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October 22, 2013

The New Sony A7 or A7r? That is the Question!

sony-a7-w-28-70mm-oss-lens-top

The buzz and confusion on the web is high on whether to get the new Sony A7 or A7R? A lot of people think resolution is everything and are diving in for the 36mp A7r with out taking into consideration some of the features the A7 has over it. In this article I will go over the differences between the Sony A7 and A7r in detail, so you can make your decision with confidence!

For starters the Sony A7r is approximately $600 more than the A7, and besides the obvious 36mp sensor it looks identical?

Lets go over the major differences between the two models so there is no confusion.

 

Sensors – 36MP VS 24MP

Sony Alpha 7R

a7r-gappless-micro-lensThe A7R has a next generation 36mp sensor with a special gapless on chip design that utilizes offset micro lenses near the corners. This helps with the very short 18mm sensor to lens mount distance and the angle that the light is being received at. Towards the corners the angle is more extreme and gets harder for the sensor to capture the light accurately. This offset microlens technology should help with that. The higher pixel density on the sensor, the more of an issue this will be. The Nex-7 for example, suffers from this, but it does not have the offset micro lens design. The offset micro lens design is not good for legacy old school glass in my opinion. Only the the new full frame e-mount native lenses will really take advantage of the technology, and perhaps some of the other lenses with software updates. The older lenses will actually suffer a little bit in quality from this in my opinion. We shall see once more significant testing is done on the web.

Every gapless on-chip lens (OCL) is designed and positioned to cover every pixel and eliminate the spaces between the micro-lenses to collect significantly more light. Moreover, each on-chip lens is optimally positioned depending on its location to accommodate the sharper angle of light entering the periphery, which is caused by larger sensor dimensions being teamed with the E-mount’s short flange-back distance.

The 36mp sensor has no low pass filter in front of it, so expect a slightly sharper and texture rich result at the cost of some moire’ and possible banding. The larger resolution sensor also slows down the max frames per second to 4fps

Sony Alpha 7

a7-24mp-hybrid-afThe A7 has a 24mp Hybrid Sensor with much faster auto focus and significantly lower pixel density than the A7r. It’s based off the full frame A99 sensor and has been optimized somehow they say. The A7 does not have the offset micro lens design like the A7r, so corner sharpness performance may suffer a tad in comparison. We will have to wait and see some high res corner sample shots using each camera with the same lens to know for sure.

The 24mp Sony A7 sensor will be a better performer in the high ISO department thanks to the much lower pixel density. Even though it’s an older re-designed sensor from the slt-a99, the lower pixel density will almost always produce cleaner results in high ISO testing. This was very obvious on the higher density 24mp Nex-7 APS-C sensor vs the lower resolution Nex-6 16mp sensor. I preferred the lower pixel dense chip personally although both performed outstanding at normal ISO levels. I’m sure these newer sensors will be similar with the 36mp being much closer to the performance of the 24mp sensors in contrast to the Nex-7 vs Nex-6 sensors.

The A7 has a slightly faster max frames per second than the A7r with a whopping 5fps.

Enhanced Fast Hybrid auto focus combines speedy phase-detection AF with highly accurate contrast-detection AF, which has been accelerated through a new Spatial Object Detection algorithm, to achieve among the fastest auto focusing performance of any full-frame camera. First, phase-detection AF with 117 densely placed phase-detection AF points swiftly and efficiently moves the lens to bring the subject nearly into focus. Then contrast-detection AF with wide AF coverage fine-tunes the focusing in the blink of an eye.


 

Build Quality Differences

The A7r has a full metal internal chassis design while the A7 only has a half metal half plastic internal chassis design. This make the A7r more robust in build quality and also more rigid when using heavier lenses. According to initial reviews the hands-on differences is not noticeable. If you plan on using heavy lenses, the stronger A7r camera body could prove to be a better option in the long run though.

Other than that, the camera bodies are identical.

 

Legacy glass users:

Check out this great article with full res sample photos using various old school lenses mounted to the Sony A7 by Ron Scheffler: http://www.ronscheffler.com/techtalk/?p=224

Thanks to Noovuss for sharing the link!


 

Conclusion

Well, for me personally I want the faster AF for taking pictures of Layla, the dogs and whatever else I decide to shot that moves. I take landscapes photos also, but the higher res 36mp sensor optimized with no anti-aliasing filter is not the best for my needs. I’m sure many of you are looking for exactly that, but I’m more into the family fun stuff these days and capturing the action is more important to me. The A7 has significantly better af tracking abilities for both video and regular photography. So again, for me this makes perfect sense.

If your a landscape shooter, commercial photographer, stock photography shooter, or  a Pro that requires the highest resolution possible for the best price, the A7r is for you. It will take better quality images, in regards to resolution, and super fast focusing is usually not required. The higher resolution also offers more editing flexibility for advanced Photoshop enhancement type work. Resolution makes a big difference when it comes to editing fine details in images. Model editing and eye enhancement for example is much easier when you have resolution to work with. Same goes for landscapes or anything else that has to be perfect for huge prints or high res stock photography files.

If your a legacy glass user and you prefer the much older fully manual lenses, I would lean towards the lower resolution A7 camera for sure. The optimized 36mp sensor is not going to be ideal for the older glass and the 24mp sensor will do a better job in my opinion. Time will tell for sure, but it makes logical sense to me that the older lenses are not designed for the digital sensors. Lower resolution seams to work better do to the angle of light being blasted on the sensor.  I honestly don’t know how the offset micro lens design will effect the old school lens performance specifically, but from a resolution stand point, lower tends to be better.

So for $600 extra you get slower auto focus performance but significantly better resolution with next generation sensor design technology. You also get a more robust camera body and a cool red r logo next to the 7 which is very appealing I must admit ;)

What am I going to do?

I want to go with the lower resolution faster focusing Sony A7 kit w/ 28-70mm zoom lens. I’m also going to get the Metabones EF to E-Mount lens adapter, so I can use my high quality Canon EF L lenses that are currently collecting dust. I think this is the best investment choice I have currently for my needs and situation with pro gear etc..

Please feel free to ask questions if you have them or share your thoughts on the which camera your going to get and the reasons why?

Thanks again for your support and have a great day,

Jay

Pre-Order Links:

 


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Thanks,
Jay

 

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About the Author

Jay
Hello, I'm the owner and operator of SonyAlphaLab.com. Please check out the About page for a full background on myself and the Lab ;) Google+ | Twitter | RSS-feed | Email Updates!!




23 Comments


  1. Exactly my reasoning as well, Jay. All the low-light performance work I do will be made easier with the lower pixel density and better AF in the A7. It should be just like the A99 without the 1/3-stop light loss caused by the SLT, I reckon.


    • Jay

      Thanks for the comments Al, and I totally agree. The IQ should be just a tad better than the A99 thanks to the lack of any mirror as you said. And don’t forget the ever popular “Optimized” jargon which could mean better algorithms, or actual hardware modifications. I doubt the latter though ;)

      Thanks again,
      Jay


  2. LBier

    Interesting topic to be sure. Thank you Jay for posting some of the details behind all the excitement. My target would be the A7 as well. Faster AF is high on my requirements. However, I am currently of the mind to spend a bit more quality time learning/enjoying my fairly new NEX 6 + eMount Lenses. Who knows…maybe I’ll get lucky and start seeing some great deals on some of the high-end eMount lenses from current NEX owners eager to move to the FE systems. :-)


    • Jay

      Now that is some smart thinking LBier! ;) Time and practice is the best investment you can make when it comes to learning photography. A lot to learn on the camera side, but also a lot to learn on the post processing side of things, aka “the digital dark room”.

      Thanks again for the comments and sharing your thoughts on the matter,
      Jay


  3. Phiniox glade

    I just purchased the a7 with kit, battery grip, Zeiss 35mm and Metabones EF. I had hands on last night at an Australa Launch event.

    Here are my initial impression:
    Very lite and well balanced, especially with battery grip
    Very well constructed but you can feel the difference between the two models, metal is cold to touch, feels better
    Tried my Pentax Super Takamur 50mm f1.4 and it looks amazing on it
    Peaking appears to be reduced in affect
    AF speed on the A7R+35mm is snappy even in poorly lit stop at night
    A7R shutter might of been muted some, it was much quieter than the Camera Store’s review
    Grip is a little small
    NO NEX Menu, but I was told you can opt into it, why?
    35mm is small and very lite
    EVF is much better than the 5N attachment, refreshes faster I think


    • Jay

      Excellent info Phiniox and thanks for sharing the hands-on experience and purchase list. That battery grip I absolutely want also, and the 35mm lens, but will have to wait a while ;)

      Very surprised to hear you say snappy AF in low light with the A7r? What aperture, shutter speed, and ISO was the camera working on if you recall?

      Peaking levels are adjustable? perhaps they were set to low?

      The grip does look small and I had a feeling I was going to think the same as you. I wish it was a bit deeper.

      I wonder if Sony decided to change the shutter mechanism’s, because the specs say bot cameras are the same. In some of the pre-production review cameras, the A7r had a different shutter than the A7 I believe and was louder.

      Not sure why they would include the Nex menu, but it’s a nice option to have if your a total beginner to photography and picture based menu’s appeal to you. Not me, but somebody at Sony must like them!

      Nice to hear the EVF is better as well.

      Thanks again for taking the time to share all the details and info,

      Jay


  4. flavioross

    I didn’t find any difference in built quality and the focus speed. They are built like a tank! Like hi-end DSLRs.
    And The A7R have a very fast AF, much better than all NEX.
    The 35mm 2.8 looks an amazing lens! Very small, very lightweight and a snappy AF.
    The 55mm its bigger, much heavier and not as fast AF. (but the IQ is probably better).
    And the kit lens looks huge, but its VERY lightweight. Not the best built quality, but fast AF and pratically doesn’t extend.

    I was worried about the contrast AF of the A7R, but its actually very fast. I was going to buy the A7 with the 55mm 1.8, but after trying the A7R with the 35mm I don’t know anymore :D


    • Jay

      No difference is focus speed is incredible. Did you notice if the Hybrid AF was actually working on the A7?

      And The A7R have a very fast AF, much better than all NEX

      Just to clarify, your saying the New A7r contrast only AF is faster than the hybrid Nex-6 and Nex-5r hybrid AF?

      The 55mm its bigger, much heavier and not as fast AF. (but the IQ is probably better).

      Interesting about the focus speed although wide angles will be faster at focusing do to the increased scene coverage/ contrast to focus on.

      And the kit lens looks huge, but its VERY lightweight. Not the best built quality, but fast AF and practically doesn’t extend.

      Shame to hear that about the size and build quality but little extension is nice. I guess to keep the kit cost dirt cheap they had to cut corners in the build quality department. Mostly plastic construction to keep the weight down I would bet. Hopefully the optics hold up, otherwise I may go body only after hearing your hands-on experience. I will be playing with all the new Sony gear tomorrow at the photo expo, so I will have hands-on experience soon enough.

      Thanks again for all the info and clarification on a few things! I greatly appreciate it and I’m sure many other readers do as well ;)

      Jay


  5. john

    I wonder about the light gathering ability with APS-C NEX-E mount lenses –
    yes image will be cropped –

    so will I see better low light ability from the A7/R with a APS-C NEX-E mount lens VS a NEX6/7 ?

    For example the NEX6 with the 35mm F1.8 VS A7 with the same lens ?

    Will the out of focus blur be the same as well ?

    With the only very expensive Zeiss lenses so far it is hard to jump into buying the A7/R ( don’t have any A mount lenses ) –

    But if I will get better low light ability with all the APS-C E-mount lenses that I own even thought they are cropped that might push me to get the A7 ( for the phase detection ) – as around 15-16MP is enough for me so being cropped is not that terrible – can shoot panorama if need wider angle.
    Would also me nice if it created out of focus background –

    I hope Sony will produce some cheaper primes and zooms – that are not to heavy and large –

    The rumor is that Sony is not producing any fast zooms for awhile as they know they will be to heavy – I guess with current technology –

    Still need a DSLR body to hand hold a 70-200 F2.8 – so they need to be able to produce that lens lighter and smaller –

    Panasonic have produced really nice Pro fast zooms for M43 mount – the
    12-35mm F2.8 and the 35-100mm F2.8 ( equ 24-70 & 70-200 ) –
    Hopefully Sony can produce these focal lengths for the A7/R

    Otherwise the A7/R are very impressive – even though I wish there was a Touch LCD display with Touch to Shoot and Focus –
    Super happy to see that they did not use the NEX menu system –
    Very happy to see APPS and few Fn buttons and two custom settings on Mode Dial – and of course happy to see a mode dial :)
    Glad to see that nice grip and card door is not on bottom


    • Jay

      Hi John and thanks again for commenting and excellent questions.

      so will I see better low light ability from the A7/R with a APS-C NEX-E mount lens VS a NEX6/7 ?

      Yes, a little better I think, but honestly not by much. The AF is hybrid on both, but pixel density and technology are different. We will have to wait till the DXOMark sensor scores come out, and/or more testing is done to know for sure. The 24mp sensor has a lower pixel density, so when in crop factor mode the resolution will less than the A7r. How the low light IQ plays out in the “real world”, when in crop factor mode, will take a little testing. I have not scene that on the web yet.

      Will the out of focus blur be the same as well ?

      Yes, it will be the same as on the Nex-6

      The rumor is that Sony is not producing any fast zooms for awhile as they know they will be to heavy – I guess with current technology –

      Yes, they will have to be large do to the nature of optics and the 18mm flange distance. The Samnsung 60mm f/2.8 macro lens is a good example of how big a lens like that needs to be, SOny does not have one like it yet for the e-mount I suspect for the same size concerns.

      Still need a DSLR body to hand hold a 70-200 F2.8 – so they need to be able to produce that lens lighter and smaller –

      I don’t see how, other than making it all plastic and having a variable aperture. A constant f/2.8 aperture lens has to be large 200mm end. 77mm filter size is pretty much the smallest for f/2.8 lenses with a decent focal length. Perhaps a collapsible design?

      Panasonic have produced really nice Pro fast zooms for M43 mount – the
      12-35mm F2.8 and the 35-100mm F2.8 ( equ 24-70 & 70-200 ) –
      Hopefully Sony can produce these focal lengths for the A7/R

      We are talking the tiny micro 4/3rds sensor here. fast lenses for such a small sensor do not require near the amount of light, size, or glass. You need x-times more glass the larger the sensor. The lenses are excellent quality no question, but when the glass elements are 1/4 the size, you can see why the cost would be astronomical for the equivalent full frame coverage optics. Micro 4/3rds has a huge advantage in the quality optics department do to the lower cost in production/ optics.

      even though I wish there was a Touch LCD display with Touch to Shoot and Focus –
      Super happy to see that they did not use the NEX menu system –

      I agree the touch screen would be nice although I really don’t mind with all the extra buttons and hybrid af. As long as I can change the focus point really fast I’m fine with that! Apps are also a great feature that I will utilize for a variety of things most likely. My Dad gave me his old Ipad, so hopefully I can get the camera to talk to the older ipad. Will see ;)

      I will be hand holding both of these cameras tomorrow, so stay tuned for a new article with tons of photos, and my thoughts on it all. I also want to ask the reps a few questions. Hopefully there will be a few engineers at the Expo as well.

      Take care John,
      Jay


  6. Peter

    Hi Jay
    What are you going to do with your NEX-6 and E-mount lenses now that you are purchasing an A7?
    Regards
    Peter


    • Dang

      Hi Peter,

      I just got a SEL1018 lens as a gift and I’m thinking about selling my pancake 16mm and ultra converter lenses. Are you interested?

      Dang


    • Jay

      I’m still not sure Peter. I plan on keeping it for a little bit so I can test the new Zeiss Touit 55mm lens and the other zeiss zoom e-mount lens. It’s nice having such a high quality small back-up camera also ;)

      Jay


  7. Hi Jay,

    Great write up! Just what I needed to make my desicion. As a Street Photographer I will be getting the A7. Fast AF is very important to me and 24mp is plenty for what I do! Also the A7 has an Electronic Front Curtain Shutter that is essential for me.

    Cheers


    • Jay

      Thanks for the comments Spyros, I really appreciate it! :) I’m curious why the electronic front curtain shutter is essential for you? Also, is the loud shutter mechanism a concern for you on the street?

      Thanks,
      Jay


  8. One thing to note. Although the A7r doesn’t have the hybrid autofocus, with the adaptor that includes the mirror (LA-EA4) will allow phase detection autofocus with the A7r. So with some extra $$, you could have the best of both worlds.


  9. I own the nex 7. What about those lenses? Are they history because they are not full frame? I don’t think Sony should have abandoned that line of camera or the consumers that bought that camera.


    • Jay

      Hi Nick,

      Those lenses will work, just in crop factor mode. Sony still plans on keeping the APS-C sized sensor Nex cameras, as not everybody can afford the full frame. It’s a new system really, as Sony dropped the Nex. Perhaps the Nex is only for the crop factor models now? Not sure exactly.

      Jay



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