The new FF Sony A7 is already widely acclaimed as one of the best high ISO, low light cameras available. A camera that has low noise levels and excellent output quality. But for my two first days of ownership, I’ve run into constant issues with noise and detail smearing.
Well, this is threefold. One, the biggest issue was not with output but with handling and operational performance. Two, the files were noisier than I had hoped them to be. Three, I *know* this camera can sing, and it makes me want to keep on trying.
The bad news for me, and it is *BAD* news, is that in the dim barn the overall operation of the camera slowed down to the point of actual sluggishness. AF was clearly slower than the N7 with the same SEL35 lens (very weird, it focuses quite quickly in good light), but way worse, the loooong shutter generates a really problematic blackout that prevents any rapid succession of shots to be taken. I need to experiment with continuous shooting mode, not that I want to make any burst, but because I found it considerably reduced blackout time on some other models it was an issue with.
FF has a definite advantage in this case of giving a true to life sense of depth and perspective. On a horsey note, today the kids started working on handling a jumping course, which means being able to remember a given order for the various obstacles, and being able to control their ponies for speed and direction
So overall I was far from impressed with this A7 under those circumstances. AF (lack of) speed and shutter blackout made for a *lot* of missed shots, and the output was only marginally cleaner than the N7’s. I had mixed feeling switching to the outdoor arena for the adults’ lesson.
My mixed feelings turned to dismay when I realized I had brought the camera body, brought the Sigma telephoto lens…and fogotten to bring the AF adapter to couple them together !! So I decided to go ahead and shoot anyway, with the SEL35/1.8 in auto crop mode (50mm focal equivalent).
So I went home with my camera, transferred the files to my computer, and sat there, scratching my head. Even at not so high ISO values I was seing a bunch of noise and tons of detail smearing, though I had tried all three Noise Reduction settings (Low, Off and Normal). I couldn’t help feeling I was doing something wrong or had unwillingly enabled contradicting options or settings that were screwing up the camera’s output. So I did the radical thing : I initialized it. Erased all possible settings, options and menu choices (I wrote down a few of them first). And yes, after starting and testing the camera again, bam ! I had better, cleaner pictures (?!). Then I had the crazy impulse to slap my huge Sig 70-200/2.8 on the cam and snap a shot at ISO2000 in my dim living room and…
So yes, the sensor can do it. IQ is obviously even more lens dependant that on any other camera I’ve had before, but the camera is *capable* of crazy sharp and clean detail, even at high ISO, even in low light. Can I live with the crazy blackout time to shoot kids in the barn, that is another question, but I’m gonna try to find all possible workarounds because this is an addictive camera that is starting to grow on me big time. I can’t wait to go to the stables again and try some solutions. In the meanwhile feel free to add any comment, or ask any question, about the camera, I’ll try to answer the to the best of my abilities.