The New Sony A7r for Landscape Photographers

Sony A7r size compared to the Nikon D800E

Sony A7r size compared to the Nikon D800E

Last night Sony introduced the A7r, a full-frame mirrorless camera with a 36.4 megapixel sensor. In this blog post I am going to breakdown my thoughts on the camera as it pertains to landscape photography.

The sensor is 36.4 megapixels, a fraction larger than the D800E. It has no anti-aliasing filter just like the D800E, resulting in sharper images straight out of the camera. The D800E has the best sensor we have ever seen in a full-frame camera and has become the go to body for many landscape photographers. Canon has lost a lot of shooters to Nikon due to the incredible sensor. We know that Sony made Nikon’s sensor and they have had over a year to make improvements. They also claim to have a processing engine that reduces the effect of diffraction when choosing smaller apertures, a common problem in landscape photography. There is no way to know how the sensor compares currently, but my hope is that it is as good if not slightly better than the D800E. Sony has shown prints made with the A7r and the D800E side by side to some people. The A7r of course beats the D800E, but we should probably wait for an objective test!

The camera is weather sealed. This a nice touch and essential for landscape shooters.

One of the biggest omissions from the announcement was any indication of a wired remote shutter. This drove me nuts about the Sony NEX-7 and I couldn’t fathom why Sony would make such a huge mistake yet again. I watched the reveal of the camera live and was able to send a question to Sony of Australia.

The Question:

“Is there anyway a wired shutter release can be made to use one of the ports? Why make a 36 megapixel camera if it’s not intended for landscape use? No landscape photographer working today uses a camera without a reliable wired shutter release. I really hope there’s a way as I’d love to test this in the field.”

The Answer:

“Hi Justin R – The camera uses the multi-use terminal, there are a lot of options for wired remote control.”

That got me curious! So I began to research multi-use terminal wired remotes for Sony and came across the Sony RM-VPRI

http://store.sony.com/gsi/webstore/WFS/SNYNA-SNYUS-Site/en_US/-/USD/ViewProduct-Start;pgid=wXhG8DtITUdSRpnHynMJ2Z2r0000E4_CKBNt?SKU=27-RMVPR1

I then crossed reference that with the Sony A7r and found this link:

http://store.sony.com/-alpha-7r-alpha-7r-interchangeable-lens-camera-zid27-ILCE7R/B/cat-27-catid-All-Alpha-NEX-Cameras

In the specifications it says this:

Remote Commander : Yes, via optional RM-VPR1

I think that’s the answer! Why on Earth this is not being marketed as an accessory to the camera itself is beyond me. If your entire photographic career is spent working from a tripod (which is the case for 99 percent of landscape photographers) than you can understand the significance of the remote. Now that that’s settled (I hope), let’s move on to size.

It is incredibly small. Half the size of a DSLR. The weight savings is going to be tremendous. From reports of early users they say it is extremely comfortable to hold. I will have to see for myself. I found the NEX-7 to be uncomfortable, so I am hoping for an improvement. If weight was a non issue, there is nothing like the feel of a well-built DSLR in your hand. That’s the compromise though, in order to save weight you have to get used to a different feel to the camera.

On to the lens lineup. There is no current wide-angle lens available. They have one on their roadmap to be released in 2014. My guess would be late 2014. There is a 70-200 f/4 scheduled for Spring. That is a must have lens. And a 24-70 f/4 coming in the winter. Not my favorite focal length, but will fill out that range nicely.

One of the huge advantages to mirrorless bodies, is the ability to use a multitude of different lenses from different manufacturers through the use of adapters.

I can use this:

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/983747-REG/metabones_mb_ef_e_bm3_canon_ef_to_e_mount_nex.html/6784/KBID/7355

And all my Canon glass will work. I can throw on my Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L II and there you go, I have a wide-angle lens! Will the flaws of the lens be magnified by using a 36 megapixel sensor? Quite possibly, but looking forward to finding out.

You could also go this route with a Leica M adapter:

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/983732-REG/metabones_mb_lm_e_bm2_leica_m_to_e_mount_nex.html

And use a high quality prime like this:

http://www.adorama.com/ZI184DS.html#reviews

So there are some workarounds while Sony builds out the new FE (full-frame e-mount) lens lineup. I could carry this camera in my bag with the Canon adapter and use it alongside my Mark III with all the Canon glass. That’s exactly what I’m going to do in the beginning as I test the camera.

The negatives that are highlighted with the camera are not applicable to landscape photography. The autofocus is much better on the A7 (the 24 megapixel version) than the A7r. Doesn’t matter. The camera does not have in camera stabilization. Doesn’t matter. The shutter is loud. Doesn’t matter. Very poor FPS. That does matter a little. When shooting lava, the northern lights, waterfalls, or any moving subject, I like to have a nice burst mode. Not a deal breaker though.

My new eBook, “The Complete Guide to Gear for the Landscape Photographer” comes out next week. Unfortunately, with the camera coming out in December I won’t be able to include it for this edition. For the second edition expect to see plenty of thoughts on the new camera and see if it evolves into a powerful tool for the landscape photographer community!

For links to the most resources on the web for all things Sony A7r, please visit:

http://www.sonyalpharumors.com

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20 responses to “The New Sony A7r for Landscape Photographers

  • Ron Coscorrosa

    I usually don’t get that excited over new gear but this definitely seems like a game-changer to me. With most cameras there’s a trade-off, small size OR large sensor, this camera has no trade-off (small size AND large sensor and less moving parts!).

    If the image quality is on par or better than the D800 (with a bonus of a live view that actually works) then it’s a no-brainer. Looking forward to your reports about using existing Canon lenses via an adapter. Ultimately I would prefer to use native lenses where possible, but if the adapters are solid and don’t degrade image quality or functionality, then it’s really the best of all worlds. Cool! Now I just need more money :)

    • Justin Reznick

      Thanks for the comments Ron! You bring up an excellent point that was supposed to be in the blog post (I should have sent it to you beforehand). To have that sensor with a camera that has a great live view screen with focus peaking. EPIC! It has the potential to blow away all the weaknesses of the D800E.

  • Scott Miller

    I can’t wait to hear how adapters for Canon and Nikon glass work with this. I assume AF performance will suffer, but if it still functions and image quality is maintained, that may be acceptable.

  • Michael Bollino

    Looks really promising! If nothing else it’s a sneak peak into the future which is awaiting us. Since Sony manufactured the D800/e sensors, I’m waiting to see if the A7r also has the same insanely high dynamic range and low shadow noise. To me, being an D800e owner, those two features blow away the eye popping pixel count of the D800/e and stand as the top two reasons to buy that body.

  • Michael Bollino

    Should add the diffraction reduction feature of the A7r was the most intriguing tidbit of the release….. Definitely waiting to hear performance specs on that!

  • Sarah Marino

    I agree with everyone else’s comments. This is a really exciting announcement, especially if this camera addresses some of the functionality issues of the D800 with the benefit of coming in a smaller package. The flexibility to easily use a multitude of other lenses, along with the other things like the diffraction reduction and the real possibility of functional live view, do make this a game changer for landscape photographers. I certainly hope this camera is reviewed positively as it seems to have a very attractive set of features for landscape photographers. We are looking forward to hearing about your hands on experience with the camera, Justin.

  • Sarah Marino

    I agree with everyone else’s comments. This is a really exciting announcement, especially if this camera addresses some of the functionality issues of the D800 with the benefit of coming in a smaller package. The flexibility to easily use a multitude of other lenses, along with the other things like the diffraction reduction and the real possibility of functional live view, do make this a game changer for landscape photographers. I certainly hope this camera is reviewed positively as it seems to have a very attractive set of features for landscape photographers. We are looking forward to hearing about your hands on experience with the camera, Justin.

  • Jan Zwilling

    Hi Justin, thanks for pointing out the expected pros and cons so precisely. I am a Canon shooter thinking of an upgrade to full frame. As I already own some lenses that are compatible, it might actually happen the next months. This sony gem is an unexpected alternative for me and I will follow the reviews and comments over the next weeks. Just one thing makes me wonder: If we use our Canon (or Nikkor) lenses with adapters like this:http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/983747-REG/metabones_mb_ef_e_bm3_canon_ef_to_e_mount_nex.html/6784/KBID/7355
    what are the consequences for the focus range? Doesn’t it screw your possibility to focus for infinity if you add half an inch between the lens and the sensor?

  • Achim Sieger

    Hello Justin,

    very good read and i fully agree to your thoughts.
    I’m a Nikon guy shooting the D800E. The camera is awesome but there are 2 things that i really hate about the camera. First is that Nikon doesn’t offer a 17mm TS-E lens and second is the poor live view that is almost unusable in poor lighting. The A7R will allow me to use my loved 36MP sensor with the awesome Canon 17mm TS-E lens. I hope that Sony has implemented live view way better than Nikon. And additionally focus peaking will help a lot when shooting manual focus lenses.

    Check out this link to get an idea how use the camera with an L-Plate since the placement of the cable release connector will not allow to use an L-Plate and shoot in vertical orientation on a tripod:

    http://hejnarphoto.com/ebay/products/metabones2%20spacer.html

    Best regards
    Achim

    • Justin Reznick

      Thank you for the comment Achim! I agree right back at you! A Dutch magazine recently published results with the Sony A7r and the 17mm and 24mm TS-E lenses with stellar results. We are in business! I plan on updating my blog with reports on the camera from a landscape photographer’s point of view. I have seen the L-plate from hejnarphoto, it looks great, but it appears to be for version II and we need it for version III. Plus, nothing in stock on his site. Time to write him an email and see what he can do!

      Thanks again for the comment!

      Cheers,
      Justin

      • Achim Sieger

        Justin,

        yes – saw that report from the dutch magazine.
        I am already in contact with Krzysztof (the guy behind Hejnarphoto) and discussed about the L-Plate for the Mark III adapter. I have also contact to Metabones who promised to send me the technical drawing of the Mark III adapter. Currently they do not have it but they will make one. Once i receive the drawing, Krzysztof will propose a tailored L-Plate for our purpose.
        I’ll keep you posted! And i will keep Michael (from Tenerife) posted too since i know that he is also very interested… :-)

        Best regards
        Achim

      • Justin Reznick

        Wow Achim, you are all over this, FANTASTIC! Thank you so much for getting the ball rolling on the L-Bracket! Looking forward to updates! So glad you know Michael, such a great guy. I’m glad we are all in this together, it’s too exciting!

      • Achim Sieger

        Yea absolutely. I am very exited about that camera. Michael made me aware about the possibilities and told me that he has discussed with you. That’s why i found your website. I’ve searched the internet a lot but still could not find a live view comparison (in low light) between the A7R and the D800E. Hope that the camera has live view implemented as good as the 5DMkIII… If i find any news on that i’ll share with you.

  • Amber Skye Digital photography

    Way cool! Some very valid points! I appreciate youu penning this write-up and also the rest of the website is also very
    good.

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