Sony Alpha ILCE-7R (A7R) review: A compact full-frame ILC that delivers on photos

Sony has advanced the design over the NEX-7, which these models essentially replace -- Sony's still selling the NEX-7 but it will likely die once all existing units are gone -- and it's substantially streamlined in comparison. On the top right sits an exposure-compensation dial, programmable button, and power switch/shutter button, along with a mode dial that has the usual manual, semimanual, and automatic modes, two custom settings slots (and you can tweak them from a central location rather than having to resave when you make a change), sweep panorama, and a dedicated movie mode. Sony's Multi Interface Shoe perches on the huge EVF box.

To the right of the LCD is a thumb-operated switch that toggles its button function between focus mode and exposure lock. The function button below that brings up frequently needed settings -- drive mode, flash, flash compensation, autofocus mode, autofocus area, exposure compensation, ISO sensitivity, metering mode, white balance, Dynamic Range Optimization/HDR, and Creative Style.

The updated interface combines the Quick Navi control panel from the SLT models with a less confusing version of the NEX interface. In essence, it operates like most other cameras now, with a Fn button that pulls up most of the frequently used settings, which lets you scroll through the options without having to go another level down. It supports tethered shooting, albeit only via Sony's Remote Camera Control software at the moment (unless someone knows of current third-party support that I'm missing).

While it incorporates the usual limited AVCHD codec options and full manual exposure and audio-level controls, it can output clean HDMI for more flexibility and can take Sony's XLR mic kit.

Canon EOS 6D Nikon D610 Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1R Sony Alpha ILCE-7/7R Sony Alpha SLT-A99
Sensor effective resolution 20.2MP CMOS
24.3MP Exmor CMOS 24.3MP Exmor CMOS/
36.4MP Exmor CMOS
24.3MP Exmor CMOS
35.8 x 23.9mm 35.8 x 24mm 35.8 x 23.9mm 35.8 x 23.9mm 35.8 x 23.9mm
Focal-length multiplier 1.0x 1.0x 1.0x 1.0x 1.0x
OLPF Yes Yes No Yes/No Yes
ISO range ISO 100 - ISO 25600/ 102,400 (exp) ISO 50 (exp)/100 - ISO 6400/ 25600 (exp) ISO 50 (exp) / ISO 100 - ISO 25600 ISO 50
(exp)/ ISO 100 - ISO 25600
ISO 50
(exp)/ ISO 100 - ISO 51200/ ISO 102400 (exp, via multishot NR)
Burst shooting 4.5fps
15 raw/unlimited JPEG
(5 fps with fixed focus and exposure)
2.5fps (5fps with fixed exposure)/
1.5fps (4fps with fixed focus)
13 raw/14 JPEG

VF Optical
97% coverage
100% coverage
Reverse Galilean
Tilting OLED
0.5-inch/ 2,359,000 dots
100 percent coverage
2.4 million dots
100% coverage
2.4 million dots
100% coverage
AF 11-pt AF
1 center cross type
9 cross type
(Multi-CAM 4800FX)
25-area contrast AF Hybrid AF system
25-area contrast AF;117-pt phase-
25-area contrast AF
Dual phase -detection system
11 cross type;
102-pt focal plane
AF exposure range -3 - 18 EV
(center point)
0.5 - 18 EV
-1 - 19 EV n/a 0 - 20 EV -1 - 18 EV
Shutter speed 1/4,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/180 sec x-sync 1/4,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/200 sec x-sync 30-1/2000 sec (f2), 1/4000 (f5.6); bulb 1/8,000 to 30 secs; bulb 1/8,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/250 sec x-sync
Shutter durability 100,000 cycles 150,000 cycles n/a n/a 200,000 cycles
Metering 63-area iFCL 2,016-pixel RGB 3D Color Matrix Metering II n/a 1,200 zones 1,200 zones
Metering exposure range 0 - 20 EV 0 - 20 EV 0 - 20 EV 0 - 20 EV -2 - 17 EV
IS Optical Optical Electronic (movie only) Optical Sensor shift
Best video H.264 MOV
1080/30p/ 25p/24p; 720/60p/50p
H.264 MOV
1080/30p/ 25p/24p; 720/ 60p/50p/ 25p/24p
all at 24, 12Mbps
AVCHD: 1080/60p/50p @28Mbps; 1080/60i/50i @ 24, 17Mbps AVCHD 1080/60p @ 28Mbps, 1080/60i/ 24p @ 24Mbps AVCHD 1080/60p @ 28, 1080/24p @ 24Mbps, 1080/60i @ 17Mbps
Rated estimated max HD video length at best quality 29m59s 20 minutes n/a n/a n/a
Audio mono; mic input mono; mic input; headphone jack Stereo; mic input Stereo; mic input; headphone jack Stereo; mic input; headphone jack
LCD size 3 inches fixed
1.04 megadot
3.2 inches fixed
921,000 dots
3-inch fixed
921,600 dots
3 inches tilting
921,600 dots
3 inches articulated
921,600 dots
Memory slots 1 x SDXC 2 x SDXC 1 x SDXC 1 x SDXC 2 x SDXC
Wireless flash No Yes No
(No on-camera flash)
(No on-camera flash)
Battery life
Live View (CIPA rating)
1090/220 shots
(1,800 mAh)
900/n/a shots
(1,900 mAh)
270 shots 340 shots
(1,080 mAh)
410/500 shots
(1,650 mAh)
Wireless connectivity Wi-Fi Via optional WU-1b Wireless Mobile Adapter $59.95 None Wi-Fi, NFC None
Size (inches, WHD) 5.7 x 4.4 x 2.8 5.5 × 4.5 × 3.2 4.5 x 2.6 x 2.8 5.0 x 3.8 x 1.9 5.9 x 4.5 x 3.1
Body operating weight (ounces) 27.2 30.1 17.6 16.7 (est) 25.9 (est)
Mfr. price $2,099 (body only) $2,099.95 (body only) n/a $1,699.99 (body only)/
$2,299.99 (body only)
$2,799.99 (body only)
$2,899 (with 24-105mm lens) $2,699 (with 24-85mm lens) $2,799.99
(fixed 35mm f2 lens)
$1,999.99 (with 28-70mm lens)/n/a n/a
Ship date December 2012 September 2012 July 2013 December 2013 October 2012

It uses the same Wi-Fi implementation as recent NEX models, including support for Sony's proprietary PlayMemories app ecosystem. Some complaints: I dislike that you have to have and log into a Sony account using the horrible keyboard interface on the camera in order to download, at least the first time. You should be able to queue it from your computer or mobile device like Android or iOS 7. And who is going to read terms of use and privacy policies on their camera screen?

However, I didn't have nearly as much problem connecting or maintaining a connection on either Android or iOS 7 as with some other cameras, and the NFC works well for connecting relatively quickly on Android. The (free) updated Smart Remote Control app is a lot more useful than I mentioned in the product video; it now lets you adjust exposure settings and use touch focus, even without a power zoom lens on the camera. The interface for the app is a little sluggish, but otherwise it's quite nice.

It supports direct upload to Flickr via a new (free) app, but there are no new apps specifically developed for the A7/A7R. And keep in mind that the apps are only available in 23 countries (the list is at the bottom of this page). Plus, it feels nickel-and-dimey for Sony to charge you $5 or $10 an app for relatively basic capabilities like multiple exposure, time-lapse or in-camera lens corrections when you've already shelled out $2,300 for the camera.

Overall, there's almost nothing missing. I do wish it had dual SD card slots and a flash; though I rarely use (or recommend) on-camera flash, it's nice to have it in a pinch.

For a complete accounting of the A7R's features and operation, download the PDF manual.

While it's easy to be tempted by the cheaper sibling, I think the noticeably superior image quality of the A7R makes a compelling case for spending the extra money if you've got it. Though the A7 is faster overall, it still has the same poor battery life, loud shutter mechanism, and endless startup time.

The Alpha ILCE-A7R is a great alternative to entry-level full-frame dSLRs like the Nikon D610 and the Canon EOS 6D if you're looking for something more compact, but not for shooting action.

Shooting speed (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Time to first shot
Raw shot-to-shot time
Typical shot-to-shot time
Shutter lag (dim)
Shutter lag (typical)
Olympus PEN E-P5
Sony Alpha NEX-6
Sony Alpha ILCE-7R
Sony Alpha ILCE-7
Nikon D610
Canon EOS 6D

Typical continuous-shooting speed (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

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