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FORUMS Photography Talk by Genre Nature & Landscapes Talk 
Thread started 02 Feb 2014 (Sunday) 16:47
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Sony A7R Field Notes

 
grahamclarkphoto
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Feb 02, 2014 16:47 |  #1

Hey everyone,

I got the Sony A7R, and although I usually keep quite a few notes and the consolidate and organize them into a review. I thought I'd do something a bit different and just do a stream of consciousness field notes type thing.

Click here for this updated field notes page on my site (external link)
Click here to view and download .TIFF + .ARW (external link)

Here's what I got so far:

-Smallness and lightness are very noticeable when compared to Canon 6D
- A7R body-only weighs 16.75 oz
- Canon 6D body-only weighs 27.75 oz
- Sony A7R with EF + Canon 17-40 weighs 38.05 oz
- Canon 40mm 2.8 weighs 4.40 oz
- Canon EF to Sony adapter weighs 5.25 oz
- The default settings on the A7R are pretty bad
- The Sony A7R manual wasn’t created for humans to understand
- With the Canon EF to Sony A7R E-Mount adapter it has a pretty good balance.
- When placed on a level surface its level on both sides with the Canon 17-40
- EVF is slightly distorted at edges of viewfinder with 20mm or wider
- EVF resolution is pretty low considering how close the eye is to the internal screen. I suppose I’m used to my retina iPhone, iPad and macbook pro, so the low-res is pretty darn -noticeable.
- Back LCD screen resolution is excellent
- Back LCD surface is delicate, much more delicate than the Canon 5D3 or 6D
- Back LCD responds with bruising if you press on it gently, it doesn’t have a hard plastic surface. Kind of like a calculator LCD display : (
- ISO 25k isn’t enough for composing in lowlight about 1/2 hour after sunset
- ISO 25k isn't enough for composing during sunset with lowlight + 6-stops ND (viewfinder is black)
- When at ISO 25k the back LCD lags down to about 10-15 fps. It may have to do with the funny named processor not being able to handle two tasks: ISO 25k and transferring data from sensor to LCD

- When playing back images on the LCD there's a significant amount of banding happening. I would imagine it's either due to the gamut of the LCD can't handle the range of colors, or the JPEG that's being processed for playback is of low quality, or both
- I'm still seeing a consistent drop in FPS when ISO 25k is used in low light
- Industrial design of the A7R is incredible. I was shooting the SF skyline last night from Treasure Island and a South Korean tourist had a 35mm rangefinder from the 70's, and it was striking the resemblance of the two
- The button placements are excellent
- The index and thumb dials are metal, very good quality and have excellent dampening
- I shoot in Aperture priority mode about 80% of the time when not in bulb, so the exposure compensation dial is fantastic. I love the feel of it, and it's very sturdy and not easy to inadvertently change. Sony intentionally dampened that one more than the others
- The power on sequence takes 3-4 seconds, not the 2 1/2 I've been reading
- The tiny little Sony batteries don't last that long. I shot for about 4 1/2 hours on the pacific ocean for sunset and the battery was nearly exhausted
- When exposing the LCD turns black, but it's still powered on and the pixels are therefore using power:

IMAGE: http://www.grahamclarkphoto.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Sony-A7R-with-Canon-24-70-2.8-Mark-II-night.jpg

IMAGE: http://www.grahamclarkphoto.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Sony-A7R-LCD-black-still-using-power-1024x768.jpg

- I find the autofocus speed of the A7R to be the same as the 5D3/6D
- Canon Image stabilization with the A7R EF adapter works perfectly, I’m not noticing any issues or reduction of stops
- On the A7R the autofocus switch must be set to ‘M’ manual for the camera to engage manual focus mode. If it’s in AF it won’t do both like a Canon behaves
- The EF adapter writes focal range and F-stop into the EXIF data of the image but lacks the model information (easy fix in Aperture/Lightroom):

IMAGE: http://www.grahamclarkphoto.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Sony-A7R-EF-Adapter-EXIF-data-lens-and-focal-length.png

- Auto white balance does a great job at determining natural light, it’s a bit orangish in indoor artificial light I’ve found
- Using the EVF for achieving critical sharpness could be a game changer. The precision of manual focus is magnitudes better than looking at the viewfinder, perhaps because your eye adjusts to the dark - EVF and is able to see the screen much closer. With lenses where the threshold of focus is very small this becomes a big advantage
- For me, the Sony A7R has proven that you can drastically simplify the controls and dials and still have an effective tool for getting the job done, primarily through excellent function and custom button customizations
- Having ISO 50, 64 and 80 are great, I love the flexibility in this range. These are of course pulled from ISO 100 and the highlight headroom may *be less, but I’m going to test that soon
- The Menu button is justified in the top left, it would have been nice to have it justified to the right. If it was on the right all the controls would be accessible from the shooting hand
- The vertical swivel of the A7R is useful in certain applications, however it means it’s a more delicate camera. Getting that thing snagged on something and broken off wouldn’t be fun
- I like the record button on the right side of the grip. In the settings you can specify it to do nothing unless movie mode is selected, thereby removing the possibility of accidentally switching in to movie mode, but I don’t see that happening as it’s out of the way in its current position
- The SD card slot door is built very well and has rubberized contacts on the interior to prevent play or flex
- Audio inputs on the A7R like microphones is very easy to setup. It auto-detects and the audio level display is better than the Canon one – easier to view and a bit more polished. Downstream tech from Sony’s camcorders most likely
- The shutter button has a very gratifying quality to it, very circular and 50′s rangefinderish, but it’s also very responsive to half and full shutter clicks
- A7R magnesium alloy body is incredibly sturdy and feels well crafted
- A7R menu system is decent. I think it’s probably the best i’ve seen but then again it doesn’t really have much competition as nearly no one out there is making decent menu systems (or at least I haven’t seen one yet)
- Trash button doubles as a C3 customizable button when not selected in image playback – nice
- You can tell a user experience team thought about how the buttons should be laid out and placed, which is nice
- Achieving critical sharpness on the A7R 7x and 14.4x modes is great, although I wish the photographer could select the default magnification level instead of cycling through 0x – 7x – 14x
- A7R battery charger does not include a wall charger, you must plug the camera physically into the charger
- On the upside, the A7R charging system is done through micro-USB, so if you lose the cable / charger you can re-use another that you have
- You can charge your A7R in the car USB outlet
- A7R battery charging times are between 4-6 hours, pretty darn long considering how fast the batteries deplete
- You can’t charge the battery while you’re out shooting (unless you buy the standalone battery charger), but you can charge it in the car etc., so it’s a bit of a convenience tradeoff

- -
Graham Clark | grahamclarkphoto.com (external link)

  
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grahamclarkphoto
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Feb 03, 2014 18:56 |  #2

IMAGE: http://www.grahamclarkphoto.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/San_Francisco_Sunrise_A7R_with_EF_lenses_test_image1.jpg

San Francisco Sunrise | 274s | F22 | ISO 50 | 22mm | Sony A7R + Canon EF 17-40mm F4 L

Download the RAW .ARW here: https://app.box.com/s/​tamzbcn7bwp3bmi7zywc (external link)
Download the .TIFF here: https://app.box.com/s/​ou4ckzwu4s5gmlm667pz (external link)
Download both here: http://www.grahamclark​photo.com …chd-with-ef-lenses-canon/ (external link)

Update:

- Images of out of camera on the A7R are consistently critically sharp on my Canon EF L lenses
- A7R LCD drop in frames per second occurs consistently when at ISO 25,600 with a dark foreground plus a ND
- The A7R control layout is comfortable
- A7R Autofocus takes about 3-5 seconds in daylight when wide open at 1.2/1.8/2.8
- Manual focusing through the EVF with focus peaking is faster than autofocusing if the ring dampening is good. Lenses that have plastic / electronic focusing rings are a bit tricker, such as the Canon 1.8 and Canon 40 2.8
- Autofocus and power-on with the A7R is noticeably more sluggish than the SLR counterparts
- The A7R LCD always has numbers of some kind on it: F-stop, shutter etc. You are unable to view image or video only like on the Canon Live View. A bit disappointing as sometimes I want to see just the image in live view and nothing else
- Color rendition, sharpness and dynamic range are impressive on the A7R
- I love the exposure compensation dial, very useful for when in Aperture priority mode
- Haven’t experienced any issues with any EF lenses. AF, image stabilization and lens data is passed through the EF adapter, with the exception of the model name (17-40mm F4 instead of Canon 17-40mm F4)

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Graham Clark | grahamclarkphoto.com (external link)

  
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Phrasikleia
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Feb 03, 2014 19:33 |  #3

It's really generous of you to provide all of these detailed observations. I'm reading with great interest.

Have you tried focusing manually in very dark conditions (e.g. for nightscapes or for composing before sunrise)? I've heard that this would be a particular weak point of the a7R. How does it compare to a Canon DSLR in that regard?

Oh, and how is focusing manually in conditions with good light if you use Live View? Can you zoom in 10x like you can on a Canon DSLR? Is the preview sharp enough for the task? Apparently the Nikon D800(E) chokes in this area, so I'm wondering if Sony overcame whatever obstacles plagued Nikon for this functionality.


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Feb 03, 2014 20:27 |  #4

Thanks a bunch for taking the time to provide the info on the Sony. Even though I've decided to stick with Canon as my main system I would love to be able to put my lens on this body and shoot manually if I wanted. Though if I do pick up an a7/a7r I would want the Zeiss 55 for the bulk of the shooting.


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grahamclarkphoto
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Feb 03, 2014 22:08 |  #5

Phrasikleia wrote in post #16661430 (external link)
It's really generous of you to provide all of these detailed observations. I'm reading with great interest.

Have you tried focusing manually in very dark conditions (e.g. for nightscapes or for composing before sunrise)? I've heard that this would be a particular weak point of the a7R. How does it compare to a Canon DSLR in that regard?

Oh, and how is focusing manually in conditions with good light if you use Live View? Can you zoom in 10x like you can on a Canon DSLR? Is the preview sharp enough for the task? Apparently the Nikon D800(E) chokes in this area, so I'm wondering if Sony overcame whatever obstacles plagued Nikon for this functionality.

Absolutely!

A couple things:

1. ISO 102k on the DIGIC 5+ on Canon allows for bright compositions on Live View in lowlight. Even with a 6-stop ND combined with lowlight 102k is just about sufficient. If you were to drop that (not possible, but if you did) to ISO 25k the Live View would be black.

ISO 25k is the A7R's limit, so yes this is a downside. Furthermore I'm seeing a drastic drop in FPS when at ISO 25k, meaning composing moving objects (like water) are rendered out of sync with reality

2. The Sony A7R manual focus works very well, magnifying at the following increments: 0x > 7x > 14x

Unfortunately the photographer is unable to choose the default magnify level and these are the only options, however it's very good. Furthermore it's unclear if 14x is 100%, but I would assume it is.

In conclusion: under normal lighting conditions the LCD of the A7R produces a very good on-screen image when manually focusing. It has 1.2 million pixels so the detail is good.

Even better than the LCD for achieving critically sharp images however is the EVF. Although for normal composing it doesn't feel as natural as an OVF, for achieving the perfect manual focus EVF is a complete game changer. I think part of it is that your eye adjusts to the dark viewfinder and doesn't have to strain against ambient light - 100% of your eye is focused on the VERY close EVF screen

1. 25k not sufficient for lowlight or ND, and definitely not sufficient for both
2. LCD is excellent for MF
3. EVF is a complete game changer for MF


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Feb 03, 2014 22:23 |  #6

I have just completed an ISO range test, from ISO 100 - 25k

Click here to download all 12 .ARW files and compare them for yourself at 100% in Aperture or Lightroom:

https://app.box.com/So​ny-a7r-iso-range-test (external link) (390MB)


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Feb 03, 2014 22:24 |  #7

I have just uploaded two video files converted from AVCHD to H.264

https://app.box.com/so​ny-a7r-avchd (external link)


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rockpirro
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Feb 05, 2014 03:35 |  #8

Graham, many thanks for the in-depth info and sample files for the a7r

It seems like a nice little camera and the resolution seems to quite good. The video made me feel like I was there!!!!


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Picture ­ North ­ Carolina
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Feb 05, 2014 05:06 |  #9

Thanks for the time that went into this. It seemed like a nice little camera and at first appeared to be able to resolve every injustice in the universe, but a bunch of little things here and there have, at least temporarily, removed it from the Absolutely Positively this is the Next Upgrade list.


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grahamclarkphoto
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Feb 05, 2014 19:22 |  #10

rockpirro wrote in post #16664838 (external link)
Graham, many thanks for the in-depth info and sample files for the a7r

It seems like a nice little camera and the resolution seems to quite good. The video made me feel like I was there!!!!

absolutely!


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grahamclarkphoto
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Feb 05, 2014 19:24 |  #11

Picture North Carolina wrote in post #16664903 (external link)
Thanks for the time that went into this. It seemed like a nice little camera and at first appeared to be able to resolve every injustice in the universe, but a bunch of little things here and there have, at least temporarily, removed it from the Absolutely Positively this is the Next Upgrade list.

sure! I'll continue to update this on my site, as this post is getting pretty low activity and i don't want to continually push it up in rank : )

I will be uploading about 70GB of .ARW and .TIFFs, as well as H.264 and native AVCHD footage in the coming weeks over on my site where I'm live updating this camera (external link).


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Feb 05, 2014 19:26 |  #12

Picture North Carolina wrote in post #16664903 (external link)
Thanks for the time that went into this. It seemed like a nice little camera and at first appeared to be able to resolve every injustice in the universe, but a bunch of little things here and there have, at least temporarily, removed it from the Absolutely Positively this is the Next Upgrade list.

and just to give you my perspective on this, if the image quality is magnitudes better than a Canon CMOS sensor, I'm willing to forgo these issues because it is much smaller than Canon counterparts, with significantly better quality.

I don't think this level of quality applies to many areas of photography, but in landscape photography we're always trying to maximize the potential of smaller equipment, so it has a tendency to count more.

my first impression for general purpose or street photography, I do think the above detractors may make it a likely option.


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Sony A7R Field Notes
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