On Oct 16th, Sony has taken the digital camera world by storm by introducing two full frame mirrorless interchangeable camera bodies, the former at 24MP, and the latter at 36MP. I chose the 24MP version “A7” for its lower price tag, faster flash sync, better AF module and electronic first curtain shutter. I waited for it for a solid month before it finally made its way to my doorstep this morning. As you must know by now if you’ve read this blog for any length of time, I am a long time and crazy in love fan of the NEX7. So how does the A7 fares against its APS-C older cousin ?
I’ll start at the beginning, with looks and feel of the camera. Aesthetics are wildly subjective, so I’ll just give my own opinion. In short, the NEX7 is a way better looking camera. It is also more dense feeling, albeit slightly smaller. Dimensions are very close, the A7 feeling looking more substantial due to its thicker foorprint, and the massive central EVF housing on top. So overall I’d say the A7 is not a beauty queen… But once you take a hold of it, your visual resistance starts melting. Cause truth be told, it feels bloody good in the hand !! The grip is extremely nice to hold, and the whole thing just feels solid and seriously meaning business.
Two things on the A7 are great, physically and literally : the rear LCD screen (a thing of beauty) and the electronic viewfinder. That some people have been able to criticize the latter boggles my mind. It is just superb. The NEX7’s EVF was not bad by any means, but this one is just a *lot* better. A total winner for me. The screen itself is still 3″ wide like the NEX7’s but it’s not in 3:2 format, rather than 16:9, so overall taller and larger. It’s crystal clear, very sharp and just beautiful. Before going any further I’ll address Focus Peaking right away. I shoot 80% older lenses with manual focus, so the issues reported with Peaking performance by early users was of big concern to me. I’m a pleased to affirm that Focus Peaking has never worked better (or even as well) on any NEX that I have tried. Both screen and EVF show extremely accurate and reliable travel of the in-focus zones as they roll thru the depth of the frame while you turn the focus ring. I have kept my old set-up of Mid level and Yellow for day, White for night, and so far nailing critical focus with fast primes has been a treat. There is yet an added bonus that is a very welcome improvement over NEX models, and that’s the ability to assign Peaking Level and Color to either physical controls (respectively C1 button and lower position of the thumb wheel on my camera) or to slots in the shorcut “Function” menu. Very handy !!
I assume you all want to know about any sluggishness (as it’s been reported times and again) ? I do not feel the camera sluggish at all. Yes, there *can* be a delay at start-up or wake-up time. I have missed many a shot on my NEX7 for thart same reason, and it seems the A7 hasn’t improved a lot over that. Except wake-up from power saving sleep can be surprisingly fast in certain cases. A bit confusing, but welcome when it does happen fast. Just don’t *count* on it being fast, because sometimes, it won’t. Otherwise I have NOT witnessed any lag in camera operation at all. Menus show up swiftly, navigating them is very fast, so is image review, etc. One GREAT improvement over NEX models is that you now can magnify an image to check focus, and scroll through other shots keeping the same magnification and location in the frame. Again, much, much welcome improvement.
OK, another big question : shutter sound. It is not half as loud as you expect it. But it sounds very weird, the shutter drags on like if you were shooting at slooow shutter speeds. And this, even as very high shutter speeds. Go figure… That being out of the way, the next biggest interrogation about this camera is about autofocus performance. In good light (mid day inside my kitchen) it was last generation m4/3 fast, which also means, DSLR fast. Yeah, really. I was impressed. Focus modes also offer more options than NEX models, AND you can change the size of the AF box (I use the middle size box, which I find a good compromise between accuracy and speed). Once you chose a physical control for them, you’ll have all your focus settings accessible at once (again, that’s brilliant). Chose the focus box size, your AF mode, move the box around or reset it to center with various keys, all from one first button push. Love it. As the light gets dimmer, the AF performance worsens significantly. I still find it better than NEX AF, but in the dark it’s nowhere as fast as it is in good light, that’s all.
I *really* need to run to be. To be continued tomorrow !!