Monday, September 14, 2015

Sony A7 After 48,000 Images

When I bought my A7 from the Sony store as a demo unit, I didn't know how many actuations it had, and it turned out to be quite a bit. 13,505 to be exact.  Yesterday I did a shutter count check and the current count is more than 61,000.  I shot more than 48,000 pictures in 16 months.  That's quite a bit for someone who only uses the camera for leisure.  I guess it's a good time to follow up on my initial review of the camera.

The Build
Other than some brassing on the edges of the top plate, the camera is physically in very good shape.  I bring a camera with me to work each day, or whenever I go out, without fail, and the camera is either the Sony A7, Olympus E-M5, or very rarely the Canon 20D Infrared camera, and a few times the Nikon D810.  I would say 99% of the time, the A7 was in my bag.  That means the camera is in my backpack (not a camera bag), enduring the sometimes rough biking trips, and it has held up extremely well.  The camera has worked flawlessly without fail so far.

The Annoyances
1.  the proximity sensor that switches between LCD screen and EVF is far too sensitive.  One fix for this, devised by Matt, is to cut a thin piece of black electrical tape and put in the middle of the IR LEDs window on top of the viewfinder.  This works well most of the time, but sometimes the sensitivity goes a bit wonky, probably because the tape moved, so at the end, I just removed it and reverted it back to its virgin state.

2.  Sensor dust.  Compared to the Olympus E-M5, or the Nikon D810, the Sony sensor-shake dust reduction system, like the Canon version, isn't as effective.  It's a royal pain to clean.  Luckily, most of the pictures I shoot are wide open and this is not a big deal, but when a slow lens is used, say f5.6 or slower, the pictures will have many dust specks.

3.  Image Magnify button.  In early NEX cameras, the magnify button is the OK button, which is within the reach of the thumb when the camera is held. Pressing it after the image is taken instantly magnifies the image.  But in the A7, the &#$%@#  magnify button has its dedicated button, located next to the EVF.  To press this button, I have hold the camera with my left hand loosen the grip of the right hand to press it.  As far as I know, this function could not be re-programmed.  Still drive me crazy after 16 months.

4.  I miss the fully articulated swivel LCD screen on the Panasonic G1, Canon T2i, and even the original 3.2 MP Canon G1 that I used.  This is especially useful for vertical shots when not using the EVF.  A minor annoyance.

Storage and Computer Issues
As the resolution of the cameras increased, so is the storage and computing requirements.  It's true that storage is cheap, but after losing 250GB of pictures, I now store my pictures with at least two copies on magnetic hard drive, plus one copy on BluRay disc, which triples the storage requirement.  At the moment, I have roughly 18TB of hard drive storage, and it's almost near capacity, and I am way behind on BluRay backup.  The computer I am using is a 7-year old Dell XPS Studio with an Intel Core i7-920, and 18GB of RAM.  Adequate at the moment, though painful when processing D810 images.  I can't even begin to fathom what it would be like if I ever get the 42MP A7R II.

Other Thoughts
I thought the lack of an external charger would be an big issue for me, but it turns out not so, for the kind of shooting I do.  I hardly spend more than 45 minutes per shooting session, since 90% of my shooting is done during my lunch time, or on my way to or from work.  I do not need an extra battery (although I do have one).  Once charged, it's good for at least a couple of days.  I actually find it convenient to be able to charge the battery in-camera, because more than a few occasions, I found the battery almost depleted, but was able to charge it at work through the computer before heading out.

The lossy RAW format that Sony employs ticked off more than a few people.  It bothers me a little, but not to the point where I find it a show stopper.  In most cases, this does not affect the image quality, at least not something clearly visible.  I don't see why Sony would not allow the user an option to use compressed or losslessly compressed RAW.

What I like most about this camera is that it's a very balanced camera.  Obviously, it's not an action camera.  Focus speed, especially focus tracking, leaves much to be desired, but you would be buying a wrong camera if the majority of your shoot is action based.  A DSLR is a better tool in that case.  The small size with a full frame sensor and very short flange distance, coupled with excellent image quality, is a dream tool for legacy lens addicts like me.  I thank Sony for making an affordable camera like this, that no one cared to make.  It's by far the best camera I have used for my shooting style.  I look forward to the A7R II.

Anchor - Sony A7 & Minolta RF 250mm f5.6 Mirror Lens


  1. Nice to know. Now and then I consider getting one so that I have GF for compact and A7 for SLR-alike. I wonder how the Sony would perform with my OM lenses ... like the 21, 28 and 50...

    Thanks for the updates

    1. @obakesan, the A7 is very forgiving on legacy lenses and the OM lenses should work well, though I can not say the same thing about the E-M5 in old lenses.

    2. I've only used the OM 50mm f1.8, it works really well.
      You shouldn't get any colour cast issues in the corners using any SLR lens.

    3. If you have already those OM lenses, the Sony is perfect for them. I have those too (and some more), and together they are still a very compact combo. An om 21mm f/2.0 is still nice on micro four third, but an OM 40mm f/2 on a Sony is still much nicer :). And on the Sony as well. I have the f/3.5 and it is very nice for travel and my bigger Minolta AF 20mm f/2.8 stays mostly at home. My Olympus M43 9-18mm, I haven't used in years.

  2. Annoyance # 3, Image magnify; It is indeed assignable to other buttons, I've moved mine (on A7), to the OK button!
    Now if you ask me how I did that, that may take a bit more time, to go back through the xxxx menus to work it out....but be heartened , it's easy to do, when you know how. ;o) I'll have a look how I did it.

    1. Still isn't as good as the NEX version

    2. Hi Yu-Lin, simpler than I thought:

      Menu: "Cog Wheel" > #6 > Custom Key Settings> #2 > Centre button > Focus settings. select

      That's it!

    3. Hi Tim, thanks for taking the time to show me how to set the magnify function. I guess I was not clear in my post. I want to magnify (I should have used Zoom instead) after the picture is taken, not before. I am able to set the "enter/ok" button for magnify during focusing, but not to magnify the picture after it's taken. Again, thanks for taking the time, very much appreciated.

    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    5. I've reread the post, and you do indeed make it quite clear that it's after capture! I need to engage brain before commenting ;o)