Sony A7 series is not new to photographers and A7 mark 2 released already sometimes ago. It will be next to latest very soon since A7R2 announced
couple of weeks ago & coming to market. This article is not the review of A7m2, I don’t need to invent wheel, which already reviewed by many others.
This is my own experience how to deal with mirrorless full frame camera overly promising for me.
I have used Ricoh GXR-M couple of years, so I am familiar with mirrorless camera design and handling. Ricoh GXR-M is very good performer
as Leica M platform, so I didn’t have complaint much. The key attractions to switch to A7m2 are :
• Vibration reduction capability with old manual lenses – As a classic lens mania, this is the most important feature attracting me to A7m2
• Full frame sensor – GXR-M’s APS-C sensor was not bad at all. It is actually superior to other mirrorless platforms in terms of Leica lens utilization
because the sensor optimized specifically for Leica M lens flange.
• Not bother me much, but GXR-M doesn’t support well continuous shooting. And time lag in between shot and shot hinders convenient
handling (‘cause stupid buffer design which can store 4 raw+jpg but actually not doing so when single shot taken)
A7m2 size and weight is pretty impressive. It is bigger and heavier than GXR but I expect so, due to bigger sensor size. Considering twice bigger
sensor area of A7m2, it is pretty good even. Such a small body actually makes a little uncomfortable to hold the camera because no place to put
the last finger when hold it.
Vertical grip is somewhat nonsense. With such a small body where Sony designer put tremendous effort to squeeze every single corner,
they decided to build large and tall vertical grip breaking neat design. Why Sony makes the grip so ugly, unbalanced and stretched shape?
Only reasonable answer is, they want to make DSLR Alpha lens adapter LE-2 and LE-4 able to be attached. Then question is, how many users
use (or have?) those LE-2, LE-4 to use bigger and heavier DSLR lens to A7? Why not make more streamline grip for someone who does not have
LE-2, LE-4 at all?
Many reviewers said their new release; A7R2 has so advanced AF function that eliminate entirely LE-4 business case. Then there’s no reason to stick
with LE-4 & LE-2 constraint any longer. I hope Sony makes the new vertical grip soon.
Lens is protruding a lot. In the A7 design (NEX is the same), Sony almost eliminates internal space for lens flange to make the body slim .
Therefore the imager located at the middle-front side of the body instead of back side like the other makers. Lens has to be stay further away from body,
in other words the lens barrel has to be longer than other cameras which have deeper internal space. (Later Fuji follows this strategy I know)
So, the body which is extremely small and slim as full frame is compensated with extra long & protruding lenses. Overall portability is not bad
comparing to DSLR stuff, but not as compact as other APS-C bodies obviously, so forget about your pocket to put it in.
But so far, no one else makes full frame mirrorless camera, so it should not be a bottleneck for decision making if you want small, light & full frame body.
This is it!
Surprising and delight to me, A7m2 has ample amount of controls user can select, I like this flexibility !
Vibration reduction for old classic lens is not first from Sony A7m2 but indeed the first for full frame body. Olympus already introduced 5 axis vibration
control many years ago, but their sensor is mere ¼ of full frame which never appealing for me. Old masterpieces like, Carl Zeiss Planar 85mm
with triangle aperture, Canon 85mm f1.2 Aspherical, Meyer Optik’s Trioplan…etc there are so many great optics which will benefit from this feature
AF compatibility with Canon EF lens is another key point. Canon produced many good lenses for years. Their EF line is a killer of once mighty
Nikkor lenses. With electronic contact adapter, Canon lens AF function works on the Sony A7 bodies. Of course it is matter how fast AF work.
So far, it was not impressive for most of photographers but game changer A7R2 is coming which generate exciting news in internet community now.
It will take couple of more weeks to see REAL story from ordinary customers.
AF function itself has improved tremendously in mirroless design. In the beginning, contrast AF detection on imager was inferior to phase AF detection
from DSLRs in terms of speed. But recently, improved algorithm and phase detection ‘cells on chip’ makes hard to distinguish their speed.
Moreover detecting AF directly from imager makes AF more sophisticated, e.g. face detection, eye AF & continuous AF on entire sensor areas…etc
I found Eye AF is very useful for portraits. When wide aperture lens, like 85mm f1.2 used with DSLR, often missed critical focusing to eye(s) due to
shallow depth of field. Even though DSLRs have wide AF detection area, it does not cover entire sensor area. So when you change angle slightly
after AF done to model’s eye, critical focus shifted too (so called ‘Cosign error’. It is not noticeable in large DOF but obvious in shallow DOF)
MF lens is never pleasing to use than A7m2. But there is 1 thing to be careful.
To support vibration reduction to old classic lens, user need to input focal length manually. So whenever switch the MF lens, need to pay attention
to match input focal length with actual lens respectively. If input focal length is shorter than the attached lens, body will do less compensation.
It is still OK since most of users don’t have compensation at all. But if focal length is longer than attached lens, vibration mechanism will do
over compensation, which effectively shakes the sensor more than necessary.
Because camera body is not intelligent enough (yet) to recognize manual lens’ focal length, what if the adapters have circuit to communicate focal length?
User select correct focal length adapter, then adapter communicate automatically to the body. I think this is new business opportunity for adapter makers.
They can sell adapters for each lens instead of 1 for each type.
When manual zoom lens used, better input lowest focal length number to be safe. But I don’t think ‘manual zoom’ is good idea
while sophisticated AF zoom are available in reasonable price.
Why the camera makes so dark exposure? My first round of test shot ended up very dark result. Most of shots when open in LightRoom shows
0.7 to 1 stop low exposure than average. It is a big surprise. I used to use older bodies, GXR-M, Canon 5d, Kodak 560….etc, none of them shows
such a deep drop in exposure.
After following test & experiments, I conclude ‘center weighted measurement’ which is one of 3 exposure mode is more serious than other setting.
I don’t know why… because auto exposure is pretty mature technology, nothing could be wrong in here. Anyway, after switch to ‘matrix measurement’
under exposure is getting less but not gone entirely. Exposure compensation to + side is the one way in workaround but not entirely. Major parts are
under exposure but some are over exposure.
* Can you believe this is 21C auto exposure technology?
Make things worse, some are over exposed, OMG *
** Top 2 row, exposure adjusted. I remember at least 1 full stop increased. **
White Balance issue: Auto white balance works reasonably well in daylight, but not under artificial light, e.g. café.
Be aware this is not only Sony’s problem. It is generic issue under mixed light condition for digital cameras.
Here WB fooled and shows very unattractive colors, so user need to take either RAW + JPG or understand the situation when WB fooled,
thus customize balance for JPG on the spot. In practice, just shooting in RAW is good option. Post processing RAW takes time but it is a part of fun
and important portion of photography.
JPG color itself is different matter. It is a choice of user, so many tweak points are provided. For example, ‘camera portrait’ output, it is too yellowish
for my taste and saturation is too weak. Point is all these personal things can be optimized in the menu and stored as ‘my setting’.
I like to ‘camera standard’ color, so I adjust contrast a litle and store it as my own Portraint setting.
Which one is better? LR or C1?
Adobe LightRoom (LR) has its own color gamut, so be careful to choose right camera profile unless you like Adobe’s color (anyone there?).
The option to select camera profile is located at the bottom of LR Develop menu.
I believe the camera profile released to Abode by Sony for their cameras, but the color renditions are not always the same as camera output JPG.
I also found Capture One (C1) has slightly different camera standard output.
LightRoom is good starting point to work out post process. It is very easy and intuitive tool. Capture One is another mighty tool which is available
mainly for Digital Backs (it is from Phase One) and now supports Sony RAW exclusively as well.
One key & noticeable difference of those 2 programs is ‘lens distortion’ profile. In C1, image adjusted to compensate distortion while LR did not.
For fixed focal length lens, distortion is not a problem unless it is extreme wide angle. But zoom lenses, especially latest one, it is important matter ever.
With advance image processing technology, modern digital cameras compensate lens aberration, blue fringe & distortion through ‘image process chip’
instead painstakingly optimize lens design itself. This in turn makes zoom lens design simpler in less optical elements while maintain high performance
at final result.
Problem is if S/W does not recognize those lens profiles, like LR, it cannot compensate aberrations during processing. It looks like Sony provide
their distortion profiles for Capture One and get exclusive support from them but not to LightRoom.
Standard JPG color from LR & C1 are very similar, but can see slight difference in minute details.
C1 shows more vivid while LR renders flat & softer.
* Sony A7m2 + Leica Summicron DR + Helicoid adapter
* (top): Summicron’s minimum focusing distance, 1m
(middle): Close focus of Summicron DR, 40cm
(bottom): Helicoid of the adapter extended, about 15cm