a7R (Alpha 7R) Interchangeable Lens Camera
The future of photography!
I fully recommend the a7R to all photographers. This is an inclusive statement because once you take a picture, it is legacy; and, at the end of the eon, whoever you immortalize might as well appear a goddess. Sony has changed the nature of photography by packing tons of technology into a 1 pound system that makes high quality compositions easy. The resolution and technology to capture images—even in near darkness—can be so much better than the naked eye, that you can take pictures of a starry sky or a curvaceous leaf only to find that you opened new realms of detection. The A7R system is the new paradigm of photography: It adapts to the widest array of accessories from other cameras; and it works like your eye and brain, together, to do things like no other camera. Online magazine reviewers meticulously describe the A7R and I would encourage visiting a couple of sites for deeper technical insights. Indeed, my comments tend toward the philosophical and may assist in the selection of accessories. I preordered, as follows: Sony Alpha A7R 36 MegaPixel Resolution Interchangeable Lens Mirrorless Digital Camera, A7R ILCE-7R/B Body; A to E mount lens adapter, LA-EA4; extra Battery Pack, NP-FW50; 2 years service plan, PP80H; and Carl Zeiss Prime Lens Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8, SEL55 F18Z. This parts list is to say that the A7R is a body that needs accessories to function—a $$$ expenditure to get started. With other Sony equipment in hand, including 32-64 Gigabyte SDHC cards, Alpha twin flash, Zeiss filters and Minolta A-mount lenses, I used the A to E Mount lens adapter for macro, landscape and night photography while I waited for my Sony FE lens to arrive. Set on spot autofocus, images taken with my 25 year old glass were razor sharp through the translucent mirror of the LA-EA4 adapter. The A7R is as much computer as it is camera; however, the training handoff is consistent with my Nex, Alpha, and Cybershot RX1 cameras. Automated functions like Superior Auto are so much fun that, honestly, the A7R makes a great a point & shoot camera that promotes constant play; however, be forewarned that SCN functions cannot be used in RAW format. In its place, set the A7R at Extra Fine image quality. Shooting a night display of luminarias on Hand-held Twilight yielded fabulous images at F/2.8 and ISO 6400. Later, I captured a full moon against a blue-black night sky and rich silhouetted trees by setting the A7R to Night Scene. Portrait and Sports Action settings are good at making relatives look their best. Panorama is cool because it makes any lens super wide angle by stitching shots together. Clear Image Zoom makes the A7R + prime lens into a zoom for video. For example, 2X Clear Image Zoom through the Sony FE 55 mm prime lens, takes it up to 110 mm telephoto; and it does close-ups or video portraits with marvelous F/1.8 bokeh. In a manner of speaking, just as our brains compensate for optical illusions, the A7R compensates for my brain forgetting, or not wanting, to bring the macro- or zoom lens along. Of course, there are technical tradeoffs, but the point is that this hybridization of electronics and optics opens our eyes to new ways of doing things.
Utilization of Minolta lenses on the A7R gave me a chance to sample a number of features, but after the prime Zeiss lens arrived, I could not find a reason to use the old glass anymore. As a prime lens and body unit, the resolution of this camera is so many times better than the human eye that it becomes important to step up technique for pro applications. Blow still life subjects off with a blast of air, wipe up smudges, and brush lint off. If hair is out of place, comb it back. Preparation matters because you want the model, and not the dustbunny, to pop. Hold the camera against a wall, rock, or fence; steady the lens under a sealed sandbag; and stabilize it on a monopod or tripod; otherwise, vibration and shaking will result in telltale tracks that you will see in enlargements. It helps to use a cable release or an iPad for remote shutter release. The iPad also serves as a large viewfinder on which you can pick up details. The iPad also assists when taking pictures at ground level or when shooting stars. For image processing of RAW compositions, download the free software for Sony ARW (RAW image processor) that is specific to your operating system. Transferring image folders directly from SDHC card is faster than WiFi, although WiFi may be more convenient when there are only a couple of files to work on. I do not use Tap and Send NFC because RAW files are 36 MB each and impact the capacity of my mobile telephone. I prefer to take the SDHC out of the A7R, insert it in the card slot on the side of my MacAir and drag the image folder to my laptop. When you order flash memory cards, specify Class 10, Secure Digital High Capacity SDHC or SDHX with the largest capacities and highest affordable transfer speeds. I have two SDHC cards, Sony SF32UX/TQ, that are ultra high speed and perfectly compatible with the A7R. I switch SDHC cards out for file downloads between shooting sessions and have never come close to running out of storage space. For studio shots, I set A7R quality to JPEG RAW and then Preview JPEGs on my laptop to quickly select the best RAW images. Finally, I delete the rejects and upload RAW & TIFF files to iCloud, Creative Cloud, SkyDrive, AT&T Locker, etc. Since the A7R was delivered, my smallest prints have been 8X10s, while the images are sufficiently high in resolution for me to transition the majority to 2X3 ft poster size—and I intend to do 3X4 ft prints next. As soon as Sony comes out with the Full Frame E-mount 22 mm F/1.4 ZA prime lens for the A7R, I will be carrying the A7R system fulltime. Snap the lens hood on, set the A7R on a weighted tripod at ISO 64 & RAW and you will never see a grainy enlargement ever again. Set the A7R on Auto and hand it to your teenager and you may inspire the next generation of electronics-optics photographer. There are yet, a dozen features that I have to master, but the A7R system is already my creative AI.
January 7, 2014
Great new camera...easy to carry, sharp focus
I had an NEX7, which I always thought was a pretty good value, but this blows it away. Plenty of file, and best part is, you can use with Voigtlander manual focus lenses with the OLED finder and truly get right "on" with the magnifier mode.
The camera lags a little still, but not terrible. I have a Canon markIII, and this one is still quickly becoming my main shooter.
December 22, 2013
Finest Full Frame Image Quality
I'm using the camera with the 35mm f/2.8 lens and plan on getting more FE lenses in the future. I use the spot AF (and move it around the screen if necessary to select the area I want to focus on). and for landscapes I often use manual focus. You can customize the various buttons to your heart's content and I have. I have one of the buttons do spot AF when I'm in manual focus mode. It's easy to switch between the two (or more) options. I can get consistent exact focus easily via the EVF and magnify the view while handholding the camera. With the 36mp DSLR I used to have I had a hard time getting exact focus even with that camera was on a tripod and using live view. The a7r is totally superior.
The a7r with the 35mm lens provides image quality that is overall the best I have seen - similar sharpness to the 36mp DSLR (also w/o anti-aliasing filter, like the a7r) I used to have, but with a more natural rendering of detail, and in addition I prefer the color rendering of the a7r.
I turned the Pre-Af focus off (otherwise, when the camera is set to AF mode then it will continuously attempt to focus on whatever the lens is looking at, even though I'm not pressing the shutter button). Battery life is not great and the shutter sound is more than I expected for a mirrorless camera. I wouldn't recommend the camera as the best option for fast action sports, or for shooting silently in churches etc. But for just about everything else it's a winner.
To be able to get class leading image quality and ease of use in a package (body and lens) that is a pleasure to carry around (as opposed to a real pain in the neck with the usual heavy and bulky DSLR and honking big and heavy lens) is really wonderful.
December 15, 2013
So you want higher resolution....
I was one of the first to purchase the A900 and have never regretted it. Nikon and Canon users have laughed at my "Sony", that is until they saw the images I had made...idiots...but I digress.
This is an impressive little camera! Little, because it is about a third smaller than my a900 and much lighter...even with the additional vertical grip. This will only be a preliminary review, I am still getting acquainted with the camera.
First, I didn't purchase the "E mount" lens because I have a few "A mounts" and had purchased the LA-EA4 adapter. The adapter and camera does function as advertised. My old Minolta lenses even work as well on this camera as they did on the a900. However, to get the full benefits of the higher resolution, you will need superior glass. While I could see some difference between my average priced and higher quality lenses on my a900, the differences on the a7r are obvious. Super rich detail and image quality on the higher priced lenses, especially the primes!
Image quality - what you see is what you get. Color and exposure are phenomenal! No surprises when you open your images for editing. Color is extremely true to life.
Electronic viewfinder - I was not thrilled about the loss of the optical viewfinder but the resolution on this thing is incredible. Not only that, the focus assist and level tools are something you couldn't have with the OFV. Focus assist, when in manual mode, is a cool little tool that highlights the area in focus with either red, white, or yellow highlights. I am preferring it over auto focus...and I wear bifocal glasses!
WiFi - I have already connected my android Motorola Matrix phone to the camera. I can view the live image on my phone and activate the shutter release. Not much else at this point, but I think that is a matter of time.
Build quality - solid, well made.
The shutter release sound is not as loud as people have commented on, at least in my opinion. I also have not noticed the delay in depressing the shutter release I have read about in early pre-release reviews.
My biggest caution concerning this camera? With no in camera image stabilization, you will definitely need a good solid tripod.
Adobe Raw 8.3 with support for this camera is out and was included in the last CS6 update I ran.
Accessories I have purchased - "A" mount adapter, vertical grip, and battery charger...will review separately.
I will follow up this review after I get more familiar with the camera, but so far I am please with my purchase and am looking forward to getting the camera out in the field.
December 14, 2013