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Sony Alpha A7 review

An affordable full-frame CSC

The A7 and the A7R are two of the most exciting cameras to be announced this year, representing a genuine step forward in mirrorless technology. We had very high hopes for both models, with the A7 using the same base sensor as the Sony Alpha 99, something which we already knew to be a decent performer.

Happily, we have not been disappointed by the images that the A7 is capable of producing. Although it is the cheaper and lower resolution of the two Sony cameras, it's still more than capable of holding its own in the image quality stakes.

Colours are beautifully represented, tending to be bright and punchy without showing too much vibrance. If you need to change the colour output of the camera, a number of Creative Styles, including Vivid and Black and White are also available. Skies are represented well, not displaying too much evidence of cyan tones, while skin tones are also beautifully natural.

controls
Auto and manual focus are easily interchangeable

The A7 can be bought as a package with the 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 FE lens. While this is a decent enough walk-around lens to get you started, it's really not the lens that the full-frame sensor deserves. It's worth considering this camera as a body-only option, and sticking with the admittedly more expensive prime lens options. The camera's 24 million pixel sensor is capable of resolving a good amount of detail, but some of that is lost, especially towards the edges of the frame, when using the 24-70mm optic.

Generally speaking, the Alpha 7's metering system does a good job when left on Multi (all-purpose), although you may find you need to dial in or down some exposure compensation when shooting in areas of high contrast, or if shooting somewhere particularly dark. Using an electronic viewfinder helps in these scenarios, as a live preview of the image will be displayed in the viewfinder.

Similarly, the automatic white balance option copes reasonably well in the majority of situations, albeit erring towards incorrect colour casts when shooting under artificial lights. In these cases, it makes sense to switch to a more appropriate white balance setting to compensate.

Sony a7
Sony's latest foray addition to the full-frame camera market

Sony claims that the A7 boasts faster autofocusing speeds than other full-frame cameras such as the Nikon D610 and Canon 6D. While that is true in good light, it's less capable in lower lights than those cameras. In good light, autofocusing is snappy, locking on quickly, and for the most part, accurately. However, as light levels drop, autofocus hunts a little more, and on occasion brings up a false positive.

With a large sensor, the camera should be more capable than its smaller-sensored siblings and competitors in lower light/higher sensitivity situations. In reality, it is. Noise doesn't really start to become apparent until around ISO 1600, while it doesn't start to become problematic until ISO 6400, and even then only when you're examining images at 100% to look for issues. Sharing at normal web sizes, or printing at A4 (or below) at these levels is more than acceptable.

Like other Sony cameras, the A7 is equipped with a Dynamic Range Optimiser. You can choose to have this switched off, left on automatic or set on a level from one to five (with one being the most subtle). This does a good job of producing balanced exposures where the contrast might otherwise confuse the camera. I chose to leave it switched to automatic the majority of the time, only switching to level four or five if there was extreme contrast in the situation. This can result in the image looking a little fake on occasion. But it's a good option, especially if you don't to spend too much time working on your shots in post production.

Despite this camera being aimed at more advanced photographers, Sony hasn't skimped with the creative options it offers. There's Creative Styles, which are available to shoot all the time, including when shooting in raw format - good news if you want a "clean" version of the image to work with at a later date.

There's also Picture Effects, which unfortunately still can't be shot in raw format. It's a point we keep raising with Sony cameras, and we hope that one day the company will change this - purely because it can seem like a good idea to shoot in Toy Camera (for example) mode at the time, but later on you may wish you had an unaltered version to work with. On the plus side, you can keep full manual control when using filters.

There is also a Sweep Panorama mode, something that Sony pioneered a few years ago. This basically allows you to create panoramic images in camera, simply by sweeping it across the scene in front of you. Images made by this mode are good and ideal for sharing online. If you examine the panoramic images it produces at 100% you will find some evidence of image smoothing, but there generally isn't much evidence of repeating patterns.

The biggest drawback of the A7 is its battery life. There's no way that the camera can compete with full-frame DSLRs such as the D610, with it barely lasting half a day during testing. It's therefore recommended that at least one additional battery is purchased. It would be nice to see Sony including a spare in the box, but that doesn't seem particularly likely.

Tech Specs

Product TypeMirrorless Camera
Battery Size SupportedProprietary Battery Size
Maximum Video Resolution1920 x 1080
TouchscreenNo
Effective Camera Resolution24.3 Megapixel
GPSNo
USBYes
PictBridgeNo
Product Familyalpha
Image StabilizationNo
Digital Zoom4x
Brand NameSony
DurabilityDust Resistant, Moisture Resistant
FeaturesContinuous Shooting Mode, Live View, Face Detection, Orientation Sensor, External Flash Shoe, Near Field Communication (NFC), Noise Reduction
Screen Size7.6 cm (3")
Video FormatsAVCHD, MPEG-4 AVC, H.264, MP4
Viewfinder TypeElectronic
Weight (Approximate)416 g
Maximum Image Resolution6000 x 4000
Maximum Frame Rate60 fps
Number of Batteries Supported1
Battery Built-inNo
Battery RechargeableYes
Battery IncludedYes
Display Screen TypeLCD
Image Sensor TypeExmor APS HD CMOS sensor
Total Camera Resolution24.7 Megapixel
HDMIYes
Camera AssemblyBody Only
HD Movie ModeYes
Battery Model SupportedNP-FW50
Memory Card SupportedMemory Stick PRO Duo, Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo, Memory Stick XC-HG Duo, Memory Stick Duo, Secure Digital (SD) Card, Secure Digital Extended Capacity (SDXC), Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC) Card
Height94.4 mm
Width126.9 mm
Depth48.2 mm
Autofocus Points117
Image FormatsJPEG, RAW
Audio FormatsAC3, AAC-LC
Flash ModesAuto Flash, Flash OFF, Flash ON, Slow Sync, Rear Flash Sync, Pre-flash, Wireless Flash, Red-eye Reduction, Flash Exposure Compensation
Focus ModesAuto, Manual
ManufacturerSony Corporation
Product Model7
Product Nameα7 Full-Frame ILC Body Only (No Lens Included)
Product Linealpha
Aspect Ratio16:9
Manufacturer Part NumberILCE7B.CE
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://www.sony.co.uk
Marketing InformationStep up to full-frame power

Switch lenses. Shoot almighty professional quality with 24.3MP. React with speed and accuracy thanks to Fast Hybrid Autofocus and a high resolution OLED viewfinder. Realise your creative vision anywhere with the world's smallest 35mm full-frame interchangeable-lens camera.

Battery Life270 Shot
Package Contents
  • α7 Full-Frame ILC Body Only (No Lens Included)
  • Battery
Display Resolution921600 Pixel
Limited Warranty1 Year
Built-in DevicesSpeaker, Microphone