Sony has done it again – introducing a camera that's ahead of the curve. What everybody will probably start to ask now is... is this the end of the traditional DSLR?
Although it's true to say that the Alpha 7 is far from perfect, what it represents is a genuine step forward in camera technology that could represent a big shift in the way we view interchangeable lens cameras.
Image quality is fantastic, as we had hoped for and expected, although the 28-70mm kit lens leaves a lot to be desired. We'd recommend sticking with prime lenses, but if you feel that you would miss the flexibility that a zoom would provide, the included lens is capable of producing some nice pictures too.
For now the lens range is a little limited to consider this a fully grown system, and we'll be keen to test out the upcoming 24-70mm f/2.8 Zeiss lens. It won't be cheap, but it should be strokes ahead of the budget 28-70mm Sony lens. That said, for anyone thinking of switching from other cameras or brands, this is a good alternative to consider. Not only is there a dedicated A-mount lens adapter available from Sony for other A-mount optics, third-party manufacturers such as Metabones offer converters for Canon and Nikon. It makes the A7 even more appealing, since you don't have to ditch your existing lenses if you have quite a few.
The addition of Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity brings this camera right up to date and it's great to be able to quickly ping across a shot to your smartphone for instant uploading to a social networking site.
However, this does lead us to the one glaring omission that seems to inexplicably blight a lot of Sony cameras - the lack of a touchscreen. It's true that it's not absolutely crucial to have one for operability, but when you consider that setting the autofocus point is a little more laborious than it really should be, a touchscreen would solve that problem instantly. It would also be useful when reviewing images in playback too. That aside, it's a good performer, and it's nice to see a tilting device on a full-frame model – note that Sony is the only brand to offer it.
There's also a huge problem with battery life. Because this camera has the full-frame sensor, wonderful screen and EVF to constantly power, the battery life is poor to say the least, especially when you compare it to other full-frame cameras, specifically DSLRs. It's pretty much a given that you will need at least one spare battery to consider this useable for a day's worth of shooting.
The absolute best thing about the A7 is what it offers for the price. It's fantastic to have a full-frame sensor in something so small and affordable. When the system grows a little more, this will be a more serious contender for mainstream photographers, and it's nice to see something shaking up the market a bit.
The battery is the biggest letdown of this camera. Like other Sony cameras before it, most notably the RX1 (and RX1R), it's just not good enough for something aimed at enthusiast photographers. It's lucky the batteries are small, so carrying around extras shouldn't take up too much pocket room.
The Sony A7 is a fantastic camera, there's no doubt about that. For the price and size, you can't really beat it. But it does feel a little unfinished at the moment. Together with its A7R sibling, the A7 feels like a camera for early adopters – it's a fantastic leap forward and we're really looking forward to the next generation, where hopefully, some of the criticisms will be addressed. By that time, the system should have also grown into a more serious contender too. Hats off to Sony for the innovation.