#294. Less is More – A Personal Wishlist for Sony

By pascaljappy | Opinion

Nov 14

A few days ago, rumour-meister and blogging friend Andrea, from SonyAlphaRumors reignited our interest in a successor to the A7 / A7r camera range in the form of a Pro-level E-mount body released early next year.

It appears, then, that Sony will soon want us to part with a significant few of our pennies in exchange for new and improved sensors, AF and bodies.

But, frankly, all of these promises leave me … a bit cold.

Odd looking bridge face ornament in Amsterdam

We’ve reached a point where everyone recognizes the technical superiority of a good 24Mpix/36Mpix FF sensor compared to even the best medium format film systems that were once the exclusive realm of well-to-do pros.

We’ve reached a point where a well-exposed A7r file can print to gallery sizes and a couple of stitches can help you cover a wall.

We’ve reached a point in the industry where Sony is making a difference thanks to innovative mirrorless thinking more than technical superiority to competitors such as the Nikon D800.

And we’ve reached a point where the Sony A7x range is as good technically as 99.9% of photographers will ever use effectively but where the ergonomics are seriously flawed.


My Christmas Wishlist from Sony

Dear Sony,

I’ve been such a good boy. What I’d like from Sony Santa this year is less, not more.

Less (shutter) noise

You’ve shown us you know what electronic shutters are, but even a conventional shutter will do. Only, not made of tin or whatever is used in the A7r. Not only is the A7r impossibly loud for quiet locations such as theaters, galleries, museums, churches (you know, just 90% of the stuff you visit while traveling …) it is also enough to create stress and strong nervous tension after a long day outdoors. Some days, I just reach a point where I have to put the thing back in the bag and use … my smartphone instead, because the noise is driving me nuts.

The Armageddon set explodes at Disney Paris

Less lag

Have you ever driven a car from the 80’s, when the turbo craze caught on ? You pressed the loud pedal, had lunch and, mid-way through dessert and a tight corner, received a mighty thump in your back and spun off into the weeds. Since then, greasy engineers have worked out that multiple, smaller turbos or belt-driven superchargers reduce lag to a very manageable level while retaining all the juicy grin-inducing, hooliganism-encouraging abilities of their forefathers. Heck, they’ve even become greener in the process!

Somehow, the opposite seems to have happened at Sony!

I don’t recall any frustration from my old and much-loved NEX-5n or my current NEX-5r. They just work within reasonable time limits and never get in my way. But fire-up an A7r after noticing an interesting street photo opportunity and, not only will all protagonist gone to bed before that thing is operational, but grass will have grown visibly longer!

It really isn’t fun. And certainly can’t cut it on a pro-level body.

A DearSusan reader and her iPad - London 2014.

Less crazy

In what universe does the image-review ergonomics on the A7 make sense? The lab that designed and okayed that process and button layout must be a really scary place to work.

$100 fix: rent an M9 for an hour and copy.

$50 fix: rent a D800 for an hour and copy.

Pumpking carvins in the widwo of a Coswold house, one eating the other

Less wandering


Automatic: check

Balance: check

White: errr, not really


Less wondering

Not a week goes by without a new sensor technology being patented. Foveon-style. Electric grid. Curved. Whatever … And that’s great. Sony is changing the game, pushing the boundaries, exploring uncharted territory …

But Sony isn’t really shipping. As Seth Godin puts it: “Real artists ship”. Perfection is nice, but delivering products is what matters. Only when you ship can you answer people’s needs, get feedback and improve. Sony is constantly inventing incredible new sensor technology, putting acceptable – but not great – bodies around these sensors and leaving the world dry when it comes to lenses.

Will I invest in a new sensor tech camera when one is released? I honestly don’t know. If Sony’s track record with the E-mount is anything to judge by, building a Sony-centered system isn’t a tempting proposition. I recently acquired a Zeiss Loxia 50/2 and that is such a lovely lens to own. But I’m not buying anything else from that stable until the future is a bit clearer. At least M-mount and R-mount lenses are easy to sell off. What happens to the Loxia if a new mount is released or if new sensors require a different handling of peripheral rays?


So, do I really hate my A7r ?

Are you nuts? What could make you think that? (insert grin)
Nah, truth is I love that camera. But I love it like you’d love a troubled child that constantly misbehaves with no apparent reason to do so. The above shortcomings (and halfwit AF, that doesn’t really bother me with manual focus lenses) feel so unnecessary, you see.

The camera’s been with me for over a year now, and when I review photographs made with previous cameras (D800e excepted) they are so vastly inferior technically that it hurts.

Reds, greens and yellows in Westonbirt arboretum, Tebury, England.

Early morning forest scene in Provence photographed using a tripod at low ISO
But that’s exactly my point all over again. If Sony’s really going the antler-crashing route with the likes of Nikon and Canon for the pro market, I really don’t think more pixels aren’t the way ahead.

Sure, even more DR would be great. A monochrome sensor alluring. And IBIS titillating. Heck, Hassleblad-style sensor-shake interpolation for better pixel quality would even be fabulous (given lenses that out-resolve 36Mpix 2 to 1 … ahem)!

But before that, fix the damn flaws that inexplicably made it through the internal Go Ahead process, give us plenty more specialty/quality lenses and reassure us that E-mount is here to stay (as in 50 years, not 5). Not sure about the pros, but that’s what I’d like for Christmas. Ho Ho Ho!

My guess is, though, the “Pro market” body of 2015 is just marketing lure for foolish amateurs. Watch me fall for it, too …



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  • Bob Hamilton says:

    Excellent article Pascal – couldn’t agree more with each of the points you make.
    The A7r is probably the most flawed camera I’ve ever owned and, believe me, there have been plenty. Sony need to take note of what two “real photography ” companies are doing – Leica and Olympus – and try to follow suit particularly by understanding how important the lens is to a photographic medium which is significantly less tolerant than film. Until they do so, like you, I will not be investing any more of my hard earned pennies in their products.
    I also have a sneaking suspicion that it will dawn on Sony that the E mount, being essentially an APS mount, is really too narrow for full frame and will do what a Canon did to their loyal followers when they changed from FD to EF.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Thanks Bob. I have to say that the slow rate of lens releases from Sony, Zeiss and others for the E mount does send forth the message of uncertainty … As for the body, I simply hope the rumoured pro bodies take user feedback into account. It’s not much to ask since but doesn’t seem like a deep corporate value. I wrote kind letters to Sony, including “colleagues” in the marketing department (I’m a marketer too) and never got so much as an acknowledgement. Not very customer-centric … So the possibility that “new and better” will really mean “new and better in the eyes of the team boss only” is very real. But then again, a happy surprise is always possible 🙂 Cheers

  • Monkey Business says:

    Sony knew right away that the a7 was not going to be able to compete with D810 and 5D3 at the Super Bowl which carry the weight of a 500mm. All those white barrels and built in hoods on mono pods are worth millions in advertising dollars. I’m sure they could mount a big camera out of sight using network level money but no one would see the lens. Oh the folly of thinking corporations care for consumers.

    • pascaljappy says:

      True, sports is not an area where Sony can compete head-on with the big names. Do they want to? I don’t know. I think there’s a lot more money to be made in the amateur segment than the 500mm pro-lens business. As for listening to customers, it’s probably very difficult as there are so many personas to take into account. But some – many in fact – companies are very responsive to customer input. It just hasn’t trickled down to the Asian photography mega corporations, yet. Sooner or later, they will have no choice.

  • Mike says:

    I just checked sonyalpharumors and there are more details about the A7II. Has the number 1 item from my wish list…Image stabilization! Woo Hoo!

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