The Sony a7 Series: Which Model Suits You Best?

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Sony introduced its first two full-frame mirrorless cameras, the Alpha a7 and a7R, to overwhelmingly positive reviews late last year. Revolutionary in many ways, the choices between the two cameras boiled down to the a7, which features a 24.3MP CMOS sensor, quick Hybrid Phase and Contrast autofocus, an electronic front-shutter curtain with Quiet Shutter Mode, faster top flash-sync speed (1/250  versus 1/160) , and slightly faster burst rates (5 fps versus 4 fps).

     
 

The Sony a7R, which is a bit more expensive, features a higher-resolution 36.4MP imaging sensor with gapless on-sensor micro lenses, no anti-aliasing filter for sharper image detail, and a slower, yet eminently adequate autofocus system. Most importantly, both cameras take extraordinary photographs, 1080p AVCHD video, and are winning concepts in their own right.

 
     
 

Adding to the excitement, Sony introduced the Sony a7S a few months later, which differs from its siblings by sporting a 12.2MP CMOS sensor with on-sensor micro lenses and an anti-aliasing filter, a maximum ISO sensitivity of an astounding 409,000, versus a maximum of ISO 25,600 on the A7 and A7R, and 4K video capture―when recording to an external recorder.

 
     
 

Now the big question for consumers is, “Which Sony A7-series camera is best for me?” In this product review, we will attempt to clarify these issues. Be advised that the differences are not always cut and dried. There are enough overlapping attributes that make each of these cameras a smart purchase for most still- and video-capture needs. As for which camera is best for you, spend some time with the photo and video examples below, and read our recommendations on how to weigh the differences and similarities between these three camera systems. 

 
   
     


   

ISO Examples

 
   
     
     

This series of night exposures was captured in an attempt to test the ISO performance of each of Sony’s three distinct a7-series cameras. Each camera was attached to the Sony FE 70-200mm f/4.0 G OSS lens and mounted atop a tripod via the lens’s tripod collar. Each camera was set to Aperture Priority mode and the lens was set to f/11.

 

A photograph was made at each full-stop ISO setting on each camera. This adjustment of the ISO inherently affected the shutter speed, which is apparent in the varying movement of New York's East River at the bottom of each frame.

 

Due to the complexity of lighting in this scene, and in an attempt to keep the highlights from being overexposed, the exposure compensation dial was set to -0.7 on each camera for every shot in the series.

 

The images you are seeing are RAW files, and were processed with Lightroom at a White Balance setting of 4500K.

 

As with every digital sensor, the image quality did slowly degrade as the test progressed and the ISO sensitivity was pushed to the limits on each camera. Each slide includes a native-resolution-crop image, so you can see more detail.

 

We think the results are very interesting, but we will let you decide which camera is right for your needs.

     
     

 


Dynamic Range Examples

 
     
     
     

A key attribute of an imaging sensor is the extent of its dynamic range. Dynamic range, i.e., the range of highlight, shadow, and mid-tone detail a sensor can capture, is a barometer of how detailed and "rich" an image appears. Because the 12MP imaging sensor in Sony’s a7S contains photo diodes (pixels) significantly larger than the photo diodes in Sony’s a7 and a7R (24MP and 36.4MP, respectively), the a7S has much higher sensitivity to light, making it the most viable available-light camera currently available from any manufacturer. As these images illustrate, Sony’s a7S can capture and display an extreme range of highlight and shadow detail without your having to resort to heavy image editing.

     
     
Sony a7

Sony a7

Sony a7R

Sony a7S


Resolution Examples  
     
     
     

While it’s easy to soften or diffuse a photograph, the degree of sharpness in a photograph cannot be improved after the fact. The side-lit texture and forms of the marble columns along the entrance of the James Farley Post Office, in Manhattan, are perfect for evaluating the resolving power of each of Sony’s a7-series cameras. When discussing resolution, it’s important to note the degree of detail in the highlights, which can easily be blown out on lesser sensors, as well as the shadows. What’s equally important to note is the high levels of resolving power of which each of these cameras is capable.

     
     

Sony a7

Sony a7R

Sony a7S


Vignette Examples  
     
     
     

This photograph of a rare open patch of Manhattan real estate illustrates how each of these cameras handles vignetting on wider-angle lenses. A notable issue concerning Sony’s a7 and a7R concerns vignetting and color shifting when using lenses wider than 25mm. One of the positive attributes of the Sony a7S is that, unlike the a7 and a7R, vignetting is greatly reduced, if not completely eliminated, when shooting with wide-angle lenses. These photographs, captured with a Voigtlander Super-Heliar 15mm f/4.5-L Aspheric lens, clearly illustrate the differences between each of these cameras in terms of wide-angle vignetting.

     
     

Sony a7

Sony a7R

Sony a7S


 


Dynamic Range in Video Test  
     
     
     
While all the a7 cameras have very good dynamic range in stills mode, in video it’s rather different. With the a7 and a7R you do have some control over gamma, because the creative-style jpeg profiles also influence the video. However, they don’t offer the best explanation of what they are doing with names like Night Scene, Sunset, Vivid, Clear, etc. For this test, the a7R and a7 are set to the Sunset creative style, which I think attempts to maximize the dynamic range.
     
  On the a7S, there are much more precise picture profiles, with the ability to set knee level, black levels, gamma curves, and more. For this test, I shot the a7S in both Cine1 Gamma at a low ISO, and S-Log2 at ISO 3200 (3200 is the minimum ISO in S-Log2). The a7S has far more dynamic range in both modes, with S-Log2 having the most; however, it’s noisier in the shadows than Cine1 Gamma.  
     
     

 


Rolling Shutter Video Test   
     
     
     
In this test, all three cameras were mounted on top of each other to ensure that the panning speed was the same. All cameras are equipped with a Zeiss 35mm f/2.8 lens.
     
  All three cameras suffer from rolling shutter, as do all CMOS-based cameras without a global shutter. However, the a7S is a little bit worse than the other two, probably due to the fact that it scans the entire sensor. In my experience shooting, this is the only area in which the a7S performed worse than the other two cameras in video mode, but it’s not terribly worse. To minimize rolling-shutter effects, wider-angle lenses work best, and lenses with IS should be used when handholding any of the cameras.  
     
     

 


High ISO Video Test  
     
     
     

For this test, all cameras were set in the same night-scene creative style to test their noise performance at High ISOs. The reason a creative style was used instead of a more flattering gamma curve on the a7S is that crushing the blacks reduces the visible noise, as the shadows are typically the noisiest part of an image, so it makes the comparison fairer to use the same creative style on the a7S as the others. The scene was shot at night with the Voigtlander 35mm f/1.2. At ISO 3200, the lens is at f/1.2, and the lens is stopped down as the ISO is cranked up, until the end, when I open up to f/1.2 at ISO 409,600 on the a7S, just to see what it looks like.

     
  As you might expect, the a7S wipes the floor with the other two cameras when it comes to high ISO in video. In stills at medium-high ISOs, the a7 and a7R aren’t that far behind the a7S once the 20MP and 36MP images are downsized to 12MP. Nonehteless, because they line-skip when shooting video, they aren’t actually using all of their pixels. Because of this, the a7 and a7R are already, in my opinion, only usable in emergency situations at ISO 6400 for video. Even ISO 3200 is really pushing it. The a7S is useable up to at least ISO 25,600.  
     
     



Resolution and Aliasing Test  
     
     
     

This test shows both the difference in aliasing and moiré and the overall detail resolved by the different cameras. All cameras are equipped with the Zeiss 35mm f/2.8 and pointed at a scene with many fine details and fine lines. The brick building, fence, and lines on the gates are things to watch out for.

     
  Aliasing and moiré will typically find themselves in any video camera, but the line skipping at the sensor level that most still cameras use when shooting video can lead to much more aliasing and moiré than when shooting stills. In this test, all three cameras show it to some degree, but it is far worse on the a7 and a7R then on the a7S, as is to be expected, since the a7S does not line-skip when shooting video.  
     
  Also, despite the fact that all cameras shoot video internally in 1080p, the amount of actual detail the cameras resolve varies by quite a bit. You can easily see by just looking at the bricks how much more detail there is in the a7S in 1080p, with the a7R coming in second, and the a7 coming in third. And if you need even more detail, the a7S can output UHD 4K video over HDMI. Unfortunately, portable UHD 4K HDMI recorders aren’t on the market yet.  
     
  The thing that surprised me most about this test was not how much better the a7S is than the others, since I was expecting that, but how much better the a7R is than the a7. The a7R resolves a lot more detail than the a7 and has less moiré and aliasing than the a7, as well.  
     
     

 

Compression Video Test  
     
     
     

This test pitted the 24 Mb/s AVCHD video codec offered by the a7 and a7R against the higher-quality 50 Mb/s XAVC S codec offered by the a7S (although the a7S can record in AVCHD too, if you like). Traditionally long-GOP codecs like AVCHD and XAVC S struggle the most when there is a great deal of change between frames, as they try and record only the differences between groups of frames to save space. But since XAVC S has double the bitrate, it should be able to withstand twice as many changes without lowering the quality. I attempted to stress out AVCHD in two ways: first, with a high-speed object moving through the frame—a bicycle in this case—and the other by panning across highly detailed green foliage.

     
  AVCHD held up pretty well in the bicycle test, probably due to the static background. On the foliage test there is a definite difference between the two, but it’s hard to say whether the better image coming out of the a7S is due to the fact that it resolves much more detail, or if it’s the AVCHD codec falling apart. Either way, the XAVC S codec is a welcome addition to the a7S.  
     
     



New York at Night  
     
     
     

The excellent dynamic range and high-ISO ability of the a7S lends itself particularly well to street shooting at night, as streetlights and neon signs create very high-contrast environments. To showcase this, I shot a short at night. Most clips were shot with the a7S, but there are a few comparison shots thrown in, as well, to showcase just how different the a7S renders images in these high-contrast situations than the a7 and a7R. Also, it’s worth reminding people that the a7 and a7R aren’t bad at video—they perform at about the same level as other high-resolution still cameras that also shoot video. It’s just that the a7S performs at a different level.

     
     


 



While the Alpha a7, a7R, and a7S share many qualities, they each offer specific features and specs that differentiate them from one another. The list below presents different kinds of photo and video work, and recommends the a7-series camera that's preferable for the application.

 
 

Wedding and Event Photography

 
     

For weddings and event photography, the Sony a7 and a7S are the best choices—the a7 for its faster autofocusing, and the a7S for its unrivaled low-light imaging abilities, 4K video capture, and a truly Silent Shutter mode.

 
     
   
     
 
 
  Portrait and Fashion Photography  
     

The 36.3MP resolution and exacting details offered by its filterless design makes the a7R the clear choice for this application.

     
 

Exception: if you shoot portraits or fashion outdoors, the faster maximum sync speeds of the a7 and a7S offer an advantage.

 
     
 
 
  Sports and Action Photography  
     

The fast and accurate autofocus of its Hybrid AF system, and the faster continuous shooting speed make the a7 the best choice for shooting sports and other fast-moving subject matter.

     
 
 
  Landscape Photography  
     

With its high-resolution sensor and omitted anti-aliasing filter, the A7R would be a good choice for capturing the details usually important to landscape photography. In addition, fine art landscape photography is often printed in large format, which is supported by the high-resolution a7R.

     
 

Exception: when shooting in locations with extreme contrast between the highlights and shadows, the high-dynamic-range capabilities of the a7S would retain more information in the shadows, without overexposing the highlights.

 
     
 
 
  Vintage Lens Users  
     

For the many photographers who are choosing lighter-weight mirrorless cameras in order to utilize compact, high-quality rangefinder lenses, such as those by Leica and Voigtlander, the a7S may be the best choice. Its gapless on-chip lens design improves light distribution across the sensor, reducing the vignetting that can occur when using lenses designed for film cameras.

     
 
 
  Photojournalism and Street Photography  
     

With the fastest continuous shooting rate and faster autofocus, the a7 is the way to go for street, documentary, and journalistic applications. In addition, a 1/250-second flash sync helps when shooting with fill flash outdoors, and the electronic first-curtain shutter provides more quiet activation. Normally, this type of photography does not require maximum resolution, and the faster processing speed of smaller files is an advantage in the news world.

     
  Exception: the potential for damage on the street and in the field makes the magnesium-alloy, weather-sealed bodies of the a7R and a7S appealing. Plus, if the utmost silence is a concern, the silent mode on the a7S is a benefit. It is absolutely silent.  
     
 
 
  Still Life Photography  
     

Resolution and details are paramount in still life work and for this, the a7R with its 36.4MP filterless CMOS sensor, offers the highest resolution and superb details.

     
 

Exception: if you're shooting still life in very low light, it might be worth considering the a7S with its low-noise, high-ISO capability.

 
     
 
 
  Night Photography  
     

Here, the a7S has the clear advantage. A native ISO sensitivity to 102,400 (expandable to 409,600) will enable very effective low-light capture. Also, with its wide dynamic range, city lights and dark shadows can be balanced within the frame and the improved signal-to-noise ratio reduces noise at high ISO levels. In addition, AF sensitivity to -4 allows improved AF accuracy in low light.

     
 
 
  Nature Photography  
     

The faster continuous shooting and hybrid autofocus system in the a7 allow you to capture images of fast-moving animals. Furthermore, the AF Predictive Control feature on the a7 recognizes movement to or away from the camera and calculates where the subject should be in the instant between continuous shots.

     
 

Exception: the a7S has the advantage of better battery life, which will help on long outings into the woods. It also has the silent mode, which is clearly an advantage when photographing wildlife.

 
     
 
 
  Mirrorless Enthusiast  
     

For the user who is ready to make the leap from point-and-shoot cameras to mirrorless, or one who prefers the compact form factor of a mirrorless camera over a DSLR, the a7 is the most affordable full-frame camera currently available and combines the practical control of a smaller camera with interchangeable-lens options and the light-gathering, resolution, and depth-of-field control of a full-frame sensor.

     
  Exception: if you are a photographer who wants to use their camera for producing high-quality video as well as still images, the a7S is the option for you. While all three cameras offer Full HD capture, the a7S stands out with its ability to handle 4K video.  
     
 
 
  Cinema-Style Video Shooting  
     

The a7S is the best choice for controlled cinema-style video shoots. It offers far better dynamic range, a much more detailed 1080p image with less moiré and aliasing than the other cameras, a more robust XAVC S Codec when shooting in 1080p, a much cleaner image at high ISOs, and the ability to shoot 120 fps slow motion in 720p. Its ability to output UHD 4K video to an external recorder is just icing on the cake, seeing as the a7S is such a formidable performer in HD video capture.

     
 
 
  Live Event or Concert Video Shooting  
     

If you're shooting live events or concerts, then you will probably be using telephoto lenses and panning around to follow the action. In situations like this, the a7R would be the best camera of the three. Its better rolling-shutter performance compared to the a7S, and more detailed video compared to the a7, make it the best choice.

     
  Exception: if you're shooting in very high-contrast situations or in very low light and you can get close enough to use a lens wider than 100mm with a tripod, the a7S’s superior overall video quality makes it the better choice.  
     
 
 
  Documentary Video  
     

For shooting talking head interviews and controlled B-Roll footage, the a7S is a great documentary camera. A full-frame sensor makes it easy to shoot interviews with a defocused background, even in cramped spaces. The high dynamic range and more flexible picture profiles allow you to get B-Roll footage in almost any environment without setting up lights. All three cameras are also compatible with Sony’s XLR adapter, making it easy to get good audio without having to sync in post.

     
 

Exception: if you will be shooting handheld, run-and-gun work, consider the a7R. Its rolling shutter is a little better (fast pans and shaky hands don’t mix well with rolling shutters). Plus, the softer overall image on the a7R makes focusing on the fly a little more forgiving.

 
     
 
 
  Film Students  
     

A helpful aspect of the a7-series cameras is that they handle very similarly. They all have the same control layout, the same focus aids, they use the same lenses, and have the same-sized sensor. Once you get used to shooting with one, it’s easy to move to another. Because of this, the a7 might be the best choice for film students. It's significantly cheaper than the a7S or a7R, and the differences in video image quality won't impede your creativity. Having an extra $1,000 to spend on lenses shouldn’t be overlooked.

     
 

Exception: if your budget isn't a barrier, the a7S is the best overall video camera.

 
     
 



  a7 a7R a7S
Effective Pixels 24.3MP 36.4MP 12.2MP
Pixel Size 5.96µm 4.87µm ~8.4µm
Resolution 6000 x 4000 7360 x 4912 4240 x 2832
Anti-Aliasing Filter Yes No Yes
Maximum ISO  25,600 25,600 409,600
Autofocus Hybrid Contrast Contrast
AF Sensitivity EV0 to EV20  EV0 to EV20  EV-4 to EV20 
AF Predictive Control Yes No No
Continuous Shooting  5 fps 4 fps 5 fps
Electronic Front-Curtain Shutter Yes No Yes
Silent Shutter Mode No No Yes
Flash Sync 1/250th 1/160th 1/250th
On-Sensor Micro Lenses No Yes Yes
Weight 416 g 407 g 446 g


 

Credits:

ISO images - Matthew Sinclair

Dynamic range, resolution and vignetting images - Allan Weitz

Videos - Chris Gold

Written content - John Harris, Allan Weitz, and Chris Gold

Add new comment

The a7 is 24mp isn't it? You have it listed at 20MP in the top chart. Great run down on which camera suits which users. Thank you.

Aspect Ratio 16:9 you will get 20mp, At Aspect Ratio 3:2 you will get 24mp.

Cara,

We have made the correction. Thank you for bringing this to our attention.

By reading through the comparison chart and the text and especially the recommendations chapter I would not know what camera I have to buy now. All the cameras have something I would like to have. It makes it really hard to choose one. Maybe the basic idea to design 3 very similar cameras might be good, but I think people will have a problem with selecting the right camera for themselves. 

Clearly Stephan this means you should buy all three...

Why no GPS? It takes little space in a camera body. My Nikon D800e and Leica M240 don't have it either, except as an add on device. If it can fit in my iPhone, why not on these camera bodies?

Great comparative test. But it would have been interesting to see the Alpha 6000 in comparison. I'm not sure, if the A7 series is much better than the Alpha 6000, which costs less than the half the price of an A7. Especially, if you compare sports photography quality.

The article made the statment "Unfortunately, portable UHD 4K HDMI recorders aren’t on the market yet."  Maybe I'm mistaken on this but isn't the Atomos Shogun a 4K HDMI monitor/recorder?  Of course it is half the price of the A7S so time to pony up with some more mula!

The Atomos Shogun will be able to record 4K through HDMI, though it is not currently on the market.  According to Atomos, they anticipate releasing the Shogun by the end of September 2014.

I don't like the color saturation of the a7S sample photos. Was this closer to reality? Was this due to using the auto exposure setting? Where is the Color Test?

Douglas B wrote:

I don't like the color saturation of the a7S sample photos. Was this closer to reality? Was this due to using the auto exposure setting? Where is the Color Test?

From the getgo, I was unsure what these color images represent: out of camera jpeg or lightroom (or equivalent) processed RAW. If the former, the test is useless re color representation by the different sensors; if pped from Raw this test would gain value and not look too good for the A7s.

Sorry B+H, what process made your images? Be open and clear next time, please.

It would look very good for the A7s because of its massive dynamic range, you will have all the options in post to adjust your saturation and chroma. The A7r has vivid saturation from the get go but you're more or less stuck with it especially in low light situations.

*****

I am a semi pro working with Canon 5Dmkii and Mk III and variety of L lens.  I love the combo of Mk III and 2.8 lens, but the weight is my issue.  How do the Sony's compare to a Mk III?  Would I loose out if I changed over?

Regards

Ann

The A7 series are smaller/lighter weight than the 5D Mk III camera is, but some of their f2.8 lenses can be similar in size (no way to know about the future FE series lenses for Sony).  Before making the switch, I'd wait a bit to let the camera become available for rental, and rent one and do a test comparison between it and your 5D MK III one weekend.  That would be the best way to determine if you'd win by switching over or not. 

Dear Sir-Lady

I read your article about sony bodies a7,a7r,a7s but I have four leica m lences 24elmarit,35sumicron,50sumicron,90sumikron .I usually 

do nature and street shooting and I want your opinion which body would be better for me.

I'm gonna use the camera more for shooting and less for video.

Thank you in advance

SOFIA

A7 is better for you. The FOCUS is very important.

Eduardo, Sofia indicated that she is using Leica M lenses. The lenses are manual focus so the autofocus system should not be a deciding factor. With that said, I am currently a Sony A7 user and a Leica M shooter and I have the 90 pre-Asph Summicron, the 28 V4 Elmarit in addition to the 35/2 Zeiss Biogon, V1 90mm Elmarit, and 35mm Voigtlander F/1.4 Nokton Classic. The 90mm lenses perform great on the A7 and the 35mm Biogon also seems to work quite well but the 28 and the 35/1.4, while pictorially interesting, aren't optimal. There is a lot of ghosting and haloing with the 35/1.4 and lots of corner softness and chromatic aberration (though there is also corner softness when used on films in a Leica M7) and the 28mm has corner software and chromatic aberration though there is no noticeable ghosting. Here, the A7s's micro lens array may be of interest if you're looking for optimal image quality edge to edge. If you're primarily shooting human subjects with shallow depth of field, the A7 has been more than adequate and I doubt you could do much better than the A7 with the 90mm Summicron.

Additionally, the 55/1.8 for the Sony FE mount is spectacular and worth every penny. I had a 50/1.4 early V2 Summilux and would happily trade it again for the 55/1.8 as I feel that its rendition and autofocus on the A7 leaves nothing to be desired and the slight loss in speed is made up for with a high ISO-capable sensor when compared to anything Leica currently offers. In combination with the Sony RX1 you can cover the 35mm and 50ish mm focal lengths without compromise and swap to a 90 summicron if you need something longer.

*****,

Our early tests are showing the A7S is capable of handling film lenses (especially older models and extreme wide angles) with the least amount of vignetting.  If you need more resolution for large print making, the A7R sensor has gapless on-chip lens (OCL) that are optimally positioned [depending on its location] to accommodate the sharper angle of light from extreme wide angle lenses.  I’ve been using the A7 with my Leica "M" lenses and have not personally noticed any significant darkening of the edges.  

I'm brown/ green colorblind.  The a7r seems to have the best looking pictures?  The use of old lenses will be huge--I think?  

I wish Canon never got so greedy and raised the price of their 300mm 2.8;  I'd be more loyal. 

Right now Sony made a better camera.  For young student film makers, if daddy has the money;  shoot your films with on old bolex.(Sorry, but 16mm is beautiful, and very interesting.)  I am not a film nut either, but saw the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre and 

the film looked great.  It brings you back to a better time, and I can really notice the difference between film and digital.

After having done several months of research on the a7 ........  the a7R and a7S appeared.  That further confused the issue.  Study and instinct leaned toward the a7.  Bought it and haven't looked back.  An awsome camera!  Probably won't live long enough to use all of it's features.

I have been shooting for 40 years and it seems the whole aspect on the camera side keeps getting more complicated for the new photographer. More and more he must become an expert on so many technical areas and keep in HIS memory dozens of permutations of camera function and set up. So much of great photography is and has always been qualityy of light, subject matter and unique perspective, with the camera then used as a tool. When the camera technical abilities and computer enhancement become the dominant factor, certain things are being lost. The predominant conversation ends up like  Tech geeks at MIT discussing the RED camera attributes but never seeing  a sublime photograph by any of them.

As to The Sony, I have two and would like to see the A7r and A7s merged to one!

I had been looking at the a7 series for some time.  Thank you for taking the time to put this much needed comparison together.  You included sufficient information to enable making an informed decision.

Great from Sony to release three different cameras of same external aspects. But what about their releases of lenses ? I understand there are only two prime lenses available now. So for when a good wide angle, telephoto and/or macro lenses ?

I'm sure within the next year we will be seeing even more additions to the Sony FE lens line.  At the introduction of the original A7 they did announce/release 5 native lens options for the system, along with adapters to utilized older series of lenses.  Add that to the third party lens adapters out there which allow lenses from many different systems to be used in various capacities, and you've got cameras with a healthy lens selection base.  Unfortunately Sony has not published a road map for their future lenses.  At this point we just have to wait and see what will come next.

I'm admittedly a big fan of Sony and my fanaticism borders on fanboism. But while I have loved almost everything that Sony has done in the last three or four years, lens releases for their mirrorless camera systems is a problem. Sony has yet to release a native E-mount lens for the NEX system that is F/2.8 or faster that extends the system's focal length range outside of 24 to 55mm. Yes, the 16/2.8 is wider but it's an embarrassment in the lens line up for anyone looking to do serious work with it. Sony's main response to protests of the lack of lens selection is to adapt A-mount or other lenses from other systems and while it's a great system to adapt to, it doesn't instill confidence in Sony supporting a new system with good glass.

A Canadian Sony rep reiterated the announcement of five new FE mount lenses at launch and this is a ***** which I believe also includes zoom lenses. A lot of us are not interested in these zoom lenses especially if they start at F/3.5 and go slower or primes that are F/2.8's. I doubt I am the only person looking for more F/1.8 or faster glass at focal lengths like 24mm (with full FE coverage), 35mm, 75mm, 90mm, or 135mm. I use a lot of primes in my work. Sometimes I need to have two cameras handy. I run with an A7 and 90mm Leica Summicron and an RX1r 35mm most of the time but not only is the 90mm not an autofocus lens, it is also too short for some purposes. I understand that Sony has a market to protect with their audience that subscribes to the mirror-equipped camera philosphy but if you're going to promise commitment and support for a lens mount make sure it's not just through a series of adapters.

I found the dynamic range of the a7S pretty impressive based on the examples shown. Surprising, however, was the prevalence of chromatic aberrations visible in a couple of the videos. For example, they were quite visible in the Compression Video Test of the a7 at around the :40 mark. The a7S appeared to do much better in the same scene. It too, however, exhibited noticeable chromatic aberrations in the New York at Night short at about the :47 point around the lamps and car headlights.    
 

 @:47 seconds in the New York at Night, you are viewing the A7 not the A7s.

I bought the A7 and am quite satisfied with the resolution and high iso performance of the camera.  The A7 is the best all around camera of the three with the best focusing - the other two are specialists in either high resolution or high iso.  The A7 captures significantly more detail than a 13"x19" print can display so the resolution difference between the A7 and A7R is only apparent in extremely large prints or when pixel peeping.

I'm currently using a Canon 5D Mark III for shooting wedding videos. I'm planning on ditching it for the Sony a7s (like many others I’m fed up of waiting for canon to add much needed video features without hacks like Magic Lantern)..... I usually go through around 7 Canon batteries on a 15 hour wedding day shoot.....I'd be curious to know the battery life on the Sony A7S. On the mark III I'd say 1 battery can get me through an hour an hour and half of shooting. How does the a7S battery life compare to the LP-E6 on the Mark III?

Also regarding iso.....on the mark III I can push the iso up to 6400 in really low light situations and still get a decent shot. I read some online reviews of others pushing the iso up to 50000 in video **** on the a7s an saying it was very useable.....What's your take on 50000 iso on the a7s?

Thanks :)

With as many different models as the Sony NP-FW50 battery pack is used in, I was not able to find any data from Sony given to its performance.  The instruction manual for the A7/A7r did not mention these specifications, and there is not a version of the manual yet published online for the A7s for me to further regard.  I can confirm that the battery can take 310 minutes to charge.  As to its performance in the camera, I cannot confirm that at this time for you.   I am sorry about that.

As far as the high ISO goes, I’ve also read very favorable reviews on its low light performance, but none as specific as you are asking about.  The camera is just hitting the market now, so waiting a few weeks/month would serve to allow for more real world reviews to surface from users.

I would also recommend that once it is more readily available to rent one for a weekend and give it a test drive to see how it would perform based on your own use.

Its resistence to water and dust?????

Yes.  All of the A7 series models are weather sealed to keep out dust and moisture, and all of the native "FE" series Sony lenses are also sealed for the same purpose. 

hi! there is no mention of video format in the a7S. is it PAL and NTSC?

The A7s can record video in both PAL and NTSC formats.

My area of interest in French Gothic art and architecture. Cathedrals, stained glass, sculpture (both interior and exterior.) For stained glass the A7r is appealing for its resolution. For architectural interiors there is usually wide dynamic range with dark aisles and bright windows. The A7s seems better. Would it give me the resolution I would want for the stained glass and sculpture? The biggest prints would probably be 24x36. The landscapes in the B&H review make the A7s look very appealing. Some other reviews says the A7s is over hyped. We will probably get a better sense of it over the next month or so.

Any recommendations, please.

Stan

For the size output you’ve suggested, the A7s should have no problems giving you files large enough with the dynamic range needed to get the details inside these Gothic locations for you.  However the camera is just hitting the market currently, so it may be worth a short wait to start to see real world samples from users vs. results from standardized tests.  Once it becomes readily available there’s always the chance you can rent it to give it a test run.

I am a fine art landscape photographer who sells very large prints. I have read that the a7R uses lossy compression on it's raw files and that a firmware update from Sony would be able to offer the option of delivering an unmolested raw file. Do you know if Sony has addressed that problem?

I was able to find where plenty of users are discussing this issue on various forums online, but I was not able to find any official comment from Sony at this point. 

Thanks for checking. I am ready to buy when Sony makes that firmware change. Until then I will stick with my Alpha 850.

The A7 has image stabilization in the body?

No it does not.  Starting with this system, select lenses will incorporate Sony's OSS Optical SteadyShot image stabilization feature.

A7R

Will the 36.4MP really add to the photo considering the monitor and printer output restrictions? I work with epson 3800Pro and Wacom Cintiq 221UX.

Lens

A-mount vs E-mount. I own minolta 5 pin and sony 8 pin A-mount lens Using e-adpater, what will I lose? Or do I need to buy e-lens to get the best photos. $$$? ouch

*****,

For critical work on a monitor where you have to zoom in or magnify the image for masking (say for example) or large fine art print making, the more visual information (resolution) you have to work with the better.

With the LA-EA4 adapter, you can mount any A-mount lens [Sony or Minolta] to the A7 cameras. The LA-EA4 features a built-in AF motor, aperture-drive mechanism and Translucent Mirror Technology to enable continuous phase-detection AF. The only down side is the camera + adapter become as large as a DSLR body, so you might want to consider the Sony A99 which has excellent image quality.

Sony A-Mount to E-Mount Lens Adapter with Translucent Mirror Technology

Sony SLT-A99 DSLR Camera (Body Only)

The most important comparison item for me PERSONALLY was left off the last chart, i.e., the PRICE (since there is quite a difference between the three cameras).  However overall this was a good review of three terrific cameras.  As a NEX 6 user with four Sony EX lenses, as much as I love the NEX 6 a camera would have to be REALLY good to upgrade to it, but I must admit I would someday love to upgrade to a true full-frame camera if i could ever afford it.  Because I love my NEX 6 so much these are certainly on my distant radar, although I wish it offered 4:3 Aspect Ratio in addition to 3:2 and 16:9.  I do miss 4:3 on my NEX 6.  Thanks for the review....

Unfortunately, portable UHD 4K HDMI recorders aren’t on the market yet.

Correction: Convergent Design, and AJA each make excellent 4k HDMI capable

recorders.

- kr

Black Magic Hyperdeck Shuttle II will record raw and Apple 422 pro Res directly from hdmi. Works great but the external boxes are bulky and a pain in the butt. They do however hold 480gig of raw data. :) 

Pete :)

I'd very much like to see a comparison (or even hear opinions) of the dynamic range difference in video **** between the A7S and the Canon 5D Mark III.  I know the A7S stomps it for stills, but I currently get great dynamic range in RAW files on the Mark III using Magic Lantern's Dual Iso hack.  But it is too much of a hack (to much work) to use it for video, so I'd really like to know if the A7S dynamic range in video **** is that much better than the Mark III, especially around 3200/6400 ISO.

The a7S will have the better low light performance and dynamic range compared to the 5D III.  The following video on PetaPixel does show a side by side comparison of a 5D III and a7S while increasing the ISO during video.  Though, I really wouldn’t be able to speak with any authority to differences with a hacked 5D III, I would think that the a7S should still outperform it for low light capability.

http://bit.ly/1oyf2Y7

Thanks so much for this very helpful and informative essay.  I love to shoot landscape/seascape shots on my Nikon d90 at 10 to 12 mm, which would be equal to 16 to 18 full frame.  In the section on vignetting you suggest that the A7 struggles with vignetting with a lens wider than 25mm.  That's a big difference.  Can you offer any additonal comments about this and do you consider this limitation a problem for wide-angle landscape photography?  Thanks

*****;

The issue of vignetting has to do primarily with how light is projected out of the rear of the lens. Wide angle lenses designed to be used on rangefinder or mirrorless cameras (with a short ****** focal distance) have rear elements that are very close to the sensor surface.  Light striking pixels on the sensor must do so at a 90 degree angle and if this is increased or decreased light rays will not hit the pixels directly and cause the color cast + darkening (usually at the edges of the frame) we see.  

Because the A7S has less resolution, it’s pixels are larger and in addition have on-sensor micro lenses that redirect light rays straight into the pixels themselves, the A7s resolves extreme wide angle lenses more evenly (frame edge to edge) than the A7 & A7R.

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