Sony A7C Review: a little ripper!

Den W. Den W. 02 October 2020
Sony A7C Review: a little ripper!

When I first heard about Sony's new A7C, I thought, "Yeah, okay, "this is purely just a parts bin camera," which it is. It takes the best of the Alpha line and it puts it into a smaller form factor. But what I didn't realize is just how much more enjoyable it is to shoot with a full-frame camera that is actually small in size. To have a large sensor in a small body, to natively have access to some great Sony full-frame glass, yet still be able to stash it quickly into a small bag. From the sweet articulating screen to the parts compartment having actual doors, this camera, it's a little ripper. 

The A7C is a confusing addition to the A7 line that started with the A7 and the A7R that both launched in 2013. Since then, we have seen a hell of a lot of full-frame cameras come to this lineup. Sony A7C Review: a little ripper!After the A7 and A7R, we then saw the A7S, followed by the A7 Mark II, the A7R Mark II, the A7S Mark II, the A7R Mark III, the A7 Mark III, the A7R Mark IV, and the A7S Mark III, and now the A7C, which is surprisingly compact, maybe? Maybe that's it? That's probably it. 

It looks a lot more like the cameras in the A6000 lineup from Sony because its EVF is moved to the left side rather than in the middle. But first, let's start with all of the hardware on this camera.

Sony finally did away with the hanging doors that took literal precision to put back on and were always hanging in the way. Sony A7C Review: a little ripper!There are now very much attached doors on the left side of the camera that house a mic port, a headphone jack, HDMI port, USB-C port, and one SD card slot. These are easy to open and easy to close, and best of all, the mic port up on top doesn't block the flippy screen. And yeah, we're going to call it a flippy screen because that's like way more fun than saying articulating.

It's easy to whip out, flip around, or position to your needs, yet feels sturdy. When moving around to start filming myself, I never noticed a lag in the screen rotating and the touch control, although limited to tapping to set a focus point, is responsive. Sony A7C Review: a little ripper!All of the buttons around back are on the right-hand side and the menu button is right in the middle, I'll get to that in a minute. It's not really a problem for me because my left hand is almost always on the lens, but I do wish there was a dial underneath the shutter button for ISO, most likely. That would be so much quicker than having to like push over on the ISO button and then flip through.

The menu button. Sony A7C Review: a little ripper!When reaching for it with my left thumb, the EVF sensor is triggered and it's just a tad too far to reach with my right thumb without having to really grip the camera with both hands. And because the menu button also acts as a back button within the menu system, using it just feels like a chore. This might sound nitpicky, but use it for a bit, you'll see. There are no improvements to the Sony menu system in the AC7 either, which at this point, I'm just used to, but I do wish I could touch the screen to move through it.Sony A7C Review: a little ripper! I'm also pretty bummed that we aren't seeing Sony's new menu system that they put out with the A7S Mark III. It has a new layout and you can also use the touchscreen to move through it. Would've been nice to have.

I am very happy to report it is the perfect level of small.  It fits in a bag and isn't annoying to carry, but it still feels really solid and it doesn't slip out of my hand. Even when I'm using something like this big 24-70 G-Master lens on itSony A7C Review: a little ripper! which paired with that 24.2 megapixel CMOS sensor, is hella pretty. 

The A7C can shoot up to 115 raw images at 10 frames per second with a max shutter speed of 1/4000. It's fast. The ISO can range from 100 to 51,200 and extend all the way up to 204,800 ISO. In my use, anything past 12,800 ISO started to show a lot of like smoothing and noise, but  it's still a huge range and I felt really comfortable leaving auto ISO on and just setting the max to 10,000.

All of this should sound pretty familiar though, because the A7 Mark III from two years ago had pretty much the same specs. Now, the image that you get will of course be affected by the lens that you put on this camera, and this 24-70 I've been rocking, oh, my gosh, it's so pretty! Like it's been really hard to take a photo that I'm just not super happy with. 

Sony also released a new kit lens with this camera and when you bundle it with the camera, it will run you $2,100. It's a 28-60 millimeter F4-5.6 pancake zoom lens.Sony A7C Review: a little ripper! It's super compact, and it's got a decent focal range, but it definitely feels pretty plasticky and that slow aperture really doesn't show off this camera's best self.

On the video side, there isn't too much new here. You got 4K at 24 frames per second and 30 frames per second, but to get 120 frames per second or even just 60 frames per second, you'll have to jump down to 1080. There is in-camera stabilization, but it's the standard Sony 5-axis system, while good, is nothing to write home about. That IS is definitely more helpful when using a low shutter speed and taking photos, but the beefier camera for video in the A7 lineup is definitely the A7S Mark III, which can shoot up to 4K at 4:2:2 10-bit and 120 frames per second. But that camera is also $3500, so... There's that.

On this camera, there is still that rolling shutter problem, causing quick motion to skew and bend. So if you're doing quick pans or handheld work, it is still very noticeable, which doesn't make this camera the best for professional video work. I had the most fun taking photos with this thing and this is where it really feels like a little ripper, dudes. So when you pair the flippy screen with the small size, with that high ISO range, with that super-fast shutter, she rips! That's what I'm saying! Like that's when you feel the little ripper idea.

This auto-focus system is currently one of the best out there and you have four pages of focusing options within that crazy bad menu system to dial it all in. Although I once in a while had to use the touchscreen to lock in my focus point, the A7C has Sony's real-time tracking system that can latch onto a subject in the frame and hold onto that point in focus no matter where it moves, so long as it stays in the frame. And if that point happens to be a face, lay down on that shutter button and let it rip.  It did have trouble focusing on faces with masks on them, but let's really hope the world starts feeling better so that's like not a long-term issue.

Battery life on this camera is also really good. You can record at 4K for well over an hour and a half with no overheating just before the battery dies. And in running around Brooklyn taking mostly photos and maybe five or six one-minute-long videos here and there, I was making it through a full day with one of the A7C's NP-FZ100 batteries.

So that's the AC7, from 115 raw images at 10 frames per second, to a really great auto-focusing experience, to high ISO, to pretty decent video, but what actually makes this camera special is its compact size. It's being able to carry it around for hours and not really noticing it. It's being able to stash it into a bag super easily. And if you're coming from the A6000 line and you're looking for that full-frame look, well, this camera will feel like something special to you. And to be clear, at $1,800, the AC7 does not have a small price tag. It's not even a budget full-frame, I like really wouldn't even call it that. It is a lower-cost full-frame and it is absolutely a parts bin camera. I mean, it's pretty much an A7 Mark III from 2018 put into a smaller body, but it's a lot of good parts put into that smaller body, and hopefully it will only get better.

For Sony's first compact A7, it rips.

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