Sony went where no camera manufacturer has gone before this morning, unveiling the world’s first full-frame mirrorless cameras: the 36.4-megapixel Alpha 7R and 24.3-megapixel Sony Alpha 7. Both compact system cameras use 35mm-sized Exmor-branded, CMOS image sensors but the Sony Alpha 7R has no optical low pass filter over its chip to help it capture more detail in photos. The Alpha 7, meanwhile, boasts a new Hybrid AF system, designed to quickly lock in focus on subjects.
Both cameras will go on sale this December, with the Sony Alpha 7R retailing for $2,300, body only, and the Sony Alpha 7, selling for $1,700, body only; or as a kit with a new 28-70mm F3.5-5.6 lens for $2,000.
You could also pair these full-frame mirrorless cameras with five new full-frame E-Mount lenses that Sony just unveiled. The new Sony E-Mount lenses include three Carl Zeiss-branded models: the Sonnar T* 55mm F1.8 ZA ($1,000) and Sonnar T* 35mm F2.8 ZA ($800) prime lenses, and the Vario Tessar T* 24-70mm F4 ZA OSS mid-range zoom ($1,200).
Additionally, Sony took the wraps off the 28-70mm kit lens mentioned earlier, and two zoom “G” lenses: a 70-200mm F4 telephoto zoom (Price TBD) for E-mount, and a 70-200 F4 telephoto zoom ($3,000) for its A-mount digital SLRs.
But wait, there’s more.
Sony also just announced a new high-end, superzoom “bridge” camera, the Cyber-shot RX10, which uses the same, 20.2MP, 1-inch type backside, illuminated sensor as in its new RX100 II compact model.
While serious photographers might look askance at a superzoom model like the new Sony RX10, the larger sized sensor in the camera is a good one — I’ve been testing the RX100 II, which uses it — and the 24-200mm (35mm equivalent) F2.8 Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar-branded lens sounds intriguing.
The RX10 wouldn’t, likely, replace your digital SLR and quality lenses but as an all-in-one package, this superzoomer might be a good solution for when you want to travel light. The Sony RX10 goes on sale in November for $1,300.
Of all of Sony’s announcements this morning, it’s the two, new full-frame mirrorless Alpha cameras that are the most intriguing news. While compact system cameras have caught on in Japan, sales of these mirrorless models, which are designed to offer the image quality of a DSLR but in a smaller, quieter, and more portable package, have been weak in the United States.
Professional photographers have also, largely, stayed away from mirrorless cameras, preferring to stick to digital SLRs. It will be interesting to see if the promise of full-frame sensors and, potentially, faster autofocus, will be enough to attract pros despite the high prices of the Sony Alpha 7R and Alpha 7.
Other features shared by these two full-frame mirrorless cameras include Sony’s revamped Bionz X processor, which is supposed to help speed up autofocus; full HD 60p video shooting; 3-inch, tilting rear LCD screens with 2.4 million dots of resolution; and Wi-Fi and NFC (not compatible with Apple devices) wireless connections for zapping your images and video from the cameras to a mobile device.
Some pros have found the absence of an optical viewfinder on mirrorless cameras to be a turnoff, but the Sony 7R and 7 feature new XGA OLED “Tru-Finder” electronic viewfinders, which are designed to be clearer and brighter than EVFs from the past. Sony has also made these new mirrorless cameras more robust with added dust- and moisture resistance.