Sony push the envelope yet again - A7, A7r and RX10 announcements

If you are looking for something new and innovative and big major multiple gear announcements then Sony usually don't disappoint. They seem to delight in making the improbable and surprising us all. 

The A7 / A7r has been heavily leaked over the last few days and I'll discuss that later. But first what is a very surprising release and of all the announcements as far as I'm concerned the most 'revolutionary'.

There are some of us who think that the future of digital photography isn't looking back with cameras that have 35mm film sized sensors in them, but looking forward and exploring what smaller sensors are capable of. This little beauty with its 1" sensor gives a clue as to what that might provide and is the first example of what smaller sensors can give us that other systems can't in terms of 'dream' lenses.

I can think of no previous situation where anyone has attempted anything close to an equivalent (approximate in 35mm terms) 24-200mm f/2.8 fixed aperture throughout zoom. In any format. This is almost the stuff of wish fulfilment, dreams and fantasy. Added to a body that takes 20MP images, this is something special. Its expensive and relatively heavy, but this is all down to that remarkable lens.

It is big for a supposed compact camera, but god only knows what size a lens like this would be in larger sensor formats. And the zoom range is pretty impressive, particularly at f/2.8. Anyone who shoots outdoors, travel and landscape and has some idea of what cameras like the RX100's and Nikon 1's can produce and doesn't have a blinkered, closed mind, prejudiced idea about 1" sensors (e.g. me!) will be salivating at the prospect of what this can do. No changing lenses, therefore no dust, phenomenal depth of field from the 8.8-73.3mm lens, tilting screen and oled viewfinder. And then there's the video using the 3-axis image stabilisation, microphone AND headphone jacks.

From Dpreview:-
'Like many recent Sonys, the RX10 can shoot 1080 video at 60p up to 28Mbps or 60i and 24p at up to 24Mbps. In addition, the camera's footage can be output over HDMI, either with settings overlays for monitoring or without, for recording (and, we're told, with the option for uncompressed 4:2:2 video output). When you look at these specs and the switch that enables stepless aperture changes while recording movies, it looks like the RX10 could be a handy documentary camera.'

The RX100 was certainly impressive for video and this promises to be the same. 

For me and what I shoot in terms of stills and video, buying this camera is an absolute no-brainer. Where do I pay? 

THE A7 / A7r

I was really hoping I would see the pictures of this camera and hate it. Unfortunately I read that the viewfinder is OLED and saw the picture of the battery grip. Oh Dear.

Now I'm not so bothered about the 35mm film sized sensor, but 36MP and presumably a tweaked version of the D800E sensor that allows the use of wide-angle lenses without vignetting and colour cast problems, is very seductive. I also like the brutal industrial look of the thing. Yes, no rangefinder chic here, and Sony really need to get themselves a design department, but here I think it works though I've always thought Sony cameras are designed by the machines who ran the world in the Matrix movies. 

There is however a HUGE problem. The lenses. Firstly there is this crazy marketing strategy that Sony have come up with to perplex us. The 28-70mm kit lens is available with the 24MP A7 and not with the A7r or on its own. The Zeiss lenses won't be available when the A7r goes on sale, so the only 'native' lens you can buy for this at launch is the 35mm f/2.8. This is inexplicable, annoying and ridiculous. 

There is also the problem of size. The lenses are mostly, in mirrorless terms, enormous in size, weight and price. Its almost like Sony are saying, here is this great camera with a great sensor BUT you are going to have to use these lenses (when we allow you to buy them) and put up with it. I have this idea that lots of people, enthusiasts mainly, think that they want a 35mm sized sensor. The dreaded 'full-frame'. Some of them I suspect, won't have used this format before and will be (mistakenly) expecting something like the other mirrorless systems they have used. Those of us who come from film and have used 35mm sized sensor cameras extensively were always aware of what might be appearing as lenses for this. We knew that the RX1 with its small fixed lens prime wasn't going to be what the rest of the lens range would be like. And so it has proved. Just look at the 70-200mm f/4.

This does of course beg the question as to who this system is for. Factor in the size and weight of the lenses that will do justice to the sensors and you have a system that isn't far off a DSLR, in terms of weight, size and price. Personally I love battery grips and I can foresee great results with my Nikon primes fitted to one of these via adapters, but I doubt this is typical. 

I'm very interested in this camera (The A7r of course) but before considering buying one, I'll need to do some research as to whether currently available Nikon > E Mount adapters will work with this. Plus what is the situation with m-mount lenses? There is of course going to be a wait for further lens announcements. No wide-angle, zoom or prime as yet, no fast longer lenses. I'm not interested in hauling around any of the zooms announced today, but my adapted Nikon G and Series E lenses via adapters is very appealing. With the cameras focus peaking I'd love to see what my diminutive Series E 50mm f/1.8 could produce with 36MP. Now that's a small, light, very high quality option that makes sense to me and what I'm sure many were imagining, but manual focus of course.

Most people I'm sure however,  WILL want AF and brand lenses, and to that end I can't see how they are not going to be somewhat disappointed. This was always predictable though. Sony, whatever their faults, do respond relatively quickly to what people say they want on the forums and rumour sites. And the A7's have appeared pretty soon after the RX1's and all the ensuing clamour for an interchangeable lens version of those. The lens selection is unfortunately not of the same level of innovation and Sony have been very conservative in the options they have come up with up with. 

In personal terms, I do like the concept and from what I see the A7r has pretty much everything I want and could use. If I can find out what the adapter situation is then I'll be looking to buy one, assuming my plan to use the Nikons is possible. I can imagine some pretty amazing pictures coming from an outfit that gives me D800E quality but without the back breaking properties of that camera and lenses to do it justice. A non gripped A7r body and a couple of Series E Nikons is a light alternative and something that I certainly didn't imagine would come with a 36MP sensor until recently. However I can see that others might be struggling to see how what's been announced today works for them. And maybe that 'full-frame' itch may start to be less of a driving force than it once was.


Having watched the Camera Store Video - - and seen that adapters are no problem I've pre-ordered the A7r body. Also the RX10. Going to be busy on ebay!! By the way, do watch the Camera Store Video, it was shot on an A7. Very impressive.


Finally, just couldn't resist it. England have made the world cup finals. Hooray!! I doubt they will win it or even progress that far, but watching the young attacking side last night throw caution to the wind was a refreshing change to watching the same old hacks trying to grind out a result. Plus in Andros Townsend we may just have found a new star. If 'Woy' keeps the faith then they should at least be good to watch until they fly back. (If they revert to type usually after getting knocked out on penalties in the last 16!!)

N.B. to see more on the cameras and lenses featured in this post click on the relevant labels (tags and keywords) below.

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