Sony Alpha 7 (A7) Review
The full frame 24.3MP Sony Alpha 7 CSC and its sibling the Alpha 7R are perhaps the two most eagerly awaited compact system cameras of the year.
We've got our hands on a full production sample of the Alpha 7 and have been lucky enough to come out to the small Caribbean island of St Lucia to put it through its paces.
Yesterday was our full first day with the camera out on location, and first impressions are very good. Shooting a beautiful sunrise across the sea, and the hybrid AF system worked very well, locking on quickly without hunting - impressive considering the relatively poor light first thing. I used the Flexible Spot AF mode and its pretty easy to toggle the AF point around, while assigning the downward access point on the 4-way control dial at the rear means this can be accessed pretty quickly. Using it in this manner requires you to use the dual control dials to toggle the AF point left to right and up and down, which isn't perhaps that intuitive way to begin with, but it becomes second nature quite quickly.
The level of customisation is incredible, with pretty much every button on the Alpha 7 allowing you to assign a custom control to it, with some buttons offering the choice of up to 49 functions. The on-demand grid lines ensure straight horizons, while the 3in pull-out screen makes it much easier to compose low-down shots. The display itself delivers a good level of contrast and punch, while the ability to drop the ISO down to 50 allowed for pleasingly long exposures desired in these situations.
3.2 sec @ f/16, ISO 50, AWB
The much more conventional control layout compared to the NEX-7 is very welcome, with the dual control dials making shooting a much more natural and intuitive process, while the exposure compensation dial falls easily to the hand. The electronic viewfinder is excellent, and along with the large and bright display offered by the Olympus OM-D E-M1, has to be one of the best I've used.
While the Alpha 7 will be available as a bundle with the new 28-70mm lens, I've been using the fixed Zeiss 35mm f/2.8 and love the combination. The compact proportions of both body and lens mean its perfect for carrying around all day, while the balance feels just right. Combine that with LEE Filters Seven5 CSC filter kit and you've got a very high-quality landscape kit that's a fraction of the weight of other full frame cameras.
I've just been able to play around with JPEG files for now, but the level of detail and dynamic range looks good, even on the rear display. I haven't had a chance yet to really crank-up the ISO yet, but will report back on that later.
To see more of the images I captured in St Lucia with the Sony Alpha 7, head to our online gallery.