Sony A7R: Shutter Vibration at 135mm
The Zeiss 135mm f/2 APO-Sonnar was used along with the Novoflex Nikon to NEX and ASTAT tripod foot attachment.
The Zeiss 135mm f/2 APO-Sonnar was used along with the Novoflex Nikon to NEX and ASTAT tripod foot attachment.
The scene chosen is a difficult one for any camera to handle (contrast and lighting skewed toward blue, though not nearly as challenging as spiky or extreme spectrum from many artificial lights, e.g., mercury vapor or strongly red tungsten lighting).
Noise behavior under perfect daylight or studio lighting is of modest relevance to many situations in which higher ISO is needed; all cameras can be made to look relatively good under ideal lighting. What matters to me in the field is how a camera handles real-world lighting, particularly the blue light of dusk and dawn and similar. And whether it can withstand a push or shadow boost. In that regard, a full-frame camera reigns supreme (short of medium format).
Based on reader inquiries, I felt it important to discuss what I have planned for covering the Sony A7R (and to a lesser extent, A7). I am one guy low on sleep, and for every hour of shooting, there are 4-5 hours of analysis + writing! With short daylight and frigid temps, this makes it even harder.
My goal as always is to Serve my readers in making the right choice for themselves, which I aim to do by presenting a variety of objective analysis and examples along with no-holds-barred reactions and experiential findings in the field, the reality of usage being even more useful than any “performance” data. As the last decade of using a huge variety of gear in the field informs me.
I always aim to introduce (also) my own subjective reactions, as long ago I found that this type of thing can be more useful than anything else (and it can be ignored, too, for good and personal reasons, but it serves as a 'lever' against which one’s own views can be set, which itself is useful).
As the first compact high-resolution full-frame mirrorless camera with interchangeable lenses, the Sony A7R / A7 is a seminal digital camera. Other vendors will have to follow suit because in this form factor there is no other way to compete on image quality*, and the real cost is about the entire system (camera + lenses) and versatility, e.g. I love what full frame can do under myriad and challenging lighting conditions. I also love the fact that I can crop off a 36MP image and still have high resolution: again, versatility.
I expect the A7R to pressure the Leica M Typ 240 (but only partially because of wide angle lenses), but particularly Canon and Nikon, which have a yawning chasm in their camera lineups vs the A7R. However, just add a high-res EVF to the DSLRs without the mangled subsampling mess (Nikon) and for me the gap closes a lot, camera body notwithstanding (best glass in native mount for one thing). On that point, the A7R Live View makes the Nikon D800E Live View look like garbage.
The existence proof is now there on size/weight in both camera and lenses (see Sony A7, A7R: Breakthrough in Image Quality in a Compact Package with Killer EVF and LCD Too). The lens selection is not so good, but it will evolve. The A7R is a “back” akin to a medium format “back” and requires the same hassles to select the lenses that please oneself.
It is only a matter of time before the Sony full-frame ecosystem evolves, and even better models will surely arrive over time. Operational warts and gotchas exist (menus and shutter vibration), but the A7R represents an aggressive push forward.
* Why would I invest in a 16MP APS-C system with oddball sensor artifacts or a tiny sensor (MFT) system when I can shoot a full-frame camera? There are *some* reasons, but they get specific and none of them add up for me except in specialized circumstances.
A sampler of some of the areas I intend to cover:
I like to let my reviews evolve: a strong “wind” that is intriguing might sail it in one direction or another based on what earlier shooting reveals as interesting.
The A7R and A7 are not inexpensive, and anyone with a Nikon D800E should not feel in hurry to get rid of it. Already I see times when my D800E is just a better solution, as much as I love the EVF of the A7R. Temper enthusiasm with patience, and the A7R supply will only improve anyway.
The comparison includes actual pixels from each, and also upsampled and downsampled comparisons to show both how much difference there is, and other relative image quality aspects (e.g., the oversampling and downsampling ideas).
Apertures series from ƒ/2.8 through ƒ/11 at HD and UltraHD sizes are also included.
The Nikon Df with special edition 50mm f/1.8G has arrived. About $2997.
Once the Sony A7R work cools down, I’ll give it some love, but right off the bat one reaction is so striking (and personally important to me as a high priority), that I discuss it right away on the Nikon Df ergonomics page. And a few others.
Tomorrow I should have an interesting lens comparison with the Sony FE 35mm f/2.8 Sonnar ZA.
An A7R to A7 comparison is also in the works: how much more real detail does 36 megapixels really get you over 24 megapixels?
In Guide to Mirrorless is published a new aperture series with the A7R and Sony FE 35mm f/2.8 Sonnar ZA.
This series is interesting on its own, but it has some insight into lens performance that will be of significant concern to some shooters: a double-image bokeh and its effect on real depth of field.
These are just a start —can’t document everything all at once. Much more to come.
In Guide to Mirrorless is published a discussion of an “orange peel” texture to the Sony A7R image quality, a not unpleasant but also not endearing effect I have not seen with Nikon D800E images.
Overall image quality is really spectacular, but it’s something that caught my eye and worth knowing about the camera. The explanation remains unclear, but to speculate, it is possibly related to the 8-bit lossy compression approach taken by Sony.
Each and every aperture from ƒ/2.8 through ƒ/16 is different and delightful.
This series is at the MOD (minimum object distance) for the FE 35/2.8, which can be a reduced performance area focusing distance for many lenses. How does it hold up?
Two aperture series from ƒ/2.8 - ƒ/11 are shown with the camera set to useand .
Both in raw, showing that the A7R does at least correction on raw files (not just JPEG).
This apertures series is from ƒ/2.8 through ƒ/16 with HD and UltraHD images and large crops.
What really caught my eye is the apparent vignetting correction bug, e.g. the addition of vignetting! Or at least the failure to operate as intended.
A7r handheld usability: A contradiction?
One of the apparent benefits to me of this new A7r over the D800e to me is the size and weight. Critical landscapes and art shoots would be on tripod of course with remote release and Live View focusing. (So perhaps the LV focusing and a lighter kit to bring with really is an advantage to the Sony) but I would also want to use the camera in a more casual handheld set of situations as well.
In this regard, even though the D800e is heavier and larger, it would seem that its mass would actually assist with holding the camera slightly more steady and also dampen the shutter a bit.
Given that the Sony has no in-body stabilization, nor probably any OSS lenses other than the larger F4 zooms, how practical would shooting the Sony in these handled situations be? I would assume that a full 36MP image handheld would be out of the question in most part. So my question to you is, would a handheld image from this camera that missed the 36MP potential due to shake/blur result in a salvageable 18MP image, as that would be about my max size anyway for this type of image?
The reason I ask this, is that I would like to travel with one camera, not two systems, and my years spent on the computer doing scanning, retouching and prepress back in the long ago days before ergonomic mice and keyboards have left my right wrist a little weak and in pain. I know the kids at my camera store would tell me to just buy an OMD E-M1 already, old man, but seriously, I have no issues shooting my Mamiya RB-67 handheld. (But that hangs from my neck with the body being pushed down and tight against my chest) Ah maybe I should just invent a similar type of rig for myself. Thanks in advance if you choose to publish an answer!
DIGLLOYD: Using a start of the art 36-megapixel camera with handheld blur (camera movement) is still a win over an 18MP camera: the 36-megapixel camera has the latest sensor, and it is oversampling (Nyquist theory, information theory).
When 36MP is downsampled to 18MP the blur has not changed; it is simply the same blur spread over larger pixels. BUT, the total image quality is higher by virtue of the oversampling followed by downsampling, reducing digital artifacts. Edges are smoother, Bayer-matrix artifacts disappear, etc: more per pixel sharpness, fewer artifacts, smoother fine lines. More megapixels always wins, all other things being equal (which is not always!), and excluding ultra-high ISO values where color quality takes a hit.
As for mass, the A7R has no mirror to bang around (good!), though its shutter is among the most obnoxious that I have used short of medium format. But the key factor is mass coupling; see How to Hold a Camera Steady (Mass Coupling) in Making Sharp Images. The A7R has both an excellent grip and EVF, so proper technique is easily achieved for best results. I do wish that Sony had implemented support for leaf shutter lenses, and that the Zeiss 35/2.8 and 55/1.8 were leaf shutter lenses.
As for the Olympus E-M1: very nice camera body which must be programmed to avoid the menu system disaster, very fun to shoot, in-body IS, the files are truly lovely overall but just are not in the same league in robustness at the pixel level. Serves some valid purposes, but I for one feel no attraction for it now that the A7R is available, and the lenses are not cheaper. As for weight, the A7R + 35/2.8 weighs less than the equivalent E-M1 + 17/1.8. At any rate, full frame with 2 or maybe 3 lenses is vastly preferable to MFT with 5 or 6, so the size/weight thing does not persuade me at all for MFT.
Is the A7R a Nikon D800/D800E replacement on an image quality basis?
Maybe, and maybe not: of some note are certain tonal transitions which caught my eye: excellent image quality overall but the aperture series shows one concern which is discussed in general terms on the Sony A7R file sizes page. It involves Sony’s lossy compression and tonal transitions.
The Sony A7R has terrific hardware features, but as with its siblings, Sony cannot figure out total system usability: no-nonsense non-confusing usability. Instead, complexity and no thought given to the overall experience unless the user deeply engages to essentially reprogram all the buttons to bypass the issues.
So let’s get the camera software commentary out of the way, as this issue has simmered since the Sony RX1, with the A7R now inching along with more clutter and not fixing some glaring faults for field use (e.g., long exposure timing).
When you get your A7R please tell me how to format an SD card. I can't find the format function.
[editor: followup] It would be nice of them to put that in the camera manual because it is one of the first things you need to do. No mention of formatting that I could find.
Interesting camera. I need more time to be sure but I think my camera is not sharp side to side. The left side of the frame is noticeably less sharp than the right side when focusing near infinity. I also experienced a pulsing image in the eye level finder.
DIGLLOYD: Toolbox menu(last top level icon), then first item in submenu #5. Sharpness can be lens or camera (plane parallelism of sensor and mount), or both.
This reader understands cameras—but not computers. It is an indictment of Sony design that sophisticated users have to ask such questions (ditto for most all camera companies).
The fact that this question and others like it have to be asked reveals a design flaw in the camera menu system, which is obvious in entering that maze. It bleeds into other areas in subtle ways, and adds a consumer feel to the A7R design. I’ll get around to screen shots for key A7R functions because this NYC pro is not the only one stymied by what ought to be obvious functions: important stuff up front and obvious, other stuff secondary or eliminated entirely (hidden by default). Which is the operative principle for any well-designed product.
Context: a kitchen-sink mess for a menu system is taken to its highest (most pathetic design ever) expression with the Olympus OM-D E-M1. I’m not sure that anything short of randomized order could do worse than the menu disaster in the E-M1.
The Sony A7R succeeds in part by being less bad than the E-M1, which is the most positive thing to be said about its menu system. Less bad in two ways: fewer menu items that are cluttered yet more easily accessed, and also better configurability; with the E-M1 I could never reprogram certain key buttons that are hard-coded to features that are of no use for raw shooting. The A7R shares that hard-coded design limit with the recalcitrant video button, which cannot be reprogrammed, only disabled for non-video modes. But that button only.
Still, the saving grace with the A7R is that most control functions can be mapped to buttons or dials, so that once configured the camera is efficiently usable. In button programmability it might be called best of breed. Which might be restated as “best approach to letting the user bypass the horrific menu design”.
Unfortunately one cannot eliminate unwanted menus. The A7R contains crapware menus: network functions, computer connectivity, app management, etc; in the field all of these are 100% useless, yet there they are. Noting that one person’s crapware might vary from another’s, the point is that a camera is not a computer. At least on a computer, one can generally delete unwanted functions and crapware. The unwanted extras pollute the menu system needlessly, and forever. The “anti Apple”, though Apple fails in the other direction (no control at all).
If a kitchen sink design is all a company can invent, then there ought to be a way to hide all the unwanted cruft that one has no use for—a “Hide Stuff that I consider Garbage” master menu. It’s a logical extension to the idea of reprogramming buttons and dials: let me show and hide what I wish to use: Sony, if you cannot design it well, let me at least sweep the dead rats under the couch. For that matter, a “hide all JPEG related functions” setting (I shoot raw exclusively).
In this regard I’ll take the Sigma DP Merrill menu system hands down over the efforts of all these hapless software engineers: well organized limited menus, and with an intelligent quick access system (the Goldilocks approach). I know of no better menu system on any digital camera—the only flaw being the inclusion of video functions which ought to be banished entirely.
Now consider that with all the superfluous menus, Sony still does not allow choosing an explicit shutter speed longer than 30 seconds—the user must manually time a bulb exposure. This on an advanced digital camera. It’s crazy (not that it affects Sony only). But worse, Sony does not offer a programmable remote to time a long (night) exposure as do Nikon and Canon (Ricoh GR builds this in, with up to 5 minute exposures, truly useful in the field). It is one example, but makes the point of “useless menu junk” versus “valuable features ignored”. I reported this to Sony with the RX1/RX1R; nothing happens. Good hardware, but a failure to think about what might actually be wanted and needed in the field, and what might impede usage. Bad form before useful function.
Finally, it’s a $2300 camera with scene modes (an infectious disease these days). A “Leica killer”? Well, at least Leica doesn’t resort to the incongruous scene modes on a camera priced for pros. Designs that attempt to please everyone are not designs; they’re actually an admission of failure to design.
I’m going to insert one important comment here up-front from reader Klaus H:
This camera certainly causes a lot of stir. As far as I’m concerned, I have been waiting a long time for such a camera and I have learned to live with the quirks.
I like it more than any other camera I have owned since the digital era began.
DIGLLOYD: Just as I put up with no EVF and slow write speeds with the Sigma DP Merrill cameras for their outstanding image sharpness, the Sony A7R has a great deal to offer also, especially in its breakthrough feature set. Though neither deserves to get a “free pass” on things that ought to be improved.
As usual, your comments/diatribe on the totally bloated menu system of the Sony A7R are right on the money. Why do the camera manufacturers fail to see that there are many, many photographers who do not want a camera’s menu system cluttered with useless garbage that gets in the way of photography? I think its cultural. The Japanese camera manufacturers are just not all that focused on listening to customers. If they do, they probably speak to Japanese consumers, and I think Japanese consumers actually enjoy the mastery of these complex menu systems with the myriad features that Westerners would never even think of using. If only Apple had designed the A7R menu system for Sony!
Funny, I had the exact same experience as the NYC photographer you mentioned in trying to figure out how to format the memory card. It took me thirty minutes of going through the menu system to figure it out. I also looked in the manual and there was nothing there! WTF!
Notwithstanding, the A7R appears to be a technological tour de force. I was just amazed when I put it in my hands with the Sony/Zeiss 35mm FE lens and realized what that diminutive package was at least potentially capable of producing. The big question is whether lenses that fit the form factor of the body are up to the task. There has been a lot of anecdote, conjecture and poorly formed opinions floating around on the internet. I am looking forward to you providing us with some reliable answers.
DIGLLOYD: if Apple had designed the A7R menu system, they’d really have messed it up: no raw, no nothing, no dials, no programmable buttons! :;
Lens performance is first on my list with the 35/2.8.
I think you are being far too measured and kind in your comments about the A7R menu. As long as you are ferreting out the myriad mysteries lurking in the multiple menus (none of which are even hinted at in their “instruction” manual), would you please tell me (us?) how to make the histogram appear in the viewfinder
I finally found it, totally by accident this afternoon, after I was finished shooting a bunch of M lenses. My focus was off on the longer lenses, because I could could not find the secret button that magnifies the view. As with the histogram, I finally discovered (by accident) its location, but the dwell time was about 2 seconds, hardly enough time to focus the camera. I suppose I should have used peaking, but my experience is it makes precise focusing a challenge.
DIGLLOYD: Well the Fufjifilm X fanboys (who the heck wants a mangled 16MP image?!) have me so worried about making their acne worse that I’m holding back on Sony!
I see now that I need to start with the A7R by documenting screen shots of all the things that Sony made hard to find. Why don’t cameras have a screen shot feature? What fun to have to photograph the rear LCD twenty different ways. Even an iPhone can take a screenshot of its own screen, so why can’t a camera of all things.
With the A7R, what I still can’t find is theor or commands. Or the menu setting. Those first two ought to be in the third menu icon dump (a suitable term) along with and and View on TV. Anyway, I hope that helps with respect to my kindness to Sony.
I get to have all the fun twice (A7R and A7), since I cannot find a “save settings” and “load settings” command. This is almost as brilliant as Nikon, which won’t load D800E settings on a D800, and vice versa.
Secret button that magnifies the view = program a button to do so. It’s under the(the gear thing), submenu #6, (or 2 or 3); set any of those to . Simple. Be Happy it’s not an iPhone. Smoke something suitable first, which I hear tell helps a lot. Don’t forget to reserve one of those buttons for really useful stuff like Soft Skin Effect (be sure to shoot JPEG so it works since a lot of these are just Fake Stuff To Make The Camera Look Advance, since the vast majority do not apply to raw shooting). There ya' go.
Histogram in viewfinder =(2nd menu) => submenu #2 => DISP button => Finder => Histogram. Every bit as obvious as the secret magnifying button.
Now you managed to make me laugh - quite a lot actually. Thank you!
The comparison you made to Sigma is right on the money. It is so easy, simple, intuitive (it occurs to me I never read a manual - I’m not sure there is one...).
Of course the other question, manual comparisons aside, is image comparisons between the A7R and DP cameras... From a quick comparison this afternoon, they seem very close - enough so that I could not tell anyone with any degree of certainty which, is either records more detail. I’ll look some more tomorrow, and have every faith you will share that answer with all of your subscribers!
DIGLLOYD: Plain body, slow write times and no EVF for the Sigma DP Merrill cameras, but the simplicity and usability of the user interface is among the very best, and they hugely outperform their pay grade and megapixel grade. As for comparisons, there is no prime lens match; in full-frame terms the DP Merrills offer 28mm, 45mm, 75mm. Thus comparisons are a bit tricky on both alignment and focus matching. And format-equivalent apertures should be used also (ƒ/4 on DP Merrill APS-C = ƒ/5.6 on full frame).
I am really looking forward to your review on the A7R What most concerning to me is what one of your readers noticed: “Interesting camera. I need more time to be sure but I think my camera is not sharp side to side. The left side of the frame is noticeably less sharp than the right side when focusing near infinity. I also experienced a pulsing image in the eye level finder.”
Sure maybe a decentering issue on the lens, or mount issue or both.
This to me is the #1 issue why I will not purchase this camera. Tolerance specs are just to high. Then to think to add an adaptor to this can only exacerbate the problem.
I guess for the studio photographer or photojournalist this is not as important yet for a landscape photographer living near or at infinity this is a deal breaker for me.
DIGLLOYD: It’s a stretch for me to agree with that sentiment—at least to single out Sony— all camera systems including Leica M and Leica S and Nikon and Canon have at one time or another shown tolerances issues in my issue. I have not updated Brand-new Blur with another dozen or so examples, but they happen all the time.
I was able to get my hands on the A7 and the A7r last night for about a couple of hours and I would also say how poor the menu system is, even baffling some of the Sony people that were there. For me though I suspect once I got it set up the way I wanted then I would be happy.
I have spoken to you before about my distaste for EVFs however I can say that the EVF on the A7s are truly exceptional, fooling me in to thinking it wasn't there at all. But the operation of it is where it fell apart for me a bit.
Perhaps you can see if the camera is able to this or not as none of the Sony people could figure it out.
When looking through the EVF I want to take a photo and immediately see Live View again so I can recompose and take another pic in fast succession. Easy turn of auto preview and you now have an EVF that essentially works like an OVF, however after taking 4 or 5 quick shots you may want to quickly look at a preview on the LCD, but preview is off so you need to push play and... oh sorry "writing to the card" wait 5 seconds and everything slows down or you miss a shot. Surely the benefit to having two digital screens is setting them up to work independently to one another rather then have them do or not do, the same thing. Like having two card slots that write the same files to each card.
DIGLLOYD: well, what’s driving me crazy already is the badly placed front dial, well below the on/off switch. I have turned the A7R off numerous times unintentionally.
A faster card keeps cycle time low, BUT the EVF blackout time is totally unacceptable for some kinds of shooting. Definitely not a camera for photojournalism.
I could not agree more with the comments you have made about the horrible menu system of the A7R. I would also like to add that there is no way (that I can tell) to turn off the EVF eye sensor on the camera. Waling around with the camera around my neck keeps turning on the EVF needlessly. There is no EVF / Monitor switch like there is on the GX7 for example.
While shooting in cold weather this past weekend I have noticed that the camera is also very difficult to operate with gloves. The power button position right above the aperture dial is also silly, I have managed to turn off the camera a couple of times while trying to use it with my gloves on.
DIGLLOYD: there is also no AF/MF switch as on the Sony RX1R, a feature I sorely miss. But I can work with a programmed button. As for cold weather operation this matters also and the A7R falls down in that regard also. But no camera can do everything well.
EVF thing has no real solution, but:
Real solutions are better than these kludges: a switch is a much better solution. Perhaps one can program a button to access the EVF FINDER-MONITOR feature, though this is hardly as nice as a button or switch.
You absolutely hit the nail on the head, the Merrills are a fine example of how to design menus and controls on a camera that is obviously aimed at those of us who just want to take pictures and not screw around with menus. I have no doubt that the A7R/A7 are fine tools and they absolutely feel fantastic in hand and the viewfinders are a thing of beauty but I’d much rather endure Sigma’s slow focus and abysmal software than wade through endless pages of menus to access seemingly fundamental things.
After buying a DP1M on a whim I’ve fallen in love with using a camera that isn’t riddled with crapware and seriously would love to see the big brands return to this level of straightforwardness—particularly in the mirrorless market which has become notorious for loading every conceivable thing the firmware developers and marketing gurus could dream up into every model. Maybe it’s Sony and Olympus’ plan to win over everyone in the market by offering every conceivable thing in their mirrorless cameras but it certainly alienates all of us who just want to take photos on manual with a minimum of fuss. After using both the A7 and EM-1 I have a sneaking suspicion that one or two more Sigmas might find their way to my camera bag soon…
DIGLLOYD: the Sony cameras succeed for two reasons: the latest and greatest technology and the bumbling efforts of Nikon and Canon, but this can carry them only so far. The Sigma cameras succeed admirably in some ways, but badly need that Sony technology infusion (e.g., EVF and fast CPU).
Three men, an American, a German and a Japanese, traveling through Africa, are captured by some guerillas fighting for control of some banana republic country. They are all declared as spies by a ragtag military court, and despite their denials of any wrongdoing and desperate pleas for mercy, sentenced to immediate death by an execution squad. The top honcho asks the three men if they had any last wishes before they were shot.
The German, who identifies himself as a Leica engineer, requests to be allowed to deliver one last speech expounding the virtues of the rangefinder camera, including a demo of his new M240. The Japanese, who identifies himself as a Sony engineer, requests permission to show off the software features and demonstrate the menu system in the new Sony A7/A7R cameras. The American, a noted independent photography blogger and nature enthusiast, asks to be shot first!
I recall buying a multi-function remote control perhaps 20 years ago. It came with software for the PC with which you 'designed' your own menus (DVD player, TV functions etc) and uploaded the result to the remote control.
Why the camera manufacturers can't produce something similar – 20 years later – is beyond me. What I want (and I can't be the only person) is a mirrorless full-frame entirely without JPEG capacity (or with the ability to remove all references to it), manual controls, a good EVF and raw histogram. Must add that the Olympus trick of 'watch an exposure develop on-screen' is IMHO the best new function for years and will be a major change for long-exposure work.
DIGLLOYD: Complexity begets complexity. The configuration really comes down to menus and their contents, and pairings of menu items to buttons/clickers, easily handled with a plain text file, to make a point.
But at the least, the ability to save settings and read settings helps. The A7R has abut no Save Settings and Load Settings. So users (or Sony) cannot share their settings to ease the path for others. In context of the meny system, it should not come as a suprise: design thought ends with the menu organization.
I am amazed at the people who insist on complaining about the detailed menus of the Sony A7R as if they want to just pick up their Kodak Brownie and take photos. It is a TECHNOLOGICAL achievement unheard of just a few short years ago yet some people think that it needs to be simple…well the camera isn’t simple. It is a complex device that when you actually learn about it, take the time to learn about it, then set it up the way you want it after learning about it, then you are good to go without “diving in” to sub levels of menus. For a reader to say he couldn’t find how to format the SD card….well, I can just say I am embarrassed for him that he would admit that if he is a “professional photographer” Gee, maybe you should actually review all of the menu items and learn about the beautiful device you have in your hands. Did you buy a computer and couldn’t figure out how to use the word program or excel because you figured it should just work and not take time to learn all of its benefits.
DIGLLOYD: A complex device can implement a less than useful software interface, an awful one (Olympus E-M1), and one that is approachable and minimizes the difficulties and makes features accessible (Sigma DP Merrill). History is replete with industry-changing examples. Think GUI vs DOS and iPhone vs dumb phone and iPad vs computer. These all succeeded for the “technological achievement” failures of their predecessors (BTW, a command line still is superior to a GUI for some things!).
Any tool demands some investment of time and effort. But it should not capriciously force the user to expend effort that is about adapting to ill-considered design.
If it wasn’t obvious in my post, Sony is hardly the only offender, and as one reader notes, if one first understands the menu structure, this helps. But it doesn't fix having too many menus with features I consider closely related being separated by menus and submenus several apart. It becomes a game of find the pea under the shell.
In Guide to Zeiss are added a variety of examples with the 135mm f/2 APO-Sonnar on the Nikon D800 monochrome. These examples were chosen to illustrate contrasts and textures of natural and artificial materials.
The bike is the Moots FrosTi fat bike / snow bike.
I learned from a reader recently that the Sigma SD1 Merrill is trivially converted to infrared by removing the internal filter inside the mirror box—reversible too. The sensor in the SD1 Merrill is the same sensor as found in the Sigma DP Merrill compacts. See the recent blog piece: Pixel for Pixel, *Nothing* Beats a Sigma DP Merrill.
Sigma has graciously agreed to loan me an SD1 Merrill along with a lens—probably the excellent Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM. I look forward to seeing how the camera performs in infrared with its true color sensor using various filtration.
The bad news: the SD1 Merrill has no Live View feature (it is an older design than the DP Merrill compact cameras). Which means that infrared backfocus needs to be dealt with. But perhaps the AF system will focus properly in infrared with the filter over the lens, which would go a long way towards mitigating the issue. Still that’s a huge hassle with deeper infrared (800nm and deeper), as it means constant on/off of the filter (to focus vs to compose vs to shoot).
Removal of the blocking filter means that the camera can see in “full spectrum” also: visible light as well as infrared, and possibly ultraviolet as well when using the UV-transmitting Coastal Optics 60mm f/4 UV-VIS-IR APO Macro (modern lens coatings strongly block UV with most lenses). Of course, it also means that the lens requires a filter to achieve the desired spectral transmission (e.g., infrared pass or infrared block or UV pass).
At about $2299 the SD1 Merrill is not a modest purchase, but considering that a DSLR infrared conversion costs $350 to $500 to do right and is not easily reversible, the ability to convert and deconvert the SD1 Merrill has some merit. The one disappointment is that I won’t be able to use my Zeiss 25mm f/2.8 IR-Distagon, since the SD1M has a Sigma mount (IMO, Sigma ought to offer the SD1M in Nikon mount, which would make it far more versatile).
Added to my mini review of the Nikon D800 monochrome in DAP are more example images with the D800M.
I expect to have the Sony A7R and 35/2.8 by Friday. Possibly the A7 also.
Update: Sony A7R is HERE. But UPS showed up six hours late, daylight gone. So will set up and play tonight, shoot tomorrow.
In Guide to Mirrorless, coverage will focus on what I see as the key issues: camera usability and ergonomics, lens performance*, issues such as shutter vibration and focus accuracy. And ultimately some analysis of whether 36 megapixels on Sony really is better than 36 megapixels on Nikon, given the myriad considerations**. My role is not to decide either way for my readers, but to point out all the pluses and minuses and particularly those things that lower the hit rate.
Please see recent discussion to get an idea of some of the concerns with the A7R:
* Lens performance: lenses are covered in their appropriate Guides regardless of which camera body is used (e.g. Leica M always goes into Guide to Leica). Native lenses are always reviewed with the matching camera(s). See Which Content is in Which Publication?.
** Small camera with adapter and huge lens is not necessarily a win in my book, e.g., a Zeiss 55/1.4 APO-Distagon might be more trouble than it's worth versus just shooting natively on Nikon D800E. TBD.
It appears that there is no magnification (focus assist) when using a non-native lens. Focus peaking yes, but without magnification the wonderful EVF is useless for critical focus.
... [follow-up to Klaus H response]
It did not make sense, but if I, or any contributor at DPReview can find out how to do it. Maybe it's adapter specific? Yes, I was hoping I was wrong, but Sony has said no when using non-native lenses. I'm not disputing it, but several others have asked the question and received no positive answer. Can your correspondent tell me how he/she did it? Nothing in the manual, can't even find a match for "focus assist", or magnification as it relates to focus. A little help would go a long way!
DIGLLOYD: 2nd para above is followup. I will post the answer when I receive the A7R and try it myself. Well, there is RTFM and then there is BTFCR (Build The Foobar Camera Right).
Reader Richard R. is incorrect. There is magnification with non native lenses.
I own my A7R with the Sonnar 2,8/35 for 2 weeks now. You certainly will love the little 35 Sonnar.
I put the magnification on the Af/MF button instead of C1. My thumb is on this button when I hold the camera. It’s so easy with a double click for magnification, I love it.
DIGLLOYD: that’s a relief. But one wonders how a camera can be made so that a user can be fooled into thinking a feature is missing.
I got my A7R about 2 weeks ago as 1st pre-orders shipped in Europe in 19th of November. There is a lot of incorrect and plain wrong info floating around about the A7(R), Sony did not help the situation by having a manual that took Olympic gold medal in sucking.
- the magnification is obviously there for non-native lenses, custom button c1 (next to shutter) is configured for that by default, called "Focus Settings". 1st press
brings "1X magnification" that enables one to move the magnification area, successive presses bring 7.2x and 14.4x magnification and get back to
the non-magnified mode
- the constant AF hunting can be disabled by turning "Pre AF" off in the Menu. Back button focusing is probably still the best way as this is not an action camera anyway
- the MF experience has been improved by a few things from Nex-7
- native lenses show a "distance scale" in the EVF. It is most useful when the lens is badly out of focus, helps one know which direction to go as there
is obviously no distance markings on the fly-by-wire focus ring
- Focus peaking level/color adjustment can be now accessed in Fn menu, makes it easier to get most out of focus peaking in different light condition. Obviously
magnification is still the go to tool for critical focusing wide open
- EVF is greatly improved from NEX-7, huge boost in contrast and way less color noise in the low light
- some shutter vibration is definitely there. It makes long and light lenses with IS/OS pretty much useless (not that a adding a cheap, flimsy tele makes much sense when there is a superb 36 MP sensor inside). I got loads of shutter vibration with a Sony E Mount 55-210 (cheap, light, flimsy with OS) on tripod. Makro Planar Zf.2 50/2, Sony Zeiss 85/1.4 showed none that I could see (RAW + 1:1 pixel peeking in LR 5.3 RC shutter bracketed from 1 sec to 1/500) when focused to around 10 meters, the best I could do indoors, with a weighted down tripod with center pipe down.
DIGLLOYD: Sounds about right. One reason that I never read manuals (well, almost never) is that the vendor refuses to document anything non-obvious. A good example might be what the histogram incorporates (white balance, color space, whether from raw or embedded JPEG, etc).
As for shutter vibration, my suspicion is that this is a primary camera flaw, its Achilles Heel. The lack of an electronic first curtain is a Very Very Bad Idea with a 36MP camera. Perhaps a fatal flaw if one intends to use the A7R for an all-around camera. My Leica M Typ 240 experience shows that shutter vibration is extremely difficult to deal with at certain shutter speeds (with certain lenses), greatly reducing the versatility of the camera, and sometimes resulting in stream of sharpness-damaged images, even with the best of technique. And that’s 24MP, not 36MP.