How Does the Original Sony a7 Compare With Today’s Cameras and Should You Buy One?

Sony’s first foray into the world of mirrorless full-frame cameras came in the shape of the a7 in 2013. Seven years later, how does this camera stack up against today’s cameras, and is it still a worthwhile purchase over more recent APS-C models?

Photographer Arthur R is a Sony APS-C enthusiast, and in this short video, he puts an original Sony A7 (“Classic?”) that he’s just purchased second-hand up against some of the APS-C options that are comparable in price.

The Sony a7 is regarded by some as the camera that heralded the slow shift away from DSLRs, with Sony promising a lot of performance from a surprisingly compact body. In addition, Sony was making its intentions clear by pricing the a7 very aggressively, making it the cheapest full-frame digital camera on the market.

The original a7 is readily available on the used market and seems to be fairly similar in price to the original Canon 6D released the same year.

Check the video to see Arthur’s opinion, but personally, I’m not sure I’d advise anyone to buy a first-generation a7 today, not simply because the APS-C options are so much better, but because for those on a budget, the lens availability also makes more sense financially.

Did you buy the a7? Was it the right decision? Do you still use it? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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27 Comments

It was never a worthwhile purchase. It was a beta model. The Mark III is the first one in the serie that is worthwhile.

As A7 owner your Beta comment rings true on hindsight. Sony took the full-fame mirrorless plunge using their sensor division. The question is what difference between A7 and A7III in terms of color science? Sony colors do not meet with universal approval. But some people also complain about Fujifilm colors?

I bought a virtually unused a7 about a year ago and have no regrets. Sure, the batteey life is terrible but it suits me perfectly for what I need. I'm not a professional and I mostly shoot film, so full frame has a familiarity when I look down the view finder . Also, with a couple of adapters i get to use loads of my vintage lenses. So I'd recommend buying one if you're on a budget and one of good quality is available.

Michael Aubrey's picture

Even simply jumping up to the A7II, you solve most of the problems with the original. And it can often be had used for less than $700.

I had and enjoyed the original A7, but really only with MF lenses. It was a great little camera. Loved it.

What improvements did the ii bring? I've only used my classic for mf lenses as well

Michael Aubrey's picture

The big things are:

Improved AF (especially subject tracking).
IBIS.
Larger grip.
Better construction & lens mount

It also brought in a lot of firmware options & improvements that people asked for on the original, but were never delivered.

Continuous shooting is still the same and the video is still limited to 1080p.

I personally jumped from the original to the A7rII, which I'm still shooting today.

3 years I use the original A7, nothing to complain at all for landscape and street photography

i had the first A7 and truly hated it. awful camera. sensor was quite capable for BW / vsco work though.

Film emulation profiles/settings.

all of the color simulations where you can go with funky skintones and go nuts with color grading. if you want good color reproduction, good luck with those cameras :)

Bought A7 about 2 years ago in order to upgrade from an old Canon 5D classic. However was dissapointed with the camera at so many levels...AF, colour, ergonomics, menu system, battery life etc. Had to sell it on and went back to 5D in the end...

I kinda wish they kept the form factor of the original - granted, the newer larger ones feel better with the larger lenses

Barry Strawbridge's picture

Before all the madness, the original A7 was my overseas travel camera,

As Sony A7 owner with 35mm f2,8 Zeiss since 2015 my experience generally positive. A7 battery life came as a real shock especially as battery runs down when camera turned off; even with Airplane mode. My mistake buying Sony 90mm macro too big for small A7 body; sold Sony macro lens. My A7 retained partly because its worth nothing. In its favour A7 with 35mm Zeiss f2,8 as convenient compact size. Recently got Fujifilm X cameras due to their unique prime lenses like 16mm f1,4. Do not recommend A7II as same battery as A7. Depends if one prefers a traditional camera not just feeling like computer software operator. Sony A series cameras seemingly class acts but lacking classic style; or better colors. Probably most people will disagree with my opinion. So be it.

Art Khachatrian's picture

I've had that A7r (first-generation) for 3 years or thereabouts, and the A7r IV for two weeks. And a Fuji X-T2, a Canon 5D II, a Canon 40D and a Fuji X-T20 for a month.
The first-gen A7R & the Fuji X-T2 were My favourite cameras of the lot by far. The former had the best performance of all the cameras I've owned in respect to image quality. The Fuji X-T2 was the best in terms of physical design (and its tactile, mechanical feel), closely followed by The A7R. I also loved the portability (i.e., the size and weight) of both the Sony and the Fuji (Fuji's small, light, but sharp weatherproof F2 lenses were another added bonus for the Fuji).
I did end up selling both because of the poor battery life (A7r), a perceived / subjective need for a higher-megapixel full-frame body (without compromises in portability!) (X-T2), omission of the IBIS (both) & onboard GPS (every camera today with the exception of the beautiful Hasselblad X1D II & the ugly, bulky, heavy Canon 6D)

The worst mirrorless camera I've owned was the A7R IV. Yes, it had IBIS, improved battery life, etc., but it was heavy, bulky, images it captured were very noisy and had a very unpleasant rendition. Also, the lens design leaves no clearance for the muddle finger and is certain to cause a callus on its outer surface long-term. It was a terrible disappointment on done essential counts. An ergonomic and an image quality disaster.
I'd love high-megapixel FF body (that's both small, light and ergonomic, none of which the A7R is!), but why cram 61MP into an FF sensor if you cannot do it right, or if technology isn't ripe enough to bid a tiny pixel pitch without sacrifices in image quality.

So, as of now My favourite cameras are the Hasselblad X1D, the Fuji X-T4 & the Sony A7r (first-generation), although all are still very flawed (the Fuji less so) in one way or another.

I use it and don't really have anything to complain, except maybe the video quality. Might get some Panasonic cam with those fancy ibis next. Regarding the lenses, I feel that mirrorless ones are cheaper right now since Samyang and Tamron are making more and more alternatives

Dom Oranika's picture

I own it. I just got the a7riii a few days ago but I’m not getting rid of my a7. Just a second body. They’re still very similar in features but the new generation is better in every way.

I use it with a grip with two batteries and fe 50 1.8, sigma 35 1.4 & sigma 135 1.8. With better lenses, the AF is good in most situations as well. The quality of output this camera gives is very excellent in my opinion. Video could be better. The files aren’t stunning but with good technique, it delivers

Heiko Kanzler's picture

I was thinking of buying a original a7 last december (Cyber Sale), but at the same time a a72 was availble for a little more money as a Amazon Warehouse Deal, so I bought the a72. Haven't had the time to work with the a72, only a couple of sessions until lock down arrived in Spain.
I initially opted for the a7 because I didn't really need IBIS for my type of work, but having it now is a plus.

I bought an a7 recently for AUD850 new-in-box with an extra battery. That's about USD510. I'm not new to mirrorless - my system of choice is Fujifilm. And I'm not new to full-frame - I have a full-frame DSLR. So why did I buy the a7? Because it was the cheapest full-frame mirrorless. I have a collection of legacy and vintage lenses, most of them designed for full-frame with a mixture of SLR and rangefinder lenses. Most work well with the Fuji system (except the Jupiter 12) so I understand the adaptability of almost any lens to a mirrorless body. But a lens only shows its true character when used with its designed image size, e.g. the swirly bokeh of a Helios 44, so full-frame was the natural choice. I have no Sony lenses and at this stage no intention of acquiring any. So far I haven't been able to get out with the a7 because of lockdown; I have been mostly focussing on acquiring the adaptors I need through the snails pace of pandemic postage. But one thing I have found already - the Jupiter 12 mounts fine on the a7. Win win.

Andy Day's picture

Ha. Awesome. Thanks for sharing. 😊

By the way, the Jupiter 12 won't fit on Sony a6x00 APSC models either

When you said in the headline, “Original Sony a7 [sic],” I first thought, “Does he not mean the original Minolta α7?” I thought this was another throwback article to the good old film days of the sturdy SLR. LOL! 😉😆😁😀😄

Have both original a7 and a7r bodies. Still very happy with each. The a7 has both contrast and phase detection focus which is best body, of the two, for focus. Neither has in body image stabilization which a7II does have. That body available now used for about $745. Only problem with those old bodies for me, is that in program mode they often choose a slightly too slow shutter speed. There's been no firmware update to correct this. Especially needed on the a7r as it has 36mp sensor. With more mp it's too easy to get blurry image if shutter speed is slow.
I have no complaints about battery life as it's just so easy to carry extra batteries in one's pocket.
Newer bodies just got bulkier and who needs that.
Since I'm not a sports photographer no need for the newest fast continuous shooting speed.
Considering these are over six year old models, not at all totally out dated...

I shoot for fun and bought mine a few years ago. I think I am ready for the A7IV when it comes out. I posted an A7 pic I shot this last weekend on my profile. It has been a good camera to learn and play on. I bought it new on eBay and it came from Korea. The menu was in Korean. I had to go to BestBuy to get the map to change it to English

Andy Day's picture

Out of curiosity, did switching the menu from Korean into English make it easier to understand? 😂