With Sony taking over the major headlines this week, a number of our readers have been asking about the differences between the Sony A7 and A7R – two new full-frame interchangeable lens mirrorless cameras. As I have written in this article, Sony’s full-frame mirrorless cameras are shaking up the camera market and could potentially influence the future development and pricing of full-frame DSLRs in the future. Boasting impressive 24 and 36 megapixel sensors, the Sony A7 and A7R cameras are attracting a lot of potential buyers from different camps. But one question remains: what is the difference between the A7 and the A7R and which one should one pick? Although both cameras look very similar, there is a big difference in price: the A7 is priced at $1700, while the A7R is at $2300. In this article, I will go over the feature differences between the two cameras and provide personal recommendations on what lens(es) to choose. I believe the two cameras are targeted at completely different audiences. Please keep in mind that this Sony A7 vs A7R comparison is purely based on specifications. A detailed comparison with image samples and ISO comparisons will be provided in the upcoming Sony A7 and Sony A7R reviews.
Before I go into recommendations on which to pick and why, let’s first take a look at how the two cameras stack up against each other in terms of specifications:
Sony A7 vs A7R Specification Comparison
|Camera Feature||Sony A7||Sony A7R|
|Sensor Resolution||24.3 Million||36.4 Million|
|Sensor Size||35.8 x 23.9mm||35.9 x 24.0mm|
|Sensor Pixel Size||5.96µ||4.87µ|
|Dust Reduction / Sensor Cleaning||Yes||Yes|
|Image Size||6000 x 4000||7360 x 4912|
|Image Processor||BIONZ X||BIONZ X|
|Viewfinder||Electronic / EVF||Electronic / EVF|
|Viewfinder Type / Resolution||XGA OLED / 2,359,296 dots||XGA OLED / 2,359,296 dots|
|Flash Sync Speed||1/250||1/160|
|Storage Media||1x SD||1x SD|
|Continuous Shooting Speed||2.5 FPS, 5 FPS in Speed Priority Mode||1.5 FPS, 4 FPS in Speed Priority Mode|
|Max Shutter Speed||1/8000 to 30 sec, Bulb||1/8000 to 30 sec, Bulb|
|Electronic Front-Curtain Shutter||Yes, On / Off||No|
|Exposure Metering Sensor||1200-Zone Evaluative Metering||1200-Zone Evaluative Metering|
|Base ISO||ISO 100||ISO 100|
|Native ISO Sensitivity||ISO 100-6,400||ISO 100-6,400|
|Boosted ISO Sensitivity||ISO 12,800-25,600||ISO 12,800-25,600|
|Autofocus System||Fast Hybrid AF (phase-detection AF / contrast-dection AF)||Contrast-detection AF|
|Focus Points||117 points (phase-detection AF), 25 points (contrast-detection AF)||25 points (contrast-detection AF)|
|AF Predictive Control||Yes||No|
|Video Output||AVCHD / MP4 Compression, Uncompressed via HDMI||AVCHD / MP4 Compression, Uncompressed via HDMI|
|Video Maximum Resolution||1920×1080 (1080p) @ 60p, 60i, 50p, 50i, 25p, 24p||1920×1080 (1080p) @ 60p, 60i, 50p, 50i, 25p, 24p|
|Audio Recording||Built-in stereo microphone|
External stereo microphone (optional)
|Built-in stereo microphone|
External stereo microphone (optional)
|LCD Size||3.0″ diagonal TFT-LCD||3.0″ diagonal TFT-LCD|
|LCD Resolution||921,600 dots||921,600 Dots|
|Battery||NP-FW50 Rechargeable Battery||NP-FW50 Rechargeable Battery|
|Weather Sealed Body||Yes, Dust and Moisture Resistant||Yes, Dust and Moisture Resistant|
|Weight (Body Only)||474g with battery and memory card||465g with battery and memory card|
|Dimensions||126.9 x 94.4 x 48.2mm||126.9 x 94.4 x 48.2mm|
|MSRP Price||$1,699 MSRP (as introduced)||$2,299 MSRP (as introduced)|
While most of the above features are very similar, there are some key differences between the Sony A7 and the Sony A7R:
- Image Sensor and Image Quality: Obviously, the sensors on the two cameras are completely different. The A7 has a 24.3 MP sensor, while the A7R has a 36.4 MP sensor. As a result, the size of each pixel on the sensor is also very different: 5.96µ vs 4.87µ. What does this mean? Simply put, the A7 will provide cleaner images at higher ISO levels when viewed at pixel level, or 100% zoom. However, that advantage will no longer be true when looking at the output of both sensors when images are down-sampled, or “normalized” to 24.3 MP. If you do not understand how and why, please read my article on the benefits of high resolution sensors. As a result, when 36.4 MP is resized to 24.3 MP, the amount of noise on both images will be equivalent, however, the high resolution sensor on the A7R will produce better and sharper details. This obviously comes at an expense of having larger JPEG and RAW files.
- Autofocus System: This one might be a big surprise for may – the Sony A7 has a superior Hybrid autofocus system with both phase-detection and contrast-detection autofocus capabilities, while the A7R only has contrast-detection autofocus. This basically means that the A7 will focus faster and is therefore a better choice than the A7R for anything that moves (portrait, street and event photography). The A7 also has a lot more focus points (117 vs 25) for better framing and composition. With contrast-detection AF, the A7R is specifically targeted at landscape and architecture photography.
- Camera Shutter and Flash Sync Speed: The Sony A7 has an impressive 1/250 flash sync speed, while the A7R is limited to 1/160. If you are a portrait photographer and you use flash a lot, the A7 will be a better choice for this reason alone.
- Price: Lastly, there is a $600 difference in price between the two models. This means that Sony wants to charge more for the resolution alone, despite the fact that the A7R is worse in terms of the flash sync speed and autofocus features.
To me, it is very clear what Sony is doing here with the two cameras. The Sony A7 is clearly targeted at everyday photography, portraiture, street and event photography, while the A7R is a tool to be used for landscape and architecture photography, where high-resolution capabilities are more important than autofocus speed and flash sync speed.
Now that you know what the two cameras are for, here are my lens recommendations, based on the first 5 lenses announced by Sony.
For Landscape / Architecture Photography using the Sony A7R: With a 36.4 MP sensor, you need a lens that can resolve as much detail as possible and has the right zoom range. The Zeiss 24-70mm f/4 ZA OSS is a perfect candidate for this. 24mm is wide enough for most situations and the nice zoom range makes it a great fit for photographing landscapes. And image stabilization is certainly a nice bonus with this lens, allowing you to photograph hand-held in low-light situations. Sony’s 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 will not be able to compete with the 24-70mm Zeiss optically. The Sony FE 70-200mm f/4 G OSS is another candidate for photographing distant landscapes to extend the range of the 24-70mm. Unfortunately, Sony has not yet produced a super wide angle lens yet, but we should be seeing one in 2014.
For Portrait / Street / Event / Everyday Photography using the Sony A7: Street photographers will want the Zeiss 35mm f/2.8 lens, because it is small and has the right focal length for most situations. Portrait and event photographers should get the Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 for subject isolation and to get beautiful bokeh. The 55mm f/1.8 is a very sharp lens, based on the image samples I have seen so far. The second lens on my list would be the Sony FE 70-200mm f/4 G OSS, since it is another lens with very sharp optics and very useful for documenting events / photographing distant subjects. A 70-200mm lens is a must-have for photographing wedding ceremonies. For group portraits and other tighter shots, I would personally pick the 35mm f/2.8 prime, although some might want the versatility of the 28-70mm. In fact, the Sony 28-70mm only costs $300 when bought as a kit, so I would probably buy the A7 with this lens.
The good news is, other third party manufacturers are already announcing plans to make Sony full-frame E mount lenses and Samyang is the first one, which will be retrofitting 5 of its prime lenses:
The above lenses are all manual focus lenses, with excellent performance characteristics. The 14mm, 24mm and 24mm Tilt Shift would all be great candidates for the Sony A7R for capturing landscapes/architecture.
Hope this helps, please let me know if you have any questions!
Very nice review. I’ve been impressed with Sony’s courage to challenge the market with innovative and different cameras. A few years ago I bought a Sony DSC R1 bridge camera. An odd looking camera with a big sensor and a fantastic Zeiss lens, it can take amazing photos. One technical note that I think is relevant today, the R1’s pixel pitch is 5.49 — placing in between the the two A7s reviewed here.
Specs are fine. But for real-life use, specs are quickly forgotten. What Sony has created (finally) is a camera that will capture as much photo detail as your lens can produce. For the first time, we have a camera that will accept lenses from a variety of other manufacturers, and can show the strengths and weaknesses of those lenses. I have used both models with a Zeiss Contax G45 lens (rated by many to be the finest lens for 35mm format). The differences between the images are simply indiscernible for images viewed on a 29inch monitor. I have even printed these at 1m x 1.5m and see no differences (I do not have access in my country for larger print sizes). I doubt seriously the majority of pros would print at larger sizes, and how many normal people would? I have duplicated these results with the Zeiss 55 lens. The A7 produces stunning images when setup and used properly. The A7 has very much faster autofocus, which is perfect for stills and video. This should not be undervalued. Video is about equal quality for both cameras, regardless of lens. So, for real-life, the A7 is the easier, more reliable camera to use, with no discernible sacrifices made. My suggestion is not to be swayed by marketing: get the A7 and with the money saved get the Zeiss 55 lens. Add a bit of sharpening in the A7 menu, and maybe tweak a few other settings to your taste (eg sturation), and focus upon your photography skills. You will have a camera/lens that will create stellar images. When the next A7 release comes, it will be without the AA filter, and then for sure the images will be identical to the A7R (but AA is very useful for video).
Thanks very much for the great review and other information on the Sony A7 and A7R. Your efforts have be vey helpful.
I am very impressed with these Sony cameras, and I am trying to decide whether to purchase the A7 or the A7R. I come from a Nikon SLR background (started with a Nikkormat FTN in 1967) and I have many Nikkor lenses. The idea of being able to use these lenses on a modern light-weight digital body is very appealing. I mostly shoot landscapes, portraits, and macro in manual focus mode (on my Nikon DF), often while traveling. So, it seems that the Sony A7 or A7R would be an excellent second (or maybe even primary!) body. As for choosing between them, I am leaning towards the A7R because I don’t need the better autofocus or speed of the A7. Also, “back in the day”, I used to make 20″ x 24″ Cibachrome prints from Kodachrome 25. It would be nice to be able to make large prints again, but mostly I would be making 8″ x 10″.
So, one of the few concerns I have about the A7R is that most reviews warn that, with its high resolution, it is very unforgiving with regard to hand-held shooting and poor quality lenses. They seem to say that the A7 is more forgiving with camera shake and lens defects. But, isn’t this a print size issue, rather than which camera is used? In other words, suppose one takes a picture on the A7R, with a poor lens and some camera shake, and then you downsample/ downsize the image to 8″ x 10″. Then, you take the same picture with the A7, with the same poor lens and shake, and post-process that image to 8″ x 10″. Would the lens / camera shake defects be more obvious the A7R print than the A7 print? I may be missing something, but it seems to me that the prints should be about the same. Your comments in this regard would be much appreciated!
Doug, I would rent one of the Sony cameras and see if it works out for you before making a decision to buy one. The A7R has a lot of resolution and has a phenomenal sensor, but it has a very shaky shutter mechanism and a few other issues. If you have not shot with a mirrorless camera before, definitely give it a test shot before buying one.
if you have already made up your mind to purchase one, I would get the A7R instead of the A7 if you need the resolution (for architecture, landscapes, etc). If you don’t need the high resolution, then the A7 is the way to go.
Thanks very much for your prompt reply. As you suggest, I will get my hands on on an A7R and try it out before buying one.
Dear Nasim, in Df in depth review you mentioned A7r has shorter distance between lens and sensor. Probably this is something that applies to all mirrorless cameras as well.
Back in film days, Leicas and other rangefinder cameras were told to have a clear advantage in wide angles not only because of the rangefinder but because lenses could be designed better, without the limitation of the mirror, and the biogon design just to mention one was possible and superior compared to the distagon design, used for SLRs. Now, with focus peak and shorter distance ( better exploited by the rear of the lenses) do you see a resurgence of this trend? Might mirrorless have an edge over Dslr in wide angles?
Dino, absolutely! The new 35mm Zeiss lens for the A7/A7R is a reigning killer. I have never seen a 35mm lens this small, this sharp. When I review that lens and post its Imatest scores, you will see that it is just wicked sharp. So I fully agree that a shorter flange has its advantages for wide angles – that certainly seems to be true. The biggest issue with short flange distance is the stupid red dot issue. Not sure how manufacturers are planning to deal with that, but it would be nice if all lenses were properly coated to prevent/minimize that problem. I love shooting against the sun and don’t like seeing those nasty red dots!
Nasim, thank you very much for this initial review which is really helpful.
I am trying to decide on a camera for primarily shooting candid street portraits, both full length and head shots. I used to use a Nikon D800 with 85mm 1.4G which was great but I sold that some time ago in the hope of finding something lighter and less obtrusive. For wider street scenes I’m using the Ricoh GR which is fine but I need something with a longer focal length for portraits. I don’t own any lenses at present and have narrowed my options down to the Sony A7/A7R or the Olympus OM-D E-M1. I would just like to get your view on whether it would be better to go for full-frame with no IS and lack of any good typical portrait lenses, but with more scope to crop – or take the Olympus route which seems better just in about every way except sensor size (great IS, smaller and more appropriate lenses, touch screen, faster AF, quieter shutter etc).
Originally I was going to get the A7R and 55mm lens since I loved the look I was able to achieve before with the D800 but I worry about the slower AF and difficulty handholding a much lighter body with longer lenses and no IS. I know you suggest the A7 for portrait and street but it just doesn’t appeal to me. I think if I am going to give up all the potential benefits of a smaller, faster, cheaper, more complete system then I want that 36MP sensor back again but ideally not in the rather compromised A7R body. I don’t shoot landscape or architecture but I’m keen to start getting into studio portrait work at some stage.
I’ve pretty much persuaded myself to go for the OM-D E-M1 with the apparently excellent 12-40 2.8, 45mm and 75mm lenses right now, to complement my Ricoh GR, and just wait until the full-frame mirrorless range matures in a year or two before probably jumping back into full-frame again.
Nasim, like your great coverage on Nikon D600, I am waiting for your another great review with all details among, Sony A7, A7r, Canon 5dmk3 and Nikon d800E ….. lets us see the preformance…. under ur xray eyes…. so many best wishes to u and ur time…. for the great job…
Thank you Nasim. Your post elightened me to have a knowledge on what determines “Image Quality”.
Based on your info, I am more inclined to get the A7. I don’t do photography for a living but it’s my passion. I want events as well as landscapes/architecture etc.
1. Do I loose a lot interms quality when taking Landscapes?
2. Have you compared the A7 with rx1r?
Thanks again for your post.
Correction on question 1. Do I loose a lot interms of quality when taking landscapes, if I take Sony A7 route vs. A7r?
Hello to a fellow Coloradoan and thanks for your post. Ill spare the excitement Ive felt while reading about and researching the A7 over the past few weeks, as it appears that this body answers many of the requests that Ive long been hoping for. Bottom line, Im a current D800 user. Id like to think I shoot an equal mixture of landscape/architecture and street/travel photography. Im not a wedding photographer nor am I a sports photographer.
I am once again confused as to which is the best route to go; A7 vs. A7R. For me, its not as clear cut as “I need the higher pixel count” or “I need the better AF system”. Im basically looking for the BEST all around fit. Ideally looking to throw a 35mm Voigtlander Nokton 35 1.2 Aspherical II on there, and use it for 90% of my daily needs because I can now carry a FF camera with me everywhere; to a restaurant, on a plane, walking around lodo, or on a tripod up in the Tetons. So knowing that you already touched on this topic, but Ive given even great specificity for my needs…what are your thoughts? Anyone?
Thanks so much!
There is one detail that should be mentioned in the design difference between A7 and A7r sensors that should be included in making a prediction of relative sensor performance: although the pixel area calculation is fairly straightfoward, the A7 sensor also includes the pixel electronics that is required to support the electronic first curtain shutter and the AF phase detect. The first curtain shutter electronics reduces the area available at each pixel site for light gathering, so it may very well be that the A7r will beat the A7 sensor in DR, noise, etc. Note I said ‘may’. Lots more samples and some measurements are in order. The DxOMark score for the A7r is 95, equal to the Nikon D800. That will be difficult to equal.
Technically, true: and it “may”. Depends upon how far Sony wants to go to downgrade the A7. Pixel count means nothing now. For 99.9% of all users, the 24mp imager will be far more than sufficient. The proof is in the images already posted on Flickr and such. The A7 will be much the better and practical tool to use. Thankfully, Sony has given us superb imagers to choose, and each gets us back to the old standard where the lens is the primary determinant for IQ. The kit lens is good, but the Zeiss is much better. Images I have seen by the Zeiss lens on the A7 are superb, under all lighting conditions. Out of the box, the Zeiss images for say 1m x 2m sized are only very slightly different between the A7 and A7r, due to the AA filter primarily. These differences are easily compensated by some post-pro (better in-camera) to the point no differences are discerned. But how many users will print 1m x 2m prints, and where? The AA filter is a key component for auto-focusing and video: which is why the A7 is better in this respect. The key for both cameras now is the lens: by using a top quality lens, both cameras will produce the same IQ (though the A7 will require some tweeking). I think the A7 line will become “the” standard to beat: already it surpasses Leica. I may get both models just for fun!
Comparing A7 to A7r is not comparing apples. Sony has deliberately downgraded the A7, presumably to make the A7r shine brighter. Marketing ploys are a Sony strategy, highly distasteful, and I wish Sony would stop. The A7r has more pixels, but each is smaller, and this will always translate into more noise. The A7 24mp will produce better overall photo results for DR, NR, colours, etc. The comment about sharpness and details is not entirely valid. IF the AA filter were removed from the A7, I am 99.99% confident this will render the 24mp sensor as sharp and detailed as the 36mm sensor, assuming the same Zeiss lens is used to compare. Apart from this, I think the A7 product represents the future of photography. I do not expect Nikon (which uses the Sony sensor) and Canon to die, the way Rollei and Contax did, but people will have little need for a DLSR now. The Zeiss lenses are equal or superior to Leitz, and the A7r sensor superior to the Leica sensor, so I have no need whatsoever to buy Leica. As Sony improves the firmware, speed, interface, ergos, whatever, the older brands will be increasingly pressured to compete, and I expect to see one or ore die ere long.