Sony A7R review

Sony's compact camera system range moves closer to actual DSLR styling with this full frame 36.4 megapixel sensor model; in other words it incorporates a chip that is a physical size match for a frame of 35mm film. It’s the first of two such compact models now carrying 'Alpha' as opposed to 'NEX' series branding, the latter having been quietly replaced. The pitch here is professional results from a much more portable body. However we have to weigh this up against an asking price for the Sony A7R that at £1700 body-only is very close to the street price you’d pay for Sony’s own full frame A99 DSLR.

There is a cheaper option available in the £1300 'A7', nigh identical to the A7R save for the fact that it offers a 'mere' 24.3 megapixels. But the ‘R’ version has a further trick up its sleeve in addition to more pixels. It omits an optical low pass filter, normally included in digital cameras to avoid very occasional technical problems such as moiré – closely stacked stripes on a shirt seeming to vibrate before the eyes, for example – but which can sacrifice detail as a result. So no filter, but greater clarity, in addition to all those pixels, is the appeal. Of course this also makes it a bit of a niche product – will there be anyone, apart from commercial photographers wanting to enlarge images to billboard size, who will get the most out of the A7R's capabilities?

See also: Camera reviews

You've probably gathered by now that this is a very powerful camera in terms of headline spec and it thankfully has a rock solid build to match. Attach a lens, such as the 55mm f/1.8 fixed focal length optic we had to play with, which enables a very shallow depth of field to isolate subjects from busy backgrounds, and the combination feels weightier than it looks. A new Bionz processor is inside the A7R, which Sony claims provides a performance 35% faster than the NEX-7, the previous range-topping model. But, because we have such a whopping resolution to deal with this time, we did occasionally get brief messages that the previous image was still being written if quickly switching into playback mode to view a picture.

Battery life at 270 shots from a full charge, in matching the performance of a fixed lens premium compact retailing for around £400, feels a bit modest for a camera that with lens added is going to cost circa £2000. Despite these quirks this camera is all about image quality and, filter or no filter, we were extremely impressed with the shots we got from the A7R.

OUR VERDICT

In terms of colour fidelity and sharpness it was hard to see how a camera of this size could be much better. Whether that justifies the asking price... now that’s the question.

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