Sony Provides More Video Options

Today Sony announced three new products that will mostly appeal to the video user: the A7C II, A7CR, and 16-35mm f/2.8GM II

Let me explain. The C bodies are slimmed down Alpha bodies with an offset EVF, and which have an emphasis on video/vlogging use over still photography use. They can still be used as still cameras, but in the case of the A7C II, it's basically the A7 Mark IV in the C video style body, while the A7CR is basically the A7R Mark V in the same body. BIONZ XR with artificial intelligence powers these bodies, too.

As video-oriented cameras, they have a reduced dot count EVF (and Rear LCD in the case of the A7CR). These cameras are smaller and lighter to be more gimbal friendly, and the new C body is somewhat thicker, probably for heat dissipation. Because the two bodies max out at 4K60P, another compromise is the single SD UHS II card slot (though you need a very fast card to take advantage of the maximum video capabilities).

I'm not a big fan of offset viewfinder cameras, and you can see why in Sony's own launch video: with the cameras handheld at their eyes, their models are having a more difficult time keeping the camera steady ;~). Good thing the built-in stabilization can perform up to 7 stops (with certain lenses). Generally, I'd tend to recommend the original A7 style body for still photography, but the A7CR is only US$3000, a significant discount for 61mp (including 240mp pixel shift) if you can live with the penalties.

You see the continued video emphasis with the update to the 16-35mm f/2.8GM lens, too. The lens has gotten smaller, lighter, and been reworked so that it doesn't change balance when on a gimbal. That took an impressive array of special elements (8 of the 15) and four XD focus motors.

Recent Small Mirrorless News Stories (Aug 21-Sept 3)

Here’s the most recent “small” news relating to mirrorless cameras (similar Z System news is on the site):

  • Tamron issued a development announcement for the 17-50mm f/4 Di III VXD lens for the Sony FE mount. This upcoming lens features internal zoom and focus, making it gimbal friendly.
  • Fujifilm issued firmware 1.12 for the X-S20 to fix a bug.
  • Hasselblad introduced a small 28mm (22mm equivalent) f/4 lens for the XCD system.
  • Viltrox introduced the 28mm f/1.8 lens for Nikon Z (FX) and Sony FE mounts.

Recent Mirrorless News Shorts (August 14-20)

Here’s the most recent “small” news relating to mirrorless cameras (similar Z System news is on the site):

  • Canon executives were quoted as saying "we will study where to license [third-party lens requests] based on Canon's own business plan and strategy." This was in an interview in China, so both via what was said and translation issues, there's a great deal of ambiguity still. However, it seems like Canon may be coming round to the Nikon position, where individual lenses are evaluated as to whether to grant a mount license to or not. Frankly, I believe such a position is counterproductive when even one competitor has an open mount policy. 

This Month's Common Question

It seems that Sony's recent camera introduction is producing a lot of the same question: Canon R7, Fujifilm X-H2s, or Sony A6700?

As always, first up is my admonition against carelessly moving between brands just because there's a "latest and greatest." These three brands, in particular, have a great deal of dissimilarity to their ergonomics, UI, and nomenclature. Thus, by jumping from one brand to another you have a lot of learning, re-learning, and adjustment you need to consider. Are you really spending your time taking better photos, or are you spending all your time trying to figure out your new camera?

But you really answer this question by knowing exactly what it is you're trying to accomplish, and then examining what the cameras in question bring to that. Unfortunately, that's not the question I'm being asked ;~).

I can generalize a few things:

  • The R7 may be fast to autofocus, but it's a noisy camera whenever the mechanical shutter is used in any way.
  • The X-H2s has the biggest set of dedicated lenses for it, but a lot of those might not be the lenses you're buying a speed type of camera for.
  • The A6700 has all the latest and greatest tech, but it still uses an offset viewfinder, which for some motion tracking some users find more difficult to adjust to.

Notice the "x, but..." construct. For everything great about a camera, I can usually (always!) find something that contradicts that. There's no such thing as a "perfect" camera. 

The price range is also quite wide on these three models, too, with the Sony at US$1400, the Canon at US$1500 (currently offered at the same price as the Sony with instant discount), and the Fujifilm at US$2500. You'd expect more from the more expensive camera, and you get that, but is that "more" things that you'll actually use? 

I haven't tested the Sony A6700 yet, but I can say a few things about the other two (plus you can read my full reviews elsewhere on this site (links in the bullets ;~):

  • The Canon R7 does a lot of things right. I wish Nikon made a crop sensor camera this good. The image sensor is fine, the autofocus is excellent for the price point and likely uses, and the R7 decidedly lives right in the long-established Canon UX. A crop sensor Canon user (EF-S or M) would almost certainly find lots to love about the R7. If you're buying for sports and wildlife, you've got plenty of lenses to put on it (RF or EF full frame ones), but if you're more into travel, event, casual photography, you might find the lens choice restrictive (buzz, buzz! I gave it a conditional Recommendation in my review partly because of the lack of some lenses). The R7 is priced right for what it is and does. The images from it can be quite impressive with the right glass out front.
  • The Fujifilm X-H2s is a thinly veiled attempt to steal some "pro thunder" from Canikony (e.g. R3, Z9, A1). Moreover, it has a lot of appeal on paper to the Nikon D500 crowd. While I gave it a lukewarm Recommended rating in my review, it's arguably a better camera than the Canon (build quality, video, shutter, feature depth, etc.). But it's also US$1000 more, so it should be. Yet it doesn't completely dislodge the discontinued, seven-year-old Nikon D500 from the "best crop sensor body" position, either, which given the X-H2s's much newer tech, it should do easily. Moreover, for sports/wildlife, Fujifilm has the more limited lens set at the moment, though what they do have is generally quite good.

I don't like pre-biasing my opinions on something before I test it, but my gut is telling me that I'll have plenty of "x, but..." commentary for the Sony A6700 when I do review it. The truth of the matter is, that at this sensor size and these price points, you're not buying the very best each camera maker has to offer. You're buying a camera that compromises some things to hit a price point. So it's important to understand those compromises and make sure you can live with them.

That said, in terms of "best possible mirrorless crop sensor camera," there's really only two models that I feel can really compete for that title at the moment. The Fujifilm X-H2s is one. The other is the m4/3 OM-1. However, the smaller sensor and 4:3 aspect ratio of the OM-1 bring up other questions you have to answer. 

Most people seem to be trying to decide between which high-end APS-C sensor camera to buy at the moment, thus all the "Canon R7, Fujifilm X-H2s, or Sony A6700?" questions I'm getting lately. Stick to your lane (brand) would be my first and most useful advice. 

Recent Mirrorless News Shorts (July 29-Aug 13)

As an experiment, I’ve started accumulating “small” news announcements into a once-a-week story. This helps me be a little more productive and seems to align with the way most people are coming to this site (once or twice a week, but every week). Here’s the most recent “small” news relating to mirrorless cameras (similar Z System news is on the site):

  • Pergear announced the 60mm f/2.8 II Ultra-macro lens, an updated version of its 2x crop sensor lens.
  • Tamron sent out a Development Announcement for the next generation of the 70-180mm f/2.8 lens. The lens will get a G2 moniker and now include VC image stabilization. Other changes will be a shorter minimum focus distance at the wider focal length, and the inclusion of VXD focus motors instead of stepping motors. The optical design is also said to have been enhanced.
  • Zhong Yi Optics introduced three t/1 cine lenses for the Z mount: 20mm, 35mm, 50mm.
  • The previously announced Fringer EF-FX Pro III adapter (Canon EF to Fujifilm XF) has started shipping. The main change is added weather sealing.
  • Voigtlander announced the 50mm f/1.2 NOKTON lens for the Fujifilm XF system.
  • Laowa announced a new wide angle zoom lens for crop sensor mirrorless cameras at a Chinese trade show.
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