Meet the Sony Alpha 7, or A7. Sporting a 24MP full-frame sensor and the E-Mount that has only been used on the NEX until now, this is the Japanese company’s newest flagship. There’s a lot in a name – and that fact that this doesn’t have an NEX badge, like its mirrorless siblings, is curious. In fact, there is talk that Sony may move away from the NEX brand name, and list all the new E-Mount cameras under the Alpha branding, moving forward. That explains new models like A3000, A7 and A7R.
Today I got to go hands on with A7 for a short while. It was not a review sample that could leave Sony’s office just yet, but it was a great chance to get an idea of what the camera feels like, plus an indication of potential performance.
The major talking point is that full-frame, 24MP CMOS sensor. (The A7R sports a 36MP full-frame sensor without a low-pass filter, Nikon D800E style). These two cameras essentially become the first full-frame mirrorless, removable-lens cameras – bar the Leica M, which is technically a rangefinder camera, and costs all the earth’s money – which we think is a big deal. Below are some of its key features.
The A7 was extremely quick on autofocus, even indoors where many contrast-based focusing systems struggle. Considering the limitations we had in shooting images to a card (we weren’t allowed to take images to analyse), initial indications from the playback on the camera look promising, in terms of noise levels and detail. We would expect nothing less, considering this is Sony’s second-gen 24MP full-frame sensor. The real question is how will compare to established competitors from Nikon and Canon, with the latter’s EOS 6D setting a new benchmark for low light performance, particularly in the entry-level full frame market.
When it comes to quality, the A7 feels like an extremely well-made camera. It is robust and ready to roll with the punches – if you have used an Alpha 900 or even the A77 then you’ll know what we’re talking about.
As for handling: take an NEX-7 and make it look like a DSLR. Now you kind of have a idea of the way the Alpha 7 handles. Controls fall to finger – except for one: the shutter button. Instead of being on top of the protruding grip, as you find on many a DSLR, it is on top of the camera body, which requires your finger to stretch a little further than feels comfortable. Unless you shift your grip a little into a position more similar to that of what a compact camera requires, it might not feel all that intuitive to hold.
From the short time we had with it, the A7 looks and feels to be a winner. It is fast and handles well. The biggest advantage, we feel. is its estimated retail price of R20 000 (body only). This compares favourably to other full-frame cameras on the market. Keep an eye on the December issue of PhotoComment magazine, for a full review.