The release of the Alpha 7 / Alpha 7R must be a shocking news to many photographers because they are the mirror-less cameras equipped with full size sensors. Speaking of the Alpha 7R’s sensor, the number of pixels is 36.4 megapixels, one of the highest in its class. Plus, it’s lowpass-less. Yet, the body is the world’s smallest and lightest as an interchangeable lens camera with a full size sensor. These stunning features are packed in the simple, classical, and intrepid body symbolized by the viewfinder section mimicking pentaprism. So, it’s hard not to expect high performance and usability from this device. I went out to shoot with the 35mm F2.8 that was released with the body. The only difference between the Alpha 7 and the Alpha 7R is the sensor. So, I’d like you to check our review of the Alpha 7 as well.

( Photography : Z II / Text : 4Beats )

In the thin depth of focus, the clear glasses look as if it’s polished thanks to the solid depiction and rich texture reproduction. Generally, texture is depicted more faithfully as the number of pixels increases, and this picture demonstrates the theory.

All photos in this review were shot with the Sonnar T* FE35mm F2.8ZA which was released with the body. Despite the distance to the subjects, I can clearly discriminate the texture of the chairs, tables, umbrellas, and the floor. I can even see the evenness and paint of the escalator’s red panel. Isn’t it amazing?

The leaf, stalk, and even the waterdrops are depicted with 3D plasticity. I chose this shot because it even depicts the tiny waterdrops, but actually, this picture is a little blurred when I view it at 100% size. Once the number of pixels goes up to 36.4M, you may end up taking blurred pictures even if you’re using a 35mm lens and 1/125 shutter speed. So, just be more careful.

Since the Alpha 99, SONY cameras’ picture quality has won my trust. The highlight isn’t whitened, nor is blackened the shadow. Still they are very white and black. The colors are neither too colorful nor too quiet. Tonality is tight yet rich. This ordinary shot of a red door is a JPG image straight from the camera. Any complaints?

I’m repeating myself, but I can see the detail of the sculpture and the brush work on the girder. Color reproduction is fantastic. The shadow isn’t blackened and still shows tonality and color. This makes me believe firmly in the wide dynamic range of this camera.

Not only the depiction of texture and tonality, but also resolution is outstanding. The well-used strings are depicted in great detail. I was surprised to find the fine detail of the frayed part was clearly isolated from the background as if it is floating up. This shot does demonstrate how high the resolving power of this camera is.

* The image on the right is a 100% crop of the original image. You can also view at the original size if you mouse-over the image above. The cropped area became small because of the extremely high resolution, but you can still check how minutely it resolves.

The amount of light wasn’t enough due to the cloudy weather, but the steam looks so real and I can almost feel the temperature/humidity difference between the steam and the surrounding air.

High ISO performance is also excellent. This one was shot at ISO3200. I shot wide open to focus the ripples in the front and the result looks wonderful. Of course, a close look will reveal noises, but it’s great for a picture shot at this number of sensitivity.

This one was shot at ISO1250. I was amazed to find the minute depiction of the lace on the wedding dress. There’s just on thing that weighs on my mind and it’s the shutter sound. It may be a little loud, or the frequency is easy to reach the ears. So, you may want to refrain from shooting in some quiet locations. It’s never annoying and it sounds comfortable to me, though. A large shutter is necessary for a full size sensor, so let’s just overlook it and enjoy the stunning picture quality.

High number of pixels and rich tonality reconciled by the sensor

Generally speaking, increase in number of pixels and decrease in the amount of light reception per pixel are two sides of the same coin. If the number of pixels increases while the sensor size remain unchanged, the pixel density increases and the amount of light received by one pixel decreases. This usually lowers the dynamic range and increases noises. So, more pixels doesn’t always mean higher picture quality.

However, SONY put thought many things out in order to maintain the per-pixel light reception even though they employed the extreme 36.4-megapixel (=7360x4912) sensor. You can learn the detail at their website and on the catalogues, but it’s easy to imagine that they packed new technology and wisdom into this new small device. In fact, while the detail is minutely depicted, dynamic range is wide enough to realize rich tonality from highlight to shadow. Also, high ISO performance is wonderful and just as good as other models in this category.

I was so into shooting, forgetting the coffee getting cold! Anyway, it captured the difference of temperature. Because it faithfully depicts the subtle tonality on the white tableware and the shinning spoon, they look as if they are right in front of my eyes.

The top of the building becomes smaller and thinner toward the vanishing point. With this resolving power, I feel I can even depict any buildings no matter how high they are.

This is an unprecedented and cornerstone camera.

Depiction is excellent to the extent that I can easily imagine how I feel when I touch the subject. Resolving power is staggering. Tonality is rich and it reproduces the atmosphere when the shutter was released. Color reproduction is just natural. Am I over-flattering? I even felt that the picture quality could be equal to the one of the medium format digital cameras. The Alpha 7R and the Alpha 7 presented the immense potential by acquiring the full size sensors in the small mirror-less body. For example, the short flange focal length is an advantage over cameras with mirrors. This allows more flexible lens design and improves picture quality and weight reduction. And, as you see, it takes excellent pictures. Although not many lenses have been released yet, but more lenses will be available soon. So, you can buy it with confidence. And, this may not be what the manufacturer really hopes, but the E mount is one of the most versatile mount with the use of mount adapters. This means, in addition to Alpha lenses, you can mount old lenses made decades ago. In other words, this is a full size digital camera that takes largest numbers and kinds of lenses.

"A camera nobody had made." This sentence was shown on a Japanese teaser advertisement. At first, I felt it was a little exaggerating, but when I hold it in my hands, I think it really makes sense. In addition to what I have mentioned (full size sensor, mirrorless, more pixels yet better picture quality, world’s smallest and lightest), I should stress the EVF and LCD that offer excellent visibility, better and faster image processing engine, and the nice ergonomic grip. There’s more. Thanks to the sturdy magnesium alloy / dust and moisture resistant body, you can use it in a variety of situations including professional assignments, creative activities, family trips, and just walking. It’s a camera we can use everyday, but it gives more than we expect. Isn’t it the "camera nobody had made"?

Now, the Alpha 7R or the Alpha 7? That’s the question to many people. You may worry about the moire and camera-shake, but still get the Alpha 7R for high resolution and picture quality. Or, get the Alpha 7 to enjoy the mature quality? Maybe it’s because of the improved BIONZ X, I didn’t really have trouble with moire this time. You still need to be more careful to prevent camera shake, but this gives you a chance to demonstrate your skill and experience! Go back to basics. Hold the camera tight, and release the shutter. High ISO performance is great, so you can overcome this if it’s not too dark.

If you want sharpness and high resolution, the Alpha 7R is the best choice!