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Hands-on with the Sony a7C
Sony’s just released all the details on its new super compact a7C full-frame mirrorless camera. The a7C is barely bigger than the company’s a6600 APS-C mirrorless camera, and considering how much larger the a7C’s sensor is, that’s quite a feat. This is also the first Sony mirrorless camera to come in two color schemes – all black, and the silver-accented version you see here.
We’ve had our hands on the a7C for a little while, so follow along with us as we take a look at how it handles and what its controls are like.
At its core, the a7C is more or less a refreshed Sony a7 III that includes all of the company’s latest autofocus algorithms. That means it features a familiar 24MP BSI-CMOS sensor, mounted to a miniaturized in-body stabilization system that’s good for the same 5 EV of shake correction as its larger a7 III sibling. That all sits behind a new shutter mechanism that goes up to 1/8000 sec, and can fire off bursts at 10 frames per second. You can also use a silent electronic shutter, but you may get some rolling shutter artifacts.
The Bionz X processor is also borrowed from the a7 III, which unfortunately means that all of the fancy new menus and touch functionality from the a7S III and its updated processor aren’t included here.
In the hand, the a7C feels incredibly solid, thanks to what’s called a magnesium alloy monocoque construction. It’s sort of like what US auto manufacturers call ‘unibody’ construction, and the result is a camera that’s free of creaks and flex and exudes a sense of quality.
From the top
Top plate controls will look pretty familiar to anyone who’s seen a recent Sony APS-C camera, with a few differences. Of greatest importance, perhaps, is the inclusion of a dedicated exposure compensation dial seen on Sony’s other a7-series cameras. The large, red ‘video record’ button is customizable and in a reasonably easy-to-reach spot. We’re pleased to see the inclusion of a hotshoe, as there’s no pop-up flash to be found.
This is also a nice view of the new FE 28-60mm F4-5.6 kit zoom. It’s incredibly lightweight, and has a manual zoom ring that also acts as the retraction mechanism to keep the package as small as possible while traveling.
We tend to like the On/Off switch surrounding the shutter button, but if you were holding out hopes for a front control dial underneath that, well, sorry to disappoint you – just like Sony’s a6x00 series, there is no front control dial for your index finger.
The a7C inherits a similar fully articulating display mechanism as found on the a7S III. The screen itself is bright and clocks in at 921k dots, and it packs Sony’s rather lackluster touch interface. You can basically use the touchscreen to move your AF point around or initiate tracking – manipulating other on-screen functions or menus isn’t possible.
The fully articulating design is generally favored by video shooters, but for a travel camera, it can come in especially handy for…
…folding away for protection. This should provide some peace of mind for those times when you just need to shove the camera in a bag and get moving.
Here, you can also see the rest of the rear controls. There’s no AF joystick (but you can use the screen as a touchpad to drag your thumb on), but there’s a large AF-On button, and a rear dial that doubles as a four-way controller. The directional presses default to activating what’s printed on the camera, i.e. drive mode, ISO and so forth, but they’re all customizable.
We’re not huge fans of the placement of the Menu button. As it’s more or less in the middle of the camera, it’s an inconvenient reach for either hand. If you come in from the left to use it, you will inevitably trip the eye sensor, causing the screen to go blank and then the camera sometimes won’t register that you pressed it in the first place.
The electronic viewfinder on the a7C is mounted in a ‘rangefinder-esque’ top left position. While any viewfinder is always better than none at all, we have to say we find the view through this one a little constricting. At 0.59X magnification the 1.0cm (0.39″) OLED panel is on the small side, and the glasses-wearers among us found that it was hard to see to the edge of the frame.
On the plus side, though, the resolution is decent at 2.36M dots and you can kick it up to a ‘high FPS’ mode for a faster 120hz refresh rate if you’re shooting fast action.
Behind a latched door on the left side of the a7C you’ll find a single, UHS-II compatible card slot. While there will always be those who bemoan the lack of dual slots, we think it makes perfect sense on this camera. After all, the a7C is really aimed at travelers and vloggers and the like, not necessarily wedding shooters who need the constant backup.
Impressively, the a7C has a full suite of useful ports; headphone and mic jacks, a micro-HDMI port and a USB Type-C port that supports power and charging, data transfer, remote functionality, and more.
Even more impressively, Sony has managed to shoehorn the NP-FZ100 battery into the a7C. This gives the camera the best battery life of any full-frame mirrorless camera we’ve yet seen, with a CIPA rating of 680 shots through the viewfinder and 740 using the rear screen. In our experience, you can expect a single charge to easily last a weekend’s worth of pretty heavy usage.
Hands-on with the Sony a7C
And that completes our tour of the Sony a7C! In our time with it so far, we’ve found that it really is remarkably liberating to have a full-frame camera this small, but crucially, with interchangeable lenses and multi-day battery life. If you like to travel light but have a hard time compromising on image quality, this may just be the camera for you.
The a7C will be available in late October at a suggested price, body-only, of $1799 USD ($2399 CAD). You can get it paired with the FE 28-60mm F4-5.6 lens for $2099 USD ($2699 CAD).