Sony Aims for the Bleachers with Full Frame Alpha 7 & Alpha 7R

Sony Aims for the Bleachers with Full Frame Alpha 7 & Alpha 7R

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:

Alpha 7R:
Full Frame 36.3 MP resolution with 14-bit RAW recording
Contrast-based focusing
Price (body only): $2,298.00

Alpha 7:
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.

Sony a7 Digital Camera Body

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.

Sony a7 Digital Camera Back

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.

Sony a7 with SEL55F18Z Lens.jpg

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.

Sony a7R Digital Camera

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.

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Sam Figueroa's picture

I was thinking about the same thing for the Sony FE 55mm F1.8

Joe Gunawan's picture

The lower end primes will come along. It's great to see Zeiss lens readily available, though.

Emmanuel's picture

Ya I'm not sure I see the point in buying this. Who cares about the size of the camera if the lens is just going to bulk it right back up? Might as well get D800, 5DIII, D600 etc. Not to mention that OLED viewfinder is going to suck the life out of your battery.

EnticingHavoc's picture

I wouldn't come to conclusions before spending a few days with this tech marvel.
Definitively needs to be taken through its paces to check if it fits your needs.

EnticingHavoc's picture

A huge lens definitely defeats the purpose but often enough one attaches a prime which brings the combo down to a smaller overall size. Battery wise : A spare battery is so small, it's a non issue.

Stéphane Tranquillin's picture

especially when the competitors sell some 50mm f1.8 like the excellent Nikon one (50mm f1.8 G) for less than 200$...

Emmanuel's picture

Good points...but i still feel like the price point is a lil bit steep.

S Wade's picture

It's Zeiss, not Sony.

S Wade's picture

It's a full frame camera that has converters from every mount into this. You can put the new Leica 50mm f/2 on here and have one of the best lenses ever on your camera and not have to spend $8,000 for the body. You can use their new A-mount to E-mount converter with built in AF motor and use Zeiss' other A-mount AF lenses. The A7r is $300 more than the 6D/D600 and the A7 is $300 less. How is that steep? Hell, put the Zeiss 35mm f/2 Biogon on it for $1000 and have one of the best 35mms ever made.

S Wade's picture

I don't understand why a small body means that it is not for professionals. One of my friends is one of the most expensive wedding photographers in the world, has shot at the Great Wall, and I shot a wedding with him where he used the RX1 almost the entire time.

Enough with the "this is for amateurs and enthusiasts" crap. The cameras are tools. If you prefer the smaller and more unobtrusive body and the ability to put almost any kind of glass on it with a wide range of converters. Why the hell not? I know loads of pros who only use Leica, and this has just become its competition.

S Wade's picture

A-Mount to E-mount converters?

S Wade's picture

Oh shut up with that this is not for professionals. It's a damn tool. People hate Nikon because of button layouts. People hate Canon because of user interface. People prefer different things. The more you use something, the more you get used to it.

It's also clear you've never used, say, the RX1. The glass is unbelievable. The sensor is incredible (probably the best sensor out there). The A7 and A7r have upgraded sensors and have the ability to have almost any kind of glass on it because of their wide range of converters. I have a D800 and I would use the RX1 over that any day.

And how can you only say its good for travel? It has a 36MP full-frame sensor that shoots raw with Zeiss glass. You're telling me that you couldn't make professional quality pictures with this camera? You are clearly not seeing cameras as tools.

Sync speed too low? Throw an ND filter on the lens. Battery life too low? Get a grip or spare batteries (I know it's really hard to change those). Button arrangement isn't your fancy? Use it for a month and you'll be fine with it. On another note on battery life, since it seems like you might be a studio photographer since you care so much about sync speed, you don't have the time to change out a battery in the studio?

Joseph Abenhaim's picture

Someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning lol.

I own the RX1, It is a great upgrade for that, but I wouldn't trade my 5d3 for it. It is a great camera, don't get me wrong, but i don't see it as a replacement for a dslr and last i checked, i'm entitled to my own opinion but thanks for trolling.

S Wade's picture

I did in fact, it was balls cold last night. So how is this not for professionals? How does a button layout make something unprofessional?

Lukas S's picture

Totally agree. I know many pros who are just waiting to reduce their system, so they won't have to carry big and heavy cameras. If Sony made their system right, they will have many followers within pros.

Bernard Aitcheson's picture

Wow Steven! Nice pics.

Olivier Moeckli's picture

Although limiting, 1/160 compared to 1/200 on the Canon does not worry me too much. Nor the fact I would have to have more batteries (still a lot less weight than a DSLR!). I feel this could be a perfect camera if the image quality is there (I guess it should be great as Sony has great sensors it seems). Joseph, one thing I wonder that you might know as you have an RX1 and mention sync speed: if one is in studio or a dark space where the light entirely comes from flash, do you know if there is any way to bypass the settings to still see something through the finder? If that works, I will seriously consider a shift in the future from big heavy DSLR.

Edward Porter's picture

If Joseph hates that it can't go beyond 1/160th, I am in complete agreement. This is 2013 - electronic shutter technology should allow us to sync past 1/4000th at this point. An ND filter softens your image plus it will kill the battery of your flashes (not to mention it doesn't resolve overpowering the sun if you're working with speedlights). A dismal battery life is also another deal killer. If this camera is sold as being light and compact but has to have a grip, it kind of ruins that angle. If I'm spending $3,000+ on gear, I want the latest and greatest without compromise. Does this mean this camera isn't professional? Of course not. I'm sure it'll produce professional images in the box that it lives in. Things have just got to the point where we want it all and manufacturers can achieve that if they desired to do so. It's unfortunate that they are so concerned about cannibalizing their existing products that the market is somewhat stagnant.

Tony's picture

Are you working for Sony ? You seem to take this very personally...

Jason Vinson's picture

converters are to big and (for me) defeat the purpose of the smaller camera.

Mr Blah's picture

And the fact that this is the least ergonomic camera I've ever seen besides P&S...

Zachary Long's picture

Do you have the link to the RX1 wedding photos on a blog? Very curious to see. I pre-ordered both the A7 (for better action focusing) and A7R and hope to eventually ditch all of my heavy Canon DSLRs for weddings. I have the E-M5 right now but the AF performance on the Olympus isn't on par with the Mark III yet which is why I'm giving Sony a chance now.

joseph minardi's picture

Trolling: I do not think that word means what the two of you think it means.

Mine is a superfluous comment, I know, but no less superfluous than the two of you arguing such pointless trivialities. Yeesh. Photographers and their extensive, detailed internet arguments about absolutely nothing. Too funny.

Thanks for the chuckle, boys.

Chris Rogers's picture

Yeah I spose your right. my big beef with most of these smaller mirrorless camera system is how the controls are laid out. The settings are not as accessible as I'd like them to be.

Emmanuel's picture

and yet how many people have you seen shoot sony? if this is the ultimate camera for you then by all means go get it. until I see it at work hands on i'm sticking with my opinion.

M. Scott's picture

I think this is technology is going to be around to stay. It is more popular overseas as it seems most Americans still hold on to the bulk and weight of the traditional DSLR as meaning quality or capable of producing professional images. Leica has a mirrorless that is amazing and the Sony's Nex line are as well. It is only going to get better from here. I can imagine this technology going into the medium format in the not to distant future.

Spy Black's picture

Minolta 58mm f/1.2 comes to mind.

Liam O'Prey's picture

I had that exact lens in mind when writing that. The surgery required to camera and lens is not for the faint-hearted (5DIII). The Canon FD 85mm 1.2 is another beauty that will have new life breathed into it with these cameras. Expect prices to rocket.

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