First Impressions Shooting With The Sony A7R

I'm sure some of you are thinking, "Scott... the A7R is old news. This camera's been out for a while. And the A7RII is on it's way." True on all counts. However, the A7R is new to me. And I'm excited about the camera. And I want to share. And this is my blog and I get to write what I want. [Imagine Scott pouting like Veruca Salt from Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory.]

Childish reasons aside, I'm of the mindset that more information and perspectives is a good thing. You might be thinking about a Sony system. The more viewpoints you have, the more informed your decision will be. That typically equates to the best choice for you (stress on those last two words). 

For reference, I'm coming from Nikon's D7000. This camera has been my workhorse for the last several years, and I've been shooting Nikon for more than a decade. There's an obvious resolution improvement I get moving to a full frame system. That's great as a landscape shooter. But honestly, I don't print often, so that's secondary to me. 

I've taken the camera out on a couple of shoots so far. Overall, I am very happy with the camera. There's still a lot I have to learn about the camera. So far, it's been easy to adjust my style of shooting to the A7R. The things I've enjoyed most so far:

  • Construction & Quality. I like how the A7R feels in my hands. It's well built. Sturdy. I've only received one of the lenses I ordered, the 16-35mm f/4 wide angle. It is very sharp. No disappointment there.
  • Controls. The controls are well placed, separate dials for shutter speed, aperture and exposure compensation. In the short amount of time I've been using it, the muscle memory for where the controls are is already taking hold. The camera does have an extreme bias to the right-handed.
  • Very customizable. There's all the things you'd expect to customize. There are three custom buttons that you can program, the defaults for two of which made sense to me and my shooting style. I was very pleased to find the AF/MF button can bet set to toggle between auto-focus and manual focus. I had grown accustomed to disabling auto-focus directly on my Nikon lenses to lock in a scene.
  • Focus Peeking. When focusing manually, colored areas are rendered on the view screen to show what edges are in focus or not. I haven't sorted out how to use this to its fullest with manual focus. It is a great visual indicator when the camera is in manual vs. auto focus when toggling with the aforementioned AF/MF button.
  • Articulating screen. I love this! Shooting with my tripod fully extended, I can tilt the screen down and compose. No more craning my neck. Likewise for shooting at low angles... tilt the screen and frame up the shot. No more lying on my belly, either. I'd like it if the screen tilted downward a little further, but I'm picking nits here.
  • Mobile friendly. Sending images from the camera to a smart phone is very slick.

There are a couple of things that I think could use improvement:

  • Battery Life. On my last shoot, I was out for about an hour and that burned up 40% of the battery. On my Nikon D7000, an hour would have barely made a dent in the battery. I'm already developing the habit of turning off the A7R display at every opportunity.
  • Electronic Viewfinder. With my eye to the viewfinder, there's a perceivable "sluggishness" when recomposing a frame.

There is one thing I haven't concluded how to handle yet – time lapse shooting. My Nikon has interval shooting. The Sony A7R does not. I don't do interval shooting often enough that I will rush out and buy an external intervalometer. There's a PC/Mac app to control the camera... but I'm not lugging a laptop out with me on a shoot. The smart phone application doesn't offer interval shooting (and from what I've seen so far, only supports JPEG shooting). There are applications that can run in the camera... maybe there's one that adds interval shooting. Or maybe a firmware update will add this feature.

If you're a Sony shooter and shoot time lapses, what do you do?

Why didn't I wait for the A7RII? Pricing. I got a killer deal on this A7R and I had to take it. From what I've read of the A7RII, the only bit of buyers remorse I might have is for the hand grip. If the A7RII follows suit with the A7II the hand grip will extend out farther. That's a nice improvement. Although, I shoot mostly on a tripod, so it's nothing I'll weep about. And maybe I'll get the A7RII as a second body (or maybe that'll become my first). Gotta save a lot more pennies before that happens, though. :-)