Quick thoughts on the Sony A7 and A7R


Image from B&H.

The internet is going to be full of anticipation, excitement, speculation and various forms of virtual hand-wringing over Sony’s latest announcement: full frame mirrorless. I’m sure some bloggers have already had a chance to use one, but given the local market entity’s attitude, don’t expect to see a review from me anytime soon (if at all). As interesting as it is, I simply won’t be able to get a camera. What I can do is put together a few initial thoughts. I don’t normally join the equipment frenzy, but I think this is significant enough that it warrants some serious consideration.

  • There are two versions: one with 24MP and PDAF on-chip (the A7) and one with 36MP, no AA filter and no PDAF (the A7R). It is supposedly not the exact same sensor as the D800E; this one apparently has offset microlenses to deal with the very short back flange distance.
  • Bodies are weather sealed; presumably lenses, too. To what degree remains to be seen – for instance, there’s a big difference between the D7100 and the D4, but Nikon claims both are ‘weather sealed’…
  • Yes, it’s slightly lighter than an E-M1, and about the same size – which significantly erodes the reason for going M4/3. However, the ergonomics look like a disaster – far too many sharp edges, not enough physical controls, and reading things like ‘same menu as the RX1′, I’m starting to cringe.
  • It is not clear to me how one is going to consistently make the most of the 36MP model; from experience with the D800E, some weight or IS system is actually required to have sufficient stability to consistently extract all of the resolution of the sensor. Bottom line: most users may not see as much of a difference as they think between the A7 and A7R.
  • Yet another new lens system: presumably Sony will make some G to A7 adaptors, but we’re back to buying new lenses again. There are 28-70/3.5-5.6, 24-70/4, 35/2.8, 55/1.8 and 70-200/4 lenses announced. Surely Sony can’t be meaning to support G, NEX and A7 lens lines in any meaningful way? That would seem like too much cost and business risk, to me.
  • Smaller than a FF DSLR, but it can’t be too small – even if the body is compact, it still has to be big enough to be ergonomically comfortable with the larger lenses required to cover the larger sensor. So the whole thing is…I suppose somewhere around NEX-sized in the end, at a minimum. Which means there’s still a meaningful size advantage to M4/3: find a weather sealed, 24-80/2.8 equivalent zoom that focuses to 20cm at all distances (forget DOF, we’re looking at FOV and light gathering capability) with stabilizer for the A7R, and I guarantee the lens alone will be heavier than the E-M1 and 12-40
  • Built-in EVF: good, and necessary for both focusing and stability (bracing the camera to your face).
  • Price: at $1699, the A7 is competitive, I think. The A7R is quite a bit more expensive at $2299; neither is cheap per se, especially given the lack of lens choices. I think for most people, the smarter buy would be the A7, with PDAF on-sensor and less demanding pixel pitch.
  • Lens prices: $3000 for the 70-200/4? What are they thinking? That’s Leica territory.
  • Don’t think you can get away with adaptors: the planarity of such adaptors is going to be absolutely critical, especially with such short flange distances and resolution numbers. You’ll actually be able to see the effects of a cheap, out-of-plane adaptor – it looks a little like a tilt. (I know this because I tried Hasselblad lenses on my D800E; none of the three adaptors I obtained had sufficiently tight tolerances to avoid this problem.)
  • Very subjective: Is it just me, or does it look a lot like an E-M5, but more square?

There are conflicting messages here. Sony obviously said: ‘let’s put all of the tech we can into the smallest possible package, to chase the highest possible image quality’ – which is fine as a goal in itself. However, the A7/A7R undermines the A99 – the smaller camera getting the better sensor (despite the 36MP unit being available for some time now) suggests that Sony may well be abandoning any serious further DSLR development. And where does this leave the recently-launched RX1R? Why would you buy a fixed lens option – granted, with a slightly faster lens – when you could have interchangeable instead? Then, we have the whole lens-vs-sensor problem: great sensor, limited and mostly unstabilized lenses. (Hint: look at Fuji’s initial lens choices for the X system; those said ‘we’re serious’. Sony is saying ‘we’re actually consumer; have two 2X-70 zooms and a couple of unexciting primes.’ It seems odd to be so ballsy on the camera side, but completely lack any stones with lenses). Then we have portability vs. usability: it’s small, but you’ll still need a tripod to extract ‘full value’ from the sensor, which means that we’re back to the overall system being big again. The lenses really need to be stabilized: all of them. Granted, this is also true with a D800E, but by the time you’ve added a decent tripod, the weight savings on the camera side pale somewhat.

Personally, even though it’s extremely unlikely I’ll ever buy one – I have pretty much all I need already – I really hope it succeeds: firstly, it really throws down the gauntlet to the other camera makers, hopefully forcing them to actually innovate (I’m looking at you, Nikon and Canon) to stay competitive. And if they innovate, Sony will be forced to actually look at UI for a change, and make something that works like a camera, not an electronic gadget. Secondly, it means that Sony/ Zeiss might actually develop some better lenses for it – yes, 35 and 55mm primes are nice, but some of us need a bit more than that in order to seriously consider the (re)investment required to justify this as a whole system.

Big, innovative changes like this are going to be necessary for survival; the further we move past the point of sufficiency, the less motivation buyers are going to have to open their wallets for incremental upgrades. It’s going to take a step change to motivate spending; step changes like this one. MT

Note: The RX10 was also announced at the same time; it has a 28-200/2.8 constant aperture zoom, the sensor from the RX100M2 and both EVF and top LCD status panel. Unfortunately, there is no free lunch: it’s enormous. But it does look like an interesting possible all-in-one, if the lens is up to snuff…

Update: I’ve been receiving a lot of heated comments and hate mail by people defending the cameras and accusing me of being negative and dismissive. Read the article again: I’ve said twice that the technology is impressive and I hope the camera succeeds. I’ve also said that it’s the local agent’s attitude I’m not enthusiastic about, and that precludes me ever trying or buying one. Furthermore, there are a lot of assumptions being made by most of the readers that are incorrect, or at best, flawed. Slapping an adapted lens on something does not guarantee great results; it’s highly variable. You will not know until you try that specific lens and that specific adaptor, Leica or not.

Finally, the photographer always makes far more difference to the final image than the gear. And a skilled one will be able to do more with the same equipment than an unskilled one, but better gear will not close the gap. What bothers me is the sheer number of people who think a new piece of gear is the messiah and will make amazing images just because of a spec sheet. Reality: buying new equipment will NOT change the way you shoot, especially if you care more about gear than photography. This site is about photography. I assess equipment only as a tool to achieve an end goal, nothing more.

Both A7 and A7R cameras and a variety of lenses are available to preorder here from B&H. The RX10 is here.

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Enter the 2013 Maybank Photo Awards here – there’s US$35,000 worth of prizes up for grabs, it’s open to all ASEAN residents, and I’m the head judge! Entries close 31 October 2013.

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Comments

  1. Just read this on a dpr forum. In Australia there was a live launch and this came out. Now I knew the A7 included plastic but not the reason why the A7r instead uses more metal:

    The whole front panel that supports the mount on the A7 is plastic and it is mag alloy on the A7r. This was explained as necessary as it was felt that the A7r would be using big tele lenses more than the A7 and that the mag alloy was more rigid.

  2. Australian launch video is interesting from about 13mins onwards. It is not just the PM that are different with the two sensors. A7r will give sharper results on the edges with certain types of lenses. Also check the finish of the base of the camera when the grip goes on. Does not look great to me.

  3. Just a basic comment: I think that mirrorless FF is the future. I think that all of the camera manufacturers will eventually phase out the twentieth-century technology of the mirror. Sony is just the first to get there.

    MT, you may be right about this not being the right technology at this time. You certainly make cogent points about Sony playing this role. But I suspect that Nikon and Canon are both looking at this very same issue right now, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a mirrorless FF from one of them in the next couple of years.

  4. Digitaltech says:

    In my opinion, if the adapter for Leica M lense is good, it will be serious competition for Leica M type 240 , especially with that price point (except for ultra-wide primes)

  5. I don’t think we’ve had this much fun since the Leica Vario X announcement. The announcement, not the review; remember that one guys? It was literally a throw away oh, yeah, this is coming up, might be interesting MT post and the comments went off! We got to 300+ in a very short space of time, if I recall correctly. We’re at 200 here and now in one day!
    Noticing how much speculation and desire for details there is here about compatibility with m-mount lenses, it really brings home to me, just as it did before, a sense of the Leica magic and our preoccupation with them. I don’t mean that disingenuously; you couldn’t say there isn’t something to it [the effect on us; not the lenses' rendering] with this level enthusiasm on show. I’m not sure there’s much like it in the marketplace or out of it. And I’ve met Harley Davidson die hards and died in the wool football fans and hardcore religious dogmatics—the power Leica has over the soul of photography seems similar, like that Napoleon had over France, Hitler over Germany or Churchill over Britain. The way the Catalans put it about their team, Barcelona: Mes Que Un Club… Leica could be Mes Que Un Camera; or whatever the appropriate German would be.

    Really is astounding—Viktor’s exchange with MT on lenses was great. I read it three times, and did a ton of extra-curricular reading on the back of that. But why all the clamor for m-mount lenses on digital in the first place? There is the M8 through M240, the GXR and A12 (or was that the Hassle back?), the Epson R-D1, all natively support m-mount on digital… and all the Voigtlanders and Konica Hexars and Leica M3s thru MP, etc., for film…

    What is the outcome we expect — we’re looking for — when this glass goes on this body? And why not what’s already available (and native)?
    We either don’t expect, in which case, OK (but suspicious)…
    Or we’re expecting something that hasn’t happened or been possible before—what is that, I wonder?

    In my case, I’m more interested to see what a designed for purpose lens would do on this body and in the hands of someone like MT. Would we see optics begin to act like ideal physical models predict they should (sharpest aperture is wide open, etc)? If so, this really would be a quantum leap for photography.

    I wouldn’t write off a priori what wonderful tech. SLRs might come up with to compete.
    [If they choose to compete]
    I’m just as exited about the prospect of Canon and Nikon doing ideological battle with Sony over this, as I am to see them copycat and try and best Sony at its own game (though Sony can’t stake out this as it’s own game until they’ve taken that ground in the consumer’s mind).

    We’ve all said it, me included on another thread, but exciting times!
    Ooh for a lottery win sometime soon :)
    [If I played. I might consider it now :o ]

    • So Tom, I’m going to play the contrarian here. Someone in this article’s comment section asked why Ming was raining on Sony’s parade when Sony had essentially revolutionized the photography market once again!! OMG!1! OK, he wasn’t quite that effusive, but that was the gist of it. My view is that Sony hasn’t done anything especially interesting for the photography industry as a whole with the A7s. Yes, the technology in the A7 is very interesting, but its effects on the industry will be minor at best.

      Why is that? The physics still dictate that to use all of that resolution, you need big lenses and a good support system. They’ve taken the part that is still on the fast part of its growth curve —the silicon sensor, display, and computing electronics — and used that to make a tiny body. But that’s the easy part since it’s still on an exponential growth curve (ie. Moore’s Law), whereas classical optics is pretty much settled and not going to change. So 5 years from now, you will still need big lenses and a $1000 carbon fiber tripod for your faFFing sensor.

      Compare that to something like micro 4/3 or some of the smaller sensors like the RX100′s. Those guys are trying to make the stuff that is already settled (optics) as small and convenient as possible by relying on the fact that the silicon stuff is going to improve dramatically for the forseeable future. Sure a smaller sensor today (or at the dawn of u43) is noisier, has less low-light capability, etc. but, as we saw with the E-M5, the silicon guys will more than catch-up over time. 5 years from now, I get to keep my tiny lenses, but maybe I get to buy an E-M10 with more sensitivity and lower noise that lets me get more keeper photos in wider circumstances. Or maybe I’m wiling to give up a bit of size and get a 10x constant-aperture 2.8 zoom. Oh wait, I can get that in a month from Sony! Either way, there is way more flexibility in design.

      In both cases, your photography is limited by the physical parameters of your system (leaving aside skill and talent for the moment). But FF has already hit its nadir. You can make the bodies perhaps smaller, but that is a becoming an ever smaller percentage of the total system mass and technical parameters. Small sensors still have lots of room at the bottom to go.

      If someone really wanted to shoot for the moon and offer a real alternative to CaNikon, they’d do an MF system that could practically replace current FF options, or do computational optics and really shrink the optical requirements. Probably both. Go big or go home.

      • I want to point out that I said twice that the effort and innovation was to be applauded – but everybody seems to have missed that, in the first and last paragraphs!!

        The ONE big thing they did was reduce the body size. But unless there are lenses to suit – they have to be small primes because zooms are still limited in size by the image circle coverage – then you’re shrinking something that doesn’t have much benefit in being shrunk. Human hands are still physically the same size. A medium-sized body is required to balance FF lenses and host enough external, mechanical photographic controls.

        Frankly: for any of these options, the sack of meat behind the viewfinder is still going to be the limiting factor. But, I suppose I must be missing something enormous, because everybody thinks that these cameras will instantly make better images. Then again, I don’t ‘photograph’ cats or brick walls.

        • Don’t forget that you don’t photograph souls either. They are apparently scared away from the picture when it’s too clean. So I guess that means a FF sensor with its high resolution and clean noise floor can’t capture souls in the first place. Maybe Sony will add a “Soul” scene mode in a future firmware update.
          ;)

      • I might add simply: FF is wonderful but it requires lenses that are physically bigger than they need to be. Carrying one such lens is bad enough. An entire kit literally needs wheels.

        Since switching to m43, I routinely carry *everything* in a simple shoulder bag.

        Moral: The lenses I have with me are many times better than the ones at home in a closet.

      • Tom Liles says:

        Good Morning Andre, Ming, all
        [This, by the way, is my impression of cricket commentators on the radio in Britain, Andre. I always like to do it; such a pleasant way to step in. Imagine me in a cravat and a navy blue blazer with brass buttons on it as I say the words. Ah the cricket and its commentators! It's such a pleasure to listen to---if you're ever in the UK in the summer and there's a test match on, Andre, get a radio on. It's like going back in time to halcyon days that never existed]

        So good morning Andre, Ming, all :)

        Now then. Come on, let’s see what we can get out of this.
        The physics of Optics may be sorted — not really until Feynman and QED, and I’d argue it’s still just a model even then and penultimate at very very best; but certainly, yeah, these concepts go as far back as Newton: so that’s quite a while for us to have gotten a grip on it — the physics of optics are sorted, but! the mechanics of production aren’t.
        Easy proof—my 50mm Auto Index Nikkor f/2 from 1977 isn’t as sharp as the 50mm AF-s 1.8G from 2009 or whenever—-and the 50 1.8G is regarded as soft and cheapo by today’s high standards. But same laws of optics in both.
        I doubt machining can progress as quickly as silicon wafers and signal processing and A/D conversion routines… but I’m assuming that it will actually progress as our excellent modern lenses still don’t perform as models say they should and could.
        This said, I can’t do anything but agree with your point that silicon is going to get way better; and I’d iterate that lenses are perhaps so far ahead and high up the shoulder of the performance curves, to get noticeable gains takes massive amounts if money, and those costs are passed on to the customer. And those gains are only noticeable to a select group of experts. On both points, I present the Zeiss Otus as exhibit A.
        But it can also function as evidence for the defense. The Otus didn’t exist just one year ago—that should give pause when implying that lenses aren’t going to get better. I’m not so confident that the faFFing lenses in five years will be no better than what I have now. The case of the 50 Ai and 50 AF-s, the Otus… Things are on the up in optics too.

        Though that’s unfair—you only said they’d still be big and we’d need tripods (but the tripod is more directly related to the pixel density / pixel per angle view metric, and the same for either and any format, without appeal to sensor stabilization tech—and we note how and why the smaller formats were the first to that). In that sense, this point is checkmate: on the current mount designs and with the laws of physics, the physical size of the lenses, for a given price:performance ratio, couldn’t be other than it is and will not can not change in time—a 50 1.4 is always going to a have a lower limit for physical size, same as 24 2.8, a 75 1.8, etc., etc. Of course.

        Physics works against the silicon too Andre. The physics of light measurement doesn’t change either—and no amount of NR wizardry will change the physical fact of shot noise (Poisson) etc. We can try and stack the odds in our favor, literally as with light the physical model is stochastic in nature, and bump the signal:noise ratio—to do that, guess what, we need bigger sensels, i.e., bigger sensors.
        Ideally speaking, numbers could match size: a small sensor but with gazillions of sensels (resolution) should match, if down-ressed well, a large sensor with many less… But MT’s little garage experiment with that on the sensor size article a while ago was informative—bigger was better.
        Rather than all the headache that introduces, I’d go for starting with less ress and bigger sensels. Maybe that’s an engineer’s point of view—we prefer birds in the hand, don’t we.

        It might only be that bigger is better just now. But for now I have to agree again: if ultimate IQ is the goal—go big or go home.
        [which includes the lenses too!]

        I’m not sure I was saying smaller lenses and sensors give better IQ though. Have I just been Jedi mind tricked?

        We’ll call that 1.5 nil to you I think Andre.

        Here’s where I can get my teeth in: this faFFing Sony mirrorless is big news.
        Point one: it is big news. May I present this thread, the preorders, the general sound and fury. I’ve looked at and revisited the “Look Up” article about ten times more than this thread (I’m checking the blue in the skies) but my behavior is probably not typical. This Sony is red hot massive news. That’s all that’s needed to conclude it is big, not even that it will be.

        Point two, and maybe a bit more what you were looking for… We’ve never seen a full-frame mirrorless camera before. And because we haven’t, who knows where this will go. That’s big. It might go nowhere or be no more interesting than faFFing DSLRs turned out to be (though, were they that uninteresting and game changing when they came out?). And how run of the mill are they now? So I know what you mean, in a way. Depends what we’re looking for—certainly time honored touch points like “oh, the DOF control, oh yes” don’t count as novel here… It is about the sensor-lens interaction. That’s new for FF (scratch the RX1 and M9/240). I mentioned it the last time we had the mirrorless debate — at that time I was on about fixed lens mirrorless — but this format really does change the price:performance expectation. Recall Ming’s comments on the capability of the Coolpix A… on the outside just a compact point and shoot. They even left its name as “Coolpix” instead of some manly military sounding designation like “5D mark2″ or “D3S” etc. But that unassuming little package punches with a heft the other two’s equal if not their better, even if we stuck premo glass, the best that money could buy, on those big bad bodies. Coolpix even threatens, so MT found out for us, the hallowed ground of Leica M9 plus legendary WA glass: and *that* is truly eye-watering money. Same for the GR, the Sigmas… these little things cost orders of magnitude less. Give the same or better optical performance. So we are seeing radical performance:price improvements. Now we have the chance for that interchangeable lenses. Who knows where it will go, but the road up to here suggests it should be good.
        The m4/3 format shows us a great example.
        I have one of the original 4/3 bodies (and still use it, and still rate it), it got panned has eventually been disowned even by the people who made it—but it was a link in the chain, one of the first links, that got us to a camera — and lenses — like the E-M1 and those pro Zuikos, Leica DGs… At the time, I bet you there was a lot of “4/3, oh ‘meh’” going on—I don’t know I’ve only been into cameras for a short while; but look where we are now. Because the fundamentals — a system designed around the digital sensor rather than in spite of it — the fundamentals were good, are good, so the quality shines through. I can’t even say “in the end” because there is a ton of exciting ground to go in m4/3 yet. I’m so enthused by it I am giving very very serious consideration to a jump next year, maybe the year after (I have to wait for my prices).
        I see the story for this faFFing camera and the category it kick starts being more like that story, than what we’ve cone to think of as the tired DSLR one [I would like to say, I'm not tired or unenthusiastic by SLRs or DSLRs at all though! Love them, think they too have a way to go!]

        So there you go. This is news, I think Andre.

        Back to the cricket :)

        • It’s unquestionably the start of something, and that’s to be applauded. But the beginning means immaturity – from both product, and clearly, a lot of fanboys too. If you are willing to accept an immature product now – then Sony has little incentive to actually develop it properly because the fanboys will buy a half-baked effort anyway! That said, it’s equally valid that a lack of commercial results will also spell death – look at the Coolpix A. A shame, because it still holds my benchmark for color on APS-C sensors.

          I’m stepping out of the game and going back to making images. There’s no point arguing with the emotional, the irrational and the pixel peepers.

          • I’m just waiting to pounce on the Coolpix A, they have slid a bit recently and I’m sure like snow off a roof, it will only take a little more erosion for the whole thing to go “schlump!” The A itself is still the same great camera though. If it’d just had a CMD flash mode!

            I can’t have two premium compacts at that length though, so it’d mean getting shut of the Sigma DP1M. Genuinely never thought I’d be saying that. But I couldn’t live with myself, even if my wife would be none the wiser, I’d know I didn’t need one of them. But releasing the DP1M back into the used ocean presents difficulty too as the buy and p/x prices have fallen right through there already, and I doubt I could get a Japanese camera store to pay much more than 300 to 400 US for one. For regular people that’s still a lot of money, but to camera people, we all know, 300 dollars: that’s not a lot [let's just forgo the buying older or retro stuff angle]. You couldn’t have 300 to 400 in your wallet and go buy something snazzy and new. You’d need as much again to threaten doing something like that.

            Yes, MT, I’d recommend just leaving well alone on this one. It’s a shame to say it, but perhaps in future you could do it like the newspapers do and pick and choose which articles are open for comments or not. Or leave them all open for comments and resort to a God’s eye view and just observe. It’s your house and you do as you like MT… while comments are here I intend to exercise the system—memories of spazzing out the wordpress template on more times than one will always remain fond and warm things for me :)

            Not to mention some of amazing asides we’ve managed to do down here: everything from critiques on power to weight ratios of BMW M-series to the prayer habits of the Amish and which flavor of Calpis is the best.

            The fanboy feeding frenzies are a small price to pay ;)

            • Set the flash to manual, and use your SB900s in SU4 mode. Job done. Go have fun with 1/2000s daylight sync.

              There’s always ebay for everything else…

              Calpis Soda, no question. Better if it comes in the ‘Big’ size can. It was a running joke in my last Tokyo workshop; my students saw me drinking it and would keep buying it for me everytime they found a (relatively rare, for Japan) vending machine. It got to the point where I couldn’t physically fit in any more liquids…

          • Hi Ming

            “But the beginning means immaturity – from both product, and clearly, a lot of fanboys too.”

            Brilliant, absolutely brilliant. I think I mentioned in Amsterdam how much I enjoy your reviews and I think this is for two reasons. Firstly you say what you think and provide comments on how the gear works for you and your workflow/style; whether I agree with that or not is irrelevant as it’s always informative. Secondly it always leads to these most entertaining comments sections where one can have a good laugh at some of the posts made by people who just don’t get it.

            On a gear related note I exchanged the X2 for a GR and am enjoying it immensely, you were spot on about the 28mm suiting me better than the 35mm so many thanks.

            If the a7r works with the M lenses (and like you I will wait to see how that works out for others) then it might make a nice RGB companion for the Monochrom.

            Anyway please don’t stop doing the reviews however fed up you get with the hate, I for one love every minute of them.

            • I could just close comments :)

              Glad you’re enjoying the GR. That thing is even better with the latest 2.0 firmware – it fixes basically everything I had issues with in the review. And it’s also a good example of a mature camera…fifth digital iteration and something like the 10th in the family!

              • Noooooh, that would be no fun. I know it must be hard not to take some of the comments personally but just take a step back, read them dispassionately and you might just smile too.

                The new GR firmware was a bonus as I hadn’t had a chance to figure out what I wanted changed when it was released but yes, definitely an improvement. Mature camera for a mature owner, works for me. Mind you by the same token the a7r should be perfect for you :)

                • In theory, yes. In practice – it’s the lack of lenses and Sony’s lack of commitment to any building any system properly that’s going to hold me back. I’m not regretting my E-M1 order at all.

              • btw did you get the screen fixed?

          • bluetwango says:

            All EVF cameras are immature products, in my view. That’s why manufacturers love them over OVFs, which are about as good as they can every get, for a given size. But the next round of cameras will have slightly better EVFs than the one you already own. Buy now, buy later, over and over. You might enjoy that serial-purchasing slow route towards perfection, but I can’t afford it and don’t want to try.

            • I don’t plan to. The EVF is ‘good enough’ for now; everything can always be better. The same appears to apply for OVFs – everybody I know who owns current pro-Nikons and previous single digit F cameras agrees that the film F-series had much better finders…you just need to look through an F6 finder. I don’t think it’s all rosy in DSLR-land either; simply because a) most consumers can’t tell the difference, and b) prefer the WSYIWYG of an EVF.

        • Good morning Tom!

          You may be right about the sensors, but I’ve learned not to underestimate the materials science people. For example, we don’t have to stick to the current sensor architecture. I wonder what Sony could do for a Foveon-like sensor if they decided to apply the same kinds of resources to it as they have to Bayer sensors. I wonder if there is a better way to implement a stacked sensor than what Sigma has done. I wonder if a smaller sensor might enable optical designers to do more ambitious or interesting designs because they don’t need to project as large an image circle onto the sensor. And a smaller sensor has dramatic implications for its backend architecture as well: the readout speed, as well as the additional amount of computational logic one can put in the extra silicon area.

          The Nikon V1 offered a tantalizing glimpse of the new photographic possibilities of a smaller sensor. Being able to shoot 30 FPS full-resolution stills for 1 second is a big qualitative change for many people’s photography, with the same kind of real-world significance as Olympus’s IBIS. And there are people who use V1s to make 4K movies right now!

          Anyway, the point is that it’s a holistic thing: one shouldn’t just consider the sensor in isolation. What possibilities do the sensor open or close for the camera system’s designers? I see the A7 as Sony trying to play the CaNikon game but with many severe disadvantages. How many new photographic horizons does a smaller, lighter 5D or D800 open up? Not many, if any.

          • Tom Liles says:

            Great points, Andre. Writing a couple of replies here today, I have silently made the decision to go and p/x the DP1M for a Coolpix A once the A has slid a little more… I have to balance that with where the DP1M buy back prices are going though; on an optimistic view, they might have gone as low as they will [current DP1M price new: 70,000 JPY, current buy back price 30-40,000 JPY. That's low. This is the Japanese second hand market though, only foreigners and students really buy used modern cameras here]

            Ah, if Sony, or anyone with a bit of money, could have a go at layered sensor architecture, that would be so exciting.

            I confess, here to you and the guys, I’ve fallen out of love with Foveons a little bit recently. The DP2M still has that something for me, and I’ll hold onto it; but the DP1M is just sitting there unused most of the time. It’s the “limpid clarity” [(c) Ming Thein] color rendition: tough to deal with [I can't get it where I want it] and it’s not, I’ve found after quite a few photos now, what I want. This also gives a clue why the A is where my gearlust is pointed at at the moment. Color! I want a top top quality camera that I could also put in my pocket when I go out with the kids at the weekend. For me, the more serious photography, what I actually took this up for, is the kids—but I can’t go out with the D3 and them [so that purchase was total unabated selfish ego-munchies!]… I’d like to give the A a whirl. Hopefully I can Jesse it and do an almost one to one swap. I don’t mind adding a little capital in, but I’ve promised myself no more camera purchases until the computing and scanning environments are done. I intend to stick to it. I’ll draw the line at anything more than 70 USD.

            Couldn’t we just parachute you into the Chief of something at the camera companies, Andre? You’re deadly smart, with it, interested, switched on, adult, business savvy and a photographer. I don’t care what your feelings on the topic are, we’re getting you in there :)
            [and could you extent a line of free samples and advanced prototypes to your pal in Tokyo, Tom Liles, when you're there. Perfecto!]

            • If it’s not doing what you want, sell it. Easy.

              If you really want color, put some Provia into your MF rig.

              • Tom Liles says:

                Done and done! :)

                My mini photowalk has brought me to Shinjuku, and I’m stood outside Yodobashi Kamera now, and will have my daily muck about with an E-M1 (trying to learn its menus 5minutes a time, over time). But on my walk I had a think about it and think I’d better have a comment moratorium for a month or so.
                I obviously rub David the wrong way, Leo couldn’t hold it back any longer, and perhaps they’re right. I’m not lachrymose or anything; though Leo demanding that the gallery be allowed to do a 50-to-1 mauling and it’s not allowed for unlike minded people to speak up or get involved, well that is a little sad.

                I might be a douche sometimes, but I didn’t think I was that far gone.

                A month of solace with my cameras is what’s called for I think. All my friends here know me outside of the site so that’s OK.

                Sony does it again eh! :D

                • The E-M1s still aren’t available here yet, but I’ve managed to beg a loaner from Olympus for this weekend’s workshops…

                  Seriously though, try the Provia 100F. Watch your exposure carefully. Once you get those slides back – assuming exposure was good – and see them on the light table, electronic gadgets aren’t going to cut it anymore.

                  I think the regulars are far more sensible than I: they’re holding back on commenting. Stick to the philosophy and images, I promise we’re going back to regular programming soon. I’ve pretty much had enough of the blind fanaticism too…

            • Interesting choice of the A. I’m curious why the A over the GR? I forget whether I mentioned to you that I had a GR for a week, and really enjoyed it. It’s also very unassuming, and I shocked my mother when I told her how much it cost.

              As for running a company … that might be the worst disaster since the Titanic!

              Ming, don’t let the rabid fanboys get you down. In a perverse way, it’s kind of a sign of the significance of your authority that they do what you do, and that’s just from reading the comments. I can’t even imagine the kind of emails you get. I’ve been deliberately provocative in my A7 comments, and besides you and Tom, there’s not a peep from any of them, so clearly there is some kind of significance to your comments.

              Having said that, I had to chuckle when I saw your X-E2 preview go up last night, thinking to myself, “That guy is a masochist!” And then I saw a couple of the early comments … You may be the only hands-on previewer out there right now, and certainly with the best example photos. I wonder if the fanboys will ever realize what they’re getting for free even as they bash it.

              And I hope you don’t have a Leica article coming up — that’d be like summoning the 4 Horsemen of the Photographic Apocalypse this week, with Leica comprising 2 of the 4.

              • No, that’s it from me on equipment for some time. Unless I decide to talk about using The Beast for street photography.

                The X-E2 article was already written, so I put it up anyway. I think wasting four days wrestling the camera and getting mediocre results was masochistic; I kept wishing I’d brought my OM-D instead. I suppose in a way I’m glad I didn’t, otherwise I wouldn’t have really forced myself to use the X-E2.

    • I feel like I’m being crucified in the comments for pointing out the emperor’s new clothes, despite being overall enthusiastic: it’s a good idea, but it seems a little half-baked. It isn’t mature enough to be a full system contender, and too expensive to be supplementary. This is not to say that it might not get there; Sony just needs to actually bother to develop it fully. That said, I should stop trying to appeal to the gearheads. There is no point, they’re never going to make photographs anyway.

  6. Ming, I think the point that some of the readers are making derive from the fact that on one hand you compliment the ingenuity but in the same breath, almost condescendingly dismiss it. From the reading I think it needs to be said that a camera like this is a great tool for some and not for others. Personally, I love the idea, I love the concept and can’t wait to put some other glass on it. The imperfection, or perfection, or lack of glass being able to resolve detail in some instances is part of the fun of photography in my opinion. If everything was about planes, linearity, technicality, perfection then we would all be sterile. It appears that you are a very technical, analytical person given your background, education and type of work you do but for many of us, we just care about taking a picture that we feel good about and if there is some vignetting in the corners, or I can’t read small text on a 200 crop isn’t important to the masses.

    I feel at times, your intelligence and writing leads you to come across as ‘hating’ something even, if in fact you truly don’t hate it. In this article that you wrote, you have that tone of hating it, even if in fact you are excited to see it. That excitement seems to be concurrent with it evolving other cameras and not necessarily this one as you are making a technical assessment (i.e. tripods, weight, lens size, adapters, etc) on a product that may not be for the technically driven person. Slap a Leica lens with an adapter on this thing and you may have some truly amazing results and you may not, but only time will tell! I will say this much, it will eventually find its way into my bag and I can’t wait to snap a few portraits with it when that happens.

    Cheers and keep writing….

    • The funny thing is most of my regular readers don’t see the post as hate or out of character. It’s just the equipment fanboys.

      “for many of us, we just care about taking a picture that we feel good about and if there is some vignetting in the corners, or I can’t read small text on a 200 crop isn’t important to the masses.”

      Ah, but why do you need to spend thousands on this camera in order to do that? Wouldn’t more knowledge/ skill make it easier to take a ‘picture you feel good about’, rather than getting home and being disappointed to find things aren’t quite as sharp as you expected?

      ‘Slap a Leica lens with an adapter on this thing and you may have some truly amazing results’

      And that’s the other problem. There are a lot of assumptions being made by most of the readers that are incorrect, or at best, flawed. Having tried this route on other cameras, I can say that you’re not going to get the miracles you expect. IF Sony properly implemented an offset microlens array for the corners, then we might get good results. If not, we’ll get a disaster. I never concluded either way without trying the actual camera.

      The photographer always makes far more difference than the gear. What I AM hating is the sheer number of people who think a new piece of gear is the messiah and will make amazing images just because of a spec sheet. Reality: we’ll have even bigger files of cats and brick walls. Buying new equipment will not change the way you shoot, especially if you care more about gear than photography.

      • I definitely read your articles regularly and there are times when I agree with your opinion and don’t agree.

        To your point: “Ah, but why do you need to spend thousands on this camera in order to do that? Wouldn’t more knowledge/ skill make it easier to take a ‘picture you feel good about’, rather than getting home and being disappointed to find things aren’t quite as sharp as you expected?”

        Sharpness in my opinion doesn’t define a photo and sometimes the most untechnical elements can create a beautiful images. Sure if you’re taking pictures of products, buildings and other commercial type shoots you will gravitate towards something that you insure that you don’t miss a shot when you need it.

        For me personally I love picking up a new tool and learning the limitations or lack of limitations and how to draw out an image from any camera. It’s the reason why guys like Zack Arias praise the X100s but for you, it’s not even on your radar because a fixed 35mm camera that doesn’t focus with the same zip as the OMD e-m1 isn’t useful for you when it comes to compact cameras.

        It’s a matter of professional preference for you versus the hobbyist nature of a skilled amateur who loves the innovation of gear as much as they love changing up their kit when something new comes out. If you’re frugal enough, camera gear comes and goes and stays relatively stable from a price perspective so you never really lose as long as you don’t over pay for retail. Someone like myself will find something used, use it, then discard it and move on to something else. I’ve shot with several cameras over the years and find myself missing my 5D, 5D II, L glass combinations, that is until I realize I can take a small bag with six lenses an XE-1 and X100s and go on vacation but still get awesome images.

        Yes we don’t know the results of adapting Leica and other lenses onto this camera quite yet, but I was just bringing up the fact that your piece comes across as you dismissing the beauty of what THIS camera can be versus your yearning for the change that it can have on the marketplace going forward. You write great stuff and I enjoy reading it, but I think you’re semi-dismissing it a bit too quickly.

        The one thing I will say is that Sony seems to not commit to an idealogy. I owned the NEX 7 for a while and loved the idea but didn’t love the form factor or the output with the lenses I had for it (via adapter). Shot with an A850 a few years back and loved the sensor but didn’t like the ISO performance versus the 5d II. At this point in my life my camera has been one of portability, flexibility and convenience. I don’t want to carry flashes, Pocket Wizards, Tripods, etc.. If the A7 doesn’t have in body stabilization, then I know I will have to take more craft to stabilize the camera myself, etc, etc…

        I will likely sell my XE-1 and native fuji lenses to buy the A7 (when I can find someone who is selling one slightly under retail), it excites me to check out a new toy. If I don’t like it with my Leica 90mm F4, Nokton 50mm 1.5 then I will ditch it and move on to something else without in theory, spending 1000′s of dollars but rather swapping one for one, in a roundabout sort of way…..that’s the fun of it for me along with taking photos, because there is so much gear coming out!

        Keep writing strong opinions Ming and people like me will keep reading whether we agree with your perspective or not. Cheers again!

        • Well written Jesse. Good post.

        • For me personally I love picking up a new tool and learning the limitations or lack of limitations and how to draw out an image from any camera. It’s the reason why guys like Zack Arias praise the X100s but for you, it’s not even on your radar because a fixed 35mm camera that doesn’t focus with the same zip as the OMD e-m1 isn’t useful for you when it comes to compact cameras.

          Actually, it’s the fixed 35mm bit that kills it for me, not slow focus. That FOV doesn’t work for me. Yes, the camera can take a 28mm adaptor, but it becomes huge – hence the GR works better. As for focus – I use manual focus a lot of the time…that’s never going to be faster than even the worst AF!

          “I was just bringing up the fact that your piece comes across as you dismissing the beauty of what THIS camera can be versus your yearning for the change that it can have on the marketplace going forward. You write great stuff and I enjoy reading it, but I think you’re semi-dismissing it a bit too quickly.
          The one thing I will say is that Sony seems to not commit to an idealogy.”

          This is the BIGGEST problem. I’ve openly said this is what the market needs to kick then other players into innovating and moving on; but Sony lacks commitment and sticking power to see its own good ideas through…

          “Keep writing strong opinions Ming and people like me will keep reading whether we agree with your perspective or not. Cheers again!”

          My opinions are from the viewpoint of somebody who has an end goal. If the end goal is just to enjoy the process of playing with cameras…then I agree, your mileage may vary significantly. That said, I’d rather have choice than none!

    • Jesse, good post, but I really feel for Ming on this thread—he’s dammed if he does and dammed if he doesn’t. But let’s have one thing straight and clear and underlined for all to see: there is no way Ming is hating on anything. And if you are reading him like that. Stop, count to ten, look in the mirror and think again. It’s just not there and I think people have over-reacted and rather than just climbdown and say “Sorry Ming, my bad, I over reacted” they’re look for little molehills to turn into massive mountains just so they can save face or have their way, or both.
      Ming gives his opinion: check. He considers facts as we have them at the moment: check. He compares with previous, relevant experience: check. He wonders: check. He waits and sees: check. And just to repeat it, he gives his opinion [tempered, but honest]: check.
      On the other side of the ledger –> he jumps to conclusions: no check. He makes a call: no check. He recommends people to buy or not to buy on his word: no check. He goes past criticism into outright attack: no check. He writes off the system before he’s even used it: ABSOLUTELY NO CHECK!

      So Jesse, I asked above, and it seems like you’re a candidate for answering: why not slap an m-mount lens on a native, not even an adaptor needed, a native m-mount digital camera. The Ricoh, GXR for instance? What will the A7 and A7R offer you that you haven’t got already, or got in an even more suited package already?

      Ming makes the point, and I think it would be fair for you to have a punt at it: if it’s about the images and not tech specs and perfection doesn’t matter, why do you need this camera?

      Either they do matter, and you’ll find all you can do is make the same points MT does. Or they don’t and we’re back to wondering what this camera is for [for you].

      [It's totally OK to just want this camera qua this camera. I'm like that. But it's a different point and not what everyone seems to be saying their reasons are. I could never afford one though! :) ]

      Cheers Jesse

      • I think Ming’s grown enough to speak for himself and without inane musing on things like Cricket.

        • Tom Liles says:

          Yes, he wrote his thoughts at the top of the page. Didn’t he, Leo. Below the line is generally for us. Are you new to the internet?

          I’m inane –> aha, I see you are new to the internet.

          Welcome!

      • Tom, I totally get Ming’s perspective and I get the points you are making which are valid. On the short end for me, the GXR wouldn’t suffice because of its low light capability. When I’m out with friends I like to have one camera that will do it all. For example going to a pub where you have virtually no light, ISO 6400 with the 35 1.4 fuji and xe1 can be the one thing I can take everywhere and get a shit in almost any condition. I’ve been trying to love the x100s but I wish the lens was a bit brighter. The GXR would be a great toy but it would require me to extend pass the value of my constantly rotating kit and therefore be an expense versus an expire mentioned.

        I think what the a7 would offer me is better ISO performance and ff dof when I want to be creative in an omd Form factor. A combination of FF, portability, iq and presumable awesome Iso performance. A GXR would be great for fair light but just doesn’t fit my preference. If the a7 doesn’t suffice maybe I will check out the omd em1 and 17.5mm. 95 because of the awesome body stabilization.

        The other other aspect of this, is that there is a certain level of nerdism that goes along with checking out new gear and truly getting an education in using the gear.

        Happy shooting!

        • Understood Jesse. I think I’m almost exactly the same as you are when it comes to cameras. I nodded at every line. I buy and try as many as I can—I’m under no professional obligation to do anything. I just have fun and spend money I worked for! :)

          As I’ve shot more cameras and practiced and gleaned a little more experience, I’ve come around to what Andre spoke about, and the positive view enclosed, on the small sensor cameras. The first thing to do is stop thinking of them as “small sensor cameras” and just treat them as cameras. What Ming has been saying all along, and all the time and before now. Ultimately, all I want is pictures. One great benefit they offer us is the chance for much lower ISOs wrt to what we’d be shooting at on full-frame for a similar depth in rendering. I’m sure another of our posters mentioned it earlier so let me crib him: whereas with FF I might be at ISO 3200 with f/8 on a 150mm portrait indoors, scrabbling for all the DOF I can get before camera shake and noise wrecks the picture, I could comfortably get the same with an m4/3, say, using a 75mm at f/4 and ISO 400 or something [depending on how confident I could be with shutter speeds]. This way of looking at the smaller sensors really shows how bona-fide useful they are. There is a concrete gain there. This is before seeing how sharp they are into the corners because the lenses and mounts are designed for purpose. But that DOF and ISO gain for that situation used to pitched a trade off for noise and camera shake and yada yada—look at the test results now, this rug has been well and truly yanked from under the naysayers feet. I can’t see that colors, or noise, etc., are any inferior at any reasonable print size or other reasonable output medium—most definitely computer monitors!
          If we really really want bokeh for a given magnification, sure the bigger sensors do it for us [and why stop at FF]; but honestly I’m not sold on this argument. I’ll leave the physics of optics and all the vorsprung durch technik out, and just stick to simple anecdote… I have an old 4/3 body with “d original” the original Leica D Summilux 25mm. That can render respectably sharply, definitely useably sharply, across the frame wide open. Shots at 25 1.4 show prettay prettay satisfying bokeh. Not just to me, but on anyone’s standard. It’d be good to do a Pepsi on challenge on this, somewhere somehow. I doubt, without knowing which shot came from which format, many people could tell—real world photos, this is. As it happens I’m not a bokeh guy, but am savvy to the fact that many photographers are and it’s not invalid that they are. For a section of them, though, I do wonder if it’s not more the thought that full-frame is better than the reality that sways them. It’s fair enough. I’m not much better. But as I say, the stuff about the physics side and diffraction limited apertures [but diffraction is really about pixel pitch and aperture] is there… But if the talk was about bokeh in the first place why is diffraction [a sharpness concern] even mentioned! It’s just shifting the goal posts. We all know why people do that mid conversation.
          The fact is, when sharpness is the topic, the designed for purpose “digital mount” [instead of "small sensor"] lenses kill into the corners and only get better toward the centre. But bokeh, diffraction and DOF control? Is it as big a deal for people like you and me? As I said diffraction only gets leveled at the smaller sensors by mistake—they have smaller pixel pitches to feed our resolution lust, a smaller pitch with a certain aperture will show diffraction earlier on in the pupil constriction series than a bigger pitch would; not really the sensor size’s fault so much as the resolution’s. The D800 has the same problem with twice the diagonal sensor size. I can only see bokeh/diffraction/DOF control truly being a thing for people like Ming, and people like Ming won’t even get into the conversation in the first place: they just evaluate their needs against what a certain piece of equipment can do, can’t do, and choose. Next job. So I’d like to think that the “anything smaller can’t do bokeh!” argument is more hot-air than in-practice substance to mortals like us; the “DOF control!” arguments are a little greyer than people perhaps expect, but OK fair enough, though I do remain skeptical that “DOF control” isn’t just the bokeh argument in a different guise. The other side of DOF control though: when we want depth, when we need it, like the portrait example, well the smaller sensors have won hands down. Given us a tangible gain. For a similar rendering I’ll take ISO 400 and a faster shutter over 3200 and a slower one anyday!
          As Andre points out, the silicon just keeps on improving. Digital mount camera color palettes and tonality and noise and all that stuff is only going is one direction: better. And fast. The lenses are already great. All that’s stopping most of us jumping on this is our own permission to be satisfied by “smaller.” Price often gets mentioned… that one confuses me too. It reminds me of great big whacking chocolate cakes in the supermarket sold for a couple of pounds, and tiny little fiddly chocolate creations sold in exclusive chocolatier boutiques for tens of quid a pop. OK, DSLRs are more refined that an Aldi chocolate cake… but you know what I mean, it’s not unusual for smaller things to be worth more and have higher quality—so why are we stuck up on an E-M1 costing more or almost as much as a FF body [that's not even weather sealed or a flagship, and probably is just a derivative also-ran made to mop up unsure consumers and spare parts]? Because we just go on sensor size => bigger sensor camera = worth more.

          All this said, I am totally amped about these two cameras. A step removed from everyone else perhaps—they are just interesting tech and an exciting new category to me, not the saviors of my photographic needs and sell-the-children-I-must-have-one level product.

          And I’m a big fat DSLR owner, and lover! I have a D3 and that is the camera for me :)
          Happy shooting indeed: I’m off to use the last 20 mins of my lunch break to do just that!

  7. Exciting, but quite premature. I tried out the larger zoom lens that Olympus makes for its full size camera on my OM5 thinking that it would be a reasonable cost for pro quality zoom to use on the OM1 that I ordered (appropriate focusing). When it arrived, I was shocked at the size and weight of the lens. Totally swamped the OM5 and hence the OM1 as well. I sent back immediately and am now quite happy with the Panasonic m4/3 100-300 (200-600 35mm equivalent) zoom lens which hardly weighs anything at all, but undoubtedly would not produce quite as sharp an image. Lens size does matter. I finally sold all my FF Nikon lenses that weren’t being used at all even though I had adapters for the m4/3 camera with in-camera stabilization. So, we’ll now wait and see how the new Sony FF shakes down in practice and in comparison. Like many of us, I’d simply like to slap a high resolution EVF on my Leica M9, but that’s a bit absurd as we well know. Or would that simply be the new Leica M?

    • Joel Venable says:

      I met someone out and about the other day who had a Oly 35-100 f2 mounted to an E-P5. That was comical, though I’m sure the image quality is superb. The lens weighs 1600g on a 545g body. I bought a slightly smaller 50-200 (non-SWD) 2.8-3.5 as an interim solution until the m43 pro tele comes out. Total cost is $420

      As numerous folks (including Ming) have mentioned in the comments, Sony’s lens selection has always been more consumer-zoom oriented, so I’m not getting my hopes very high. The better zoom announced is only an f4…

  8. Trond Pedersen says:

    First thing that I was thinking too ……… they have looked at Olympus OM-DE-M5 when they made this one !

  9. Ming, Your writing is always rich, thoughtful and intelligent – a gourmet meal – while some other well known sites (which will remain nameless…) are the worst kind of junk food. IMHO you are particularly good at getting the gear/talent balance right – both are needed but at the end of the day, talent is what matters. Please don’t compromise your style one bit! Your A7 comments were bang on the money. This is a POTENTIALLY very interesting development but doesn’t come even close to deserving the title of a new ‘system’ given the lack of lenses so far. All the internet blather about using adapters to mount other brand lenses can’t disguise the fact that anybody rushing to pre-order a body now will have to wait an awfully long time to be able to buy even a basic set of FE lenses (which is what they’ll need to get the best out of the A7).

    Also, I wonder if those shouting that the A7, and any other future full frame ILCs, will kill the DSLR are missing the point. If the DSLR dies it will be because smaller and lighter alternatives are replacing it, but the laws of physics say that FF lenses will always have to be relatively large. By holding up Full Frame as the Holy Grail, Sony are actually still being slaves to the DSLR (and film) legacy whereas the M43 manufacturers are the ones embracing the new paradigm. It’s entirely possible that we will look back in a few years and see mirrorless full frame as an interim technology, something that was needed to finally drag people away from their DSLRs, while high quality smaller sensor formats, allowing the use of smaller lenses, was where the future really lay.

    • Sigh…I try.

      I think the days of the DSLR are numbered for the vast majority of users, but the lack of special purpose lenses means that for professional work, we don’t really have many choices.

      • this is just coming off as being hypercritical, I know for a fact that great work has been done for major magazines on the NEX series cameras, I’ve seen Jimmy Chinn using the OMD countless times( though of course for him, DSLRs are the main tool). I really like your blog, at least the photography part.But, your tone can come off as a bit arrogant. I am lucky enough to live in a place that alot of very well regarded nature/outdoor sports/wildlife photographers call home.The ones i have meet have been very helpful, and many are just as gear geeky about cameras as the rest of us are about skis…Ive never had anyone tell me i shouldn’t bother and im just going to “goof around” and take “medicore” pictures, or ” we’ll have even bigger files of cats and brick walls.” tell you what why don’t you go back to shooting pictures of parked cars on the street below your apartment, or maybe your tape deck.Let me know which camera pulls more detail from the neighbors window shades buddy.

      • I would second that. I think during the next few weeks the penny will drop for a lot of people that the lenses are just not there for these Sony’s. It is the Nex launch all over again. Too few lenses and quite often the wrong ones. The system is screaming for a AF portrait lens. It should have been there from day one. Some people will cry ‘give them time’ but where has that got Nex owners… nowhere, still no portrait lens. Same problem with the A series, missing lenses. The whole idea with buying Olympus shares was said to get access to Olympus designing more lenses for Sony. Not one single lenses yet. As for A7′s check out the lens map until the end of 2015. Very sketchy. Hardly anything concrete model wise for next year. Plus lens launches are already being delayed just like it happened with Nex and A series. I just find it amazing that Sony are making the same mistakes again. What it shows is Sony is an electronics company and not a camera company. They just don’t seem to have the experience still to think what lenses a photographer will need and to get them out. They are still far to interested in producing camera bodies each year with small changes but not adding many lenses. But then the profit is in the cameras and not so much the lenses.

        • Actually, I think the profit is in the lenses – at least for DSLRs. Certainly at the retailer level, the margins on bodies are near-zero; they make all their money from glass and accessories. Can’t imagine why it’d be different for the manufacturers.

          • But lenses cost a lot to design and tool up for. Don’t think Sony make their own glass either so that adds to it.

            Oh another difference between the A7 and A7r… the A7 has a electronic front curtain which is great but the A7r does not even though it is the higher resolution camera. A7 flash sync 1/250. A7r flash sync 1/125. Would have been really useful on the A7r as well. It just feels Sony have got so carried away at hitting price points they have missed off features which would benefit photographers that should have been on both models. Another example of thinking like an electronics company.

            Ming did you pick up on the fact the E-M1 has a shutter lag reduction setting buried in the menus? It also reduces the shutter noise and risk of shutter shock. If you did do you have any idea of what it is doing inside the camera when it is switched on?

            • I was just playing with that earlier. It appears to make the release point of the shutter button ‘higher’ – feels like it requires less travel to activate. It’s too sensitive for me; I’m used to a slightly deeper bite point.

              • So I wonder what it is doing to do that?…

                Have to say after testing it out yesterday you really cannot fault the handling. Have to go back tomorrow though as ran out of time with trying to find the focus peaking/magnifier buttons for legacy lenses once the feature was switched on. Could we find it!! Now read the large instruction book so ready for round three. I am a bit hit and miss with the I.S at the moment with a 14-54mm mk1. I think it must be me but not sure. Will try with it on and off and see what the difference is. It was set to I.S. 1 but should I have used auto? Love the flick switch on the back that changes the use of the dials. Find that so useful as I change ISO sometimes a lot inside on certain work and makes W.B so much quicker. Little bit smaller and lighter than an OM-3 but forgot that after a while. I hated EVFs when they came out but now the benefits are just to large to ignore and make DSLRs feel a bit dated.

                • It works much better with native lenses like the new 12-40. And the new EVFs are much better than even the E-M5 generation; in terms of size/ magnification, the E-M1′s finder is slightly larger than my D800E!

                  • Sorry did you mean the I.S works better with the 12-40 than say a 14-54? I am correct in thinking it does detect what I.S to use with the focal length on the zoom with older 43 lenses aren’t I? It is the wide to mid range where it is not so good at the moment.

    • “Limitations of physics” gets bandied about without care from people who do not understand the physics. FF cameras can be small. Today, Leica proves it, Sony proves it. In the past, we’ve had plenty of small, popular, inexpensive, FF film cameras as well, like the olympus stylus epic. Sensor technology continues to improve, and once it’s as good as film at handling light at narrow angles, we may see more full-frame cameras of that pocketable size.

      Full-frame F-mount/EF-mount DSLRs can also be somewhat smaller; simply take a look at previous film F-mount/EF-mount SLRs. However, the market does not demand those to be smaller.

      When you see “limitations of physics” think of what your eyes+brain can do; think of what a hawk’s eyes+brain can do.

      • Well, no matter how advanced technology gets, a 50/1.4 lens for a 24×36 sensor will still need to have a 50mm real focal length and a 35.7mm effective aperture. That much doesn’t change. Diffraction limits cannot change.

        What *can* change – your example of us vs a hawk, for instance – is the processing on the back end. Lenses in eyes are relatively crude, and the resolution of our retinas is pretty low, but due to some processing magic on the back end, even the current generation of cameras can’t match it…

  10. Ming, Any thoughts on why the lenses are not as compact as say the m mount lenses?

    • Yes. AF motors, short back flange distance requiring extra elements to impart telecentricity to the exit pupil, and the fact that some are zooms…also, they probably focus closer. M mount lenses are limited to 0.7 or 1m, and are not telecentric. Most are symmetric designs, in fact. Great for film, not so great for digital.

  11. If anyone wants to download some Raw A7r files and a free converter you can from below. Anyone who has ordered the kit lens on a A7 may want to cancel the lens. To say it is poor on the edges is putting it mildly. The lens is not worth anything like the asking price:

    http://www.sonyalpharumors.com/exclusive-first-sony-a7r-raw-files-for-download/

  12. 1. What a great dialog. I love it.
    2. Ming, as you know, I really admire the great work you do.
    3. This is truly the most negative review that I have ever read from Ming. It isn’t the positive things you have wriiten, but rather it is the underlying dislike for something Sony that just oozes from so many of the sentances in the first half. No kidding man!
    4. This is a four thousand dollar camera. Huh? Yes, a 7r plus two or three lens plus all of the stuff Sony gets us to buy.:-)
    5. Most impotantly…who s this camera for? At $4k, not students, not housewives, not small families, not even big families, not professionals, and clearly not Ming. But Sony is not a fool, so who are their targets??? Me.
    6. Who has $4 bills, those guys and gals buying up Nikon D800E’s and Mark III’s. Somebody with cash to throw away and I guarantee you someone who has a D700 or some such cousin at home that is never with him, but someone who dislikes the blurryness of a sensor smaller than one inch.
    7. And someone who wants to shoot 1080p video, no not a pro, but a knowledgable amateur…with cash to burn.
    8. Time will tell, but I say this camera will be a big hit!
    9. Does the average Joe need the closeup accuracy that Ming is so great at? No way.
    10. And I saved this for last. I love Sony color. There, I said it. Outed. But it is the truth. I think Ming is missing the boat for what the average skilled amateur likes…not what Ming demands for himself. For you see, we will never ever be as good as Ming. Nor will we spend time adjusting the Photoshop settings as Ming does. We just want lots of clarity (yes, I know about the weight needed for stability) do not want any colorization time in front of a PC and we live the Sony color. Some call it Disneyesque, and I am sure Ming hates its too too reds, etc. Or that Sony blue that does not exist in nature but we love it in our pics…or rather my pics.
    SUMMARY
    So, Ming, I think you could do a superb review if you ask how good is it for OC Mike and his “types?” I seriously think this will cause a 10% reduction to Canon and Nikon DSLR sales. I think Nikon may never ever recover from this change is percent of market share. And I think Ming will continue to write great articles :-):-):-)

    • But that’s the problem: it isn’t for me. And because it isn’t, I won’t bother to waste my time on trying to convince somebody else it’s for them, either. Contrary to what people think, I don’t get paid to promote one brand or another. I work with brands who a) make products I use personally; b) aren’t full of difficult individuals. Unfortunately, Sony is both.

      This was not a positive article, but it wasn’t an entirely negative one, either. I generally don’t waste time writing negative stuff, either. People don’t like to read it, and frankly, I don’t like to deal with the hate mail that comes out afterwards.

      We have choice because different people want different things, and that’s a good thing, because it keeps all of the other manufacturers on their toes. I’ve always said this: use what works for you. That’s the best camera/system/tool, not what I, or any other reviewer might think. We all have different requirements.

      • But Ming, we truly enjoy reading your insightful writings.
        And we WANT to continue reading articles of products that Sony or Canon or Nikon would give you to review. This is about making money from the quantity of your readers.
        The web needs people like you to review stuff for people like us…too!
        For example, The Camera Store got a chance to go up in the mountains to shoot the A7r with an A7 used to videotape it. They’re sometimes brutal. He said the sound of the shutter was atrocious but he said what’s good too. The camera isn’t that bad that nobody should buy it.
        I am just saying to think about the business your blog can get you…look at how http://www.photographylife.com has blossomed. This could be you with a big staff. Don’t shoot me Ming.
        You ‘re the best!!!

        • If anything, reviews are a waste of my time: they take a lot of time to do properly – four to five days that means I can’t do other paying work – and that doesn’t include the time wasted reading and replying hate mail and irrational fanboys.

          I’m not sure what business you’re seeing here. Referral sales are dying; there are too many people out there doing it now. I know what kind of numbers that particular site makes – they wanted to buy me out – and they’re not at all attractive compared to commercial photography. Frankly, the only people making money from the reviews are the camera companies. It appears that we don’t even get referral commissions from pre orders, and even when we do get them, the commissions are frankly negligible – in the hundreds of dollars, if I’m lucky. You cannot make a living off it, even if you live in a third world country!

          I don’t want a big staff. That’s an increase in fixed costs, risk, and frankly, the quality of people here is dire. I’ve been looking for an assistant for months – at 4x market rate – and I haven’t had a single one who would actually allow me to generate their value (or worse, destroy value because I’d have to redo their work).

          I have come to one conclusion though: yes, reviews attract traffic, but frequently the wrong kind of traffic. My usual readers – the ones who contribute positively to discussions – usually stay very quiet. Instead, the trolls come out from under the bridge; or perhaps they’re pigeons; they make a mess, add nothing, and leave. The people who treat equipment like a religion are not the kind who care about educating themselves on how to use it.

          • Very well stated (I should have expected anything less, ha, ha) . I am so tired of never having my big Nikon with me and am even more tired when I carry more than one lens. I think that there are a substantial number of photographers like me with disposable income to begin the Pavlov’s dog salivation process with the thought of FF at an order of magnitude less weight. It’s not shirt picket size and weight but the temptation is more than a passing thought. Your sigh at yet another lens system from the makers of a solid history of mediocre lens is funny and I laughed but another expensive len system is not exactly heartwarming. :-) And here’s a question for you. I could never get your color style in my pics if my life depended on it. Kind of more contrasty. Canon seems bland, albeit more true to nature. Nikon is color neutral to my eyes. And Sony pumps up the Disneyesque reds and blues that all of my non technical friends relish when I help them to buy a Sony point and shoot. Why do us amateurs like Sony color?

            • Who knows. I’m going for precision/ accuracy of color, then control to control perceptual/ psychological impact; it’s easier to do with some cameras than others. The newer Sonys have been pretty good at this (RX100, for instance); the first-generation NEX cameras were a bit of a disaster. There was always this odd cyanotic cast I could never remove without affecting blues and greens.

  13. Wonderful post and review. I am a Canon DSLR user, with quite an investment in my gear…and I have been waiting for the moment when, as you say, the gauntlet is thrown. This ‘trend’ may well become the norm quickly…the size and quality (read value) of mirrorless cameras will eventually outway the negatives (I cannot say this has not already happened as I have yet to shoot with an A7). However, if I was old or had trouble carrying all my gear ~ the size and compact nature of these mirrorless would have me picking one of them instead of making an investment into a larger DSLR.

  14. Timur Born says:

    Asking Roger Cicala over at Lensrental about whether he tested original manufacturer adapters yet he answered:

    “I didn’t test original equipment adapters. But since we already know that camera to lens mount is a source of variation for every manufacturer, I’d be surprised if they can make an adapter without it. Better than third party? Perhaps somewhat.

    Remember, though, the point of this article is mostly for people doing tests/reviews on adapters. The numbers, if they run numbers, will probably be affected. Will it actually affect pictures? Probably not, especially if you’re not shooting at f/1.4 like these tests were done at.”

    And talking about your A7(r) article:

    “I saw Ming’s article and I agree with him. I’ve already heard dozens of people who can’t wait to adapt their Leica glass to A7Rs. Will it be better than Sony’s first lenses? Almost certainly. Will they be as good as they are on a native mount Leica camera? Almost certainly not.

    I’m glad I agree with Ming (because I wouldn’t dare argue with him) – adapters are useful tools, but there’s a bit of trade off.”

    • Haha – didn’t realize Roger was a reader. It’s quite flattering!

      Does it make a difference – at 1.4, yes. I can see it on my 50 ‘lux ASPH and OM-D. I would imagine it’d be even worse on the A7R. But, again, it might just be my adaptors.

      Even if the manufacturer original is better than third party, and as good as their own mounts, it’s still going to double the amount of potential variance…

  15. Now if we could get this camera with a full frame Foveon sensor they’d kill off the rest of the market. I’ve looked at the three full size samples on the Sony Japan website and I have to say I am not as impressed as I thought I’d be for a 36 megapixel camera. But then I have higher than usual expectations since I own a Phase One IQ140 digital back and Schneider Digitar lenses on a Cambo WRS.

    The appeal of this camera for me is that it’s a super small hi rez camera. I could take it places that would be extremely difficult to transport my Cambo set up to.

    • There’s still a gap in sensor capability – at base ISO anyway – between the MFDBs and the D800E-class. I’ve been shooting my CFV-39 more and more simply because I can see the difference

      And let’s not even talk lenses. Whilst I’m sure some of the Zeiss designs are up to the task, a Sony G zoom…no.

  16. Dear Ming Thein, this is my first comment here and I just wanted to give you a ‘heads up’ on your hands on and how you see things. The updated comment below you Sony A7/r is what made me write this comment, as i can 100% back your words up. Everywhere on the internet is that ‘gear hype’. And if you talk rationally about taking better pictures and to train your eye and that cameramakers and lenses are only tools, you are one lonely soul out there.

    As a pro-photographer myself, I am working with the best Nikon lenses and Equipment for my work and with a small GX1 for travel (which I also get laughed at, that is until people see the picture I show them). I appreciate your point of view very much and keep it up.

    • Thank you! I find the photographers agree with me; the gearheads do not. Until then…I think I’m going to save my keyboard and stop trying to convince them otherwise :)

  17. John McMillin says:

    As an older American pro photographer, of course I’m deeply conservative about my gear. My ideas will mean nothing to most of you kids who need to feel you’re on the rising tide of glorious innovation, but here goes. I don’t see anything here that makes my current FF Sony DSLR any less appealing. My a850 has 24 mpx, as many as I need, and it’s backed with a bundle of fine legacy lenses, all stabilized by the camera body. The a850/900 were known for their excellent controls and clear, easy menus and handling.

    The a7 may the best EVF available by the current state of the art, but my camera’s OVF– which I strongly prefer –is the best that has ever been put in a comparable DSLR, and perhaps the best that will ever be. However, some of you demand live view – I get that. If you’re blessed with pinpoint close-up vision, a 3″ screen might be your ticket. But I’d want a display at least the size of a tablet, plus a black headcloth to shade it properly. Then you’d have the modern view camera. If William Henry Jackson were working the Western landscape today, he’d probably use a Sony QX, tethered to an iPod! Not exactly the stealth mode for street photography, though.

    The big argument for the a7 is its smaller size. It weighs about half as much as my a850, one pound less. But a heavier lens could easily make up that difference, and Zeiss doesn’t make any other kind. When I want a smaller camera than my a850 and 24-85 lens, I want one as handy and semi-pocketable camera as my x10 or LX7.

    On the other hand, the a7 is a new, novel and like nothing else out there. Certainly something for the camera enthusiasts to get excited about. You’ve gotta admire Sony for its originality, just as you have to question their long-term commitment to any of their myriad product lines.

    • I’m not sure about feeling ‘the rising tide of glorious innovation’, but this is perhaps the most sensible comment I’ve read yet.

      As for viewfinders: nothing portable beats a Hasselblad V series with the HC4 prism…

      • bluetwango says:

        I was adapting a half-satirical tone of Socialist Realism, Red Chinese-style. Thanks for your response– I truly expected only flames.

        • Hard to tell online. I take all comments seriously, and at face value, unless I know the poster personally. Flames are fore the immature and forums; this isn’t a coffeeshop, it’s more like my living room.

  18. Well, so it looks like the “Sony Brigades” (in, and out of the corporate offices,) didn’t appreciate your failure to do the happy dance with the E7/E7r. I believe you were quite objective and thoughtful in your comments, including the human element in the picture.

    While it must be depressing to some degree to see people upset at what you (or anyone else in the same boat) have to say–or not say–about their new toys, in the end it is your integrity as a reviewer that will pay off. You have the good will of many because you are perceived to be an honest and reliable guide. That reputation is easily lost–as has been lost by many–by simply playing the PR game of corporate interests. People will read between the lines and take note; photographers are not fools.

    The E7/E7r cameras are a worthy addition to the field (as you have indicated,) and Sony is to be congratulated for its creativity and techno-daring. Nevertheless, the significant weaknesses (no IS anywhere–lens, or body??); the lens vacuum; the doubtful Sony long-term commitment to the line; the cost; etc. will in my opinion make the “E” cameras contenders, but not winners in the final race.

    Those doing the happy dance over the “E” cameras seem to be relying almost exclusively on 2 numbers: 24 and 36 (megapixels.) Well, cameras like the E-M5 and E-M1–among others–have already shown that they can compete extremely well with the 24 mp bunch. As far as the 36 mp output of the E7r, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if in testing it showed superior results; but it would have to have an overwhelming advantage in IQ to counterbalance the weaknesses of the line and the many other factors that go into making an excellent photograph–factors that place the “E” line behind other competitors.

    Marketing, rather than intrinsic quality, often makes the difference in sales success; here in the USA, Sony has much better marketing than Olympus, for instance. The 24/36 message is being swallowed whole. I expect they will sell many cameras. That doesn’t mean that they have a better overall product; if it did, the best camera would have to be that new camera phone that has a zillion megapixels (sorry–I forget the specifics.) And the Nikon D-4, with its modest megapixel count, would be at the bottom of the pile. What’s wrong with that picture?

    Keep calling it as you see it. Best wishes.

    • Plenty. And it all boils down to customer education – which in the long term the camera companies will have to invest in d they’re going to sell anything. We will reach a point – and soon – when consumers realize how much of a colossal pain 36mp raw files are…

    • While I think Sony did all of us a favor in shaking up the photography world with the A7 & A7r, I think the real key to their success or failure is going to be in the replacements for the NEX 5, 6, & 7 bodies. Sony was having success with these camera and gaining a bit of traction in the market with the new lens introductions from Zeiss, and Sigma. If Sony does not follow up the NEX line in a few months with newer “N” bodies, for lack of a better name, to show they are serious about supporting their original mirror-less efforts, who is going to take them serious about developing another new line? Particularly the third party lens manufacturers. If Sony lets the NEX or “N” bodies whither on the vine, they won’t get any assistance in expanding the lens options for the new full frame camera from other manufacturers. And more lens options is what Sony needs more than anything.

      PaulB

      • To confuse consumers even further, they’ve officially killed off NEX – now rebranded all to Alpha. I bet there’ll be a flood of people asking about what’s compatible with what…

        • You are probably correct. Though, I want to remember that one of the rumor sites mentioned that only the high end cameras would have the Alpha name.

          Of course, I haven’t been able to follow this all that closely. So, I am probably out of date. Plus, anything that might make sense in keeping the customer informed is destined not to happen.

          PaulB

  19. Ming you might be interested in this:

    Ron Schefflers conclusion:

    The conclusion is quite negative for the A7.

    I’ll spill the beans now – none of the rangefinder lenses performed as well on the a7 as they do on the M9, specifically referring to image smearing into the edges/corners. Some are not so bad and are good enough when stopped down sufficiently, but some are outright horrible (ZM21, 28 Cron), to the point where one would think the lens was defective. Naturally there were some variable that couldn’t be tested, such as whether the Novoflex NEX-Leica M adapter I used was perfect.

    and

    My take on the results: I’m hoping these lenses will fare better on the a7R. Results on the a7 are for the most part disappointing. All I can surmise at the moment is that the toppings on the a7′s sensor work against achieving optimal (or in some cases, good enough) results with the rangefinder lenses I had available for this test.

    http://www.ronscheffler.com/techtalk/?p=224

    and some of the comments:

    http://www.sonyalpharumors.com/you-have-to-see-this-ron-scheffler-supertest-with-leica-zeiss-and-voigtlander-lenses/#comments

    So the A7r could be better but that does not have the electronic first shutter option which means you could have other issues instead.

    • One thought though is, do the microlenses on the A7r sensor make up for the issues it has and therefore only get it back to the standard of the A7 sensor. ie the cornering issues are infact worse on the A7r without the correction the microlenses make?

    • Hmm…this conflicts with other early reports. I’m not surprised, but I’m also not sure who to believe, frankly. Will need to see it for myself, though I have to admit the samples Sony posted don’t look good in the corners at all – and that was with dedicated lenses.

  20. The flood of new gear seems to be accelerating again. Before I could decide if I was going to buy a GR, the E-P5 came along. By the time I actually saw an E-P5 in the flesh (about 3 weeks ago – my corner of the world is an absolute backwater, camera-gear-wise), the E-M1 hype machine had rolled into town, until that got t-boned at a stop light by the Sony EF Juggernaut. Then Fuji fired off a warning shot, Panasonic went crazy small, Nikon saw fit to spread some intriguing rumours, oh, and the Pentax K-3 looks nice (out of breath gasp). The sheer velocity of gear releases is actually heavily attenuating GAS for me, because the enjoyment of anticipation and making a once a year – maybe – purchase has been worn right down by this insane outpouring of new gear. Seems there’s some serious clutching at straws going on out there in camera manufacture land.

    And the net result is that to recover from the onslaught, I get back to working on my photos, and realise that, hey, my poor old Olympus E-5 and E-P3 are actually pretty much on the peak of the sufficiency curve for me. At this point, what would really tempt me is a lightweight system with Olympus-standard weatherproofing, but with a sensor offering significantly smoother transitions and especially a gentler rolloff in the highlights. Do I need more resolution? Nope. Broadcast quality video? No. In fact I don’t need video at all, although so long as it doesn’t compromise still image quality or push prices up, I have no objection to just ignoring it. And I don’t need to shoot handheld in a dark coal cellar.

    And since none of this looks likely to come to pass, I blew my savings on a couple of Ming Thein videos instead :-)

    • :)

      And I can confidently say that out of all the things you could possibly have bought, only those will actually improve your images. Thanks for the support! :)

  21. Sony wiped out the Nex. Why would they build up another system camera? Why?
    What does this camera, without mirror offer that’s so new?
    A Nikon/Canon offer so many more models, way less expensive.
    Sure you “may” be able to use your Leica lenses.
    The answer is months away.
    Since 2000, i have been told on numerous sites how much better the digital cameras are “now”.
    The year i traded a Pentax 6×7 and lenses for a new in box Leica M6TTL.
    I do use digital. Look at Ming Thein’s usage of Provia film.
    Great color, dynamic range and stunning images!
    I shoot everyday. I use SLR or RF. Whatever.
    OH! Ming’s photographs of watches are simply the best i have ever seen.
    I am a retired Master Watchmaker.
    This craze for the newest thing is so sad..the images get worse, not better.

    • The biggest problem is that all the manufacturers are trying to build a fundamentally unsustainable business long term: giving somebody more when they can’t even handle what they’ve got as it is makes no sense – why would I pay for something I don’t need? They should be instead concentrating on the experience and expanding the envelope. I believe education is the way to go long term. All that potential and crap results just end in frustration…not wanting an upgrade.

  22. What are they thinking? That’s Leica territory.

    They whished……Leica engineers are not capable of making a decent mid priced zoom.

    I would forget this camera alltogether and go for a decent Nikon D800e for under a 1000 dollars second hand. If you go for 36 Mpixel (nonsence anyway if you are a run of the mill photographer (as Terry Richardson demonstrates on a regular basis))but hey people these days like nonsence by the cartload) you might just ass weell go for a DSLR with about 150 optinal peices of glass to attach without any adapter or other crap. A state of the art 70-200 for a Nikon can be picked up for about 1500 dollars second hand (and sometimes even cheaper). Total cost, less then a new Sony (and you don’t sponsor the economy because if you buy via Ebay or craigslist from privat you don’t add to the wealth of big industry).

    Greets, Ed.

    P.S. I would be happy as a clam with a D800e and a 24-70 or even an EM-5 with a 12-40…..the rest is nothing but crap on the side.

  23. The simple basic principle is that interchangeable lens cameras need interchangeable lenses. Canon and Nikon developed their lens lines for decades and their users were sometimes very arrogant about the great choice of lenses. Especially when Sony took over Minolta and started building pretty good and innovative and competitively priced DSLRs. Everybody complained that their lens line is small. Sony had a lineup of ex Minolta lenses ready and got Zeiss to build a few more. After some three years they got a pretty good lineup of glass fit for both pros and tyros. Then they got into NEX, Nikon got into 1 and Canon into M, and after several years none of them have an even remotely decent lineup of lenses yet. The bodies are small and pretty good (well, not the Canon), in Sony’s case even excellent. But where are the lenses? Fuji has shown some genuine enthusiasm both in the body front as everybody else, but also in lenses. And then of course there is m4/3 where the lens (and body) choices are without equal. Making it the only true mirrorless system. Well, maybe apart from Leica M now that it can make use of R lenses as well. I doubt the situation is all that different in three years time.

    • Pretty much: we have lenses via adaptors (read: compromised) and that’s really about it.

      • Yup. And where does this obsession to shallow depth of field come from? Anybody who has ever used a view camera appreciates that all the complicated movements we created just to increase the apparent depth of field. The big sensor (4×5 or 8×10) needs long lenses and even when stopped down to f/22 the depth of field is minimal, especially in close up product photography for example. One pro travel photographer went all the way to Laos to take portraits of local people and used his fancy pants 1.1/50 Canon lens (or was it 1.2/85) that cost about as much as his trip. Great lens, I am sure. But used wide open it completely removed any semblance of background content. The pictures could just as well been taken in a studio in New York or London against plain paper background. Another gear head drooled over the new GRDV with its APS sensor and suggested to use it at f/8 to reduce any worries about focusing on the street. F/8 and be there and all that. Well, the previous GRDIV with its smaller sensor can get same depth of field at f/2.8. That is ISO400 instead of 3200, and it has image stabilization for another two stop gain if subject is not moving. So there goes most of the big sensor advantage.

  24. I came to this site to read the Fuji XE-2 review, and then checked this article out. My full frame system is Canon, but I have grown to appreciate the base ISO image quality, convenience, and small size / “stealth” of the Sony RX100, my “pea shooter” . So I have been eagerly awaiting an RX-1 with interchangeable lenses to test. It looks like the A7/A7r is Sony’s answer. I have been ready to jump on this, but I am now much more reserved in my expectations. If I could, the perfect camera would be a weather sealed XE-2 with a Sony sensor, and weather sealed Fuji and Zeiss lenses. I share the frustration of those of you who have commented on the lack of faster f2.x zooms and faster lenses overall on the Sony E Mount systems. It would have been nice if the Zeiss 24 – 70 f4 were faster signaling a new direction in what we could expect in the FE mount. I understand the catch 22 of faster lenses = larger lenses and how that defeats the purpose of a smaller camera body. I personally would still prefer a reduced range zoom if that would allow for a fast zoom in a small size. An example would be a 22/24 – 55/60 f2.x. As far as the camera body is concerned plastic is a turn off in the Canon full frame line to me, and I wish it were not taking the place of a portion of the metal that is present in the A7r frame and exterior front panels but missing in the A7 frame. I was hoping Sony was going to deliver a slightly larger RX-1 with EVF in a rangefinder format like the XE-2. Still that is less of an issue, as I am sure I can get used to and like working with either design. With Sony its still the same thing, where are the fast lenses in the key ranges. With Fuji it is eliminate any doubt as to the quality of third party RAW support of the X Trans systems and or offer a Bayer alternative. I would rather see continued progress in the development of the X Trans sensors, but there needs to be unequivocal agreement that RAW processing for this design offers the same quality and control available for Bayer sensor cameras.

  25. Ming: I wonder what you think about the RX1r or even the Rx1 then, since the argument goes that it has a perfectly fine tuned lens specifically designed it for permanently attached to it. Does it make it preferable than the 7s? ( Since this negates the point about Sony’s commit to lens development and even more importantly the issue of using lens adaptors? )

    • To be honest: I have not had the chance to use either seriously; I’ve also had no desire to given that they use my least favourite 35mm focal length.

      In theory, they should offer much better performance since the lens is tailored to the sensor and fixed…

      Case in point: look at the lens-sensor pairings of the Ricoh GR, Coolpix A and Sigma DP Merrills – I can’t think of another body-lens combination in that sensor size that outperforms them. I’d even go so far as to say the GR is even perhaps one of the finest 28mm FOV devices I’ve ever used.

  26. Thanks for your thoughts. A nice bundle of salient points. Not needing to impress anyone with gear I am only interested in how it looks to me. I have been wanting a full frame light camera for some time, but have remained with APS or micro 4/3. I will be interested to see this camera performance with some legacy lenses such as the FD 20mm. Your points on adapter accuracy are well taken, but there is a polish fellow who makes fine machined FD adapters. I appreciate that camera weight quickly becomes inconsequential, when tripods and other bits are added up. I did a conference back in 2009 with my new G1 and when I picked up my bag wondered who had put the bricks of lead in there for a gag.

    I have learned from experience that 4/3 may be smaller and allow faster lenses yet maintain usable DoF but the loss in higher ISO performance is significant.

    If I get one I’ll post back a link with my blog view of it :-)

  27. Hi, I forgot to add on my last post. So while all the system eventually weighs me down, I can still grab a 24 and a 50mm lens and go traveling leaving all the rest behind. My experience with the G1 and GH cameras tells me that manual focus is quick and accurate. I expect that it will also have a APS mode (to accommodate the NEX series) and so in that mode a 200f4 adds but a few hundred grams to the kit. Still light on the shoulder :-) So for those of us who don’t need or desire 24-105 f2.8zooms with IS its a camera that provides options.

  28. Very good and objective article! I agree, how can you keep a 36 megapixel camera stable enough with the weight of this new camera? To get the bets results with my Nikon D800 I need weight and the best shooting technique to get advantage of the 36 mp. To get really sharp results with this camera you will need a stable tripod (so where is the lightweight advantage?).

  29. I just about laughed coffee through my nose with respect to the stones and lenses comment!!

  30. Dirk De Paepe says:

    Hello Ming. In your Nikon Df article you write that basically one only needs four knobs: aperture, focus, shutterspeed and ISO. I agree completely. Maybe an added compensation knob is OK. That makes five then. So I also agree with you that the Df has far too many knobs. That’s exactly why I love the A7(r): not too many unnecessary knobs. So I don’t agree with you, when you say that the A7(r) has not enough knobs. I see the A7 as a modern interpretation of a classic camera, which whom it’s possible to practice (what I regard as) pure photography: controlling four parameters. This is personal of course, but it contributes substantially to my joy of shooting.

    Concerning the A7(r) being too small, I disagree again. Also concerning the 36MP being too much, I’d like to nuance. For me (looking for 1 body to do it all with), the A7r seems to be offering it all. Indeed, in 90% of the cases, I don’t need all it’s pixels. But then I don’t HAVE TO use them – I can easily reduce the Image Size in Photoshop to the needed size. No problem here. And indeed, when I use heavier lenses (the Otus really appeals to me!) I’ll need more grip and will mount the extra grip and use a tripod a lot of the time. Does this make the compact size useless? When I use it with an Otus or other heavy glass, it does indeed. But on many other occasions, I’ll use this camera for “stealth” shooting, without the grip, and with a very compact lens like the Planar ZM 2/50 mounted on it. For that kind of shooting, the 36MP are indeed too much, but they don’t bother me, since I can reduce the file easily. I do this kind of shooting a lot and it is the reason why I have renounced heavy DSLRs a long time ago. So this camera won’t give me problems, but really only gives me possibilities. I won’t use all of it all the time nor at the same time, but still I will use all of it on a regular basis. I think I can do this with no other camera. And I’m very excited about it.

    Oh yeah, concerning the use of lenses with adapters, IMO it’s essential not to economize in this department. My experience with the German Novoflex adapters on my NEX-7 (the 24MP APS-C density equals a 54MP FF sensor) is one of being flawless. Maybe I will be surprised with the sensibility of the A7r system, we’ll see. But I’m willing to take my chances. It’s exactly thanks to the use of adapters that one can use the A7(r) as an open system. I think (at least I hope – the near future will tell), out of my experience with the NEX-7 (I use adapters all the time) that it’s exactly thanks to this concept (thin mirrorless FF body) and the possible use of all kinds of adapters, that the A7(r) has a really unique and revolutianary position in the market: “the first FF open camera system”. I strongly applaud them for this!

    Last but not least, I totally agree with you that it’s the photographer that determines the picture and I have repeatedly considered that I’m going to invest quite some money to for sure end up with the same kind of pictures as before. But having lots of FF lenses, old and new, that I use on the NEX-7 now, I feel frustrated on a regular basis not (or should I say “no longer”) being able to use them in the way that they are ment to be used, like I did in the film days. So at least I hope to get rid of this frustration with the A7r. At the same time, the concept of the A7r thrilles me that much – since about 5 years (the first NEX-5) I’m thinking of Sony, having to come up with about exactly this camera concept! – that I simply HAVE TO buy this one. I regard this as my ultimate camera. At this moment, I can’t see anything I want that it doesn’t have. It has a lot more than what I ever wanted and for sure than what I’ll ever need. I’m not swearing that this will be my last camera, but I think, if my financial resources would dry out, it very well could be. I’d stay happy!

    Sorry that I differ in opinion, dear Ming. Still I always find it really extremely interesting to read your opinions. It gets me to thorougly think about things, to verify my own thoughts. It’s good to differ in opinion. I’m not you. I shoot other things, in a different way, for different purposes. I think different persons and different uses necessitate different products. That’s a good thing.

    • Dirk De Paepe’s comments about Ming’s thoughts on the E7/E7r remind me of a committee-crafted piece from deep in the bowels of Sony’s marketing department. Do you suppose….?

      • Dirk De Paepe says:

        :-)
        Well, I can tell you it’s not. I’m just a Belgian publisher who only rather tries to look at things from the bright side. IMO a product doesn’t have to deliver it all at the same time. Sometimes I’d prefer a big(ger) camera (put on the grip and a DSLR lens), sometimes I want a stealth camera (compact lens). Sometimes it’s good to have a lot of MP (for instance for cropping matters), most of the times I don’t need them (resize the file). I think the A7r can deliver in all those circumstances. At present, I see no other camera doing that. If I’m wrong, just name it, please. I’d love to broaden my options.
        The MPs, it’s like a fast car. Normally we only drive at 120-130km/h but still being able to do more than 200 feels good, gives you extra accelleration power (cropping power), and from time to time (on the German Autobahn) we really drive at 200km/h. One thing about Sony, I can tell you, without getting any advantage for it: I love their boldness to revolutionize and (like Ming) I hope they’ll succeed in convincing a serious part of the market with those camera’s.
        Oh, and just so you know it, I have more than 20 lenses and have ordered just the A7r body – no new lenses. All my lenses will work, just using the same adapters as with the NEX-7. And if I’ll buy the Otus, it will be because it being an exceptional lens, which thrills me, not because I absolutely need it.

  31. harold1968 says:

    So Ming the only “serious” photographer who hated the RX1R.
    The menus make you cringe ? I doubt you have ever used it. Just to fill you in the RX1R is tiny, has a silent shutter, has amazing build and medium format quality. Oh well its a Sony eh!
    So apparently Sony stuffed in the tech and made an electronic device not a camera. but you have never used or seen the A7.
    However you like the EM-X which has no technology right ?
    bye bye Ming

    • Joel Venable says:

      Judging from your comments I doubt you read the entire post, let alone many of the comments…
      “I doubt you have ever used it.” He freely admits such in the very beginning of the article.
      His thoughts center around the fact that Sony is now creating a 4th system while none of them have a well developed array of lenses…

      • I used one last week while I was in Japan, and my thoughts haven’t changed at all. It needs IBIS and some small AF pancake primes to make sense; not 24-xx consumer zooms…

  32. Ming, I applaud you on your stance. I myself am tired of the relentless gear frenzy. I have a D800e and a M240 and feel so thankful to be able to finally afford such great equipment ( after years of saving/building up/selling buying etc ). This kind of image size is something that some years ago people wouldn’t even dream to possess and now are dismissing offhand. Furthermore, the quest for more pixels is at odds with most people just using these cameras to post on the web and peep at pixels. I like your review style. Instead of shooting brick walls and warning of doom, equipment obsolesence and field curvature you show real examples of great photos. I bought the 35FLE based on your images and am well aware of its foibles but you showed its brilliance. Anyways, keep up the good work. It’s good to see a professional focused on photography and not just the latest trick that comes in every few months.

    BTW, what is your feel of the M240 now after some time. I am loving it and feel that 24 MP is all I need. I have my D800e for when I want AF and longer reach and more MP. I an fond of my D800e but the M speaks to me. I wouldn’t mind having an A7R as a backup, but not if lenses don’t work well for it.

    cheers – keep up the good work.

    • Thanks. I never bought a 240; by the time Leica decided to allocate me stock it was surplus to requirements. It seems that the ‘web reviewers’ get priority; after all, sufficiency doesn’t sell, does it? ;)

Trackbacks

  1. […] release text in different languages: A7-A73 at Dpreview, ThePhoBlographer, Ming Thein (quick thoughts), PB (A7r), PB (A7),  Focus Numerique (French), LeMondeDeLaPhoto (french), […]

  2. […] release text in different languages: A7-A73 at Dpreview, ThePhoBlographer, Ming Thein (quick thoughts), Cameras.reviewed, Amateur Photographer, PB (A7r), PB (A7),  Focus Numerique […]

  3. […] Australia: posted some low resolution image samples Photoclubalpha: Thoughts by David Kilpatrick. Ming Thein: His view on the A7 series announcement. Imaging Resource: Hands-on by Dave Etchells (scroll down […]

  4. […] firmly on the fence. Before ordering, I would suggest that people read Ming Thein's comments. Quick thoughts on the Sony A7 and A7R – Ming Thein | Photographer I know certain other commentators are very controversial and disliked by many, but Ming is a […]

  5. […] Since writing, Sony has announced the A7 and A7R full frame mirrorless cameras; I took some heat over the last two days for not being gushingly full […]

  6. […] new line really means, with three of my favorite photography blogs sharing their observations here, here and here. The new Sony A7 and A7R really does look interesting and if I had a ton of cash to spend […]

  7. […] my initial thoughts piece, I said that neither camera would make sense with adapted lenses. I stand by that, for […]

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