New Cameras From Sony – I’m Intrigued

Sony has been making headlines with a lot of intriguing new camera announcements lately.

First came the QX10 and QX100 – seriously scaled down efforts that had a lens and a sensor and then use your smartphone for a screen and controls. Given that the QX100 uses the same sensor as the RX100, I was intrigued – until I found out it’s not capable of saving RAW images and watched a review done by the Digital Rev guys that really bashed the accompanying iPhone app (the review was here but seems to have been pulled).

sony-qx100-on-phone

 

Next is the Sony RX10 – a camera featuring a 24-200mm zoom lens with a maximum aperture of F2.8 across its entire range. I lost interest when I found out that this definitely-not-pocket-sized camera was pairing that lens with the same 1 inch sensor in the RX100 II. It’s not a big surprise that the list price for this camera is US$1300 given that sort of glass but I question who the target market for this camera might be.

zrx10beauty-l__small

 

Finally we come to something a lot more interesting. After months of rumors about a “full frame NEX” camera, they’ve announced the A7 and A7R – two mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras featuring full frame sensors.

Sony-A7

 

The A7 features a 24 megapixel sensor and will sell for US$1,700 while the A7R has a 36 megapixel sensor and will go for US$2,300. Here’s the specs for the A7R, which I got from here.

  • Mount: Sony E Full-Frame
  • Sensor Resolution: 36.4 MP
  • Sensor Size: 35.9 x 24mm
  • Image Resolution: 7360 x 4912
  • Native ISO Sensitivity: 100-6,400
  • Boost Low ISO Sensitivity: 50
  • Boost High ISO Sensitivity: 12,800-25,600
  • Processor: BIONZ X
  • Metering System: Advanced 1200-zone evaluative metering
  • Dust Reduction: Yes
  • Weather Sealing/Protection: Yes
  • Body Build: Magnesium Alloy
  • Shutter: Up to 1/8000 and 30 sec bulb exposure
  • Storage: 1x SD slot
  • Viewfinder Type: OLED EVF, 2.4 million dots
  • Viewfinder Coverage: 100%
  • Speed: 4 FPS
  • Built-in Flash: No
  • Autofocus System: Fast Hybrid AF (phase-detection AF/contrast-detection AF)
  • LCD Screen: 3″ TFT LCD with 921,600 dots
  • Movie Modes: Full 1080p HD @ 60 fps max
  • Movie Exposure Control: Full
  • Movie Output: MOV, Uncompressed via HDMI
  • In-Camera HDR Capability: Yes
  • GPS: No
  • WiFi: Yes
  • Remote Control: Yes, PC control w/ remote video capture control
  • Battery Type: InfoLITHIUM® NP-FW50 (7.2V)
  • Battery Life: 340 images
  • USB Standard: 2.0
  • Weight: 407g (body only)

This image (from here) kind of sums up what I find intriguing about this camera:

sony_a7_size_comparison-550x327

 

That’s a Canon EOS 5D Mk III on the left.  It’s probably comparable in size to my Nikon D800. On the right is Olympus’s new OM-D E-M1 – similar in size to the Sony but packing a much smaller M4/3 sensor.

So here’s what I started thinking – my Nikon D800 body weighs 1,000 grams. The Sony A7R, aside from its much smaller size, weighs less than half of that.

My most-used lens, the Nikkor 24-70mm F2.8 weighs 900 grams. The Zeiss 24-70mm F4 lens weighs in at 426 grams.

The Nikkor 70-200mm F2.8 weighs 1,530 grams. The Sony 70-200mm F4 lens weighs 840 grams.

So I can walk around with 2,000 grams on my shoulder/around my neck or under 1,000. For you young kids out there the difference may not matter much but for an old guy like me, it very well could. On the other hand, an F4 lens is not an F2.8 lens and the differences could be important to me as well. And initially there is no Sony E mount equivalent to my Nikkor 85mm lens, an important lens for me as well.

I recall a couple of years back when I had the Sony NEX-7 that I loved the camera but was very frustrated by the lack of lenses that worked well with its APS-C sensor. The A7 and A7R will have just 5 lenses initially (the two I mention above plus a “kit” lens running 28-70mm with variable maximum aperture, a 35mm F2.8 and a 55mm F1.8). Of course more will come in time.

So the question becomes – would I trade off my Nikon D800, 8 lenses, 2 speedlights, battery grip and other accessories and convert to this new Sony system – primarily because of size and weight? It’s not a decision to be made lightly. I will be looking at reviews very carefully and also watching for new lenses. I don’t see myself making any moves right away, but six months from now it could be a different story.

Even if I don’t go down the Sony road, kudos for them for pushing the market. It will be interesting to see if and how Nikon and Canon respond to these new cameras.

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