Sunday, November 24, 2013

The “ultimate” comparison of Going Full-frame options (from a NEX perspective) :-) - ILCE A7, A7R, Speedbooster and Canon 6D compared

The “ultimate” comparison of Going Full-frame options (from a NEX perspective) :-)
       - ILCE A7, A7R, Speedbooster and Canon 6D compared

As a NEX 5N user, in the recent days I have gone through serious attacks of G.A.S. (Gear acquisition Syndrome = buy new tech stuff toys) after Sony announced the ILCE-A7/A7R. After several ups and downs, I have reached some conclusion on this and maybe this is of some help to my fellow NEX users :-)

I have the kit zoom (SEL1855) and also the SEL50, which I thoroughly enjoy (low DOF, OSS, great IQ, very affordable), but also a lot of Canon FD legacy lenses with good to great IQ. Sadly, my FD24/2.8 becomes an effective 36mm on the APS-C sensor of the NEX, and I have not been able to really like this focal length (otherwise I would have bought the Zeiss 24mm). I frequently stitch with Microsoft I.C.E. at 18mm, 50mm and other focal lengths and enjoy the possibilities this gives to me. The kit zoom can be used indoors due to OSS but then often hits ISO3200, the SEL50 is no problem indoors and I haven't seen a shaken image with this lens.

Going full-frame would give me back the wide-angle options, and due to the gain in low-noise, the FD24/2.8 would become equivalent to an „NEX 16/2“, the FD50/1.4 would equal a „NEX 35/1.0“, the FD80-200/4 a „NEX 60-140/2.8“, if you get my drift....

In my view, there are four options and I will take you through the pros and cons as Forrest, err, I perceive them:

Option 1: Sony ILCE A7:
+ Full frame benefit (lower noise of about 1 stop), legacy lenses at native focal length
+ improved menu, IQ, function set
- No FE lenses with OSS except moderate-quality kit zoom
- E-Lenses can only be used in 10 Mpx-Crop mode
- AF is reported to be a) not faster than A7R in spite of being PDAF/CDAF and b) not very reliable (confirming AF, but 20% slight miss in low lights): Source dpreview, Steve Huff
o Shutter sound with electronic first-curtain acceptable: Check youtube for yourself and decide.
o 1500 Euros
o acceptable weight/size increase: Zoom combo twice the weight of Nex+Zeiss, but still only 2/3 of 6D&2470.

Option 2: Sony ILCE A7R:
+ Full frame benefit (lower noise of about 1 stop), legacy lenses at native focal length
+ improved menu, IQ, function set
+ E-Lenses can be used in 15 Mpx-Crop mode, about equal to NEX 5N/6 performance
+ AF is reported to be somewhat faster than NEX camera, although not on DSLR or m43 level
- No FE lenses with OSS except moderate-quality kit zoom
- 2100 Euros, so 600 more than ILCE
- corner lens performance worse than A7 on more lenses, especially legacy wide-angle rangefinder lenses
o Shutter sound rather loud and „sluggish“-sounding: Check youtube for yourself and decide.
O 36 Mpx for me is not important at all, I am happy with 16 Mpx of great IQ.
o acceptable weight/size increase: Zoom combo twice the weight of Nex+Zeiss, but still only 2/3 of 6D&2470.

Option 3: Metabones Speedbooster:
+ Full frame benefit (lower noise of about 1 stop), legacy lenses at almost native focal length (24->26mm; 100->106mm)
+ weight and size benefit: NEX camera weighs about half of A7 and is somewhat smaller, speedbooster adapter is significantly shorter than normal adapter
- expensive adapter: For FD, 400 $ in spite of no AF or aperture support
- for each brand of legacy lenses to be adapted, another expensive adapter is needed
- AF support only with some DSLR lens types, and usually very sluggish
- fewer adapters for different lens mount types available

Option 4: Canon 6D ( or fill in your favorite Nikon model):
+ large selection of good lenses available
+ competitive pricing
+ fast PDAF AF
- OVF: Once you have gotten used to the benefits of a good EVF, there is no way back (at least for me)
- size: To me, a full-size DSLR, even an APS-C sized one is a big, ugly brick of plastic and metal. The NEX with one lens can be carried in a winter jacket or on the belt
- weight: The strap around my neck hurting and my SLR camera banging against the stomach- these memories are not forgotten, and I have no wish of them coming back
- FD (and possibly other) legacy lenses can only be used with an expensive optical adapter, reducing image quality
- Manual focus without an EVF (highlighting and zoom options!) or replaced viewfinder screen rather difficult
- Shutter and mirror slap sound

The A7 would be a great compromise: not too much resolution, acceptable price, PDAF and shutter sound. But you have to keep your NEX camera if you want to continue using your existing E-lenses – 10 Mpx is just not enough. Which also means that you have to buy the average large FE kit zoom to have a multipurpose camera. This almost cancels out the price advantage compared to the A7R. Of course you could carry your NEX and the A7 for maximum flexibility – but when you start into the two cameras territory, weight goes out of the window and you might start thinking about a Canon 6D. And the benefit of lower noise vanishes with the lack of OSS in the available FE-lenses. Then there are the reports on suboptimal AF performance.

The A7R is at a lofty 2100 Euros body only and sports 36 Mpx which I do not really care for. But the 15 Mpx crop mode would allow to use and maintain a single camera, allow reuse the small, light-weight NEX kit zoom ( I have a good copy) and the lovely SEL50 as well as all other SEL lenses. At least till an equivalent FE lens becomes available. This is the most comfortable solution, but also the most expensive one. And then there is that shutter sound!

Speedbooster: An attractive solution, not cheap but low-weight and small. Yet the FD speedbooster is still listed as unavailable, and I wonder whether the business case for Metabones went out of the window with the competition of low-quality clones and now the A7s, so they might never deliver the lower-volume cheapo types such as FD.

Canon 6D: For me, weight, size, design and OVF just rule out this option. If I had sport-enthusiastic kids, this might be different.

What now? I am at present sort of stranded because the Metabones speedbooster for FD is not available. And I am not yet willing to spend 2100 Euros for the A7R with this shutter sound. And then another 1100 Euros when the SEL2470/4 becomes available.

Comments welcome!


  1. I am almost in the same situation and don't know what to do. Maybe wait for the 7n successor if any but this A7 is temtping me...

  2. Hi Yannis,
    in the meantime I bought the A7 with kit lens.
    My ultra brief summary:
    + More resolution, better WB, better EVF
    - bigger heavier body
    + Flash usage on camera or remote (improvement compared to 5N, but not relative to Nex 6)
    It IS a better, but also different camera. Nex is much easier to take along, A7 is more "serious stuff" :-)
    I returned the kit as my kit zoom has the characteristic at 28-35mm to work good at f3.5 but not when stopped down, at the edges. Probably will ask for a replacement though, because I had an education store deal on it.

  3. P.S. Still would love to have the Speedbooster, too. But after having had those flash capabilities of the A7, I'd also have to get a (used) Nex 6. Then, that is already 900 Euros! And WB especially with tungsten light is really better than the yellow-cast 5N.

  4. And how does the A7 behav with FDs ? I have almost as much FDs as you have and I'd be interested in your feedback. Will be in Bangkok in 2 weeks. The A7 is cheap there and I may be seriously tempted once on site.

  5. A7 works great with FDs. However, your favorite focal lenghts get changed of course. Because if you like the FD24 on 5N, you will like the FD35 even better in the A7, since the FD35 is optically better, sharper and more contrasty then the FD24. FD100 and 135 become usable lenses again, too. Since ultratele lenses have reduced applications if used on the 5N = 150 to 210 mm.
    I now have the FD24/28/35/100/135 all 2.8, the 50/1.4, 80-200/4 and 70-210/4.
    The 28 is great on the 5N, too and optically better than the 24 while still yielding more subject area than the 35.

  6. Good. My 35 is a 3.5 one...not sure it is the best 35 on FD. I wish I could find a 2.0 for a reasonable price sometime. A 28 would be easier to find.
    Thanks again for your advices.

  7. Hi Yannis,
    check out this page, he tested the FD 20 24 28 35 all 2.8 both on APS-C and A7 FF:

  8. Just found a FDn 35 2 for 150 euros. Maybe a good deal. Do you about Mitakon speedbooster ?

  9. I would not spend that much for a MF f2 lens at 35mm. Just remember, that a FD 50/1.4 gives you two stops more light, and approx. 3 Stops less DOF, and they are also very cheap.

    All non-Metabones "speedbooster" have much lower optical quality. So if you are happy with only the center of your image being sharp and don't want to spend the money.....

  10. candid question but are you using the a7 in crop mode with the fd or do you leverage the ff ?

  11. Well what would be a reason to use the A7 in crop mode when a FF lens is mounted? You only get 10 Mpx, whereas you could crop if needed a FF picture always later on and also select the area freely

  12. I was in the same boat. Was looking to upgrade from my Sony A77. Thought I could either stay with sony and get an A7/A7R or go 6D. I wasn't super invested in Alpha mount glass, so I ended up going 6D for the availability of lenses and the history of the photography company. Not to mention the versatility of the camera itself. I managed to pick up a refurbished 6D body from Canon for practically half the price of either of the sony offerings, and with the savings picked up a couple L lenses.