I wanted to post some initial images I shot using the new Sony A7 camera. This isn’t a camera review where you’ll read about the specs and links to buy it or anything like that. There are tons of other sites out there that will provide all the technicals. I’m just going to share some photos and my initial experience using it for an afternoon.
The first question to answer is, why would I get rid of a Nikon D600 for a Sony A7. In short – size and weight with practically no sacrifice in performance or quality. Like the D600, the A7 features a 24MP full-frame sensor. The A7 lacks an optical viewfinder but I find the extra information I get from the Electronic Viewfinder to be satisfactory compensation. Having owned the Sony NEX-7, I knew what I was getting into with that and didn’t feel it was that big of a deal to go back. I wrote before in a review of the NEX-7 that I do feel somewhat detached from the world around me when looking through an EVF. That wasn’t really the deal breaker though. For me, at the time, it was the lack of good lenses for the NEX. Since then, Sony has tackled this problem head-on. They’ve released a number of really good lenses for the NEX and now they’re adding lenses for the new FE-mount that the full-frame A7 uses. When I bought the A7, I also bought the Zeiss 24-70mm f/4. I read a number of reviews and found that the general consensus was very positive.
The other day I took the A7 with that lens attached and went for short trip around the area to put them through their paces.
Can’t complain about the sharpness! This flower was backlit by the sun and still the camera had no issue pulling massive detail from the shadows. Note: I was shooting in RAW file format.
Here is a close-up look at a portion of the photo above.
We have a lot of tobacco fields around here so they made for a quick and easy subject to shoot.
Using the articulating LCD screen, I found it was easier to frame this low shot than it would have been through a viewfinder.
I was walking back to the car when I accidentally shot this from hip level; I hit the battery grip’s shutter release button. There is an on/off switch to disable that second set of controls. This is a crop from the image after straightening the horizon and tightening in on the car. I was a good distance away and the car was only taking up a small portion of the frame. Not bad for some heavy cropping and a little bit of Photoshop.
Initial impression: It took me using it a little bit to find my way through the menus to get the camera set up how I like. The menus aren’t difficult to navigate, there are just a lot of them. Once I had everything set, I never went back into them again. This camera has just about every function you’d want for full control right off of a dedicated button or dial. There are three function buttons that can be individually set to any number of different controls. I like having a button dedicated to the Virtual Horizon, another set to turn on/off the back display (battery saver) and another for changing my exposure metering mode (center, matrix, spot). The wheels are all in the right place. The front wheel (right-hand middle finger) I use for Shutter. The back wheel (thumb control by the shutter release) I use for Aperture. The rear dial (thumb control beside the LCD screen) I use for ISO. Most of the time I only use the viewfinder so I set up the rear screen to function as only an information display, not a Live View. I don’t know if that really saves any battery life but it seems like it should. Speaking of battery life. The A7 is a bit of a battery hog. I’ve only charged my batteries once since I got it and have shot maybe 100 photos with it in total. I have, however, been playing with the menus and chimping each photo I’ve shot with it, and messed around with the on-board Wi-Fi. All of those things can quickly kill a battery. I show 16% charge remaining on battery 1 and 100% charge on battery 2. When I bought the camera, I also bought with it the battery grip. I always prefer having a grip on my cameras. It’s less about battery life – I can always carry a spare in my pocket – and more about hand comfort. Good lenses tend to have a bit of weight to them. Having some extra room for the palm of my right hand to support the camera helps take weight off my trigger finger. My Nikon D700 with the all-metal 28-70mm f/2.8 ED-IF AF-S lens would leave my middle finger warped after a day of shooting. I finally bought the battery grip for it and learned the marked difference in comfort it provides. Ever since then, I always buy an add-on grip for any camera I purchase. Of course it doesn’t hurt the looks either 😉
Speed of the A7 is great for what I do. I’m not much for machine-gunning with my camera. The camera will handle that to some degree but I wouldn’t call it a sports camera. I didn’t find myself waiting on the camera for anything. Autofocus with the Zeiss lens is very quick and absolutely DEAD SILENT. I can’t hear any sound coming from the auto focus. The shutter makes a pleasing “Shhnick” sound. Some reviewers have claimed it to be louder than they like but that is not my opinion. Coming from the Nikon bodies with their renowned Shutter Recoil, this A7 is appreciably quieter. I actually think the shutter sound is pretty neat and surgically precise.
If I had one thing to recommend for improvement it would be the lack of a shutter-based auto ISO. Nikon has this down perfectly. You tell the camera what minimum shutter speed you wish to maintain and the ISO automatically adjusts to maintain that up to the point where you set the maximum ISO. I typically set it to hold a shutter speed of no slower than 1/180 second with an Auto ISO Range of up to 6400. Sony really needs to add a feature like this to the camera. You can sort of accomplish this by setting the camera to Manual mode and setting ISO to Auto and then set the Shutter Speed to 1/180 second and then just use Aperture as your primary control for exposure.
I’ll definitely be using the camera more and hopefully getting some good photos to share. In the meantime, if you have any specific questions about the A7, leave a comment and I’ll be happy to reply.