words: Eksovichea Tito Hak   image source/photographer : official Sony website



So it looks like that if I ever finally get round to going full frame on a digital camera, the Sony a7R or a7 would more or less fulfil my requirements with the way things currently stand, and it's definitely something I would seriously consider as an option.

If I ever did get the cash I would have maybe opted for the Sony a99, however the idea was sort of dead in the water in my particular case as it would have required me to get rid of my current lenses and limited me to having to buy a bunch of completely new lenses that can only be used with Sony's DSLR's. 

The things I liked about the Sony a99 whilst looking it up? The fact that it uses an on camera image body stabiliser, which in theory would basically mean that you could potentially use any lens you wanted with the Sony a99 regardless of whether the lens has on lens image stabilisation or not, and get image stabilisation for it. The only problem with that is that you still wouldn't be able to use Nikon or Canon legacy lenses with it via an adaptor due to the problem of focal plane distances with using a third party adapter in between. The other main thing that I liked about it? It makes no apologies about getting rid of the reflex mirror viewfinder and opting for an electronic viewfinder. We already know why I think a high quality EV would be more suitable for pro digital photography applications these days than a mirror viewfinder, the main reason being that you can actually see what you are photographing as it will appear in the final capture file before you might apply any additional post processing. This basically gives you greater intended direct control over how your images will look. ie. it would actually let you see what you were photographing, especially in low light too as the camera sensor is vastly more capable of picking up light than your eye via a mirror viewfinder (but that's just my opinion). 

Whilst using Canon dslr's under lit conditions and working with none flash based photography, there doesn't seem to be any problems with the exposure preview in live view mode (its like as the name suggest, its shows you what your settings will make the picture look like in live view mode before you take the picture). But when it comes to dark or a very dimly lit situation  its a little different, for example you could sit in a dark room with just a light coming from your smartphone or computer screen filling the room. To your eyes the room would still look near pitch black/very dark. Now take a picture of something other than the light source using a canon dslr in combo with something like a 40mm f2.8 lens at iso 1600 to 2000 (the results will be even more impressive with something like an f1.8, f1.4 or if you're lucky enough, an f1.2 lens) and it looks like you have the light on from a desktop lamp in the room with just the light from a small smartphone screen or if using the ambient light from a laptop screen it might possibly even look like there's daylight coming in from a window at dawn or sometime on a late summer evening in the picture. However, the pre-exposure preview for this on the particular Canon dslr camera that I was using at one point was suddenly gimped having previously worked. ie. when I used the live view mode it no longer showed me in semi visible details what I was photographing like it used to (although the actual final captured exposure would look far less fuzzy, be a lot brighter and look alot sharper). I'm almost certain it used to be the case at one point before somehow being altered. 

When it did work... Although the live view exposure preview image was a little fuzzy, there was still enough visable detail in the live view mode via the LCD screen for me to go on in order to manually set the focus, the auto-focus was pretty much useless in this instance for lack of light and thus the kinds of pre-exposure edge defining contrast needed for accurate auto focus detection, and as stated before, if you'd manually set the focus correctly the final image was much brighter, much more detailed, and sharper than the dimly lit exposure preview with something like a 1 to 2 second exposure at iso 1600 - 2000. 

Update: having re-checked it again more recently the capabilities seem to have now returned. From what I can gather the Sony a99 can do this without discrepancy where the canon might not (the dependencies of which on a Canon 60D beyond all that I could actually use via the accessible settings of the camera I have access to I have no idea of), but without actual hands on testing with an a99 I couldn't tell you for sure.


...but back to the point...

If they aren't true pro features that a pro would want or need then I don't know what are. But the main reason I would have bought Sony a99 (if I had that kind of cash) on top of all that I've mentioned? Sure, I like photographing stuff, since I'm a bit of a product design junkie, I get excited over lines, surfaces, and textures in how they might astheticly and visualy all work together. To my eyes, how different lighting cast the combination of such details and asthetics to different eye pleasing effect is something I like to experiment with and visually capture. I've honed certain facets of my product photography whilst still continuing to work on them. But... there's one other major thing that I wanted to do with a high end camera which the a99 could optionally potentially do well with; based on what I know of Sony mirrorless Camera's and options they have. When used with it's own legacy type lenses its optionally potentially perfect for photographing people as how a human might wish to perceive in a more flattering overall average if you've got a particularly rough complexion, as well as 'stuff'. Beyond 'stuff' there's only people, and in an image conscious world where peoples neurotic states can sometimes make all the difference between a good or crap day in the first world sense (whether consciously or subconsciously amongst many other potential factors and reasons) regardless of what might be an artificial smile. As ever all suffering is relative and is as real as you might perceive it to be, but I guess we can only try our best to be aware of other people suffering. But in any case, I think such a feature is well worth having for use as required and is certainly a pro feature in my books, since its something that people would pay someone to be able to do if its just not something that you'd like to be able to do.

I've read that the Sony a99's  auto-focus features are too slow compared to a Canon or Nikon. To that I say, what the f would you need fast auto focus for (although very useful) when you could do it yourself much faster in nearly all cases manually when using a lens with a decent manual focusing ring in combination with accurate focus confirmation on camera body via audio bleeps and the in viewfinder led focus zone indicators? It's even possible to do it without that and just go with what you can see on a large enoungh screen.

I guess getting something like the Sony a99 wouldn't be an issue if you've been using minolta lenses the whole time and sticking with Sony's DSLR's in its evolution despite what the die hard Canon and then eventually Nikon users were beating Sony's new to the game dslr users over the head with for a long while with good reason in the early days, but with the turning of the tide and for everyone else looking at this objectively whilst wanting to get in on the most recent Sony dslr/mirrorless developments, some things to consider...

Aside from the main deal breaker in my particular case of having to potentially re-kit with a bunch of priority native lenses for a Sony a99, I like everything about the a99 and what Sony are trying to do with it despite many pro's not considering it to be a pro option.

However it did initially seem a little redundant to have included the semi-transparent mirror on the a99 for EV monitoring purposes when very similar mirrorless based tech (that has proven to be rapid) would otherwise just use what was being directly fed from the sensor itself for both the LCD screen and the EV. The only real purpose I could think of it serving is to possibly significantly prolong the life-cycle of the shutter in this particular instance and possibly giving independent LCD and EV preview. But I would have thought it would have been perfectly possible to selectively use either the LCD or the EV whilst turning the other off, or optionally use both at the same time using a feed directly from the sensor without a semi transparent mirror. Why they didn't include this type of switching feature on the a7 is beyond me, especially at the price.

I say all this having been a life long fan/user of Canon camera's for the main part and never having spent a penny on Nikon gear. So you could hardly class me as a Sony fanboy as far as high end camera gear is concerned.

Ok, so why the Sony a7R or a7 and not a Canon 5D mk3 as I used to originally lust after? Well, take...

-  one full frame sensor
- take everything about the Sony a99 that I liked (except for the on camera body image stabilisation unfortunately)
- add interchangable lens capability
- add Canon legacy lens compatibility via an electronic adaptor that gives you full aperture control and access to the lenses image stabilisation (for those that actually have it)
- add Sony alpha dslr legacy lens compatibility via an electronic Sony adaptor 
- not that I'd have reason for one in my case, but add Nikon legacy lens compatibility via an adaptor (manual only from what I've found and read thus far)
- (in fact add any type of lens compatibility you can think of via some sort of adaptor that they make for it)
- add the fact that it can also use current aps-c e-mount lenses in crop mode at 14megapixels which will also have usable built in on lens image stabilisation (for those lenses that include it)
- to my mind a lust worthy geek-chic retro design that's vastly more streamlined than a dslr but yet not too small to handle (related to that note : Although I like the a7's external design very much, I had originally envisioned that the final a7 product might resemble what the final RX10 looks like at the body).
- also ad the fact that it significantly undercuts the price of the Canon 5D MkIII

...and you have the ingredients to what my ultimate fantasy full frame digital camera would be in the flesh. I could continue to use my Canon lenses, my Canon camera ( which I'm still paying for) for specific purposes (shame its not a 7D or 70D though), my current nex aps-c lenses, and my current nex camera as well as having many options for different lens standards and the potential to use new full frame e-mount lenses if required.


Is the Sony a7 a professional option?

Keep in mind that there are bread and butter photographers in none scientific and none civil photographic work related fields around the world that solely use mid range to upper mid range DSLR equipment which the a7R and a7 specs either significantly excel or are on a very similar par with at the upper end of that comparison (whilst also significantly undercutting the cost at the upper comparative end). I guess the only thing the Sony a99 or a7r and a7 don't have in that respects is a unified workflow of operation/camera control with the two main industry accepted standards/contenders, which I guess you have to be a true geeky enthusiast to not be phased by in order to get to grips with them, get those desired photographic results and work within the scope of the gear. However in being very cautious I didn't take to hyping the Sony a7R and a7 as I maybe should have in the initial pre-release stages despite getting news and word of specs long before it was even released. Strange really considering how relatively perfect it was on paper for what I possibly might use it for, and as one of the reviews pointed out, there aren't many native full frame lenses for it yet in being so new. But beyond that many results and reviews are in, and from what I've read its not quite as fast as the full frame competition in their native camera body and legacy lens attachment combinations, but even with all the potential trade off's against the lust worthy Canon 5D mk3 option, I'd say I could more than live with them as a full frame option based on the actual photographic results it can potentially and actually achieve that I've seen thus far.

But after all is said and done, the lack of native full frame e-mount lenses would still kind of leave it at a disadvantage on the full frame front if referring back to one of the main reasons for getting it in terms of people centric photographic subjects beyond the obvious depth of skin  pore level detail it can potentially produce.



Unless you've got a baby smooth complexion...


 Then again you don't really need 24 mega-pixels (let alone 36) to take hi-res flattering images of people although ideal for landscape and scenes containing lots of distant objects/subjects that you might want a decent amount of detail on, meaning that 14 to 16 mega-pixel for aps-c e-mount lenses might/would even be sufficient for such people portrait centric purposes if not overkill already in the level of detail it can already pick for portrait snaps, especially for frame filling head-shots where every detail at skin pore level, blemish, and fine lines will register without stacks of make-up on, blazing lighting to fill out the shadowy pores, cracks, and maybe a little over exposure to cover it up (corny soft focus anyone? don't even go there) or maybe a more artsy crisp edged low contrast edit with very little blemish re-touching. Overall not at all how the human eye would generally perceive without the lens.

additional note: Here's a site I just stumbled across after writing this whilst looking for suitable press release pictures of the a7R and a7 to use. Gives quite a decent demo of what it's capable of.

www.briansmith.com/sony-a7r-field-test/

I can't get it to become an active link that you can simply click. So you're going to have to copy and paste it to your browser. You can also get to the official Sony page on it by clicking this.

Something else I only just remembered...(...if video is your thing)

the a7R and a7 don't have 4K RAW video recording capabilities although it could probably potentially do it. They also have the bios locked down so tight that its unlikely that we'll see a firmware mod to allow for it based on whats happened with all their other e-mount camera's so far, let alone an official update to actually allow for it. Meaning that 4K will probably only be included in the next iteration of it at a premium.

The Canon 5D MK3 however doesn't have 4K raw as standard and does 1080p just as the a7R and a7. But with the use of an unofficial and freely available firmware mod, the 5D MkIII can indeed record in 4K RAW.