Sony's got its swagger back. Today, the electronics giant announced three new compact cameras, two of which have the potential to be game-changers. The Sony Alpha A7 is claimed to be the world's lightest interchangeable-lens full-frame camera of any kind, featuring a 24.3MP resolution 35mm sensor, and claimed DSLR-like speed. The Sony Alpha A7R features a 36.3MP resolution 35mm sensor and, as we're seeing in so many new high-end cameras today, no high-pass filter. At less than half the price of the least expensive Leica rangefinder camera and significantly higher resolution, this could be a game changer for photojournalists and street shooters. All new Sony cameras are Wi-Fi equipped. The third camera, the Sony RX10, is a refinement of the company's critically acclaimed large-sensor digital compact camera that was introduced last year.
All new Sony cameras can be pre-ordered from Adorama now, and will be shipped on a first-come, first served basis. Credit cards will not be charged until orders are shipped.
Let's take a closer look at all three cameras, starting with the one that is likely to be the most popular, the Sony A7.
Sony A7: Key Features at a Glance
- 24.3MP resolution 35mm sensor
- 14-bit RAW image capture
- Hybrid AF with phase detection
- Intelligent AF optimized for full-frame sensor
- New FF lenses
- Compatible with Sony E-Mount lenses via optional adapter
- 2.4 million dot OLED EVF
- Tiltable 3-inch, 1.229k dot LCD monitor
- NFC and Wi-Fi wireless connectivity
- Full HD movie capture
Sony A7: In Depth
Sony says the A7 is the smallest and lightest interchangeable-lens full-frame camera currently available. (As soon as we get precise measurements we'll see how it stacks to the previous king of compact 35mm sensor interchangeable lens cameras, the Leica M.) The 24.3MP sensor has a range of ISO 100-25,600, and shoots up to 5fps burst rate, capturing 14-bit RAW image files.
Sony claims an enhanced fast hybrid AF system, which combines phase and contract detection autofocus and uses a new Spatial Object Detection algorithm, will deliver the fastest autofocus performance of any full-frame camera (including DSLRs). There are a whopping 117 phase-detection AF points, backed up by a high-speed image processing engine.
Sony also says a new Eye AF control detects eyes in a scene and focuses in on them. This new system is said to be able to prioritize a single pupil, and a green frame appears superimposed over the selected eye to confirm focus acquisition. I'm looking forward to getting my hands on this camera and testing its new autofocus abilities in the real world.
The kind of photographer who would appreciate a camera like the A7 will likely demand eye-level viewing, and the A7 won't disappoint. The 2.4 million dot OLED finder is the highest contrast EVF available. The camera also has a 3-inch 1.23 million dot LCD monitor that tilts up 84 degrees and down 45 degrees. Sony claims it will be comfortably usable in bright daylight.
Connectivity with smartphones for One-touch sharing and One-touch remote has been simplified with Wi-Fi/NFC control. In addition to Wi-Fi support for connecting to smartphones, the α7 also supports NFC (near field communication) providing “one touch connection” convenience when transferring images to Android™ smartphones and tablets. (Sorry Mac users, it looks like there's no iOS control yet.) Users need only touch devices to connect; no complex set-up is required. Moreover, when using Smart Remote Control — a feature that allows the shutter release to be controlled by a smartphone. You can also control video capture remotely.
The A7 will output 14-bit RAW image data of extremely high quality. This data fully preserves the rich detail generated by the image sensor during the 14-bit A/D conversion process. When developed with Sony’s Image Data Converter RAW development software.
The camera also features a new BIONZ® X image processing engine, which Sony says reproduces textures and details in real time, as seen by the naked eye, via extra high-speed processing capabilities. Together with front-end LSI (large scale integration) that accelerates processing in the earliest stages, it enables more natural details, more realistic images, richer tonal gradations and lower noise whether you shoot still images or movies.
Capture Full 1920 x 1080 HD uncompressed clean-screen video files to external recording devices via an HDMI connection in 60p and 60i frame-rates. Selectable in-camera AVCHD™ codec frames rates include super-smooth 60p, standard 60i or cinematic 24p. MP4 codec is also available for smaller files for easier upload to the web.
Advanced features incldue manipulation, conversion and management of full-resolution RAW images. You can adjust exposure, white balance, tonal curves, saturation, contrast, hue and sharpness — as well as apply DRO and vignetting compensation. Bundled Remote Camera Control software also lets you remotely activate and deactivate still/movie recording and control various camera settings from a PC.
Both of these 35mm full-frame compatible adaptors let you mount the α7R with any A-mount lens. The LA-EA4 additionally features a built-in AF motor, aperture-drive mechanism and Translucent Mirror Technology to enable continuous phase-detection AF. Both adaptors also feature a tripod hole that allows mounting of a tripod to support large A-mount lenses.
Sony A7R: Key features at a glance
- World’s lightest interchangeable lens full-frame camera
- Full Frame 36.3 MP resolution with 14-bit RAW recording
- Intelligent AF optimized for full-frame sensor
- Fully compatible w/ Sony’s current E-mount & new FF lenses
- Direct access interface
- High contrast eye-level 2.4-million dot OLED EVF
- Wi-Fi or NFC (Android only)
- PC control w/ remote video capture control
- New high-speed BIONZ X image processor
- Full HD movie2 at 24p/60i/60p w/uncompressed HDMI® output
Sony A7R: In Depth
The Sony A7R is the highest-resolution Sony camera to date, with a 36.3MP, 35mm sensor. There's no optical low-pass filter, which holds the enticing promise of extremely fine detail. The image processing engine holds diffraction-reducing technology, which Sony says will improve reproduction of finer details. The sensor includes a new gapless lens design that fills the space between neighboring pixels that Sony says will significantly increase light collecting efficiency to achieve high corner-to-corner image quality.
The high-speed image processing engine and improved algorithms combine with optimized image sensor read-out speed to achieve ultra-high-speed AF despite the use of a full-frame sensor.
Even when capturing a subject partially turned away from the camera with a shallow depth of field, the face will be sharply focused thanks to extremely accurate eye detection that can prioritize a single pupil. A green frame appears over the prioritized eye when focus has been achieved for easy confirmation. Eye AF can be used when the function is assigned to a customizable button, allowing users to instantly activate it depending on the scene.
The A7R is fully compatible with Sony’s E-mount lens system and expanded line of E-mount compact and lightweight full-frame lenses from Carl Zeiss and Sony’s premier G-series.
The XGA OLED Tru-Finder is the camera's very high resolution eye-level electronic viewfinder. It which features OLED improvements and the same 3-lens optical system used in the flagship A99. Sony claims it will display three times the contrast of the A99. High-end features like 100% frame coverage and a wide viewing angle are also provided.
The tiltable 3-inch (1,229k dot resolution) Xtra Fine™ LCD Display makes it easy to photograph over crowds or low to capture pets eye to eye by swinging up approx. 84° and down approx. 45°.Sony says images will be dramatically more visible in bright daylight on this monitor.
Connectivity with smartphones for One-touch sharing/One-touch remote has been simplified with Wi-Fi®/NFC control. In addition to Wi-Fi support for connecting to smartphones, α7R also supports NFC (near field communication) providing “one touch connection” convenience when transferring images to Android™ smartphones and tablets. (Sorry, no iPhones or iPads...yet.) Users need only touch devices to connect. When using Smart Remote Control — a feature that allows shutter release to be controlled by a smartphone — connection to the smartphone can be established by simply touching compatible devices.
The A7R outputs 14-bit RAW image data which Sony says fully preserves the rich detail generated by the image sensor during the 14-bit A/D conversion process. When developed with Sony’s Image Data Converter RAW development software, these images deliver the superb photographic expression and rich gradation that only 14-bit data can offer.
Video capture is full 1920 x 1080 HD uncompressed clean-screen video in 60p and 60i frame-rates. Selectable in-camera AVCHD codec frames rates include super-smooth 60p, standard 60i or cinematic 24p. MP4 codec is also available for smaller files for easier upload to the web.
The Sony Alpha A7R will be available body only for $2,299.99.
Sony DSC-RX10 Key features at a glance:
- 1-inch 20.2 MP Exmor® R sensor for extreme low-light shots
- 24-200mm (equivalent) f/2.8 constant aperture Zeiss Vario Sonnar T* Lens
- Claimed Ultra-fast AF thanks to new "BIONZ® X" processing engine
- Selectable click/click-less ring for precise control
- Full HD movies at 60p/24p with full exposure control
- Dust/moisture resistant magnesium-alloy body
- Up to ISO 12,800
- 3-inch, TK dot resolution multi-angle LCD
- XGA OLED eye-level viewfinder
- Multi-interface Accessory Shoe for system accessories
- Wi-Fi and NFC built in
Sony DSC-RX10: In Depth
While the market for DSCs has been shrinking considerably, Sony tells us their research shows the market for premium compact cameras is growing. If a compact camera can deliver DSLR image quality, so the thinking goes, enthusiasts will embrace it. That's where the second generation RX comes in. The successor of the RX100 has the same 1-inch, 20.2MP sensor but an extended zoom range, and the welcome addition of a high-resolution eye-level electronic viewfinder.
The lens is a 24-200mm (35mm equivalent) f/2.8 constant aperture Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* lens that focuses as close as about 15 inches away at all focal lengths. The lens consists of advanced aspherical design to keep it compact, and has a Direct Drive Supersonic Wave Motor for fast, quiet focus.
The sensor is a 1-inch back-illuminated CMOS that delivers 20.2MP images and an ISO range of 125-12,800. A new BIONZ X image processing engine is said to produce surprisingly low noise images. One cool feature? Image-specific noise reduction. Noise levels are adjusted based on imaging pattern variations, so it may be applied strongly in shadows and less so in highlights, where it may not be necessary.
Sony claims autofocus is fast, and three concentric Fexible Spot frames allow for improved autofocus targeting. Users can lock on focus tracking by pressing the shutter button halfway, and a new Eye AF feature locks focus in on any eyes visible in a scene.
For video enthusiasts, the camera captures 1080p video in 60p and 24p modes in the AVCHD format. There's an external microphone jack as well as a headphone jack. Audio metering and recording level controls are built in and you can use the camera's Multi Interface Shoe as a port for an optional XLR Adaptor Kit so you can hook up external recording, flash, and other accessories.
The Sony RX10 is built of Magnesium Alloy, and has a tiltable 3-inch 1.2 million dot LCD monitor that Sony says will be visible in bright daylight.
To use the camera's wireless capabilities, download the free PlayMemories Mobile app, then connect via Wi-Fi® or NFC (near field communication) by touching a compatible Android™ smartphone or tablet to the camera. Then, you can remotely control the camera’s shutter release from that other mobile device, instantly receive the image on the device and upload transferred images to an SNS site.
The Sony RX10 will be available from Adorama for $1,299.99
4 New Lenses Announced
With the arrival of the Sony's first 35mm MILCs comes a new lineup of compatible lenses. They are:
Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA: f/2.8 maximum aperture, dust- and moisture-resistant, superior Zeiss lens quality and rounded aperture blades are the hallmarks of this lens, which was designed optimally for the A7 series. Adorama price: $799.99
Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA: Zeiss's high-quality, fast "normal" lens has five aspherical and one ED glass elements, providing high contrast and minimal internal reflections. Flare and ghosting are said to be minimal. The lens is dust and moisture resistant. Adorama price: $999.99.
Zeiss Vario Tessar T* FE 24-70mm f/4 ZA OSS: This lens has a constant f/4 maximum aperture, and features five aspherical elements and one ED glass element; moisture and dust resistant, the lens's aperture blades are rounded for good bokeh. Adorama price: $1,199.99.
Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 G SSM II, with a constant f/2.8 maximum aperture, supersonic wave motor for smooth, quiet AF, two extra low dispersion glass elements, a focus range limiter, and circular aperture blades. Adorama price: $2,999.99