Dec 172013
 

I visited the Merseyside Maritime Museum at Liverpool’s Albert Dock at the weekend and enjoyed a fascinating couple of hours learning about Merseyside’s maritime history.

The Second World War’s Battle of The Atlantic figured prominently and the displays charted Britain’s struggle against the threat posed by Germany’s U-Boats and surface fleet of pocket battleships.

The term “pocket battleship” flashed through my mind when I called in at my local camera store and handled one of Sony’s  latest compact system cameras — the Sony A7 and A7R.

The A7 and A7R are diminutive cameras, when compared in size with the likes of the Canon 5D Mark III and Nikon D800, but offer the same kind of fire power as their larger cousins – a full-frame sensor, with 24 Megapixels for the A7 and 36 Megapixels for the A7R, as well as a weather-sealed body. Pocket battleship therefore seems an apt description.

Sony A7R camera and  Zeiss lens.

Sony A7R and Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 35mm f/2.8 lens. Picture courtesy of Imaging- Resource. com

The A7R also differs from the A7 in that it dispenses with the anti-aliasing filter for greater resolution and so is on a par with the Nikon D800E. But whereas the Nikon weighs in at 31.75oz, the A7R is only 16.4oz, almost half the weight of the former and both cameras are made from magnesium alloy. In size, the D800E measures 146 x 123 x 82mm, while the A7R is only 127 x 94 x 48mm.

While it may be hard to get your head round those dimensions, I can say the A7 and A7R are not that much bigger in size than a Ricoh GR, although they are roughly twice the weight. They really do have to be seen and handled to appreciate just how small they are.

For me, and photographers of my generation, the presence of an EVF is something that provokes a sharp intake of breath, although it is the direction in which camera manufacturers seem to be heading.

I tried a Fujifilm XPro-1 a few weeks back, Fujifilm has a generous offer until January 31, 2014, and it was most definitely worth checking out. But as I peered through the EVF, something just didn’t feel right. The XPro-1 does come with the option to switch between an EVF and OVF. The latter was worse as I could see the barrel of the lens protruding into my field of vision. My left eye is my shooting eye and for people whose right eye is the stronger, it may not be such a problem. I don’t know. I only have the one pair of eyes.

The EVF of the Sony A7 is quite a different proposition. I could live with the A7’s EVF and no doubt in time become comfortable with it.  Full marks go to Sony for their EVF.

In some ways, a Sony digital camera should have been a natural progression for me. My film SLR was, and still is, a Minolta XD7 and we all know that Sony benefited from Minolta’s digital camera technology when it absorbed the camera–making arm of Konica Minolta.

I am also a big fan of Carl Zeiss lenses and Sony has a partnership with Carl Zeiss dating back to 1996.

Hitherto, Sony never quite had the product that I was looking for that would allow me to benefit from their Zeiss lenses. With the launch of the A7/A7R cameras, all that has changed. A Sony A7R and a Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 35mm f/2.8 lens now head my wish list, displacing the illustrious Canon 5D Mark III.  And in the fullness of time, I am sure Zeiss will be extending their range of FE mount lenses for the A7/A7R and its successors.

A recent review called the A7/A7R a game-changer on a par with Apple’s introduction of the iPhone and Ford’s development of the Mustang. I can fully identify with that analogy.

Michael Reichmann at Luminous Landscape has already called the A7R’s sensor the best in the world and the A7/A7R is garnering favorable reviews.

Is it the perfect camera? Of course not, no such product exists. Some reviewers are not overly impressed by the autofocus or shutter sound; others moan about battery life, although I think some reviewers are a little unrealistic in their expectations; and over on Fred Miranda someone has noticed strange orange-peel effects when an image is magnified 11x. Angels dancing on a pin springs to mind but each to their own. One man’s meat is another man’s poison.

For a camera to challenge the dominance of Canon in my thoughts speaks volumes for what the A7/A7R offers. I am impressed and it takes a lot to impress me.

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