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What's so great about this mirrorless camera!

December 14, 2013 12:45 IST

What's so great about this mirrorless camera!

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Reviews42.com

For all of its unorthodox choices, does Sony Alpha A7R offer an alternative to the likes of Canon and Nikon for professional photographers? We find out.

It’s been more than obvious that Sony has been making some serious moves in the camera market in recent time. It attempted to revolutionise the typical smartphone camera by offering a standalone lens that could be attached to your mobile device, as seen with the Cyber-Shot DSC-QX10. Then we had the Cyber-Shot RX10, which looked to provide a strong middle ground between point-and-shoot and DSLR cameras.

So what does the Sony Alpha A7R attempt to accomplish?

Perhaps it wants to provide the highest amount of detail possible with a camera, as seen with the new image processing engine and extraordinarily high optical resolution. As part of two choices to hit the Indian market, the Alpha A7R is the more premium choice.

 


Photographs: store.sony.eu

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Design

In terms of build quality and overall structure, it’s hard to find much fault with the Sony Alpha A7R. It weighs 407 grams alone (465 grams with the memory card and battery) and comes off as significantly smaller, even with such a strong grip and abnormally large sensor within it. The camera can take a beating with its magnesium build offering resistance against both dust and moisture.

The choice of buttons and controls is significantly deep however. You’ll find several buttons to assign shortcuts to: mode dials on the top for switching between exposure modes, and other dials for altering shutter speed and aperture.

Interestingly, the navigation pad on the back next to the display also serves as a scrolling dial. Hit the Fn button and you’ll have access to a quick menu for altering settings on the fly. The display is sadly not touch-enabled, though the electronic viewfinder works quite well.

Again, the display doesn’t support full articulation and can only be tilted up or down. At least you have the option though and it certainly helps when taking shots of crowds, for instance, from a high point.

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Photographs: store.sony.eu

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Interface

The lack of a touch-screen makes some features such as auto focus a little less user-friendly than normal. Nonetheless, the Alpha A7R is backed by a strong suit of features, one of those being the ability to choose the size of your auto focus point.

First time users will have an easier time navigating the various options, which have been divided into six different tabs. The usual array of picture effects, 13 in total, are available including Retro Photo, HDR Painting, Pop Colour, Miniature, Watercolour and many more.

Exposure settings include Auto, with a choice for Superior Auto that lets the camera analyse your surroundings and choose the best settings possible for a picture, Programmed AE, Shutter Speed priority and more. You’ll also be able to adjust white balance, colour temperature, creative style and many more options in various ways. One of the returning features is Sweep Panorama, which essentially works like the Panorama mode but creates a very wide shot of your surroundings in the process.

Sony has also included a multitude of connection options with the Alpha A7R including NFC and Wi-Fi. These can be used in conjunction with the Play Memories app to transfer images to your smartphone or mobile device for sharing.

You can also convert images for optimised 4K-resolution playback on Ultra HD displays supported by BRAVIA Sync and HDMI.

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Photographs: store.sony.eu

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Specs

The Sony Alpha A7R features an Exmor CMOS sensor that measures 35.9 x 24.0 mm and has an effective optical resolution of 36.4 megapixels. The key aspect here is the absence of any anti-aliasing filter, which should theoretically allow for more detail to be captured. This supported by the new BIONZ X Image processor, a 25-point contrast detection system for auto-focus that lends itself to faster response and full HD recording in a variety of codecs.

Along with auto focus, there is support for direct manual focus, with the Sony E-mount full frame sensor.  Shutter speed varies from 1/8000th of a second to 30 seconds, with ISO  ranging from ISO 100-25600 (though Auto mode supports ISO 100-6400) for still images and ISO 200-25600 for video (with ISO 200-6400 in Auto mode).

The overall image quality delivered is great. Whether you go for high resolution shots or low-light photography, the Alpha A7R seems fit for just about any situation. Noise starts appearing in shots after ISO 800, but RAW images fare slightly better above that. As it is, the amount of colour quality and sharpness is great. While the lack of anti-aliasing filter could lead to patterning, this doesn’t occur on the A7R and for the most part, the automatic white balance and auto-focus are both responsive and accurate enough in most circumstances.

The contrast detection auto-focus may not be the fastest, especially in low light, but it’s plenty responsive whichever way you look at it. For now, the biggest issue with the camera is its battery life. Heavy users are advised to carry spare batteries with them whenever possible.

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Photographs: store.sony.eu

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Verdict

The Sony Alpha A7R delivers a great degree of performance, but at the cost of battery life. Some concerns arise at times with white balancing and auto focus isn’t the quickest, but these are small negatives. However, for a price of Rs 1,24,990 one may wonder whether they’re not better off opting for a Nikon device instead.

There are a variety of full frame E-mount lenses to choose from but the cost is still a worrying factor. If you’re looking for an excellent mirrorless camera that doesn’t compromise on detail, especially in high resolution images, and which is capable of performing very well in just about every other department except battery longevity, the Alpha A7R is worth a look.

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Photographs: store.sony.eu

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