Test Review: Sony A7R

January 21, 2014 at 10:30 am  •  Posted in New Products, News & Events, Review by

The Sony A7R

The Sony A7R

The Sony A7R is the first compact-system camera with a full-frame sensor. This mirrorless system is very compact and lightweight. It uses the E-lens mount and a 36-MP sensor. The camera offers WLAN functions and is able to record Full HD video.

Comments on Image Quality

The Sony A7R is the first compact-system camera with a full-frame sensor. This mirrorless system is very compact and lightweight. It uses the E-lens mount and a 36-MP sensor. The camera offers WLAN functions and is able to record Full HD video.

Colour: The automatic white-balance system of the Sony A7R did a good job. The colour test chart was reproduced with neutral colours; only the brightest gray pattern (white and very light black) shows a shift into the green area. In this situation the camera created very natural colours with an average saturation of 104.7 percent which is very accurate. While the standard test box shot had only a slight shift into the yellow and green direction, the portrait shot had a bluish/greenish look, especially in the bright (nearly white) coloured background. The skin tones are fine. Skin tones in the test chart are reproduced nearly perfectly. Only the brighter skin tones show a little shift into the magenta area to create a “tanned skin look.”

Sharpness: The new Sony performed very well in our resolution tests. The camera gained a maximum of 4397 lines per picture height. This result is good relative to the nominal resolution of the sensor of 4912 lines per picture height. (Note: I have the impression that the new lens system is the bottleneck of the system. Maybe the resolution results could have been even higher when using one of the new Zeiss lenses for E-mount and full-frame sensor systems.)

Nevertheless, the images look fine with a lot of details. The JPEGs have a slightly softer look due to the standard image settings of the camera. The photographer can enhance the “crispness” by using raw images and a slightly higher sharpness setting in the converter software, for example. Nevertheless details like the numbers on the ruler in our standard test box shot and fine structures in the portrait shot are clearly visible, and all colours are differentiated. Even the red colour of the spools looks very clear.

Noise: The luminance noise results of the A7R are excellent. The camera keeps luminance noise on a very low level—even at the highest ISO speed settings, the luminance noise factor is way below 1.0 percent. This is only partly the result of an intense anti-noise filtering. The noise filtering reduces colour noise very efficiently, but it also causes the typical “anti-noise-filtering look” in images taken with ISO 6400 and more. At the highest ISO speed modes, the details in the images are smoothed and reduced.

The dynamic range results are good. The maximum of 10.8 f-stops isn’t really a world record, but the camera keeps a level high above 10 f-stops in ISO speed settings between 100 and 3200, which is very good.

Comments on Handling

The camera has no integrated flash system. It offers a standard accessory shoe for external flash systems or for additional adapters for studio flash lighting systems. On the right-hand side, the photographer will find the standard mode dials and an additional wheel for controlling the EV compensation.

The camera has no integrated flash system. It offers a standard accessory shoe for external flash systems or for additional adapters for studio flash lighting systems. On the right-hand side, the photographer will find the standard mode dials and an additional wheel for controlling the EV compensation.

The Sony A7R and the A7 are the first mirrorless system cameras with a full-frame sensor. The A7 offers a sensor with 35.8 x 23.9 millimeters and a resolution of 24 MP; the A7R has a slightly larger sensor with 35.9 mm x 24.0 millimeters and 36 MP. Both cameras use the E-mount lens system, which was introduced with Sony’s NEX cameras.

Because NEX cameras are using APS-C-sized sensors, all previous E-mount lenses have smaller image circles and you will need new E-mount lenses that cover the larger image circle of a full-frame sensor. We did our tests with the new FE 28-70 mm 3.5-5.6 OSS (SEL-2870), which is one of four lenses currently available for these cameras. Sony A-mount lenses, which are developed for full-frame cameras like the Sony A99, can be used with an optional Sony LA-EA4 adapter. This adapter offers an additional AF functionality with phase detection and 15 AF sensors.

Besides the different resolutions of the A7 and the A7R, another difference is that the A7R uses a sensor without a low-pass filter. This filter is used to reduce aliasing and moiré effects, but it works a little like a blur filter and therefore also reduces image details. The A7R does not use this filter in order to offer the highest possible detail reproduction.

The swivel monitor can be flipped up- and downward. The additional shutter-release button for video recording is on the right-hand side of the camera (which is a little inconvenient). The card slot for the memory sticks and SD, SDHC, and SDXC cards is also located on the right side of the camera—right below the video record button.

The swivel monitor can be flipped up- and downward. The additional shutter-release button for video recording is on the right-hand side of the camera (which is a little inconvenient). The card slot for the memory sticks and SD, SDHC, and SDXC cards is also located on the right side of the camera—right below the video record button.

The design of the camera is very traditional. Its body is based on a magnesium-alloy chassis and looks very robust, even though it is very lightweight and a lot smaller than a traditional full-frame-sensor SLR systems. With its sharp-edged “prism hump,” it looks a little like an SLR system from the 70s or 80s. But it is a digital camera with an electronic viewfinder. This viewfinder is based on OLED technology and offers an extremely high resolution. It uses 2.36 million RGB dots and creates a very crisp and clear live-view reproduction.

Using the viewfinder magnifier and the focus-peaking function allow one to focus manually in a very comfortable way. The camera has a swivel monitor (that can be flipped up- and downward) which offers 921600 RGB dots. It’s a high-quality monitor with very bright and brilliant image reproduction, but a higher resolution would be a benefit.

The camera has a 3-inch swivel LCD with a resolution of 921600 RGB dots. It can be used as electronic viewfinder and for menu navigation.

The camera has a 3-inch swivel LCD with a resolution of 921600 RGB dots. It can be used as electronic viewfinder and for menu navigation.

The Sony A7R has a lot of function buttons, set-up dials and more for very easy handling. The camera has a special set-up dial on the top to comfortably change the EV compensation set-up. Two (!) set-up dials on the top (one near the shutter release button; one on the back) and a third dial (which is also used as cursor/control field) help the photographer change all parameters fast and efficiently. The FN button on the back allows one to change the most important image parameters very quickly. Customer-defined function buttons like “C1” or “C3”on the top and a lot of additional parameters that are configured in the menu permit a very individualized set-up of the camera.

The camera had an average performance in our AF tests even though the camera uses the brand new BIONZ X processor. The AF focusing is a little slower than Panasonic’s and Olympus’ CSCs with their very efficient and remarkably fast contrast AF systems. Sony’s SLT cameras with their dedicated AF sensor (like SLR systems) are faster than the A7R.

The camera reaches a maximum of 4 frames per second in S-mode. In all other automatic or semi-automatic modes, the burst mode rate is very slow (about 1.5 to 2 frames per second). The speed of the AF system and the burst mode eliminates the camera as a professional system for sports photography.

Pros
+ First CSC system with full-frame sensor
+ Small and light, but robust body
+ Easy handling, “traditional” camera and handling concept
+ Electronic viewfinder with very high resolution makes manual focusing easy
+ WLAN system including NFC for an easy connection between a camera and smartphone

Cons

– Swivel monitor can only be flipped up- and downward
– Burst mode with up to 4 frames per second only in S-mode
– No built-in flash system

This review is based on precise lab tests conducted by BetterNet GmbH and provided by the Technical Imaging Press Association (TIPA). TIPA is the largest family of independent photo and imaging magazines worldwide. Photo Life is an active member of TIPA.

SPEC SHEET: Sony A7R
BASIC TECHNICAL DATA:
Resolution 7360 x 4912
Resolution sensor 36.4
Size of sensor (in Inches) 0/0.00
Size of sensor (in mm) 35.9 x 24.0
TAKING PICTURES:
Start-up time (in sec) 0.40
Shutter delay (in sec) without pre-focusing 0.07
Shutter delay (in sec) with pre-focusing 0.01
Continuous shooting speed (frames per second) 1.5
Max. burst during continuous shooting speed 999.0
Fastest shutter speed (in sec) 1/8000
Long time exposure/shutter speed (in sec) 30
Self timer yes
Exposure Settings:
Aperture presetting, shutter speed pre-setting, manual exposure settings,
automatic bracketing
Exposure programs 16
White balance:
Auto yes
White balance settings 8
Individual white balance yes
ISO:
ISO min 50
ISO max 25600
ISO steps 28
Manual ISO control yes
FLASH:
Integrated flash no
Flash mode:
On, off, automatic flash, slow sync, anti-red-eye, rear-curtain sync
External Flash:
X-Sync no
Accessory shoe yes
FILE FORMATS:
Standard file formats JPEG, RAW, DCF
JPEG-compression grades 3
LCD AND PREVIEW:
Size (in inches) 3.0
Resolution of LCD (in pixels) 921600
Zoom mode during preview yes
Index during preview yes
Slideshow during preview yes
VIDEO:
Video available yes
Max. width 1920
Max. height 1080
Picture frequency 60
POWER SOURCE:
Rechargeable battery yes
Battery type Li-Ion
Battery charger included yes
Power connector no
Power-supply unit no
STORAGE SYSTEM:
Supported memory cards Memory stick, SD card, SDHC card, SDXC card
PC CONNECTION:
PC connection USB, HDMI, WLAN
TV out HDMI
DIMENSIONS:
Dimensions (width x height x depth; in mm) 126 x 94 x 48
Weight (body without battery and memory card; in g) 407
ACCESSORIES:
Docking station no
Printed manual yes
Manual on CD yes
Bag no
Remote control no
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