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Sony A7r: First impressions


The review Sony A7r body arrived last Friday just as I was about to set off for Eric Kim’s weekend street-tog course. I was tempted to take it but sense prevailed and I packed the camera I am most familiar with, my Leica Monochrom.

Since then the Sony has been sitting in its box waiting attention. This morning I screwed on a 35mm Summicron (the same lens I had used on the Monochrom at the weekend) and set off for Berlin. I also put my 28-70mm R zoom into the bag and will be trying this out in Germany for the next few days.

My first impression of the A7r is one of small size. The camera is smaller than the Leica M in all dimensions except height. And even here, despite the hump of the built-in viewfinder, the Sony is only a tad higher than the Leica. The thinness of the body is immediately apparent although it is disguised to some extent by the integral hand grip. This means that the Sony fits easily into a Billingham Hadly Pro or Hadley Small. By comparison, it is impossible to squeeze in the M with the electronic viewfinder slotted into the hotshoe.

Second comes weight. The Sony is 200g lighter than the 680g Leica M and it feels it. Thanks to the built-in grip, the camera fits well in the hand and, ergomomically, it is excellent.

Despite the slim design, Sony has had to add a collar around the lens mount to achieve optimum distance between lens and sensor. This gold-painted ring tels us that the camera sports a “35mm Full-Frame CMOS Image Sensor.” Thankfully Sony has omitted “turbo”, “ABS” and “Sport.” This pretty golden collar adds a few millimeters to the length of any attached lens. If you wish to attach Leica lenses, as I do, the width of the adapter has to be added. With the collar and a Novoflex adapter, the Leica Summicron is no longer the dimimutive lens we all know and love. Yet the overall impression of the A7r with 35mm Summicron is harmonious and it is a considerably smaller overall package than the equivalent Leica M rig.

Prior the the arrival of the Sony body I had already bought a Novoflex M adapter and a Metabones R adapter (which is even thicker). I was encouraged to find that both mount precisely on the A7 body–smooth as butter with no undue force necessary. Both adapters are well made and substantial and I think they will stand the pace without becoming loose over time.

The A7r has been criticised for its loud shutter noise. It is definitely loud and obtrusive but I quite like it; it has a rather satisfying old-camera style that many will find attractive.

Manual focus works well although I prefer the magnified view without focus peaking. The viewfinder is superb, by the way. As with other cameras fitted electronic viewfinders, focus is reasonably quick but not quite as quick as we are used to with the optical rangefider of the Leica M.

Finally, yes the Sony A7r and 35mm Summicron produces good pictures as far as I am able to see from the camera’s excellent tilting screen. I will know more when I get back to base.