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Sony A7R review

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Sony A7R
  • Sony A7R
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Summary

Our Score:

9

Pros

  • Great build quality
  • Impressive video capabilities
  • Strong image quality

Cons

  • Restrictive native lens line-up
  • AF not as good as A7

Key Features

  • 36MP Full-frame CMOS sensor; 3in, 921k-dot LCD; Sony E-Mount; ISO 100 – 25,600; Full HD 1080p video
  • Manufacturer: Sony
  • Review Price: £1,699.00

What is the Sony A7R?

Until recently, the only way to get your hands on a system camera with a full-frame sensor was to buy a Leica M-system camera, a practice that typically involves remortgaging your house. By placing a 35mm full-frame CMOS sensor into a mirrorless compact system camera, Sony created not one but two world firsts: the Sony A7 and its stablemate the A7R.

While the two models are very similar there are several key differences, chief among which is that the Alpha 7R boasts a significantly higher resolution of 36.4MP, compared to the Alpha 7’s 24.3MP. It’s got a few other tricks under the bonnet too, as you’d expect given the fact that it costs a few hundred pounds more. So, is it worth the extra cash?

SEE ALSO: 10 Best Cameras You Can Buy

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Sony A7R: Features

What really sets the Alpha 7R apart from its compact system camera (CSC) competition is its sensor. The full-frame CMOS sensor housed within the compact body (127 x 94 x 48mm) has more in common with the kind you’d find on a pro-standard DSLR than any other CSC on the market at the moment.

The whopping resolution of the Alpha 7R’s sensor would mean that a lot of similar cameras might struggle to keep up with image processing demands, however Sony has equipped the A7R with its new BIONZ X processor, which it says will process images three times faster than the processors found on prior Alpha models and Sony’s NEX cameras.

SEE ALSO: Best Sony Cameras

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There do still have to be sacrifices though, and Sony has chosen to make them in the Alpha 7R’s shooting speed. The A7R’s maximum shooting speed is just 2.5fps, significantly slower than its CSC rivals. You can increase this to 4fps by switching off AF and metering between shots, but the A7R will never be a camera for high-speed photographers.

Electronic viewfinders can be a little divisive – some photographers can’t stand them – but the 2.4million-dot specimen supplied on the A7R is a very impressive bit of kit (although perhaps edged out a little in quality by recent Olympus and Fujifilm offerings such as the Olympus Stylus 1 and Fujifilm X-T1). There’s also a 3-inch rear-LCD screen, with a resolution of 921,000 dots.

SEE ALSO: 5 Best DSLR Cameras

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This is all very similar to what you’ll get on the Alpha 7R. Elsewhere there’s also Full HD 1080p video capture possible at a frame rate of 60p. Support for external microphones means the A7R is not a bad option for videographers. It’s also equipped with Wi-Fi and Near Field Communication (NFC) connectivity, and it’s possible to instant transfer images from the camera to another device like a smartphone thanks to Sony’s excellent PlayMemories app.

The Alpha 7R is either equivalent or superior to its cheaper brother spec-wise in pretty much every way except one: autofocus. The A7 uses a combination of two types of autofocus, called phase detection and contrast detection, to deliver lightning fast AF. The A7R, on the other hand, uses only contrast-detect, and is therefore a little slower.

godafoss

February 11, 2014, 9:40 pm

It's without peer as it's the only FF mirrorless camera. Yes sensor is great, but there are issues with the camera such as poor AF, slow lenses to help give the illusion of a small system. Sony has been careful not to release the fast lenses normal FF DSLR users love so much as they would show up the flaw in the system; tiny camera and big lens is unbalanced. Also battery life is just woeful, very limited native lens selection, no electronic first curtain shutter on the A7R, which by the way the A7 has, which is bad news for slow shutter speeds say in the 1/2-1/30s range for landscape say.

Jon

February 20, 2014, 8:21 am

I'd guess you don't own the camera as you've merely listed all the stuff that's listed ad nauseum by canikon / M4/3 owners across the many photography forums on the web. Also because, if you owned one, you'd have listed a different flaw - in fact in general usage the only one that really matters - shutter lag. All the other complaints you make are massively overblown. With lenses, the camera takes pretty much any lens ever made, OK, so they're MF, but no other FF camera system can do this. If you want tele- don't forget the camera takes e-mount too if you want to keep the size down. The AF isn't up there with the very best PDAF / current camera stuff, but go back a couple of years and its on a par - its certainly not poor, its just not in the top 10 - lastly, battery life - I honestly can't fathom this one and I wonder what the person who originated this comment was doing with the camera. I shot a wedding over XMAS, I used three different lenses, the LEAE-4 adaptor and shot 1100 (RAW) pictures - I used two batteries and had 15% left in the second when I was done.

Lotus Eater

February 21, 2014, 10:45 am

My Zeiss FE 55mm f/1.8 is far from slow and is nowhere near unbalanced on my A7.
AF is excellent in decent light, and certainly no worse in low light than some DSLR/standard 50 combos I've used in the past - it's an overblown issue.
Sony weren't careful not to release the 70-200/4, so your point about large lenses is kind of redundant.

Jerry

February 24, 2014, 6:58 pm

Why do people keep parroting Sony's claim that this is the first or only FF mirrorless camera when the Leica M9 has been out since 2009?

Lotus Eater

February 26, 2014, 1:29 pm

"1 According to survey conducted by Sony as of October 2013, for non-reflex interchangeable lens digital camera equipped with auto focus function."

ChrisH

March 9, 2014, 11:25 am

Is it just me or looking at the sample pictures posted they seem to have a bad attack of the measles! - I'm thinking this must be dirt/dust on the sensor? - Is this common to this type of camera - obviously having to spend hours on Photoshop correcting this is a BIG put off!

Lotus Eater

March 11, 2014, 12:45 pm

This camera has probably been passed from reviewer to reviewer and nobody has bothered to clean it. Imagine how many product shots have been taken with the lens or body cap detached, allowing dust to enter the chamber.
I don't find that any NEX I've owned or the A7 is any more susceptible to dust than any DSLR I've used - plus, when they do get dirty, they're much easier to clean.

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