Sunday, March 9, 2014

COMPARISON: The Sony A7 vs A99 by Shawn Rabourn (Guest Blogger)

The following is a guest blog from one of my readers who has a long history using Sony cameras. His current primary body is an a99, so I invited him to bring his best lenses and give the a7 a test to see how he liked. What follows are Shawn Rabourn’s own words and opinions:

Sony Alpha a7 Mirrorless Digital Camera
Sony Alpha a7 Mirrorless Digital Camera

Last week Ron posted contacted me about A-mount lenses as he had the Sony A7 and the EA-LA4 Adapter for testing, but no A-mount lenses. As it worked out, I was going to be in town, and I always have my A99 body and an array of A-mount lenses with me. I brought my favorite lenses including the new 50mm f/1.4 SSM ZA, the 85mm f/1.4 ZA, and the 135 f/2.8[T4.5] STF.

After doing some basic testing Ron asked me, as a full time Sony user, to carry the Sony A7 around and write about what I liked about it. He gave me the A7 with the LA-EA4 adapter, along with the new E-mount 35mm f/2.8 Prime lens.

I was a bit overwhelmed by the ask.  I mean, this is the A7! This is the new shiny E-mount full frame body everyone is talking about!

Let me tell you, for the most part the A7 did not disappoint. I wish I would have been able to test the Wi-Fi or the Zebra feature a little bit more, though I did try out the Zebra feature long enough to know I needed more than a couple days with it to give it justice.

The Good

Sony a7 with A-Mount Adapter at f/2.8 @ 85 mm, 1/100, ISO 100, No Flash
, handheld
Sony Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 ZA lens – click for original

Look and feel.  Regardless if the 35mm prime or my 85mm f/1.4 was adapted on the body, the A7 felt fantastic. It looked fantastic. The metal body felt like it could take a beating and it has a James Bond black metal finish to it. I was a little afraid of the smaller body with bigger lenses. For the most part, those fears were extinguished.

The Menu. The menu system is very similar to the menu in the A99 and A77 with a little better organization. More features means more menu options, however Sony does a good job with the menu. I could see how someone used to a 1DX or D4 could be a little lost, however.

The EVF. The EVF was as good, if not better than the A99 EVF with the latest firmware. Sometimes the EVF on the A99 shows more light than the surroundings have. Here was a shot I took testing the A7 in very low light.

The rear scroll wheel. I like how smooth the rear adjustment wheel is. Much nicer than the clicking wheel on the A99 or A77. However this is also a segue…

The Bad

No left pinky AF mode adjustment button or knob. The A99 and A77 have a button or knob where your left pinky finger could adjust the AF mode (or whatever you program the button to do). I don’t know if there is enough real estate for it, but I missed it.

File name sequencing. In swapping memory cards from one in the A99, the A7 resumed the file number sequence the A99 had. So when I have two memory cards writing the same file names from two bodies, things get confusing. This isn’t the first time I have had this happen as I have done this before with Sony bodies, but it is annoying nonetheless.

No focus hold button on the 35mm lens. The 35mm f/2.8 lens carries the Zeiss badge. I wish it were like all of my Zeiss-badged lenses with a focus-hold button. Maybe I am spoiled. I had to put the body in Direct Manual Focus to get the same type of focusing effect I am used to with the A-mount Sony Zeiss lenses.

No stabilization. I missed my in-body “Steady Shot” stabilization. Every A-mount body I own has it, and it makes hand-holding shots easy below about 1/50s…

The Ugly

1/60s. The A7 brain has a love affair with 1/60s with the 35mm lens (1/100s with the 85mm lens adapted). I like to shoot Auto ISO from 100-1600 and in Aperture Priority. The body used the minimum ISO possible for 1/60s. I wish there were a menu setting to accelerate the minimum shutter speed the internal A7 computer uses under these conditions. Sounds like a good idea for the next firmware rev! In all seriousness, 1/60s is probably OK for situations where you have a stabilized camera. No stabilization, you almost need to double it. For 85mm, 1/100 is a little bit better, but still slow. At least if you hold the lens right, you have a fighting chance with a still subject.

NEW (3-24-14) - Image comparisons

I had hoped to do a more comprehensive test with the A99 and A7, apples to apples, however the weather in the Pacific Northwest didn’t cooperate, nor did my work schedule. I did manage to attempt to take similar shots with the A99 and A7 while passing to meetings on separate days.

A99 85mm f/1.4

A7 85mm f/1.4 (85mm f/1.4 lens with EA-LA4 adapter)

A99 85mm f/5.6

A7 85mm f/5.6 (85mm f/1.4 lens with EA-LA4 adapter)


And in trying to compare color I took these shots with identical light. The lenses are different here, but both bodies are using Auto White Balance and Auto ISO.

A99 50mm f/1.4 (50mm f/1.4)

A7 35mm f/3.5 (35mm f/2.8 lens)

With the EA-LA4 adapter I found the A7 and A99 quality to be negligible. More testing is needed. I would expect similar results with maybe a fractional difference since the EA-LA4 adapter has a similar, but newer generation translucent mirror. I did see the third of a stop difference in metering when the 35mm prime was on versus the 85mm or 50mm primes adapted at similar stops.

Where to order

Click here to learn more or order this camera on the B&H web site. My friends at Amazon have it available here.

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Anonymous said...

No word on picture quality comparison?? said...

Please see my review at for comments on picture quality.

This was a short informal article by a guest blogger sharing his observations. I'll forward your comment to Shawn so he can add comments here too if he desires.