Sony Full Frame Mirrorless Cameras | Gear Talk Episode 3

Gear & Apps July 30th 2014 1:40 PM 25 Comments

2 Different Owners 2 Different Experiences

Pye and I have both invested into the new Sony Full Frame Mirrorless camera system. We bought our cameras at the same time, and we find that we’re having different experiences with our new mirrorless cameras. I eventually sold all my Canon equipment and now shoot exclusively on the Sony system, Pye will most likely end up selling his Sony equipment. Check out our video review to see exactly why our experiences are so different.

Gear Talk Episode 3 | Sony Full Frame Mirrorless Cameras


Pye’s Gear

My Gear

03-performance-4-stars

This is an area where the Sony Full Frame Mirrorless system excels. Sony gives you 3 different camera options to maximize your camera’s performance based on your style of shooting. For general purpose shooting there’s the A7, for high resolution there’s the A7R, and for extreme lowlight you have the A7s. The quality of the images and videos we’re getting from these cameras has been nothing short of incredible.

In my experience, photographers and clients attribute size to professionalism, the bigger the camera, the more professional the photographer. I recently sold all my Canon equipment and switched to the Sony Mirrorless system because I can get professional results and the performance I need from these cameras.

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Professional results aside, there are 2 things that keep us from giving this system 5 out of 5 stars. One, the start up time is terrible, it takes about 2-3 seconds. If you shoot with a lot of prime lenses then this could be a problem during events because you have to turn off the camera in between lens changes (because the sensor will literally suck in the dust). Also, the auto focus on this camera is average at best.

The camera does have an AF-assist beam, and it’s pretty bright and obtrusive, especially when you’re trying to capture candid moments. Also, if you’re planning on using the A-E Mount Sony Adapter to shoot with their DSLR Zeiss lenses, keep in mind you’re going to be using the AF built inside the adapter, which is also mediocre at best.

09-features-5-stars

Customization is the keyword here. Almost all the buttons on these cameras can be customized, and it gives you the potential the optimize your shooting workflow. This camera has all the functions that you want/need and more. There’s even an app store for this camera, and you can download apps directly to the camera!

features

The Sony cameras also have focus peaking, zebra patterns, zoom magnification, and you can access and change all these features WHILE recording video. It also has an Electric Viewfinder (EVF) which I find amazingly helpful when shooting stills and video. You can get perfectly exposed shots in one shot in bright sunlight or dark rooms with no problem.

The Sony Full Frame Mirrorless Camera system has all the features want and need in both a still and video camera, which is why we give it 5/5 stars.

11-design-2-stars

Pye thinks the design of the camera is terrible, and I think it’s pretty average. When we say design, we’re not talking about the way the camera looks, because the cosmetics look great, but we’re talking about the camera’s interface. The vast customization options as well as the variety of functions makes the interface’s learning curve steep for someone just picking up the camera.

Sony a7s and a7r grip

Size is another issue (and yes, we know it’s supposed to be small). I found that when I first started shooting with this camera, I would often bump buttons and change settings I didn’t mean to because the buttons are so sensitive and close together (although I don’t have that problem anymore since I’ve become more familiar with the camera body). Also after a day of shooting events, I found that my hand would cramp because I don’t have enough camera to hold, so I had to buy the vertical grip to reduce my whining.

For design, Pye gave the Sony Full Frame Mirrorless system 1 star, I gave it 3, so we split the difference and agreed on 2 stars.

19-quality-5-stars

Across the board, with whatever camera you choose, you’re going to have a quality camera that gives you quality results. Low light sensitivity is unbelievable, the dynamic range is fantastic, the lens line up is vast if you consider all the options you have (A-Mount and vintage rangefinder lenses) .

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The quality of the images and video we’ve gotten from these cameras have not only been impressive, but also allows us to push our creative boundaries, which is why we give this system 5 out of 5 stars.

24-value-5-stars

When we think of value, we obviously consider how much we’re getting for how much we spend. The A7 is a professional full frame camera at an amazing price, the A7R offers Medium Format resolution in a point and shoot sized body, and the A7s can shoot in pitch black without looking like a still from a horror movie. With all things considered ,we gave this system 5 out of 5 stars for value.

33-overall-score-4.5-stars

Overall, we gave the Sony Full Frame Mirrorless System 4.2 out of 5 stars. Pye is on the fence, and has reservations saying to buy just because of the AF and the Full Frame E-Mount lens selection. I think it’s a fantastic camera, and I would definitely recommend buying it. So there you have it, same camera systems with two different opinions.

We hope you enjoyed this episode of Gear Talk. Be sure to subscribe to our Youtube Channel for more!

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Cha

About

I’m a photographer and filmmaker based in Southern California. When I’m not taking photos I enjoy burgers, cats, and Benedict Cumberbatch.

25 Comments

  1. fotosiamo

    I do agree that the focusing system and being able to change AF points quickly can be a challenge. I am trying to use the AF-C more now so I don’t have to rely so much on the Flexible AF as much.

    The Zone AF lets you move around quicker, BUT it covers far too much space with its 3×3 grid. It would be more precise if it’s only a 2×2 grid.

    What I would suggest to do to get faster at switching your AF is to assign the Center Button around the thumb dial to Focus Settings. When you press on it, you can use the directional pad to change AF point, or scroll the thumb dial to move to a different AF mode style.

    • Andrew-Knox Kaniki

      That is awesome. Thanks for sharing that. I am always looking out for a light weight camera and I like the reviews on the A7R. Pricey but worth every dollar!

  2. fotosiamo

    I highly recommend getting the grip, too. I don’t feel tired carrying my a7R once I have the grip on, and since it’s relatively lightweight even with the grip on, it’s no brainer.

    As far as accidental presses or settings change, I only experienced that with the ISO settings on the scrolling thumb dial. I have since disabled that function so I could only change the ISO once I hit C3 button.

  3. Stan Rogers

    That sounds about right. It’s a system you’re either going to love or hate (or maybe more of a “really like or not like very much at all”). A lot of that is down to the immaturity of the system as a whole (you have to step outside of the line to get a full complement of lenses, though most of what’s native to the system now is definitely up to scratch), and several of the early lens choices are obviously aimed to enhance the compactness of the system. At the same time, it’s the sort of camera that rewards deliberate work much more than “decisive moment” shooting. I personally don’t like the “naked” size of the body any more than I liked the compact 35s of the pre-AF days; the vertical grip really isn’t optional for sustained hand-held work. (I always found that handling was better with a winder or motor drive attached, even if it was never turned on, and I even had a bit of wood attached to the bottom of a camera that didn’ have an available winder/drive. Pocketable cameras are nice and all, and form factor doesn’t much matter on a tripod, but I’ve never understood why anybody would want a teeny-tiny handheld all-day shooter. Even before the buttons everywhere digital world, they were fiddly and difficult to hold comfortably over the long haul.) But I can finally say that EVFs don’t necessarily suck. A few more native lenses, a cleaner UI and snappier response could really make me a believer, but right now I’m stuck saying it’s a great camera system, but not for me.

  4. fotosiamo

    I’ve shot all my product shots for http://www.lejolie.com with the a7R and my experience and result has been fantastic. I really do love having all that 36MP resolution

  5. Sean Smith

    Switching off the automatic picture review and putting the camera into ‘Airplane Mode’ gives me in the neighbourhood of 700-900 shots before I drain the battery. This is on an A7 with the LA-EA4 adapter. I have two batteries they’ll last me an entire day so long as I don’t upload/chimp/play with them too much.
    This isn’t doing video of course but it might be something for you to try if you don’t like the battery life.

  6. Chris Helton

    Maybe you can help out with this. Since you seem film with the FE lenses. These lenses have the variable speed focus in manual mode. Slow turn vs fast turn on the focus ring gives different distance changes in focus. This makes these lenses a nightmare to film with. I can’t reliably pull focus on these.
    Wasn’t crazy over using the laea4 and larger lenses, but this seems the only option. I do really love the voigtlander lenses but sometimes I want af.

    • Cha

      I usually don’t use the FE lenses for video because of the variable speed focus. I do however use the FE 24-70 when doing wide angle shots that don’t require me to rack focus, and when I’m glidecaming or hand held I’ll shift the Camera into AF-C and shoot wide. 95% of the time i’m using one of the Sony Zeiss A-mount lenses (with adapter of course) for video. I do love the voigtlander lens for video and would love to invest in a few more. You kind of have to pick your poison when choosing lenses with this system. Hope that helps, good luck!

  7. Michael Lin

    The A7 and A7R don’t disappoint in image quality, but it’s the autofocusing speed that’s throwing me off in trying to get my self to purchase either one of them. My experiences with these two cameras are that they really cannot match some of the hi-end DSLRs on the market. That’s truly a disappointment for me.

    The A7S is a beast in low light, no doubt. But with only 12 Megapixel, it really leaves little room for me to crop the images afterwards. Sometimes I do find myself doing extreme cropping like Pye did in his race car video, and I am already suffering from the D4S and Df’s 16 Megapixel. Man, do I wish the A7S is only on par with the A7 in resolution…

  8. Matthew Saville

    Simply put, you can’t have your cake and eat it too. I feel that this Sony A7 system of cameras is just 1-2 generations away from taking over the world, though. The question is, will Sony be able to listen to us regarding ALL of the little quirks that make a camera less usable for certain professions, …or will they take their sweet time and just continue to spit out model after model of various updates / variations on the same camera body?

    In other words, they need to do some extensive work to make these cameras handle better, but so far they’ve stuck to basically the same exact design for all three A7 series cameras, which I find to be distressing…

    =Matt=

  9. Austin Swenson

    I love that people are reviewing the A7 line, it makes me feel better more and more very day that I made a good decision getting and A7 myself!

    I think i would respectfully disagree about giving the design element so few stars, because I think that its merely something you have to get used to using.

    I started out shooting Sony, and when I went to my A7, the only thing I needed to get used to was the smaller form factor and changing where the focus point was on the fly (I just did like Fotosiamo says above and programmed the center button to change it and then moved it with the D-pad, but I also like being able to lock it into place because I used to inadvertently switch it on accident all the time with other cameras ), whereas both of you who were used to canon equipment went to an entirely different system altogether and it was probably a little cumbersome making the switch trying to find what you needed to get to. I had the same issue using Canon equipment in college for the school paper. It was hard to do at first, but I eventually caught on and it was fine.

    I agree about button customization being both awesome and a little troubling in case someone else uses your camera, but I don’t think that would happen very often. But then there is that silly spinning wheel… I think they could have made that slightly more stiff to move around, but I think all of this stuff is just getting used to what you use.

    I also appreciate the video and showing the equipment and not just telling us about it! Thanks for the article and video guys!

  10. David Hall

    I’m still shooting crop with the a6000, but I’d like to get the A7 someday when I can justify the purchase. I can definitely say the menu system could be a bit more user friendly.

    • Matthew Saville

      If you feel this way, then you might want to watch the video we just shared by Zack Arias. IMO, for 90% of use, the A6000 is the A7’s equal, or is even superior.

      Just some food for thought. Unless you’re utterly obsessed with bokeh, (which I’d argue might not be a healthy thing) …or if you spend TONS of time at ISO 6400+, the A6000 is the best choice around.

      =Matt=

    • Enzo Scorziello

      Ive shot with both. I rented both the a7 and the a-6000 for a week before I decided which to buy as an upgrade to my NEx-3. I ended up going with the a-6000. The “gains” offered by the a7 over the a6000 were not enough for me to justify the price increase. Plus the AF on the a-6000 is top notch. The image quality sooc was practically indistinguishable. The bokeh is slightly better on the a7 but for me it boiled down to price and the AF.

  11. Gary Fong

    Actually, the focus system is the best feature of the a7. He describes not being able to ‘find’ the correct focus point, and therefore he needs to crop and refocus. This is because he did not turn focus tracking on, especially the focus lock feature. I have a Canon EOS5Dii system, and a Nikon D7100, and those cameras have bigger joysticks for focus point selection – however, it is very – very slow compared to the Sony’s incredible focusing technology. Here is a video to show you what it can do – http://youtu.be/jvvM-XCiieM

    I agree that as the camera comes from the factory with many key features unreachable without button customization, and that is probably because there are so many features – I made a spreadsheet to show how many features it has, (http://www.tinyurl.com/garyfongsonyfunctions) and how to assign them to the custom buttons or function menu. To be able to put all of these features onto buttons, there are 51 features that would have to be crammed into buttons, each one requiring selection either by button or menu. What I do is customize a button set (say one Memory setting for portraiture, one for action) and switch back and forth. The reason I made the spreadsheet is because I want to standardize all of my Sonys (I have the a7r, a7s and a6000 – which by the way is a great camera)

    I am not affiliated in any way with Sony, nor have I ever received a dollar from them. The reason that I am such a Sony advocate is because the technology is incredible, but requires a huge learning curve. I have complete Canon and Nikon systems – (see photo: http://www.tinyurl.com/garyfonggearbag) and while I am not selling them (as a manufacturer we test all of the brands) I no longer shoot with Nikon or Canon gear.

    As to the lens selections for Zeiss, the FE lenses are limited, and a stop slower than their A mount counterparts. For Canon, I have a 14mm f2.8L, 16-35, 24-105 f4, 85mm f1.2L, 24-70L and 70-200L. For Zeiss or G series lenses, the only pieces I’m missing would be the 14mm f2.8L (rectilinear converted) and the 85mm f1.2L. If they become available, I’d scoop them right up. So yes, the Sony lens selection is not as diverse as my Canon gear, and I do miss the 85mm f1.2L. Other than that, Sony is brand new innovative technology. It’s like comparing Apple’s operating system to Windows 95. Canon and Nikon have made no huge tech changes since the EOS5Dii, or the F3s.

    If Canon or Nikon had the best technology, I would instantly switch systems. To see what gear I use to shoot a wedding, watch this YouTube video – http://youtu.be/aVcQlhdaBJg?list=UUmcCVxfpBsl03Qy8WHkaTQg

    I think it will explain a lot.

    • Austin Swenson

      Gary, have you heard anything about the 85mm lens rumored to come out on Sony E-mount? With that lens map calendar they put out a little while ago, we may be getting that fast 85mm prime lens very soon!

    • Matthew Saville

      Gary, I think you’re not giving Canon or Nikon nearly as much credit as you ought, with regards to their advances in technology, however I do agree with you that the Sony system is still vastly superior and far more versatile in many respects.

      I also agree that the AF on these new A-mount cameras is fantastic, and I also love how highly customizable they are. In fact I am quite happy with how the A6000 operates, and I hear the AF on it is even better than the full-frame versions because of some new hybrid AF technology.

      I’m pretty sure that Canon and/or Nikon will come around, though. They’re not as dumb as Kodak, I doubt. ;-)

      =Matt=

    • Enzo Scorziello

      Try out the Rokinon 85mm T1.5. Yes its a manual focus lens but the image quality and DOF are absolutely amazing. With some practice I have actually been able to shoot some sports (soccer & basketball) with some good results with this lens. By far one of my favorite lenses for the e-mount.

  12. Gary Fong

    To see a detailed review of what the Sony a7s can do, visit http://www.sony-a7s.com

  13. Paul Blacklock

    fun and informative review to learn the pros and cons of the new camera. great insights, i will save my money for the next generation of cameras who will follow in Sony’s footsteps. hopefully it won’t be long because it is still tempting to get one.

    Cheers
    Paul

  14. Stephen Velasquez

    The best review ever. I would love to see more reviews base on user’s experience and not just going off spec sheets.

  15. Steve Enoch

    Great review. Love the two sides and perspectives. Very enlightening. Both did a great job explaining why or why it didn’t work for them. Keep up the good work!

  16. Rafael Steffen

    If Sony improves their auto focus system to be more precise like the DSLRs in the market, then some people will consider seriously to jump ship.

  17. Rob Koch

    I’ve been actively looking at jumping ship to the sony line.

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