I get friendly emails from readers all the time. Often, these include basic questions on photography, choosing the right lens and camera, and other miscellaneous quips easily answered in a sentence or two. Every now and then, though, I get emails that make me think, and provide an answer that may help a large part of my pool of readers. If you have any pressing questions, feel free to email me and I’ll get back to you soon!
Today’s question comes from Nestor Rodriguez on deciding between sticking with the old NEX series cameras or jumping on the A7/A7r full-frame bandwagon:
First of all, I gotta say I enjoy the content you put up on your site — it’s well-written and very informative, so thanks a lot for that, man.
Here’s my case now: I have a friend selling me a used (but “like new”) NEX-7 with the Sony 1.8/50 + two additional batteries and a couple of other accessories for $650 dollars. He’s also selling me the Zeiss Sonnar 1.8/24 for $650 as well. I currently own two lenses: the Sony 55-210mm and a brand new Sony 1.8/50. If I took my friend’s offer, I’d end up with the NEX-7 and this nice line-up of three good lenses (and I’d be able to sell one of the 50mm ones).
However, I’ve been looking at the newly released a7/a7r full-frame cameras from Sony and Zeiss lenses available for them (especially the 1.8/55 one). And it got me thinking and running down some numbers — with all the money that would go into purchasing the NEX-7, the Zeiss, the money I could get from selling my two lenses, plus a $500 dollar gift card I have on my Amazon account, I’d only be around $300 dollars short of what costs to buy the a7 + Zeiss 1.8/55.
This being the case then, if you were in my shoes, which route would you go and why? Depending on the type of photography work you do, would you mind ending up with just one prime lens + a7 camera as opposed to the three lenses and the NEX-7? This would probably be a simple decision for you, but I’m not that seasoned in photography and the major advantages of the full-frame a7 vs the NEX-7 aren’t that clear to me yet.
Would really appreciate it if you told me what your thoughts are on this. Thanks a lot.
Oh man, oh man. This is a really good question. Let me start out by saying that I almost jumped on the A7/A7r bandwagon. As you know, my work with manual focus (and full-frame) Nikkors would have, in theory, gotten a great benefit from the “full-frame advantage”. This is namely about a 2-stop increase in high ISO performance, as well as getting to take advantage of ALL the depth-of-field control my Nikkors could provide on the larger sensor.
I preordered both, and waited for some early reviews to come out. Making a long story short(er), I cancelled everything for these main reasons (in order of most to least importance):
1. I absolutely hate the EVF-hump design compared to the sleek rangefinder style of my NEX-7 workhorse. It makes the camera unnecessarily bulky just to give the “look” of a DSLR.
2. The NEX-7 has at least twice the frame rate as either the A7’s
3. The shutter lag on the NEX-7 is still class-leading, while the A7’s (especially the A7r) have noticeable lag. This is a big no-no for my sports photography.
4. Both the cameras have compromises of their own that they shouldn’t have at their price point (no EFC on A7r, questionable weather sealing, etc.)
5. The peaking functionality is flawed compared to the NEX-7, i.e. a half-shutter press doesn’t get you out of magnification.
6. EVF blackout/card write times are longer, another no-no for sports.
Now don’t get me wrong, the A7 and A7r cameras are overall excellent cameras. They’re receiving camera-of-the-year awards at most photography websites and magazines. Sony should be very proud of what they’ve done to the camera market this year. But that doesn’t mean these cameras are for me, as much as I really wanted them to. What I need is a faster-performing, more streamlined FF e-mount camera, were I to get one right now. Provided Sony follows their tried-and-true product naming strategy, there will likely be an A9 to follow these two successful cameras as soon as the end of 2014. I would hazard a guess that it will include IBIS (not a big deal for my photography, but would be helpful for long telephotos at night), that rumored 30-32 MP sensor for a good balance of high resolution and photosite sensitivity, a higher 8+ fps burst mode (along with a much shorter shutter lag), and a larger buffer for extended burst shooting. I somewhat doubt Sony will bring back the streamlined NEX-7-alike body style in the A9, but if they do, consider me beyond sold.
Now back to your question, it really, REALLY depends of the type of photography you most pursue before you should consider either of the A7’s. If you are anything like me, shooting events on-location, needing fast frame rates, the telephoto advantage of APS-C (my widest lens is still the Touit 32mm), and an unobtrusive body to not distract subjects, then hold on to that NEX-7 tightly. If you want to do a lot of extremely high-quality landscape/portraiture/reproduction shots, the A7r would be a sensible choice. For low-light events, general photography, and flash photography (higher sync speed of 1/250), the A7 may be a good option.
If you take your friend’s offer, you will end up with a highly capable and top-performing APS-C camera with three lenses that will cover a large portion of anything you may need to shoot. The Zeiss 24mm was the first lens to really take advantage of the NEX-7’s high-resolution sensor, and the price your friend offers is very fair provided it’s in good shape. The 50mm f/1.8 is a great stabilized lens with optical performance you would expect from a nifty-fifty—only reason I do not have one is I prefer manually focusing my lenses, and the three 50mm’s I do have are more than adequate. The 55-210mm is also a very versatile zoom with higher optical performance than average telephoto zooms. Slap one of those 1.7x teleconverters on it (look up and message zackiedawg on dpreview.com) and you’ll have a lens capable of good wildlife photography! And just take a look through my lens reviews if you haven’t already to give you more ideas on manual-focus lenses to help fill the gaps you may want in the future (a fast ~35mm, 85mm, and 105mm macro should all be on your list). My most used lenses are the Zeiss Touit 32mm f/1.8, Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 AI-s, and Nikkor 200mm f/2 AI-s ED (more on that lens soon, hehe).