Sony has always been the most innovative product company when it comes to Photography. They were among the first to introduce a compact mirrorless camera that could challenge any entry-level DSLR.
Sony alpha NEX series (NEX 5, NEX 5N, NEX 5R, NEX 6, NEX 7) had superb image quality for the price. Not only are these compact, they are easier and offer better bang for the buck vs. any DSLR in the segment.
The new line of Alpha cameras have ditched the NEX branding for just “Alpha”. Alpha 7, Alpha 7R are two new full frame (35mm sensor size) cameras. These cameras are way cheaper than Nikon D800e and Canon 5D Mark III, and also come at fraction of size and weight.
The Alpha 7 is priced at $1699 (body only) and $1999 (with kit lens) and sports 24.4 Megapixels sensor. It has better focussing system than 7R, featuring Hybrid Phase-detect and Contrast-detect based fast focussing system. This is the fastest focussing system in Mirrorless cameras, yet.
The Alpha 7R is priced at $2299 and sports 36.3 Megapixels sensor. It ditches Low-pass anti-aliasing filter to produce sharper images overall but lacks in focussing speed, idealistic for Landscapes.
Alpha 7, 7R vs. DSLR Nikon D800e, Canon 5D Mark III
1. Image quality, ISO performance
Alpha 7R, the camera with better imaging sensor of the both, can produce images on par with high-end Nikon D800e and Canon Mark III (samples coming soon). According to sources, its the same Sony sensor that Nikon uses in D800e, designed and manufactured by Sony itself. So its obvious ISO performance is very similar, if we consider RAW-only images.
Alpha 7 goes upto 25,600 ISO and produces 14bit RAW images, which are very comparable to usable ranges of high-end Canons and Nikons.
2. Speed (FPS)
Alpha 7, 7R can do 5FPS continuos shooting at full resolution, which is quiet comparable to D800e, 5d Mark3 for the resolution.
Alpha 7, 7R does 1080p video at 60FPS, which is better than D800e and 5D mark III which only do 30fps.
4. Focussing System
Alpha 7 has hybrid focussing system involving both Phase-detect and Contrast-detect focussing system which is almost as fast as mid-level DSLRs like Canon 60D or Nikon D3100. However its way more slower (and occasionally inaccurate) when compared to high-end professional cameras like Nikon D800e or Canon 5D MarkIII.
Alpha 7R is contrast-based focussing only, which makes it way more slower than any DSLR on market, only faster than other mirrorless cameras.
5. Metering system
Nikon and Canon offer better metering system in their cameras, but it is yet to be seen how Sony has performed in the new Mirrorless cameras.
6. Performance / Image processor
Sony is known to process RAW images to JPEGs quiet well, but it remains yet to be seen how well the new image processor BIONZ X processor stands against the competition.
Sony has inadequate lens lineup to convince professionals. Sony now has 3 types of mount for lenses. This is bad for consumers and existing Sony alpha shooters.
Sony uses A-mount for its alpha DSLRs, and E-mont for mirrorless NEX cameras. Alpha 7, 7R adopt a new E-mount Full-frame, which means you need to buy new lenses. You can use A-mount Full-frame lenses but you need to buy a $350 LA-EA3 adaptor which makes lens slightly slower to focus, bulkier in use. The existing NEX’s E-mount can be used but they will work in crop mode only.
Buying a new lens for upgrading to this camera is a deal breaker for any serious professional with couple of existing lenses.
Among lens choices, a 24-70mm f/4 will be available for $1,200 in early February, a 35mm f/2.8 will ship in December for $800 and a 55mm f/1.8 will be available later that month for $1,000. There’s also a 70-200mm f/4 in the works. Sony plans to offer a total of 10 full-frame lenses by the end of 2014, with that figure expected to jump to 15 come 2015.
In-camera features are not always what attract Professionals but they are always good to have.
Features like touchscreen, Wifi, NFC connectivity, in camera downloadable apps, in camera-effects, HDR, etc are way better in Sony Alphas than competition.
EVF vs. OVF is a never ending discussion. EVF gives you a preview of what the frame looks like through the sensor, an approximate reflection of your final image with additional HUD and OVF reflects more of actual thing. Both have there pros and cons.
There are two-dial controls on new Alphas, but they may still not be enough as per professionals, but adequate for prosumers.
9. Price, Size
Again, Sony alpha wins here. A $2,299 Alpha 7R has the image quality of a $3,400 Nikon D800e, at a much smaller form-factor.
These new alphas weigh around 450grams vs. 900grams of D800e, with almost fraction of the size.
If you’re tired of carrying heavy equipment with you all the time, Alpha 7, 7R are for you.
A smaller camera can often go where a bigger cannot. Bigger cameras aren’t allowed everywhere, that’s where Alphas have the upperhand over dSLRs.
Sony has been working really hard to create innovative products. So far they have been very successful at that. They are the reason why people back at Nikon and Canons have sleepless nights.
NEX line of cameras were already making a great technology affordable. With 7, 7R they are getting two step closer to high-end professional DSLRs.
Alpha 7, 7R are perfect for anyone who is starting with Photography or willing to shell out extra buck for re-buying all lenses. But I still don’t see mass adoption by professionals. Sony needs to improve on focussing, metering and their lens lineup in order to attract more professionals to their innovative products.
Hopefully, Sony would address these concerns and soon enough we will see a true dSLR killer.
For more checkout detailed Review of new alphas at Dpreview.