Oh yeah, I did. What is it, this time ?
Another FF, 24mp Sony A7 mirrorless body. Why ? Because I could. Because I was curious enough of the recent firmware update to grab a well priced unit that caught my attention. So what now ?
Gritty, and all images looking WAY underexposed once transferred to the computer, vs. their apparent exposure seen on the camera’s LCD (I had encountered a bit of that on my first units, but not to that extent)
A word on the ergonomics and haptics of the A7 again, and another word on my state of mind this time around. The two first units I got were from Amazon, and I was under some pressure regarding the return policy. I knew I could return the camera if I wanted to, within the Amazon 30 day policy. When I consider doing this, I’m constantly trying to not overuse the camera, keep actuations as low as possible, and the “should I return or keep” thingy never leaves my mind. Upon release there was also the awareness of paying a premium for early adoption, while prices on this camera have dropped faster than any other I’ve seen before (except maybe Panasonic models, that have an absolute record of plumeting value, lol). It went from 1424 on Amazon at release (I pre-ordered it from them a day they have a flash offer at 1269) to 1165 as of last week, within a little over 4 months. Amazon prices do flucuate, so it might be back up as I write this piece, or drop further down, but you get the idea.
So let’s say I’m approaching this third unit of the A7 with a little more peaceful mind. I like it, fine, I don’t, perfect as well, I’ll sell it the price I paid for it, or will lose about ten euros and be done with it. Either way, not a huge deal. The unit is mine, I’m the third owner, bought in a brick and mortar shop in Paris with the 2 year waranty.
I had forgotten how good the A7 felt in the hand. One of my gripes about the a6000 is the texture of the handgrip, which ressembles that of the NEX6, and is not as rubbery as the NEX7’s. The A7’s is thick and soft rubber, super grippy, and very, very comfortable and even pleasurable to hold. The control buttons scheme is also better, as you get a “TriNavi” of sorts, with an extra physical exposure compensation wheel. The customization options are endless enough that pretty much anyone can fine tune this camera to their needs and get comfortable shooting it. You know what ? I even made peace with the hated “hump” !! (and coming from me, that says a LOT). The grossly protruding backpiece of the EVF, I embraced as well, let it be. The EVF is so freaking large, beautiful and clear, that I’m even ready to put up with the eyepiece. See, who said I couldn’t change ??
I played a bit with the camera last night in very low and terrible light, and still ran into the same muddy and gritty jpegs I have encountered with the first two units (not that I expected a miracle to have happened in the meantime). Since I found very similar issues on the a6000 as well, I’m just assuming it’s the way the current sensors and jpeg engines work on those cameras. But the recent A7 FW update being supposed to address some it this, I decided to give it a go. Sony camera FW updates can be very, very finicky to perform. You’ll routinely read panicked posts from users on photo boards, whose camera have just “bricked” during the update, won’t turn on, and act totally dead. It’s happened to me before but thank God I had read about it on the Net and knew the workaround. As a side note it took about *eight* tries for the update to install correctly on my little NEX 5R a couple of weeks ago. So I disengaged any energy and screen saving mode on my Macbook Pro, and ran the update. It went smooth as silk, with zero glitch (it IS long, though). Upon restarting the camera, I was immediately able to see two of the promised benefits of the patch :
1) the camera start up time is WAYyyyy reduced, and about instant when rebooting it upon shutdown2) the AF performance in low light is also quite improved. Good light AF speed was already totally adequate, so I now have an effectively AFing camera. Thanks Sony.
Now, the big question was, how is jpeg IQ improved at high ISOs ?
I had asked a question on the E mount board on DPR two days ago, asking for the actual, real world benefits of the update, and got consistent feedback that the main improvement is being able to use NR Normal without the terrible detail smearing of before. Most of us were using NR Low of OFF because of this, but got decently detailed but consequently grainy shots at high ISO values. The NR Normal setting is now totally usable, and, some DPR posters claimed, in some cases better than the Low setting. Upon experimenting with both, I concur. I had also been very careful before and turned off all the little image enhancers that I use on the NEX 7, namely DRO 1 and +1 Sharpness some creative styles settings. I tried to bring them back, with no negative effect or added noise.
Therefore I am overall pleased with my findings. I still need to adapt to the camera exposure and WB behavior that is a departure from the N7, but I feel up to the challenge this time. A few more pictures, this time from today :
Bottom line ? I’m enjoying myself. The weather is good, hanymen are installing a handsome new portal to the house and I’m taking the camera to the stables a bit later. One image from the NEX7 yesterday :