Saturday, February 15, 2014

Essay- The Sony A7 from a potential NEX 5N upgraders perspective

I guess I am not the only photographer using NEX who toys with the idea to upgrade to the A/ or somewhere else for still better image quality and fun.

I am still toothing with the question how and if to upgrade from my NEX 5N towards to the Sony A7. For this purposes, I evaluated the A7 with several lenses and also extensivelywith the kit lens. Many comparisons between A7 and 5N performance followed.

In the end, I compiled my findings in a document instead of a blog here, because for me, this blog has a photographic focus and adding a 9 page testing text would spoil the layout :-)

Therefore, you can download the 3 MB PDF file and read/view my findings. DON'T VIEW with the reader offered by Google, it renders the document rather badly. Download the file and open with your local PDF reader. For the pictures, I recommend you to go to 200% viewing size in your PDF reader:

Download PDF file from GOOGLE drive

Have fun!

Of course, everything stated is strictly my personal opinion and I do not own any of the mentioned trademarks.

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Hallo zusammen, ich denke ich bin nicht der einzige Nex-benutzende Fotograf, der mit dem Gedanken spielt upzugraden zur A7 oder wohin auch immer um bessere QUalität und mehr Spass zu haben.

Ich zahne immer noch an der Frage wie und ob ich von meiner Nex 5N zur A7 aufrüsten soll. Um das zu klären, habe ich die A7 mit mehreren Objektiven und auch dem Kitzoom ausprobiert. Zahlreiche Vergleiche zwischen der Nex 5N und der A7 folgten.

Schlussendlich habe ich meine Feststellungen in einem PDF-Datei zusammengefasst, da ich in meinem Fotoblog den Fokus auch weiterhin auf Bildern haben möchte und 9-seitige Tests das Layout sprengen würden :-)

Für diejenigen, welche das Geschreibsel interessiert, einfach im Blog die PDF downloaden. Standardmässig öffnet Google das mit seinem eigenen Reader, der ist aber Murx, deshalb herunterladen und mit dem eigenen, lokalen PDF-Reader anschauen. Dabei empfehle ich auf 200% zu gehen wegen der Beispielbilder.
Die PDF-Datei herunterladen aus GOOGLE drive


  1. I’ve read your essay. I think we’re very different kinds of photographers, and approach cameras and evaluation very differently. You said you made the step to a 5N two years ago from a point and shoot, witbout noting any film or digital precedent. I added an NEX-6 as a fun travel camera to my two Nikon D7000s and library of lenses I use for business. I’ve been shooting DSLR for 10 years (D70 and D300 before the D7000s), and for 3 years before that, pair of early EVF cameras, an Olympus C2100UZ and a Sony DSC-F717. And before that, since 1982, a Leica M4P, Canon F1 and Canon T90 systems – and lots before that. I own about a dozen Canon, Leica, Kiev and Fed rangefinders. I love the NEX-6 emulation of them, with its corner EVF

    The first time I saw an A7 and played with it, I thought it was the most bad-ass little digital camera I’d ever seen – but I like disruptor designs. If you look at a Canon F1, you will see where Sony got the A7 design. The Canon T90 was a disruptor design everyone hated when it came out – it set the stage for all the contoured cameras since then.

    We are also different about how we test a camera and lens. I bought my A7 for the same reason I originally bought my NEX-6: To tap my 1981-82 Leica lenses, my late 1980s Canon FD lenses – and perhaps, eventually, some Sony glass beyond the kit lens.

    When I get a camera, I pop off a few shots, and then take it out and shoot it pretty much as I would expect to in real use. Then, I come back and look at the images, REAL close. Edges, corners, centers. The way I would have done in a darkroom with a grain focuser back in the film days.

    It was 20 degrees F and 30+ knots of wind along the New England coast yesterday when I took my A7 and kit lens out to play. Here are some images: It was too friggin’ cold and windy to switch lenses to run any comparisons.

    What did I see? Well, the kit lens isn’t great, but it’s not bad. It’s fine for noncritical work. I’d suggest you could, like me, use it whenever you aren’t planning to shoot a cover for National Geographic.

    Depending on the reviews of the SONY Vario-Tessar T FE 24-70mm F4, I may finance it in part or whole by selling the kit lens, and a few Nikon lenses like my Nikon 80-200mm f2.8 AF-D, maybe my 18-200 VR.

    You are agonizing over the purchase of an A7, probably because you want it more than need it; perhaps additionally, it would be a stretch to buy it. Understand it is likely to be technically inferior to whatever Sony replaces it with in a year or so. Then you will feel like crap, and begin the whole testing procedure again.

    Your tests demonstrate you’ve spent WAY too much taking in the DPR forum posts. There’s almost an OCD component to what you’re doing. True experts like Eric (Viking79) and Viktor (verybiglebowski) are vastly more technically competent than you or me, and they don’t need to go to the efforts you’ve gone in this essay. Read their blogs and take their judgments on board. Ignore most of the rest of the scuttlebutt.

    If you own the A7 and kit lens, I’d suggest you stop testing and start just taking photos. The less time you spend on the forum, the better you’ll like your A7.

  2. I hate anonymous comments - I am Mel Snyder, author of the above "anonymous"

  3. Hi Mel,
    thanks for your extensive comment! I have a film slr background and also own a lot of FD lenses, too. As I wrote in the essay, I didn't expect perfect IQ from the kit lens, but what I couldn't stomach is that is worse at the edges than the cheapo SEL1855, and also has this harsh unsharpness. As you suggested, I had already made an real-life shooting day both with the A7kit and the 5Nkit. The building shots are exactly from that day and show that even when looking on the screen at normal sizes, the FE2870 is visibly worse - at least my two copies.
    I have been in contact with both Eric and Viktor and respect them. Eric likes the A7, the A7r better and uses for critical stuff an SLR :-). Viktor is going to sell both A7 & A7r after trying for 10k shots to like them. In Viktors and my shots I see better central sharpness on the A7, but except for the gain in high ISO and the lower DOF, no significantly better IQ compared to the 5N.
    So then we are back at my conclusion of using the A7 as deluxe speedbooster, haven't decided yet on that :-)
    Of course you are entirely right that spending/wasting time on DPreview forum can be very confusing :-)

  4. Interesting reading. Now I'm even happier I didn't get the kit lens when I bought the A7.

    I'm surprised that you get better sharpness on the A7 in crop mode using the SEL1855
    Out of curiosity, could you up-sample the A5+SEL1855 image to match the NEX5N resolution and compare the images? I wonder how the A7 would compare then.

    I did it using the Sigma 8-16, and up-sampling did not give better results on the A7 even compared to the A55. If I have time I'll try again using the SEL18200, but from my first tests, the NEX5N had the edge on the A7 in crop mode.

    (darkdirtydwarf from

  5. Hi,
    just did exactly that using Irfanview, no sharpening during upscale. IQ of the A7 image looks almost the same as the 16 Mpx 5N shot, edge sharpness and contrast is the same. So the 10 Mpx crop has better IQ than the 5N shot, but lower resolution.

  6. I see. This is in line with my findings. Basically for web use or small prints, the A7 would be the body to pick up then. I wonder what happens when doing videos. Probably the difference is even less noticeable.

    Thanks and keep up the good work! ;)

    (darkdirtydwarf from

  7. I have a different experience, also starting with NEX 5N since first release.

    I bought the A7R and unlike you I thought the design not so bad. Clearly bigger than the NEX, but purposeful. Because it was 'body only' to start with, planned to use my NEX 16mm F2.8 and the NEX 5N kitlens to get me going, before something 'useful' was launched by sigma for this camera - I really wasn't to interested in the costs associated with the new Zeiss lenses, but had some legacy Zeiss T* lenses from my old Contax which I planned to use 'manual' with an adaptor (that also work on the NEX 5N).

    My experience with the old manual lenses was quite good, and 100% crops were amazingly better than with the 5N. BUT - 80% of all pictures attempted with the NEX lenses failed due to wrong automatic focusing eg background when clearly a prtrait or foreground when clearly a landscape - it was just a complete mess.

    Camera went back to Sony after discussion with them - this was last year and they had no more stock, so I had to accept a refund rather than replacement - so I still don't know if it was me, the lenses or the camera!

    In the meantime I'll probably buy a (now cheaper) NEX 6 and an A6000 - if only the A7R had the focusing of the A6000 - maybe its replacement will

  8. I cannot complain with the AF performance of the SEL1855 on the A7, the 10 Mpx shots were contrasty, sharp and well focussed. By manually cropping you can easily get a 12 Mpx shot without vignetting. But I understand, when you run into a major obstacle in your intended way to proceed, it's best to stop and reconsider if this is the right road to take.

  9. Thanks for taking the time to write and share this document; very interesting. I'm a happy NEX-6 shooter and while I'm not looking to upgrade yet, it is interesting to soak up the feedback on the A7, which seems to be the logical next step for an enthusiast NEX owner.

    It is also interesting to see your comments on the standard zooms of both the A7 and NEX. I too would like to purchase a high quality standard zoom for holiday/general purpose but the Zeiss 1670 has such mixed reviews I can't bring myself to get it. I'm not a fan of the 1855 (although perhaps I need to restrict use to only its sweet spots) so currently just shoot with the 35f18 which is great, but a bit too zoomed in during low light indoor shots. Was thinking of replacing it with the 24f18 (if I can afford to) and getting a HQ standard zoom for day to day shots, but that lens seems hard to find (I don't have any legacy glass or adapters).

    The fact that my chosen camera/lens ecosystem has no consistently well-reviewed standard zoom makes me really confused. Surely this is a fundamental requirement of any lens lineup? I don't really want to look at different ecosystems.

  10. Hi Pinksteady,
    just went though direct comparisons of the A7 with FD28 and FD24 prime lenses versus 5N with 1855, as also shown in the PDF. I now cropped the extreme left lower edge, the center and the right side at mid picture. My intention was to convince myself to get at least the A7 body from Amazon FR, but they have now gone up with the price - end of that. Back to the comparison: The kit 1855 is already ok at f3.5 compared to the legacy primes. The 1855 performs best at f5.6 with a minor loss at f8. The primes are fine at f5.6 and f8, possibly even at f4 (haven't tested that).

    BUT - and that is a big but! - If I take those crops of the 5N and simply add some saturation, contrast, brightness and sharpness even with the simple Irfanview, the picture becomes very similar to those of the A7!
    So in normal shooting conditions, the improved IQ is in the range of variation what you can compensate for in Post processing!

    So what is left to motivate for FF?
    --Playing with low DOF with legacy, but at the sacrifice of AF.
    --Get Wideangle primes where the Nex system lacks - if you don't count in the AF & OSS SEL1018, which gets good reports.
    --Get Tele primes where the Nex truly lacks, if the SEL50F18 is not enough for you.
    My point regarding your post is: If you have a good copy of the 1855 and use it from 18-35mm, don't mind some PP of the RAW file, and use the SEL35F18 for low light and sharpness, you already have a quite good set.