The Alpha 7R was one of the best cameras we tested in 2013, but what of its sibling, the Alpha 7? Phil Hall tests the 24.3-million-pixel, full-frame CSC, Sony Alpha 7
Sony Alpha 7 review – Build and handling
Although the shape of the Sony Alpha 7’s body is identical to that of the Alpha 7R, the materials are slightly different. The all-magnesium-alloy body of the Alpha 7R has been replaced with a polycarbonate front-plate and magnesium top-plate on the Alpha 7. The magnesium-alloy front-plate of the Alpha 7R is designed to be stronger to support heavier lenses, which is a little odd given that the Alpha 7 has phase-detection AF and is therefore more likely to be used with heavier telephoto lenses when taking wildlife images.
However, the body has the same level of weather-sealing as the Alpha 7R, so don’t worry if you take it out in wet conditions.
Sony has done extremely well with the shape and size of the handgrip, so when you pick up the Alpha 7 it feels incredibly comfortable in the hand, with any concerns that it may be too small disappearing immediately.
With front and rear control dials, shooting mode and exposure compensation dials, as well as an on and off switch wrapped around the shutter button, the Alpha 7 feels very much like using a DSLR. What’s most impressive, though, is the level of customisation available. There are three programmable customisation buttons that can have any of 46 functions assigned to them via the menu, while the central button at the middle of the control wheel can have one of 47 functions assigned to it. Even the direction control buttons can be customised to one of 39 functions.
The level of body-mounted controls means that it is quick to operate and customise the controls of the Alpha 7 to make it feel like your own personalised camera. For example, straight out of the box, the control wheel allows you to adjust the ISO while shooting. Some may like this function, but I found it all too easy to inadvertently jog this and either increase or decrease the sensitivity. Instead, I set the ISO to custom button 3, making it a much more fluid way of shooting.
Sony has thankfully dropped the rather convoluted menu system used on the NEX-7 and instead provided a revised Alpha menu system, with five main tabs offering a host of sub-menus. Another welcome update is that greyed-out settings within the menu, which appear when a particular configuration has been set, are now annotated to explain why this is the case, rather than leaving the user in the dark, trying to work out which setting might have induced it.