Sony A7r - lots of testing - more thoughts.

I've now managed to shoot some images with all the lenses I'm planning to use with the A7r. Above and below are with the Voigtlander 90mm f/3.5 Apo-Lanthar m-mount.

Focus peaking is good. I have however now found out how to magnify the image. Press the C1 function button on the top of the camera twice and up comes the magnified view. The thumb wheel toggles between the two magnifications and the 4-way selector switch lets you choose which area to magnify. As I said before the normal screen works fine, but this is useful for critical focusing.

Some 100% blowups below show just how good the jpgs. are and the mid ISO range.

My Metabones Nikon G > Sony E adapter arrived this morning so I could stop using the faulty Polaroid one I'd borrowed (Do not buy one of these!!) This allowed me to run through the rest of my Nikon lenses.

The apples shots were hand held with my 28mm f/1.8G and the shots with the sofa with my Series E 28mm f/2.8. Both sets were excellent for sharpness. I also took the sofa / cactus / guitar shots at ISO 50, just to see what that was like and how close I could get to what might be described as 'Medium-Format quality'. Again top class, but then I expected that. 

I also tried my 85mm f/1.8G and Series E 100m f/2.8 and again both were excellent. I also did a quick comparison between the A7r and Fuji X-E2 at ISO 6400, to see if there was any truth in the assertion on some blog that the A7r was better at high ISO because the files could be downsized. As I argued in my blog piece, that just isn't the case. While the A7r files, particularly the jpgs. are excellent at high(er) ISO's, the Fuji X files still win out here. They are sharper, cleaner and less noise reduced, even when the A7r files are downsized to the same size. However I wouldn't have any problem in using the whole range of ISO's from the Sony. Jpgs. are fairly heavily processed but decent enough, and certainly way better than anything m4/3 can produce. 

Somebody yesterday posted on Google+ a question. "Where does that leave your Fuji's?' The simple answer is I don't know. As I've just indicated they are still better at high ISO's, are of course much quieter than the A7r. Plus there is a pretty decent lens range including the 55-200mm I've just bought. Another, perhaps more pertinent question is where does that leave me and m4/3? The Sony A7r is actually smaller and lighter than my GH3 and if I use my Series E Nikons I get a pretty small outfit. No AF of course, but Sony's new focus peaking is pretty special. No matter how much we all talk up the image quality of m4/3, the A7r is, as it should be, substantially better. Higher resolution, better at high ISO's and the potential to do some serious cropping. When this kind of sensor was only available in high-end big DSLR's then m4/3 had an obvious advantage, which of course it does with it's lens range. But I'm not sure anyone doing what I do would choose an E-M1 over an A7r. And that means I have to think about what to do with my GH3 and lenses. 

I think that Sony are posing this dilemma for a lot of photographers. The files are just so good and so big, it's going to be really difficult to go back to m4/3. Obviously not everyone earns their living from photography or has aspirations to make some money from it, but for those who do, seeing one of these 36MP files pop up on the screen is going to make a lot of other cameras files look somewhat ordinary by comparison. This is all caused by the size and weight of the camera. And yes now  we actually have 35mm / 'FF' mirrorless. Lots of photographers have been lobbying for this for years and it's finally here. Sure the A7r isn't perfect and that shutter needs changing ASAP, but there is no arguing with the files it produces. I've obviously had a year with a Nikon D800E so I knew what to expect, but those upgrading from other mirrorless systems are going to have a very pleasant surprise. And no this size sensor with its limited / limiting depth-of-field isn't for everyone or indeed every photographic situation but it's going to be interesting to see how many Sony sell. 

They are certainly giving it their best shot. My dealer who sold me the camera said that there are an awful lot of A7's and A7r's in the UK. There are no limited numbers and long waiting lists for this camera. All the big retailers apparently have plenty in stock, Sony have made sure of that. So it seems that they are pretty confident that this is going to be a big seller. They have already said that they are 'retiring' the NEX range and presumably see this as the way to go. And I guess we can see why. We finally have the digital equivalent of all those small 35mm film SLR's. But with a huge sensor which is way beyond anything that 35mm film, or 645 and 6x6 film for that matter, could deliver. Remember that before digital arrived this was the format that most people used. The same depth-of-field, same kind of lenses and ignoring the big Canon and Nikon press machines, the size of camera that most people used. So in many way Sony aren't coming up with anything revolutionary, just offering a souped-up digital version of what was there before. And if it worked then, why on earth won't it work now. 

And yes, it is early days, but Sony have surely changed the marketplace. They have conclusively proved that a small light mirrorless camera can have the best image quality of any bar ultra-expensive, ultra-heavy and large medium-format pro machines. What the consequence of that is remains to be seen. But I can't see it failing to have a huge impact. How long before Sigma and Tamron start filling in the lens gaps? How long before other manufacturers follow suit? NIkon and Canon surely can't keep their heads in the sand any longer can they? They have to respond. Canons insulting 'Mirrorless is for women and teenagers' attitude will bury them if they keep believing it. I've been hesitant to rule out DSLR's up to now, but with the A7r's arrival I would be incredibly surprised if I ever bought one again. Why on earth would I? Any Canon I buy and any Nikon bar two, delivers me a drop in quality and what would possess me to do that? Particularly since I can finally contemplate using 36MP in a camera body that doesn't require me to take painkillers!!

As a general rule change happens slower than we anticipate and there is still some way to go before we can get some idea of where the future of serious digital photography lies. But if the Panasonic G1 was the first step in this mirrorless 'revolution' then the A7 / A7r is the second. One thing is for sure, the old order is in severe danger of changing for ever. Mobiles for the masses, high-spec., high-end mirrorless for the serious snappers is my guess how it's going to go. And whatever you think about Sony, surely no-one can deny that they are the most innovative company around and the company most prepared to take a risk and try a different direction. And I'm certainly happy to give them a round of applause for that. 



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