Review by Franz Scheurer
I lost my Sony RX1 and not having a pocket camera was not an option. Looking at the RX1R was irrelevant as it wasn’t available in Sydney anywhere, so I looked for an alternative. My requirements were simple:
– full size sensor
– top quality prime lens
The only one that matched all criteria was the Sony Alpha 7R and it was available.
So I bought it and here is what I found to differentiate it immediately from the RX1:
– interchangeable lenses
– 36.3 MP
Now I use this camera as a pocket camera so I don’t really want any other lenses and the 2.8/35mm Carl Zeiss is an amazingly sharp lens with great colour correction and it even comes with a lens hood. (The lens hood for the 35mm RX1 fixed lens was absurdly expensive). The viewfinder is superb and adds considerably to the usability of the camera, especially in really challenging light situations.
Lenses available in the new FE style are:
– 4/24-70mm Carl Zeiss OSS
– 3.5-5.6/28-70mm Sony OSS
– 4/70-200mm Sony G OSS
– 2.8/35mm Carl Zeiss and finally
– 1.8/55mm Carl Zeiss
The choice of two zooms in a similar range and no ultra wide angles seems a little odd, so is the omission of a macro lens, but no doubt they will hit the market soon. Please note that the Sony Alpha 7R has an E-mount but you will need the new FE lenses to take full advantage of the full-size sensor. There are a fair few APS-C lenses out there that will fit (and crop) and there are a number of A mount to E mount converters available. In reality, if you invest in an Sony Alpha 7R buy the FE lenses and although you can use other lenses on the camera, even Leica lenses, you won’t get the perfect quality/size balance and easy of use that you will get with the FE lenses.
The camera is available with the 24.3MP or the 36.3MP sensor and again, why settle for second best? The resolution and depth of detail that you get with the 36.2MP sensor are astounding. A friend of mine once likened the smaller as against the larger sensor as: chocolate cake versus chocolate mousse. He was bang on target.
A Bionz X sensor allows for more sophisticated processing over the previous one and it even offers ‘diffraction reduction’ lessening the diffraction softness you get when you stop down a lens. Of course the camera not only offers the standard aperture or shutter priority settings, program and panorama, but also a full manual override and manual focus with optional focus peaking etc. etc. I adore the ergonomics of the camera; whoever designed this really understood the way a photographer naturally works and every single control is exactly where you would expect it.
They do also offer an optional battery grip, a first for an E mount camera, and it will help with vertical shooting and holds an extra battery, but it also adds significantly to the bulk of the camera. Personally as I don’t use the Sony Alpha 7R as a system camera but as a pocket camera, I would not consider this. I’d rather just carry a spare battery.
I am impressed that all the new generation Sony cameras are chargeable via an USB cable; be that from a charger, from a computer, from the car, etc. It certainly expands usability tremendously.
Sony has certainly gone down just about every possible digital path with their cameras in the past, from dual autofocus to translucent mirror technology, to their NEX system but the Sony Alpha 7R is probably the single-most exciting release in years of our digital camera life.
The Sony Alpha 7R is not cheap; on the other hand it is superb value for money and in the end that is what counts.
For more information and pricing look up the Sony website. In Australia http://www.sony.com.au