2016.11.28 Why I love the Sony A7
In mid 2015, I purchased a Sony a7 camera. Just the a7. Not the a7II, not the a7R, not the a7S. I tend to always buy the older models of cameras since they are cheaper.
My main camera is a Canon 5D Mark II, which still serves me well. But I felt that a smaller camera would allow me to do more street shooting and also more casual snapshot-style stuff.
I also have a Sony RX100M2, which is a surprisingly decent camera. But the lack of viewfinder and lens choice are significant enough that I could never switch to using it as my primary camera. It's more of a point-and-shoot.
Note that all photos on this page (aside from the links to other pages) were taken with my Sony a7. Keep in mind that they were also post processed in Lightroom. I'm not going to share unedited photos with no personality, because what's the point.
1. It's small and lightweight
I can't overstate the importance of this for me. I spent years lugging around my giant Canon in a camera bag, wondering why I wasn't taking more street photos.
Having to take my camera out of the bag and attach the lens when I want to take a photo creates a barrier to entry that is too high. Sure, I could in theory walk around with my huge Canon on a strap, but it's big and heavy and attracts too much attention.
With the a7, I can just throw it around my neck and stop and pop on the fly. If I'm walking through an area that makes me nervous to have the camera around my neck, it is small enough that I can just carry it by hand, or put the strap over my shoulder and let the camera hang below my arm.
It's light enough that I've eaten meals in restaurants with the strap around my shoulder. I don't have to worry about setting the camera down on the table and it getting dirty, or setting it down beside me and having it stolen by a sly thief.
I took the photo below while sitting at a restaurant in Atlantic City, New Jersey. I was waiting for my food, saw something, took the photo, put the camera back down. Having a small camera allows me to do things like this while remaining inconspicuous.
2. Great support for manual exposure adjustments on the fly
The traditional exposure meter on Canons that shows the -1 to +1 range is useful, but misleading, since I believe it's just showing the exposure level of the mid range. If a girl is backlit, for example, I probably want to overexpose at least a bit so that you can actually see her in the photo.
So how do you know what the right exposure is? You take a photo, look at it, and adjust. But subtle changes in the light affect this, like if I'm shooting natural light and the girl is moving around.
The Sony a7 shows a live view of the exposure either in the viewfinder or the main display. This is handy in these situations since you can adjust your settings before shooting.
It even layers moving zebra stripes over the regions that are the middle exposure of your photo. This helps especially when shooting outdoors with a bright sky, where you want to the right balance of sky and landscape detail.
This is also particularly helpful when shooting in low light, or when you have a mixture of very bright and very dark with minimal areas in between, like when I shot in an alleyway in Downtown San Jose, California (left) or in a weird sci-fi bathroom in a hotel in Tampa, Florida (below).
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3. Great for symmetric architectural shots
I'm big on symmetry in my work, and the grid in the display of the a7 is helpful with this. This feature isn't unique to the a7, as most cameras have a grid of some sort, but this one works particularly well for me.
My Sony rx100 has the same grid also, which makes sense since they are the same brand. But the combination of the viewfinder and the grid makes it work, whether I'm squatting in an alley in South Beach, Miami (left) or squatting on the boardwalk in Atlantic City, New Jersey (below).
4. It works with my Canon speedlites
I have a few speedlites, and they are not cheap, so I'd like to avoid buying more. Luckily I've found that the hotshoe technology used by most Cameras is the same, so I can just connect my Speedlites with the a7 and it all works.
The photo on the left was taken with a Canon 600EX Speedlite on top of the camera, with a mini softbox attached to it. The photo below was taken in a parking garage with the Canon 430EX Speedlite on top with a diffuser attached.
5. Good support for non-Sony lenses
I mainly use the Zeiss 35mm 2.8 lens on my Sony a7, which I really like. But other than that, there isn't a great selection of lenses, especially back in 2015 when I bought it. So it was important to me that I could use my existing lenses, or be able to buy a lens I liked from another brand and use it on the camera.
I bought the Voigtlander VM-E adapter to allow me to use Leica M lenses on the Sony a7. I have a Leica M9 that is currently out of order, and wanted to find a use for my Leica 50mm f/2.0 Summicron lens until I get the camera fixed.
The Leica lens works pretty well, as you can see to the left and below. You can't autofocus, because to my knowledge Leicas never autofocus. However the a7 has a manual focus assist which seems to color whatever is in focus with a yellow tint, which is bizarre, but helpful.
Things I dislike
1. Battery Life is Terrible
If you are accustomed to the infinite battery life of a Canon 5D, especiallly when using the battery grip which holds 2 batteries, you are in for an adjustment.
If I walk around shooting with the Sony a7 for 1-2 hours, there is typically around 50% battery life left. So I always keep at least 1 spare battery in my pocket (sometimes 2), and I try to remember to turn the camera off as I walk.
When shooting indoors this isn't as much of an issue, as I can always charge one battery as I shoot with the other.