Friday, 8 November 2013

Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 VC USD sample image

Photos taken with Tamron  SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 VC USD, image , 



 Time: 1/320s
 Aperture: F6.3
Focal length: 329mm


Time: 1/1250s
Aperture: F6.3
Focal length: 600mm


Time: 1/400s
Aperture: F7.1
Focal length: 600mm
 Time: 1/160s
 Aperture: F5.6
Focal length: 329mm



Advanced optical technology

Three LD (Low Dispersion) elements are effectively deployed to correct chromatic aberrations, a challenging problem when shooting at long distances and at long focal-length settings. Tamron's eBAND Coating and BBAR (Broad-Band Anti-Reflection) Coating help suppress flare and ghosting for class-leading image quality.

New eBAND (Extended Bandwidth & Angular-Dependency) Coating

This new coating technique developed by Tamron deploys a nano-structured layer (1nm = 1/1,000,000mm) of ultra-low refractive index, with dimensions smaller than the wavelengths of visible rays of light. This nano-structured layer coupled with the sophisticated multiple layer coatings underneath, yields significant anti-reflection properties, efficiently reducing undesired flare and ghosting to an absolute minimum to deliver sharp, crisp images.

Moisture-resistant construction

Moisture-resistant construction helps prevent moisture from penetrating the lens.


 

USD (Ultrasonic Silent Drive)

The quiet high-torque USD motor ensures a speedy and accurate autofocus response.

VC (Vibration Compensation)

VC (Vibration Compensation) is Tamron's proprietary image stabilization system.
Tamron's VC is a three-coil system, whereby three driving coils activate the shake-compensating VC lens group electromagnetically via three ceramic ball bearings. The VC lens elements are held in place only by contact with the ceramic ball bearings, achieving smooth movement with little friction. And since the VC mechanism is moved in parallel using only the motorized control, the mechanical structure has been simplified, enabling the development of a more compact lens.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD announced

Tamron has announced the development of a 150-600mm F5-6.3 zoom lens for full-frame and APS-C sensor cameras. It will feature 20 elements in 13 groups and have a minimum focus distance of 2.7m. Tamron will also include VC (Vibration Compensation) image stabilization and USD (Ultrasonic Silent Drive) technologies. The lens will be developed for Canon, Nikon, and Sony mounts. Pricing and availability are still to be announced.

Specs:
Principal specifications
Lens type Zoom lens
Max Format size 35mm FF
Focal length 150–600 mm
Image stabilisation Yes (VC – Vibration Compensation)
Lens mount Canon EF, Nikon F (FX), Nikon F (DX), Sony Alpha
Aperture
Maximum aperture F5.0 – F6.3
Minimum aperture F32.0 – F40.0
Aperture ring No
Number of diaphragm blades 9
Optics
Elements 20
Groups 13
Special elements / coatings eBAND (Extended Bandwidth & Angular Dependency) Coating
Focus
Minimum focus 2.70 m (106.30″)
Autofocus Yes
Motor type Ultrasonic
Full time manual Yes
Distance scale Yes
Physical
Weight 1951 g (4.30 lb)
Diameter 106 mm (4.16″)
Length 258 mm (10.15″)
Filter thread 95 mm
Hood supplied Yes
Product Highlights
1. 4x ultra-telephoto zoom lens with a focal length range of 150mm to 600mm
The focal length range of this lens was extended by 50mm on the wide-angle side and 100mm on the telephoto side compared to the existing model (Model A08), making it possible to take even more striking photographs of birds, wildlife, sports, and other distant subjects. Mounted on APS-C DSLR cameras, it has a stunning equivalent focal length range of 233mm to 930mm, almost to 1000mm.
2. World class image quality
Employing 20 elements in 13 groups and boasting an advanced optical design, it delivers a superior balance of resolution and contrast for sharp, clear images. The front group contains three LD (Low Dispersion) glass elements (two in the first group, one in the third) for enhanced optical correction effectiveness, enabling the lens to thoroughly compensate for on-axis aberrations at the telephoto end.
The lens also adopts eBAND Coating*¹, developed from state-of-the-art coating technologies, and conventional BBAR(Broad-Band Anti-Reflection) Coating to greatly suppress ghosting and flare even when shooting under adverse lighting conditions.
3. Achieves a 600mm focal length in a compact easy-to-handle package
Ingenious optical design features minimize the movement of lens groups within the lens when zooming. This reduces the amount of barrel extension needed to cover the complete focusing range, making the entire lens more compact.
4. Beautiful background blur effects 
Adopting a 9 blade circular diaphragm enables users to create beautiful background blur effects (bokeh), which provide even greater potential for creative expression. This circular diaphragm retains a nearly circular shape even at two stops down from its maximum aperture.
5. VC (Vibration Compensation)*² 
Tamron’s proprietary VC (Vibration Compensation) image stabilization system uses a three-coil system, delivering significantly sharper images and creating greater opportunities for handheld ultra-telephoto photography.
6. Comfortable autofocus
Tamron’s new SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD features a USD (Ultrasonic Silent Drive) ultrasonic motor drive*³ for swift and accurate AF response, it delivers high torque, very fast response times, and very low noise. The full-time manual focus mechanism allows users to make fine manual focus adjustments at any time even when AF is engaged.
7. New elegant, high-class external finish
Tamron has upgraded the cosmetic design and finish of this lens to create a more sophisticated, high-end look in keeping with the demands of discerning full-frame DSLR users.
Employing a sophisticated linear pattern rubber grip on the zoom and focus rings and an attractive and stylish tungsten silver name-brand ring, this newly designed model accentuates its visceral presence with understated elegance and class.
8. Easy-to-use tripod mount
The tripod mount has been completely redesigned to provide superior stability, durability, ease of use, and portability.
9. Comes with “SILKYPIX Developer Studio for Tamron”, RAW image development processing software for Tamron’s SP lenses
The SILKYPIX Developer Studio software can develop high-quality images from RAW data, incorporating adjustments that can express the personal style and taste of the photographer. These include white balance, color, sharpness, and the tonal curves recorded by digital cameras.
The SILKYPIX Developer Studio for Tamron provides a range of functions, in addition to the basic adjustment capabilities, such as correcting aberrations (chromatic aberrations of magnification, distortion, peripheral light fall-off), based on the optical data. Used in tandem with Tamron’s SP series lenses – renowned for their high-depiction capability – this advanced technology efficiently produces images that meet photographers’ most exacting demands.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Sony Alpha A7 Review -- First Impressions test




Basic Specifications
Resolution:24.30 Megapixels
Sensor size:35mm
Kit Lens:2.50x zoom
28-70mm
(28-70mm eq.)
Viewfinder:EVF / LCD
ISO:50-25600
Shutter:30-1/8000
Max Aperture:3.5
Dimensions:5.0 x 3.7 x 1.9 in.
(127 x 94 x 48 mm)
Weight:27.1 oz (769 g)
includes batteries, kit lens
MSRP:$2,000
Availability:12/2013

Sony Alpha A7 Review -- First Impressions

by Mike Tomkins and Dave Etchells
Sony A7 Review -- Front left view
A little over a decade ago, enthusiast photographers were clamoring for an affordable APS-C digital SLR. That dream has long since become a reality, but for some, the dream wasn't big enough. They've been asking for an altogether different -- yet still affordable -- camera. They needed it to have a bigger sensor, and to drop the bulky mirror box of an SLR. Until now, they could choose one or the other. Sony has changed all that, with the launch of the full-frame Sony A7 and A7R mirrorless cameras.
The two cameras are very closely-related, and in this first impressions review, we'll be looking at the Sony A7. It's the lower-resolution of the two models -- albeit still pretty high-res, compared to what's available in its mirrorless and DSLR rivals -- but it has some advantages over the A7R in other areas. If resolution above all else is your goal, though, you'll want to take a look at our first impressions of the Sony A7R, instead.
Design. Externally, there's very little to tip you off to which of the two cameras you're looking at, beyond their badges. The Sony A7 is just slightly heavier than its sibling, but the difference is not one you'd notice, even holding the two cameras side-by-side. The A7's Mode dial and Exposure Compensation dial are also just slightly different, with coarser knurling on the former, and a slight increase in height on the latter. (At least, on press images and our prototype cameras; it could be that this difference will not be present in final versions.)
Full-frame sensor. It's under the skin where you'll find the important differences, though, and they relate almost entirely to the choice of image sensor. The 24.3-megapixel Sony A7 has one-third fewer pixels than its sibling, but its sensor includes a generous helping of phase detection pixels. That allows it to offer a hybrid autofocus system, where the A7R is contrast-detect only. The A7's hybrid system should allow for faster autofocusing, and better AF tracking. It also allows a significant improvement in burst shooting performance, whether or not exposure and autofocus are locked.
Sony A7 Review -- Front right view
The higher-resolution sensor of the Sony A7R will be attractive for some, however, even if the A7 is no slouch. The A7R boasts similar resolution to the Nikon D800E, and noticeably more resolution than the Canon 5D Mark II. On paper at least -- and assuming your chosen lens is up to the job -- the A7R should have around 22% higher resolution than the A7.
Lenses. Speaking of lenses, the Sony A7 and its sibling will both accept existing Sony E-mount lenses, albeit with an APS-C crop or vignetting. They'll also accept Alpha-mount lenses -- be they cropped or full-frame -- with an adaptor. Of most interest, though, are several brand-new, full-frame E-mount optics, branded as "FE" lenses. And here too, the Sony A7R has a slight advantage: You'll have a choice of an extra kit lens that won't be offered with -- or for -- its sibling.
Pricing and availability. Priced at US$1,700 for the body-only, the Sony Alpha 7 is around 26% less expensive than the higher-res Sony A7R. And the Sony A7 kit including the full-frame FE 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS kit lens will cost just US$300 more than the body-itself, for a final pricetag of US$2,000. Both variants will be available from early December.
As well as that kit lens, four more FE-series full-frame E-mount lenses have been announced, and three have pricing and availability information. The FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA lens will be first to ship this December, priced at US$800. The FE 55mm F1.8 ZA prime will follow from January 2014, priced at US$1,000. The first non-kit zoom will arrive in February, when the FE 24-70mm F4 ZA OSS ships for US$1,200. Finally, an FE 70-200mm F4 G OSS telephoto zoom is planned, but pricing and availability haven't been disclosed.
Lens adapters. There are also two new full frame-specific mount adapters. One -- the LA-EA3 -- has been available for a while in a bundle with the NEX-VG900 full-frame camcorder. The other is the LA-EA4, and adds a Translucent Mirror plus phase detect AF sensor, much like the existing APS-C format LA-EA2. The LA-EA3 costs US$200, and the LA-EA4 costs US$350. Both ship from early December.
Accessories. Finally, there are several related accessories to choose from. The Vertical Grip for the A7 and A7R costs US$300, and a leather case costs US$140. Screen protectors are priced at US$15, and a new W-series battery charger at US$50. Finally, an off-camera flash shoe is priced at US$50. All of these accessories, save for the last two, ship from early December. The battery charger follows in mid-December, and the flash shoe from early January.
Let's take a closer look at the Sony A7.
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  • Sony A7 28-70mm kit -- Black, with FE 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS kit lens, US$1,998 with free shipping
  • Sony Sonnar T* FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA lens -- US$798 with free shipping
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  • Sony 24-70mm f/4 Vario Tessar T* FE ZA OSS lens -- US$1,198 with free shipping
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  • Sony A7 28-70mm kit -- Black, with FE 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS kit lens, US$1,998 with free shipping
  • Sony Sonnar T* FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA lens-- US$798 with free shipping
  • Sony Sonnar T* FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA lens -- US$998 with free shipping
  • Sony 24-70mm f/4 Vario Tessar T* FE ZA OSS lens -- US$1,198 with free shipping

Walkaround. The Sony A7 is bigger than the typical NEX-series camera, as you might expect given its full-frame image sensor and built-in electronic viewfinder, but it's not as large as you might have feared. Compared to the NEX-7,which features an APS-C sized sensor, it's around 1.1 inches taller, and 0.3 inches wider / thicker. The majority of that difference is due to its viewfinder, which stands well proud of the camera's top deck at the shoulders.
Compared to the Sony RX1 and RX1R -- which also have full-frame sensors, but use fixed prime lenses instead of the A7's Sony E-mount -- there's still a 1.1 inch difference in height due to the A7's viewfinder, but the difference in width and depth are more significant. The fixed-lens cameras have a half-inch lesser width, but they're around 0.7 inches deeper. (And that difference would be greater, if like the RX1 and RX1R, the A7 lacked a built-in hand grip.)
A fairer comparison, though, would be to an SLR. (Or in Sony's case, an SLT.) Here, things fall more in the Sony A7's favor. The current size extremes in Sony's Translucent Mirror range are the APS-C sensor-shod Sony A37, and the full-frame Sony A99. The Sony A7 is 0.1 inches wider and taller than the A37, but a much more significant 0.8 inches narrower and shorter than the A99. More importantly, it's 1.1 to 1.3 inches slimmer than both, without a lens mounted. Getting rid of the mirror box clearly still pays dividends on size for a full-frame camera, then.
Sony A7 Review -- Front view
Seen from the front, things are pretty straightforward. The Sony A7's front surface is mostly smooth and featureless, save for the hand grip, Sony E lens mount, autofocus assist lamp, and a few controls. Of particular note is just how large that full-frame sensor appears, occupying the great majority of the E-mount's interior. For a comparison, take a look at this image from our review of the Sony NEX-7, which features a more typical APS-C sized sensor. The lens mount release button sits snug beneath and to the right of the lens mount (as seen from the rear of the camera), right where you'd expect to find it.
The handgrip is relatively shallow and wide, as we'll see in the top view momentarily, with a slight indent in the front surface that helps give more purchase for the fingers. An infra-red receiver sits behind a small oval window near the base of the grip. At its top sits the front control dial, partially recessed in a small plateau below the camera's top deck. Just above and to the left sits the bright orange autofocus assist lamp.
Sony A7 Review -- Top view
Jumping to the top of the camera, it's clear that it's aimed at enthusiast use. As well as the front dial crowning the hand grip, and another control dial peeking out from behind the Mode dial and Shutter button, there's a third dial dedicated to exposure compensation at the very right-hand end. In front of this sits a Custom button, and the Shutter button is encircled by a Power lever.
Moving left, the electronic viewfinder hump -- there's no prism here, since this is a mirrorless camera -- is topped by Sony's Multi Interface Shoe. From this angle it doesn't look like an intelligent shoe, but when seen from the rear you can just make out terminals tucked beneath its front surface that allow communication not just with strobes, but with other accessories such as a clip-on LCD monitor or external microphone adapter. On either side of the electronic viewfinder hump are two single-hole microphone ports, which together provide for stereo audio. A small two-hole speaker sits just left of the hump, alongside the focal plane mark.
Sony A7 Review -- Rear view
Switching to the rear deck gives a clearer view of that second control dial, but the dominant features here are the 3.0-inch tilting LCD monitor, and the electronic viewfinder which sits just above it. The latter has much higher resolution, with 2.4 million dots (1024 x 768 RGB pixels), versus the 921,600 dots (640 x 480 RGB pixels) of the LCD monitor. If critical focus is key, you'll want to use the viewfinder -- and we'd imagine most Sony A7 shooters will be doing so. Proximity sensors above the viewfinder are used to switch between this and the main display automatically, when you bring the camera to your eye, and away again.
The rear deck controls are fairly straightforward, with no NEX-style soft buttons employed. The Menu button sits above the monitor, as does a second Custom button. Beneath the rear Control dial is an Auto / Manual focus selector switch, at the center of which sits an Auto-exposure Lock button. Below is a Function button, which also serves to enable Wi-Fi sharing in Playback mode.
Further down, there's a cluster of four controls which bear a little more discussion. Another rear Control dial also doubles as a Four-way rocker, and during image capture is used to select the Drive mode, Display mode, or White Balance mode by pressing its left, top, or right sides. At its center is a Select button, used to acknowledge menu options, settings changes, and so forth. Directly beneath the dial are the Playback button, and a Delete button which also serves as yet another Custom button when in record mode.
Sony A7 Review -- Left view
Moving to the camera's left side and starting from the top, there's a neck strap eyelet with, unfortunately a metal D-ring. (Not our favorite thing to see on a video-capable camera, since the metal-on-metal interface tends to generate handling noise every time you so much as look at the neck strap.)
Beneath are two rubber flaps which cover most of the camera's side. The top flap conceals audio connectivity -- both a 3.5mm stereo microphone jack, and a 3.5mm stereo headphone jack. The lower flap covers Sony's Multi Terminal interface, which provides for both USB 2.0 Hi-Speed and standard-definition video output, as well as wired remote control connectivity. The same flap also hides the Type-D Micro HDMI connector, which you'll use to get your images onto a high-definition display.
Sony A7 Review -- Right view
The right side of the Sony A7 is as simple as can be: There's a second neck strap eyelet with D-ring, and a Movie Record button which is tucked into the side of the rear-panel thumb grip. Beneath is the memory card compartment door, behind which you'll find a single shared Secure Digital / Memory Stick PRO Duo card slot. Wi-Fi and NFC logos hint at the inclusion of these two wireless networking features, and the latter provides near-instant pairing with many Android devices, simply by holding them alongside the logo momentarily. (Apple doesn't, as yet, support NFC in any of its products.)
Sony A7 Review -- Bottom view
And in the interests of completeness, let's take a quick look at the camera's base. The Sony A7 features a metal tripod socket, nicely positioned on the central axis of the lens. (That's where you want it, to minimize parallax error during panorama shooting.) A battery compartment door resides in the bottom of the handgrip, and includes a small rubber cutout which provides ingress for the dummy battery cable of an optional AC adapter kit.

Hands-on with the Sony A7 Full-Frame Mirrorless Camera

by Dave Etchells
Given that I was a huge fan of the Sony RX1's user interface, and loved the "Tri-Navi" interface on the Sony NEX-7, it's probably no surprise that I found myself liking the user experience of the new Sony A7 a lot as well. It's something of a melding of the characteristics of the two previous cameras. In many ways, this new camera feels a lot like a big brother to the NEX line, but Sony has chosen to label it an Alpha, perhaps hoping to associate it more with the higher end of their ILC line. While the Sony A7 and its higher-resolution sibling the Sony A7R have a lot in common with the NEX series, there are also some obvious differences.
Sony A7 Review -- Tri Navi interface
Electronic viewfinder. The first and most obvious thing that catches your eye (literally) is the eye-level electronic viewfinder (EVF), housed in angular bulge very reminiscent of the pentaprism on an SLR. EVFs have been steadily evolving in recent years, and the one in the Sony Alpha 7 is a good example of the state of the art. It uses OLED technology, and sports no fewer than 2.4 million dots, a level of resolution that means I can only just barely see hints of pixels along the edges of letters, and not at all in images displayed.
Its very high resolution is only part of the story of the Sony A7's EVF, though. Possibly more important is the optics that Sony's put behind it. Viewfinder optics are often an afterthought in camera design, with optical artifacts like coma, blur, and chromatic aberration all too common. Since they're not being used to take a picture through, they often receive short shrift in the camera-design process.
Sony A7 Review -- Electronic Viewfinder
Not so the EVF on the Sony A7. It uses a 3-lens optical system similar to that found in the flagship Sony A99 SLT camera, although with a slightly improved configuration. The dioptric adjustment range for eyeglass-wearers is an unusually broad -4 to +3 diopters, very welcome for far- or nearsighted people like myself. The net result is a very highly-corrected view of the OLED screen, that's sharp from corner to corner, with nary a sign of chromatic aberration anywhere, and a nice, wide field of view (0.71x with a 50mm lens focused at infinity). The OLED screen itself has also been enhanced a good bit, with three times the contrast of the one used in the A99. The result is a remarkably clear view, with better than average dynamic range, although still not quite up to what my eye can see when looking through an optical viewfinder. There are some areas in which optical viewfinders still outperform EVFs, but there are at least as many in which EVFs surpass, and the one on the Sony A7 is truly state of the art for current technology.
Handling and size. The Sony A7 feels wonderful in the hand. Its magnesium alloy body is very solid, with a sense of quality and precision in its operation. Controls provide good tactile feedback, and command dials strike the right balance between stiffness (so they won't be jostled accidentally), and ease of operation. (Although I might wish for just a tad less stiffness on the exposure-compensation dial.)
Sony A7 Review -- Compared to RX1
The body is somewhat larger than that of the Sony RX1, but maybe not as much bigger as we were expecting. The body itself is only slightly taller, thicker, and wider than the RX1's, the big difference being the large EVF housing on top, which adds greatly to the sense of bulk. The 35mm f/2.8 lens isn't actually too much larger than the 35/2.0 on the RX1, but the combined bulk of body and lens (particularly a zoom) is enough that it really puts it into a different category than the RX1. The RX1 could be considered a coat-pocket camera, but you'd have to have an awfully big coat to squeeze the Sony A7 into it.
That said, I felt that the Sony Alpha 7 was quite well balanced with all three lenses I tried it with. I'd say it's still a two-handed camera, particularly given that you'll want to have a hand on the zoom and/or focus rings of the lens, but it feels very nicely balanced with a moderate-sized lens like the 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 kit optic attached, and it's no trouble at all to hold one-handed, as for over-the-head shots in a crowd.
Sony A7 Review -- Compared to A99
Of course, saying that the Sony A7 is bigger than the RX1 may not mean all that much: Compared to any other full-frame interchangeable-lens camera (apart, perhaps from the rangefinder-style and considerably less feature-rich Leica M9), it's downright diminutive.
The Sony Alpha 7's grip is wider than some, but not very deep. My personal preference is for deeper/narrower, but I found the A7 very comfortable to hold. This is partly due to the nice thumb-rest on the back of the camera and the leather-textured rubbery plastic coating on the grip and right rear of the camera, the combination of which meant my hold on the camera always felt very secure. I also found the various dials mounted on or just beneath the top deck were very easy to access while holding the camera, and the shutter button was comfortably positioned as well.
User interface. I mentioned the Sony A7's user interface at the outset: Let's look at it in a bit more detail. It bears a passing resemblance to the Tri-Navi interface on the NEX-7, in that it has both a front and rear dial, plus the back-panel dial control to adjust settings with. In addition, there's a dedicated exposure-compensation dial on the right rear corner of the camera's top panel, in easy reach of your thumb.
Compared to the RX1, controls on the Sony A7 are equally configurable, but also have explicit default functions printed on the camera body next to some of them. The lack of such labels on the RX1 had a lot to do with how quickly I was moved to assign my own, custom function layout to them. That little nudge to free myself from the default functions was a big plus for me, but I imagine a lot of users would be more comfortable with having the default functions labeled, as on the A7.
Despite the presence of the labels, the Sony A7's user interface is exceptionally configurable. The C1 button on the top panel and the C2 button at the top of the rear panel are of course both configurable, as is the C3 button, which doubles as the Trash button in playback mode. All three of these buttons can have any of 46 functions assigned to them, or they can be left unassigned. Additionally, the center button of the rear controller can have any of 47 functions assigned, and the left, right, and down keys can each have any of 39 assigned to them. This surely sets a new benchmark for camera configurability. (There may have been a camera or cameras with more configuration options, I just can't recall any.)
Sony A7 Review -- Center Button options
While it takes a little while to settle on the best configuration for a highly-customizable user interface like this, and some more time before your custom configurations become second nature, the benefit to regular shooters is huge. Rather than cursing a multi-level menu system, the camera becomes a fluid extension of your creative process. The impact of the sort of deep configurability of the Sony A7's user interface shouldn't be underestimated.
Menus and on-screen controls. I rather liked the default menu system as well, being something of a hybrid between that used on the NEX line and the more conventional enthusiast-oriented menus of the Alpha series. The top level is more NEX-like, with 6 tiles offered to let you quickly access the particular category of functionality you're interested in. Once you select a tile, you're dropped into a standard Alpha menu system, but on the appropriate tab set. I found this a good bit quicker than having to scroll through all the menu tabs between wherever I entered the menu system and where I wanted to be, as is generally the case in standard tabbed menu systems. I'd have to time myself with a stopwatch to say whether the tiled approach actually ended up faster or not (you still have to scroll between tiles, after all), but it certainly felt faster when I was using it. You can disable this tiled front-end if you wish, though, via a setup menu function, and the menu button will drop you directly in to the tabbed menu system.
Sony A7 Review -- Bracket options
There's also a "Quick Navi" interface that provides access to a wide range of camera functions, accessed by default via the Fn button. The operation of this menu on the Sony Alpha 7 is a step forward from some other Sony models, in that you can immediately change a setting with the front/rear control dials as soon as you've scrolled the cursor to it with the left/right keys. Some cameras require you to press the center OK button before you can change the settings, which always caused a bit of a mental disconnect for me. On the Sony A7, though, you can immediately make changes with the front dial, once the cursor has highlighted a particular function. A number of settings have sub-settings for them (such as exposure bracketing, where you can pick both the number and size of the exposure steps), and in those cases, the front dial selects the main setting, and the rear one the sub-setting. It's a very fast, fluid, and intuitive setup.
As with the camera's many control buttons, the Quick Navi menu is also highly configurable. Each of the 12 slots in it can have any of 27 different functions assigned to it, or that slot can be left blank.
No more modal menu failures! In recent history, Sony's menus have been very modal, in that various options would be grayed-out if they didn't apply to the current camera configuration. (For example, a setting pertaining to manual focus would be grayed out if you were in an autofocus mode.) The problem was, the camera wouldn't tell you why something was grayed out! It was often a puzzle, and a guessing game of many steps to figure out why the @#! you couldn't change a given menu setting.
Sony A7 Review -- Focus Magnifier menu option
I suspect others complained to Sony about this as well, so it probably wasn't just me bringing it up every time I had a chance to talk with their engineers, but I'm happy to report that Sony listened, and the new A7 actually tells you why you can't access grayed-out menu options! To my mind, this was the single biggest thing Sony needed to change in their user interface, and they've done it! It doesn't appear that every grayed-out menu has an information screen associated with it (a couple in the setup menus just say "this function is currently disabled"), but this may just be a function of the prototype status of our sample.
Shooting. Although we'll defer final judgment until we can get hands on a final production sample, the Sony A7 feels quite responsive in the hand. Autofocus seems quick and precise, with little hunting, although -- like any camera -- large, flat areas caused either a wider focus search or a failure to lock. No surprise there, really. Any camera needs at least some detail to focus on. There seemed to be a few other situations where it had trouble locking focus, but other than completely blank walls, hitting the shutter button a second time always resulted in a lock. We're not putting much weight on focus performance at this point, since the camera we were using was indeed a prototype sample. (Firmware version 0.9, lens firmware 0.1)
After having reviewed the RX1, one surprise for us was how loud the Sony A7's shutter sound was. It's not quite in the same league with a mirror-flipping SLR, but it's quite a lot louder than the RX1's shutter. This is very likely because the RX1 almost certainly has a leaf shutter, whereas the Sony A7 has a focal-plane design. It's not obnoxious, and as full-frame interchangeable-lens cameras go, it's not bad at all. It's just that we mentally had the RX1 in mind when we first approached the A7.
We didn't spend much time playing with video on the prototype sample, but like that it has external jacks for both mics and headphones, as well as an optional live, two-channel audio level display in either the EVF or rear-panel LCD. We'll look into video image quality and focusing ability once we get a final production unit.
Summary. Overall, we're very impressed with the Sony A7's handling and capabilities. It's surprisingly compact for a full-frame interchangeable lens camera, and packs an impressive set of capabilities. We love its control interface, and it has arguably the best EVF we've ever seen on a camera. It handles great, feels solid, and if the images are anything like we expect them to be (at least as good as those from the RX1), we think Sony has a real winner on their hands (again).

Sony A7 Review -- Technical Info

by Mike Tomkins
Sensor. The Sony A7 is based around a 24.3-megapixel, RGB Bayer-filtered, Exmor CMOS image sensor with approximately the same dimensions as a 35mm film frame. Total resolution is 24.7-megapixels, and the design includes on-chip phase detection autofocus pixels. Sensor size is 35.8 x 23.9mm.
Processor. Output from the Sony A7's image sensor is handled by a brand-new BIONZ X-branded image processor. Compared to the previous generation, BIONZ X has improved performance. Sony also says that it has improved area-specific noise reduction, which varies noise reduction strength across the image in an attempt to yield a clean result without disturbing image detail.
BIONZ X also brings two new features. Diffraction-reducing technology combats the effects of diffraction limiting, improving detail at smaller apertures. Interestingly, the effect applied is both lens and aperture specific, and said to work even with Alpha-mount lenses shot through an adapter. It also has what Sony bills as "Detail reproduction technology", which tries to draw out finer details without creating halos in the process.
Sensitivity. The Sony A7's sensor and processor combine to yield a sensitivity range of ISO 100 to 25,600 equivalents. The lower end of this range can be expanded to encompass ISO 50. There's also an Auto ISO function, ordinarily 100 to 6400 equivalents. Upper and lower limits for this Auto ISO function can be adjusted to match the photographer's needs.
Performance. The Sony A7 isn't a camera you'll select for sports, with relatively sedate burst shooting performance. That will likely be forgiven by photographers hooked on its pairing of a huge sensor, compact body and affordable price, though. With focus and exposure locked from the first frame, you can shoot at up to 5 frames per second. With autofocus and exposure between frames, the maximum rate plunges to just 2.5fps. That's one frame per second faster for both figures than its higher-res sibling, the Sony A7R.
Lens mount. The Sony A7 still sports the company's mirrorless E-mount, but it now accepts new Sony FE full-frame lenses. Five Sony FE lenses debut alongside the camera, and Sony tells us it aims to have 10 FE lenses by the end of next year, and 15 lenses by the end of 2015. Of the currently-announced lenses, two are primes, and three are stabilized zooms.
The A7 can also accept standard E-mount lenses, and these can either be used with an APS-C crop (reducing image resolution correspondingly), or you can opt to view the full image circle and decide for yourself if vignetting and image quality outside of the APS-C image circle are acceptable.
You can also use Sony Alpha-mount lenses with an adapter, be they APS-C or full-frame. The latter are catered for with two new full-frame compatible adapters -- the LA-EA3 and LA-EA4 -- which replace both existing APS-C adapters. Although technically, the LA-EA3 isn't actually new, as it's been available for a while. It's just that until now, you could only buy it in a bundle with the full-frame NEX-VG900 camcorder.
Shake reduction. The Sony E-mount uses lens-based image stabilization, meaning that availability of stabilization is lens-specific. For the initial round of Sony FE lenses, all three zooms announced so far feature SteadyShot stabilization, while both primes don't.
Dust removal. As you'd expect on an interchangeable-lens camera, Sony has accounted for the possibility of dust on the sensor. The company is using an ultrasonic vibration system, coupled with a charge protection coating on a filter overlying the sensor.
Focus. The Sony A7, unlike its sibling the A7R, includes on-chip phase detection pixels, allowing for a hybrid autofocus system. There are a total of 117 phase-detect pixels, of which 99 are available when shooting with a Fast Hybrid autofocus-compatible APS-C lens.
The CDAF system in the A7, meanwhile, is branded as Fast Intelligent AF. It's said to offer good performance, thanks to a healthy readout rate from the sensor. The system provides a total of 25 contrast detection autofocus points, and is able to locate and prioritize an individual's eye when focusing.
It also includes the Lock-On Autofocus function first seen in the Sony A58, which tracks your subject as it passes between focus points, or strays outside of the focus point coverage area. (It's the first time this tech has been included by Sony in a camera without phase detection.)
If you prefer to focus manually, you'll find the presence of a manual focus peaking function to be a great aid for getting the point of focus just where you want it.
Viewfinder. Sony has gifted the A7 with a high-resolution XGA (that is to say, 1024 x 768 pixel) Organic LED electronic viewfinder. It's related to that seen previously in the flagship Sony A99 Translucent Mirror camera, but with further-improved optics for a better viewfinder image. (And indeed, it's among the best we've seen to date.)
LCD. On the rear panel of the Sony A7 is an articulated LCD monitor. It has a 3-inch diagonal and a 921,600 dot resolution, and its articulation mechanism allows it to tilt up by 84 degrees for low / waist-level shooting, or down 45 degrees for shooting over your head.
There's a five-step manual brightness adjustment, and a Sunny Weather mode is available if you are shooting in bright conditions, where a washed-out-but-bright image is better than no image at all.
External flash. Sony hasn't included a built-in flash in the A7, doubtless in the interest of reducing size. That limits users to external strobes only, and they're attached via the top-deck Multi Interface Shoe mount. This has proprietary intelligent contacts, and can also be used to mount various non-flash accessories.
The A7 also accepts Minolta / Sony iISO strobes using an optionally-available adaptor. No strobe is bundled with the camera.
Exposure modes. The Sony A7 provides a healthy selection of exposure modes. These include Auto (both single-shot Intelligent Auto and multi-shot Superior Auto), Program, Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority, and Manual, plus Scene, Sweep Pano, and Movie. Scene-mode choises are Portrait, Landscape, Macro, Sports Action, Sunset, Night Portrait, Night Scene, Hand-held Twilight, and Anti Motion Blur.
Drive modes. Five drive modes are available: Single, continuous, speed priority continuous, self-timer, and bracketing. Speed priority continuous differs from standard continuous in that focus and exposure are locked from the first shot, yielding greater performance. Self-timer options are two or ten seconds.
Metering. The Sony A7 uses a 1,200 zone evaluative metering system, which like all mirrorless cameras operates on information from the image sensor. Three metering modes are available: Multi-segment, center-weighted, or Spot.
Shutter. Available shutter speeds range from 1/8000 to 30 seconds, plus a bulb shutter function. Maximum flash sync is 1/250s, and the A7 offers an electronic front curtain shutter option.
Movie capture. The Sony A7 can record Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixel) movies, with a rate of 60 progressive-scan frames, 60 interlaced fields, or 24 frames per second, using AVCHD version 2.0 compression in an MPEG-4 container. Sound is recorded with a built-in stereo mic, or via a stereo 3.5mm mic port. There's also a stereo 3.5mm headphone jack for audio monitoring, and you can display / adjust audio levels. The A7 is also compatible with Sony's optional XLR adapter, allowing XLR mics to be attached via the Multi Interface Shoe.
You can also output clean video with no overlays on the Sony A7's HDMI port.
Weather-sealing / cold-proofing. Although it doesn't provide a count for the number of seals, Sony describes the A7's magnesium-alloy body as both dust and moisture-resistant.
Connectivity. A generous range of connectivity options are provided for on the Sony A7. These include both Wi-Fi and NFC wireless communications, high-definition Type-D Micro HDMI video output, and a combined USB data / wired remote port, which Sony calls the Multi-Terminal Interface. There's also the aforementioned Multi Interface Shoe for external strobes and accessories, and 3.5mm stereo headphone / microphone jacks.
The Wi-Fi and NFC wireless connectivity is probably the most interesting. This allows you to share your full-frame images with a smart device such as phone or tablet, or even to view them wirelessly from your DLNA-compliant TV. You can also control the camera remotely via Wi-Fi using an available Android / iOS app.
The HDMI port is interesting, too, though. According to Sony, it's the first to automatically detect 4K displays, and provide a 4K ultra high-def video output when one is detected. The HDMI port is also unusual in that it can be used at the same time as the camera's LCD monitor.
Remote control. As well as the ability to control it remotely via Wi-Fi, the Sony A7 lets you trip the shutter release from an infrared remote, using a receiver in the handgrip. It can also accept Sony's Multi-Terminal Interface wired remotes in the USB port.
Power. Power comes courtesy of an 1080mAh Sony InfoLithium NP-FW50 battery pack. This is capable of providing up to 340 shots on a charge, with the LCD active. Note, though, that while it's tested to CIPA standards, the battery life figure doesn't include the typical 50% flash usage, since there is no internal flash in this camera.
If 340 shots isn't enough, you can double battery life by attaching the optional VG-C1EM vertical grip, which accepts two NP-FW50 batteries. With this in place, around 680 shots on a charge should be possible.
Storage. The Sony A7 stores images on Secure Digital cards, including the higher-capacity SDHC / SDXC types, and the higher-speed UHS-I types. Its single flash card slot can also accept Sony's proprietary Memory Stick PRO Duo cards, if you prefer.
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