Last fall, I talked about my decision to downgrade my camera from my primary set up: a Canon 5d Mark III with the bulky 24-70mm 2.8/f lens to a much smaller mirrorless camera. After I wrote that post, I went to US for a week, sold my camera and when it came time to buy the Sony I paused.  What if Sony comes out with something new just before Christmas?

So I waited.

Going over four months without a camera and blogging was tough. I was dying. But in October, Sony announced it:

The first full-frame dSLR mirrorless camera. The Sony Alpha 7. It has a  full frame sensor like my Canon 5d III (verses the cropped APS-C sensor of the Sony NEX and other mirrorless cameras available) and the body weighs just half of what my Canon did.

There aren’t a lot of lenses out there for it — more are coming out this year — but I jumped at the chance to have a full frame dSLR at such a tiny size and much lower cost. I ended up with the 55 mm Carl Zeiss lens which was built for this camera.

I just got it this weekend. I haven’t even read the manual yet. But here are some first impressions:

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Above photo taken with my iphone.

It’s small. The body feels very light, like what you’d expect a fixed-lens point and click to feel like, but the lens is much heavier.  Still, it’s small enough to fit into a small bag for during the day, and taking one-handed shots while holding a squirming child is no problem (and no chance of clunking my child on the head with my camera like I did with my Canon).

A little thing I didn’t like: it doesn’t come with a separate battery charger, so you have to plug in your entire camera to charge. They do sell separate battery chargers, so I’ll pick one up next time I’m in the US, but who wants to leave $2700 worth of camera laying around while you wait for it to charge? Plus the cord is very short, it’s the camera to USB with an AC adapter, so you don’t have much room to work with… personally I wouldn’t want to put my camera on the floor, next to the nearest outlet, every time I want to charge it.

It also doesn’t come with a memory card, but that’s normal. I charged up my camera, popped in a new 32 GB card and took this photo:

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This is from the jackfruit tree in my yard. ISO 1600, f/5.6, 1/250 sec. I was on auto — both for exposure and focus. What I was happy to see was the right hand side of the photo, the blurry bit… aka, bokeh, was still there. Is it as good as my Canon 5d III? I think the Canon is more beautiful, see this picture below (taken with my Canon 5D III):

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Which isn’t an entirely fair comparison because that’s a better photo in general, but there’s a quality to the Canon that I really love. Maybe it’s a little more creamy? However with the Sony, I still felt like the depth of field was there, it looks great, and this was me shooting on auto… so there’s lot of potential. I was worried by stepping down I’d lose a big jump in quality, but so far that’s not the case. It will never be the same as the Canon, but then again I’d been on the same lens for six years, I knew it so well, I have a warm spot for exactly how that lens (the Canon 24-70mm) looks, especially it’s bokeh.

I go out to Sayulita to take a few more shots just to test it out. At this point I’m optimistic.

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Three quick snaps at lunch, using auto settings, and here it’s in low light. I didn’t go in and do any major correction, and the second shot is cropped down so you can see the detail. Again, these are all in auto…

Now, here’s the thing, my Canon can take better photos than these, but never in auto. In auto it would have been very dark, no depth of field, so I’m quite happy that this is what I’m starting with. If I just take a really quick photo — basically point my Sony at almost anything, and click — it gives me something decent. For example, this photo would never have happened on my Canon:

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This is straight out of my camera (just resized down for the web) and the things I notice is that that ocean is blue in the background, the sky is not blown out and the colors are vibrant even though there is a mix of light and dark in this photo. It just seems to be much faster and smarter than my Canon, so for these kinds of quick on-the-go shots, the Sony does a great job.

Here is the detail from this shot, I just cropped it down, so you can see that it’s in focus well into the distance and because the sensor is so large, I have a lot of image to work with:

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I also really love the flip-out LCD viewer on the back. It means no more laying on your belly or standing on chairs to see what you’re shooting… you can turn it at 90 degrees, so your camera can be almost on the ground (or over your head) and you can still see the LCD.

Next week I’m taking a little roadtrip around Mexico and I’ll get to properly test it out (plus I really do need to read the manual — I literally just flipped on the camera and took these shots). Part II will come when I get back from that trip, but all my photos going forward will be with the Sony Alpha 7, so you if you follow along here, you can see what I’m able to do (or not do) with it.

So far, I’m feeling quite positive about it.

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In case you want to check it out this is what I got:

Sony Alpha 7 (body)
Sony Alpha E-Mount Sonnar T* FE 55mm f/1.8