A few questions answered: Sony A7 in hands, on review, part I.

A few questions answered: Sony A7 in hands, on review, part I.


The Sony A7 arrived today and the first thing I tried was video recording in full frame and crop mode.
Guess what? It works, this is very exciting because it gives us a 1.5x digital zoom without apparent (further testing needs to be done) quality loss and suddenly the lowly 28-70mm kit lens looks a lot more interesting, at least from the videographer’s point of view
more after the break

we can cover a range from 28-105mm. OSS works as it should and I also liked af behavior during video takes. Let’s keep in mind, as of this writing there is still room for full frame video cameras, especially small ones and I consider the A7/A7r very valuable additions, although not perfect (aliasing, moire), we do get 1080/24p and even 60p, allowing us to capture bokeh-licious video thanks to the huge sensor. I am sure quite a few pro shooters will take note. This might just be the perfect video brain to come along on photo shoots.

Will the A7/A7r replace a pro video camera? Of course it won’t and frankly, I don’t understand why certain vital features have been crippled-again, particularly the 4x magnification only during video recording and the black overlay during audio level adjustment, just to make sure we can’t see what what we are filming? Don’t worry Sony, it won’t replace my FS100/FS700, 5DmarkIII or C300 shooting professional gigs even if I could see the image while adjusting audio levels and zoom to 8x while recording. It would however, make life a lot easier.

Sound recording/built in amp: As I have noticed with previous cameras from Sony, particularly the Nex-7, Nex-6 and lately the RX10, the built in amplifiers are better then what the competition offers. You will still benefit from using an external device like Sony’s XLR-K1M which produces much cleaner sounding audio and allows you to connect XLR mics. Too bad this device is way overpriced and can only be used with Sony gear. You can get a JuicedLink RM333 Riggy for about half the price and use it on any camera with a 3.5mm standard mic input.

Articulated LCD: I am happy to report that, unlike on the RX10, you can pull the LCD away from the body and the EVF eyepiece won’t be in the way ( a lot less protruding then on the RX10, check the second photo) – check out the image below


Street camera. The shutter sound isn’t as loud as on the A7r and I can see this camera as a street tool with limitations.There are better choices, like the Ricoh GR or the Fuji X100s. For traditional street photography, capturing the flow of life and looking for decisive moments, the full frame sensor won’t add anything of essence. Candid night shots, perhaps, if the shutter sound doesn’t get in the way, the ability to shoot at incredible high ISO certainly is a plus.

Kit lens: There are lots of negative comments floating around about this unworthy kit lens, well, and at the risk of sounding like you know who, I beg to differ. Of course this is only a cheapo plastic tube, however, it is small, very light weight, focuses incredibly fast and the zoom and focus rings feel very well dampened, much better then on some lenses costing 5x as much. It even has a metal mount. This lens is a surprise, in a good way.

Adapting Nikkor lenses: I didn’t have time to do a proper test yet but the good news is that I can use the Nikkor 18-35mm G-which is as you probably know, the best bang for your $$$ and one of the lightest ultra wide zooms, without any corner issues shooting raw, full frame of course, no problems with the 50mm 1.4 and no vignetting shooting my favorite, the Nikkor DC 135mm/f2 wide open . Ebay is flooded with cheap Nikon G to Sony E mount adapters, I found this one to be the best machined and smooth aperture control.
Flash sync speed: As others have reported, I can confirm that it will only sync up to 1/200 with wireless triggered studio strobes (works on Nikon at 1/320 without issues), 3rd party hot shoe strobes work fine at 1/250.

I have a few major assignments coming up and I am hoping to use the A7 on one of them, stay tuned, I will keep you guys updated on how this camera performs. If you have questions about things I didn’t get around to mention, please ask and I will try to answer.

Update: If you haven’t seen it yet, check out Dierk Topp’s guest post on the Sony A7r,
great examples of how to get the most out of this top sensor.

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8 thoughts on “A few questions answered: Sony A7 in hands, on review, part I.

  1. mike.kobal Post author

    Generic Nikon G to Nex I found here on ebay, really liking it, have this one since I started shooting with the FS100, works great on full frame and allows for aperture control with G lenses. The Ai-s is a great lens, I am sure you will get great results. I am really liking this combo, now keep in mind when you look at that photo I posted, there is a vari ND fader on the lens and a metal hood attached to the filter, it gets very long but I found this to be the most practical set up for video, keeps unwanted light out and allows for easy nd filter adjustment simply by turning the lens shade. I much prefer this over a matte box.
    Once you take the filter/shade off, the size isn’t a factor anymore, balances quite nicely.

  2. Dec

    Woah the picture of the 50mm 1.4D with the A7, may I ask what adapter you are using?

    Am planning to get the a7 to use with a nikon 50mm 1.4 Ai-s lens, do you think it will be a good combo? (looks a little long on the picture)

    I hope you’ll be posting up test shots with the nikkor 50mm soon!

  3. mike.kobal Post author

    The Nikkor 18-35mm G works without issues, any retro-focus lens will work. I don’t have the 24mm or 20mm, replaced them with the zoom and it even performs well on the d800E, I was tired of carrying the 14 24mm around, mainly because it isn’t something I need on a regular basis. The 18 35mm only weighs 385grams, the copy I have is extremely well made with nice resistance in the zoom and focus ring, it balances great on the A7.

  4. mike.kobal Post author

    Hi Ron, thank you! Yes, that was the plan, however, the A7 arrived first and now I am having second thoughts, I might just keep this one, don’t laugh but I really like the kit lens for video :). I am not looking for the best resolution to take pictures with but for a small ff body to shoot video along the D800E, shallow depth of field is the priority here. Of course it is great to have a kick ass sensor for images, it can double as a no nonsense back up camera. Seeing it online doesn’t really do the small size justice, the A7 really is tiny, same size as the X-E2, just with a hump :) I am sorry I can’t help you with wide angle M lenses, got rid of them many years ago. You probably know more about it then I do. But I can tell you this: shooting raw, the images look fantastic, the AA filter doesn’t appear to be very strong, af is very fast and using Nikkor lenses from super wide to medium tele produced impressive results so far, no problems using a generic $20 Nikon G to nex adapter, focusing is a breeze because of the fantastic EVF. I am jumping the gun here, but I should mention that focus peaking really isn’t much help for accurate focusing with stills, I am certain it never meant to be, works fine in video mode because of the lower resolution, however, for stills just isn’t precise enough. The EVF is so good that I find it easier to just zoom in and focus.

  5. ron greer

    Nice intro to the A7 Mike, looking forward to further reports. I thought you were going for the A7r; change your mind?

    I canceled my A7 order as I worry Sony may have rushed this camera to makret; I’ve read they already have another FF camera coming soon.

    I’m especially curious how the A7 handles wide angle M lenses. My 21mm Voigtlander had terrible purple fringing on the Nex 7, yet works fine on my Fuji XE-1.

    If only the Fuji had decent video, or maybe I’ll just stick with my D800; it’s not that big and seems to do it all.

  6. mike.kobal Post author

    Hi Gerald, thank you! I haven’t done any proper pixel peeping yet, as far as I can tell, it looks identical to my eye. The highest I have shot was ISO 800 and it looks VERY impressive. I saw aliasing right away on an air conditioner grid but luckily I am not into shooting air conditioners for a living :) I think it will be very easy to grade and match footage from the D800 and we get to shoot 60p :)

  7. gerald t

    As always, an well written review. I shoot with a D800 myself and would you be able to comment on your thoughts on how A7 video compares to the D800 video quality? Thank you!

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