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


Andrew Reid
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I've already seen three A7/Rs at used shops and makes me wonder if too many people have gone with their conclusion that "it's the answer" and being greatly disappointed upon receiving and using it a little. Or, more likely, just the usual sudden-urge purchase by someone who listened to the salesman and they're chant on how it's the highest quality mirrorless around, and the user realizing they can't figure out how to take the best advantage out of a camera (which tends to mean plenty of good deals on the used market for pro equipment in Japan, so many people just buy and try to sell right away).

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There are big differences with 4:2:0 cameras chroma quality too. 

 

http://video-dslr.slashcam.de/vdslr.html

 

measures cameras chroma resolution and results (at 30% contrast)  indicates big differences:

 

Canon5D3         250 horizontal lines

Sony NEX7        260 horizontal lines

Nikon D5300      300 horizontal lines

Sony RX10        340 horizontal lines

GH3                   400 horizontal lines  (theorethichal limit would be 1920/4 = 480 lines)

 

Unfortunately they have no Sony A7R test 

 

I think that due to codec limitations many cameras must throw away chroma resolution to maintain some level of IQ with low bitrate and low codec profile.

 

I have GH3 and my eyes say that it has a very good chroma quality for a 4:2:0 camera. Reds are not aliasing so badly like in other cameras.

 

By the way why is it called 4:2:0? That sounds like there is no vertical chroma resolution at all. What I understand it should be called 4:2:1 (proportions of luma res : horizontal chroma res : vertical chroma res ).

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Guest 89e2bdf5797fbbdc17c2cc6da1413fa0

Excellent article.

 

I would say (predictably for me) that there's a pretty convincing case for placing the D5300 above the factory 5D3 in the rankings. It has far superior DR to the 5D3's H264, probably slightly better resolution, 50/60p, an articulated screen, and the codec doesn't seem to suffer from not being all-intra as far as I have seen. It matches the 5D for low light. If full-frame is your thing obviously the 5D is better, but looking at the list that isn't a determining factor in ranking the other cameras. This would put the 5300 just under the Panasonics, which as a G6 user seems just about right to me. I'm assuming the Panasonic G6 and GX7 belong alongside the GH3, GM1 and GH2 (as they are both just mutations of those cameras).

 

I'm definitely most excited about Panasonic's cameras in the immediate future. In my ideal world they would have S35 sensors rather than MFT, but the Speed Booster pretty much negates that issue (and even works as a bonus in a way).

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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.

Andrew, since you are in touch with Sony, could you tell them they are pissing off videographers with the stupid placement of the record button (even on the Nex 6)?

They need a firmware update to allow you to set C1 (on the A7R) and Fn (on the Nex 6) as the record button. This is a simple firmware update and a huge oversight on Sony's behalf. They want to advertise it as a stills/video hybrid but makes it so difficult to record video....

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By the way why is it called 4:2:0? That sounds like there is no vertical chroma resolution at all. What I understand it should be called 4:2:1 (proportions of luma res : horizontal chroma res : vertical chroma res ).

 

thats not quite how it works.

 

the 4 means that in a line of 4 pixels, every single one has full luma information.

 

the 2 means that out of the same 4 pixels only every second has full color information. pixel 2 and 4 in this row get the color information from 1 and 3 respectively.

 

the last number looks at the next row with the 4 pixels right below this first. the 0 implies that no information is added here. instead the color information from the top row is just copied into the next creating the exact same colors as in row 1.

 

4:2:0 basically means that chroma has half the information on the vertical and half of the horizontal line compared to chroma.

4:2:2 means having full chroma vertically, but only half horizontally.

 

this picture and video sum it up nicely:

 

'>

 

but since we opened this topic. why should it be better to have full vertical information and half horizontal. well, i phrased that wrong. obviously more information is better, but who decided that vertical information is more important that horizontal?

 

Andrew, thanks for the article. very helpful as always. now my "need" of this camera got a little less :)

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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.

 

4:2:2 still leaves those artifacts. Only 4:4:4 is completely free of them. 4:2:2 has half the amount of chroma than 4:4:4 so edges are still blocky.

 

Some video playback software automatically smooth chroma during playback. It helps surprisingly much. 

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thats not quite how it works.

 

4:2:0 basically means that chroma has half the information on the vertical and half of the horizontal line compared to chroma.

4:2:2 means having full chroma vertically, but only half horizontally.

 

 

Yes, I was mixing things.

Thanks for correcting and for a very good explanation of that matter. 

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I think the A7R is the first true 'photographers' digital camera within reach of consumers.  It's the only one that allows proper use of high quality full frame manual focus lenses without needing to hit the live view button and hold the camera like a mobile phone to obtain focus.  Everything else affordable in the full frame sector is hopeless for traditional photography using tactile manual focus lenses due to lack of evf.  I think the biggest flaw of most people's quarms with the camera is that they expect the native lens selection to compete with the Nikon and Canon EF selection.      

 

As Andrew has shown, it falls short on the video resolution aspect, but I am certain in still photography my A7R and 25mm, 50mm and 85mm old zeisses will match or outperform anything else under £10k, and give the new £26k phase one cmos medium format setup a run for its money.  And as a result i have finally stopped visiting rumors sites since the camera does everything I want and i no longer feel like I am in need of more.  It's a nice feeling   

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  • 4 months later...

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?

 

It doesn't matter. 

 

Even if the A7r had very few or no flaws, even if it rivalled both GH4 and others in video quality, it still wouldn't matter. That's not how the mainstream market works. Don't underestimate the lemming effect. What the enthusiasts get exited about in their small niches like in this forum is pretty irrelevant.

 

Canikon is like the MS Windows of the late 90's and early 2000's, maybe even today. There were/are other systems that are either better or at lest as good in one way or another, but none of it matters in the mainstream. Mediocre or not, Windows/Canikon still dominate the mainstream. Technical sophistication often has little or no impact in that. 

 

It doesn't mean that the likes of Panasonic and Sony should give up trying and innovating, however. Quite the contrary. It just takes a frustratingly long time before things change in the mainstream mass market. They will, eventually.

 

Meanwhile, whether or not the latest Sony camera could "erode the dominance of Canikon," I don't give a crap. That's not important to me. The camera I like using doesn't have to win popularity contests. 

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a complete satisfied customer is a lost customer - you wouldn't see him again

 

technically, all of the big ones could have built the ultimate film+foto body long ago, but their main interest is to lure us in another investions again and again

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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).

I'm only getting about 50% correct on this site.  It doesn't track Full Frame vs. ...on an individual basis, but I am noticing that the Full Frame images in general pop more, and, of course, have more bokeh for those shots with it.

 

Michael

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