Photography News 05

Camera review






PRICE £1235 body only CONTACT SENSOR 24.3 megapixels with BIONZ X AUTOFOCUS Fast Hybrid AF SHOOTINGSPEEDS 2.5fps ISORANGE 50-25,600

PRICE £2749 with 50mm f/1.8 CONTACT SENSOR 16.2 megapixels with EXPEED 3 AUTOFOCUS 39 AF points SHOOTINGSPEEDS 5.5fps ISORANGE 50-204,800 (extended)

The electronic viewfinder is an excellent substitute for an optical version. Its 0.71x magnification rivals most full-frame DSLRs, with the advantage of an accurate preview. Its main drawback is the inevitable delay when it’s activated via the eye sensor. A small and light body could have resulted in cramped controls, but Sony’s made good use of the space through customisation. There are ten programmable buttons, each with 46 possible functions, and a user-defined quick menu. It’s not all ideal though – the combined control wheel and directional pad can be accidentally pressed when you mean to turn it and vice versa, and responses aren’t always the quickest. For example, it takes two seconds for the camera to power up ready to shoot.

Sony recently introduced two mirrorless CSCs with full-frame sensors, the A7 and the A7R, promising the benefits of 35mm image quality with the size advantages of amirrorless design. Based on resolution alone, the A7 is the smaller of the Sony twins with 24 megapixels, although this matches the Nikon D610 and beats three of our full-frame DSLRs. It features a Fast Hybrid AF system with phase-detection; it doesn’t quite live up to the level of mirrored cameras, but for sensor-based focusing it’s speedy and reliable in good light. It struggles when light levels fall though. The A7 has a top speed of five frames-per- second, although this drops to 2.5 frames-per- second with continuous focusing, slower than any of the full-frame DSLRs. While the larger 35mm format sensor gives the benefit of better image quality over APS-C format sensors, if you’re considering making the step up to full-frame, there’s more to consider when it comes to lenses. Firstly, not all lenses can be used with full- frame cameras. Some can only be used with APS-C format cameras because the image circle they create isn’t big enough to cover a 35mm sensor, hence the crop factor. Crop factors vary according to the sensor size – on Canon DSLRs it’s 1.6x, Nikon 1.5x. This means if you fit a 50mm lens on an APS-C Canon, it gives the same field of view as an 80mm lens used on a full-frame camera. It gives an apparent increase in focal length, as in the pictures shown on the right. You might be able to use your existing lenses and just crop images (either manually or automatically in-camera), but this approach does limit you at the extreme wide-angle end. Secondly, there is a benefit in the crop factor, specifically at the telephoto end. If all you shoot is sport and nature you might be better off sticking with the APS-C format. The smaller format’s apparent gain in focal length means a 300mm lens on an APS-C Canon gives you a focal length equivalent to 480mm in the 35mm format. The cost of buying an equivalent lens for full-frame could be prohibitive and it’ll be bigger. Thirdly, speaking of size, full-frame lenses tend to be bigger and heavier than APS-C-only equivalents. The Sony A7/7R might have a Lensmatters

models – you can even use these with full aperture metering. Nikon says the D4 sensor means flagship image quality, although the 16 megapixels puts it equal bottom in terms of resolution. The AF system is the same 39-point AF system as in the cheaper D610, while continuous shooting falls slightly short at 5.5 frames-per-second. The Df has a low-light advantage though, because its top ISO sensitivity of ISO 204,800 is one full stop more than the Canons’. There’s no video recording on the Df, an omission that shows the camera is dedicated to stills photographers. Only one SD card slot limits the appeal, and another slight detraction is that the Df – in the UK only – is currently only sold as a kit with a 50mm f/1.8 G lens.

TheNikonDf’s retrodesignmakes for adifferent handling experience. There are dedicated top dials for mode, shutter speed, exposure compensation and ISO sensitivity, and if your lens has one, you can use its aperture ring. The bias is still towards modern control though. For example, the command dial can override the shutter speed dial and exposure can be adjusted in 1/3 or 1/2EV steps. On the back, the buttons, screen and layout are also almost identical to any other digital Nikon. Nevertheless, the layout has advantages – you can see all settings with a glance at the top-plate, and the experience of clicking dials is very satisfying. The retro theme continues with your choice of lenses, since the Df takes most vintage Nikkor glass, including non-AI


potential advantage here, as smaller lenses to suit the smaller bodies might be a real boon. Finally, pictorially the larger full-frame format means shallow depth-of-field effects are generally easier to achieve. Typically, use f/4 on a full-frame DSLR and you would need f/2.8 on APS-C for the same look.


PRICE £1689 body only CONTACT SENSOR 36.4 megapixels with BIONZ X AUTOFOCUS Fast Intelligent AF SHOOTINGSPEEDS 1.5fps ISORANGE 50-25,600


A7R has no phase-detection hybrid system, but a Fast Intelligent AF system reliant only on contrast-detection. This means there’s more hunting than with the A7, so it’s just a fraction of a second slower. As with the A7, focusing is less reliable in low light. The A7R is also slower than the A7, and has top speeds of four frames- per-second in speed-priority mode and just 1.5fps with continuous autofocus. The shutter mechanism is also different in the A7R compared with the A7, and this makes it noisy. There are two loud clunks when an exposure is made, certainly not ideal if you’re trying to be discrete. This is a shame, because the size of the body makes it ideal for situations where you’d like to remain inconspicuous, but the shutter sound is sure to draw attention.

With the A7R, you get the highest resolution 35mm sensor in the lightest body of any full- frame camera. With 36.4 megapixels, it’s on a par with the Nikon D800, and the A7R has no optical low-pass filter. But its mirrorless design also means it’s almost half the weight of the D800, and much smaller and lighter than any other full-frame DSLR. Externally, the A7R is just about identical to the A7. It’s lighter by a matter of grammes, but the layout of the controls is exactly the same, with equal customisation – three dedicated custom buttons and the option to reprogram seven of the preset buttons. While theA7Rhas higher resolution than the A7, it has a slight disadvantage in other ways. Perhaps the most significant is in focusing; the


Youmight be able to use your existing lenses and crop images, but this approachdoes limit you at the extreme wide-angle enduntil you invest in a new lens

Issue 5 | Photography News

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