Join Richard Harrington for an in-depth discussion in this video Key differences between the a7 series cameras, part of Learning to Shoot with the Sony Alpha a7 Series.
- Any of the Sony a7 series cameras give you the ability to take wonderful photographs and to capture video. But each has different features and capabilities that you'll want to evaluate against your needs and budget. The exact features vary between both cameras and model numbers. The cameras can use both a letter and a number designation to identify the particular model. For example, the base model, the Sony a7, also has two variations, the a7R and the a7S.
And all of the cameras have also had a version two released. Now, let's take a quick look at the key differences. The original Sony a7 offers a good balance of features. These include a 24.3 megapixel full frame CMOS sensor. Now, this allows for up to five frames per second while shooting in Speed Priority. This frame rate continues across pretty much all the cameras. The camera has decent sensitivity to light with that full frame sensor, giving you the ability to capture between ISO 100 and 25,6000.
It's going to give you the ability to shoot 1080p video available in both 60 and 24 frames per second. And it offers both the AVCHD and MPEG-4 codecs which allow for different types of capture, AVCHD being just more professionally. We'll talk more about that later. Now, the way that the autofocus system works is that it offers 117 points and it uses a phase detection method. Now, this is a lot of points but the cameras have seen innovation and improvements.
The a7R series is all about resolution. The first generation of the a7R jumps the megapixel count up to 36.4 megapixels. It also doesn't use an anti-aliasing filter, sometimes called an optical low pass filter. This means that it doesn't soften the image which often will help hide some of the more array effect. Now, this isn't going to be visible on all subjects, at least to crisper, sharper photos, but on some types of shooting situations, particular things with a lot of brick texture or perhaps video shooting, this can cause a problem as it leads to vibration or images that are too sharp.
To balance this all out, Sony also offers the a7S which focuses on extreme low light performance. To get there, they reduced the megapixel count, so the a7S only offers 12.2 megapixels. Now, that's still plenty of resolution for many prints. I've taken images from that camera and have used them to make things like books and calendars, but it's not the top of the line. But because they've reduced the megapixel count, they've been able to increase the sensitivity of the sensor for light. So the ISO jumps between 100 all the way up 102,400.
This leads to a camera that can shoot under candle light without a lot of noise and it looks really good. This particular camera was aimed at the professional video market in many cases. In camera, it records high-definition video, but it can pass a 4K video signal out through the HDMI port and you can use external capture devices to record that. Now, in the II series, there has been some changes across the board. Again, this would be the a7 II, the a7R II, and the a7S II.
One of the biggest things is the addition of 5-axis in-body image stabilization. While some lenses offer image stabilization built-in, that's great. The ability to have it inside the body means that you don't have to put it in the lens. This reduces the cost of the lens, gives you stabilization on lenses you already own, and leads to a crisper picture. Remember, image stabilization will help with hand-held photos and lets you shoot pictures faster so that you don't have to worry about the longer shutter speeds.
This means that you can capture better looking images without any motion blur and it's just going to do a better job in lower light situations We've also seen the addition of a magnesium alloy body that features both weather and dust sealed characteristics. This just makes the camera more durable for shooting outdoors. It's not that the first generation felt flimsy by any means, but now the camera is more intended to be used in rougher, tougher professional situations, like weather. And a little bit of updated ergonomics, a larger grip that's a bit easier to hold, making the camera more comfortable in the hands.
Now, the Sony a7 II keeps all of the same features as the original but we see about a 30% improvement in the autofocus. It's the exact same hardware, it's just that it's a bit faster thanks to software changes. On the a7R II, what we've seen is a huge jump in megapixel count, all the way up to 42.4 megapixels, plus the addition of recording 4K video inside the camera, no need for a dedicated external recorder. Now, there are still benefits to those higher end recorders, and we'll explore those more later, but this gives you the flexibility to record 4K video to an approved memory card.
We also see the exact same low light performance move over from the a7S into the R II so it thumps out at 102,400. And improvements to the autofocus system now with 399 focal planes with phase detection, which just means more points for quickly autofocusing. And lastly, the Sony a7S II has seen some improvements as well. Now, the same general improvements to the II line that we talked about, but it will also have internal 4K video recording and the ISO jumps to an incredibly high number of 409,600.
Now, this type of low light sensitivity is not likely to be used, I find the existing a7S' ISO sensitivity to be more than adequate for tons of shooting situations. But if you need more sensitivity, they have now improved it. Plus we've seen a bump in the autofocus points up to 169 and a couple of pro features designed just for video markets, such as the ability to shoot with a S-gamut or si-na-log or S-log. What this really breaks down to is that the camera offers picture styles that are specifically designed for video workflows with flatter images that allow for greater flexibility during the video editing stage.
And it also adds the ability to record 120 frames per second video which is great for slow motion effects at full HD quality. There you have it. The line breaks down pretty clearly if you think about it. You've got the Sony a7 and the a7 II which is positioned as the most affordable one in the series that's designed for general, all-around shooting. If you need higher resolution and you'd like to remove that optical low pass filter, well, then you step up to the R series, and this is going to give you that extra resolution as well as 4K video, if that's important to you, on the R II model.
If you need the low light performance, well, then you need the Sony a7S. This one is the camera that's more specifically designed to be useful to a professional video shooter, although I have used it both for video workflows and for stills and have been quite happy. All right, hopefully you now have a pretty good understanding of the Sony a7 series.
- Taking shots in auto mode
- Using the in-camera guide
- Using lens controls and zoom
- Changing image size and quality
- Changing ISO in programmed auto mode
- Exploring autofocus
- Shooting in continuous (burst) mode
- Switching exposure modes
- Shooting with an external flash
- Recording video
- Remote controlling and tethering your a7 camera via Wi-Fi