Sony A7R field notes with Canon EF Lenses
Just published! Click here to read the Canon 16-35 F4 IS Review with the Canon A7R vs. the 17-40 F4, plus RAW files (32GB)
I usually keep quite a few notes when reviewing something photography related. Usually its a mess and I organize it in a formal video review at the end, but I thought I’d do something different this time.
Below is just a stream of consciousness notes that I’m keeping on the Sony A7R which will eventually be included in a review called Sony A7R Review Hands-on with Canon EF Lenses.
If you have any questions or would like me to test something as I go just leave your comment below and I’ll do my best to get to it!
Field Notes on the Sony A7R with Canon EF Lenses
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Death Valley Sunset | 205s – F22 – ISO 100 – 17mm
Shooting along the coast recently I’ve been putting the Sony A7R through it’s paces with environmental conditions. Salt water spray and direct contact with water is commonplace when shooting along the coastline, and the past few days has been quite a bit of that:
60s – F22 – ISO 100 – 17mm
- Quite a bit of seawater broke onto me and all my camera equipment, including of course the Sony A7R. The water tends to get into the small creases in the dials and knobs more so than the Canon or Nikon bodies.
- After over a month of consistent use the Sony A7R feels like a well made, well designed photographic device, but in terms of durability it feels quite a bit less durable than the Canon or Nikon counterparts, which have the durability more in the range of equipment… if that distinction makes any sense.
30s – F22 – ISO 50 – 30mm
- Again, here I encountered water coming into direct contact with lens and camera body multiple times. Sand became lodged in the forward index finger dial, and it became difficult to move, as the dust or sand particles were sandwiched in-between the dial itself and the body of the camera.
- The Sony A7R has a smooth finish as opposed to a matte magnesium alloy finish as found on Canon SLRs. Although the smooth black finish is very good in terms of design and quality, for landscape photography the finish tends to absorb the elements. Take a look at the following image, and then the closeup:
- Although cosmetic in nature, it doesn’t affect image quality, build quality or anything else. I for one don’t mind how the exterior of the equipment looks as long as it doesn’t enter the inside of the camera.
- I often shoot at maximum ISO to determine composition when using dark ND filters on both my Canon 6D and Sony A7R, and when doing so this is what I captured yesterday:
Setting Up Custom Functions on the Sony A7R – C1 and C2
A reader, Bryan Chihan, just sent in a great walkthrough on how to setup the custom functions on the Sony A7R:
- set up your camera settings (it can be in P, A, S, M modes)
- Go into the MENU, and scroll to the last page of the Camera Icon.
- Locate the MEMORY option at the bottom. open it
- you’ll see at the top “Select register” and the icons for “1” and “2”.
- review the settings that you want at the bottom display
- navigate left and right through the navi buttons to select “1” or “2”, and press the center confirm button to set the Memory Recall. and you’re all set.
Sony-A7R-with-Lee-Big-Stopper-and-B+W-9-stops Warmer = B+W
Sony A7R on Manfrotto Tripod in San Francisco Overlooking Golden Gate Bridge
Sony A7R with Metabones EF Adapter without lens durability
Sony A7R with Metabones EF Adapter in the field on a tripod San Francisco side view
Someone was asking about Light Leaks, and I responded with a nope, haven’t seen it yet. I was reviewing a few images from a couple weeks ago and I came across this:
Notice with a slight composition change it’s no longer present?
Click here to download the RAW .ARW, .TIFF and hi-res JPEG (300+MB)
Sony A7R Light Leak Closeup Top Left 100%
Sony A7R Light Leak Closeup Top Right 100%
Just got back from Death Valley National Park and shot quite a few images with the A7R with Canon EF Lenses, as well as the Sony A7R with Canon FD and FL lenses:
- Dynamic range is pretty good, indistinguishable from the Canon 5D3 and Canon 6D
- Electronic Viewfinder is a game changer for landscape photographers, especially in bright environments. Check out the back LCD in this high elevation harshly lit Death Valley mountain peak below. Notice how you can’t really determine the exposure and composition properly, or if you could you’d be straining your eyes quite a bit? One look in the viewfinder changes all of that:
Composition Study | 30s – ISO 64 – F18 – Canon 50mm FD 1.8
- Sensor gets quite a bit of dust on it, the shutter vibration technology is all marketing. Same performance as 5D3 and 6D
- Sony A7R bug prevented Bulb Mode:
The Sony A7R fails in bulb mode in the field. Prevented me from getting a few shots, unfortunately. After this video I tried my Canon EF lens and still no resolution of the issue. It turned out to be a bug in the camera, as resetting the entire camera back to factory defaults fixed the issue, but didn’t fix the time it took to re-configure everything as it was before resetting : (
Human Landscape | 43s – F20 – ISO 80 – Canon 50mm 1.8 FD
- Canon FD and FL lenses are resolving just as sharp as my sharpest L lenses, corner sharpness is excellent
- Battery life in Death Valley suffered. It takes about 4 hours 1/2 to charge one battery off the car USB. Needless to say I didn’t get many batteries charged, and struggled to take photographs late in the day
Face Above San Francisco | 205s – F20 – ISO 100 – 20mm – No Photoshop
- Shot with the Canon 6D half the time in the park due to low battery life on the Sony a7R, and I had 3x batteries
- Image Quality of the Sony A7R is quite a few margins above the 5D3 and 6D
Composition Study | 30s – F22 – ISO 50 – Canon 50mm 1.8 FD
Composition Study | 30s – F18 – ISO 50 – 35mm
Composition Study | 135s – F18 – ISO 100 – Canon 50mm 1.8 FD 1962
Composition Study | 20s – F18 – ISO 50 – 30mm
Composition Study | 49s – F20 – ISO 100 – Canon 50mm 1.8 FD 1962
- For the first time, photographers can actually see in black and white. Combine that with manually focusing with focus peaking, and street photographers have a pretty magnificent tool for capturing the decisive moment. In fact, it could be one of the biggest advancements for street photographers since fast, accurate and silent autofocus
- EVF’s have existed on cameras before, but the A7R’s is the best one I’ve seen so far for a couple reasons:
- Really high resolution, can’t detect pixels
- Focus peaking combined with EVF is amazing. Sure, you can view it on the LCD but having your eye so close to a hi-res screen is really key when in harsh lighting
- Image playback inside the EVF means you don’t have to pull away from your viewfinder. Your eyes adjust to the viewfinder and you don’t have to compete with environmental light
- The exposure compensation dial changes actually reflect in real-time in the EVF. So now you can see in black and white, but you can also see the exposure changes through the viewfinder
Streets of Chinatown in B&W | 1/320 – F8 – ISO 125 – Canon FD 50mm 1.8 with Sony A7R
- Airplane mode turns off wifi, but displays a small plane icon all the time, even on image playback. Without it on, SSID is broadcasting… no user experience design on this one
- Focus peaking on manual focus set to white peaking at the highest setting allows the photographer to easily obtain a focus lock, faster than the sluggish AF
- Focus peaking for manual lenses such as Nikkor Kogaku or Canon FD/FL works wonders
- Classic 35mm lenses work great on the camera. The smaller size lends well to the classic lens designs
- Classic 35mm lenses are resolving very sharp on the A7R
- Setting C1 to Focus Magnify is very convenient
- Setting the ‘Memory’ 1 and 2 (aka custom 1 and 2) is very difficult, I still haven’t been able to figure it out… no user experience on this one either
San Francisco Skyline from Treasure Island | 97s – F11 – ISO 80 – Canon FL 50mm 1.8 (1964 – 1971) | Click here for .ARW & .TIFF
- Images of out of camera on the A7R are consistently critically sharp on my Canon EF L lenses
- A7R LCD drop in frames per second occurs consistently when at ISO 25,600 with a dark foreground plus a ND
- The A7R control layout is well designed
- A7R Autofocus takes about 3-5 seconds in daylight when wide open at 1.2/1.8/2.8
- Manual focusing through the EVF with focus peaking is faster than autofocusing if the ring dampening is good. Lenses that have plastic / electronic focusing rings are a bit tricker, such as the Canon 1.8 and Canon 40 2.8
San Francisco Skyline from Treasure Island 100% crop on bridge detail (click for actual size)
- Autofocus and power-on with the A7R is noticeably more sluggish than the SLR counterparts
- The A7R LCD always has numbers of some kind on it: F-stop, shutter etc. You are unable to view image or video only like on the Canon Live View. A bit disappointing as sometimes I want to see just the image in live view and nothing else
- Color rendition, sharpness and dynamic range are impressive on the A7R:
San Francisco Sunrise | Click here to download the .ARW and .TIFF
- I love the exposure compensation dial, very useful for when in Aperture priority mode
- Haven’t experienced any issues with any EF lenses. AF, image stabilization and lens data is passed through the EF adapter, with the exception of the model name (17-40mm F4 instead of Canon 17-40mm F4)
Composition Study | Click here to download the .ARW + .TIFF
– Composing and obtaining accurate focus through the EVF works quite well (better than LCD)
– Focus peaking works very well under normal daylight conditions with high contrast
– Focus peaking on the A7R doesn’t work so well under low lighting situations
– Shooting handheld on the street with autofocus is too sluggish for fast movement, much like the autofocus on the Canon and Nikon DSLRs
– Using manual focus handheld with focus peaking is a very fast way of achieving a fast focus lock
– The control layout is excellent
– The Sony A7R construction quality is very high, very comfortable to shoot with
– Shooting with the Sony A7R with the Canon 40mm 2.8 lens is awesome
– It’s more difficult to detect polarizer on/off with EVF than with OVF
– Sharpness and quality of images is, upon first impression, very high indeed
– The A7R magnifies images at 7x or 14x, however with video only 4x… ?
– Video on the A7R only goes as low as 200… ?
– Just noticed there was a red memory read/write light. Why does this stay off when the camera is exposing?
– Dual mic inputs on either side of the hotshoe provide significantly better stereo than the Canon SLRs
– Menu button justified on top left wasn’t placed intelligently. If it was on the right all the controls would be available from the shooting hand. Underneath the EV dial would be a logical location.
– Haven’t used the swivel LCD once. If I had it my way it would be embedded into the backside of the camera, like the 5D3 and 6D. It would increase the durability and decrease the breakpoints.
– The menu system and image playback is significantly faster than the 5D3/6D, even with the same SD card in both.
– The LCD and EVF brightness, even at +2 (maximum) isn’t very bright. Would be nice to have a +5 option
– The electronic level has a significantly greater level threshold than the 5D3/6D. Four tripod head knob turns still has it in the green. One micro turn of the 5D3/6D would move it form red to green. Seems like camera manufacturers should standardize this stuff, or allow user adjustable threshold values.
– Again, very impressed with construction quality of the A7R. Very durable and it has a great weight and balance.
Rodeo Beach Sunset | 276s F22 ISO 50 Canon 17-40 | Download RAW and TIFF here
- Smallness and lightness are very noticeable when compared to Canon 6D
- A7R body only weighs 16.75 oz
- Canon 6D body only weighs 27.75 oz
- Sony A7R with EF + Canon 17-40 weighs 38.05 oz
- Canon 40mm 2.8 weighs 4.40 oz
- Canon EF to Sony adapter weighs 5.25 oz
- The default settings on the A7R are pretty bad
- The Sony A7R manual wasn’t created for humans to understand
- With the Canon EF to Sony A7R E-Mount adapter it has a pretty good balance
- When placed on a level surface its level on both sides with the Canon 17-40
- EVF is slightly distorted at edges of viewfinder with 20mm or wider
- EVF resolution is pretty low considering how close the eye is to the internal screen. I suppose I’m used to my retina iPhone, iPad and macbook pro, so the low-res is pretty darn noticeable
- Back LCD screen resolution is excellent
- Back LCD surface is delicate, much more delicate than the Canon 5D3 or 6D
- Back LCD responds with bruising if you press on it gently, it doesn’t have a hard plastic surface. Kind of like a calculator LCD display : (
- ISO 25k isn’t enough for composing
- When at ISO 25k the back LCD lags down to about 10-15 fps. It may have to do with the funny named processor not being able to handle two tasks: ISO 25k and transferring data from sensor to LCD
- When playing back images on the LCD there’s a significant amount of banding happening. I would imagine it’s either due to the gamut of the LCD can’t handle the range of colors, or the JPEG that’s being processed for playback is of low quality, or both
- I’m still seeing a consistent drop in FPS when ISO 25k is used in low light
- Industrial design of the A7R is incredible. I was shooting the SF skyline last night from Treasure Island and a South Korean tourist had a 35mm rangefinder from the 70’s, and it was striking the resemblance of the two
- The button placements are excellent
- The index and thumb dials are metal, very good quality and have excellent dampening
- I shoot in Aperture priority mode about 80% of the time when not in bulb, so the exposure compensation dial is fantastic. I love the feel of it, and it’s very sturdy and not easy to inadvertently change. Sony intentionally dampened that one more than the others
- The power on sequence takes 3-4 seconds, not the 2 1/2 I’ve been reading
- The tiny little Sony batteries don’t last that long. I shot for about 4 1/2 hours on the pacific ocean for sunset and the battery was nearly exhausted
- When exposing the LCD turns black, but it’s still powered on and the pixels are therefore using power:
- I find the autofocus speed of the A7R to be the same as the 5D3/6D
- Canon Image stabilization with the A7R EF adapter works perfectly, I’m not noticing any issues or reduction of stops
- On the A7R the autofocus switch must be set to ‘M’ manual for the camera to engage manual focus mode. If it’s in AF it won’t do both like a Canon behaves
- The EF adapter writes focal range and F-stop into the EXIF data of the image but lacks the model information (easy fix in Aperture/Lightroom):
- Auto white balance does a great job at determining natural light, it’s a bit orangish in indoor artificial light I’ve found
- Using the EVF for achieving critical sharpness could be a game changer. The precision of manual focus is magnitudes better than looking at the viewfinder, perhaps because your eye adjusts to the dark EVF and is able to see the screen much closer. With lenses where the threshold of focus is very small this becomes a big advantage
- For me, the Sony A7R has proven that you can drastically simplify the controls and dials and still have an effective tool for getting the job done, primarily through excellent function and custom button customizations
- Having ISO 50, 64 and 80 are great, I love the flexibility in this range. These are of course pulled from ISO 100 and the highlight headroom may be less, but I’m going to test that soon
- The Menu button is justified in the top left, it would have been nice to have it justified to the right. If it was on the right all the controls would be accessible from the shooting hand
- The vertical swivel of the A7R is useful in certain applications, however it means it’s a more delicate camera. Getting that thing snagged on something and broken off wouldn’t be fun
- I like the record button on the right side of the grip. In the settings you can specify it to do nothing unless movie mode is selected, thereby removing the possibility of accidentally switching in to movie mode, but I don’t see that happening as it’s out of the way in its current position
- The SD card slot door is built very well and has rubberized contacts on the interior to prevent play or flex
- Audio inputs on the A7R like microphones is very easy to setup. It auto-detects and the audio level display is better than the Canon one – easier to view and a bit more polished. Downstream tech from Sony’s camcorders most likely
- The shutter button has a very gratifying quality to it, very circular and 50’s rangefinderish, but it’s also very responsive to half and full shutter clicks
- A7R magnesium alloy body is incredibly sturdy and feels well crafted
- A7R menu system is decent. I think it’s probably the best i’ve seen but then again it doesn’t really have much competition as nearly no one out there is making decent menu systems (or at least I haven’t seen one yet)
- Trash button doubles as a C3 customizable button when not selected in image playback – nice
- You can tell a user experience team thought about how the buttons should be laid out and placed, which is nice
- Achieving critical sharpness on the A7R 7x and 14.4x modes is great, although I wish the photographer could select the default magnification level instead of cycling through 0x – 7x – 14x
- A7R battery charger does not include a wall charger, you must plug the camera physically into the charger
- On the upside, the A7R charging system is done through micro-USB, so if you lose the cable / charger you can re-use another that you have
- You can charge your A7R in the car USB outlet
- A7R battery charging times are between 4-6 hours, pretty darn long considering how fast the batteries deplete
- You can’t charge the battery while you’re out shooting (unless you buy the standalone battery charger), but you can charge it in the car etc., so it’s a bit of a convenience tradeoff
Questions to Answer
– How is the corner performance of the Canon wide angle lenses with the Sony? Color shifts anywhere?
– What about colors and workflow in pp? Do you have to work more in post to tweak the files to your liking or are the files so good that you don´t have to do much work?
– How is the image quality in general in comparison with the Canon 6d? Do you see significant improvements (in print?)? The dynamic range should be better, so does that change the way you shoot? (no more filters?)
– Do you like the camera and how it handles, functions and feels?
Sony A7R Image Gallery – Field Notes
Here’s a few images of the Sony A7R, and taken with it.