Cale Byers

Sony a7 Review

March 25, 2018

Going to have this post and edit as I have new thoughts or whatever. I sold the a7 and now have an a7ii.


corrected on May 1, 2019: I think this paragraph is wrong and also a little arrogant. It's not easy to capture moments precisely, considering there's also viewfinder lag. 5FPS is limiting, but I really don't care that much, since I don't shoot sports that often. And when manually focusing, it's crippling to only have one photo. It's better to just blast away and eventually get the shot, rather than pretending I'm some elite sniper photographer. So ignore this paragraph below. Click the details if you want to read it.

false hypothesis about timing...

Funny that burst mode is causing me to miss shots. You end up being wrong on the timings, and because it's only 5 FPS, you have gaps of 0.2 seconds... more accurate to just shoot on your own for moments like apex of swing or different positions. Unless your burst is 10-15FPS minimum, the timing ends up being obnoxious to fight. Haven't confirmed this, but I'll try snagging some key photos, like when the ball just almost hits the bat... I think I'll have far better success doing single shots than burst.

December 8, 2018

The focus magnification buttons are difficult to press after a while and become kind of dirty. The exposure compensation knob also can become sluggish when bits of dirt make their way into it. I wish the software could detect focal changes in manual lenses, simply by analyzing the contrast and other geometric patterns. When focusing is detected, it could magnifiy a cross-section to save me from clicking the enlarge button and fighting it.

When you shoot in JPG, it saves files that are about 24MB. I shot a wrestling tournament in JPG thinking I'd save data and be working with 4-7MB files. But instead, they were practically the same size as RAW photos, and I had zero control over white balance or other fine details. If I had shot RAW, files would be about 24-30MB, and then the JPGs would be scaled down for quick previews. VERY aggravating experience from last year that I forgot to mention on here.

The screen's oleophobic coating could be a lot better. Frequently have to wipe it off. Not a big deal though.

Video is pretty good, although I wish I could shoot faster than 60fps. Having higher speeds would be cool.

Noise performance for in-camera processed JPGs is quite impressive. Shot over 10,000 ISO, I think even up to about 25,000, and it was much better than anything I've shot with Nikon or Canon crop sensors. And keep in mind, this is using old manual film lenses with lower light transmission than modern glass, presumably.

The neck strap is gross. I don't like the texture of the rubberized side. Replacing it with something leather or just fabric will be my next project

Can't think of anything else right now...


May 1, 2019

I sold my a7 in April and then bought a used a7ii. I'll update this post with some closing thoughts about the a7 and then reflect on how the a7ii is an improvement. In the future, I'll create another page for the a7ii after I've used it long enough to have some meaningful insights.

The neck strap for my a7ii only has the gross rubber part on the middle section, rather than the whole strap. This is greatly appreciated, since the a7 strap was entirely rubberized. The buttons for the a7 were on a perpendicular edge on the back of camera, and the angle made it difficult to press the buttons. The a7ii buttons are more accessible, and the design of the body, having better angles, will make it easier to keep clean.

When I first got the a7, the viewfinder was the huge wow factor. It shows exactly what your photo will look like - no guessing. And it automatically switches between the screen and your viewfinder if you put your eye (or thumb) in front of the eyepiece. This convenience is amazing. And the focus peaking was also a wow factor. After a while, I got used to these perks. And then when shooting a regular DSLR, I accidentally overexposed many photos, not paying attention to the metering system as much.

For the a7ii, there's not a significant "wow" aspect compared to my first jump from a crop-DSLR (Rebel T5) to a mirrorless full frame. Compared to the a7, the differences are minor, but appreciated. It is significantly heavier, which I don't appreciate, but I can get used to it. The gyroscope makes the camera twitch in your hands when you turn it on - feels like it's alive inside. And because it's got moving parts, I now have to be cautious about transporting the body safely, without jolting it.

I don't do a lot of video work, but the biggest improvement for me is the stabilization while using focus magnification. Previously, there would be a lot of shake while looking at the magnified frame, but the stabilizer makes it much cleaner to manually focus. And from some limited video tests, the stabilizer is also very helpful in improving the quality and "professionalism" of the footage.

In terms of costs, I bought the a7 as a package deal with a Sony 55-210mm kit lens for $500 in January of 2018, at a pawn shop in Portland. At the time, it was a killer deal. Even today, about 15-16 months later, that is still a great price, below market value. So I had no trouble selling the lens for $130 on eBay, and then the body for $550 on Craigslist. It cost me absolutely nothing to own, and I made about $100 after the selling fees and the extra batteries I had purchased. It seemed like the right time to sell, since a lot of a7 cameras were going for about 500-600 online, and it'd be harder to get the same price next year. I expect that in about 2-3 years, I will sell my a7ii and either get the a7iii or the a7rii. Having extra megapixels would be nice. Alternatively, I could keep the camera, and then buy an a7 as a backup and shoot with two cameras. Unnecessary, but perhaps a more responsible way to spend money. However, the silent shutter on newer models is very important for weddings, street photography, concerts (especially classical or opera), and other intimate moments where noise is unwanted.