Sony A7: Death of the Rangefinder Full Frame E-mount?

 

A7 Frankenkamera courtesy of SonyAlphaRumors.com

Someone wiser than me once said that any headline phrased as a question will always be answered as a “no”. Let’s hope he’s right about mine!

Sony Alpha Rumors (as well as other Asian and European sources) are all suggesting that the Sony A7 & A7r full-frame E-mount cameras will NOT look like the NEX-7/6 but instead look like the RX1 with interchangeable lenses and a non-detachable EVF “hump” styled like an OM-E1.

Personally I find this regrettable. A interchangeable lens camera that small would be great. To be limited to that form-factor would be problematic. But wait, isn’t the purpose of mirrorless cameras to be small/light? Yes, but there is a balance. Personally, and it comes down largely to personal taste, I found the NEX-7 body to be close to the perfect in size and aesthetics. The only reason I never purchased one is that by the time they were widely available I discovered it wouldn’t work well with several of my legacy lenses. The NEX-6 was tempting but lacked the tri-navi controls.

It is an almost certainty that within the year Sony will release a mirrorless A-mount camera (or possibly A/E hybrid camera) but that camera will likely be even more “DSLR” like in styling and size. Aesthetics aside I have two main concerns that make me hope there will be a NEX-7 styled full-frame body that will sit between the diminutive A7 and upcoming A-mount mirrorless.

  • Discreetness: I am mostly a hobby-ist at this point but when I was shooting professionally I was doing event photography and headshots. In both cases I wasn’t a creeper but a camera that doesn’t scream “LOOK AT ME!” (AKA doesn’t look like a DSLR) makes the clients/subjects more relaxed when you’re around. Even now I shoot a lot of candids and the same applies. Even a smaller DSLR shape is still less discreet than a bigger rangefinder shaped camera which is precisely why Sony created the A3000 (and likely went this design for the A7–several sources have said they DID create an NEX-7 based prototype). That may help them sell cameras to the unwashed masses but it ain’t helping me.
  • Battery life: The RX1 is great. The NEX cameras are great. The NEX battery life isn’t. The RX1′s is worse. If this is a pro/enthusiast system why go backwards? Again, an RX1 like option that compromises stamina for size is really great, but ONLY announcing that form-factor (with inherent battery issues) will cause some blow-back.
  • Thermal issues: Remember the overheating issues on the NEX-5N? While I haven’t heard many complaints about the RX1, the A7 is rumored to have faster AF, faster FPS, and a bigger buffer. All that means more electronics working much harder. Even with advances in technology it seems unlikely that Sony has a processor that is significantly faster AND cooler. Not to mention weather sealing and a tilt screen that may further compromise the thermal envelope.

Sony is being VERY secretive with these new cameras. For a product this hyped, that will be released in less than two weeks, there are still many questions and NO pictures. Perhaps the new design will be bigger and allow for a better battery and thermals (which would also make it that much less discreet). Time will tell. In either case if the rumored price points are true (A7: $1600, A7r $2300) then many of us, perhaps myself included, will be willing to live with some compromises.

 

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