Sony a7C Underwater - Initial Thoughts & Review
Sony a7C: World's Smallest Full-Frame Camera (with IBIS)
The photo market is not like other electronics markets. While the rest of the world trends small, the mirrorless market began that way and then everyone just decided they liked the original DSLR form factor and cameras stopped shrinking. That is...until the Sony a7C. The a7C is Sony's answer to those who want a camera with professional image quality, but really can't compromise when it comes to size. If the travel-ability of a camera is everything to you and you don't need a real EVF, then the a7C should be your go-to camera. And honestly speaking, this describes many mirrorless underwater photographers. The Sony a7C is basically a full-frame, Sony A7III packaged into the body of a Sony APS-C "A6000" line camera. At a retail price of $1799 for the body, it prices out about the same as the A7III. So if you're a Sony shooter and thinking about getting into full-frame photography, the a7C might actually be a better option for underwater photography - especially when compared to the Sony A6600 and Sony A7III. Are there better full-frame mirrorless cameras on the market for the same price point? Yes, you should seriously consider the Nikon Z6II for roughly the same price. Are there better full frame cameras available for traveling? No. But will you actually see the size benefits of the Sony a7C underwater? Yes - though there are some considerations to make when it comes to port systems and lenses, as we will describe shortly.
U.S. MSRP: $1,799
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- 24.2 MP full-frame BSI CMOS sensor
- 5 axis in-body image stabilization with 5 stops of compensation
- 10 fps continuous shooting
- 4K/30p video with a full pixel readout
- Log picture profiles include S-Log2, S-Log3, HLG - unlimited recording time
- 693 point phase detect and 425 point contrast detect AF system
- Eye AF tracking
- -4EV lowlight AF
- Single UHS-II card slot
- 2.3 6million dot EVF (not recommended for underwater photo or video)
- 115 shot RAW buffer
- Size: 124 X 71 X 59.7 mm
- Weight: 509 g
For divers that like to travel, keeping your camera gear small can really make or break a trip. In the past, many photographers had to choose between compromising image quality or accepting oversized baggage fees. With the Sony a7C, we finally have a nice middle ground. Because the internals of the camera are basically the same as the A7III, the capability you'll get from this camera is not the best in the full-frame class. But at the end of the day, a full frame sensor means better image quality, dynamic range, low light performance, and creative bokeh opportunity. There's no real reason to choose an APS-C camera at this point other than price points.
Many of the Sony lenses for underwater photography cross over between their APS-C and full-frame models. However, full-frame lenses generally tend to be larger. This means that you might have to use the same port system that you would find on full-frame camera models despite the housing for the camera being slightly smaller. At the end of the day, the size difference between the a7C and Sony A7III might not be a huge amount when your rig is built up. In fact, the a7C is about 100 grams lighter than the A7III on paper. It really depends on what port system your housing manufacture decides to use. Not all housings are out yet, so if you are worried about size, contact us at Bluewater Photo, and we'll help you find the best housing and port combination possible.
Tips for Keeping Your a7C Rig Small
One way to ensure that you get the smallest camera rig possible is to avoid large dome ports altogether by investing in wet wide angle and macro lenses to use with a single kit lens like the Sony 28-60mm f/4-5.6. This lens can be combined with wide angle wet lenses like the Nauticam WWL-1 or Kraken KRL-01 for taking photos of big animals and reefscapes without compromising too much on image quality. We highly recommend the Kraken +13 and Nauticam SMC as excellent macro options.
In recent years, Sony has gone from having a limited supply of lenses for underwater photography to one of the best repertoires of native lenses for full-frame mirrorless cameras on the market. Sony a7C users have an excellent set of choices for shooting macro, wide, mid-range, and fisheye.
The Sony 16-35mm F4 lens is the top wide-angle lens choice for photo and video. If you’re looking for something even wider to get nice close-focus wide-angle (CFWA) shots of reefs there are a couple of options for shooting fish-eye. The 28mm prime lens with a fisheye conversion lens will give the widest possible angle of view. The fisheye conversion lens can be used behind a large or small dome port, while the Sony 16-35 mm F4 lens is recommended for use with an 8-inch dome or larger.
Wet wide-angle lenses are a great option with this camera. We recommend the Nauticam wet wide-angle lens or the Kraken KRL-01 wet wide-angle lens with the 28mm prime lens. All of these options are very sharp and will result in stunning wide-angle photos.
For underwater photography, the Sony 90mm macro prime lens is the best choice for small fish and macro subjects. It is exceptionally sharp and produces high quality images. A 50mm macro lens is another great option, though it doesn't focus as quickly as the Sony 90mm.
The Sigma 105mm f/2.8 DN DG Art macro lens is a new lens. We highly recommend it for the Sony a7C, though there is some focus breathing that video shooters should be aware of. Check out our full review of the Sigma 105mm here!
This elusive longfin sculpin was easily captured with the Sigma 105's quick AF speed. This photo was taken with a Sigma 105mm f/2.8 DN DG Art Macro lens, Sony A7S III, Ikelite A7S III housing. f/18, 1/160, ISO 200
Canon lenses can be attached to the Sony a7C with the Metabones, Sigma MC-11, or Photodiox adapters, but auto-focus is generally better with Sony lenses. Lenses like the Canon 8-15mm, 16-35mm, and 17-40mm work well. You can also use the Canon 100mm macro lens.
There is currently one housing option on the market for the Sony a7C - the Nauticam Sony a7C housing. However, we do anticipate the Ikelite housing for the a7C to be coming out soon as well. We are hoping that the Ikelite housing will be with the DLM port system rather than the standard DL port system for full-frame cameras, which would make the housing system a lot smaller overall. We are not sure if other brands will be creating a housing for this camera just yet, but feel free to reach out to us and get on our pre-order list!
The Sony a7C is not a groundbreaking camera, but for underwater photographers and video shooters it does represent true utility in its small form factor. However, reaping the size benefits from this camera will depend on how you set up your rig for underwater photography. With a kit lens and a couple of wet lenses you could truly create wonderful images with professional image quality while keeping the form factor small and compact. But if you don't mind a little bulk there are other full-frame mirrorless cameras like the Nikon Z6II with newer technology that can be found for the same price point. Overall, we think photographers who are considering higher end APS-C cameras like the Nikon Z50 and Sony A6600 should seriously consider spending a little more for a full-frame body of similar size. Either way, we can't wait to jump in the water with the Sony a7C and show you what it can do!
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