After numerous leaks, Sony has announced two full-frame mirrorless system cameras built around the NEX E-mount. The A7 and A7R are nearly identical on the outside, but on the inside the A7 sports a 24MP sensor with phase detection AF, while the A7R has a 36MP sensor with no optical low-pass filter and contrast-detect AF.
Both cameras are built around Sony's NEX E-mount, but new FE lenses are needed to fully utilize the full-frame sensor. Existing E-mount lenses will work but the image will be cropped - you can however, choose not to crop the image but shoot with vignetting, akin to mounting an APS-C lens on a full-frame DSLR camera. Sony Alpha lenses can be mounted on the new A7 and A7R with either the Sony LA-EA3 or LA-EA4 adapters.
The two cameras also feature a new Bionz X image processor, an XGA OLED digital viewfinder, a 3" tilting LCD, built-in Wi-Fi with NFC and 1080/50p video recording. The A7 has a metal frame with an external top cover in magnesium alloy and the body alone weighs 416g, while the 7R has a magnesium alloy body that's dust and moisture resistant and weighs in less at 407g.
While the 24MP and 36MP numbers might sound familiar to Nikon DSLR users, the sensors inside are apparently not the same as those found in Nikon's 24MP DSLRs and the D800E. Together with the two new cameras, Sony has also announced three new native FE lenses:
The local prices have not yet been confirmed but DP Review has the US prices listed; the A7 will retail at US$1,700 (body alone) and US$2,000 (with a 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 full-frame lens). The A7R will be seeling at US$2,300 (body alone).
Sony's digital camera division has certainly been hitting it out of the ballpark the last two years - they've made the best digital compact camera on the market for the last two years now with the RX100 and the RX100 II, as well as made the RX1, the world's smallest full-frame digital compact camera. If anything, it should ring out loud and clear as a shot across the bow of the big two camera manufacturers, both of which we would have bet to see this kind of innovation coming from instead of Sony.
On paper, the A7 and A7R certainly impress, but the real test of the pudding is in the tasting, we're especially curious about the camera's user interface, because the ones we've experienced on the NEX cameras could use some work. We also want to see if Sony has solved the soft corners which seem to plague Sony NEX cameras and lenses because of the short flange-back distance.
Last thing: Sony has certainly taken the old maxim "form follows function" to heart here; while the fact that they've managed to squeeze full-frame sensors into such small bodies certainly impress, the two boxy cameras both look uninspiring.