Sony A7r, long term performer or front runner?

Sony A7r, long term performer or front runner?

My report that the Sony A7r and 55mm f1.8 Zeiss combo is capable to focus faster -in good light- then my Nikon D800e/Nikkor 50mm 1.4 caused quite a stirr :) Let me say it again, in good light, the A7r/55mm combo is faster then the D800e/50mm 1.4 combo, I have used the Nikon d800e/50mm 1.4 on enough professional shoots to assure you I wasn’t drunk when I wrote that. This of course doesn’t mean that the A7r has better af then the Nikon D800e. More after the break

All it means is just that with this particular body/lens combo the Sony focuses faster, in good light.
Possible reasons why this is happening:
A) the Nikkor 50mm 1.4 has a fairly long focus throw when compared to the Zeiss 55mm f1.8 and is known for slow af performance
Additionally, the f1.8 calls for smaller diameter glass elements, which move faster during af acquisition then the much larger and heavier glass elements in the f1.4. (Even the much cheaper Nikkor 50mm f1.8 focuses much faster then the 1.4 version)
A smart move on Sony’s part to go with 1.8 rather then 1.4. The same strategy being appied to the 35mm 2.8 and the upcoming 24-70mm f4. Keeps size and weight down, allows for shorter focus throw and puts less strain on the af motor.

What kind of AF can we realistically expect from the A7r? As of this writing we only have the 35mm 2.8 and 55mm 1.8 (I will test them as soon as I get my hands on productions models) from what I have seen at the Expo it will be fast enough as long as there is enough light. I certainly won’t complain about af speed. My prediction for low light performance isn’t as bright, we will have to wait and see. Remember, I am talking about the A7r, the high mp monster with contrast detection af. Let’s be realistic here.
This is not a low light but a landscape monster. The medium format genie in a tiny bottle.

Will I replace my Nikon D800e with the Sony A7r? Of course not, I don’t think this first generation mini monster is ready to take on something as proven and versatile as the D800 or 5Dmk3, perhaps the next generation :)
However, the reasons I am hoping the A7r will find a spot in my camera pack are: very small body, same, or improved sensor/image quality? as the D800e
will work well with my Nikkor portrait lenses – the 2.4M EVF should make mf easy
will work well with my super wide angle lenses, particularly with the Rokinon 14mm 2.8 – very curious about that
will produce stunning videos and serve as a very capable B camera, possibly even as a main camera on certain shoots

As you can see from my list, I don’t expect it to be a top all round performer, great resolution for hyper realistic portraits, landscapes and a great video camera. I really don’t expect it to perform miracles in low light and the shutter sound disqualifies it as a street camera.
This is a very capable camera, provided there won’t be major gotcha’s once we start shooting with it. I sure hope it will do what I expect it to do – very well. A front runner that will eventually win the race, exciting times! I am curious to hear from you guys, your take on the A7r. Will it fit in with what you shoot? Concerns?
You can preorder the Sony A7r here at BH and here at Adorama.
The Zeiss 55 f1.8 here at BH and here at Adorama.
The Zeiss 35mm f2.8 here at BH and here at Adorama.
The Zeiss 24-70mm f4 OSS here at BH and here at Adorama.

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10 thoughts on “Sony A7r, long term performer or front runner?

  1. mike.kobal Post author

    :) agree. exciting times indeed. The Nikon will be very interesting for anyone NOT interested in video because I am certain it will perfectly work with most Nikkor lenses from the past 50 years without the typical headaches associated with adapting vintage glass to mirrorless bodies.

  2. JSturr

    The Sony A7 series price point is going to be a crazy competitor in the space – regardless of what Nikon is releasing this week – it will be a difficult decision.

    Your findings, Steve Huff’s findings – are all giving me hope that the color rendering Sony secret sauce has been re-“cooked”.

    What a fun time to be dialed into all of these happenings.


  3. mike.kobal Post author

    aye, I was really hoping for impressive video, let’s wait and see. as long as it matches my D800E video output- of course i was hoping it would surpass it – lol-
    Chris, could you please post the links to the video samples you are referring to?

  4. chris

    Judging by the samples, the A7/r video is no better than the a99 – which is to say the video is mushy AVCHD garbage. I really wish Sony had improved the video specs and bumped up the bitrate, but we get the same specs as the little Nex5n and every other Sony over the last few years. I really want the A7 for the dual AF to replace the 5d3, but a lot of what I want it for is video. I’ll wait for more comprehensive tests, so far its not looking so good.


    For me the much more important question is, if the AF of the A7R is more accurate than the PDAF of the D800E that I had to return last year after too many drawbacks with its AF module (e.g. a strong dependency on light temperature).

    As even the contrast AF of the D800E in live view made a much more accurate job, I am quite confident that the A7R will outperform it.

  6. mike.kobal Post author

    Thanks Garth. Definitely, theoretically, it should make the perfect second body regardless of system, unless you are a sports or red carpet shooter. A D800e sensor in a m43 sized body, that alone is quite exciting AND Sony does a much better job with video implementation then some of the other major players.

  7. Garth

    Hey Mike I like your approach. I think your take is correct, I have over the past two years invested in a lot of old Rokkor manual glass and have, with the use of adapters loved the versatility of the NEX system, focus peaking and image focus magnification have meant that I usually don’t miss sharp focus when using manual glass. Of course having a full frame high megapixels body was always a wish for me, and here it is. I have gone for the 7R as that compliments my NEX 6 which I mostly use for street. My prediction (oh dear, groan lol) is that Sony will win over a lot of APS-c and micro fourthirds prospects but with the SONY 7 not 7R. cant see my mates who use and have invested in the Nikon or Canon platforms running over to Sony, maybe as a second body with adapters yes, but not as their main platform.

  8. mike.kobal Post author

    Thanks Derek! True, the battery is small, I dig the battery grip, doesn’t add much bulk but allows for two batteries and totally stabilizes the camera, vertical and horizontal. Battery charger, you can get a 3rd party one on ebay for $5 free shipping. :)

  9. derek

    great very honest write up Mike.
    I also used the Sony A7 and 7R with 35mm f2.8ZA lens , it was quite fast to AF as a mirrorless ,escially in good light.
    I am sure you are correct it is faster than my D800E + AF-S24-120mmf4VR or AF-S85mmf1.4G, but a bit slower than the 24-70mmf2.8GED on my D800E.
    so for me it can replace almost all my Nikon kit since I do not shoot any sports or action in real life, just make sure to buy a couple of extra batteries and optional battery charger for that Sony camera, I think it is a good hybrid camera, just wish it had a bit bigger battery an the optinal charger is included in the box.

    thanks for your honest reports on this great compact camera.

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