A Travel Photographer’s Guide to Sony Full-Frame E-Mount System (FE)

Sony Full-Frame E-Mount System (FE)

PART 1: THE CAMERAS

Product images from: SONY Press Centre, Licence: Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 3.0)

As of now, Sony uses two lens mounts for their cameras and camcorders: the A-mount, which is a Konica Minolta technology, acquired in 2006, and the E-mount, which was developed by Sony for their mirrorless cameras and camcorders in 2010. The first E-mount cameras had APS-C sized sensors, but in 2013 Sony surprised many people and announced the A7 and A7R, which were the smallest and lightest cameras with interchangeable lenses and full-frame sensors at that time.

What is the difference between SLRs, DSLRs and mirrorless cameras? They are all camera systems with interchangeable lenses, the main difference is the presence or absence of the mirror. Single-lens reflex cameras (SLRs) use a mirror and prism system that allows the photographer to see through the lens and compose the image. The mirror reflects the image seen by the lens, so that the photographer can see it in the viewfinder. When the shutter button is pressed to take a photo, the mirror goes up and the light going into the lens reaches the film or the sensor and the image can be captured. A DSLR is simply a “digital SLR” which uses a digital sensor to capture images and not photographic film (negatives or slides), as in the case of SLRs. In mirrorless cameras, as the name suggests, there is no mirror and the light goes through the lens and reaches the sensor directly. The camera’s electronic systems transfer the image from the sensor to the electronic viewfinder or the LCD screen at the back of the camera. When the shutter button is pressed the image is saved to the memory card or other attached storage.

Which technology is better, DSLRs or mirrorless? They both have their advantages and disadvantages. As there is no flipping mirror mechanism in mirrorless cameras, they can be smaller and lighter, which is great e.g. for travel and outdoor photographers. Also, mirrorless cameras can have some quite useful and unique features, for example focus-peaking and zebra-peaking. On the other hand, DSLRs are generally considered faster and are very often preferred by sports photographers.

What is the difference between APS-C and full-frame sensors? The answer is short and simple: the size. Full-frame sensors, also known as 35mm, have a larger surface and correspond to 35mm film in analogue photography. The dimensions of a full-frame sensor are around 36 x 24 mm. APS-C sensor size is more or less equivalent to Advanced Photo System negatives, if you remember them. The dimensions of APS-C are around 25.1 × 16.7 mm and may vary slightly among manufacturers. There are also other sensor types, for example 1-inch, which is smaller than APS-C, or medium format, which contrary to what its name suggests, is larger than full-frame. APS-C and full-frame, however, are the most common sensor formats used in interchangeable lens cameras.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of full-frame and APS-C sensors? In theory, full-frame sensors offer a better dynamic range and better low-light performance (less noise) than APS-C sensors of the same generation and from the same manufacturer. And in practice, it is usually the case. However, cameras with full-frame sensors are usually more expensive, because larger sensors are more expensive to manufacture. Also full-frame lenses tend to be more expensive than their APS-C counterparts with similar specifications. However, full-frame lenses can be used on APS-C cameras, if they have a compatible mount. Conversely, APS-C lenses don’t cover the full surface of a full-frame sensor but some full-frame cameras may also have an APS-C mode (also known as “crop mode”). Full-frame cameras are usually a good recommendation for landscape, architectural and portrait photographers, or anybody who needs a high dynamic range, good quality ultra wide-angle lenses or a shallow depth-of-field. APS-C cameras, on the other hand, are great for wildlife or sports photographers. A 200 mm lens on a crop camera gives a similar field of view as a 300 mm lens on a full-frame camera (focal length multiplied by the crop factor, usually 1.5 or 1.6), so with the same lens the photographer is able to “get closer” to subject.

SONY A7 FAMILY COMPARISON – 1st GENERATION OF FULL-FRAME E-MOUNT CAMERAS
SONY A7 SONY A7R SONY A7S
Alt. Model Designation: ILCE-7 ILCE-7R ILCE-7S
Announced in: 2013 2013 2014
Sensor: 24.3 Megapixels
Full-frame Exmor CMOS
36.4 Megapixels
Full-frame Exmor CMOS
12.2 Megapixels
Full-frame Exmor CMOS
Max. Resolution (Photos): 6000 x 4000 7360 x 4912 4240 x 2832
Max. Resolution (Video): 1920 x 1080 (HD) 1920 x 1080 (HD)
  • Internal recording: 1920 x 1080 (HD)
  • UHD is possible with compatible external recorders (purchased separately)
ISO Sensitivity:
  • Normal: ISO 100-6400
  • Extended: ISO 50-25600
  • Normal: ISO 100-6400
  • Extended: ISO 50-25600
  • Normal: ISO 100-102400
  • Extended: ISO 50-409600
Shutter Speeds (Photos): 1/8000 to 30 sec, Bulb 1/8000 to 30 sec, Bulb 1/8000 to 30 sec, Bulb
Focus Type:
  • Contrast-detection
  • Phase-detection
  • Contrast-detection
  • Contrast-detection
Number of AF Points:
  • 35mm full frame: 117 points (phase-detection AF)
  • APS-C: 99 points (phase-detection AF) / 25 points (contrast-detection AF)
  • 25 points
  • 25 points
Images Quality Modes: JPG Extra Fine / JPG Fine / JPG Standard / RAW / RAW + JPG  JPG Extra Fine / JPG Fine / JPG Standard / RAW / RAW+JPG  JPG Extra Fine / JPG Fine / JPG Standard / RAW / RAW+JPG
RAW Output: 14-bit RAW, lossy compression  14-bit RAW, lossy compression  14-bit RAW, lossy compression
Auto (AE) Bracketing
  •  With 1/3 EV, 1/2 EV, 2/3 EV, 1.0 EV, 2.0 EV, 3.0 EV increments
  • 3 or 5 frames (2.0 EV, 3.0 EV: only 3 frames) selectable
  • With 1/3 EV, 1/2 EV, 2/3 EV, 1.0 EV, 2.0 EV, 3.0 EV increments
  • 3 or 5 frames (2.0 EV, 3.0 EV: only 3 frames) selectable
  • With 1/3 EV, 1/2 EV, 2/3 EV, 1.0 EV, 2.0 EV, 3.0 EV increments
  • 3 or 5 frames selectable
Video Recording Formats: AVCHD 2.0 / MP4  AVCHD 2.0 / MP4  AVCHD 2.0 / MP4 / XAVC S (up to 1920 x 1080/50p 28 Mbps)
Video Compression:
  • AVCHD: MPEG-4 AVC/H.264
  • MP4: MPEG-4 AVC/H.264
  • AVCHD: MPEG-4 AVC/H.264
  • MP4: MPEG-4 AVC/H.264
  •  AVCHD: MPEG-4 AVC/H.264
  • MP4: MPEG-4 AVC/H.264
  • XAVC S: MPEG-4 AVC/H.264
Video Modes (NTSC Version):
  • 1920 x 1080 (24p, 17M, FH)
  • 1920 x 1080 (24p, 24M, FX)
  • 1920 x 1080 (60i, 17M, FH)
  • 1920 x 1080 (60i, 24M, FX)
  • 720 STD (1280 x 720, 30 fps)
  • AVCHD:1920 x 1080 (60p, 28M, PS)
  • AVC MP4: 1440 x 1080 (30 fps)
  • MPEG 4: 720 Fine (1280 x 720, 30 fps)
  • VGA(640 x 480, 30 fps)

PAL version of the camera can be switched to NTSC mode with its frame rates.
NTSC version cannot be switched to PAL  mode.

  • 1920 x 1080 (24p, 17M, FH)
  • 1920 x 1080 (24p, 24M, FX)
  • 1920 x 1080 (60i, 17M, FH)
  • 1920 x 1080 (60i, 24M, FX)
  • 1440 x 1080 (30fps)
  • 1920 x 1080 (60p, 28M, PS)
  • VGA(640 x 480, 30 fps)

PAL version of the camera can be switched to NTSC mode with its frame rates.
NTSC version cannot be switched to PAL  mode.

  • AVCHD: 1920 x 1080 (60p/28 Mbps/PS, 60i/24 Mbps/FX, 60i/17 Mbps/FH, 24p/24 Mbps/FX, 24p/17 Mbps/FH)
  • MP4: 1440 x 1080 (30 fps/12 Mbps), 640 x 480 (30 fps/3 Mbps)
  • XAVC S: 1920 x 1080 (60p/50 Mbps, 30p/50 Mbps, 24p/50 Mbps), 1280 x 720 (120p/50 Mbps)

PAL version of the camera can be switched to NTSC mode with its frame rates.
NTSC version cannot be switched to PAL  mode.

Recording Media: 1 Slot: SD / SDHC™ / SDXC™ / Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo™ / Memory Stick PRO Duo™ / Memory Stick XC-HG Duo™  1 Slot: SD / SDHC™ / SDXC™ / Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo™ / Memory Stick PRO Duo™ / Memory Stick XC-HG Duo™  1 Slot: SD / SDHC™ / SDXC™ / Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo™ / Memory Stick PRO Duo™ / Memory Stick XC-HG Duo™
Silent Shutter: NO NO YES
Battery: NP-FW50 NP-FW50 NP-FW50
Battery Life (CIPA, Stills): Up to 340 photos Up to 340 photos  Up to 380 photos
Battery Life (CIPA, Video):
  • Actual Recording: Approx. 60 minutes (Viewfinder), Approx 65 minutes (LCD screen) (CIPA standard)
  • Continuous Recording: Approx. 100 minutes (Viewfinder), Approx 100 minutes (LCD screen) (CIPA standard)
  • Actual Recording: Approx. 60 min (viewfinder) / Approx. 65 min (LCD monitor) (CIPA standard)
  • Continuous Recording: Approx. 90 min (viewfinder) / Approx. 90 min (LCD monitor)
  •  Actual: Approx. 55 min with viewfinder, approx. 60 min with LCD screen (CIPA standard)
  • Continuous: Approx. 90 min with viewfinder, approx. 90 min with LCD screen (CIPA standard)
GPS: NO NO NO
Dimensions (W x H x D): 126.9 x 94.4 x 48.2 mm 126.9 x 94.4 x 48.2 mm 126.9 x 94.4 x 48.2 mm
Weight:
  • 416 g / 14.67 oz (body only)
  • 474 g / 16.72 oz (with battery + media)
  • 407 g / 14.36 oz (body only)
  • 465 g / 16.40 oz (with battery + media)
  • 446 g / 15.73 oz (body only)
  • 489 g / 17.25 oz (with battery + media)
Strong Points:
  • “Jack of all trades, master of none”
  • Relatively high photo resolution in a small and lightweight camera
  • Low-light performance
  • Great video quality and features
Weak Points:
  • Video quality and features: lack of XAVC-S codec, no S-log profiles
  • Lack of electronic front curtain shutter
  • Video quality and features
  • Low resolution for photos
  • 4K only with an external recorder
My Personal Opinion / Target Groups / Recommended for:
  • Advanced amateurs, camera enthusiasts, travellers.
  • Excellent also as a backup or lightweight secondary camera.
  • The lack of electronic front curtain may cause shutter vibrations during exposures. It affects photos taken with telephoto lenses at certain shutter speeds and the result may be blurry images. It may not matter at all to some photographers, but for me it was the deal-breaker. I didn’t buy this camera and cannot recommend it. Fortunately, Sony listened to feedback and improved it in subsequent models.
  • Great for events and weddings (silent shutter and low-light performance).
  • Most videographers would be better served now by A7SII or A7RII, because these 2 cameras can record in 4K without external recorders.
Launch Price: $1699 / €1499 / £1299 $2299 / €2099 / £1699 $2499 / €2399 / £2099
Check Current Price / Availability
SONY A7II FAMILY COMPARISON – 2nd GENERATION OF FULL-FRAME E-MOUNT CAMERAS
SONY A7 II SONY A7R II SONY A7S II
Alt. Model Designation: ILCE-7M2 ILCE-7RM2 ILCE-7SM2
Announced in: 2014 2015 2015
Sensor: 24.3 Megapixels
Full-frame Exmor CMOS
42.4 Megapixels
Full-frame Exmor CMOS
12.2 Megapixels
Full-frame Exmor CMOS
Max. Resolution (Photos): 6000 x 4000 7952 x 5304 4240 x 2832
Max. Resolution (Video): 1920 x 1080 (HD) 3940 x 2160 (UHD) 3940 x 2160 (UHD)
ISO Sensitivity:
  • Normal: ISO 100-6400
  • Extended: ISO 50-25600
  • Normal: ISO 100-25600
  • Extended: ISO 50-102400
  • Video: ISO 100-25600
  • Normal: ISO 100-102400
  • Extended: ISO 50-409600
Shutter Speeds (Photos): 1/8000 to 30 sec, Bulb 1/8000 to 30 sec, Bulb 1/8000 to 30 sec, Bulb
Focus Type:
  • Fast Hybrid AF (phase-detection AF/contrast-detection AF)
  • Fast Hybrid AF (phase-detection AF/contrast-detection AF)
  • Contrast-detection
Number of AF Points:
  • 35mm full frame: 117 points (phase-detection AF)
  • APS-C: 99 points (phase-detection AF) / 25 points (contrast-detection AF)
  • 35 mm full frame: 399 points (phase-detection AF)
  • APS-C: 357 points (phase-detection AF)/25 points (contrast-detection AF)
  • 169 points (contrast-detection AF)
Images Quality Modes: JPG Extra Fine / JPG Fine / JPG Standard / RAW / RAW + JPG JPG Extra Fine / JPG Fine / JPG Standard / RAW / RAW+JPG JPG Extra Fine / JPG Fine / JPG Standard / RAW / RAW+JPG
RAW Output:
  • 14-bit RAW – lossy compression
  • uncompressed RAW is optional (firmware update may be required)
  • 14-bit RAW – lossy compression
  • uncompressed RAW is optional (firmware update may be required)
  • 14-bit RAW – lossy compression
  • uncompressed RAW is optional (firmware update may be required)
Auto (AE) Bracketing: With 1/3 EV, 1/2 EV, 2/3 EV, 1.0 EV, 2.0 EV, 3.0 EV increments

3 or 5 frames selectable

With 1/3 EV, 1/2 EV, 2/3 EV, 1.0 EV, 2.0 EV, 3.0 EV increments

3 or 5 frames selectable

With 1/3 EV, 1/2 EV, 2/3 EV, 1.0 EV, 2.0 EV, 3.0 EV increments

3 or 5 frames selectable

Low-pass Filter: Yes Removed  Yes
Stabilization: 5-Axis Sensor-Shift Stabilization 5-Axis Sensor-Shift Stabilization 5-Axis Sensor-Shift Stabilization
Video Recording Formats: AVCHD 2.0 / MP4 / XAVC S (up to 1920 x 1080/60p 50Mbps) XAVC S/AVCHD format Ver. 2.0 compliant/MP4 XAVC S/AVCHD format Ver. 2.0 compliant/MP4
Video Compression:
  • AVCHD: MPEG-4 AVC/H.264
  • MP4: MPEG-4 AVC/H.264
  • XAVC S: MPEG-4 AVC/H.264
  • AVCHD: MPEG-4 AVC/H.264
  • MP4: MPEG-4 AVC/H.264
  • XAVC S: MPEG-4 AVC/H.264
  • AVCHD: MPEG-4 AVC/H.264
  • MP4: MPEG-4 AVC/H.264
  • XAVC S: MPEG-4 AVC/H.264
Clean HDMI Output:
  •  up to 1080/60p, 4:2:2 8 bit/RGB 8 bit
  • NTSC: 3,840 x 2,160 (30p/24p)/1,920 x 1,080 (60p/24p)/1,920 x 1,080 (60i), YCbCr 4:2:2 8 bit/RGB 8 bit
  • PAL: 3,840 x 2,160 (25p)/1,920 x 1,080 (50p)/1,920 x 1,080 (50i), YCbCr 4:2:2 8 bit/RGB 8 bit
  •  NTSC: 3840 x 2160 (30p/24p)/1920 x 1080 (60p/24p)/1920 x 1080 (60i),YCbCr 4:2:2 8bit/RGB 8bit
  • PAL: 3840 x 2160 (25p) / 1920 x 1080 (50p) / 1920 x 1080 (50i),YCbCr 4:2:2 8bit/ RGB 8bit
Picture Profiles (Video):  Yes (Off/PP1-PP7) Parameters: Black level, Gamma (Movie, Still, Cine1-4, ITU709, ITU709 [800%], S-Log2), Black Gamma, Knee, Color Mode, Saturation, Color Phase, Color Depth, Detail, Copy, Reset Yes (Off/PP1-PP7) Parameters: Black level, Gamma (Movie, Still, Cine1-4, ITU709, ITU709 [800%], S-Log2), Black Gamma, Knee, Color Mode, Saturation, Color Phase, Color Depth, Detail, Copy, Reset  Yes (Off / PP1-PP9) Parameters: Black level, Gamma (Movie, Still, Cine1-4, ITU709, ITU709 [800%], S-Log2, S-Log3), Black Gamma, Knee, Color Mode (Movie, Still, Cinema, Pro, ITU709 Matrix, White&Black, S-Gamut, S-Gamut3.Cine, S-Gamut3), Saturation, Color Phase, Color Depth, Detail, Copy, Reset
Recording Media: 1 Slot: SD / SDHC™ / SDXC™ / Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo™ / Memory Stick PRO Duo™ / Memory Stick XC-HG Duo™ 1 Slot: SD / SDHC™ / SDXC™ / Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo™ / Memory Stick PRO Duo™ / Memory Stick XC-HG Duo™ 1 Slot: SD / SDHC™ / SDXC™ / Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo™ / Memory Stick PRO Duo™ / Memory Stick XC-HG Duo™
Silent Shutter: NO YES YES
Battery: NP-FW50 NP-FW50 NP-FW50
Battery Life (CIPA, Stills): Up to 350 photos Approx. 290 shots (viewfinder) / Approx. 340 shots (LCD screen) (CIPA standard) Approx. 310 shots (viewfinder) / Approx. 370 shots (LCD screen) (CIPA standard)
Battery Life (CIPA, Video):
  • Actual: Approx. 60 min with viewfinder, approx. 65 min with LCD screen (CIPA standard)
  • Continuous: Approx. 100 min with viewfinder, approx. 100 min with LCD screen (CIPA standard)
  • Actual: Approx. 50 min. with viewfinder, approx. 55 min. with LCD screen (CIPA standard)
  • Continuous: Approx. 95 min with viewfinder, approx. 95 min with LCD screen (CIPA standard)
Actual: Approx. 55 min with viewfinder, approx. 60 min with LCD screen (CIPA standard)

Continuous: Approx. 90 min with viewfinder, approx. 90 min with LCD screen (CIPA standard)

Built-in GPS: NO NO NO
Dimensions (W x H x D): 126.9 x 95.7 x 59.7 mm 126.9 x 95.7 x 60.3 mm 126.9 x 95.7 x 60.3 mm
Weight: 556 g / 19.61 oz (body only)

599 g / 21.13 oz (with battery + media)

582 g / 20.53 oz (body only)

625 g / 22.05 oz (with battery + media)

584 g / 20.06 oz (body only)

627 g / 22.12 oz (with battery + media)

Strong Points:
  • 5-Axis Stabilizer
  • XAVC-S codec, S-log2
  • 4K without external recorders
  • 5-Axis Stabilizer
  • Very high resolution
  • Great low-light performance and overall image quality
  • Video features, S-log2 profile starting at ISO 800
  • Fantastic low-light performance
  • 4K without external recorders
  • 5-Axis Stabilizer
  • Great video quality and features
Weak Points:
  • No 4K video
  • In terms of speed, current high-end DSLRs might still be a better choice for sports and wildlife photographers.
  • Battery life
  • In terms of speed, current high-end DSLRs might still be a better choice for sports and wildlife photographers.
  • Battery life
  • Low resolution for photos (but in video mode it makes full pixel readout possible, without line skipping or pixel binning)
  • Battery life
My Personal Opinion / Target Groups / Recommended for:

Advanced amateurs, camera enthusiasts, landscape and travel photographers who don’t need 4k video.

A great follow-up to the original A7 with in-camera stabilization. Not the most advanced camera in Sony’s range, but still a good value for money.

This is a truly ground-breaking camera. Not only did Sony listen to the feedback about the absence of electronic front curtain in the first generation and fixed it, but they also completely surprised the photographic industry with the features of this model. All the innovative features were packed into a relatively compact body. It is a fantastic camera for landscape, architecture and travel photographers. As of 2016, the A7RII is my favourite camera. Right now, there is no other camera that:

  • can produce images at such high resoultion with great dynamic range, and
  • can record beautiful 4k videos even in low-light situations, and
  • is so compact and weighs so little.

The last time when I was so excited about a new camera was when Canon released the 5D Mk II.

  • An absolutely fantastic small UHD camera for videographers.
  • Most photographers will be better served by the A7RII, which has a much higher photo resolution and still can produce very good videos in UHD.
Launch Price: $1699 / €1799 / £1499 $3198 / €3499 / £2599 $2499 / €2399 / £2099
Check Current Price / Availability Amazon.com

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NOTE: The information presented on this page has been carefully compiled from official manufacturers’ materials. All information is presented for the convenience of the readers only, in a user-friendly format. All information is provided “as is”, without any warranties about its accuracy. For critical applications of the products mentioned on this page please double-check their specifications with their manufacturer or authorized dealers.

COMING SOON: Lens Finder for Sony Full-frame E-Mount Cameras

2016-12-29T05:46:06+00:00