Camera

Checking Out the Sony A7

 

Sony A7 with Kit 28-70mm, f/3.5-5.6 Lens - Shot with my iPhone 5S

I had a little time today after a lunch meeting in the Pearl District and my friend Roger let me know that Pro Photo Supply had a demo Sony A7 and a Nikon DF. We met up and headed over to check them out.

I'm happy with my current kit, but it's pretty clear that the A7 is a pretty important move forward in the evolution of digital cameras. I gotta stay informed.

As you can see, the kit lens is pretty large compared to most E mount lenses. They didn't have the 35mm Zeiss prime in stock yet and it sounds like a lot of people are experiencing that same discrepency.

I was grabbing a cup of coffee at Barista just before Pro Photo and ran into Duncan Davidson who took delivery of his A7 body yesterday, but was still waiting on his lens. He put together a makeshift body cap pin-hole lens while he waited. Really looking forward to his review as it sounds like his lens arrived this afternoon.

 

Roger with the A7- Shot with my iPhone 5S

 

So, I put my hand on it and it is nice. Some of the things I'd been wondering about were answered.

First of all, it feels an awful lot like my NEX 7. The body is just a bit heavier, though not more than you'd expect from the extra EVF section on top and the slightly deeper body. The buttons have a familiar positive click. The grip has a rubber coating that feels identical to the one on the NEX 7. The grip shape is a little different and it is slightly shallower. In addition, there's a groove toward the top for a finger, but I found it a little odd as the shutter is located on the top of the body. It didn't feel totally natural. I don't quite know how to explain this except to say that the shutter would work better on the slanted front area where they've placed a control dial.

The control dials are nice, with just the right amount of resistance. The 7 has knobs that are clearly plastic, but they don't feel flimsy. The A7r comes has metal knobs for a little nicer finish.

As usual, when you are trying out a camera in the store, they are frequently low on battery and without an SD card. No difference here. It took me a little fiddling to find my way around the menus to turn up the screen brightness and turn off the Noise reduction bursts. If you are used to the NEX menu, it's a little confusing. NEX uses a set of icons as the home page for the menu whereas the A7 starts with a tabbed menu system. Things are titled differently, but I'm sure it would be pretty easy to learn.

The kit lens. Man it's big. It has a dark gray plasticky finish that really look out of place on the slick glossy black metal finish of the A7. It doesn't look like the early photos I've seen. It has a very short barrel extension when changing focal lengths which is nice. I'm sure it is a decent lens, but I can't imagine not going for much nicer glass on this body.

The EVF is really nice. It seems sharper than I'm used to, though not drastically so. The resolution seems to be the same at 1024 x 768, but the image seems easier to view even if you aren't quite aligned with it. On the 7, the edges can distort or smudge a little if you aren't centered.

I could certainly see this as an upgrade path for myself in the future especially as the lens line matures. I really love my 24mm (35mm equivalent on APS-C Sensor) Zeiss and I'm really looking forward to seeing shots from the 35mm lens. That's really my main focal length and I hope that they develop a super fast stabilized model.

Perhaps what excites me the most about this camera is the potential. Sony is really pushing the envelope in a way that few companies are willing to attempt.

 

Sony Needs to Do Better with Lenses for the A7

 

So, now that the full announcement, previews, first image samples and first criticisms and praise for the Sony A7 and A7r are here I have a few more thoughts. The A7 is what I and many of my friends value- Top notch Image Quality but smaller and lighter than what has been previously avialable.

I'm gonna put one piece of criticism out there.

Lenses. What's the deal with Sony and lens planning?

How is it that Sony isn't just releasing amazing Primes right out of the chute for this system?

The 55 f/1.8 Zeiss is great, but why not go faster with the 35? We know it's possible because they already put out an amazing f/2 on the RX-1. I've heard rumors that the short mount distance on the RX-1 makes this lens work, but no one would have complained about an extra centimeter of length due to the interchangeable mount. And why not a 24mm and an 85mm? They could have totally changed the reputation among serious photographers regarding their lenses if they'd just done it right.

Instead, they are getting the same criticisms they've always gotten for the NEX system. Great bodies. Bummer of a lens selection.

Also,why does Sony refuse to go faster than 1.8 on mirrorless?

They need to take notes from Fuji who is pretty much universally praised for the quality of their X series lenses. That's a way to release a system. There isn't really a missing focal length in their native offerings and they are comparing favorably to the Zeiss Touit lenses. That says a lot.

Sony is saying that there are 15 full frame lenses on the way, but there aren't even 15 E mount lenses for NEX APS-C right now. There are a few more if you include third party offerings from Zeiss, Sigma and Rockinon, but they mostly duplicate Sony's own offerings.

  1. 16 f/2.8
  2. 10-18 f/4
  3. 20 f/2.8
  4. 24 Zeiss f/1.8
  5. 30 f/3.5 macro
  6. 35 f/1.8
  7. 50 f/1.8
  8. 18-55 zoom f/3.5-5.6
  9. 16-55 pzoom f/3.5-5.6
  10. 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3
  11. 55-210 f/4.5-6.3
  12. big video power zoom 18-200 f/3.5-6.3
  13. Zeiss 16-70mm f/4 zoom
  14. Sony g zoom 18-105mm f/4

I might be missing something…but 3 years in and they are still missing a few key lenses. No 75, no 100, no fast zooms at all. Every zoom is 3.5 and the only two that are constant are f4. Perhaps more importantly, the quality of the above lens selection is really hit and miss. There are some great lenses in that list, but there isn't the consistency to build a good reputation.

If they want to be taken seriously and convert pro Canon and Nikon owners they need to develop competitors to the long fast zooms. They might be big compared to current NEX offerings, but they should be able to make them smaller than FX and L lenses because of the short mount distance.

How about a 70-200 f/2.8, an 18-105 f/2.8 or a 14-24 f/2.8?

It seems to me that the majority of pros using full frame canon and Nikon care way more about sharp fast zooms than primes.

By contrast, almost no one uses zooms on mirror less cameras because they don't make any nice ones that are sharp anywhere but in the center.

The Sony guys are talking about using glass from other mounts using adaptors, but they need to develop native e mount lenses if they hope for people to switch. They can't make folks go elsewhere to for their go-to lenses.

So, if you've read my blog at all before, it's clear that I'm a huge Sony fan. They are pushing the envelope like no other company out there. I only put this criticism out as a fan who wants to see Sony succeed. They could really make a huge shift in the camera market and the perception of mirrorless systems in general with this new camera. I just hate to see them fumble on the lens part.

 

Sony Mirrorless Full Frame - The Future of Photography?

 

Image from Digicame-info.com  

I love gadgets. So it's no surprise that I make it pretty clear what I'm using, and occasionally, what I find intriguing. About a year and a half ago I bought my first modern digital Interchangeable lens camera and as I detailed here, I chose the Sony NEX system.

Sony is a company that has shown a willingness to push the boundaries. Here are some examples: Release of the NEX (First mirrorless APS-C system), RX-1 (First Full Frame fixed lens Mirrorless camera), Focus peaking system, and the Alpha SLT system. They make the sensors used in Nikon's flagship Full frame cameras and the sensor used in the iPhone 5 and 5s.

So, with the release and subsequent success of the RX-1 it isn't that much of a surprise that Sony is only a few days from releasing an interchangeable lens Full Frame Mirrorless system. It will use the same lens mount as the NEX system and the first 2 models will carry a center-mounted Electronic Viewfinder.

Digicame-info.com posted a couple photos which have been confirmed by Andrea at Sony Alpha Rumors. To my eyes, the camera looks like a hybrid. The body and top controls are like an RX-1, the grip and mount are from the NEX bodies, and the hump on top of the body for the EVF that looks like an old school pentraprism box.

There have been quite a few exceptional photographers that have moved to mirrorless systems as their primary kit over the past couple years. Trey Ratcliff recently started using the NEX 7 for his epic landscapes. Zack Arias is a hardcore Fuji X series user. TED photographer Duncan Davidson has been using the RX-1 as his main camera for day-to-day use. Aaron Courter, who is an exceptional Portland based photographer and a long time friend has been incorporating the Fuji X cameras into his personal work, wedding and portrait business with great success.

I'm in love with the Sony NEX. I never even considered a DSLR camera because of the size, the weight and what I perceived to be its imminent demise. Up until now, you couldn't really get the same image quality and crazy shallow depth of field from a mirrorless camera, but I think the A7 and A7r will be the start of a large scale move away from large DSLR bodies for most photographers.

Sure, there are some times when the larger camera really makes sense. The Mirrored design still allows for faster focusing in sports contexts and there is certainly an expectation in event photography that will take awhile to pass. In addition, the larger bodies do have many features still missing from the new breed of mirrorless cameras and certainly handle big glass much better.

This is a moment. It feels like the rise of ultra portable notebooks such as the Macbook Air which have almost negated the need for more powerful desktops for all but the most demanding of users. I believe we are witnessing the birth of the future of photography.

 
 

Metal Lens Hood for Sony NEX

Metal Lens Hood

Sony Plastic Lens Hood

This week I ordered and received a metal thread mount lens hood from EZPhoto. I kept seeing photos of the Sony RX-1 and Fujifilm cameras with these classy, and short metal lens hoods and thought it seemed like a better idea than the fairly long, plastic hood included with the lens.

A lot of folks seem to snatching these up to use with their cameras as the official version from each manufacturer is pretty overpriced. There are some 3rd party optionsthat use the built in bayonet system, but even they are overpriced.

There are two advantages I've seen so far. First, this new hood is shorter, which makes it less obtrusive from a visual sense. Secondly, it's narrower which means that it does a better job of keeping objects and stray light away from the glass.

The one disadvantage I've seen thus far is that it mounts via filter threads which makes it a tiny bit more of a hassle to remove and prevents you from using a lens cap. I don't use a lens cap on the lens currently mounted to my camera, so no big deal.

Edit- Small warning- This hood causes a bit of Vignette on anything wider than 24mm. Stick with the Sony Stock hood on your kit lens.


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