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The introduction of the Sony Alpha A7 and A7R sees Sony introducing the World's first full-frame mirrorless cameras (excluding digital rangefinders), and with the A7R, they are also claiming the World's smallest and lightest full frame mirrorless camera, with a weight of just 407g body only.
Using the same Sony E-Mount as Sony NEX mirrorless cameras, it's impressive that they've been able to make such a large full-frame sensor fit into the same lens mount, and you can see in photos that show the sensor how tight a fit it is. This will also have an impact on how you use Sony E-Mount lenses with the camera, with the current Sony E-Mount lenses operating differently depending on each lens.
The camera gives the option to use the lens in crop mode, or alternatively use the full frame, but with strong vignetting. A new range of Sony FE - Full-frame E-Mount lenses has been announced to take advantage of the new cameras, which are signified by "FE" in the name, including a number of lenses developed with Carl Zeiss for optimum image quality.
The Sony Alpha 7R features a 36.4 megapixel full frame CMOS sensor, without the optical low-pass filter (or anti-aliasing filter), to enable the sharpest possible image quality. The camera uses contrast-detection AF, with 25 AF points. When using Sony E-Mount lenses in crop mode you end up with a 15 megapixel image, which feels a bit like a waste of a 36.4 megapixel sensor, and for the best results you will need to invest in full-frame lenses, or alternatively use a full-frame lens with an adapter. Sony sell a number of adapters that allow the use of Sony Alpha lenses.
The camera features a tough magnesium-alloy body that is weather sealed, and gives side access to the memory card slot, supporting the use of either Sony Memory Stick or SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards.
The camera records Full HD video with stereo sound, at 60p/50p/25p, and there is also clean HDMI out for recording to an external device, or for monitoring on an external screen. The camera has built in stereo microphones, but also sports microphone and headphone sockets on the side for anyone who wants to use an off-camera microphone, or monitor audio through headphones.
NFC (Near Field Communication) and Wi-Fi is built in for remote operation, and image transfer when connected to a compatible smartphone, and the camera uses the Sony PlayMemories Mobile app which is compatible with Android and iOS devices.
- 36.4 megapixel full frame Exmor CMOS sensor (newly developed sensor)
- No optical low-pass filter
- XGA OLED Tru-Finder electronic viewfinder
- 3inch tilting screen
- Full HD video, 60p, 25p
- Clean HDMI output
- Fast intelligent AF
- Smart remote control, Wi-Fi and NFC
- Tough magnesium weather sealed body
- ISO 100-25600, expandable to ISO50 and ISO51200
- 4fps continuous shooting
The Sony A7, and A7R, features the same orange ring around the lens mount, which was first introduced with the Sony Alpha 99, and Sony Cyber-shot RX1 and signifies that the camera has a full-frame sensor.
The rest of the camera is much more subtle in its design with a black metal body, and SLR styling, with the top viewfinder area and rear of the camera closely resembling the Olympus OM-D E-M5. The design of the camera seemed to generate mixed reaction, with some welcoming the industrial retro styling, whereas others are much less keen on the angular design.
The rear features a high resolution 921k dot 3inch tilting screen that tilts up and down, and a high resolution 2.4 million dot OLED electronic viewfinder, with dioptre correction and eye-detection sensor so that it will automatically switch to the viewfinder when held up to the eye.
Viewfinder quality is excellent, with a very clear and crisp display, which includes a dual axis electronic level, and the EVF has a good sized rubber surround to help viewing outdoors which will be of benefit to anyone who wears glasses. Thankfully, the camera features a menu system much more similar to Sony Alpha cameras, rather than Sony NEX cameras, which means we may (finally) see the end of the Sony NEX menu system, which we were never a big fan of. A switch on the back will let you change the operation of the AF/MF button to an AEL button.
The side video record button has been placed so that you don't accidentally start video recording. There is also a microphone and headphone socket on the side for those seriously interested in video recording, and the clean HDMI out will be of particular interest here.
The mode dial features Auto, P, A, S, M, Scene, Panoramic, Video modes as well as two customisable user modes, and there's also a C1 (custom1) button on top of the camera, with a second C2 (custom2) button on the back, along with a Fn (Wi-Fi) button, and C3 button that doubles as the delete button when in playback. The functions available on screen when you press the Fn button can be customised to give quick access to your favourite options.
A large front grip is covered in a textured rubber coating that extends round to the back of the camera, where it is shaped for your thumb. The camera feels good to hold with some of the smaller lenses, however, when the larger FE lenses are mounted on the camera, it can make the camera seem quite lens heavy and therefore holding the camera with two hands (with one supporting the lens) is highly recommended. If you plan on using one of the adapters, and Sony Alpha (A-Mount) lenses with the camera, or other large lenses, then the optional battery grip could help the camera feel more balanced, as well as giving extended battery life.
An exposure compensation dial on top gives quick access to exposure control, and a front and rear dial can be used for aperture and shutter control when in manual / aperture or shutter modes respectively.
With the announcement of the Sony Alpha 7 and Sony Alpha 7R, Sony says that there will be no further Sony NEX cameras, and instead aim to merge the Sony NEX and Sony Alpha range into one Sony Alpha range. To enable this, Sony say that the Sony E-Mount cameras can accept both Sony E-Mount lenses, as well as Sony A-Mount lenses with an adapter, so that you have the choice of choosing your ideal lens from the whole range of Sony lenses. There a wide range of third party lens mount adapters available to enable the use of classic (and modern) lenses from other manufacturers, including lenses from Leica, Nikon, Canon and others.
Battery life - Battery life is rated at 270 shots according to Sony / CIPA test results, and the camera uses an info-lithium battery so you know exactly how much battery life is left. The battery is charged in camera using the provided USB cable and an external battery charger is not provided. For those that find the battery life short, a spare battery and external charger is recommended.
Speed - We took a number of shots to test the camera's responsiveness, from switch on to first photo, shot to shot, focusing speed etc. We take a number of shots and then use the average to ensure accurate and consistent tests, making it easy to compare with other cameras.
|Sony Alpha 7R|
|Wide - Focus / Shutter Response||0.45s|
|Full zoom - Focus / Shutter Response||N/A|
|Switch on Time to Taking a Photo||2.6s|
|Shot to Shot without Flash||0.7s (MF) / 0.9s (AF)|
|Shot to Shot with Flash||N/A|
Continuous Shooting - JPEG
(shots before slow down)
|4fps (16 shots)|
|Continuous Shooting - Flash||N/A|
|Continuous Shooting - RAW||4fps (16 shots)|
The Sony website says that continuous shooting shoots at 1.5fps or 4fps, we switched on speed priority continuous shooting and the camera shot at 4fps for 16 shots before slowing down when shooting JPEG or 16 shots when shooting raw, using a Sandisk Extreme 80MB/s UHS:I SDHC card. Focus speeds tested with the Carl Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 lens.
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Sony Alpha 7R Sample Photos
Wood Detail | 1/200 sec | f/11.0 | 55.0 mm | ISO 100
Normal | 1/100 sec | f/9.0 | 55.0 mm | ISO 100
Model | 1/125 sec | f/1.8 | 55.0 mm | ISO 100
Outdoors | 1/60 sec | f/1.8 | 55.0 mm | ISO 1250
Sample Photos - Exposure is reliable, with the camera producing excellent colour and detail. The saturation, sharpness, and contrast can be customised so that you can setup the camera as desired, however the camera delivers pleasing results on default settings.
Sony Alpha 7R Lens test images
Night 28mm | 1/40 sec | f/3.5 | 28.0 mm | ISO 3200
Night 70mm | 1/40 sec | f/5.6 | 70.0 mm | ISO 6400
Bokeh | 1/60 sec | f/1.8 | 55.0 mm | ISO 1000
Low Light Wide-open | 1/60 sec | f/1.8 | 55.0 mm | ISO 640
Lens Performance - Detail is very good from the 55mm f/1.8 Zeiss lens, with good detail across the frame. The lens is also very resistant to flare and is provided with a deep hood. When using the 55mm lens distortion correction is switched on by default, and can't be switched off (vignetting and CA correction can be switched on/off), however it's possible to view the level of distortion in the original raw images, of which there is very little. The closest focus distance of the 55mm lens is 50cm, which means this lens isn't very good for macro work. With thanks to HarrisonCameras for providing the Sony FE 28-70mm lens for this review.
Sony Alpha 7R ISO test images
ISO Noise Performance - The ISO Range goes from ISO50 to ISO25600. The Sony Alpha 7R gives impressive noise performance, with usable images right up to and including ISO12800, although with a slight loss in colour saturation at this setting and above. Detail starts to drop off at ISO6400 and ISO12800 on default settings, and reducing the noise reduction setting helps show additional detail, as shown below.
Sony Alpha 7R ISO
Noise reduction options shown at ISO12800, showing Off, Low and Normal. As can be seen above, noise reduction is rather strong on the "Normal" (Default) setting, and to retain the maximum levels of detail in images, setting Noise Reduction to Low is recommended.
Sony Alpha 7R White-balance test images
White Balance Performance - Auto White Balance (AWB) performs well under tungsten lighting, with the tungsten preset giving very similar results. Similarly AWB performs well under fluorescent lighting, and the fluorescent presets give different colour casts, and we have shown the best result here.
Sony Alpha 7R Scene modes
DRO Off | 1/125 sec | f/11.0 | 55.0 mm | ISO 100
DRO Auto | 1/125 sec | f/11.0 | 55.0 mm | ISO 100
HDR 6EV | 1/125 sec | f/11.0 | 55.0 mm | ISO 100
There are a number of ways to improve dynamic range in harsh lighting conditions, and when in intelligent Auto or Superior Auto+ the camera will automatically use the backlight scene mode if it decides it's necessary. In program mode you can switch DRO (Dynamic Range Optimisation) or HDR (High Dynamic Range) on, with these featuring Auto or manual settings. Here we've used the auto DRO setting which has produced very good results, without looking too artificial. With the HDR mode set to 6EV the results are quite unnatural, however leaving this on auto gives good results, combining a number of shots taken at different exposures.
Panoramic Sheffield | 1/500 sec | f/4.0 | 55.0 mm | ISO 100
Panorama mode - The camera features a panoramic sweep mode where you simply press the shutter button and pan the camera in the direction you want to take the photo. Results are good, with good detail and a fairly high resolution result.
Sony Alpha 7R Outdoor images
Lens Correction Off | 1/6400 sec | f/1.8 | 55.0 mm | ISO 100
Vignetting Correction | 1/6400 sec | f/1.8 | 55.0 mm | ISO 100
Vignette And Chromatic Aberration Correction | 1/6400 sec | f/1.8 | 55.0 mm | ISO 100
Built in lens correction options are shown above, with the first option showing corrections switched off, the next is with shading / vignetting correction switched on, the next shows chromatic aberration switched on as well. With the 55mm lens, distortion correction is on by default.
Sony Alpha 7R Digital filters
HDR Painting Mid | 1/100 sec | f/9.0 | 55.0 mm | ISO 100
High Contrast BnW | 1/100 sec | f/9.0 | 55.0 mm | ISO 100
Illustration Mid | 1/100 sec | f/9.0 | 55.0 mm | ISO 100
Miniature Auto | 1/100 sec | f/9.0 | 55.0 mm | ISO 100
Part Blue | 1/100 sec | f/9.0 | 55.0 mm | ISO 100
Part Green | 1/100 sec | f/9.0 | 55.0 mm | ISO 100
Pop | 1/100 sec | f/9.0 | 55.0 mm | ISO 100
Posterisation | 1/100 sec | f/9.0 | 55.0 mm | ISO 100
Retro | 1/100 sec | f/9.0 | 55.0 mm | ISO 100
Rich Tone BNW | 1/100 sec | f/9.0 | 55.0 mm | ISO 100
Soft Hi Key | 1/80 sec | f/5.0 | 55.0 mm | ISO 100
Soft Mid | 1/100 sec | f/9.0 | 55.0 mm | ISO 100
Watercolour | 1/100 sec | f/9.0 | 55.0 mm | ISO 100
Toy Camera | 1/125 sec | f/11.0 | 55.0 mm | ISO 100
Digital Filters - When using the picture effects, the camera records the altered JPEG but does not let you use this feature with raw enabled. There are also colour options available which can be customised, letting you set contrast, saturation and sharpness.
Video - The camera records full HD videos with stereo sound, and there are options to adjust the audio levels as well as audio out timing, and wind noise reduction. Microphone, headphone and HDMI ports can be found on the left of the camera, and a clean HDMI output is provided.
Value For MoneyThe Sony Alpha A7R is available for around £1699 body only, which is very good value for money for a full-frame digital camera with a 36 megapixel sensor. The only other full-frame Digital SLR to match this is the Nikon D800, which is available for £2049 body only, or the Nikon D800E (without AA filter) priced at £2349 body only.
You'll also need to buy a memory card and a case or bag to keep your camera safe and protected - have a look at our complete guide to camera bags.
Focus and shutter response are slower than the Sony Alpha 7, which means the A7R is not ideal for kids or moving subjects. Image quality is very good, and can be excellent, however it is important to use high quality lenses and good technique in order to get the best out of the camera. Whether used with Sony lenses or using an adapter, the camera is setup for accurate and easy manual focus thanks to focus peaking and other display options, as well as a clear and high resolution electronic viewfinder.
A number of photos taken at 1/100s or 1/125s with the 55mm f/1.8 FE lens were blurry, which may be caused by the shutter mechanism, and the lack of image stabilisation does not help. Shots taken on a tripod did not suffer from this problem, and if care was taken it was possible to get sharp shots handheld at this shutter speed. For those that don't need the extra resolution, the Sony Alpha 7, with a 24 megapixel sensor makes an excellent choice.
The Sony Alpha A7R is capable of excellent results, with a high resolution 36 megapixel sensor, without the AA filter. It is also one of the smallest and lightest full-frame digital cameras available undercutting the competition noticeably. While currently there are a limited number of full-frame Sony FE mount lenses available, as the range grows the system should become much more compelling.
Buy Online Now
|The Sony Alpha A7R is capable of delivering excellent images and is competitively priced.|
Sony Alpha A7R ProsExtremely compact and lightweight
36 megapixel sensor
Impressive noise performance
FullHD video with clean HDMI out
Microphone / headphone sockets
Built in Wi-Fi / NFC connectivity
Weather sealed body
High resolution electronic viewfinder
Good value for money
Sony Alpha A7R ConsUSB Charging can be slow / Charger not provided
Limited full-frame FE-Mount lenses currently
Vignetting with 55mm wide open
Flash not provided
Short battery life
|VALUE FOR MONEY|
Sony Alpha 7R Specifications
|CCD pixels||36.4Mp (Megapixels)|
|Sensor Type||Exmor CMOS|
|Sensor Size (width)||35.9mm|
|Sensor Size (height)||24mm|
|Screen resolution||921k dots|
|Shutter speeds shortest||1/8000sec|
|Shutter speeds longest||30sec|
|ISO sensitivity||100 - 25600|
|Viewfinder Resolution||2,359,296 dots|
|Video FPS||60p, 25p|
|Optical Zoom with Video||Yes|
|Box Contents||No Data|