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October 26, 2013

NYC PhotoPlus Expo – Hands-On with the Sony A7 and A7r!

photoplus-expo NYC

I went down to the PhotoPlus Expo in New York City and got some Hands-On experience with the full frame Sony A7 and A7r! I pre registered for the event and drove down with my Dad. He used to work in the city for 20+ years, and was a killer asset for the drive. We had to make random tuns and the roads always split which confuses me half the time. I always get lost in those conditions and my poor track record proves it. We went over the same bridge twice last time I went down to NYC with Michele, and I really did not want to get lost again. Needless to say it was smooth sailing over the GW bridge which quickly turned into stressful 2 mile an hour madness. The city driving is totally different than what I’m used to. You have to be super aggressive to go get over a lane otherwise it will not happen! It’s crazy at first, but when everybody is driving that like it’s adaptable.

In any event, we parked at the Javitz center parking garage at about 10:15am and made our way over to the actual Photo Expo Show. We got our badges and headed into madness! It was a lot more crowded then I anticipated and I had to wait in line in order to touch any of the full frame Sony cameras. It was packed with people, and most I saw were amazed with the new Sony Full frame A7 and A7r cameras. I certainly was ๐Ÿ˜‰


a7r-battery-grip
 

Hands-On with the Sony A7 and A7r

First impression was the grip is not deep enough and the shutter button is a little high on the camera compared to my Nex-6. It felt a little awkward at first.ย  I did adjust to both differences, but would prefer a deeper grip so more of my fingers could go in, and the shutter release button could then be moved down.ย  It’s just a little bit more than the tips of my fingers and is angled outwards, which makes it harder to hold confidentlyย with one hand. You have to squeeze harder and rely on the old thumb for support.ย The deeper grip would also leave plenty of room for the additional dial like the Ultimate full frame mirrorless camera prototype I sort of designed using google sketch-up so long ago here >>

Note the grip depth and slight outward angle via the top view of the A7.

sony-a7-topvgclem-verticle-battery-grip

I really think Sony did this so the camera would not compete so hard against the New A-Mount Pro cameras that will have DSLR grips, larger battery’s, and much faster frames per second capabilities. It does not make practice sense 100%, but the cost, weight, and size were all kept down. The low cost is what makes it easy to swallow these relative minor issues I have with the ergonomics and smaller battery.

When you hold the A7 or A7r with theย Sony VGC1EM vertical battery grip the hand holding confidence comes right back. It has a deep groove down where my pinky finger fit into and gave me huge amounts of leverage. I was able to hold the camera way easier in both vertical and horizontal positions. The battery grip drastically increases the form factor of this otherwise ultra compact full frame camera system and only doubles the battery life. It’s still incredible lightweight and well built.

The grip weighs 250 grams empty + the 416 gram A7 (body only) + 2 X NP-FW50 batteries @ 57 grams each, you have ~780 grams or 27.5 oz, or 1.7 lbs. The batter grip +1 battery adds ~307 to the system. That is a light weight full frame camera system with pretty good battery life as well. I’m thinking it’s all or nothing with this system. The battery grip is a must have in my mind at this point in time. Even though it’s not hard carrying an extra battery in my pocket for the increased battery life and smaller form factor, I still think it makes sense for the ergonomics advantage.

 

Sony A7 Sample Photos

I got to hold the Sony A7 with the Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 lens first, and took a quick snapshot of a very nice gentleman across the way. The cameras were all set up different from people messing with the settings, so it took me a minute to figure out why it was taking multiple frames? Turns out the Auto ISO was set to include muti-frame noise reduction. I immediately switched it off that, because I was hand holding and wanted a simple sample photo. This was shot in jpeg mode, auto wb, and a 1/60sec, ISO 200. The shutter is also noticeable loud but I honestly can’t remember if the A7r was louder than the A7 specifically. Sorry about that. The lens and camera focused extremely fast on the face area, but do to the relatively slow shutter speed the moving camera has a little motion blur to it. The focus point is tack sharp though.

Sony A7 w/ FE 55mm f/1.8 Zeiss lens @ f/1.8, 1/60sec, ISO 200, Handheld, Jpeg

Sony A7 w/ FE 55mm f/1.8 Zeiss lens @ f/1.8, 1/60sec, ISO 200, Handheld, Jpeg

100% Crops – Click Photos!
Sony A7 w/ FE 55mm f/1.8 Zeiss lens @ f/1.8, 1/60sec, ISO 200, Handheld, Jpeg

100% Crop

Sony A7 w/ FE 55mm f/1.8 Zeiss lens @ f/1.8, 1/60sec, ISO 200, Handheld, Jpeg

100% Crop

 

I picked up another Sony A7, but this time it had the FE 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 zoom lens mounted. The zoom rubber grip area on this lens is very large and makes zooming very easy. The actual zoom itself is dampened nicely and has a quality feel in that regard. The rubber does take a way from the look of the lenses a little though in my opinion. It looks cheaper when it’s all rubber like that for whatever reason. Not true, but looks like it. The lens also only extends about 1/2 inch when zooming from 28-70mm.

G Lens 70-200mm F4 OSS Telephoto Zoom Lens (model SEL70200G) The new premium 70-200mm G Lens covers a generous zoom range of 70-200mm and is an ideal choice for travel photography and long-range shooting. The innovative optical design of the new zoom reflects its G Lens pedigree. Two ED glass elements are combined with three aspherical elements for high resolution and contrast throughout the entire zoom range, minimizing distortion and color aberration. Like the new Carl Zeiss prime lenses, the 70-200mm G model has a circular aperture that enables smooth, professional quality background defocus, and maintains a constant F4 maximum aperture for plenty of brightness at all zoom settings. It also features Optical SteadyShot to cut the effects of camera shake while shooting.First @ 28mm and the 100% center crop area and ISO 800.

Sony A7 w/ FE 28-70mm lens @ 28mm, f/3.5, 1/60sec, ISO 800, Jpeg

Sony A7 w/ FE 28-70mm lens @ 28mm, f/3.5, 1/60sec, ISO 800, Jpeg

Sony A7 w/ FE 28-70mm lens @ 28mm, f/3.5, 1/60sec, ISO 800, Jpeg

Sony A7 w/ FE 28-70mm lens @ 28mm, f/3.5, 1/60sec, ISO 800, Jpeg – 100% Crop

Now the A7 and 28-70mm lens @ 70mm and the 100% Crop of the center area. The ISO was @ 2500 so the noise reduction is pretty heavy. I honesty don’t know exactly how the camera was set otherwise. This guy totally new I was taking his photo and was kind enough to hold perfectly still ๐Ÿ˜‰ I really should have said thanks, but I will now. Thanks!

Sony A7 w/ FE 28-70mm lens @ 70mm, f/5.6, 1/80sec, ISO 2500, Jpeg

Sony A7 w/ FE 28-70mm lens @ 70mm, f/5.6, 1/80sec, ISO 2500, Jpeg

Sony A7 w/ FE 28-70mm lens @ 70mm, f/5.6, 1/80sec, ISO 2500, Jpeg

Sony A7 w/ FE 28-70mm lens @ 70mm, f/5.6, 1/80sec, ISO 2500, Jpeg – 100% Crop

 

Sony A7r Sample Photo

This Sony A7r had the LA-EA4 lens adapter mounted to it and the new, crazy expensive Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 SSM G II Lens. Check it out below first before the shabby sample photo I took rushing. It was mounted to a huge gimbal tri-pod head.

Sony A7r w/ 70-200mm lens

Sony A7r w/ LAEA4 Lens adapter and 70-200mm f/2.8 SSM G II lens

Sony A7r w/ 70-200mm lens

Sony A7r w/ 70-200mm lens

Crappy snapshot, because other people were waiting and I had to be fast. I was looking for some text and this big red Lieca sign was like a homing beacon! The camera settings were f/4, ISO 1000 and I zoomed to 200mm for the photo. I don’t know what any of the other settings were, but the focus was really fast and in the center.

Sony A7r w/ LAEA4 and 70-200mm f/2.8 SSM G II Lens

Sony A7r w/ LAEA4 and 70-200mm f/2.8 SSM G II Lens

100% crop shows just what 36mp resolution gets you, and be sure to click the photo for the larger true 100% crop. I wish there was smaller text, but what are ya going to do.

Sony A7r w/ LAEA4 and 70-200mm f/2.8 SSM G II Lens

Sony A7r w/ LAEA4 and 70-200mm f/2.8 SSM G II Lens – 100% Crop

 

Sony also had some of their new 4k video cameras on display and they were really nice looking to say the least! The 4k TV’s are also ridiculous sharp and vivid if you have not scene one yet!

Sony 4k Video Camera

Sony 4k Video Camera

 

Walking around the Show

That is about all I looked at in the Sony area, but we went over to Zeiss area next and they had a prototype 50mm f/2.8 Touit lens! It’s a 1:1 macro, but does not have a final firmware version on it yet and is still considered a prototype. The Zeiss folks were extremely nice and knowledgeable. They also let me try the lens on my Nex-6 !

Zeiss Touit 50mm f/2.8 macro lens Sample Photo – Raw

The lens was pretty long, but it’s a 1:1 macro, so the rear lens element needs to move far away from the sensor to achieve that. The length and size make sense when you factor in the 1:1 macro and fast f/2.8 aperture. It looks more cylindrical then the other touit lenses, but this lens is still a prototype they said. I apologize for not taking a picture of the lens itself, but I was baffled they actually let me try on it on my Nex-6 when I asked. Instead of taking photo of the lens, I popped off my 18-55mm kit lens off and fired a shot of my Dad who was standing to the left ๐Ÿ™‚

My Dad – Nex-6 @ f/2.8, 1/80sec, ISO 640, Raw quality strait off the camera and exported out of Lightroom 5 as 1000px, 70% quality jpeg file.

Click the photo for the Larger ~1000px version!

Sony Nex-6, Zeiss Touit 50mm f/2.8 Lens @ f/2.8 1/80sec, ISO 1000, raw

Sony Nex-6, Zeiss Touit 50mm f/2.8 Lens @ f/2.8 1/80sec, ISO 1000, raw

100% Crops – Click Photos!
Sony Nex-6, Zeiss Touit 50mm f/2.8 Lens @ f/2.8 1/80sec, ISO 1000, raw

exit sign bokeh – 100% Crop

Sony Nex-6, Zeiss Touit 50mm f/2.8 Lens @ f/2.8 1/80sec, ISO 1000, raw

100% Crop

 

Another sample photo snapshot using my Nex-6 and the E-mount Zeiss Touit 50mm F/2.8 macro Lens of a cut-away. The Touit 12mm lensย  to be more specific, looking thru the glass counter mind you:

Sony Nex-6, Zeiss Touit 50mm f/2.8 Macro Lens @ f/2.8 1/80sec, ISO 125

Sony Nex-6, Zeiss Touit 50mm f/2.8 Macro Lens @ f/2.8 1/80sec, ISO 125

Sony Nex-6, Zeiss Touit 50mm f/2.8 Macro Lens @ f/2.8 1/80sec, ISO 125

Sony Nex-6, Zeiss Touit 50mm f/2.8 Macro Lens @ f/2.8 1/80sec, ISO 125 – 100% Crop

 

Zeiss also had several cut away lenses on display which I shows off the quality and lens construction really well.ย  Check out this really large wide angle lens.

Zeiss Cut-away lenn

Zeiss Cut-away lens

They also had the 70-200mm cinema grade lens on display:

Zeiss 70-200mm cinema lens

Zeiss 70-200mm cinema lens

And more…

Zeiss M Display

Zeiss M Display

 

Closing Remarks:

We had a great time at the show and I must tell you the Sony A7 and A7r full frame cameras are worth consideration. They are not perfect, but the build quality, low weight, and small size make up for the short comings in my opinion. Also the battery grip drastically improves the ergonomics although increasing the form factor significantly. The overall weight is still under two pounds and were talking full frame! I figure I can take the battery grip off for the times that I want the smallest form factor possible, and simple carry an extra battery which I already do. If I’m going to do a lot of hand holding, the battery grip is the way to go for larger hands and myself. Double the battery life is also a nice gain.

FE lenses were all nice that I tried. Build quality was great on the Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 lens, and all the others I tried as I said above in more detail.

In the end, the A7r focused really fast as everybody is saying, but I could not get a sample photo with that particular camera unfortunately It was the one with the battery grip I believe. Also the reps were saying the shutter mechanisms are different on the A7r and A7 which I also heard, but the specs are vague in that regard. I’ll try and track down all those details and update this article as necessary ๐Ÿ˜‰

Thanks again for checking out SonyAlphLab.com. Please feel free to ask questions and comment below, and also consider using our links which help us out at absolutely no cost to you. Your support is greatly appreciated!

Jay

 

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About the Author

Jay
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12 Comments


  1. Noovuss

    Thanks for a great report from my trusted source, you.
    I wish I could have had a chance to handle the cameras, they look great.
    So in your mind is it A7 or A7r?


    • Jay

      Thanks Noovus,

      I really need to see how good the new 36mp sensor is in direct comparison to the 24mp sensor. The af performance also needs to be tested head to head. I honestly can’t say to then it’s that hard of a decision! The contrast only af on the new 36mp sensor was excellent when I used it briefly, but moving subjects and successful hit rates are another story. I’m sure somebody will have a head to head test once all the firmware are up to date ๐Ÿ˜‰ I should be getting the A7 pretty soon also, but will have to wait for the A7r another month or so. Will probably know by then.

      Sorry I can’t give you a cut and dry yes or know, but 36mp and no anti-aliasing filter is awful tempting when the focus seems super fast and accurate? Also the micro lens technology has got to do something measurable in the corners. Not on old school glass necessarily though.

      Catch up with you later,
      Jay


  2. flavioross

    When Im trying a camera I always reset to the factory presets, because people before you always mess up. ๐Ÿ˜€

    The grip is the same as the NEX, but the body itself is thicker so it fells a bit awkward.
    The controls and the build quality are amazing, love the exposure comp. dial in the right. Just the shutter button is a bit soft? I don’t know, I was trying to just AF, but always pressed too much.

    About the shutter, they are the same in both cameras, You can change to electronic first curtain shutter in the A7, so it can sound a bit different, but loud as.

    Have you tried with the 35mm? Its feels and looks amazing! At least for me ๐Ÿ˜€ The zoom is a bit big and the 55 a bit heavy.. Im definitely going to buy that 35mm, as much I like the good classic 50mm.


    • Jay

      Flavio,

      Thanks for the comments and that is a very good idea! The grip on the A7 and A7r does appear very similar to the Nex-6, but something is different about it. Perhaps the thickness of the camera is what is making the difference, but I don’t think so. I think it’s the actual shape of the inner part where my finger tips go. It’s impossible to tell from the on-line photos as I just compared them. I had my Nex-6 in hand at the show and could feel the difference. Maybe it’s just the balance and weight of the camera.

      About the shutter. The specs say they are the same, but the Sony reps where saying they are different. A7r having the slower slightly louder shutter is what I heard. I know the specs say the shutter mechanism’s are the same though.

      I held the A7 with all the lenses, but honestly did not get a good enough time with the 35mm lens. The 50mm did seam a bit heavier though! The kit zoom I really didn’t think was that big or that heavy, considering the full frame coverage and range. It required two hands to zoom, so maybe that is why I didn’t notice as much. I need more time with both cameras and my Nex-6 in hand.

      Jay


  3. Very envious of your hands-on with the A7-twins, mate ๐Ÿ™‚ While handling the A7 did you gauge the shutter noise to be similar-to or louder than the NEX-6? I know the NEX-6 shutter flip sound well so it’s an easy compare-o ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Still the A7 for me if I get one, although knowing the focus speed on the A7r is fast makes me very happy ๐Ÿ™‚


  4. It seems that unless any real tests are conducted it’s very difficult to gauge what the real differences between the two models are…I ordered the a7 but now I’m shifting to the a7r since a lot of people say the shutter sound is the same and AF is negligibly different also …I wish Sony would have been more specific with the pros and cons of each by giving some real numbers on Af speed image noise differences shutter differences and which is better or worse for certain types of photography etc…


    • Jay

      Hi Alexandros and thanks for the comments,

      Yes, you are correct and I totally agree. The confusion is completely unnecessary and could easily be cleared up by Sony, but we will have to wait for hands-on user reports. Preferable real world head to head testing ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Jay


  5. Tom

    Hi Jay,

    I currently have the Nex 6 and a couple of e mount lenses of course .I am thinking of upgrading to the A7 ( selling the Nex6) . I don’t have any other lenses apart from the E mount ones for my Nex.

    I note the current lenses being released for the A7 are expensive being Zeiss and Sony G .I don’t have a big budget so wondering what would be a more affordable alternative for me – should I just bite the bullet and start of with the new 35mm Zeiss FE lens or could you recommend some cheaper alternatives from the A mount range that I could use with the adaptors. What adapter should I get ?

    I know there is a lot to these questions but any advise appreciated .Having read your website I do value your opinion. Thanks,Tom


    • flavioross

      The A7 comes with the kit lens (28-70mm) for only $300 more. Its a good start.


    • Jay

      Hi Tom and thanks for the comments/ questions ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Flavio has a great point about the kit lens. Otherwise, you could get the LA-EA3 lens adapter and use standard A-Mount lenses if you want. The LAEA4 is the more advanced version with faster focusing abilities. You can certainly save a few pennies going down that road, but at the cost of size and weight.

      If you have the cash, it might be worth bitting the bullet honestly. Compactness wise it’s much better using a native FE-mount lens. Quality and cost wise, not necessarily the case. You could get some affordable a-mount lenses, but why bother? I would consider saving and getting the quality optics one at a time. In the mean time, you can use your crop factor lenses or the kit zoom?

      If you don’t mind manual lenses, you can save tons of money and get some old school glass that covers full frame. I don’t think you will get such a killer image result though as the Native Zeiss. Ultimate Lens and Lens Adapters Combos >>

      I was going to go with the kit lens personally and then save for a prime or two. I want the coverage the zoom offers so I can just take one lens out with me, like thew 18-55 with the Nex-6 for example.

      I hope that helps,
      Jay


      • Tom

        thanks Jay and also thanks flavioross – good advice .

        I think I will ask Santa for the Zeiss 35mm ๐Ÿ™‚



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