Some notes on the A7

Discussion in 'Sony Alpha E-Mount Cameras' started by addieleman, Dec 1, 2013.

  1. addieleman

    addieleman Passionate amateur

    Nov 13, 2012
    Netherlands
    Ad Dieleman
    Since last Wednesday I spent quite some time with my A7. I say "my" because it's going to stay. No way I'm gonna return that thing! It's a delight to be able to use all the legacy glass the way it was meant to, wide-angle lenses are wide-angle again and minor lens deficiencies that are noticeable on APS-C, let alone µ4/3, often don't detract from image quality on the A7.

    A lot has been written already on the A7R and A7 so I won't repeat that. Yes, from the image samples on the internet it's clear that the A7R is the resolution champ with its 36 MP and lack of lowpass filter. So why did I opt for the A7? Main driver was the lack of electronic first curtain of the A7R; I really value that on the NEX-6 and I didn't want to risk something like shutter-shock. Also I really want a camera to be responsive. PDAF of the A7 is more of a concern to me than a feature :). Resolution? 24 MP is more than enough for me, I've never felt limited by the NEX-6's 16 MP.

    So why did I buy an A7 then? Simply because I wanted to have a full-frame platform for my legacy glass and because I hoped for an improved user experience. The improvement on high-ISO performance is just an added bonus, although greatly welcomed.

    Let's get the bad news out of the way first. Errrmm... What bad news? OK, there are a few quibbles I can think of.
    • Despite the electronic first curtain there is some noticeable shutter lag. Not much, but definitely more than on the NEX-6.
    • Shutter is somewhat loud, sounds a little bit metallic.
    • The menu button is on the far left, which prevents one-handed operation.
    • Two clicks needed for magnifying, but can be a double-click, not an issue really.
    • Oddly, OSS is not supported for my SEL-55210 (latest firmware) and SEL-1855 (not latest firmware)! Hopefully that will be rectified with camera and/or lens firmware updates. The SEL-1018 supports OSS so it doesn't seem like a fundamental problem.
    • No profiles yet in Lightroom 5.3 RC for the SEL-1018 on the A7, didn't check yet for my other native lenses. Will come soon hopefully.
    The good news then. the A7's user interface is soooooo much better than that of the NEX-6! The NEX-6 always felt to me like a digital back for lenses, the A7 feels like a real camera. The A7 does away with all the annoyances of the NEX-6, listed in order of my appreciation.
    • Auto ISO in M mode
    • Auto ISO limits are configurable.
    • Peaking level is assigneable to a button.
    • Separate wheels for aperture/shutter speed/ISO (like on the NEX-7)
    • Memory banks (2) for settings.
    • More beef before the tripod mount, making tripod mounting less scary than for the NEX-6. Still I'm eagerly waiting for an RRS L-plate.
    • Separate on/off function for remote control, independent from drive mode.
    • Tethering is supported and works really well!
    • Exact 3:2 aspect ratio in raw. It mildly annoys me that I have to change the aspect ration in Lightroom to get to my preferred 3:2 when processing NEX-6 files. OK, that may not be as important for others :).
    • Pre-AF is defeatable as a menu option.
    As you may have gathered from my lens test posts, the A7 has me positively surprised in terms of image quality with my legacy glass. Many times I expected to be disappointed and that hardly ever happened. Even the Minolta MD Rokkor 20/2.8 performed acceptably, if only just, and that lens sucks bigtime on a NEX-6 due to its field curvature characteristics. Lenses that disappoint me wide-open on the NEX-6, are often acceptable or even more than that on the A7. I should add here that I don't have rangefinder lenses so I have had no issues with color shifts and excessive smearing. The necessity of mirror clearance for SLR lenses may be a good thing after all!

    I have not looked specifically into the camera's image quality because I expect it to be excellent. At ISO 100 I get smooth files like I'm used to with the NEX-6 and I feel I can safely use the A7 up to ISO 6400. I just did one shot at ISO 12800 and even that looks bearable. It's comforting to know that you can set it safely at Auto ISO and just pick your aperture and shutter speed. No worries here.
    Color rendition looks fine out-of-the-box, but I still made a profile for Lightroom using the X-Rite Colorchecker Chart and that made for a small improvement. Especially skin tones got better, in comparison they are a little bit lacking in pink rendition with the standard Adobe profile. I also bought the Huelight profiles for the A7 (only $10) and they look alright but I didn't really dive into experiments yet. In my experience it takes me quite some time before I'll have fine-tuned color rendition to my liking.

    As for the handling, it's OK for me. As many reviewers noted the shutter button is placed a bit backwards and that took some getting used to, it reminds me of the venerable Nikon F. I have fairly large hands so I'm happy with the extra grip compared to the NEX-6. However, I still have to exercise with serious telephoto or zoom lenses on the A7 so the jury's still out on that. Autofocus doesn't seem very different in terms of speed and accuracy as on the NEX-6; I only evaluated that very briefly. Being right-eyed I was a bit concerned that my nose would smudge the LCD but that doesn't happen.
    The viewfinder optics are a clear step-up from all the electronic viewfinders I ever used, it offers a very good image and the viewfinder image itself looks very good too. Incidentally, it really pays off to set the "Display Quality" to "High" instead of the default option "Standard" in spite of the extra power consumption mentioned in the manual.
    Magnifying view and peaking support manual focus like we are used to with Sony mirrorless cameras. On the A7 I set the peaking level to low when not using the magnified view, it's more discriminating that way. When magnifying I set it to medium or off. I still have to practice a bit more, but so far it looks that I can achieve critical focus without magnifying, although I feel much more reassured using the magnified view.

    Everybody talks negatively about battery life. Frankly, it doesn't strike me as much worse than that of the NEX-6 and I solved that problem by buying 2 extra batteries. They are are light and small enough to stash a few extra ones in my camera bag. Much more importantly, kudos to Sony for sticking to the same battery type as for the NEX line-up! Suddenly I have 4 batteries in total for 2 cameras, no pain here. Like the NEX-6, you have to charge the battery in the camera via a USB cord as per the kit delivered. Earlier on I already bought a separate charger which now serves the A7 as well. Just great, this compatibility. Look for instance what Panasonic has done in their µ4/3 camera line-up, different battery types all over the place.

    Will I part with my NEX-6? Not yet. I still need it to use the native E-mount lenses with OSS and the option to have an APS-C camera to get more reach with telephoto lenses is surely attractive. I will see what happens and may sell it when it has been gathering dust for half a year or so. And it's nice to have a second camera, if only to take part again in the "Show what your adapted lens looks like on your NEX camera" thread :). Amin, that thread title is up for a revision now! Operation of the NEX-6 and A7 is different enough so I have good hopes that I can use the two cameras without getting confused all the time, so far that seems to go well.

    So I'm a happy camper. The A7 is a wonderful platform for old-school SLR legacy glass, its image quality looks first-rate so far and I value the extra possibilities to play with depth-of-field more than I thought already. Handling is fine and the user experience starts to come close to a high-end DSLR like the D300s I owned once. Since I went mirrorless I value the focussing accuracy with MF glass and the A7 does everything to support that in a near-perfect way.
     
    • Like Like x 18
  2. Deadbear77

    Deadbear77 TalkEmount Hall of Famer

    Sep 14, 2012
    Northeast Ohio
    Kevin
    Nice review. I think I am sold. If it's not too much of a bother, would you be able to do a shot comparison with the md 1.4 on nex 6 and the a7 with the same values.

    One shot in crop mode on the a7 too?

    Pretty please.


    Sent from my iPhone using TalkNEX mobile app
     
    • Like Like x 1
  3. serhan

    serhan TalkEmount All-Pro

    Aug 27, 2011
    NYC
    Thanks for the review. 2 click for mf magnifying is a bummer but I guess we don't have a choice. How is 10-18mm on FF mode compared to slr lenses, esp corners when it covers the FF?
     
  4. NickCyprus

    NickCyprus Super Moderator

    Oct 11, 2012
    Cyprus
    Nick
    Thanks for the excellent review Ad :thumbup:
     
  5. Deadbear77

    Deadbear77 TalkEmount Hall of Famer

    Sep 14, 2012
    Northeast Ohio
    Kevin
    Ad, I also have to say thanks for all of your pics. You are making the decision for me to spend the money a lot more easy.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  6. jcdoss

    jcdoss TalkEmount Regular

    118
    Jul 6, 2013
    I haven't been able to find this answer yet... it's a simple question so I hope you'll indulge me. Is there a way to label photos with the lens used? The lack of this capability on the NEX 6 is a true annoyance that I hope Sony has fixed.

    Sent from my SCH-I545 using Tapatalk
     
  7. addieleman

    addieleman Passionate amateur

    Nov 13, 2012
    Netherlands
    Ad Dieleman
    Kevin, here you go. I took a Minolta MD Rokkor 50/1.4 with 49mm filter thread for this test, as this MD lens is a lot better than the MD Rokkor 50/1.4 ø55mm at larger apertures. The plain MD 50/1.4 has the same optical design as the MD Rokkor 50/1.4 ø49mm and I consider them both useable at f/2 and marginally at f/1.4. The MD Rokkor 50/1.4 ø55mm has to be stopped down to f/2.8 for good performance, f/2 and especially f/1.4 are way too soft and flary.

    Please give my apologies to your wife. :biggrin:
     
  8. Jefenator

    Jefenator TalkEmount Top Veteran

    876
    Nov 23, 2012
    Oregon, USA
    Jeff
    Oh, man… I might have to break down and get this body on credit.

    Batteries are not of concern - I now have 5 batteries and 3 chargers. (Hope the Wasabi cells are compatible…) If I used to deal with changing a roll of film every 38 shots, I think I'll be able to manage a battery about 1/10 as often. :cool:
     
  9. Deadbear77

    Deadbear77 TalkEmount Hall of Famer

    Sep 14, 2012
    Northeast Ohio
    Kevin
    That's great!! Thanks a lot. I owe you one.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  10. addieleman

    addieleman Passionate amateur

    Nov 13, 2012
    Netherlands
    Ad Dieleman
    Haven't found anything like that in the A7's menus. Now that you mention it, I could add a user comment to a picture on the Nikon D200 and D300s. While this was handy sometimes, it also was so easy to make mistakes by not editing it for the next picture that I considered it almost useless.

    When I want to know what lens I used I sometimes shoot the lens after I changed it or I write a note on my iPhone and take a picture of its screen.
     
  11. Bimjo

    Bimjo Super Moderator

    Oct 28, 2011
    Washington State
    Jim
    If you're using Windoze you could try: http://www.labnol.org/software/exif-data-editors/14210/

    If you're running OS X you could try: http://basepath.com/site/detail-ExifChanger.php

    I use ExifChanger on my MacBook Pro and have since I first started using legacy lenses on my 5N. You have to keep track of what lens/aperture you're using and change the EXIF data on the computer, but it does work. I assume any Windows software works in a similar fashion.

    If you're looking to do it in-camera then you're SOOL I'm afraid.
     
  12. addieleman

    addieleman Passionate amateur

    Nov 13, 2012
    Netherlands
    Ad Dieleman
    Better battery life in airplane mode?

    Just saw this on dpreview. Let's see what other users find, I didn't give this option any attention.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  13. addieleman

    addieleman Passionate amateur

    Nov 13, 2012
    Netherlands
    Ad Dieleman
    On a Windows PC you can use Picmeta's Picture Information Extractor to add lens data to raw files (or the xmp sidecar files if they're there). It costs $39 and it works well and fairly fast; on occasion it crashes and when it opens a folder with hundreds of raw files you'll have to wait minutes before them to show. I've tried a number of other programs in the past and they were either clunky, unstable or both.
     
  14. Bimjo

    Bimjo Super Moderator

    Oct 28, 2011
    Washington State
    Jim
    Stands to reason battery life would be longer in airplane mode. Works that way on my iPhone/iPad. How much longer remains to be seen.
     
  15. lowincash

    lowincash TalkEmount Regular

    131
    Dec 21, 2011
    Los Angeles
    Kin
    Nice to hear your review on this camera. I've not had a camera in a while after selling my nex6 earlier this year but I ordered the a7 last night and looking forward to using my legacy lenses on this camera! I didn't even know the a7 came out till last night lol

    Having limited FE lenses I feel like I'm starting from scratch again, like when I first bought the nex7 there weren't many lenses available. At least now I have some legacy lenses to use.
     
  16. quezra

    quezra TalkEmount Top Veteran

    916
    Aug 22, 2012
    Thanks for this excellent review Ad! I don't know why but I think it's actually the first review I've read from someone who uses NEX as their primary camera and nearly every observation struck a chord. Looking forward to my A7 arriving now!
     
  17. addieleman

    addieleman Passionate amateur

    Nov 13, 2012
    Netherlands
    Ad Dieleman
    A quick test shows that it covers the full frame at around 16mm, however with horrible distortion. No further tests done, I don't think I will use this lens in FF mode.

    i-HkTzJwV-XL.
     
    • Like Like x 2
  18. serhan

    serhan TalkEmount All-Pro

    Aug 27, 2011
    NYC
    Thanks a lot. That will be hard to correct w/o profile. I guess I will wait until Sony FF wide...

     
  19. addieleman

    addieleman Passionate amateur

    Nov 13, 2012
    Netherlands
    Ad Dieleman
  20. serhan

    serhan TalkEmount All-Pro

    Aug 27, 2011
    NYC
    His shots look good, but another interior architecture shot that I saw had a distortion similar to your shot. Again most probably it can be easier to correct then the redshift from rf lenses...