Earlier this week I got the chance to use the newly announced Sony a7R. It’s Sony’s new 36 megapixel monster mirrorless full-frame camera, and it’s definitely getting it’s share of buzz. In fact, I couldn’t get near it at Sony’s booth at PhotoPlus the other week. Anyway, I got the chance to put it to the test at a Ben Folds concert that Sony hosted the other night, and I thought I’d give you my quick first impression of two of my favorite features.
I’m In Love With Focus Peaking
Over the last couple of years, I’ve pretty much moved to manually focussing in Live View mode on my D800 whenever I’m on a tripod. I’ve been very vocal about the fact that I’m not a fan of Nikon’s live view. To me, when compared to a Canon or Sony its a pixelated noisy mess. And when you zoom in it gets worse. I can deal with it and I’ve learned how to compensate and still use it for focussing when I’m on a tripod, but it’s definitely not ideal. Well, Sony’s live-view mode is definitely way better. I first noticed it on the a99 a while back (I wrote about it here) and the a7R is just as good if not a little better. But what really got me was focus peaking.
Focus peaking is a feature that helps you focus by highlighting areas that are in focus. After using it for a while I’m definitely sold. And while manually focussing using Live View is only something I’ve traditionally used on a tripod, I found I could use focus peaking while hand-holidng and shooting a concert.
Here’s an iPhone shot of the back of my LCD. Take a look at the little highlighted red area (circled here). The Yamaha logo is actually a golden color. But it’s what is in focus at this point so (with focus peaking turned on) it shows up red.
(it’ll help to click and see the photo larger)
Better Quality Photos When Shooting Landscapes and Big Scenes
Okay, this one is a little techie, but bear with me because I think it’s an important one for some people. There’s something called diffraction reduction. Essentially, it helps you get sharper images when shooting at smaller apertures. It has to do with the way the chip is positioned to collect light at sharper angles (in essence, diffraction deals with how beams of light spread). If you’re a landscape photographer (which the a7R is definitely great for) then this matters to you. And if you’re thinking that diffraction is only really seen when you zoom in to your image, you’re right. And if you just post your photos online and never print them, then I would stop reading now because you’ll probably never notice the effects of diffraction. But if you’re buying a 36 megapixel camera then you probably care about image size, image quality and print size. And if you care about those things, then diffraction can matter.
Okay, I know I said this post was about my two favorite features, but since it’s turning in to a mini-review I’ll give you my one gripe. See, I bracket a lot. Like A LOT! On most cameras these days you can turn on bracketing, and then you can turn on your Auto-timer delay and just press the shutter. The timer will count for a few seconds (depending on what you have it set to) and fire off your bracket for you, with out you ever touching the camera. I love this feature. It essentially removes the need for a cable release for me unless I go over a 30 second shutter speed. Well, the a7R has bracketing (better than my Nikon btw…) and it has a timer – but they’re both in the same menu – meaning you can only turn one on at a time. I did speak to one of the product managers about it, and he said they’ve heard about this feature request before, so hopefully it’s on their priority list to fix in a firmware update down the road.
Anyway, I just wanted to share my first thoughts about the camera. I really enjoyed shooting with it. It felt great, was easy to use and image quality was incredible with the 36-megapixel sensor. If you’re one of the many I ran in to a Photoplus last week at the Sony booth that said you pre-ordered it then I think you’re gonna be very happy. Have a great weekend 🙂
Hey Matt, I think you glossed over an important fact in your article… You got to photograph at a Ben Folds concert?! 🙂
Hi, I don’t get the diffraction reduction. Diffraction is affected by the size of the pixels, so with the A7r one would see the same diffraction as with the D800, using the same lens at the same aperture…
Thanks for this great review Matt. The bracketing timer thing is huge for me. I use it every day – seriously – it’s part of how I shoot landscapes. I couldn’t go with this camera unless they figured that one out and made it work. Still love my Nikon D7000. I want a full frame camera but I’m waiting for the right one – I’m a Nikon girl so I’m hoping for something interesting in the new ones that Nikon releases.
I don’t get the comment regarding diffraction reduction, is this something Sony has done and is not available on Nikon or Canon? How does it effect the use of smaller f-stops?
Hey Bruce. Yes it’s something Sony does. Not sure of the “how” though 🙂
Thanks for the review Matt……I am definitely interested in this one. I am currently shooting with Nikon (D4, D800, D600) and am interested in downsizing without sacrificing image quality and versatility.
The bracketing/timer thing has been around for a while so I’d be surprised to see it go away anytime soon. When on a tripod I would often shoot braced using a wireless remote. Well, the IR remote trigger mode is in that same menu with the bracketing and timer! The only way I found around it is to use a wired release. That’s a bit of a bummer since there’s some tiny wireless remotes out there. A wired remote, on the other hand, is never small.
I’m interested in it, but it looks like it is not great for any kind of flash photography. Doesn’t it have a really bad max synch speed?
Hey Matt, read about the a7r it sounds amazing can’t wait to get one, but on the bracketing i would like to use a release remote like the promote but I was reading on the promote website about why the promote will not work with nex cameras and they say that is because the nex cameras when they shoot tethered they do not save the image to the card instead try to output it to whatever is plugged in do you know if this has been remedied in the a7/7r cameras?
Hey Rorey – I don’t know if it’s been changed. I don’t use the promote so it’s not something I’ve run in to.