Gloria. One light. Samsung Galaxy NX camera. 60mm Macro.
Man, those product shots that show up on the web from Sony always look so great. When I saw the first salvo of PR photos of the A7 and the A7r my drool response was nearly simultaneous. And if they'd been in stock at the time I would probably be $2200 poorer right now. But it didn't turn out that way and chances are it probably won't turn out that way although Sony will still make a sale if the RX 10 is as good in person as the specs lead me to believe it might be.
On my way to the PhotoPlus Expo I found myself musing about heading straight to the big Sony display and getting my hands on one of the cameras. I thought for sure I'd be fondling my future path in the Sony system. But instead of walking away in love I walked away wondering about the idea of manufacturing en charrett. En charrett is a phrase made up by 19th century French architecture students who would work on projects while being pushed on a cart to the place where the designs would be judged. They would work on their projects right up to the deadline (and one imagines that there was always a lot left undone before the bell rang.....).
The Sony booth had a square table in the middle and A7 variants tethered to the top on all four sides. Here you could fondle both of the models to your heart's desire. So, I pick up the A7r, set the diopter for my eyesight and click the shutter. And in that moment it was like finding out that your beautiful date is also convinced she's been abducted by aliens and that the entire world is less than five thousand years old. The loud, high pitched click of the shutter was stunning. Absolutely stunning. At least I was stunned.
Here you have a camera with no flapping mirror and it generates more disagreeable decibels than a moving mirrored Pentax K5-2 and at a more hysterical pitch. Ahhh. I thought to myself. I just need to enable the electronic first shutter and all will be well. Then the second of many shoes dropped. The denser sensor of the A7r (the high res version) doesn't support quiet. I mean electronic first curtain shutter. Oh well. I thought, and I moved on to the regular A7 and looked for the EFC in the menu. Even after I enabled that setting the shutter was still irresponsibly loud. And that's when I started making a more critical survey of the entire package.
The camera is just about the right size for my hands but it is less well finished than the a99's I'm used to using. The design of the exterior just feels more primitive as though it came from a more primitive facility, from an earlier time. The squared off prism is an acquired taste I suppose, but it's one I'm having trouble acquiring... Then I moved on to the AF speed which will be of more interest to other than to me. It's not as fast as the a99. While the really good contrast detection AF systems are pretty darn good they aren't up to fast action. While the a99 is not stellar in this regard it is quite a bit better than the A7r I handled and modestly but obviously better than the AF in the A7 (which is supposed to incorporate PD-AF elements on its sensor.
Finally, even though the body is sized to fit into one's hands in a nice way (and especially with a small prime lens mounted on the front) the new, smaller size means the camera is a considerable handling mis-match for lenses made for the original Sony FF cameras. The large Zeiss zooms and the big 70-200mm G lens are totally out of step with the more compact body size. In fact, if you are using legacy glass from Sony along with one of the adapters your shooting profile (where the lenses are concerned) is bulkier than with the larger a99 body. And that just doesn't make sense.
While the body is smaller than the a99 once the lenses and adapters are mounted the difference between body sizes is trivial in the overall profile. So, in fact, nothing is gained except for the ability to use a wide range of older lenses with appropriate adapters.
The A7 with the 35mm f2.8 prime is a nice sized package. But the camera itself just doesn't shake the feeling that it's still a work in progress. At some point they will have 8 or 10 good, dedicated lenses and the system will probably come together. I get what the guys at Sony are trying to do but I'm not sure they tossed it into the market in the exactly the right way. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure it will sell and sell well. After all, it's a full frame camera with a great sensor at a very reasonable price. If most of my use for the camera were in the studio I'd commit to the 36 meg version and get an adapter right now. The noise wouldn't keep me up nights. But......
There's one more thing that irks me on this camera and on the Samsung Galaxy NX camera (which is in the same price range) and that's the fact that the menus include an "Airplane Mode" to turn off the connectivity features. That connotes to me that otherwise the camera is on and trying to connect all the time. I think cameras should only connect then I ask them to. But I am part of the graying of photography and my disconnection always hits right around the spot where someone tries to tell me how advantageous it is to stay connected all the time. Screw that. Sometimes I want to be in charge.
If only Sony had gotten the shutter right.....I could live with just about everything else.
in other news: Belinda and I finished working on, The Lisbon Portfolio. The photo/action novel I started back in 2002. I humbly think it is the perfect Summer vacation read. And the perfect, "oh crap, I have to fly across the country" read. It's in a Kindle version right now at Amazon. The Lisbon Portfolio. Action. Adventure. Photography. See how our hero, Henry White, blows up a Range Rover with a Leica rangefinder.....