Sony A7 Review and Nauticam Housing
Sony A7 review for Underwater Photography
And a look at the Nauticam Sony A7 Housing
The Sony A7 is the latest revolution in cameras. Sony has created a compact mirrorless digital camera with a full sized 35mm sensor. The innovation of large sensor size in a small body has created a lot of buzz, but let's look at how this will translate for underwater use.
Sony A7 Specifications:
Not only did Sony create a new camera, they took it one step further and created three versions of the same camera. Luckily all three versions utilize the same body, it is only what is inside that changed. The three versions, dubbed the A7, A7r and A7s complete a broad spectrum to cover a variety of photography and video needs. All 3 versions work in the Nauticam Sony A7 underwater housing.
A7 - The Original. The first A7 model has a 24MP sensor and is the overall good option, great image quality.
A7r - R is for Resolution. Designed for the next level up, the A7r bumps the megapixel count to 36 and removes the optical low-pass filter which allows for more detail and overall sharpness in the images.
A7s - S is for Sensitivity. Lastly the 12 megapixel A7s, with its large pixel size, is designed for video and excels in low light/high ISO shooting. It can produce high-quality 4K video, along with some other great high-end video features, and goes up to a mind-boggling ISO 400,000.
All other specs remain the same between the different camera models
- Body: Magnesium Alloy
- Sensor: Full Frame (35.8 x 24mm) CMOS Sensor with Bionz X Processor
- ISO 100-25600 (up to 102,4000 on A7s)
- Lens Mount: Sony E (Full Frame)
- Built in Flash: No
- Max Flash Sync Speed: 1/250
- Video: full HD 1080 x 60 and 1080 x 30p, A7s shoots 4K
The Sony A7, with a full frame 35mm sized sensor, is barely bigger than the popular Olympus OM-D E-M1 with micro four-thirds sensor.
Sony A7 Lens Selections:
The biggest downside to picking up this camera for underwater photography at the moment is the lack of lens selection. Since the Sony A7 utilizes it's own mount, new lenses must be created to work with the system, and currently Sony has only released a few, most of which are not great for shooting underwater. The best lens option right now is the 28-70mm (or 24-70mm to get a little wider, if you are okay spending a lot of money on a lens). This lens is a standard zoom, not really wide and it doesn't do good macro, but its the widest of the Sony lenses that work with the A7 at the moment. Hopefully Sony will continue to produce lenses to really make this system excellent.
However, Nauticam has stepped up, realizing how good this camera can be and seeing the obvious lack of lens options and they built in the ability to add specific adapters to thier system allowing users to pair high quality Nikonos lenses, such as the Nikonos 15mm with the Nikonos adapter, or to use the Metabones adapter for Canon EF-S lenses allowing users to get a full range with good macro and wide angle options. The only downside to using the Canon lenses, is that the autofocus is much slower, and of course, the over size of the rig increases due to larger lens ports.
Sony A7 lenses for underwater:
- Sony 24-70mm F4
- Sony 28-70mm F3.5-F5.6
- Sony 35mm F1.8 prime
- Nikonos 15mm + Nikonos adapter
- Sea & Sea 12mm fisheye + Nikonos adapter
- Canon EF-S lenses + metabones adapter (slower auto-focus); we recommend the Canon 8-15mm fisheye, and the Canon 100mm macro lens
New Sony full-frame lenses
Sony is coming out with a few great lenses for underwater photography soon, including a fisheye lens and a great macro lens - read our article on new Sony full-frame lenses for underwater photography, for more details.
Shooting the Sony A7 Underwater:
Overall I was very pleased with the performance of the Sony A7 (I tested just the A7). I tested the camera in the Nauticam housing here in Southern California, on an average visibility (~30ft) day. With the darker CA waters at about 40ft, I did notice that there were some delays with focus, or a few times where the focus did not lock. You have the ability to set the camera to allow it to take a photo without locking focus, which is integral to using the Nikonos lenses as those are not autofocus lenses. The camera worked well, was easy to control and the LCD made it easy to compose images. Unfortunately due to how Sony programs the LCD / Electronic Viewfinder, there is no way to manually switch between the two quickly. Nauticam tried to solve this problem with a creative switch / flag, but I found that it did not work. I used the LCD primarily, but when I did want to use the Electronic Viewfinder, it required going deep into the menu system to switch from one to the other.
Nauticam Sony A7 Housing review:
The Nauticam housing for the Sony A7 is excellent. Its a perfect merge of the larger dSLR housing and the smaller mirrorless camera housings to get the best features and set up without sacrificing size or controls. Let's take a look at some of the great features and how they work while shooting underwater.
The Sony A7 packs many impressive features including the full frame 35mm sensor into a body that is not much larger than the popular mirrorless cameras. Due to this the underwater housing is much smaller than your standard dSLR, and looks much more like the high end mirrorless housings.
The A7 housing (left) is not much bigger than the Olympus OM-D E-M1 (right).
Compared to a dSLR (right) the Sony A7 is much smaller (left).
Nauticam Sony A7 Features:
Like all Nauticam housings the Sony A7 housing is machined from solid aluminum. It has a depth rating of 100M (330ft) and is designed with ease of use in mind. Controls are moved from the original camera position to allow for the best user experience. Nauticam has merged popular dSLR features with the smaller mirrorless like housing, including the unique port release, built in molded handles with ball mounts, screw on fiber optic cables and more.
Great features of the Nauticam Sony A7 Housing such as the port release lever, included sync cord connection bulkhead, rubberized zoom control and bulit in vacuum system electronics.
Video Review of the Nauticam Housing:
Sony A7 Undewater Photos:
Sony A7 with Nikonos 15mm
Great Detail in the sunburst - A7 w/ 28-70mm lens @ 30mm, F22, 1/250th
Great detail from the full frame sensor on the A7, taken with the 15mm Nikonos
Image above detail @ 100% crop
With no good macro options, you are limited on how close you can get with the native Sony lenses. Other lenses such as using the Metabones adapter with the Canon 100mm lens would be a great option.
Overall I was very impressed with the Sony A7. It works well and produces excellent detail, colors and dynamic range. I found that the focus could be a little unpredictable when trying to follow moving subjects and focus quickly. The Nauticam housing works great, with well placed controls and very useful features. There were a few kinks to using it underwater such as the LCD / Viewfinder flag that did not work, but overall it was an enjoyable camera to shoot with and the high quality results speak for themselves.
How to buy
Please visit our Nauticam Sony A7 underwater housing page, we usually keep this housing and ports in stock.