The Sony A7 - useful or just a budget A7r?

I have to admit I've had four attempts at selling my A7 on ebay. Once I couldn't get what I wanted for it but the other three times I've removed it from sale and decided I wanted to keep it. So what does that prove? Well I guess it proves that it has something to offer me.

Firstly the differences between the A7 and A7r as outlined by Dpreview.


The a7 and a7R are identical in terms of physical design, with the main differences being the sensor and autofocus system. The a7 features a full-frame 24 megapixel CMOS, while the a7R has a 36 megapixel CMOS sensor with no optical low-pass filter. The a7 uses a Hybrid AF system (with on-chip phase detection) similar to the one found on the NEX-6, while the a7R has traditional contrast detection. The a7 is also capable of electronic first curtain mode, which allows for a quieter shutter, and reduces the potential for 'shutter shock' vibration; this is absent from the a7R. Both cameras use Sony's latest Bionz X processor and also have XGA electronic viewfinders, tilting LCDs, Wi-Fi, and weatherproof bodies that resemble that of the Olympus E-M1.

Here's a quick summary of the differences between the a7 and a7R:
a7 a7R
MSRP (body only) $1699 $2299
Sensor 24.3 megapixel 36.3 megapixel
Optical low-pass filter Yes No
AF system Hybrid AF Contrast detect
Front panel construction Composite Magnesium alloy
Electronic first curtain Yes No
Continuous shooting 5 fps 4 fps
Flash x-sync 1/250 sec 1/160 sec
Weight (loaded) 474 g 465 g

In reality I can't discern any difference in terms of build quality, I can't say I've noticed much difference in terms of AF speed and at high ISO's the cameras are VERY similar. The A7 shutter is quieter however. 

So cheaper and less pixels basically.

Now the A7 takes a decent picture.




And turns out decent video footage.


And in terms of the other options out there it's pretty impressive in terms of image quality. The best two cameras I've ever owned for that are the A7r in first place and the Nikon D800E second. But I'd have no hesitation in putting the A7 in third place. In fact I often upsize my A7 files to 36MP, the same as the A7r and I find it very difficult to spot the difference. Looking back through what I've shot with both cameras I've also found that I've shot just as much with the A7 as with the A7r.

So it seems that I'm using it as a backup / alternative camera to the A7r and buying it was cheaper than getting two A7r's. There is also the fact that with it's AA filter it will be more suitable for certain subjects, though that's not something I especially notice. 

What happens to it when the A7s is released is difficult to assess, since that and the A7r would make a very useful pair of cameras with a wide range of options and uses between them, leaving the A7 somewhat in the middle as neither one thing or the other. But then I think that is unfair. It IS obviously a useful camera for me, just from the amount I use it and when compared to what might be considered it's competitors in the 24MP 35mm film sized sensor market, of which there aren't many to be honest, in terms of IQ it's arguably the best. It's certainly better, in my opinion, for that than the Nikon D600 I had for my purposes, though the Nikon is probably better at high ISO's. 

So it is a good camera, it does have it's own niche and it does what I ask of it. It may not quite have the ability to produce files quite as impressive as those from the A7r, but it's a very capable camera in it's own right. And yes, for me, it suffers from the same operational and design deficiencies that I identify in the FE cameras, but then that's just me being picky and my particularly quirky approach to cameras shouldn't put anyone else off considering it. 

If you can live with the lens void and you aren't planning on sneaking up on anyone to take their picture anytime soon (because it's quieter than the A7r but still has a noisy shutter) then it could be a camera to consider if you are looking for high quality files in a smaller lighter package than a DSLR. I imagine mine will be on the shelf for a while now, since I've decided not to sell it. (At least for the foreseeable future. Which in my case means I should still have it tomorrow morning. Though don't bet your mortgage on it!!) 


 
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