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 is shipped with an electronic front curtain shutter, while the A7R does not have that capability. As a result, the 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!