Buying Sony A7 In 2018 Or Keeping My Micro Four Thirds Camera?

If you have searched and clicked a link to this page you probably know about the still buy-able and affordable Sony A7 and you ask yourself if you should still buy it in 2018 or even make a switch away from Micro Four Thirds to full frame. To bring your problem to the point, is it still worth it to own or buy Micro Four Third equipment from Olympus or Panasonic when you can get a cheap full frame camera from Sony?

The Sony A7 coupled with a kit lens 24-70mm 3.5-5.6 is the cheapest entry in Sony’s full frame sensor camera world in 2018. It costs just 799 Euro and sometimes even only 750 Euro. It is certainly not the most current camera when been on the market since introduction in 2013. But it still provides up to date image quality utilizing its big full frame sensor. With the release of so many new full frame sensor cameras in 2018 like Nikon Z6 or Z7, Canon EOS R, Sony A7III or Panasonic S1 one thinks, these are the future of professional and enthusiast photography and an older A7 might be a good and relative inexpensive start in this world.

But wait, why should I choose full frame goodness over Micro Four Third compactness? I will give you some Pros and Cons for both systems:

Sony A7, Photo by Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository

Sony A7 (2013)

Pro

  • Small camera body (you can attach portrait grip to get better grip for big hands though)
  • Large full frame sensor with 24 Megapixel, very good image quality also in low light up to ISO6400 and very good dynamic range
  • No crop factor, lenses have the field of view they were designed for
  • Vintage lenses are easily adaptable
  • Very nice bokeh effect (background blur) when coupled with large aperture lenses like primes or 2.8 zoom lenses

Cons

  • High quality lenses with 2.8 aperture (zoom) are very big, heavy and expensive
  • Small camera body ergonomically not good when paired with mostly bigger full frame lenses, you can attach portrait grip to get better grip for big hands though
  • Lighter, cheaper lenses have just slow apertures and you won’t get this full frame look
  • Even high quality lenses usually need to increase f-stop to 5.6 or even 8  to achieve best image quality
  • No image stabilization in camera,  the newer and more expensive A7II has it, even though not as effective as Olympus E-M1
  • Kit lenses have mediocre sharpness and reduce effective resolution of image sensor (on paper you have 24 Megapixel, but because of imperfect sharpness in reality for example just 10 “sharp” Megapixel)
  • Sharpness in the corners mediocre, especially for very short focal lengths
  • Short battery life because of energy hungry full frame sensors
  • Overheating problems during constant life view because of energy hungry full frame sensor
  • No silent mode (electronic shutter); mechanical shutter is very noisy
  • Single auto focus is relatively slow
  • Slower burst rates at 5 FPS
  • User interface of the A7 is underwhelming, no touch screen, not as comfortable to hold and use as E-M1
Olympus OM-D E-M1

Micro Four Third (Olympus E-M1, 2013)

Pro

  • Small camera body (you can attach portrait grip to get better grip for big hands though)
  • Small and very compact lenses
  • Crop factor of 2x allows for very compact long telephoto lenses
  • Four Thirds sensors with 16 Megapixel (newer MFT cameras with 20 Megapixels), very good image quality up to ISO3200 and very good dynamic range
  • Very affordable high quality lenses with very good sharpness even when wide open, Kit lenses are much better than average, especially when compared to full frame or APS-C
  • Nice bokeh effect (background blur, as the cat on the featured image on top of this post) when coupled with large aperture primes (even though not as much as full frame because of smaller sensors size)
  • Smaller Micro Four Thirds sensor draws less energy than full frame sensors which leads to significant longer battery life
  • Vintage lenses are easily adaptable, even though they have not the field of view they were designed for (see crop factor of 2x, this can be a Con or Pro)
  • Very good image stabilization in camera allows for lower isos in low light and for static objects, compensates 4 to 5 stops; all attached lenses are stabilized
  • Twice the depth of field of full frame allows shooting with larger apertures and lower isos, good for landscape or macro photography were larger depth of field is desired
  • Fast burst rates of 10 FPS

Cons

  • 16 or 20 Megapixel resolution are less than full frame competition with 24 or even more than 40 Megapixel, although one should questioning the need of very high megapixel numbers, with 16 sharp (effective) megapixel you can already print large posters in very good quality
  • adapting vintage lenses reduces their field of view because of crop factor 2x; for telephoto this can be a “Pro”, because for example a compact 200mm lens turns into a 400mm lens which is very good for wildlife or outdoor photography
  • Sensor size is one-quarter the size of a full frame sensor which results in higher image noise, even though you get still very clean images from iso 100-800 and very acceptable results until iso 1600/3200

To sum it up, for me the Pros of Micro Four Thirds are still outweighing these of Sony full frame by quite a big margin. Sony full frame sensors are famous for very good image quality. But please keep in mind that an image sensor alone still doesn’t make for a good image. It is the combination of lens, handling of the camera and sensor.

In low light situations my Olympus E-M1 can often be used with iso 200 or 400 because of the combination of fast zoom or prime lenses with good sharpness wide open and very effective in body image stabilization. On the Sony A7 I had to turn on iso 1600 whereas on the OM-D E-M1 I am still on iso 200. And I also don’t want to lug around heavy and very expensive lenses or tripod when on a hiking trip. Lighter equipment lets you enjoy  photography more.

Micro Four Thirds is a very good mixture of good enough image quality (indeed very good image quality), portability (size and weight), costs and flexibility (tons of native and affordable M4/3 lenses out there). So no A7 for me because I cannot see real advantages.

By the way, many people lusting for full frame bokeh look. Here is a funny opinion video regarding bokeh.

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