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Andrew Reid

Sony A7R review - does it replace a DSLR or Micro Four Thirds camera?

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Above: A7R with the new SLR Magic "Anamorphot 50" anamorphic lens

Micro Four Thirds vs full frame. America has answered this question pretty resoundingly - mirrorless sales are apparently down 47%. I don't think this will be a lasting trend because mirrorless is moving forwards in terms of image quality and features far faster than DSLRs are.

The Sony A7R is the highest spec of all of them, at least in terms of the sensor and EVF. But does it have what it takes for Sony to erode the dominance of Canon and Nikon?

Read the full article here

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EOSHD Pro Color for Sony cameras EOSHD Pro LOG for Sony CamerasEOSHD C-LOG and Film Profiles for All Canon DSLRs

I was hyped when I first saw the A7r and was ready to dump my d800 in favor of it, but when I held it in my hands it didn't make any sense to me. Fullframe glass is big, especially tele and zooms, the a7r body is too small for this, and the ergonomics don't work out, even the d800 is too small for a lot lenses, the D3,D4 body is perfect. You also have to buy into the system if you want autofocus and I'm certanly not buying into a sony lens lineup.

Maybe if they come up with some fancy medium format speed booster I will consider one.

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I started with the NEX-5n because it was the first mirrorless to offer 1080p60 and the first using the AVCHD 2.0 and at the time although lens complains already existed, it looked like a growing system. At the time Sony NEX-6/7 looked like a nice balance between stills and video, despite NEX's horrible menu and control, it just needed lenses.

 

Since then, it has been a lot of disappointments.

 

Video has not evolved and not only that but every time Sony came up with a new camera, they always preached video. They did so with the A99, they said it was the ultimate hybrid and even in the RX1's ads, they wanted to highlight the video feats and all the accessories. With these new cameras they even added zebra, audio meters and other video feats but it seems that quality is just a gimmick for them.

 

I can't even talk about the lens line up anymore. E-mount FF lens roadmap looks much better than the already 4 years old former NEX E-mount APS-C, Fuji's 2 years vold system has far better and better distributed lens and focal length - Sony has FIVE lenses between 16 and 35mm.

 

So, a couple of weeks from now, the NEX-6/7 successor should be announced and hopefully a lens roadmap. There is a rumor about IBIS on this camera - and possibly a 5-axis IBIS! -, if so, this can be a game changer, even more for legacy lenses and although I really wanted to go M4/3 or Fuji, I may stay with Sony. If Panasonic can manage to allow IBIS in video via firmware I may still go GX7 successor - can Panasonic do that and even improve the IBIS? If Olympus could just add some extra framerates. I know that Fuji will never care so much about video like Panasonic or even Sony, but I'm willing to overlook that if they can give at least full manual control, since the photo part is really attractive for me - all those controls!

 

This year will be quite decisive for me, I was reluctant to buy into any system so far and I've been using legacy lenses for most part, the reason is because here in Brazil it's quite hard to resell cameras that are not Canikon or Sony and that's also one of the reasons I started with the NEX-5n. I needed a camera while I was waiting for a better one and had I bought Fuji or a micro4/3 and I wanted out for any reason I would have a hard time selling it but this year I'll choose a system and go for it.

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If you want "full-frame" quality (I'd say even better) images get a Sigma DP1M, DP2M or DP3M.  The sensors sample all three colors at each pixel location.  For most images you can't see the difference between a Sigma and bayer-fullframe.  But for some, the difference is what you'd see between a medium format and full-frame.  Andrew, when you shoot with a Sigma at 100 ISO you'll see a whole new world.  All that said, Sigma's can't shoot sh__ in anything above 200 ISO in my opinion.  Since most people don't want a camera that only shoots 100 ISO they get one of the other cameras.  My point is that, for what it's worth, I don't think any of these full-frames are desirable for good light shooting against a Sigma (Fovean) or medium format camera.  

 

I agree with araucaria.  Reducing the size of full-frame bodies is a bit pointless when you consider the size of the lenses.  The last image you showed looked small, but not small enough to put in a pocket.  Those cameras will definitely sell to wealthy corporate types who want to buy a top of the line camera for vacation.  For professionals Sony can't get out of it's own way in the DSLR market--as you've pointed out so well.

 

That said, I love Sony cameras.  They're just cool.  I want one.  But I'm not going to buy one.  (I want a Nex 6 with the 10-18mm, now that looks like a small sweet setup!).

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I started with the NEX-5n because it was the first mirrorless to offer 1080p60 and the first using the AVCHD 2.0 and at the time although lens complains already existed, it looked like a growing system. At the time Sony NEX-6/7 looked like a nice balance between stills and video, despite NEX's horrible menu and control, it just needed lenses.

 

Since then, it has been a lot of disappointments.

 

Well the same goes for DSLRs in general. A bunch of disappointments punctuated by a few flukes like good video on the D5200 and Magic Lantern raw video on Canon DSLRs. And of course Blackmagic but they are not making DSLRs.

 

2014 this will all change because of the push to 4K. There's also a trend towards the new HDMI spec and 10bit over that. So finally a reason to actually use it. The photographic CMOS sensors are perfectly placed to offer 4K video and the huge leap in image quality this entails.

 

So we're back on track, but yes, the 1080p stuff did not pan out as I had hoped and the A7R just carries on with a very mediocre trend.

 

There also seems to be a major disconnect between the video-savvy marketing department at Sony and what their actual engineers deliver...

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Your video image quality ranking list is very interesting, but where would you put the Sony RX-10 on it?

 

Between the A7R and GH3. The image isn't a huge strength of the RX10 but it's respectable, the main reason I liked the RX10 was the general usability and features it offered, especially the Zeiss lens, which there's nothing else similar to on a DSLR. Built in ND filter, step less aperture ring, huge zoom range, fast constant F2.8 aperture, like I say - find a DSLR lens like that with the built in ND and long zoom range yet fast constant aperture. There's not one :)

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There also seems to be a major disconnect between the video-savvy marketing department at Sony and what their actual engineers deliver...

 

Exactly, which is why it seems that getting good video quality from DSLRs faces serious obstacles.  Sony was one of the first to offer good video in digital cameras, if I remember correctly.  There foray into translucent mirrors was, to a large part, video driven.  The RX10 seems like a camera built, not to push the envelope in video, but to make the best all-around stills/video camera with best-they-can-do existing technologies.  

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Great review, interesting discussion!

The Micro Four Thirds system makes the most sense to me as a stills + video shooter. Small, well built bodies, good first-party primes, the ability to adapt nearly any** lens, cool features like IBIS, and a much better implementation of video all the way through the range. I have the option of Panasonic, Olympus, and Blackmagic bodies, and can buy at the top of the price bracket for significantly cheaper than I can Canon or Sony or Nikon. 

In terms of stills image quality, I think sites like guesstheformat.com are pretty telling - people do little better than chance trying to distinguish between M4/3 and Full Frame (when presented with a FF image and given the choice between FF and M4/3, people only correctly identify it 58% of the time - less for APS-C vs. M4/3). Yes, image quality from a D800 is better in absolute terms than E-M1 image quality, but is it two times the price better? I don't think so. The E-M1 is 90% there - probably closer if you don't make massive prints.

I really like what Fuji's doing, but their camera's aren't nearly fully featured enough compared to what you can get out of M4/3 for the same price or less. If the new X-T1 had single shot AF on par with the E-M1, a 36 or 50Mpbs 24/5p codec, and a faster flash sync speed, it'd be a much tougher decision (unless you want IBIS, of course). Fuji has made it pretty clear that they're a stills company through-and-through. Shame. Lovely colors.

I'm a street photographer, a casual video shooter, a frequent traveler and a guy who doesn't like to hassle a lot with his gear. For that, for me, M4/3 makes the most sense.

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Why is it the defacto standard by which all DSLR video must be maintained at 8-bits in a 4:2:0 colorspace...? You'd think these engineers would've learned by now there's only so much you can squeeze out of it... Yet inevitably every single DSLR for the last 5-6 years has raped their image with 8-bit, 4:2:0. I'm curious how long they'll all continue to preach innovation while marketing the awesome video on their new cameras.... - in their respective 8-bit 4:2:0 spaces. Gees.

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  • Awkwardly placed video record button, almost impossible to press whilst holding camera grip

This! After the photographers complained the NEX 7 record button was accidentally being hit, Sony has gone out of their way to place the record button in the most awkward position ever!

 

They didn't even let you customize the record function either! (Easy fix with a firmware update). I want to program C1 to record (even better would be allowing me to use the shutter button to record, but that could be problematic). C1 would be a great place to allow you to start/stop video!

 

For me, the A7R is a really nice little package. Having manual control with audio and headphone is amazing! Im so glad I'm not so picky with image quality like most professionals. None of my clients care about moire (then again, i try to avoid it). A lot of my clients understand the 'full-frame look' and want that. They don't understand anything more technical stuff (ie; moire, rolling shutter) which is great  for me because I personally don't pay too much attention to that. Cinematography and lighting is where I spend more time focusing on.

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Loving my A7.   The Video really is crap, but it's amazing on stills.   Currently rocking  a 20mm Nikon f4, Super Tak 35, Konica 40 (damn, is that thing sharp) Minolta 45, Nikon pre-ai 50 1.4, and Nikon AiS 85 F2.   Still waiting on my FD adapter.

 

If you shoot stills, this thing is amazing.  If you want video, get a Pocket Cam.

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Well the same goes for DSLRs in general. A bunch of disappointments punctuated by a few flukes like good video on the D5200 and Magic Lantern raw video on Canon DSLRs. And of course Blackmagic but they are not making DSLRs.

 

Yeah, I didn't even go there because I haven't been counting on Canikon for a while. Video was never big for Nikon, they just tried a bit for the sake of not looking like they don't care at all - and then they come with a Pure Photography empty concept.

 

And Canon... oh Canon... You had everything... Canon is too comfortable with people still thinking they are the best, so they made a push for EOS-C. I wished they wanted to innovate, really did, but no, the changes between the T3i and T5i are a joke and when everybody thought Canon would revolutionize again with the 5DMKIII, they barely improved, sure, the anti-aliasing and moiré were better and you could do some sharpening in the post but, it could had been so much more.

 

And they did little to no improvement and entered the Cinema market as if one would really compete with each other, even more with that price difference. I can't see the reason to not keep improving. So you don't improve a $3,000 because it will cannibalize your $15,000+ camera line up?? It makes no sense. Luckily, BlackMagic did shake things up and made others step up.

 

Quick question, let's say this GH4K, if I resize it adter editing in 4K, will it look better resolved than if it was the camera itself downsampling the whole sensor and outputting 1080p? Would the difference be significative? And if I just cropped into 1080p from the 4K footage?

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This was a great read Andrew, the one of the best I've seen from you yet... Especially interesting after just having read Lloyd Chambers' umpteenth prediction of the demise of the micro four-thirds format (I should add that he approaches cameras from a stills, not video, perspective).

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This was a great read Andrew, the one of the best I've seen from you yet... Especially interesting after just having read Lloyd Chambers' umpteenth prediction of the demise of the micro four-thirds format (I should add that he approaches cameras from a stills, not video, perspective).


Googled him. Why does he keep insisting that M4/3 is 60% smaller than APS-C? M4/3 is 60% of the total area of APS-C (at least according to his charts). Am I missing something?
 

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Thankfully there’s a more accessible custom button on the top plate where the record button usually is, which you can assign video recording to. 

-http://www.eoshd.com/content/11324/look-new-video-features-new-sony-a7-a7r-rx10

 

Okay, I tried to google to see if I could program C1 for movie record, but I can't (google brought up that link).

 

Am I doing something wrong or can you actually program C1 for movie record and I am just an idiot?

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Thanks for the review. I agree that Sony could squeeze more out of the hardware. I would even presume, that it would have been possible to get 4K from the hardware and also 10 Bit uncompressed HDMI should have been possible, so it seems more a marketing based decision in order to protect sales of their dedicated video cameras.

 

But I disagree that there is no significant progress compared to a NEX-7. In fact the footage from my A7R is definitely sharper than from my NEX-7 and especially in low light situations you get a much better picture (less noise and far better colour preservation).

 

Do you have proof, that even though the HDMI output is 4:2:2 the data coming from the sensor are already crippled to 4:2:0?

 

Do you know any affordable HDMI reorder capable of recording 1080p60?

 

Best regards

Helge, 3D-Kraft.com

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-http://www.eoshd.com/content/11324/look-new-video-features-new-sony-a7-a7r-rx10

 

Okay, I tried to google to see if I could program C1 for movie record, but I can't (google brought up that link).

 

Am I doing something wrong or can you actually program C1 for movie record and I am just an idiot?

 

This is from an earlier look at the camera. In my retail camera, which is a final unit (I bought it from a Sony shop), you can't assign the video record button to C1 or any other button.

 

It's a ridiculous decision by Sony.

 

Also I don't see the logic in moving the record button to an awkward position AS WELL AS having the ability to turn it off in the menus. Surely the photo-hardcore guys who hate video so much can just turn the damn button off in the menus and not hassle the rest of us with their out of touch stupid feedback they gave to Sony on the matter.

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Do you have proof, that even though the HDMI output is 4:2:2 the data coming from the sensor are already crippled to 4:2:0?

 

Do you know any affordable HDMI reorder capable of recording 1080p60?

 

Best regards

Helge, 3D-Kraft.com

 

4:2:0 leaves a trademark artefact if you look at bright red highlights for example and high contrast areas of bright blue as another example, like a the edges of a neon sign or lightbulb.

 

In 4:2:2 footage these edges are smooth and in 4:2:0 they are aliased.

 

Guess which the A7R shows... aliasing all over the place :)

 

The aliasing might be a result of the line skipping but if the HDMI is indeed 4:2:2 sampled on the sensor, it doesn't show any of the image quality advantages.

 

Regardless the real problem here is not whether or not the debayering process does the 4:2:2 or 4:2:0 sampling, it's that the debayer has such flawed data to work with in the first place, and has to do it very haphazardly on a processor not really designed for video.

 

Some sensors do a decent pixel-mix to get down to 1080p - rather than hacking the data down with crude line skipping. Toshiba one in the D5200 / D5300, Canon one in the 5D Mark III and the Panasonic NMOS in the GH2 all did a good job.

 

It's just that Sony have chosen not to implement this feature on their sensors (even the one destined for the $3000 VG900 video camera) for reasons which presumably made sense to someone.

 

It can't be that hard, because Toshiba can do it, in a low-to-mid range $700 Nikon.

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