Friday, 10 April 2015

Sony A7r - First impressions

Sony A7r - Front View
Sony A7r - front
We have been shooting with Nikon cameras for over 20 years and must say they are awesome cameras that have provided us with some great shots over the years. We will more than likely stay with Nikon for the years to come as we have invested a lot of money in great lenses.

Since 1992 we have also photographed in the 6cm x 17cm panoramic format using a Fuji G617 Panoramic camera that produces pin-sharp images. Unfortunately with the age of digital, the cost of film/processing/scanning in combination with the increasing difficulty in transporting the film through international airports has diminished our use of the camera.

Although the G617 has produced images that have enlarged to banners as big as 25m long, the amount of times that we have needed an image that prints any larger than 2m in length is minimal and therefore we have been looking for a replacement that will produce high quality large prints without the weight and expense.

Sony A7r - Rear View
Sony A7r - Back
A couple of years ago Nikon introduced the D800 and D800E which both produced 36 megapixel images however they were expensive and as travel photographers - too heavy for our liking (especially with an 80-200 f2.8 lens mounted)

And then along came Sony - who have been producing mirrorless cameras for a few years now - with the Sony A7, A7r, A7s, A7sii, A7II, A7rii and the more recent A9 and A7r iii. Although the first 2 have been out for a while now, we are not usually impulse buyers when it comes to equipment and will only purchase equipment that is practical for our output. The A7r model has a 36mp sensor and the new A7r iii has a 42mp sensor. The A9 camera, in our opinion, is more suited for the photographer who shoots sports and wildlife.

After Christmas 2014 and after considerable research we decided to purchase the A7r. With the exception of a few negatives the camera is really living up to the hype. Here's some views of the camera  above and right. We purchased the Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 24-70mm f/4 ZA OSS Zeiss lens with the camera which is the one in the illustration below.

Vario-Tessar T* FE 24-70mm f/4 ZA OSS Zeiss lens
The layout of the menus takes a little getting used to but after a while it is a breeze. Unlike our Nikons with "image stabilisation" you have to turn the feature off within the menus rather than on the lens body. This is a little more time consuming but really a very minor thing. As we only turn the stabilisation off when using the tripod it is just another step when setting up. The biggest downside to these cameras is the battery life. These small batteries only last about 300-400 shots as opposed to the Nikon batteries which last about 1200+ shots. Once again, we do not find this is a problem as we always carry around 3 or 4 spare batteries anyway. The only other downside to these cameras, until recently, has been the lack of Full Frame lenses. With the release of many new lenses including the FE 24-240mm F3.5-6.3 OSS, FE 90mm F2.8 Macro G OSS, FE 28mm F2, Zeiss Distagon T* FW35mm F1.4 ZA just to name a few, users now have a greater choice. Unfortunately in our line of work none of these are useful for us other than the FE 24-105mm F4 G OSS which has just been announced (Nov 2017). For our purposes we use the FE 24-70mm F4 ZA OSS, FE 16-35mm F4 ZA OSS and FE 70-200mm F4 G OSS for the majority of our shots. Although we may consider swapping our 24-70 lenses for the new 24-105 for its added versatility. 

This is also the first camera we have owned with a tilting LCD screen at the back and must say that Paul had his doubts about this feature. He has always associated this feature with lower quality point-and-shoot type cameras and vowed that he would never own a camera with the feature. Well that certainly was unfounded. The tilting LCD screen on the A7 cameras is an awesome feature and certainly great for those low to ground shots.

Near Quirindi, NSW, Australia - Sony A7r with a FE 24-70 F4 Zeiss lens

Near Quirindi, NSW, Australia - Sony A7r with a FE 24-70 F4 Zeiss lens
The one thing we have really noticed about the files that the A7r produces is that very little processing is needed. We have found that the dynamic range captured by the 36mp sensor is so good that very little time has been spent in both Lightroom and Photoshop preparing the file for output. Unless there is extreme contrast in a shot the use of HDR has been reduced dramatically.

We hope that this quick review of the Sony A7r has been useful and hope to hear any comments and experiences that you have had with the camera. 

If you have any questions or comments we would love to hear from you.

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