Like many I've been fascinated by Sony's efforts to cut digital photography down to size first with the NEX series, then the RX's (RX1, RX2 and RX100 and RX100 II) and now with the A7/A7r combos.
Reports for the highly pre- and post acclaimed A7 and A7r have been mostly positive and praise seems to be nearly entirely focused (pun intended) on the 'game-changing' OM-1-esque physical size, sensor megapixelage, ability to use gazillions of lenses from other marques (despite Sony's apparent dearth of anything initially save for what appears to be a very sharp and somewhat slow, albeit corner smearing, f2.8 35mm and an apparently very very sharp f1.8 55mm optic) and, clearly, the lower price point.
But from what I can tell there seems to be a pass on the shutter loudness, so-so AF, and significant color casts and other anomalies when using anything wider than 35mm. (Curiously, however, not enough of a concern for outfits like POP Photo and others to crown Sony's latest, "Camera of the year".)
Ashwin Rao and others have already expressed concerns using the A7r handheld unless you totally ramp up sensor signal amplification (a.k.a. ISO) allowing you to use seriously high shutter speeds or expect blurry shots when using these cameras hand held. I've seen many posts and reviews that issue the caveat of using 'careful' technique particularly for the 36 mp model. (Read: use a tripod and check your seismograph before heading out.)
The care factor was certainly brought to light to me (yes another pun intended) yesterday when I went over the "Photography Blog" website (Home | PhotographyBLOG) who'd recently published their reviews of Sony/Zeiss 55mm f1.8 as well as the A7 and A7r and downloaded sample images. I also downloaded images taken with the RX1 which they had reviewed earlier in the year. (What's nice about these guys is their sample images are frequently of identical subjects and scenes so comparisons are relatively easy. For example, they often shoot an alley way or entry way apparently near their office with a bicycle hanging or parked there. I was able to download the same scene taken with the 55 mounted on the A7 and A7r and even the RX1 which I also viewed in comparison).
While some of the shots were quite impressive (yah-yah detail in spades) I was really shocked at how blurred many of the images were when taken by A7 and A7r vs the RX1.
Then the Richard Feynman in me kicked in and began to wonder if something else was afoot with the physics going on here.
As many have noted there is a considerable SHLUCK from the shutter of both the A7 and the A7r. Now while many have viewed it as an issue to be considered when shooting a guy trying to set up mile-long falling domino demonstration to get into the Guiness Book of Records I took the sound to mean a very potent shutter mechanism with apparently very little damping which means a significant amount of energy released with every press of the spongy button.
In a larger camera, (like a typical DSLR) there is enough mass (or from your perspective lbs or newtons) that the energy released from an equivalent shutter would most likely go unaffected. That is, due to the larger mass (i.e. greater weight) of a typical DSLR there is greater inertia (or tendency to stay at rest) from the much greater weight of the DSLR vs the relative flea-like weight of the A7 or A7r. A camera with less mass would require less energy to get it rockin' and rollin' than a camera with significantly larger mass (since more molecules have to be jostled to move in any significant way). In other words, the smaller size of Sony's achievement coupled with their somewhat beefy shutter mechanism is why, despite good handholding technique, unless you're really anchored it, there's considerable shake, rattle and roll going on inside and that results in a greater chance of having blurred the image from all that going on while the shutter, however briefly, is open and the sensor is taking in all that photonic goodness. (Thus the remarks about how 'unforgiving' the camera is and caveats for having good technique when using it!)
Interestingly enough, the RX1 uses a leaf shutter instead of a focal plane shutter. And this along with it's somewhat 'denser' construction plays a major role in making sure that camera yields a higher percentage of tack sharp images at somewhat slower shutter speeds. A leaf shutter is much more 'balanced' than a focal plane shutter because the blades all move in one direction (and, thus, transmit a force going in one direction--the direction the blades all move concurrently--which you have to counterbalance with your own steadiness if you're holding the camera in your hands). The leaf shutter's action, on the other hand (so to speak), is a more 'balanced' action with the mechanism pulling the blades away from a center in equal with lines of force going opposite directions so any vibrations created actually 'cancel' each other out with less extra work on your part to keep the camera steady (sort of the principle behind the circular airplane engines of yore to keep vibration down). This contributes to the RX1's ability to produce tack sharp images even when hand held at slower shutter speeds. (Although adding a somewhat heavy grip from Really Really Stuff will improve this even more! I mean the thing IS small and the finish quite slippery!)
Just a thought.
Now for a short quiz. :sleep006: