My First Month with the Sony A7 and A7r
It's been a busy month, and during that time I've been putting both the A7 and A7r through their paces. Let me share with you both the good and the unexpected.
My most jaw-dropping experience with the A7r came the very first time I used it - in my studio where all of the conditions were ideal (great light, great optics, great light, and great light. (And great subjects)).
|There's 90 years between these two.|
|This was a test shot taken with the A-mount Zeiss 135mm f/1.8, the sharpest lens I own. Absolutely incredible detail! Download the original here so you can pixel peep for yourself! (Look at the eyes in particular.)|
Let me say that the A7r practically demands that you pixel peep - perhaps because you know what the camera is capable of; perhaps because you just spent many thousands on your new
Here's a quick comparison between the Sony 28-70 FE kit lens and the A-mount Zeiss 24-70 in these same ideal conditions. Everything was on manual (including the wireless flashes) - notice that one picture looks darker than the other. This is the result of the 2/3rd of a stop light loss from the SLT mirror embedded in the LA-EA4 A-mount adapter.
|Left: FE 28-70 Kit lens Right: Zeiss 24-70 A-mount lens with LA-EA4 adapter|
|100% Crops of both. The shortcomings of the kit lens (left) are pretty clear. You can download this one too.|
Next I headed to Freeport, Maine where I was hired to shoot promotional pictures of a historic inn.
|These shots were taken handheld with the A7r and kit lens - about 1/3rd of a second. Had I run in to get my tripod the beautiful blue in the sky would have been gone.|
|A shot of the bar staff using a wireless flash and umbrella off to the side. Here you can see that the kit lens has added some distortion to the face of the bartender on the right.|
Birthday Party for a 3-Year Old
Next off to Boston (during a snowstorm), where I attended a 3 year old's birthday party and so I took some snapshots. Talk about the wrong tool for the job! The A7r has some serious shutter lag (around 1/8th of a second or so) making it less suitable for shooting kids, so I used the A7 instead. (I don't have permission to post any pictures of the folks at the party so I'll just mention that they look like snapshots.) (Well, snapshots taken with a Hasselblad.)
There is an image I can show you, though. I tried to take a picture of the cake, but because of the shallower depth-of-field I had a hard time getting both the number "3" and the banner behind it into focus. (I could have used a smaller f/stop, but a tripod wasn't handy and besides -- it's a kid's birthday party!)
So I did what any self-respecting photographer would do: I took two pictures (one with the "3" candle in focus, one with the banner in focus) and merged them in Photoshop.
Then it was off to Sequoia National Park for a family vacation.
Since this was a family vacation, I had a great opportunity to test both cameras' abilities to track focus of a moving object. The A7 has a theoretical advantage when using an FE lens since it has some phase-detect pixels baked into the sensor. Let's see how each was able to keep up.
|A7 on the top row; A7r on the bottom. Kit lens on both, continuous shooting in .jpg (to make sure a full buffer wouldn't slow it down). Not exactly a scientific test, but it does affirm Sony's claims that the A7 can track focus better.|
The biggest (and admittedly unexpected) shock I had using the A7r came when I was trying to shoot some landscapes. Here's just one example of a test shot (a boring test shot, but a test shot nonetheless):
Now let's pixel peep out in the field:
Yowza! That's awful. Could this be the Shutter Shock phenomenon that everyone's talking about? I switched from 1/60th of a second to 1/250th of a second and shot again:
|Both images: 100% crops, handheld, Minolta 28-75 f/2.8 A-mount at 75 mm.|
Better, but upon closer analysis this is deficient too and both were the result of a shaky hand. I'll be doing more controlled tests for the upcoming book (some with a tripod and some without), but it brings to light something about this camera that really bears mentioning: If your technique, focusing, or optics are not top notch, the A7r will reveal that to you in a hurry. I used to think highly of the Minolta 28-75 f/2.8 and the 70-210 f/4 "beercan" lens, but the A7r shows off these lenses' deficiencies quite clearly. The sensor is no longer the weakest link.
While in Sequoia I also started experimenting with time-lapse videography. To take this video I had the camera take about 6,000 still images on a tripod (the camera didn't move, and there was no motorized control to move the camera left or right.) Then I converted the images into an .mp4 video on my computer. The A7r is ideally suited for this because there's so much resolution there you can do some pretty extreme pans and zooms in your video editing software and still keep a full-res 1080p video. My first attempt at this is below. The dirt you first see on the left-hand side of the screen is actually dirt on the hotel window.
You may be wondering how I set this up since there's no known way of doing an intervolometer function on the A7 and A7r. All will be revealed in my upcoming ebook (or perhaps a future blog post).
I only spent about 36 hours in Las Vegas, long enough to attend the PMA (Photo Marketing Associaion) show and shoot some video for another project I'm working on.
Then off to Northern California for another family event. Although I was officially "off duty", many members assembled themselves into a group and then asked that I take a picture. Of course they chose to stand in an area with the splotchiest lighting imaginable. It looked good to them; but it looked awful awful to the camera. Raise your hand if you're surprised.
Thank goodness for fill flash, RAW, and Lightoom! :-)
Whenever a new camera comes out, I track all the requests I get to write a book about it. When the RX-100 came out, for example, I had no intention of writing about it. But literally hundreds of requests for a book on it made me change my mind (and now it's my favorite everyday camera!) When the RX-1 came out, even though the camera sold very well, I I received only about five requests. I concluded that the demographic for that camera already knew how to figure it out.
So in last month's blog I mentioned that I wasn't planning on writing an ebook for the RX-10 due to "low interest". In this case "Low Interest" was defined as "To date I received only three email requests to write a book". Since then I've received a lot of enthusiastic emails, so many in fact that I've now added the RX-10 to the list of ebooks slated for release in the 2nd quarter of 2014 (the other books being the Olympus OM-D E-M1 being written by Mike Hendren, Fujifilm X100s being written by Tony Phillips, and the A7 / A7r being written by yours truly. Drop me a line at Gary at Friedman Archives dot com if you'd like to be on the notification list for any of these cameras.
In The Next Cameracraft
Cameracraft magazine is designed to inspire you with great portfolios (and some technical insights) you just won't find in today's gear-oriented photo magazines. Subscribe today, send me your receipt and I'll send you a free copy of my new "Ways to 'Wow!' with Wireless Flash" ebooklet (USD $9.95 value!).
Until next time...
Yours Truly, Gary Friedman