Serious photographers have seen the presentation of Sony Alpha 7 as a fulfillment of a lifelong dream. The power of a full-format sensor (FF) in the body off a CSC class device removes the need for carrying a bag filled with equipment everywhere, because the tested model and a few lenses fit in a small bag.
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The body is compact and protected from rain, moisture and dust. It’s interesting that this lens mount has been taken from the previous NEX models (E-mount), so Alpha 7 supports the lenses intended for NEX models with APS-C sensor. Of course, Alpha 7 will automatically crop the images in order to adapt to the smaller form of sensor. Along with Alpha 7, a few other lenses with the “FE” designation have been presented, which have been adapted to the new “FF” sensor. They are, as follows: 24-70 mm F4 Carl Zeiss OSS, 28-70 mm F3.5-5.6 Sony OSS, 70-200 mm F4 Sony G OSS, 35 mm F2.8 Carl Zeiss, 55 mm F1.8 Carl Zeiss. We can see that the only lenses that are missing are those with a wide angle and a macro lens, and according to company’s announcements, they will be presented by the end of the year. With the appropriate adapters, lenses with “A” bayonet can also be used.

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Both ergonomics…

The camera fits the hand like a glove and the buttons have been well-placed. We applaud the fact that there are both back and front wheels, for changing the exposition parameters. Camera modes can be changed by rotating the wheel, and it’s interesting that exposition compensation is also changed on the wheel on camera’s upper side. In our opinion, only the zoom button during image view is located in an inconvenient position – next to the viewfinder.

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Effective resolution 24 MP
Processor Bionz X
Picture size 6000 x 4000 pix
Display 3"/921.600 pix - rotating
Sensor 35.8 x 23.9 mm CMOS
Exposure 1/8000 - 30 s
ISO sensitivity Auto, 100-25600
Video 1920 x 1080 pix (60p/60i/24p)
Dimensions 127 x 94 x 48 mm
Weight with battery 474 g
Price [USD] 1800

Alpha 7 model has a 24 MP sensor. It should be noted that Sony also presented the Alpha 7R camera which has a 36 MP sensor, without the Low Pass filter (which can remove the moiré effect, at the expense of sharpness). The difference is in the focusing method. While Alpha 7 relies on the hybrid autofocus, Alpha 7R relies solely on the contrast detection. In case you’re not into fashion photography, but rather oriented mainly on nature, Alpha 7R would be the better choice, due to slightly sharper images. In case moiré effect occurs, you can always digitally remove it. The screen has 3-inch diagonal and a standard resolution for this class of cameras. It can be rotated only in one axis and it’s not touch-sensitive. Even though the camera doesn’t have an optic viewfinder, it has a latest generation OLED electronic viewfinder. This is one of the best electronic viewfinders on the market at the moment. It has 2359k resolution and it performed very well in practice. RAW format support goes without saying.

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For photographers who care about fast file synchronization, the camera has the capability to transfer the photos to a phone with an Android or iOS operating system, through an integrated Wi-Fi adapter and the application that we’ve seen in Xperia smartphones (Sony PlayMemories).

…and power

Sony Alpha 7 proved to be very well, in practice. Autofocus is so fast that in poor light conditions it will need less than one second for camera to focus. It’s very easy to use and fast, thanks to the new processor. We’ve noticed that the shutter sound is somewhat louder than we’ve anticipated so bear in mind if you’d like to take pictures while being unnoticed. The test model’s sensor is the same as with Nikon D600, which enables excellent ISO performances. In case you’re taking pictures in RAW format, there won’t be any loss of details, up to ISO 6400, and the grain will be easy to digitally remove. However, we have to mention that pictures taken in JPEG file format, where a lot of details have been lost due to too much filtration, especially if grain reduction is set to a higher value. Somewhat smaller issue is with autofocus system, which proved to be unreliable sometimes, but luckily, that happens rarely. Unlike AF system, we commend its good lighting detection and excellent performances regarding the white color balance. Video performances are also very good and the camera offers the capability of setting almost every parameter even during the shooting. Image color and sharpness of videos are at a high level and with FF sensor you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy cadres with small depth of field. Auto-focusing is pretty good during shooting, while under poorer light conditions it can take a while until it focuses. Additional bonus is the capability of connecting an external microphone, in order to record better sound. The device’s battery autonomy isn’t one of its strengths and amounts to around 300 cadres. When you add to that the fact that the camera is charged over an USB cable and not by removing the battery and charging it separately, the idea of charging the device is a bit inconvenient.

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Sonly Alpha 7 is a very interesting device, because it offers the performances of huge camera with Leica sensors in a compact package. Even though it’s by no means cheap, it’s not really that expensive, if you compare it to standard dSLR models such as Nikon D600/D610 which have the same sensor. It could serve nicely as a backup camera for experienced photographers, in cases when they’re constrained by the size of their equipment bag. You can carry it on all types of trips where a large camera would be impractical (ski trips, mountaineering, beach) or even impossible to carry the standard dSLR cameras with their accompanying equipment. Considering that by the end of the year there will be an even greater number of lenses and that Alpha 7’s price will be slightly lower, we give it our full recommendation. For less demanding photographers, there are cheaper models with APS-C sensor belonging to the Sony’s NEX series. It just remains to decide what you really need.