera and is easy — but crucially, not too easily — adjustable with your thumb.

The degree of customization available on Sony cameras is one of their best features. The three buttons on the a7 are all marked with the letter “c,” which stands for customizable. Additionally, several of the other buttons can be customized, giving you a lot of user-friendly flexibility depending on how you choose to work.

The Sony a7 has a tilting LCD screen, albeit it is only partially articulated and is, therefore, better suited for capturing portraits. This feature is helpful for photographing from odd angles. You can tilt it up to take pictures at high angles, like above your head, or down to compose from above.

The c1 button on the top plate must first be pressed to display “focus settings” in order to modify the focusing point. Then, you travel around the screen to the desired spot by using the directional arrow keys. Although it is faster than some other Sony cameras, using a touchscreen is still much faster, which might be frustrating if you need to work quickly.

You may now choose between a small, medium, or big AF point for the first time on a Sony system camera. When you want to concentrate on a certain detail, this is useful.

Additionally, there is an electronic viewfinder with a remarkable 2.4 million dots at a half-inch size. An eye sensor, which is very practical, guarantees an almost flawless transition between the LCD and EVF. Additionally, the EVF is bright and crisp, which makes it a pleasure to use.

It might be challenging to persuade conventional full-frame users of the advantages of using an electronic viewfinder because of the negative reputation that electronic viewfinders have previously had. But they are diverse, and one of them lets you know right away if you got the shot you needed.

The menu system is generally logically organized and should be familiar to anyone who has used Sony cameras in the past. The NEX menu system can be a little challenging to use at times, so Sony’s decision to adopt the Alpha menu system for the a7 is, in my opinion, a blessing.

Performance

Two of the most anticipated cameras to be unveiled this year are the A7 and the A7R, which mark a significant advancement in mirrorless technology. Given that both models used the Sony Alpha 99 basic sensor, which we already knew to be a capable performer, we had extremely high expectations for both models.

Fortunately, we have not been let down by the photographs the A7 can produce. Despite being the less expensive and higher resolution of the two Sony cameras, it is more than capable of competing on image quality alone.

The colors are nicely depicted, often bold and vivid without being overly vibrant. Vivid and Black and White are only a couple of the Creative Styles that are accessible if you need to alter the camera’s output of color. Skin tones are likewise extremely natural, and skies are well-represented with little sign of cyan tones.

A combination deal for the A7 and the 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 FE lens is available. Even though it’s a good enough walk-around lens to get you started, the full-frame sensor really doesn’t deserve a lens like this.

Consider using this camera as a body-only alternative and avoiding the zoom lenses, which are admittedly more expensive. When utilizing the 24-70mm optic, some of the detail that the camera’s 24 million pixel sensor can resolve is lost, especially around the borders of the frame.

In general, the Alpha 7’s metering system works well when set to Multi (all-purpose), though you might need to adjust the exposure correction when photographing scenes with strong contrast or in extremely dark environments. In these situations, using an electronic viewfinder is advantageous because it shows a real-time preview of the image.

In a similar vein, the automatic white balance option manages most conditions rather well, however it tends to overexpose color casts when shooting in artificial light. In these circumstances, it makes sense to compensate by changing to a more suitable white balance setting.

The Nikon D610 and Canon 6D are two additional full-frame cameras that Sony asserts are outperformed by the Sony A7 in terms of autofocusing speed. While it is true in excellent lighting, it performs worse than those cameras in low light.

In excellent lighting, autofocusing is rapid, immediately locking on, and generally accurate. As the light level decreases, autofocus hunts a little bit more and occasionally produces a false positive.

With a larger sensor, the camera should perform better in low-light, high-sensitivity settings than its brothers and rivals with smaller sensors. Actually, it is.

It’s not until ISO 6400 that noise really starts to show up, and even then, only when you’re zooming in on photographs to hunt for problems. Noise doesn’t really start to be noticeable until around ISO 1600. It is more than fine to share at standard web sizes or print at A4 (or smaller) at these levels.

The A7 has a Dynamic Range Optimiser, like other Sony cameras. You can opt to have this turned off, left on automatic, or adjusted to one of five levels (with one being the most subtle). This effectively creates balanced exposures in situations where the contrast may otherwise cause the camera to malfunction.

I opted to leave it on automatic the majority of the time, going to level four or five only when the situation required a drastic contrast. This occasionally causes the image to appear a little artificial. But if you don’t want to spend a lot of time editing your images in post-production, it’s a good alternative.

Although Sony designed this camera with more experienced photographers in mind, it doesn’t scrimp on the creative opportunities it provides. There are Creative Styles, which are always available to shoot, even while shooting in raw format. This is fantastic news if you wish to work with a “clean” version of the image in the future.

Additionally, there are Picture Effects, which regrettably still cannot be captured in raw format. The reason we repeat bringing up this issue with Sony cameras is that, while it may first seem like a good idea to shoot in certain modes, such as Toy Camera, later on, you may wish you had an unadulterated version to work with. On the plus side, utilizing filters lets you maintain total manual control.

Additionally, there is a Sweep Panorama mode, which Sony invented a few years back. By sweeping it across the environment in front of you, you can essentially create panoramic photographs in the camera.

This mode produces high-quality pictures that are perfect for sharing online. There is some indication of image smoothing in the panoramic photos it creates when viewed at 100%, but generally speaking, there isn’t much proof of recurring patterns.

The A7’s battery life is one of its main flaws. Given that the camera only lasted about half a day during testing, it cannot possibly compete with full-frame DSLRs like the D610. Therefore, it is advised that at least one additional battery be bought. Although it would be good, it doesn’t seem realistic that Sony will include a spare in the packaging.

Sony Alpha a7 Specifications

MSRP$1699.99 / £1299 (body only), $1999.99 / £1549 (with 28-70mm F3.5-5.6 lens)
Body type
Body typeSLR-style mirrorless
Body materialMagnesium alloy
Sensor
Max resolution6000 x 4000
Other resolutions6000 x 3376, 3936 x 2624, 3936 x 2216, 3008 x 1688, 3008 x 2000
Image ratio w:h3:2, 16:9
Effective pixels24 megapixels
Sensor photo detectors25 megapixels
Sensor sizeFull frame (35.8 x 23.9 mm)
Sensor typeCMOS
ProcessorBionz X
Color spacesRGB, AdobeRGB
Color filter arrayPrimary color filter
Image
ISO100-25600
Boosted ISO (minimum)50
White balance presets10
Custom white balanceYes
Image stabilizationNo
Uncompressed formatRAW
JPEG quality levelsExtra fine, fine, standard
File formatJPEG (DCF 2.0, EXIF 2.3)RAW (ARW 2.3)
Image parametersStandard, Vivid, Neutral, Clear, Deep, Light, Portrait, Landscape, Sunset, Night Scene, Autumn Leaves, Black & White, Sepia
Optics & Focus
AutofocusContrast Detect (sensor)Phase DetectMulti-areaCenterSelective single-pointSingleContinuousFace DetectionLive View
Autofocus assist lampYes
Digital zoomYes (4)
Manual focusYes
Number of focus points117
Lens mountSony E
Screen / viewfinder
Articulated LCDTilting
Screen size3″
Screen dots1,230,000
Touch screenNo
Screen typeXtra Fine LCD
Live viewYes
Viewfinder typeElectronic
Viewfinder coverage100%
Viewfinder magnification0.71×
Viewfinder resolution2,359,000
Photography features
Minimum shutter speed30 sec
Maximum shutter speed1/8000 sec
Exposure modesAutoProgramAperture priorityShutter priorityManual
Scene modesPortrait, Landscape, Macro, Sports Action, Sunset, Night Portrait, Night Scene, Hand-held Twilight, Anti Motion Blur
Built-in flashNo
External flashYes (via Multi Interface shoe)
Drive modesSingle, continuous, speed priority continuous, self-timer, bracketing (AE, white balance, DRO)
Continuous drive5.0 fps
Self-timerYes (2 or 10 sec; continuous (3 or 5 exposures))
Metering modesMultiCenter-weightedSpot
Exposure compensation±5 (at 1/3 EV, 1/2 EV steps)
AE Bracketing±5 (3, 5 frames at 1/3 EV, 1/2 EV, 2/3 EV, 1 EV, 2 EV steps)
WB BracketingYes
Videography features
Resolutions1920 x 1080 (60p, 60i, 24p), 1440 x 1080 (30p), 640 x 480 (30p)
FormatMPEG-4, AVCHD
Videography notesheadphone and microphone ports, XLR support via adapter
MicrophoneStereo
SpeakerMono
Storage
Storage typesSD/SDHC/SDXC, Memory Stick Duo/Pro Duo/Pro-HG Duo
Connectivity
USBUSB 2.0 (480 Mbit/sec)
HDMIYes (micro-HDMI port with 4K still, uncompressed video output)
Microphone portYes
Headphone portYes
WirelessBuilt-In
Wireless noteswith NFC and wireless control via the PlayMemories Mobile app
Remote controlYes (wired)
Physical
Environmentally sealedYes
BatteryBattery Pack
Battery descriptionNP-FW50 lithium-ion battery and charger
Battery Life (CIPA)340
Weight (inc. batteries)474 g (1.04 lb / 16.72 oz)
Dimensions127 x 94 x 48 mm (5 x 3.7 x 1.89″)
Other features
Orientation sensorYes
Timelapse recordingNo
GPSNone

Conclusion

Once again, Sony has set the bar high by delivering a cutting-edge camera. Is this the end of the conventional DSLR? is likely the first question that everyone will start to ask now.

Although the Alpha 7 is far from flawless, it does represent a real advancement in camera technology that may completely revolutionize how we think about interchangeable-lens cameras.

The image quality is excellent, as we had hoped and anticipated, but the 28-70mm kit lens needs a lot of work. Although we advise sticking with prime lenses, the supplied lens can also take some attractive shots if you feel that you would lose the versatility that a zoom would offer.

We won’t be hesitant to test out the impending 24-70mm f/2.8 Zeiss lens because the system’s lens selection is currently too constrained to be considered fully developed. Although it won’t be cheap, it should be a step up from the 28-70mm Sony lens’s price range. That being stated, this is a good alternative to take into account for anyone considering converting from other cameras or companies.

For additional A-mount optics, Sony has a specialized adapter, while third-party manufacturers like Metabones also sell converters for Canon and Nikon. Since you don’t have to throw away your existing lenses if you own a lot of lenses, that makes the A7 even more alluring.

This camera is brought straight up to speed with the addition of Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity, and it’s excellent to be able to rapidly ping a picture to your smartphone for immediate uploading to a social networking site.

This does, however, bring up the one obvious flaw that unaccountably plagues many Sony cameras: the absence of a touchscreen. It’s true that having one isn’t strictly necessary for operability, but when you consider that choosing the AF point is a little more difficult than it should be, a touchscreen would immediately fix that issue.

It would be helpful for playback image assessment as well. Other than that, it does a good job and it’s interesting to see a tilting device on a full-frame model (notice that Sony is the only manufacturer to provide it).

The battery life issue is also a major one. The battery life of this camera is subpar to say the least, especially when compared to other full-frame cameras, particularly DSLRs because it requires continual power for its full-frame sensor, beautiful screen, and EVF.

To use this for a day’s worth of shooting, you must have at least one spare battery, which is pretty much a given.

Pros & Cons

Good For
  • screen that tilts
  • 100% of the frame
  • body is thin
  • small size
Need Improvements
  • limited collection of lenses
  • insufficient raw functionality
  • no touch screen

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