Sony A7 Review

Sony A7 Review

With the Alpha 7 and Alpha 7R (A7 and A7R for short), Sony is heralding a new era in mirrorless system cameras. Both twin sisters are equipped with a sensor in 35mm format, with the A7 it resolves 24 megapixels, with the A7R it’s even 36 megapixels. Almost at the same time as the cameras, five E-Mount lenses suitable for the full format are coming. But also lenses with A bayonet can be adapted to the A7/A7R.

Brief assessment


  • Sophisticated operating concept
  • Precise autofocus with pupil detection
  • Excellent image quality (also with set lens)
  • Extremely handy miniature camera at an attractive price


  • Tracking autofocus slightly slow
  • No on-board flash
  • Currently very limited range of FE lenses

Ergonomics and Workmanship

With the A7 and the A7R, Sony brings a breath of fresh air into the world of mirrorless system cameras. Currently there is no camera with a sensor in 35mm format that is smaller and lighter than the A7 or A7R. They both weigh just under 500 grams – ready for operation, but without lens. Even when the FE 28-70/3.5-5.6 lens is attached to the Alpha 7, it remains a real flyweight in the full format class with a total weight of a good 750 grams. But the A7 is not only extremely light, it is also compact. It doesn’t fit in your pocket, but equipped with a small lens (like the FE 35/2.8), it slides easily into any coat pocket. A noble device of the caliber of a Nikon P7800, to come up with an example, doesn’t transport itself more pleasantly either.

In addition to the compact housing dimensions, the light but very resistant magnesium-aluminium alloy paired with high-quality plastic ensures the lightweight. By the way, Sony has equipped the Alpha 7 against weather influences, its case can survive high humidity or a cloud of dust without complaint. Once taken in the hand, the A7 has a positive, inconspicuous effect. It can also be held effortlessly with just one hand on the well-shaped handle. The case is excellently manufactured and allows even strong gripping with stoic calm. By the way, if the A7 is too small for you, there is a portrait format handle, which also doubles the battery power.

Although Sony has designed the Alpha 7 to be so compact and lightweight, it doesn’t skimp on controls – quite the contrary. The first thing that catches the eye is a very classic exposure correction wheel, similar to the one that was used on the RX1. From the NEX-7 (which can be regarded as the legitimate predecessor of the A7), the Alpha 7 takes over two selector wheels, which can be configured almost completely freely. A total of nine controls allow the photographer to assign one of 46 functions to suit his or her taste. By the way, Sony has individually designed each dial and almost all buttons – this way, they can be blindly felt, and the camera rarely needs to be taken out of sight. Although the freely configurable dials can easily be adjusted inadvertently, they can also be fitted with a lock if desired – a function that has proven to be very useful in practice.

As a further setting aid, the Alpha 7 offers a quick menu that brings the most important functions to the screen at the touch of a button – the entries in this menu are also not fixed. Of course, it takes some training time until you have set up the camera yourself. But then the operation is fluent and fast. In daily use, you will very rarely have to dive into the main menu. If you do, you can easily find your way around thanks to its clear structure. By the way, the menu breaks radically with the path that Sony previously took with the NEX series. Instead of a squeaky Disney atmosphere, the A7 menus have a sober objectivity – as with the SLT cameras and the RX series. But the illustrated menus of the NEX have not disappeared completely, if desired, you can switch to this display.

The fact that Sony has not made the Alpha 7’s body quite as compact as the NEX family is due to the built-in electronic viewfinder. He is enthroned, so to speak, in the optical axis at the top of the camera, giving it a classic face. Essentially, the A7 takes over this EVF from the top model Alpha 99, but its contrast representation has been drastically improved again, according to Sony. It has a very fine resolution and – what is almost more important – impresses with its good dynamic range. In this EVF you can see very clearly whether the depths are drawn through or the image may be too dark after all. Unlike many other electronic viewfinders, the EVF can be easily viewed even by those wearing glasses. Its exit pupil is calculated to a generous eye relief of 23 millimetres. The EVF has proven itself in practical use, with a very natural yet powerful color reproduction, hardly smears when panning at high speeds, and dissolves so finely that it is a real pleasure to use.

But you can also take pictures with the Alpha 7 like with a compact camera, i.e. with the camera on your outstretched arm. Then the rear display is used to control the viewfinder image. It also dissolves very finely, can be folded upwards by almost 90 degrees and downwards by around 45 degrees. Sony does without a touch display, which is alright with such a sophisticated camera. Especially as there is the possibility to put a very detailed status display on the display, which is interactive. This means that practically every parameter can be selected and changed directly with two or three keystrokes.

Sony has placed the interfaces together with the memory card slot all on the right side of the A7. They are firmly closed by neat flaps, a strong spring keeps them closed. A tripod thread is also not missing, it sits well in the optical axis. The battery is located in a compartment that is accessible from the bottom. A small drawback: the battery capacity is only sufficient for approximately 270 shots when using the EVF alone. With the EVF turned off, the battery range is extended to about 340 shots, which is still quite weak.


As befits a camera with professional standards, the A7 comes with a long list of features. But Sony doesn’t only have the experienced photographer in mind, the A7 also offers numerous sensible automatic functions for novices. This includes, for example, a program that combines multiple images into one image with significantly reduced noise. Or an HDR automatic that masters even motifs with a very high contrast range. It even has 13 image effects on board, from “toy camera” to “watercolor”. There are also nine scene modes – enough to quickly set the camera to the respective scene situation.

Ambitious photographers will also hardly miss any function. The internal image processing can be adapted to your personal preferences – or you can record in raw format with 14-bit word length. In order to detect gaps in the equipment, one has to look very carefully. For example, the bracketing function, which takes only three photos in 1EV and 2EV bracketing. This is a somewhat annoying limitation for all those who like to create HDR images individually – especially since the Alpha 7 can take five individual shots in exposure series with smaller distances.

During the test period, we missed a small on-board flash on the Alpha 7 – for example to brighten up a portrait in a hurry. For him, Sony apparently found no more room in the very compact housing of the camera. This means that one is dependent on an external flash unit that can be easily connected via the ISO-compatible “multi-interface accessory shoe”. Once you have a system flash attached, however, the Alpha 7 opens up almost unlimited possibilities. These include a very short flash sync speed of 1/250 second (1/160 second on the A7R) and the option of wireless control of multiple external flash units. The multi-interface accessory shoe not only accommodates flash units, but also a number of other accessories. A video light or a stereo microphone – just what videographers need. Even a PC socket for connecting a studio flash unit can be retrofitted via the accessory shoe.

The fact that Sony has a heart for videographers is impressively underlined by the Alpha 7. Not only does it record in Full-HD at 50 frames per second (1,920 x 1,080 pixels, 50 fps) – the A7 can also output uncompressed video to an external recording device via HDMI if desired. And the sound to the film can be controlled manually – hardly any other camera in this class offers this. If the quality of the internal stereo microphone is not sufficient, the A7 can be expanded with an adapter to connect two professional XLR microphones. So it seems almost self-evident that the Alpha 7 offers almost all the same possibilities for film recording as it does for photo recording – including the option of manual exposure control.

The A7, on the other hand, is much more reserved when it comes to subsequent editing functions – here it only provides what is absolutely necessary. In contrast, it is absolutely up to date in terms of connectivity and expandability via app. If a smartphone or other mobile device is equipped with the free PlayMemories Mobile app, the Alpha 7 can be controlled remotely via WiFi and, if desired, transfers recordings directly to the mobile device. In addition, the A7’s range of functions can be expanded using Camera Apps. Some of these apps are available for free, others are available for little money.


With the Alpha 7 (and the Alpha 7R), Sony is breaking new ground – it is the first full-frame camera with an electric bayonet. In order to illuminate the entire surface of the Alpha 7’s 35 mm sensor, however, suitable lenses are required. Sony presented it at the same time as the camera. We mainly used the new FE 28-70/3.5-5.6 on the A7 – a combination that is also offered as a set. Although this set lens does not necessarily give the impression of being built to last for eternity, with its low weight of not even 300 grams and its handy dimensions, it fits perfectly with the compact Alpha 7. At first glance, the imaging performance of the set lens seems to be OK, more on this in the Image Quality section.

Unlike Sony’s Alpha SLT series, the A7 does without an in-body image stabilizer. During the camera presentation, however, Mr. Kimio Maki, Senior General Manager Digital Imaging Business Group Sony Corporation, indicated that it need not remain so in the future. Currently, there is only anti-shake protection if the lens is equipped with an optical image stabilizer; Sony has fortunately included a stabilizer in the FE 28-70.

Sony has more lenses in its range for the most demanding requirements, or will launch them in the coming months. They have the suffix “FE” in the designation (for Fullframe E-Mount). We were able to test the FE 55/1.8 ZA intensively, which is quite long for a 50, but remains pleasantly light. Like all zoom and fixed focal lengths, it has a whisper-quiet ultrasonic drive, but does without an optical image stabilizer. This demands great care when taking photos, especially on the A7R with its 36-megapixel sensor, to avoid blurred photos.

The A7 has an extended AF system ahead of the larger A7R. On its 24-megapixel sensor, Sony has accommodated 117 measuring cells for phase comparison autofocus. They support focusing by means of contrast measurement and are intended to increase the AF speed significantly. In practice, the AF has proven to be quite fast, at least noticeably faster than a conventional live view AF in DSLRs. Sony’s introduction of a new main processor with the A7 certainly contributes to this. This “Bionz X” processor also processes AF-related data very quickly. And so not even 0.3 seconds pass until the Alpha 7 is in focus and released in the digitalkamera.de test lab. In very difficult lighting conditions, such as nighttime city scenes, the autofocus sometimes wobbles and then needs several attempts to find its target.

Sony is also introducing new AF functions with the Alpha 7. So now there is an Eye-AF, which detects pupils and thus reliably puts the focus on the eye. Once the Eye-AF has registered a pupil, it reliably keeps it in focus, even if the face turns away or moves out of the viewfinder for a short time. Another new feature: in the “Flexible Spot” mode, the size of the AF area can now be selected in three steps. This is intended to help, for example, when taking macro shots, to focus more precisely on the desired point.

Even though the Alpha 7 is based on the E-Mount that Sony introduced with the NEX line, it requires lenses that illuminate its image circle of the sensor in 35mm format. Although DT lenses with an APS-C image circle can also be adapted to the A7, only a section of the image can be used as standard. Sony, however, offers the possibility to switch off the automatic cropping when using DT lenses in the A7 and A7R. This allows you to cut the usually highly vignetted images to the desired detail afterwards.

So new E-Mount lenses for the 35mm format are needed – and at the moment it still looks a bit thin (see further links at the end of this article). Sony has, however, introduced two adapters together with the Alpha 7, which can be used to connect lenses with an A bayonet to the camera. The top-of-the-range LA-EA4 model retains all functions, including autofocus. The LA-EA4 adapter has its own phase AF module, which turns the A7 into a SLT camera. With the handier LA-EA3, on the other hand, only the mechanical and electronic functions of the attached A-mount lenses are retained – such as aperture control – and no autofocus is required. But since the A7 has a really well-functioning focus-peaking function, the camera can also be manually focused quickly and reliably.

Image quality

The Alpha 7 essentially inherits the image converter that Sony already uses in the SLT-A99. This sensor in 35mm format has a very high resolution of 24 megapixels. On the other hand, it is not yet so high that only particularly high-quality lenses can fully exploit the resolution potential of the sensor. In the Alpha 99, the image converter produced a generally decent figure, but was not completely convincing in all respects. How is this somewhat aged image sensor doing in the Alpha 7? Compared to the SLT technology of the A99, it has the advantage that no film in the beam path attenuates the light intensity. Sony has also introduced the significantly more powerful “Bionz X” image processor with the A7 series, which promises a visibly improved image quality.


Our test model was equipped with the Sony FE 28-70 mm 3.5-5.6 OSS (SEL-2870) zoom lens, which is so far only available in a set with the Alpha 7 (ILCE-7). In general, the set lenses don’t have a very good reputation with Sony (but not only there!), so the tester’s expectations weren’t very high. But the SEL-2870 quickly wipes away any reservations: it remains completely distortion-free over the entire focal length range – a mature achievement! Also the resolving power is remarkable: In the center of the image there are very good 60 line pairs per millimeter (lp/mm), towards the image edges the resolution decreases by not even 20 percent. The only exception to this is the wide-angle range at open aperture, where the resolution in the corners of the image drops to an unacceptable 28 lp/mm. But faded down to F8, the world is okay again. Now the SEL 2870 is definitely suitable for landscape or architectural photography.

The SEL 2870 is similarly flawless in terms of “chromatic aberration”; color fringes at contrast edges remain smaller than 0.5 pixels and thus invisible, even in the worst case. Such good and, above all, uniform imaging properties over the entire image field are often a clear indication that electronic assistance is required. This is then usually reflected in the measurement of sharpness artifacts – but not with the low-priced set lens of the Alpha 7: Here, the sharpness artifacts are much less pronounced at the edges of the image than in the center – clear evidence that the new Bionz-X processor does not attempt to conceal missing details by vigorous resharpening. All in all, the artifact rate is still good, but perhaps a bit too high for the highest demands.

So the FE 28-70 mm 3.5-5.6 OSS turns out to be a little star on the Alpha 7, and does that also apply to the camera itself – in other words, when it comes to the performance of the image sensor and processor? Already when looking at the first pictures, the image quality knew to please. This first impression is now underpinned by the incorruptible laboratory test: the Alpha 7 delivers very good image quality up to ISO 6.400, and criticism points are found at best in the details. For example, with noise reduction, which from ISO 3,200 lets some coarse-grained noise pass through the red channel. But that’s it, the other measurement curves look almost textbook: the luminance noise remains in the green range up to the maximum sensitivity of ISO 25.600, the same applies to the grain size of the brightness disturbances. Very critical minds might also criticize that the texture sharpness in the low-ISO area is a bit too high with almost 1.2, thus the camera sharpens too much. But more importantly, the Alpha 7 maintains this high level up to ISO 800, and shots only become visibly soft beyond ISO 6,400. The Bionz X processor also contributes to this excellent result, as it suppresses noise much more effectively in flat areas than on contrasting edges.

Sony cameras have always shone with very good input dynamics. This also applies without ifs and buts to the Alpha 7: it processes motif contrasts up to ISO 3,200 at approx. eleven aperture stops (EV), and even at ISO 12,800, it is still 10.2 EV. This means that the input dynamics of the Alpha 7 have already advanced into areas that were previously reserved for digital medium format. But not only the input dynamics are excellent, the Alpha 7 can also convert them into a correspondingly rich tonal range. Up to ISO 400, the output dynamic is at the theoretical maximum of 256 steps per brightness or color channel; it doesn’t drop below the critical limit of 160 values over the entire ISO range.

The small Alpha 7 is therefore definitely recommended for photographers with the highest demands, for example in the studio. But does this also apply to colour reproduction? Unfortunately not quite – in this discipline of all things the Alpha 7 is a bit of a fluff. Although the color deviations are still small on average, they are clearly too high at the peak. To the rescue it is to be said, however, that the Alpha 7 means it too well above all with the saturation, color falsifications are hardly a problem. The bottom line is that the Alpha 7 scores with outstanding image quality, and not just at low ISO sensitivity. This applies – with very small concessions – explicitly also to the set lens.


Small, light, strong – you could put the Sony Alpha 7 in a nutshell. It is currently the lightest and most compact full-frame camera, even with the FE 28-70 mm 3.5-5.6 OSS lens it weighs less than a comparable DSLR body without lens. The handling of the camera is excellent, its light weight and the small size are completely convincing in practice. This also applies to the operating concept; hardly any other camera can be tailored to the photographer’s needs and wishes as the Alpha 7, whose electronic viewfinder is at such a high level of development that the desire for a classic optical viewfinder is rarely found. It’s just a pity that Sony hasn’t found room for an on-board flash in the small case anymore. But given the Alpha 7’s outstanding image quality, it’s easy to overlook this, especially as the camera can easily be equipped with an external flash unit. However, the biggest plus point of the small full format camera is its image quality: It impresses with its high resolution (even with the price-optimized set lens), textbook noise behaviour and outstanding input dynamics. The Alpha 7, on the other hand, has to be a bit feathery when it comes to continuous shooting and especially tracking AF; other models are better suited for action motifs. But for those who don’t care so much, the A7 kit offers an outstanding package with an excellent price/performance ratio.


Manufacturer Sony
Model Alpha 7
Price approx. 1800 at market launch
Sensor Resolution 24.7 megapixels
Max. Image resolution 6.000 x 4.000
(aspect ratio) (3:2)
Lens Sony FE 28-70 mm 3.5-5.6 OSS
Filter thread 55mm
Viewfinder electronically
Field of view 100 %
Resolution 2.36 million
Dioptre compensation yes
LCD monitor 3″
Resolution 921.600
swiveling yes
as viewfinder yes
Video output HDMI
as viewfinder yes
Automatic programming yes
Automatic aperture control yes
Automatic timer yes
manual exposure yes
BULB long time exposure yes
Scene modes
Portrait yes
Landscape yes
Macro yes
Sports/action yes
Additional 4 additional scene modes
Exposure metering Multi-field, centre-weighted Integral, Spot
Guide number
Flash connection System hot shoe
Remote release yes
Interval recording
Storage medium SD/SDHC/SDXC, MemoryStick Pro Duo
Video mode
Format AVCHD or MP4
Codec H.264/AVC
Resolution (max.) 1.920 x 1.080
at frame rate 50p
automatically ISO 100-25.600 (upper and lower limit adjustable)
manually ISO 50-25,600
White balance
Automatic yes
Sun yes
Clouds yes
Fluorescent lamp yes
Incandescent lamp yes
Miscellaneous Shadow, flash, manual color temperature selection, WB fine correction
Manually yes
Number of measurement fields
323 (contrast AF)
102 (phase AF on the sensor)
AF auxiliary light red-orange
Speed approx. 0,3 s
Languages English
More 16 additional anguages
Switch-on time approx. 1.5 s
One-hand operation
(zoom and shutter release)
(Ready for operation)
approx. 474 g (housing only
)approx. 769 g (with lens*)
Continuous shooting**
Number of serial images 53 (JPEG
)22 (RAW)
5.1 (JPEG
)6.2 (RAW)
Continuous run
1.3 (JPEG
)0.5 (RAW)
with flash
Zoom adjustment at the lens
Zoom levels infinitely variable
Time WW to Tele
Memory speeds**
JPEG 1.7 s (6.6 MByte)
RAW 3.9 s (23.8 MByte)
Trip during
.Saving possible.
Battery life
about 270 pictures (EVF)
approx. 340 pictures (TFT)
(both according to CIPA)
– = “not applicable” or “not available
* with lens Sony FE 28-70 mm F3.5-5.6 OSS
** with memory card Sony SDHC 25 MB/s

Brief assessment


  • Sophisticated operating concept
  • Precise autofocus with pupil detection
  • Excellent image quality (also with set lens)
  • Extremely handy miniature camera at an attractive price


  • Tracking autofocus slightly slow
  • No on-board flash
  • Currently very limited range of FE lenses

Sony Alpha 7 Datasheet


Sensor CMOS sensor 36.0 x 24.0 mm (crop factor 1.0
)24.7 megapixels (physical) and 24.3 megapixels (effective)
Pixelpitch 6,0 µm
Photo resolution
6.000 x 3.376 pixels (16:9)
4.240 x 2.832 pixels (3:2)
3.936 x 2.624 pixels (3:2)
3.936 x 2.216 pixels (16:9)
3.008 x 2.000 pixels (3:2)
3.008 x 1.688 pixels (16:9)
1.968 x 1.312 pixels (3:2)
1.968 x 1.112 pixels (16:9)
Panorama Sweeping panorama
8.192 x 1.856 pixels
3.872 x 2.160 pixels
12.416 x 1.856 pixels
5.536 x 2.160 pixels
Image formats JPG, RAW
Color depth 42 bits (14 bits per color channel)
Metadata Exif (version 2.3), DCF standard
Video resolution
1.920 x 1.080 (16:9) 60 i
1.920 x 1.080 (16:9) 60 p
1.920 x 1.080 (16:9) 50 i
1.920 x 1.080 (16:9) 50 p
1.920 x 1.080 (16:9) 24 p
1.440 x 1.080 (4:3) 30 p
1.440 x 1.080 (4:3) 25 p
1.440 x 1.080 (4:3) 25 p
1.280 x 720 (16:9) 30 p
640 x 480 (4:3) 30 p
640 x 480 (4:3) 25 p
Maximum recording time 29 min
Video format
MP4 [codec MPEG-4]
AVCHD (Codec H.264)


Lens mount
Sony E


Autofocus mode Phase comparison autofocus with 117 cross sensors, autofocus working range from 0 EV to 20 EV
Autofocus functions Single AF, Continuous AF, Tracking AF, Manual, AF Assist Light

Viewfinder and monitor

Monitor 3.0″ (7.5 cm) TFT LCD monitor with 921,600 pixels, tilts 90° up and 45° down
Video finder Video viewfinder (100 % field coverage) with 2,359,296 pixels, 0.71x magnification factor, dioptre compensation (-4.0 to 3.0 dpt)


Exposure metering Center-weighted integral measurement, matrix/multi-field measurement over 1,200 fields, spot measurement
Exposure times 1/8,000 to 30 s (Automatic
) Bulb function
Exposure control Programmed automatic, Shutter priority, Aperture priority, Manual
Exposure bracketing function Step size from 1/3 to 3.0 EV, HDR function
Exposure Compensation -5.0 to +5.0 EV
Photosensitivity ISO 50 to ISO 25,600 (manual)
Remote access Remote release, cable release
Scene modes No
Picture effects HDR effects, miniature effect, toy camera, soft focus, high contrast monochrome, illustration, pop color, retro, rich tone monochrome, partial color filter (R, G, B, G), watercolor, soft focus, 9 additional image effects
White balance Auto, Cloudy, Sunny, White balance bracket, Fine tuning, Shadow, Flash, Underwater, Fluorescent lamp with 4 presets, Tungsten light, from 2,500 to 9,000 K, Manual
Color space Adobe RGB, sRGB
Continuous shooting 5.0 frames/s at highest resolution
Self-timer Self-timer with 2 s interval, special features: , 10 s


Flash no built-in flash availableShoe
: Sony Multi Interface, standard center contact
Flash range Flash sync speed 1/250 s
Flash functions Auto, fill-flash, flash on, flash off, high-speed sync, slow sync, flash on second shutter curtain, manual flash output, red-eye reduction, master function, flash exposure correction from -3.0 EV to +3.0 EV


Image stabilizer no optical image stabilizer
Memory Stick (Duo Pro)
Microphone Stereo
Power supply unit USB continuous power supplyUSB charging function
Power supply 1 x Sony NP-FW50 (Lithium ion (Li-Ion), 7.2 V, 1,240 mAh
)340 picturesSony
AC-PW20 AC adapter
Playback functions Image index
Face recognition Face recognition, face recognition (8 faces)
Image parameters Sharpness, contrast, color saturation
Connections Data interfaces: USBUSB type
:USB 2.0 High SpeedWLAN
: availableNFC
: available
AV Connections AV output: HDMI output Micro (Type D
)Audio input: yesAudio output
: yes (3.5 mm jack (stereo, 3-pin))
Supported direct printing methods DPOF, Exif Print, PIM
Tripod thread 1/4″
Housing Splash water protection
Special features and miscellaneous BIONZ X Image ProcessorUltrasonic cleaning system
and coating that prevents static charging of the sensorContrast
, saturation and sharpness adjustable from 3 to -3Creative programs
VividNeutralClearDeepLightPortraitLandscapeSunsetNight sceneAutumn leavesDynamicRange Optimizer (1-5 levels), Exposure difference compensation 1-6 EV in 1 EV stepsAudio level
and audio signal strength can be displayedMicro-adjustment
for automatic white balance (15 steps G/M and 15 steps A/B)
Hybrid AF system with 117 measuring points (phase detection) and 25 measuring points (contrast measurement)
Operating range 0-20 EV digital
spirit levelFocus magnifierFocus peakingwith manual focusSmart zoom1


– to 2-fold internal
lens correction (distortion, vignetting, color directional errors)
two memory locations for custom settingsDust-
and splash-proof housing

Size and weight

Dimensions W x H x D 127 x 94 x 48 mm
Weight 474 g (ready for operation)


standard accessory Sony NP-FW50 Special Battery AC Adaptor/ChargerUSB Connection CableStrapBeltsImage Editing Software

Play Memories for Windows and Macintosh

additional accessories Sony HVL-F20M attachable flash with swivel reflectorpower supply unitAC-PW20Video connection cableStereo

Microphone ECM-CG50, XLR-K1M, Sony flash units with Sony MI sleeve,

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