I've wanted to be impressed with Sony for a long time, and I think that time has finally come. The rumored full frame compact interchangeable lens camera is real, as Sony has announced the Alpha 7R and Alpha 7. Featuring full frame sensors, fast hybrid AF with phase-detection and a new image processing engine, these might be everything we've wanted in a compact camera.
Firstly, let's set something straight: there are two cameras we are talking about here. One is the Alpha 7 and the other is the Alpha 7R. Major differences:
Full Frame 36.3 MP resolution with 14-bit RAW recording
Price (body only): $2,298.00
Full Frame 24.3 MP resolution with 14-bit RAW recording
Price: (body only): $1,698.00
Yeah that's basically what I was able to glean. One has more megapixels, slightly different focusing and costs more. So that aside, let's take a closer look at the guts of both of these cameras, focusing primarily on the 7R.
Sony’s Exmor image sensor takes full advantage of the Full-frame format, but in a camera body less than half the size and weight of a full-frame DSLR. Sony is positioning the ALpha 7 camera against the Canon 60D and 70D and the Nikon D600 and D7100 and the Alpha 7R against the D800 or the 6D/5D Mark III. They don't just want to be your second camera, they want to be your go-to.
The 36.3 MP effective 35 mm full-frame sensor has a normal sensor range of ISO 100 – 25600, and a sophisticated balance of high resolving power, gradation and low noise. The BIONZ X image processor enables up to 5 fps high-speed continuous shooting and 14-bit RAW image data recording.
What is a BIONZ X? It's the camera's new image processing engine, which faithfully reproduces textures and details in real time, as seen by the naked eye, via extra high-speed processing capabilities. Together with front-end LSI (large scale integration) that accelerates processing in the earliest stages, it enables more natural details, more realistic images, richer tonal gradations and lower noise whether you shoot still images or movies.
Enhanced Fast Hybrid auto focus combines speedy phase-detection AF with highly accurate contrast-detection AF, which has been accelerated through a new Spatial Object Detection algorithm, to achieve among the fastest autofocusing performance of any full-frame camera. First, phase-detection AF with 117 densely placed phase-detection AF points3 swiftly and efficiently moves the lens to bring the subject nearly into focus. Then contrast-detection AF with wide AF coverage fine-tunes the focusing in the blink of an eye.
The high-speed image processing engine and improved algorithms combine with optimized image sensor read-out speed to achieve ultra-high-speed AF despite the use of a full-frame sensor.
Even when capturing a subject partially turned away from the camera with a shallow depth of field, the face will be sharply focused thanks to extremely accurate eye detection that can prioritize a single pupil. A green frame appears over the prioritized eye when focus has been achieved for easy confirmation. Eye AF can be used when the function is assigned to a customizable button, allowing users to instantly activate it depending on the scene.
Quick Navi Pro displays all major shooting options on the LCD screen so you can rapidly confirm settings and make adjustments as desired without searching through dedicated menus. When fleeting shooting opportunities arise, you’ll be able to respond swiftly with just the right settings.
View every scene in rich detail with the XGA OLED Tru-Finder, which features OLED improvements and the same 3-lens optical system used in the flagship α99. The viewfinder faithfully displays what will appear in your recording, including the effects of your camera settings, so you can accurately monitor the results. You’ll enjoy rich tonal gradations and 3 times the contrast of the α99. High-end features like 100% frame coverage and a wide viewing angle are also provided.
The tiltable 3.0” (1,229k dots) Xtra Fine™ LCD Display makes it easy to photograph over crowds or low to capture pets eye to eye by swinging up approx. 84° and down approx. 45°. Easily scroll through menus and preview life thanks to WhiteMagic™ technology that dramatically increases visibility in bright daylight. The large display delivers brilliant-quality still images and movies while enabling easy focusing operation.
Connectivity with smartphones for One-touch sharing/One-touch remote has been simplified with Wi-Fi®/NFC control. In addition to Wi-Fi support for connecting to smartphones, the α7R also supports NFC (near field communication) providing “one touch connection” convenience when transferring images to Android™ smartphones and tablets. Users need only touch devices to connect; no complex set-up is required. Moreover, when using Smart Remote Control — a feature that allows shutter release to be controlled by a smartphone — connection to the smartphone can be established by simply touching compatible devices.
Remote Camera Control allows you to control your α7R from your PC using a USB cable. Feature control has also been updated to include video capture control.
The 36.4MP resolution and outstanding performance of the α7R are optimized by removing the optical low-pass filter. In combination with the new BIONZ X image processing engine this design increases resolution and enhances the reproduction of the finest details. In addition, the sensor includes a new gapless lens design that fills the space between neighboring pixels to significantly increase light collecting efficiency and realize high corner-to-corner image quality. Differing from the Sony a7, the a7R with its omitted low-pass filter, gapless lens design sensor and contrast-detection AF provides the utmost in high-resolution, finely detailed capture. With 36.4 effective megapixels, the Exmor CMOS sensor captures high-resolution, low-noise images with rich tonal gradation and low-light sensitivity. The normal ISO range on the a7 is 100-25600.
14-bit RAW image data of extremely high quality is outputted by the α7R. This data fully preserves the rich detail generated by the image sensor during the 14-bit A/D conversion process. When developed with Sony’s Image Data Converter RAW development software, these images deliver the superb photographic expression and rich gradation that only 14-bit data can offer.
Capture Full 1920 x 1080 HD uncompressed clean-screen video files to external recording devices via an HDMI® connection in 60p and 60i frame-rates. Selectable in-camera AVCHD™ codec frames rates include super-smooth 60p, standard 60i or cinematic 24p. MP4 codec is also available for smaller files for easier upload to the web.
When your subject is moving fast, you can capture the decisive moment with clarity and precision by shooting at speeds up to 5 frames per second. New faster, more accurate AF tracking, made possible by Fast Hybrid AF, uses powerful predictive algorithms and subject recognition technology to track every move with greater speed and precision.
Unlike conventional cameras, the α7R features the advanced Multi-Interface Shoe that dramatically expands compatibility with Sony digital imaging accessories, thus raising the potential for photo/movie shooting.
Enjoy Ultra High Definition slide shows directly from the camera to a compatible 4K television. The α7R converts images for optimized 4K image size playback (8MP). Enjoy expressive rich colors and amazing detail like never before. Images can be viewed via an optional HDMI® or WiFi®.
Advanced features enable manipulation, conversion and management of full-resolution RAW images. You can expertly adjust exposure, white balance, tonal curves, saturation, contrast, hue and sharpness — as well as apply DRO and vignetting compensation. Bundled Remote Camera Control software also lets you remotely activate and deactivate still/movie recording and control various camera settings from a PC.
Enjoy long hours of comfortable operation in the vertical orientation with this sure vertical grip, which can hold two batteries for longer shooting and features dust and moisture protection.
Both of these 35mm full-frame compatible adaptors let you mount the α7R with any A-mount lens. The LA-EA4 additionally features a built-in AF motor, aperture-drive mechanism and Translucent Mirror Technology to enable continuous phase-detection AF. Both adaptors also feature a tripod hole that allows mounting of a tripod to support large A-mount lenses.
That's not all Sony announced. You might have caught the "new full frame lenses" bits above. Here they are:
Sony 24-70mm F4 ZA OSS Lens, which will retail for $1,198.00
Sony FE 35mm F2.8 ZA Lens, which will retail for $798.00
Sony FE 55mm F1.8 ZA Lens, which will retail for $998.00
Sony 70-200mm F2.8 G SSM II Lens, which will retail for $2,998.00
Impressed? I'm ready to try them out and look at the image quality.