Sony Alpha A7 Gordon Laing, November 2013

Sony Alpha A7 vs Alpha A7r Quality JPEG

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To compare real-life performance I shot this scene with the Sony Alpha A7 and Alpha A7r, within a few moments of each other using their RAW+JPEG settings at each of their ISO sensitivity settings; my RAW results will follow once support is available in ACR.

Both cameras were fitted in turn with the same Zeiss 35mm f2.8 lens, set to f8 in Aperture Priority mode. The White Balance was set manually.

Both cameras were focused on the building in the middle using their central AF areas. The test was repeated several times to eliminate the chance of error.

  Sony Alpha A7 results
1 Sony A7 vs A7r quality
2 Sony A7 vs A7r noise
3 Sony A7 vs Canon 5D Mark III noise
4 Sony A7 vs Nikon D800e noise
5 Sony A7 vs A7r RAW
6 Sony A7 Sample images

My first quality comparison is between the Sony Alpha A7 and it's more higher-end counterpart, the A7r. I fitted each camera in turn with the same Zeiss 35mm f2.8 lens set to f8 in Aperture Priority mode, so what you're looking at below is a direct comparison between their sensors and image processing strategies.

As a reminder the A7r has a higher resolution 36 Megapixel sensor without an optical low pass filter, whereas the A7 has a lower resolution 24 Megapixel sensor with an optical low pass filter; the A7 also has phase-detect AF points embedded in the sensor which the camera must interpolate around to generate an uninterrupted image. In theory the higher resolution and lack of low pass filter on the A7r should allow it to deliver crisper, more detailed results at lower sensitivities, but the larger pixel pitch of the A7 could give it an advantage in noise at higher sensitivities. I'll be looking at the noise in low light at higher sensitivities on the following pages - see index above left - but on this page I'm starting with a shot in bright daylight at the base sensitivity of 100 ISO. I'm comparing out-of-camera JPEGs on this page, but I shot the scene in RAW+JPEG and will add a RAW comparison as soon as both cameras are fully supported in Adobe Camera RAW.

In a lot of camera comparisons these days we're used to seeing minimal differences, but I think it's fair to say there's a significant difference between the A7r and the A7 below. Just glancing at the crops below it's clear the A7r is delivering much crisper images with visibly finer details. Whether it's grills, overhead cables, tree foliage, printed text or brickwork, the Alpha A7r is noticeably superior to the A7.

Indeed when comparing images side-by-side the A7 looks soft, and in this example you'd be forgiven for thinking there was a slight focusing error. But let me assure you, I repeated this test several times, trying autofocus and manual focus with magnified assistance, and in each case the result from the A7 was the same. Both cameras were correctly focused on exactly the same area using exactly the same lens set to the same aperture, with the samples taken moments apart. I'm absolutely confident the results below are representative of each model.

So is the A7 delivering poor results? No, on the contrary, its results are very good indeed. Open A7 images and pixel-peep them at 100% and you'll be delighted by the detail - check out my page of Sony A7 sample images for many examples. Indeed when viewing this particular image alone I was impressed by the A7's output. It only looks soft when compared to a 36 Megapixel model which has the optical low pass filter removed. It's no different from my earlier comparisons between the Canon EOS 5D Mark III and D800, and especially the D800e. Viewed in isolation, or indeed against most cameras, the 5D Mark III images look fantastic, but next to the D800 and especially the D800e they can't help but look soft. Taking it one step further, I found a D800 looked soft when compared side to side against an 80 Megapixel Phase One medium format camera. It's all about what you're comparing them against. Although remember on this page I'm comparing out-of-camera JPEGs.

As you'll see in my other tests, the A7 compares well against the Canon EOS 5D Mark III - indeed in my tests with both cameras fitted with high quality 35mm lenses, the out-of-camera JPEGs from the A7 looked superior to the 5D3, at lower sensitivities anyway. In the 20-24 Megapixel class, I'd say the A7 is an excellent performer.

But place it next to a camera with 50% more Megapixels and the low pass filter removed and it can't help but look soft in comparison. So please take these results in context: the A7 delivers some of the best images in the 20-24 Megapixel class, but if you're after the most detailed results, the A7r will comfortably out-perform it, no question. Indeed as you'll see in my Sony A7r review, it even manages to slightly out-perform the mighty D800e, making it arguably the best quality camera without going to medium format - a fantastic result from such a small and relatively affordably-priced camera.

You can find out how all these cameras compare in low light at higher sensitivities in my Sony A7 vs A7r noise, Sony A7 vs Canon 5D Mark III noise and Sony A7 vs Nikon D800e noise results pages, or if you'd like to see more real-life shots, check out my Sony A7 sample images. If you've seen enough, skip straight to my verdict!

Sony Alpha A7 JPEG
Sony Alpha A7r JPEG
f8, 100 ISO
f8, 100 ISO
f8, 100 ISO
f8, 100 ISO
f8, 100 ISO
f8, 100 ISO
f8, 100 ISO
f8, 100 ISO
f8, 100 ISO
f8, 100 ISO
f8, 100 ISO
f8, 100 ISO
f8, 100 ISO
f8, 100 ISO

Sony Alpha A7 results : A7 vs A7r quality / A7 vs A7r noise / A7 vs 5D3 noise/ A7 vs D800e noise

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