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Sony A7R: Design and Performance

By Mike Topham



  • Recommended by TR
Sony A7R


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Sony A7R: Design

The body design of the Alpha 7R is where it shares the most in common with the Alpha 7. They aren’t so much similar as 'basically identical' – both unfussy, utilitarian and effective. The little 'R' on the front of the Alpha 7R’s body would be the only hope of a layman tasked with telling the difference between the two. It looks a lot like the Sony Cyber-Shot RX1, with an additional handgrip and pentaprism style hump for the viewfinder.

Sony A7R 13

Much like its sensor, the body design gives the 7R a feel more closely resembling a DSLR than another CSC. The handgrip on the front is sizeable and feels robust to hold. This is further aided by the magnesium alloy build and the comprehensive sealing that protects against dust and inclement weather.

Control-wise, things are excellent. The arrangement feels very natural and smooth to operate, with a fairly standard configuration of buttons on the rear. On the top plate are a few dials for mode selection and exposure compensation, the shutter release button and a non-assigned button that you can customise to control whatever function you prefer.

Sony A7R 11

Sony A7R: Performance

The major feature to talk about here is the AF. While it is, as we mentioned earlier, slower than the A7, it’s important to note that the contrast detect system used on the A7R, identical to the one seen in previous Sony cameras like the Sony A3000 is by no means bad. It’s perfectly sprightly until you get into low light, where it does struggle a little.

There is another way that the focusing on the A7R could be improved as well, and that’s with the addition of a touchscreen. The vari-angle LCD on the back of the camera is a nice touch, but it would be so much more useful if you could use it to manually select AF points – currently a rather tedious process on the A7R.

Sony A7R 7

Elsewhere on the A7R, performance is excellent. Metering is reliable and accurate – you can set the camera to evaluative metering and simply let it take command of a scene for pleasing, even exposures. One feature that’s especially welcome is the obliquely named 'Zebra' mode, which displays black and white stripes across overexposed areas, allowing you to immediately flag up any danger of blowing out highlights. The usefulness of this function carries over to video capture.

Sony has launched a new range of Carl Zeiss optics specifically designed for the Alpha 7 and 7R – a 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS, a 35mm f/2.8, a 55mm f/1.8 and a 24-70mm f/4 OSS. Sony has announced plans to expand the range in the future but it is, for now, rather limited. Utilising an LA-EA4 adapter can allow you to use any of Sony’s older E-mount lenses with the Alpha 7R, however as these lenses were designed to work with smaller APS-C-sized sensors they won’t be able to reap the full benefits of the A7R’s enormous sensor (indeed, the A7R will automatically crop the image to a 16MP resolution when these lenses are used).


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.


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.


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."


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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