Camera manufacturers are a worried lot. The improvement in phone cameras have over the past few years eroded almost all of their business in the point and shoot range. Almost everyone clicks pictures these days,but not all are using something that has been built exclusively for the purpose. This is why innovation has become the key to survival in the camera business. Nikon pushed the envelope a bit too far when it launched the D800 with a 36MP sensor,Canon was silent for a while before it thought of the ultra compact 100D. But since then,most of the innovation has happened from Sony,not exactly the first name that comes to your mind when you think of cameras. They launched the stunning RX1,a compact camera with a full-frame sensor,the RX100s that took compact cameras to a whole new level and now the new Sony Alpha a7 and a7R DSLRs,both full-frame mirror-less cameras in very manageable sizes. I put the Sony a7 to the test.
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The design reminded me a lot of the RX1. In fact,the body is not much larger even though this is a full-frame DSLR. But the RX1,the great camera that it is,would develop a serious complex in front of this one. That is because this has a tiltable LCD panel,a proper eye piece though looking into an electronic OLED viewfinder and whole range of lenses to play with. It is compact,but build like a Colt with a body that will weather most storms,and dust storms,that come its way. All the ports are tucked away behind sturdy flaps. Despite the small built,the camera offers a very steady,DSLR-like,grip. There is a thumb rest near where all the controls are settles. There is a ring here to adjust the settings and another on up front accessible with your fingers. While framing a shot,both these will come in more than handy. There are two customisable buttons that maker life much easier. Plus,you can switch between auto focus and auto exposure lock on the body itself. I would have preferred this to have been a switch for manual focus.
We tested this 24MP camera with a 2.8-70mm OSS lens. This is a full frame camera with the E-mount and frames are wider than most of us are used to. So creating the frame you need can be a bit tricky at times,compounded by the fact that the lens has a widest range of 28mm. But this is a matter that can be solved with a dozen clicks or so. By then you would have sorted this camera out.
Using the camera was easy,even for a dedicated Canon user like me. While all the usual settings are there,you just need to tap the Fn buttons for the rest. ISO can be changed with the main dial,while shutter speed or aperture are handled by the other two near your fingers.
The camera is fast and has a nice ring to it when it clicks. Even in low light,the auto focus locks real fast. The tricky part,however,is with focusing in macro. That takes some doing. I had to constantly step back to get it right as the lens was too wide. In the manual focus,the viewfinder shows a part of the images and lets you sharpen focus. This is great,though I also wanted the option to see the entire frame I was composing.
The results were stunning all throughout. From low light,for which I have an affinity,to landscapes and sunsets,everything turned out good. I had to be a bit careful though,as the viewfinder wont show what the image will look like with your settings. In that it is more like a regular DSLR. The camera also has superb Full HD video. The lens is smooth enough for you to pan out without any jerks. Plus,everything is shot with the 4K environment in mind that has that kind of detail.
This is also a connected camera with NFC tap and share features with compatible Android phones. There is Wi-Fi too to send your pictures directly to a PC or phone.
Should you buy this: Yes,if you are looking for your first DSLR and can afford this. This seems to be among the best DSLRs out there at the moment. But not advisable for those already on a Nikon or Canon as your entire paraphernalia will become useless. For those planning to use this camera at a professional level,I suggest the Sony a7R which comes with a 36MP sensor. These cameras are expensive,but worth every penny.
Price: Rs: 94,990+