The Sony a7C: Did Sony Get This One Wrong?

The Sony a7C: Did Sony Get This One Wrong?

Sony announced its new compact full frame mirrorless camera today, the a7C. It shaves the dimensions of the hugely successful a7 III while retaining most of its innards, but who is this camera for and should you be excited about buying one?

Combined with Sony’s new FE 28-60mm F4-5.6 lens, Sony promises “an experience unlike any other, maximizing portability and versatility without sacrificing any of the power of full frame imaging.” This is certainly a smart-looking and compact camera, effectively trimming the EVF bump from the a7 III and ditching a card slot, and for anyone pondering their first full frame camera, this might be an appealing prospect. However, with the price, the features, the size, and the sensor, where does it fall into the range of mirrorless options currently on the market, and is there a risk that it will become something of a curate’s egg, especially once the a7 IV arrives?

Price

At a time when Canon and Nikon both seem intent on dragging down the cost of an entry-level, full frame camera, some had expected Sony to go the same route with a body that offered a direct competitor to the Z 5, the RP, and whatever Canon is planning that’s allegedly going to be even cheaper.

The Nikon Z 5

The Nikon Z 5. Announced at $1,396.95 but likely to become cheaper if it follows the pattern of other Nikon releases.

At eighteen hundred dollars, the a7C is very far from being that camera, and the big difference here might be that Sony has a plethora of crop sensor cameras for those on a budget. Canon’s success with whatever undercuts the RP might change this in the future, but for now, Sony seems happy to protect its line of APS-C cameras.

A question remains: it might be slightly smaller, but what is the biggest incentive to buy this over the a7 III with its dual card slots, especially given that the a7 III is likely going to drop in price, not only as a result of this camera but also the arrival of the a7 IV?

Perfect for Vlogging? Still No

When Sony announced the ZV-1 back in May, the general consensus seemed to be that only people who know little about vlogging would be fooled into believing that its 24-70mm equivalent fixed lens is the perfect tool. 24mm is not wide enough for many, and digital stabilization has the potential to trim that even further.

Panasonic Lumix S 20-60mm f/3.5-5.6 Lens

Panasonic Lumix S 20-60mm f/3.5-5.6 Lens

At 28-60mm, Sony’s new kit lens might be compact, but that’s a step in the wrong direction. Only Panasonic seems to have the right idea having released its 20-60mm f/3.5-5.6 alongside the recently announced S5. Even Nikon’s latest effort is closer — the NIKKOR Z 24-50mm f/4-6.3.

It’s worth checking out the hands-on video from Tony and Chelsea Northrup to get an idea of how autofocus and stabilization perform. Early impressions are not great.

Too Small to Be a Serious Tool?

One of the complaints about full frame cameras becoming ever smaller is that the lenses immediately undermine the reasons for having a compact body. And certainly, if like Jared Polin, you’re attaching massive prime lenses such as the Sigma 35mm f/1.2, you’d be correct.

However, this ignores the large array of compact primes that are available in the Sony system, with Samyang/Rokinon adding another notable lens to that list only this week. The Samyang 35mm f/1.8 will not offer anywhere near the image quality of the Sigma 35mm f/1.2, but it’s almost a quarter of the price and nearly a fifth of the weight.

Samyang Rokinon 35mm f/1.8 lens

The brand new Samyang/Rokinon 35mm f/1.8. It's 7.4 oz (210 g), making it more than just a little bit lighter than the Sigma 35mm f/1.2 which weighs in at more than 38 oz (1090 g).

Firstly, if a customer has chosen a camera that lacks a second card slot that gives immediate redundancy on any shoot, they're probably spending hundreds of dollars on lenses each time, not thousands. I’d argue that those choosing a full frame camera because it is compact, there’s a very good chance that insanely creamy bokeh and razor-sharp images are not of paramount importance. I love compact primes because, although there are compromises, they allow me to travel light. I suspect that the majority those buying the a7C will be of a similar opinion.

Sony has a significant advantage over Canon and Nikon here: the choice of full-frame lenses available — especially budget and compact options — is extensive.

Menu

The decision not to implement the same freshly redesigned menu system as the shiny new a7S III is an odd one. As barriers to entry, the menu system is one of the reasons that I might steer newbies to photography away from Sony. Given that the a7C appears to be an ideal entry to the Sony system, it’s bizarre that Sony has chosen to stick with something so widely criticized.

Perhaps there’s something about having lifted so much of the a7 III’s innards that made implementing the new menu hugely impractical. Most likely we will never know.

Autofocus

I think many a7 III owners will have been waiting to see how much this new camera puts their old technology into the shade, especially given how compact the a7C is while still being able to match the a7 III’s ten frames per second burst speed.

Perhaps one point of frustration, however, is Sony’s implementation of autofocus tracking, a feature that is notably lacking from the a7 III, but present in pretty much everything that Sony has released since. Given how much of the a7 III has been included inside the a7C — it's the same sensor with its output being controlled by the exact same processor —  it’s probably safe to assume that Sony could deliver this functionality to the a7 III via a firmware upgrade but, for now, chooses not to. Is this a retrospective cripple hammering at play? Let me know in the comments.

Your Thoughts

Is Sony going to sell a ton of these cameras? How will it affect the price of other bodies? And will the a7 IV be a little bit more expensive than predicted as a result? Be sure to give your response in the comments below.

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17 Comments

Chris Fowler's picture

Covid edition LOL! Perfect descriptor right there!

Bjarne Solvik's picture

I found that on the rather critical side.

To me it looks like a nice camera.

I think and hope next A7 will me more expensive, and in the ballpark of 36 Megapixel.

This c model might look a little redundant, but I find it a nice addition to nice line up from Sony:) Do you seriously believe a manufacturer will develop and offer a camera they think will not sell? Seriously?

Gary Pardy's picture

The only real miss is the lack of small lenses to pair with the 7C. As you say, there are plenty of small primes, especially from Samyang - but there aren't any decent, compact slow zooms. Fuji looks more compelling at this price point with the 18-55 and 16-80 kits.

AJ L's picture

Yawn. It’s not that small - just an A7 with the EVF bump cut off. It’s not that cheap. It’s not any better than the 2 year old models. The kit lens is slow. The EVF is terrible. I don’t see why some people are excited about this. If you have an A7iii there’s no reason to get an A7C, and if you haven’t bought an A7iii by now what’s going to make you buy this?

Chris Fowler's picture

This combination of features is either a year late (a6600 anyone?), or a year premature (not quite ready for prime time). If they improve this significantly, I may be interested in a mark-ii version in a year or two after I finish cutting my teeth on the APSC line-up.

Daniel Watson's picture

Sony is starting to show its core weakness in the photography arena. This camera announcement is PR disaster. Now if they put this out for $1299 maybe folks would look differently. I think Sony is a great tech company with lots of fantasitc products, but they still don't quite understand the photography business.

Daris Fox's picture

A single card slot, remember when Canon and Nikon got flamed for that? Yet here we are two years later and a camera with a single slot.

Sorry didn't just miss the mark, but took the whole damned wall with it. You'd be better off with a Fuji X-T4 sure it's not full frame but does far more and is also cheaper.

Bret Little's picture

As a Sony user, I see no purpose in this camera. Pickup an a7iii or a7ii if on a budget. For a smaller camera, just use one of their excellent aps-c models.

Charles Mercier's picture

To me, it seems like they are targeting the lower budget Leica user. It hasn't been released to the public yet..my friend is still waiting for his pre-ordered a7siii. They still have time to add the new menu, better stabilization and autofocus. It seems to me that is all that they need to do. It could still be a success.

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

Sony and Canon playing cripple hammer footsies.

I don't think this camera will sell well. Sony, wtf were you thinking.

And, lol at folks that continue to complain about big lenses on small bodies. It's still lighter than big lenses on big bodies. And, no, it doesn't feel off balanced. Anyone with any kind of coordination will shift their hand placement for balance. Years and years ago, I used to shoot a 70-200 f2.8 on a Sony NEX-5N. Now, that was a small body.

Les Sucettes's picture

The a7 line is small enough... smaller isn’t needed! They tried a smaller form and then failed on basic function!

If I want a rangefinder I want the eyepiece to be on the body and not extended outwards. Make it aligned to the body, ideally, include an OVF!

I also want the dial to be about shutter speed and not some funny P,A,M dial that has no logical function to it.

Make the body larger for the OVF/EVF hybrid to be aligned to the body and have a proper dial for exposure compensation, another for shutter (where the current P,M,A thing is), aperture controls on the lens and another dial that I can program to be about ISO.

Take inspiration from Leica or Fuji! Or any other Rangefinder back in Analog days.

It’s not that hard!

For god sakes!

PS this constant focus on tech like IBIS, eye AF is ruining photography... fine add them if you can, just don’t ruin the basics.

PPS: vloggers, videographers should just buy a bigger device like the a7 ... why make everything about vlogging! Video requires more “power”... get a slightly more SLR body type... small handy rangefinders should be about photography first

Pieter Batenburg's picture

This is the worst camera Sony introduced in the last 6 years. I'd rather buy the older a7mk3.

James Redondo's picture

I don't really see who this is for. Vloggers don't care about size so much as price and video quality. For FF video, a Nikon Z6 is a better value. For travel, a decent lens will leave you with a larger and heavier system than APS-C, and for most APS-C is plenty good.

Chris Fowler's picture

Agreed. but Sony is like "Watch this, we'll give them the flippy screen and the millenial vloggers will buy it in droves!" They've missed the point again.
As someone who dabbles in vlogging, all I really want is a cheap wide autofocus lens for my APSC camera, and I'd be good. They have not fulfilled this need. The flippy screen is, at this point, to be expected and not applauded because they should have done that years ago!

Dillan K's picture

Tough crowd! Every comment so far is negative.

Charles Mercier's picture

Well if you look at the title and read the article, it's very critical. Several YT reviews are not.