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Dec 23

Review: Sony A7

Conclusion

Pros

  • Ruggedly built body with excellent grip that feels great in the hand
  • Well placed controls make shooting easy
  • Outstanding electronic viewfinder (EVF) that is big, clear and beautiful
  • Full-frame sensor yields exceptional RAW image quality with tons of detail, amazing dynamic range and excellent noise control
  • Autofocus is quick and accurate, and yields usable continuous AF as well
  • Rear tilt screen is bright and clear
  • Wi-Fi works well and allows for remote control of the camera and image transfer with ease
  • Provides a great platform for adapting manual focus lenses

Cons

  • JPEG quality is a big letdown with tons of artifacts and smoothing issues
  • Automatic white balance is poor, yielding images with notable color casts out of camera
  • Focus peaking works well for visibility, but isn’t particularly precise
  • Only 2.5 frames per second in autofocus tracking mode
  • Startup takes a while and there is some shutter lag
  • Shutter is loud
  • Battery life is mediocre
  • No touch screen

The A7 has been billed as a revolution in the industry.  I’m not sure it’s quite up to that level, but it certainly does move the goalposts a bit.  Overall, Sony has made an extremely compelling camera in the A7.    When I tested the NEX-7 last year, I was left feeling that it was a very good camera, but I never took to it.  I didn’t enjoy shooting the NEX-7, and I feared the same would be true with the A7, but I was pleasantly surprised.  With the A7, Sony has created a camera that has a brilliant viewfinder, excellent ergonomics and an outstanding sensor.  The resulting experience is unique in the mirrorless world.

On the image quality front, the RAW files are the best on any mirrorless camera I’ve ever tried, and I’d imagine only the A7r will meet or exceed that level in the near term.  Images have excellent dynamic range, great noise control and lots of detail.  On the downside, the JPEG engine that Sony is using is downright awful, which is a big disappointment.

The A7 may not be the world’s most responsive camera, but it succeeds in that department by never getting in the way.  As a result, it’s a pleasure to shoot with. There are definitely some improvements to be made here, but there’s no denying that the A7 is a powerhouse imagine machine with great autofocus and even better image quality.  The A7 is a great camera and a wonderful start to Sony’s new full-frame lineup.

Image Samples

Click on any image to enlarge

Sunset - Sony A7 with Zeiss FE 35mm f/2.8 @ ISO 100

Sunset – Sony A7 with Zeiss FE 35mm f/2.8 @ ISO 100

Winter Street - Sony A7 with Zeiss FE 35mm f/2.8 @ ISO 200

Winter Street – Sony A7 with Zeiss FE 35mm f/2.8 @ ISO 200

Sony A7 with Canon FD 135mm f/2 @ ISO 320

Sony A7 with Canon FD 135mm f/2 @ ISO 320

Hayden Run Falls, Dublin, OH - Sony A7 with FD VIvitar 28mm f/2.8 @ ISO 200

Hayden Run Falls, Dublin, OH – Sony A7 with FD VIvitar 28mm f/2.8 @ ISO 200

Shadow of Myself - Sony A7 with Zeiss FE 35mm f/2.8 @ ISO 100

Shadow of Myself – Sony A7 with Zeiss FE 35mm f/2.8 @ ISO 100

Jet Engine - Sony A7 with Canon FD 50mm f/1.4 @ ISO 2000

Jet Engine – Sony A7 with Canon FD 50mm f/1.4 @ ISO 2000

Icy Falls - Sony A7 with Canon FD 70-210mm f/4 @ ISO 125

Icy Falls – Sony A7 with Canon FD 70-210mm f/4 @ ISO 125

SR 71 Blackbird - Sony A7 with Canon FD 85mm f/1.8 @ ISO 3200

SR 71 Blackbird – Sony A7 with Canon FD 85mm f/1.8 @ ISO 3200

Snowy Chairs - Sony A7 with Zeiss FE 35mm f/2.8, ISO 200

Snowy Chairs – Sony A7 with Zeiss FE 35mm f/2.8, ISO 200

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About the author

Jordan Steele

Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Admiring Light; Photographer; Electrical Engineer and Dad

12 comments

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  1. Ron

    Great review, thank you. The Winter Street photo gave me the feeling I was walking there myself.

    1. Glenn

      That’s an interesting comment, ” the feeling I was walking there myself”. I’ve noticed that some shots, usually made on a full frame camera, with a lens around 35 – 50mm, have a look that you feel you could just walk right in to the scene. They have a certain sense of depth that’s hard to convey in two dimension (a photo). Anyone else see that? Why do they look that way?

      1. padam

        Put it like this way: it is a bit like listening a well-recorded music in audio system, which being set-up really well. When you listen to something like this, it is a bit like “being there”.

        The larger sensor, the better.
        So this effect you are talking about is even more apparent with images taken by a medium or especially large format cameras, they really give an even stronger 3D effect from a still image.

        By the way, thanks for the review Jordan, very well-written.
        Adam

  2. Crix

    Thanks for your review! One suggestion: It would be great if you could also add the used aperture to your sample pictures ????
    A question since I. Can’t browse the other reports on mobile: do you see the WB as similar to the Nex cameras?

  3. HF

    Very nice article.
    I would welcome a comparison or opinion of how the Sony A7 compares to the Olympus OMD EM1 and Fuji X-E2.
    Even though FF in a comparably small body looks promising, I don’t see the advantage anymore when using
    fast zooms (24-80/2.8, stabilised, or 70-200/2.8, with low focusing distances), since these will be large and heavy. Is there any point buying
    this camera if you only stick to primes (35mm, 50mm, 85mm) with apertures larger then 2, if you don’t print large
    and don’t have rangefinder lenses?
    Your opinion would be welcome.

    1. Jordan Steele

      I’m actually working on an opinion piece that covers many of these things. Look for it in the next week.

  4. Plex

    Hello Jordan, great review !!!… I’m trying to decide between Oly e-m1 or Sony A7(R) …
    I had a X–E1 in the past but didn’t like the AF and slow response… I hope this is better with the A7(r)?
    Would go to the e-m1 but I’m really loving very small dof… really like the sunset photo here!!!

    Really surprised the jpeg quality of the A7 is that bad…is this better via Raw and lightroom conversion?

    Thanks in advance!!
    Plex

  5. Franck

    hello !
    I’m thinking to change my NEX 7 by this A7, but maybe !?? it’s much better to wait for the Sony news il the early of january.
    Thank you for this test

  6. chris giammona

    Jordan

    What adaptors were you using for the Rokinon and Vivitar lenses (canon mount)?

    Thanks

    Chris

  7. Chuck

    Jordan – The A7 does not have IBIS, which, to me, is a “Con”. And that shutter noise – forget it. Prediction – I bet we will see the class-leading Oly 5-axis IBIS licensed to Sony and incorporated in the next version of the A7. But, for me, the bottom line is that I’m sticking with my Oly E-M1, Pany GX7, and Fuji X-E1. Nice review. Thanks.

  8. Blogophile

    It’s not really a sucessor, they’re continuing to sell the A7 and A7r along with the A7s, each has different features that will appeal to different users, for example the A7s has great low light potential but only half the Megapixels of the A7.

  9. Moe

    Hello. I hope you can help me. I have an A7 and I also am seeing squiggly lines in the noise. They really look like little hairs and lint etc. When I take two identical sequential pictures, the squiggly lines and specks do not remain in the same place. They are definitely unique to each exposure.

    This does not happen at ISO 100, but is very visible at 1600.

    I had a Nikon d5100 that did not have this problem. The noise was uniform, and got courser as ISO increased, but was composed of uniform graininess, not little squiggly hair looking lines.

    This noise shows up in my raw files IDENTICALY. I shoot raw+jpg and the exact same noise will be in each exposre.

    At first I thought this could not be sensor dust because it is different with each exposure, but then it occurred to me that if the shutter is opening and closing with each exposure, it could be moving little hairs and specks around on the shutter.

    Any info you have on this phenomenon would be great, because I have not heard of this weird looking noise on any other camera.

    Also, do you know if the a72 has same problem? And also what about a6000?

    Thanks for any help.

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