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Sony Alpha 7C + SEL2860 Review | A Full-Frame Camera That’s Also Compact!

In this post, I will share a complete review of the Sony Alpha 7C with the SEL2860 single lens and report the results of my optical tests. If you are interested in this camera, please don’t miss this post!

Market positioning and advantages of the Sony Alpha 7C

Alpha 7C is the first compact mirrorless interchangeable lens camera, featuring an electronic viewfinder, image stabilization for handheld shooting, a mechanical shutter curtain and a side-opening flip screen.

Alpha 7C | 85 mm | 1/3200 sec | F1.8 | ISO 100

The Sony Alpha 7C is an entry-level Sony FE-mount camera. It may be an entry-level model, but Sony did not skimp on specifications at all. It is an inexpensive version of the Alpha 7 III. The size of the Alpha 7C is similar to that of the Alpha 6400, but it comes equipped with a full-frame image sensor. I love to bring this camera with me when I come out with my kids during holidays. Imagine that your backpack is crammed with children’s utensils, diapers, wet wipes, water bottles and so on. I don’t think you’d want to add the weight of an interchangeable-lens camera on your shoulders, even if you are passionate about photography!

Alpha 7C | 85 mm | 1/400 sec | F1.8 | ISO 100

Despite its smaller size, the full-frame Sony Alpha 7C has been designed to offer high-quality image performance, and you will be happy to carry around a kit weighing 700–800 g (one camera with one lens). After all, the medium telephoto wide-aperture lens (SEL85F18) with its shallow depth of field is much better than those of smartphone cameras because there is no physical gap between the lens and the camera module, unlike in smartphones. Without a doubt, the Alpha 7C allows me to find the best balance between weight and image quality. As they say, the best camera is the one you’ll bring with you, right?

A quick look at the appearance and features of the Sony Alpha 7C

The Sony Alpha 7C features a retro-style, “top-plate” structure. The thickest part of the camera, including the grip, is 59.7 mm, similar to the Alpha 6400. With its side-opening flip screen and image stabilization unit, the thickness of the Alpha 7C is similar to that of the Alpha 7 III. The dimensions of the Sony Alpha 7C are 124 mm×71.1×59.7 mm and the weight is 424 g (body only) or 509 g (body with battery). The Alpha 7C uses a 24.2-MP backside-illuminated (BSI) CMOS sensor, and this is where you can see the real value of the camera.

This allows the Sony Alpha 7C to offer image performance equal to that of the Alpha 7 III. Among the rivals in its class, there are no full-frame interchangeable-lens cameras with a BSI CMOS sensor.

The Sony Alpha 7C features a newly developed and more compact 5-stop 5-axis in-body image stabilization unit. However, many users feel that the image stabilization performance of Sony cameras is far from good enough. I have made a rough comparison of the difference before and after image stabilization was turned on, and the effect was really limited—but hopefully, it will bring you some peace of mind! In addition, the newly developed small shutter element of the Sony Alpha 7C is rated for up to 200,000 cycles.

The Alpha 7C is the second Sony E-mount camera model, to come with a side-opening flip screen, the first being the Alpha 7S III. But the resolution of this 3-inch screen is only 921,000 dots, and it has no touch control menu, just like the Alpha 7 III. The screen can only be used to select a focal point or enlarge a photo by tapping twice. The Alpha 7C has a 2.36-million-dot XGA OLED Tru-Finder electronic viewfinder, providing the same resolution as the Alpha 7 III, but the magnification on the viewfinder of the Alpha 7C is only 0.59x. The viewfinder has a coverage of 100%, but when you put your eye to the viewfinder, about a third of it cannot be seen. Another reason for this is that the size of the eyepiece is too small to cover the visual range of the naked eye.

The newly added separate “AF-ON” button on the back of the Alpha 7C allows users to initiate Real-Time Tracking at any time by simply pressing the “AF-ON” button in the “AF” mode. The operation is very easy and doesn’t need any complicated settings, and the AF lock function is comparable to that of the Alpha 7 III. The Hybrid AF system of Sony Alpha 7C is fully inherited from the Alpha 7 III, with its 693 phase-detection AF points/425 contrast-detection AF points. Due to its different product positioning and the limited space on the back of the camera, the Sony Alpha 7C does not have a separate focus joystick. Instead, a five-way button is used. The position of the focus frame can be changed by pressing the OK button in conjunction with the arrow buttons.

The transfer ports and memory card slots of the Sony Alpha 7C are all concentrated on the left side of the body. Both card slots support SDXC UHS-II cards. The camera is provided with 3.5-mm headphone and mic jacks. A USB Type-C cable is all you need for charging. The camera also features a micro-HDMI port. Without a multi-slot, the Sony Alpha 7C is unable to perform long exposure using an actual shutter cable. The easiest way I can think of to do this is to use a mobile app and operate it in Wi-Fi mode. The NP-FZ100 lithium battery provides enough power for the Sony Alpha 7C to capture approx. 680 images using the viewfinder or 740 images using the LCD monitor, which is more shots than the A7III (approx. 610 images using the viewfinder or 710 images using the LCD monitor).

This time, I tested the Sony Alpha 7C with the above four lenses, including the kit lens SEL2860, the travel lens SEL24105G, and the wide-aperture prime lenses SEL20F18G and SEL85F18. Among the four lenses, the SEL2860 provides the best balance between size and focal length. Although the aperture of the SEL2860 is not as large as that of the SEL20F18G, the 28–60 mm focal length is quite practical. With the SEL2860 mounted, the Sony Alpha 7C is as compact as the APS-C.

The SEL20F18G came in handy one day when I was shooting photos at night, because there is plenty of room for this large-aperture ultra-wide-angle lens to work at the best of its performance. Finally, the SEL85F18 was my main choice during this shooting test. With a medium and long focal length plus a large aperture, the lens can easily produce a shallow depth of field, which is suitable for shooting people or scenery.

▣ Testing the 5-axis image stabilization

▣ Performance at different sensitivities

The Alpha 7C’s degree of sensitivity is extendable from ISO 50 to ISO 204800. Images taken at ISO 1600 sensitivity were still very clean. The range of working sensitivity I could accept was about ISO 1600 to 3200 and the practical sensitivity was about ISO 6400 to 12800. When photos were taken at ISO 25600 or higher, there was more noise. Overall, considering the price and market positioning of the camera, this performance was very good. After all, the camera uses the same imaging core as the Alpha 7 III.

▣ Dynamic range comparison (±2 EV)

As of the day before this article was submitted, the Lightroom CC app still did not support RAW files from the Sony Alpha 7C. I had my hopes set on the Sony Imaging Edge application, but the software can only adjust the brightness by ±2 EV, so the basis for reference is relatively small. First take a look at the areas where brightness was too low. At -2 EV, the tonal gradation was quite natural after the brightness was increased and, of course, that was to say nothing of -1 EV. Now check out the over-exposed areas. At +1 EV, details of a rock wall with a “midtone” could still be seen and at +2 EV, the rock wall lacked natural gradation and had an obvious discontinuity in tonal variation.

▣ Performance of the Real-Time Eye AF (with the SEL85F18)

The Sony Alpha 7C can detect human faces without the need to half-press the shutter, showing a gray frame around detected faces. If the shutter is half-pressed, the camera will show a small green frame around whichever eye it is tracking. During video recording, when the model turned around quickly, the focus range was still locked on to the back of the model’s head. After the model turned back, the small green frame locked on to the eyes immediately. You can also press the “AF-ON” button on the back of the camera to enable real-time tracking. Subjects are not limited to people or animals—as long as a subject is “locked” on the LCD screen, the camera will keep track of the subject automatically.

This video shows a process of continuous shooting at 10 fps. Here are 30 images that were captured through continuous shooting for you to look at. Since the shutter speed was only 1/400 s, these images could not show all of the model’s movements. There tended to be a delay in the EVF and LCD displays. In fact, the subject was in focus, but the displays could not keep up. If you were to do continuous shooting at 8 fps, such a phenomenon could be avoided. It’s also worth mentioning that the Sony Alpha 7C also supports Eye AF for animals. With “AF-C + continuous shooting”, the success rate was greatly increased. You can also specify the color of the frame that indicates the focus area. If the frame is difficult to see, you can make it more visible by changing its color (to red or white).

▣ Supports 4K recording / “Slow and Quick” (S&Q) mode

Similar to Alpha 7 III in the advantages of video recording, the Alpha 7C can shoot high-quality videos (3840×2160 24 p 100 Mbps). Full-pixel readout without pixel binning allows an oversampling equivalent to a 6K recording. The camera can also capture 1920×1080 high-definition videos at 120 fps, with sound recording and AF fully supported, and slow and quick motion effects can be adjusted as required. In the S&Q mode, recording at 120 fps is also supported. Sound recording is not supported in this mode but recording for 4x or 5x slow motion can be set in advance. With this camera, you can also take time-lapse videos at a frame rate of 1 fps.

Alpha 7C does not have the same 29-minute recording limitation as the Alpha 7 III. As long as it has enough battery life and memory card capacity, the Sony Alpha 7C can easily record a 4K video of longer than one hour. In an air-conditioned room with the temperature maintained at 26°C, I managed to record over 40 minutes of 4K video at 24 fps. There was no hint of overheating, and the camera body was not hot at all. Filmmakers are sure to find this quite practical.

▣ Comparison of the SEL2860’s wide-angle and telephoto performance

I realized that everyone would be curious about the performance of this kit lens, so I spent quite a long time on the testing. I conducted various optical tests on the SEL2860 in particular. First of all, let’s have a look at the wide-angle end. Since the SEL2860 is not a wide-aperture lens, the wide-open aperture is usually the working aperture. The image quality at the center at F4–F8 was not bad, but at F11, the image quality started to decline. While the image quality was still acceptable when the aperture was at F16, the F22 aperture was not to be recommended. The quality of the edges of the images captured at 28 mm was not as good as I had expected. Next, let’s review the performance of the lens at 60 mm.

For images captured at 60 mm, the range of working aperture to ensure good image quality at the center was F4–F8. At F22, the image quality was not sharp enough. The quality at the edges of the images of the 60-mm telephoto end was better than that produced when using 28-mm end. The wide-open aperture up to F16 was also workable. The image quality started to decline at F22, with the lowest quality being produced at F32. [Click to download].

▣ Chromatic dispersion of the SEL2860 at different apertures

The SEL2860 is not a wide-aperture lens, and its maximum aperture is only F4. Within its optical structure with eight elements in seven groups, there are only three aspherical lens elements and there are no other low-dispersion lens elements or special coatings. As shown in the following sample images, there was no chromatic aberration in the center of images captured at F4. Lateral chromatic aberration at the edge of the images was also very slight and could actually be ignored. [Click to download]

▣ Anti-flare performance of the SEL2860 at different apertures

The SEL2860 lacks good anti-glare performance, possibly due to the lack of special coatings. At F4 aperture, slight flare spots could be observed. When the aperture was reduced to F22, the number of flare spots was considerable. This could also be partly caused by the fact that there is no lens hood provided for the lens.

▣ Starburst effects on the SEL2860 at different apertures

The SEL2860 has seven aperture blades. When the aperture was at F4, a slight starburst effect could be seen. At F5.6, the starburst effect became more obvious, and at F16 aperture, standard sea urchin-shaped starbursts showed up. For this kit lens, the starburst performance was pretty good.

Conclusion
▶ Very light, small and stylish

With today’s market trends shifting towards mirrorless photography, how do you evaluate the pros and cons of a camera? I think the first thing to consider is this: how often are you willing to take your camera out with you after buying it? The size and weight of the Sony Alpha 7C may better satisfy these needs because it is small and light enough. The Sony Alpha 7C has its own advantages, including full-frame image quality and the shallow depth of field produced by its wide-aperture lens. Mobile phones do not have these advantages. In particular, when post-production is needed, the Alpha 7C with its high resolution and dynamic performance can easily beat today’s smartphone cameras. The Alpha 7C looks like a classic rangefinder camera, and the silver and black color combination is absolutely the best choice.

▶ Versatile shooting capabilities

I mentioned above that the Sony Alpha 7C is a miniaturized version of the Alpha 7 III and inherits its imaging core and technology, including its pure high-sensitivity performance, real-time tracking, human and animal eye AF, continuous shooting at up to 10 frames per second and image stabilization unit (advertised as 5-stop 5-axis) that can actually give about four stops of shutter compensation, as well as its -4 EV AF sensitivity. I believe that these features are enough for an entry-level camera.

▶ More comprehensive recording capabilities

The Sony Alpha 7C is small but packed with features. It has in-body 3.5-mm headphone and mic jacks and supports 4K recording at 24–30 fps and 1080p recording at 120 fps, as well as HLG, S-LOG2 and S-LOG3 modes. Its full-pixel readout without pixel binning makes it possible to condense approximately 2.4 times the amount of data required for 4K. The length of video recording is only limited by the camera’s battery life and memory card capacity. If you want to record long videos, the Sony Alpha 7C is a more attractive choice than the Alpha 7 III.

Praiseworthy features:

  • Weighs less than 509 g (body with battery and memory card)
  • Has a “single-piece” magnesium alloy structure, achieving a balance between lightness and strength
  • 5-stop 5-axis in-body image stabilization (actually about four stops or fewer)
  • Has 200,000 shutter-release cycles and supports silent shooting
  • Supports real-time tracking, including human and animal eye AF
  • Supports continuous shooting at 10 fps, corresponding to continuous autofocus and continuous auto-metering
  • Has a powerful BIS image sensor capable of producing clean images even at ISO 1600
  • Has a side-opening flip touch screen
  • Supports 4K recording at 30/24 fps and 1080p recording at 120 fps
  • Has full-pixel readout without pixel binning, allowing oversampling equivalent to a 6K recording
  • The length of video recording is only limited by battery life and memory card capacity
  • Supports a digital audio interface like the A7R IV and A7S III
  • The NP-FZ100 lithium battery allows you to take up to 740 still images

What could be improved:

  • The magnification on the electronic viewfinder is too low, and the coverage of the eyepiece is not wide enough
  • The touchscreen function is limited and only capable of changing the position of the focus frame and zooming in by tapping twice
  • The screen resolution on the back of the camera is only 921,000 dots, which is not quite detailed enough
  • Conventional shutter release cables cannot be used without a multi-jack
  • The mechanical shutter only supports up to 1/4000 s
  • Unsatisfactory dynamic range
  • The flash sync speed is only up to 1/160 s
Original JPG images from the Sony Alpha 7C

Alpha 7C | 105 mm | 1/1000 sec | F4 | ISO 100

Alpha 7C | 85 mm | 1/4000 sec | F1.8 | ISO 100

Alpha 7C | 35 mm | 1/800 sec | F1.8 | ISO 100

Alpha 7C | 20 mm | 1/30 sec | F1.8 | ISO 800

Alpha 7C | 28 mm | 1/250 sec | F5.6 | ISO 100

Alpha 7C | 85 mm | 1/100 sec | F1.8 | ISO 320

Alpha 7C | 50 mm | 1/160 sec | F1.8 | ISO 100

Alpha 7C | 60 mm | 1/640 sec | F5.6 | ISO 100

Alpha 7C | 59 mm | 1/60 sec | F5.6 | ISO 2500

Alpha 7C | 28 mm | 1/200 sec | F7.1 | ISO 100

Alpha 7C | 85 mm | 1/100 sec | F1.8 | ISO 100

Alpha 7C | 35 mm | 1/40 sec | F1.8 | ISO 5000

Alpha 7C | 47 mm | 1/320 sec | F5.6 | ISO 100

Alpha 7C | 35 mm | 1/60 sec | F1.8 | ISO 100

Alpha 7C | 50 mm | 1/250 sec | F1.8 | ISO 100

Alpha 7C | 28 mm | 1/160 sec | F8 | ISO 100

Alpha 7C | 28 mm | 1/25 sec | F8 | ISO 12800

Alpha 7C | 60 mm | 1/320 sec | F8 | ISO 100

Alpha 7C | 60 mm | 1/60 sec | F5.6 | ISO 200

Alpha 7C | 85 mm | 1/400 sec | F1.8 | ISO 100

Alpha 7C | 32 mm | 1/60 sec | F5.6 | ISO 100

Alpha 7C | 60 mm | 1/60 sec | F5.6 | ISO 1000

Alpha 7C | 60 mm | 1/160 sec | F8 | ISO 100

Alpha 7C | 35 mm | 1/160 sec | F8 | ISO 100

Alpha 7C | 50 mm | 1/200 sec | F1.8 | ISO 100

Alpha 7C | 35 mm | 1/640 sec | F6.3 | ISO 100

Alpha 7C | 105 mm | 1/125 sec | F7.1 | ISO 1600

Alpha 7C | 60 mm | 1/320 sec | F5.6 | ISO 100

Alpha 7C | 85 mm | 1/100 sec | F1.8 | ISO 12800

Alpha 7C | 85 mm | 1/125 sec | F1.8 | ISO 100

Alpha 7C | 60 mm | 1/320 sec | F8 | ISO 100

Alpha 7C | 28 mm | 1/500 sec | F8 | ISO 100

Alpha 7C | 60 mm | 1/125 sec | F5.6 | ISO 100

Alpha 7C | 28 mm | 1/30 sec | F5.6 | ISO 100

Alpha 7C | 50 mm | 1/1600 sec | F1.8 | ISO 100

Alpha 7C | 20 mm | 1/30 sec | F1.8 | ISO 3200

Alpha 7C | 28 mm | 1/80 sec | F8 | ISO 100

Alpha 7C | 85 mm | 1/100 sec | F1.8 | ISO 1000

Alpha 7C | 85 mm | 1/80 sec | F1.8 | ISO 12800

Alpha 7C | 35 mm | 1/100 sec | F2.2 | ISO 100

Alpha 7C | 20 mm | 1/30 sec | F1.8 | ISO 6400

Alpha 7C | 20 mm | 1/30 sec | F1.8 | ISO 800

Alpha 7C | 102 mm | 1/125 sec | F7.1 | ISO 1600

Alpha 7C | 40 mm | 1/320 sec | F8 | ISO 100

Alpha 7C | 60 mm | 1/60 sec | F5.6 | ISO 100

Alpha 7C | 28 mm | 1/60 sec | F8 | ISO 100

Alpha 7C | 85 mm | 1/100 sec | F1.8 | ISO 100

This article was originally published on https://www.mobile01.com/