Sony Alpha 7 – A Revolution in Camera Gear

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We’ve been dragging around 40 pound backpacks of full frame Canon professional camera gear since the ark. It was the way we knew to get the results. Now there is a better answer.

Linda took the lead photo using a full frame processor Sony 7A mirrorless camera, on auto, using the 28-70mm plastic kit lens. Astonishing when you look at the photo on a large monitor. And the majority of the 50 photos from which this sunset was chosen look as good.


Same camera and lens at 100% crop, hand held, in less than perfect light.


In this photo using consecutive 20 second exposures until we got lucky and caught a lightning flash.

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This little Sony Alpha 7 weighs 1/6th of a Canon 1DX body, takes 1/4 of the space, and for static subjects does as well or better, at less than a quarter of the price.

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With airlines getting fussier about the size and weight of carry on gear – often limiting us to 7kg/15 pounds on overseas flights, we started this research expecting to have to trade off some of the quality we were used to with our Canon pro cameras for convenience. We did not expect to come out ahead of the game.  After two weeks of testing we can say with 100% certainty that the Sony 7A, 24mp camera, easily outperforms the Canon 5Dlll.

But wait, there’s more.

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Sony also makes the 7R, which has 50% more pixels, but is slower on focusing. Both bodies will work with third party full frame lenses from Canon, Nikon, Leica, etc. using the appropriate adaptor. This photo is the 7R body, with a Metabones lll adaptor, and the Canon 600 F4 telephoto with a Mark lll 1.4 teleconverter. In other words, the equivalent of 840mm. The higher pixel count equates to a longer lens if the quality allows tight cropping which cranks that 840mm another 40+ percent. Look carefully at the bottom center of the tree. Notice the tiny bird?

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This is a 100% crop of that little guy. We would normally never crop in this close, but it shows what the processor is capable of doing. Keep in mind you are looking at a highly compressed JPG. The native image, on a high def monitor, looks far better, and this is the equivalent of a 1200mm lens.


The Los Angeles neighborhood red tail hawk was having dinner in the dark. ISO (film speed) is set to 5000.  The lens is a Canon 70-200 F2.8 ll, at F3.5, 1/20th of a second, hand held and manually focused.


Back to the 7A (24mb) here with a Canon 14mm prime lens, the glass we typically use for boat interiors. You are looking out into an end of day sunlit back yard, about five F stops brighter than the interior. This is shot 7/10ths of a stop underexposed, and then balanced in Lightroom (30 seconds of work). Neither the Canon 1DX or 5Dlll would do as well.


Switching to with the Canon 24-105, hand held on the Sony 7A, at a 100% crop.

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Another heavily backlit and wide dynamic range image photo. This was the Sony 7A and Canon 24-104 lens.

Now we get serious. What happens when you pair the new Sony body with a Carl Zeiss lens specifically designed for it, in particular the 55mm F 1.8 lens which DXoMark rated as the sharpest lens they have ever tested?


On a Thunderbolt display the depth and definition of this hand held mid day sun photo is unlike anything this writer has ever seen before.


Since we are constrained to the Internet, compression, and a variety of different viewer monitors this 100% crop of a 7000 pixel wide photo will have to do. If you have any doubts about the resolution powers of the Carl Zeiss 55mm on the Sony 7R look at the pollen dust on the leaves of this barrel cactus bloom. And incidentally, the auto focus with this lens on the Sony 7R is almost instantaneous.


Switching lenses now, here mating the Sony 7R to a Canon 600mm F4 prime combined with a Canon doubler (2Xlll) via a Matabones lll adaptor. Focus is manual. We have have been shooting moons for a long time and this is by far the sharpest photo ever.


A final photo, this time a 100% crop of the bottom of the previous. What is most impressive to us is that these moon photos were taken a few hours after sundown, partially hidden by a thin veil of clouds, hence the coloring, on a warm summer evening. Clear, cold, winter nights are ideal for this type of photography, so hopefully the results will improve with time.

So what won’t these bodies do? Compared to the 1DX they don’t come close in focusing speed, tracking, or frames per second for a moving target. And the electronic viewfinder is not as clear as composing through the viewfinder via a mirror.  For everything else, they are going to revolutionize the high end camera market.

While inexpensive by Canon/Nikon pro gear standards, a Sony 7A with the 28-70 kit lens will set you back about US$1700, the 7R US$2000 for body only, several times what a mirrorless consumer camera will cost. The Zeiss 55mm F 1.8 lens is about US$900. For this investment you get in return vastly superior capabilities in difficult shooting conditions, not to mention the every day benefits. If you are not into serious photography and controlling the camera yourself the auto functions produce stunning results. And the gear is compact and lightweight. We can carry a full backpack of cameras including the laptop computer and keep the airline ramp personal happy.

We cannot wait  to put them to work in the FPB world!

Posted by Steve Dashew  (August 3, 2014)

8 Responses to “Sony Alpha 7 – A Revolution in Camera Gear”

  1. Carol Parker Says:

    The saguaro sunset image is stunning!

  2. Steve Dashew Says:

    Thanks Carol – The photos were chosen to show off the capabilities of the new Sony full frame bodies, rather than as art. What is interesting about that sunset is Linda took probably fifty shots, and 80% of them are in the same category quality wise.

  3. Mel Kowal Says:

    An amatuerish question – what resolution and dpi were the images taken by the camera and how did you reduce the size for the Web without ruining the quality. My mickey mouse camera is set to photograph at 2816X2112 and I view on my computer at 72 dpi. When I try to reduce the size (resize function) to use on a website using Paint Shop Pro software I end up with poor quality pixilated images.

    PS Todd’s Restaurant at Ryan Field in southwest Tucson belongs to my daughter Shari Scott. Have breakfast or lunch there and tell her to bill it to me.

    PPS We are friends of Reanne and Don Douglass and drive a Grand Banks 42 Motoryacht in the Salish Sea.

  4. Steve Dashew Says:

    The Sony 7R images are 7360 x 4912 pixels. The 7A is 6000 x 4000. We export from Lightroom as a TIFF at whatever width we need, typically 950 to 1100 pixels. These files are then compressed in Photoshop. Have eaten many meals at Ryan. Small world.

  5. quoc Says:

    I find the ergonomics on the A7 and A7S not well thought out but few reviews mention about this. Another viable mirrorless alternative with a vast range of smaller, lighter and and equally excellent optics is the Panasonic GH4 or Olympus E-M1 (both bodies are weather sealed). Although the micro four third sensor is only 16mpx versus the full frame 24mpx on the A7, it is very hard to tell differences between the two. On video capabilities, which are important for me, the Gh4 far outclasses what is available currently from Sony, Canon or Nikon.

  6. Steve Dashew Says:

    We know several very accomplished phototographers who like the Olympus 4/3rd series. For us, the sensor size and ability to use our Canon glass makes thes Sony bodies the only answer at present.

  7. Steve Steinhardt Says:

    How do you think it will work for auto racing photos ? Ie.speed of focusing at high shutter speeds in conjunction with motor drive use. Your photographs are incredible !

  8. Steve Dashew Says:

    The 7A should be OK for panning shots but not with the race car coming at or going away from you.