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Mes pensées on the Sony a7

posted Jun 17, 2014, 7:22 PM by Jose Velasquez   [ updated Jun 18, 2014, 5:32 AM ]
After playing with the Sony a7 for several months I'm more convinced this is the future of photography. Is this the end of the reign of DSLRs? Perhaps, but not in the near future. As impressive as is the a7, it has some flaws and certain shortcomings that have made me hold on to my Nikon gear. Most notably are the lack of native FE lenses, the lack of 14-bit uncompressed RAW, and the lack of 3rd party wireless triggers. Having said that I'm sure it's just a matter of time before those issues are remedied. The tech behind the camera is undoubtedly top of the line. What my little a7 does is leaps and bounds ahead of anything currently produced by Nikon and Canon--and it's all done in such a small package.  Yes that is an Olympus Pen EE half-frame camera next to the Sony's that tiny!

The a7 allows me to run apps in-camera as well as use smart phone apps so I can control the a7 from my phone. The most impressive app is the RCCDroidPro tethering app. A sound trap for under $6? Yup. Plus it does a whole lot more. I doubt a sound trap is something Nikon or Canon would ever integrate into their cameras; the only option for the big boys is DIY or a manufactured tool that costs too much money. 

The Sony developed remote app isn't half bad; it's missing a number of features that RCCDroidPro offers, but the nice thing about the Sony remote app is you can control your camera without tethering it by creating an ad-hoc type wireless network. A gimmick for some is a wonderful tool for others. Set the camera on a tripod, and use your smart phone to control its parameters, and the beautiful thing is what you see is what you get:

The ability to actually see the results of your settings on the fly is incredible. You can see right away where your exposure is off. WYSIWYG is blessing in the world of photography. No more remembering formulas, aperture/shutter combinations...just keep your eye on the rear LCD or the viewfinder and have at it!

One of my favorite features of the a7 camera is called "setting effect". It allows me to toggle a feature that keeps the screen bright as I stop down an adapted old-school lens. In other words even though there's no mechanical/electronic linkage between my lens and the a7 the screen doesn't go dark as I stop down the lens (or what some call stop-down metering). This is impressive, and while it does get laggy in low light in bright light there's no lag at all. What this means is any lens you throw on there, you can go ahead and stop it down and still rely on the screen to compose your scene without worrying that it'll get to dark to work with.

Another feature that's handy is the peak focusing tool. I had no idea how handy this feature would be, especially on grass. This tool alone is worth the camera's price--you can pre-focus and actually see where you've pre-focused. From the video you can see how easy it is to use manual focus lenses on this body.

The magnification tool for critical focus is handy for subjects that don't move or who can stand still while you bring them into focus. It is extremely accurate, but it's a cumbersome and slow tool to use. Granted it has revealed just how sharp my 105mm f/2.5 AIS lens is @ 24MP, and boy does it hold its ground well! If only Sony would produce their version of a lens like the 105mm f/2.5 as an AF lens (would it be too much to hope for an f/2 with AF?)...then this system would really take off. I know they could do it--the 105mm f/2.5 delivers the goods and it's a small lens!!! 

If Sony actually updated the firmware so that the magnification tool included a dual display like that used in the Fuji XT-1 this approach to manual focusing would be incredible. A dual screen (or PIP) approach allows you to see the magnified view all while you can still follow/compose your subject properly. As it is right now you only see the magnified view but not your entire subject (it's a black screen). This is an easy firmware fix, and one that I hope Sony implements soon.

Will I keep going with Sony? I don't know at this point in time what their plans are in terms of glass. Unless they bring out an AF 135mm STF or make a more compact FE version of the 135mm f/1.8 in the near future, then I doubt I'll completely buy into the Sony system. Their plans for lenses are up in the air--slow zooms dominate, and the two primes, while incredibly sharp and compact, are at too wide for my work. If they can come up with a 105 (or 100) f/2 or f/2.5 and a 135mm AF STF, then I would love to make the switch. I don't like having to adapt lenses--I'd rather have a native FE-mount version of the lenses I do use. 

Till my next review, rambling, or post, this is hey,hey...