Sony A7R practical observations

I’m not a camera reviewer so the following observations on the Sony A7R are from the perspective of an active shooter and not a lab reviewer. Having used the camera for just little over a week I have not made any hard judgements on it. In a few weeks I intend to test it extensively in the field and try to post more results.

What I like so far:

This camera is intended to be a backup body for my 645D on an upcoming trip early next year, and as a general light weight body for longer multi day hikes where taking heavy medium format gear becomes prohibitive.

Obviously the size of the camera and the image quality to size ratio is what has attracted me to the A7R. On this front the camera definitely lives up to the hype, and the Sony / Zeiss FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA Sonnar has a “3D” depth that I don’t see in a lot of other lenses in it’s price range. Given my criteria for a high quality small sized body with interchangeable lenses the A7R delivers.

Besides image quality, which for me is the most important aspect along with size of the camera, the sony A7R fails on nearly every other front.

Annoyances:

• Crappy charger, uses short flimsy usb cable to connect to the camera directly. I had to purchase a separate Sony charger to charge the $89 (CAD) dollar per piece batteries. A camera is not an iPhone and should not be charged like one. Also having to charge the camera through the body takes it out of commission if you want to use multiple batteries. If Sony is targeting this camera at professionals or serious amateurs, not including a proper charger is a lame choice to make.

• Horrible defaults, especially for shooting with gloves on. The scroll wheel controls ISO and is very easily moved during shooting, disabling the scroll wheel is a must for many shooting situations. I’m not quite sure who thought that a hardware interface element like this is a good idea, but the camera overall seems to have been designed by computer geeks and not photographers.

• Lens focusing ring design has very little tactile feedback even when wearing thin gloves. This is something one can get used to but it’s not ideal.Thicker and slightly higher grooves would be much nicer.

• Camera manual seems like a google translation from Japanese, why even waste paper ? Common questions are not described in the manual or are difficult to find. Reading a few pages feels like a strange drug induced journey towards great confusion.

• A lot of the features of the camera are useless in raw mode and convolute the menu system needlessly. There is even an etched WB (white balance) symbol on the body by the scroll wheel; a useless feature when shooting raw. Something that is generally not used by anyone serious (such as a jpg shooter) should not be prominently featured on the camera body.

• The downside of the A7R form factor is the inability to use it reliably with thick gloves in low temperatures. The controls are to close and don’t have enough tactile clues that can be felt though medium and thick gloves.

• Power switch design and position is easily mistaken for the front aperture scroll wheel and the camera can be easily turned off by mistake. This is something that has happened to me a bunch of times over the course of the week and can become a big deal considering the camera takes a few seconds to turn back on.

• The shutter is indeed loud for a camera of this form factor. I’m used to a relatively loud shutter/mirror sound on the Pentax 645D but the sony A7R does not really have much of an excuse to be this loud considering it lacks the huge mirror box.

The following images are a few samples from this weekend. I will post more pictures and observations in the coming days, including examples of a disconcerting banding effect with the A7R raw files processed in Lightroom 5.3 RC.

 

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