22 October 2013

Game Changer...The Newest Sony Line

Gorgeous Art Model, Jessica ©2013 Terrell Neasley

In my last post, I discussed some concepts in the evolution of photography and the transitions to come. This is another aspect of that change. Anyone who's paid attention to camera gear has, by now heard of the new Sony A7 & the A7R. These are the latest Mirrorless Cameras to be introduced and the first ones outside of Leica to incorporate Full Frame sensors. What's the significance of all this, you might ask? Well, its like this...

Gorgeous Art Model, Jessica ©2013 Terrell Neasley
To date, camera manufacturers have integrated large and heavy camera bodies into their lines every since the first Single Lens Reflex or SLR was introduced in 1948. All this means is that your eye in the viewfinder was seeing exactly what the lens is seeing. Prior to this, it was impossible as the viewfinder was located either just above the lens (Twin Lens Reflex) or to the side of the lens (rangefinders). So there was no way to view the subject the same way it was being captured on the film. While there have been medium format SLRs, the SLR has been primarily the purview of the 35mm format systems. To be an SLR, there has to be only one optical view for both the lens and the viewfinder, which is accomplished with two revolutionary features built into cameras...a mirror that pops up and down, and a penta-prism (penta-mirror in some cases). However there was a trade-off. Incorporating those two engineered components required an increase in the size of the camera. This increase also added to the weight. Weight was considered a viable trade-off because of the added stability when the camera is hand-held as well as the camera becoming more durable with stronger housings and shells.

And this has been the case for years. If you want the best of images, the SLR was your answer. As of the last 15 years, the Digital SLR, or DSLR has been king. At of the turn of the century, as more digital cameras were becoming lighter, we saw more and more female photographers entering the industry. The best cameras used to be suited for the large hands of men who also had the stamina to handle the weight. Aluminum alloys became the norm for frames. Polycarbonate shells (thermoplastic polymers) added reasonable strength without the weight for many of the consumer model cameras. Weight became less problematic to a degree, but you still had to contend with the large mirror box housing which has a tendency to be noisy, cause vibrations (requiring the mirror lock-up feature), as well as putting restrictions on frame rate. Sony was first to come up with the SLT, Single Lens Translucent mirror design, but it never really became the game-changer.

Gorgeous Art Model, Jessica
©2013 Terrell Neasley
There have been several new technologies that have come on the market in the last few years, which is another sign that the industry is ready for a new paradigm. Canon's Dual-Pixel Auto Focus system introduced in the EOS 70D was called a game-changer. Sony has introduced a lens to take pics without the camera with their QX system! But even Sony hasn't been the leader in mirrorless tech. That would instead be Olympus and Panasonic who have opted to combine technologies with their Mico Four-Thirds system sensors. And good Lord, they have caught on. The Olympus OMD-EM-5 hit the market to great fanfare just last year. A few months ago the introduced the OMD-EM-1. Nikon entered the market about 18 months ago with the Nikon 1 system. They havn't been as successful as Olympus who has chosen to forego their large DSLR line and put all their bank on the 4/3rds system. Canon was the industry lagger in this field and basically chose to BS with the EOS-M, which has really tanked. Rumor as it that they will try to make a comeback with a new version. Fujifilm is the other favorite contender with the X-series and the fixed lens X100s model.

Gorgeous Art Model, Jessica ©2013 Terrell Neasley
Sony has come out blazing with 3 additional lines not including its DSLRs. The NEX-system has been absolutely killer. With several models, they all include DX-size sensors like what you have in the Nikon D7000 DSLR. Then they came out with a fixed lens Cybershot R-Line which introduced their first full frame sensor in a compact camera. And now they have announced the A7 and the A7R which comes out this December. The A7 is 24MP and the A7R is 36MP...just like my Nikon D800E, and it has the Antialias filter removed... just like my Nikon D800E, but at HALF the weight. And guess who made the sensor for my 36MP Nikon D800E... Yes, Sony.

Gorgeous Art Model, Jessica
©2013 Terrell Neasley
Game changer? Yeah, I'd say so. I don't see Olympus abandoning their Micro 4/3rds systems in the near future, but I'm of the impression that Canon and Nikon are giving some serious looks to their R&D department heads. Is the Sony A7/A7R a DSLR-killer? Not quite yet. There are still necessities the mirrorless systems can't quite accommodate just yet. If you're a sports guy and need the frames per second, the DSLR is for you. If you're an avid outdoorsman needing the zoom beyond 300mm...DSLR. Or if you work much in extreme temperatures and harsh environmental conditions...DSLR. Wanna shoot WIDE open, like f/1.4...DSLR. But I would imagine those lenses are coming for the mirrorless systems. I'm sure speed will pick up. And the A7R is already weather sealed. Outside of those things, you can stay traditional, or give mirrorless a look, because it can pretty much hold its own in anything else. I know getting the Leica gear I want isn't as practical for my travel purposes at the moment. The A7R, however just might meet that need for now, however. Do I leave my D800E at home? I'm still thinking on that one.

2 comments:

Karl said...

I have been listening to the siren songs of the mirrorless systems on TWIP and share many of your thoughts. My wife needs a new camera and I am thinking of selling my D700 to put toward a good mirrorless. I want to know more about their low-light capabilities since she shoots at night a bit.

Thanks for this in-depth summary on the topic. Time for me to do more research.

Photo Anthems.com said...

Man, I'm telling you. She'll love some of these systems and some will do better in low light than others. That Sony Rx-100 II is a BEAST in low light.