Reasons NOT to buy a Sony A7r (Well actually one significant reason)


Let me make one thing clear at the start, I think the Sony A7r is a VERY impressive camera. Some of the samples circulating have breathtaking image quality, at low ISO's anyway. I think its probably sharper than the D800E I had, and the images look like how I imagine a camera without an AA filter should look. I'm certainly very tempted. I pre-ordered one, but then cancelled it. There are some reasons for this. Its new tech., possible teething problems, it's not cheap. However all of this I could live with, and certainly all those reasons have never stopped me in the past. However there is one reason above all that stops me getting the credit card out. Lenses, or rather the absence of them.

I cannot remember a camera launch when a new model with a new lens mount was released, body only. No kit lens, no bundles with a lens of any kind. Sony, in their lack of wisdom, have put a kit lens with the A7, but they don't even sell that on its own.There are two primes within a very limited range, but that's it. Lots in the pipeline, but that's not really a lot of use at the moment. An adapter for Sony a-mount lenses? Well if I'd ever found a Sony a-mount lens I thought would do this sensor justice and / or didn't need a crane to lift it, then I might consider it, but I haven't, so I won't. There was of course my plan to use adapted Nikon lenses, but thats MF only and there are lots of times when that won't work for me and I need AF.

This is somewhat disappointing and fuels my suspicion that the A7 / A7r release is a case of 'Lets get it out in time for Christmas, and we'll worry about the lenses later.' Even looking into the future, this new system is the same old story of a slow roll-out of lenses and Sony with their mysteriously discontinued NEX system don't have a great record of getting lenses out quickly. Fuji are in much the same situation. Neither system has a decent medium telephoto prime for example, which for me is a serious omission. Now its true that m4/3 had few lenses at the start, giving rise to the whole adapter / legacy lenses solution, but their first lenses were, Standard Zoom, Telephoto Zoom, Super Zoom, Wide-Angle Zoom, Pancake fast prime. Plus is it my imagination or have Panasonic and Olympus released lenses much quicker than any other mirrorless system? It certainly feels like it. 

This lack of lenses, does of course offer a very restricted series of options. It may well suit some people perfectly, but for me and I imagine lots of other photographers, it doesn't, far from it. In fact I would go as far as to say its close to a shooting themselves in the foot situation for Sony. If anyone is in the target market for the A7r, it's me, and unless I have a change of heart or come up with a 'spiffing wheeze' (and don't bet against either!!) I won't be buying one. Now 36MP is very enticing, but I'm upsizing my m4/3 files to that and picture libraries are accepting them and more importantly clients are buying them, so that really isn't an issue, particularly taking into consideration the fact that libraries aren't that bothered about ultra-sharp images anyway. Its not as if the A7r is that great at high ISO's. The Nikon D800E wasn't either and any Fuji X camera leaves both the Sony and the Nikon trailing in its wake for low light use. Plus with some work, I can get decent results from my m4/3 cameras for the rare times I actually use high ISO settings. 

So for me its sadly a case of 'Close, but no cigar' at the moment though I'm not ruling out the possibility of getting into the system at a later date, (And knowing me that could of course be next week!) but the more digital cameras evolve, the more I think that the lens systems that accompany them are becoming more important than the cameras and the sensors themselves. The cameras and sensors are important certainly, but as technology improves the differences between them lessen. I would argue that the ability to expose correctly and post-process well in Photoshop is as important as the camera / sensor that you use in terms of image quality, plus usability and what a camera body offers is to many photographers again as / more important than the sensor. Take Canon users for example. Still the best selling camera brand and amongst my fellow professionals easily the most popular. Now nobody would argue that Canon have the cutting edge sensor tech. advantage they had some years ago. In fact Canon sensors are a bit 'old hat' these days. Out of interest I had a look at some Canon 6D raw files and must admit my reaction was 'How on earth do people who use sensors like this have the nerve to criticise m4/3?' As you can tell I wasn't impressed. But then the 6D, like all other Canon DSLRs, is a perfectly usable camera and photographers can do a job and make a living with one of those without any problem at all. But then that's also true these days of m4/3, Fuji X and NEX. 

So while appreciating what Sony have done with the A7r, and it is a considerable achievement, for me its only 50% of the story without the lenses to use on it. Plus at the moment its the answer to 'Life, the Universe and everything' for many, but it is worth remembering that we haven't had that moment in a cameras internet life when it suddenly becomes flawed and fallible like everything else. The Canon 1d MkII AF (or rather non-AF) moment, The Nikon D600 oil on sensor moment, The Leica M8 no IR filter, therefore dodgy colour, moment. Its astonishing how something like that can change the buzz about a camera on the internet from positive to negative VERY quickly. I'm sure its coming. We don't know what it is yet, but its not the perfect camera (nothing is) and there will be something. My bet is on problems with the AF, and the A7 is already showing vignetting and colour casts with m-mount wide-angles, so I guess that might signal the end of the 'Leica Killer' posts. 

None of these means that the A7r is a dud. Completely the opposite, I would suggest. But maybe its the A9r that is going to truly be the 'game-changer!'............... But then again............

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