Still photography may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Sony, but that hasn't stopped the manufacturer from developing an array of DSLR and mirrorless camera systems. A very recent announcement from Sony makes it all the more clear that the company isn't messing around. Sony would like to introduce you to two new full frame mirrorless photography cameras (with 1080p video, of course:) the 24 megapixel A7, and its big sister, the 36 megapixel A7R. These cameras natively accept NEX E-mount glass, as well as Sony alpha mount glass with some adapting. They also shoot up to 1080p60 on-board video in either AVCHD or MP4, or feed you clean uncompressed video out via HDMI. Read on for more details.
The main differentiation between the $2300 A7R and $1700 A7 is the aforementioned 36 vs. 24MP CMOS sensors, respectively, though both sensors are full frame size. Additionally, the A7R excludes the optical low-pass filter deployed in the A7. With its 36 un-antialiased megapixels, the A7R will probably be less apt for video shooting than the A7. Along with the newly announced fixed-lens RX10, the A7 & A7R feature the new, scary-sounding BIONX X image processor. Here are some beauty shots of the A7R (which looks very much like the A7 as well):
The beauty shots are a little deceptive in that these cameras are actually overall slimmer and smaller than they may initially appear. Other nifty options include Wi-Fi connectivity for hands-free offloading, USB connectivity for remote operation, and BIONX-powered auto-focus which reportedly "uses both phase and contrast detection for quicker" AF.
Apparently, the A7/R's new 'FE' mount natively accepts NEX E-mount lenses and automatically crops non-FF E-mount glass by the proper factor. Conversely, the new lenses announced alongside these cameras may be mounted on other NEX or E-mount bodies. Alpha mount glass may be affixed using something like the $350 Sony LAEA4, or the cheaper LAEA3.
As Chris points out in the video above, the convergence of size, lens interchangeability, full frame, mirrorless and video qualities make these cameras pretty significant developments. And, according to DPReview, "Sony is also unifying the Alpha and NEX brands, so all future interchangeable lens cameras will now fall under the Alpha umbrella."
Jordan Drake, who shot the above video on the A7, had the following (and much more) to say about video shooting specifically:
I loved shooting video with the A7. All the controls were well placed, the viewfinder is such a pleasure to use, and seeing zebras, audio levels and peaking put me right at home.... [W]e had terrible light with a huge amount of contrast. It was a good test for the A7 as most cameras would struggle to handle some scenes. Looking at the video in post though, I was less delighted by the image. It is quite soft, and there was noticeable moire in several shots. I shot with the flattest profile, Neutral, with sharpening, contrast and saturation all turned down, yet the moire issues still surfaced. I’m hoping this was due to early firmware, I’ll test the video quality again when the production cameras arrive. As is though, while the Sony A7 image is nice, I’ll stick to the Panasonic GH3 when I need a small camera.
This may be why you don't often hear about Sony's photography cameras being used in place of other DSLRs for video shooting. That said, the A7 & A7R provide the aforementioned audio meters and zebras, as well as optional XLR input via another adapter.
According to DPReview, Sony plans to have 15 FE lenses available by 2015. SonyAlphaRumors has a pretty extensive running list going of body and kit items related to these announcements, so check the links below if you want to scope these newcomers, or their accompanying accessories.
- Sony Alpha a7R Mirrorless Digital Camera -- B&H Photo
- Sony Alpha a7 Mirrorless Digital Camera -- B&H Photo
- Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10 Digital Camera -- B&H Photo
- Sony A7, A7r, RX10 and FE lenses officially announced! -- SonyAlphaRumors
- Sony A7 & A7R Hands-On Field Test -- The Camera Store
- Sony A7 / A7R First Impressions Review -- DPReview