2013 Sony DI Press Excursion - Some Hands on Fun with the A7, A7R, and RX10

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This year the Sony DI Press Excursion took place in Nashville TN, where they unveiled several new camera and video camera models. During the event, we were able to get some hands on shooting time with the new Alpha 7, Alpha 7R and Cyber-shot RX10. With only a few models available and a large number of guests, we were not able to use the Cyber-shot QX10 and QX-100, but heard good things from those who did get to use them.

Complimenting these fantastic still cameras; Sony also introduced two new video cameras that will be out soon and the updated Action Cam. The biggest excitement was for their new consumer 4K Handycam Camcorder the FDR-AX1. They also introduced a new HD camcorder with amazing sound capabilities that is designed for the up and coming musician. Along with this wonderful set of cameras, we also received presentations by engineers, Sony Artisans of Imagery and President & COO Phil Molyneux. During these times it was really easy to see how excited and impressed everyone is with their new products. Sony also gave us access to two of their Digital Imaging engineers to ask questions and share our ideas and concerns about their new products.

On our trip, Sony presented us with fantastic shooting situations, both indoors and out, in which we were able to test the cameras on all levels. We were taken outside on several occasions where we were surrounded by the beautiful fall scenery in Tennessee. Wonderful places like Rock City and the Jack Daniels distillery gave us numerous situations to capture the wonderful landscapes. A trip hang gliding and off-road driving gave us a sense of adventure while letting us shoot the action. We were then taken inside into Ocean Way Nashville Studios for a recording session with Leah Turner, an up and coming country singer. Finally to really test the low light capabilities of the new lineup, we were given a concert by Ben Folds at the famous Ryman Auditorium. Samples from each camera at these and other venues are available for each of the cameras that we used.

With our first hands on experience with the a7 (Alpha 7), we were amazed at the compact size and comfort provided by this camera, while knowing that this compact body featured a full-frame image sensor. The Exmor 24.3-Megapixel imaging sensor with built-in phase detection pixels and new BIONZ X image processor gives the camera amazing performance in any situation and any lighting conditions. Lenses are attached via the E-mount system, allowing you to use all of the lenses for the NEX cameras as well. We were provided with two adapters, the LA-EA3 and LA-EA4, which allowed us to use the full line of A-mount lenses as well. The new LA-EA4 adapter shows a lot of promise, allowing continuous phase-detection while shooting. Our pre-production models were still in need of some fine tuning, but provided much faster autofocus than the LA-EA3.

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Pushing the limits of what Sony could put into the camera body, the a7R (Alpha 7R) features the same new BIONZ X processor and a new 36.4-Megapixel, full-frame CMOS imaging sensor. These combined to produce amazing image quality in various lighting conditions. One of the major differences between the a7 and a7R is the different AF systems. The a7R does not have the built-in phase detection, and in return is a little slower to focus, especially in low light situations. We also noticed that while using the a7R, the shutter felt clunky. By this we mean that you can really feel when the shutter opens and closes. It is also louder than the a7; almost sounding like the camera is capturing two images instead of one.  One other difference between the two is that the 7R's higher resolution image sensor (36.4MP vs 24.3MP) does not feature an optical low pass filter.

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Another big, soon to be released camera by Sony is the Cyber-shot RX10. This camera gives a new sense of power and versatility to a compact camera. Sporting a 1", 20.4-Megapixel imaging sensor and 24-200mm, f/2.8 lens; Sony has really pushed the boundaries on what a compact fixed lens camera is capable of. Loaded with the great features that you expect to find on a Cyber-shot camera, and the quality and versatility that Sony has introduced on their previous RX models, this camera is a great option for enthusiasts that don't want to have to worry about carrying multiple lenses. It also remains easy enough to use for those in a household or business that do not have a great deal of photography experience. This may be the most versatile bridge camera we've seen for crossing the line between compact and ILC/dSLR on the market.

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Bottom Line - Once again Sony was able to put together an amazing event to introduce their new line of Digital Imaging equipment. Our time with their products and staff has given us a great idea about their new products and the direction in which Sony is pushing themselves and their products; trying to change the world of digital photography. With what seemed like an incredibly short period of time with these cameras, we were definitely disappointed to have to give them back, and are really looking forward to getting our hands on them for full review. We are also looking forward to getting our hands on the QX10, QX100 and the new HD music camcorder for the first time. Finally, we would like to thank Sony once again for the opportunity to be part of this fantastic event.

-By