New Sony A7R Full-Frame mirrorless takes computational photography to a new level – Stuck in Customs

New Sony A7R Full-Frame mirrorless takes computational photography to a new level

Sony A7r Review

Go see the full Sony A7r Review here on the site!

The Scoop on the Sony A7R Camera

I got a sneak preview of the whole new Sony camera system. Here’s what you need to know. I’m not gonna take eight paragraphs to tell you the basics. You’re smart; here are the key factors about the new Sony A7R: Full-Frame, 36 Megapixels, Weather-sealed, Crazy autofocus tricks, Much improved noise-reduction, Built-in WIFI and NFC, Improved-everything-else.

Check Amazon to see if it’s available or perhaps try B&H Photo.

Eye AF — one of the coolest new features? Yes!

Eye-based Autofocus. What does this mean? It’s an extension of the face-recognition system that Sony already uses that will automatically focus on the eye. So when you have your sweet f/1.8 lens on there, it will just grip onto the closest eye it can find and nail it right away. Awesome! Even better, the viewfinder shows the appropriate background blurriness (bokeh) because you’re actually seeing what is on the sensor. If you’ve never looked through one of new electronic viewfinders, you don’t know what you’re missing.

The smarts of the AF system are view their upgraded BIONZ-X image processing engine (I think they wanted to call it the BIONZ-A, but that sounds confusingly like Beyoncé). The autofocus is 40% faster than the NEX-7. It’s not as good as the Nikon D4, for example, but it can do things with computational prediction that DSLRs cannot do such as the above eye-tracking. This is the kind of innovation we get with mirrorless systems combined with fast processors and clever software.

Just like the Nikon D800E, the A7R has no low-pass filter for increased sharpness. They showed me some side-by-side images with the D800E and I was convinced that the chipset (the aforementioned confusingly named Beyoncé chip) was able to do a sharpness interpretation that is superior. This will be an interesting aspect for my friend Gordon Laing to test over at Camera Labs; he rules the world with his OCD side-by-side tests.

Auto-Bracketing Updates

There are two items of consequence. One of them is that the IR wireless remote is now decoupled from the other shooting modes. If you don’t know what I’m talking about — on the NEX, there was a problem where you could either do IR or Auto-bracketing but not both. Anyway, that’s fixed. The other item of consequence is you can do 3 or 5 shots in your Auto-bracket. Strangely, you can step by up to 3 EV stops when shooting 3 photos, but when shooting 5 photos, the most you can step by is 0.7 EV. Inscrutable! And why can’t you do 7 or 9 stops? Isn’t it just software… oh, camera-makers, you slay me.

There are “apps” on the phone and you can add more. I hope there is an auto-bracketing app. But if the apps are as poorly executed as they were on the NEX-6, of which I have a haunting feeling, then I will just save us all time and slash my wrists right now.

Weather Sealed

“We poured a glass of water on it!” the Sony guys told me. I guess that is a way they test these things — I don’t know. But they said it has the same weather sealing as the D800, which is probably good enough, I figure. The lenses are weather-sealed too. That’s good news… finally.

Lenses, Let’s talk lenses

Oh, we’re talking lenses? Oh yes, I came up with that heading. Well this discussion is almost over because there are only five lenses at launch. Sad emoticon. But, you can use the other 21 lenses from the full-frame Sony Alpha system with an adapter, so that is cool. Let’s say there are 26 lenses, okay? Well, that is how I am gonna think about it because the 5 new lenses aren’t quite enough for me.

Here are the five that are available at launch: 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6, 24-70mm constant f/4, 70-200 constant f/4, 55mm f/1.8, 35mm f/2.8. I really want a wide-angle zoom… but it looks like that won’t come out until the middle of 2014. In the meantime, I’ll just have to use an adapter and select from a few of those other 21 Full-Frame lenses from the Sony Alpha system.

You can get adapters to use ANY lens, really. Leica, Canon, Nikon, etc., etc. It’s a pretty cool idea to use these camera smarts on your other full-frame lenses you’ve been collecting your whole life.

How big is it?

Holding up both the NEX-7 and the A7r side-by-side, there is hardly any difference! I’d say the A7r is about 10% bigger… but nothing even close to the size of a Nikon D800 or much less a Nikon D4. All the lenses are nice and tiny too, again, only a bit bigger than the NEX-7 lenses. This goes right in line with the trend of lessening my load when I travel!

Am I switching?

Yes! Absolutely! I consider this a major upgrade from my NEX-7. Now I get: Full-frame, 36 megapixels, Better Autofocus (including the cool new Eye AF!), better EVF, better noise-reduction, hands-free auto-bracketing, and weather-sealing. That’s a pretty solid list I say! Plus, I get all the OTHER things that originally made me switch from Nikon to the Sony in the first place: 5-6x smaller than the D800, lighter, focus peaking for consistently sharper shots, and a smart EVF to give me important real-time information about the shot.

The only thing I’m giving up are my wide-angle lens that I love (I hope I can find a Sony Alpha one that I like… I dunno… I’m a babe in the woods on that). The other thing that I am giving up a bit is the new A7r only does 4 FPS, which is quite a bit slower. This isn’t a huge thing, since I mostly shoot travel and landscape shots, but it will be a bit slower when grabbing photos of people in motion, where I prefer more FPS.

I’ve thought about getting a Metabones so I can use my Nikon 14-24mm lens, but that lens has been sitting with Nikon Professional Services in Australia for over four months. I’m not sure I’ll ever see it again. She used to send me letters… but now I never hear from her any more…

Another new RX camera too?

Yeah – it is pretty interesting. I wasn’t so into the RX-1 because it did not have interchangeable lenses. Well, the new RX-10 (just announced and available in a few weeks) still doesn’t have interchangeable lenses BUT BUT BUT BUT it has a 28-200mm at a constant f/2.8. INTERESTING, eh? And it is much cheaper at just $1,299. That’s quite a machine… and 20 megapixels too.

You’ll never be able to shoot ultra-wide or do hardcore African animal photography with it to see zebras a mile away, but not everyone needs that. I’m considering adding that as a mid-range option in our camera recommendations. I haven’t actually played with the thing yet, but it is a very compelling idea that nobody else is doing. Sony makes a point that a lot of people buy a DSLR and never change the lens. I bet that is true… so, they designed this camera with that idea in mind.

More coverage coming soon

My friend Karen Hutton (whom many of you may know has twice been on the cover of Downward Dog Magazine) is getting to play with the new gear soon and will be taking a ton of photos. She’ll post her story here to — thanks again Karen, and thanks for making millions of people jealous! 🙂

Other Resources

Sony NEX-7 Review – recently updated after my switch from Nikon
Camera Recommendations – good, better, and best (will likely change when the above cameras are available)
Free HDR Tutorial – a fun guide if you want to make your photos prettier
Lightroom Presets and other tools – check my fun online stor

Daily Photo – Handheld Glacier

Here’s a handheld glacier shot I took with the NEX-7 a few weeks ago. How old is that camera now? About a year and a half old? I dunno… anyway, I can’t wait to see what this new Sony can do… Moore’s Law in Effect! Yay! 🙂

Handheld Glacier

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2013-07-17 21:27:11
  • CameraNEX-7
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/1600
  • Aperture7.1
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length18.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias-1