Sony’s Tiny New Full-Frame SLR Is a Pocket Full of Awesome
As I noted in my column today, third-place camera maker Sony has a lot of incentive to take risks and to try crazy new things — and, wow, has it been doing that.
Among its most jaw-dropping achievements: the Alpha 7 (or A7), the world’s smallest, lightest, full-frame SLR camera. Translation: The sensor inside is enormous — the size of a piece of 35 mm film from the olden days. The sensor is as big as those that usually come only in gigantic, heavy, $3,000 professional cameras. But the A7’s body is so small that you can carry it in a coat pocket.
It costs $1,700. That’s a lot when there are decent pocketable cameras for $250, of course. But the price is still low enough that full-time pros aren’t the only ones who can afford this gear.
Despite its tininess, the A7 features an excellent control layout, including 10 customizable keys and four control dials. Headphone and microphone jacks are on board, along with a micro-HDMI jack (so that, with the right cable, you can see what you’re shooting on a big TV). You can transfer pictures to your phone over WiFi, for instant posting online.
And, by the way, Sony says the A7 is the world’s only full-frame camera with a tilting screen, which is great for shooting floor-level photos, or over-your-head shots like this one:
(OK, there’s one other camera with a tilting screen: the A7R. It’s a more expensive sister camera to the A7 — $2,300 instead of $1,700. It’s identical in most regards, but there are a few differences aimed at pros. First, it has a 36-megapixel sensor instead of 24. Second, it comes without an optical low-pass filter, which, as far as I can tell, means you sometimes get sharper images but at greater risk of Moiré patterns. Third, it’s slower to focus.)
The A7’s body is solid as a rock. It’s made of magnesium, and you can use it in the rain.
What the A7 does not have, by the way, is a built-in flash. That’s typical of full-frame cameras; the sensor is so light-sensitive that you won’t need a flash often. But if you do need more light, you’re expected to buy an external flash.
The photos are spectacular, exactly as you’d hope. The color fidelity is amazing; the clarity, astounding; the dynamic range (from brightest whites to deepest blacks), exceptional.