Class leading autofocus
Best of both worlds
Slow to respond
24 MP, full frame CMOS
$ 2,789 AUD
Long story short, this is the iPhone 4 of digital cameras. The 2019 A7R IV did not get a huge jump in specifications so it is safe to say things would be similar for the upcoming ‘base’ iv. Furthermore with the current situation, there would not be one as soon as we would hope. Despite a substantial price difference, the R’s extra megapixels, superior electronic viewfinder and screen definition does make one think twice.
Sony menus are regarded to be confusing but so is Fuji’s, Leica’s and every other camera manufacturer. When it comes to new products from our favourite manufacturer, things may be familiar, never simple. Then again, what do you expect when many features are cramped into a single device? Should gear ever be a limiting factor, that is the cue to make a change. Habits provide comfort but there is no life in stagnation.
Red ring over lenses together with EOS R’s dot-matrix display really does not help by being aesthetically desirable. Having left nostalgia behind and seeing things as they are, almost every RF glass is a year’s salary. That aside, the size and weight of most currently available lens defeat the purpose of going into a mirrorless system altogether.
Moreover, the EF lineup makes more sense if you also shoot film or at least not wanting to eliminate the possibility. The upcoming Rs will come equipped with what the original R lacked however buying one might just cost another annual income which adds to the disappointment on top of a long painful wait.
Resolving power can still be faster while the display on the III is oddly worse than the II. Also what can be done on its touchscreen is limited which is a missed opportunity in aiding menu navigation. Like a Giulia QV, a lot has gone into what cannot be seen which made Sony an obvious choice for anyone buying a camera today.
Processing speeds are noticeable faster than the II, dual card slots does make filing that bit more organised. On-camera charging is no longer a nuisance with USB-C because there’s no need for a separate charger or a card reader, simply share it with the laptop. One criticism left to address from the last iteration would be battery life which has been doubled to 710 shots from a single charge.
No, it is not made in Wetzlar yet every dial and knob has been tightly screwed together as things can be. The 24mm 1.4 GM does bring the best out of Sony’s Alpha series by being quiet, quick and decisive. Aperture ring clicks with nice damping and can go click-less for video work. With a minimum focus distance of 24 centimetres, it takes things to macro territory without narrowing down aperture.
Totalling 1.1 kilograms, the combination is no featherweight but this is as good as it gets for a workhorse. Out of focus blur is smooth and not distracting whilst skin tone rendering is redder than they actually are. Moreover, manual focus by wire experience is not enjoyable and images churned out are so sharp that can mean more work for post editing.
Where autofocus is so good at doing heavy lifting, more attention can be put into getting the shot or onset surprises. Silent shooting mode is dead quiet while mechanical shutter sounds good and assuring. Also no correction is required when adapting to most lenses regardless of brand and age, a path planned for the pipeline. We already know that the A7 III delivers broad dynamic range and unrestricted video capabilities, still it deserves an honourable mention.
Lenses can be made lighter by not having a stabiliser as the A7 has in-body axis stabilisation. For lenses that do, users can access even slower shutter speeds and achieve smoother hand-held footage. As to whether in-lens or in-camera stabilisation reigns supreme, they both have their respective perks but for truly smooth videos, a gimbal is the way to go.
Although this is one of the lighter A7 setups, it is no lightweight. If a travel camera is what you’re looking for, an RX1R II or a Leica Q is a better suit. Not being made in Japan was Sony’s strategy to bring costs down which enabled a lot more people into photo, video making and that is no bad thing. For that alone, they deserve a round of applause for getting the recipe so right.
Sony 24mm f/1.4
The best 24 ever made is what you’ve read or heard of how compact and light for what it is. That’s largely true because Sony’s GM lineup is set out to be the very best for professional work. If you are looking for a lightweight travel setup, go for something that weighs less than 400 grams. For most times, an aperture of such is more of a want than a need.
Tamron 28-75 f/2.8
Where you'd normally find the zoom and focus ring has been swapped. It may seem like something to get used to but it does get confusing even for someone who solely uses prime lenses. Zooming on the further end of the lens is a little counter intuitive which takes away some of the experience. This Tamron is not as small or light as I hoped for it to be however compared to an GM zoom lens, it is. At half the money, all these niggles are hard to fault given how much of performance and value such a lens provides. If you still don’t like this Tamron having given it a go, you’ll get most of your money back as there plenty of people hunting for one in the used market. Furthermore, they are made in Japan. That doesn’t mean much to me as joints on its plastic body can be felt and are visible to the eye.
Sony 85mm f/1.8
Even without a G or GM badge, images that come from this glass are more than satisfying. Unlike the 24, the body on this one is made entirely of metal. Aside from losing out on an aperture ring, half a stop of light and that extra polish, a lightweight lens like this one is the whole point of jumping the SLR ship. A thing to note is it has a minimum focus distance of 80 cm which is nothing to fault given the nature of lenses at this focal length.