Today we’re taking a look at the new compact full frame camera from Sony called the a7C. I have previously used a Panasonic GX85, Sony a5500, Sony a6400 and Olympus OM-D EM5 Mark III. All of which were either APS-C or Micro four-thirds sized image sensors. What makes this a7C stand out is that it has a full frame sensor in a body side and weight similar to the APS-C sized a6400. This makes it an attraction option when looking for a travel camera with some great features and high image quality.
I bought this camera with my own money, and my thoughts and opinions are my own. I actually pre ordered it from the Sony Store here in Australia at the end of September and received it on the 6th of October. So I’ve been using it for the past 2 and a half weeks. So this is a full production model with production software.
Spec-wise this camera is very similar to the Sony a73 from 2018. However it does have some upgrades that in my opinion make it a much better camera for use today. The a7c has eye tracking, and animal eye tracking, as well as improved autofocus and most importantly a flip-out-to-the-side screen. Also, something not many people seem to talk about, not even Sony themselves seem to advertise this much, is the fact that this camera records gyroscopic information while recording video. This means that you can stabilise the footage in Sonys Catalyst browse software and get some impressively stable clips.
There are a few downsides to this process though. In catalyst browse you cannot queue up several clips and batch stabilise them. And while the stabilisation process is quick, you have to first export them from the software before you can use them in your video editor. To essentially bake in the stabilisation. This baking process can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours depending on how long your clip is and whether its HD or 4k. 4k clips take quite a bit longer than HD clips. However stabilising a 4k clip and exporting to HD was quicker in my tests.
The next thing a lot of people seem to dislike about this camera is the EVF or electronic viewfinder. Yes, the quality isn’t quite as high as some others on the market. But for me, I only use it for composing an image and for that purpose I can’t see a reason why you would need it to be super large or high quality. In those cases you can use the nice and bright LCD screen. So I never found it a problem personally.
One more thing people seemed upset about was the lack of 4k 60p. And I while more options are nice. I have never personally used anything more than 24 or 30p (or 25 and 50p here in Pal land). Theres is 1080 120p for slow motion however I would have liked to at least seen 240p at 1080. But probably in the version 2.
While on the topic, the LCD screen is the other thing that has a small problem. When you wear polarised sunglasses while looking at the screen it will appear blank. This is because the LCD is not built like modern phone screen to allow light from any angle. However using certain screen protectors can remedy this problem. Aside from that, the screen is large and bright enough, even outside. And I found it adequate while doing selfie filming.
Just quickly, I’ll mention that this camera still uses the old Sony menus, which were vastly updated and improved on their new a7s III. However I never felt that this old menu system was bad and I put all my most changed settings in the custom menu anyway.
Now let’s get to some of the best part of this camera. Personally I really love the rangefinder style and the black is a classic look. Although many people seem to like the silver topped version that is also available. The back has a nice rounded design and its very comfortable to hold. The grip was fine and I never felt it to be too small. I prefer this grip over anything larger and bulky personally. I usually use it with a peak design wrist strap while shooting photos and this felt comfortable in my usage. The matte finish is also nice and doesn’t pick up fingerprints or marks.
The buttons on the camera are well laid out and mostly adequate. I like the large record button on the top and the power switch on the right was easy to access with one handed use. Most users complained of a lack of a front dial and more custom buttons. But I never felt a need for more than this rear dial and the custom button thats on many of Sonys native lenses. One button that did bother me however was the placement of the ‘menu’ button up the top and in the middle. Its a bit of a stretch to press sometimes and if you use your left hand it turns off the LCD screen momentarily because it will pass in front of the EVF sensor. So more of an inconvenience more than anything really.
The battery life has been very good and one thing I love about the alpha full frame cameras is that it shows the battery amount in a percentage. This is something none of my previous cameras did. This camera also uses Sony’s new Z type batteries which are larger and longer lasting than their old ones.
Another great thing about this camera is that it uses a USB-C type port for charging and USB data transfer. You can actually use this port to charge the camera while using too even with a portable power bank. Providing that you use a USB-C 3.0 cable that supports fast charging.
The ability to switch off the shutter and use electronic shutter doesn’t appear to be in the menus anywhere. And the highest shutter speed appears to be 1/4000. Speaking of the shutter, the shutter on this camera is something that initially stood out to me as sounding a bit clunky and not quite as nice sounding as on other cameras I’ve heard. However you get used to it and it works fine. Speaking of sound, this camera also has a microphone jack and a headphone jack for audio monitoring. The little doors that cover the ports are very nice to use. They click open and stay open and don’t flap around like some other cameras flaps.
Lets talk about the lens options. Obviously with a full frame sensor you need larger and heavier lenses to cover that sensor. You can use crop sensor (aps-c mode) if you want to use the lighter and smaller aps-c e-mount lenses. But then you’ll be only using 1.5x the sensor and at 10mp rather than the full 24. Sony did release a compact zoom that can be bundled with this camera as a kit lens. However there are actually some great lightweight prime option available too.
I would suggest a so called ‘holy trinity’ of three fast primes for a great setup. This usually consists of a wide angle, standard angle and medium tele-photo. Sony does offer the great 20mm 1.8 which I have here, however its a little heavy and large, but the image quality is excellent. Another native Sony lens would be the FE 50mm 1.8 or the 55mm Zeiss lens (which is a little heavier but much sharper). Finally the Sony 85mm 1.8. This is a great lens but a little heavy if you compare it to some of the offerings from the Korean brand Samyang (aka Rokinon).
Samyang have a whole range of fast small and lightweight lenses to choose from. I have here their 18mm 2.8, I have tried their 45mm 1.8 and will soon try the 75mm 1.8. These cover a similar range and are all lighter than the Sony lenses and more affordable. They also recently released a 35mm 1.8 lens that is fully weather sealed.
Some people may prefer zoom lenses for travelling though. And while there are offerings from Sony, they’re a little large and expensive. Luckily there’s some great zooms available from Tamron like the 70-180 f2.8 or the 17-28 2.8, 28-70 2.8 or one of the new longer zooms 28-200 2.8-5.6 or the 70-300 4.5-6.3.
So overall, I think the Sony a7C is an excellent camera that will please a lot of people whether you’re a traveller looking for a lightweight full frame camera. Or a professional looking for a B-cam or even just thinking of upgrading from aps-c. I think this camera will have something for everyone. Although right now, yes the price is a little high for what you get. Especially in Australia and in Europe, the price of this camera is very inflated. However when it eventually drops in price or comes on sale. I highly recommend checking it out.