Sony A7R Review
The Sony A7R is the most revolutionary camera of 2013, bringing 35mm full-frame, interchangeable lens shooting to the masses both in terms of cost and size. Importantly the A7R is also well-built, a pleasure to use and delivers outstanding image quality. As with any camera, it does have a few flaws, most notably the slightly sluggish auto-focusing, poor battery life and in-camera charging, the rather loud shutter release and the limited number of FE lenses on launch, but all in all the Sony A7R is a superbly realised, genuinely game-changing camera.
The 36 megapixel sensor provides excellent results from ISO 50-3200, with only the faster settings of 6400 and 12800 suffering from a little too much noise and smearing of fine detail, with ISO 25600 not too bad either. The A7R's sensor and the fast Carl Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 lens that we tested it with feel perfectly balanced together, hitting the sweet spot between portability and image quality, and it's hard to resist the lure of shooting wide-open at f/1.8 in combination with such a big sensor. One slight caveat is that the CZ 55mm lens isn't stabilised, which led to quite a few missed shots in low-light due to camera-shake - not necessarily a criticism of the A7R, as there are stabilised lenses available, but definitely something to bear in mind as the 36 megapixel sensor is very unforgiving of poor technique.
One of the main difference between the A7R and the cheaper A7 is the removal of the low-pass filter in the A7R. Although we haven't had chance to test them side by side yet, this should result in making the latter's photos subtly sharper and more detailed than the 24 megapixel A7's, and unless you shoot a lot of subjects with very fine details like fabrics or man-made patterns, you'll be hard-pushed to spot any moire or colour aliasing (we couldn't find any in our sample shots). Even if you do, there are certain techniques that you can employ both during shooting and in post-production, so if out and out resolution is a key requirement then we'd recommend opting for the A7R.
In terms of operational speed and all-round performance, the A7R delivers on most counts. Shutter lag is only notable by its apparent absence, and image processing times are thankfully non-intrusive, even for the massive Raw files that the A7R produces. This camera really does deliver DSLR-like performance and image quality in a pocketable format, music to the ears of most enthusiasts, with the exception of the auto-focusing speed, which lags behind the very best contrast-based and DSLR phase-detection systems. It's certainly not bad enough to prevent us from recommending the A7R, but it does limit the camera's versatility somewhat, rewarding a more considered approach.
In terms of value-for-money, the Sony A7R is roughly comparable to the cheaper full-frame DSLR models from Canon (the 6D) and Nikon (the D610), while being quite a lot more expensive than top-of-the range compact system cameras like the Olympus OM-D E-M1 and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3. You really need to decide if the combination of such a large sensor and such a small body make sense for you - if it does, then there's simply nothing else quite like the Sony A7R (except the Sony A7, of course, which we'll be reviewing very soon).
Sony have seemingly been on a mission in the last few years to really change photography, first with the innovative NEX series, then the full-frame RX1/R compacts, and now the A7R and A7 full-frame mirrorless cameras (not to mention the RX100 premium compact and the recent RX10 super-zoom). The Sony A7R is the most radical of them all, the best realised, and fully deserving of our coveted Essential! award.
|Ratings (out of 5)|
|Value for money||5|
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