You can’t fault the results from the Sony A7C’s sensor and its autofocus system is excellent, but the viewfinder feels way too small for a full-frame camera and the lack of touch-control is frustrating. However, if you’re looking for a small, light full-frame mirrorless camera then the Sony A7C fits the bill. It would make a good choice for travel or street photography, especially if you like composing images on a vari-angle screen.
Small for a full-frame camera
Excellent AF system
What is the Sony A7C?
The Sony A7C is the smallest of the Sony A7-series of full-frame mirrorless cameras. It has the core features of the Sony A7 III, inside a flat-topped body that’s similar in style to the Sony A6600 but has a vari-angle screen rather than a tilting monitor.
It is sold body-only or with the FE 28-60mm f/4-5.6 kit lens. This is a small collapsible lens that keeps the overall camera size down.
Announced: 15th September 2020
Camera type: Full-frame mirrorless
Sensor: 24.2Mp Full frame (35.6×23.8mm), Exmor R CMOS sensor
Processor: Bionz X
Lens mount: Sony E
Sensitivity range: ISO 100-51,200, expandable to ISO 50-204,800
Maximum continuous shooting rate: 10fps with full AF and metering
Video resolution: 4K: 3840 x 2160 (4:2:0, 8bit, NTSC) (Approx.) 30p (100Mbps / 60Mbps), 3840 x 2160 (4:2:0, 8bit, NTSC) (Approx.) 24p (100Mbps / 60Mbps), 3840 x 2160 (4:2:0, 8bit, PAL) (Approx.) 25p (100Mbps / 60Mbps)
Autofocus system: Hybrid with 693 phase detection points and 425 contrast detection points
Stabilisation: 5-axis in-body image stabilisation giving up to 5EV shutter speed compensation
Storage: SD/SDHC/SDXC (UHS-I/II)
Dimensions (W x H x D): 124.0 x 71.1 x 59.7mm / 5 x 2 7/8 x 2 3/8inches
Weight: 509g / 1lb 2.0oz with battery and card
Inside the Sony A7C is a 24.2Mp Exmor R BSI CMOS sensor paired with Sony’s BIONZ X image processing engine.
This combination enables a native sensitivity range of ISO 100-51,200, which can be expanded to 50 to 204,800, and a maximum continuous shooting rate of 10fps (frames per second). It’s also claimed to capture up to 15 stops of dynamic range.
Being a Sony camera, the A7C has the company’s Fast Hybrid AF system, which in this case has 693 phase-detection points and 425 contrast detection points. There’s also Sony’s Real-time Eye AF which works for humans or animals when shooting stills and just humans in video mode.
As usual, the Sony A7C has 5-axis in-body image stabilisation built-in, which offers up to 5 stops of shutter speed compensation.
The Sony A7C supports H.264/XAVC S 4:2:0 8-Bit 4K UHD video recording at up to 30p and Full HD recording at up to 120p for slow motion movies.
Also, users can select the S-Log2 or S-Log3 Gamma Curves to boost dynamic range by up to 1300% in comparison with REC709, for greater flexibility in post-production processing.
HLG (Hybrid Log-Gamma) support is also available for HDR recording with a wide colour gamut.
With vloggers in mind, the Sony A7C’s 3-inch, 921.6k-dot touchscreen LCD is mounted on a vari-angle hinge which enables it to be seen from in front of the camera.
There’s also a 2.36m-dot electronic viewfinder, but unlike the rest of the Sony A7-series its in the corner of the body rather than a t the centre of the top-plate.
The Sony A7C also has WiFi and Bluetooth capability, and its battery has capacity for 740 shots per charge when the LCD is in use or 680 shots with the EVF.
Build and Handling
On the looks front, the Sony A7C is similar to Sony’s APS-C format cameras and it resembles a slightly chunkier version of the A6600. It has its rectangular pseudo-rangefinder shape with the electronic viewfinder within the confines of the body and offset to the top left corner.
Sony has used magnesium alloy for the top, front, and rear covers of the A7C’s body and it has a monocoque structure. These points combine to give it a reasonably solid feel despite the fact that it has been designed to be small and light.
The body is also sealed against dust and moisture. I used the A7C in snow and drizzle and it stood up to the test.
While the grip may not suit those with very large hands, I found the A7C fits comfortably in my hands. Also, all of the controls are within easy reach on my right thumb and/or forefinger, and with the 28-60mm kit lens mounted, it’s easy to use one-handed.
However, the rubber-like coating on the grip could do with a more pronounced textured. It’s a bit too slick, especially in wet conditions.
Unlike the Sony A7 III, the A7C doesn’t have a front control dial on its grip. However, there are two dials on the back, one above the thumbrest and the other around the navigation pad.
There’s also no joystick, which I miss when setting the AF point while looking in the A7C’s viewfinder. Instead, you either have to press the button at the centre of the navigation pad and then use the navigation controls to move the point around, or activate the TouchPad via the menu and then shift the point around with your thumb or finger on the screen. Although I prefer to use a joystick, the TouchPad works pretty well.
Until recently, Sony has shied away from using vari-angle screens and instead has opted for tilting screens. Happily, the Sony A7C has a vari-angle screen which means it can be flipped and tilted so that’s it’s visible whether you’re shooting landscape or portrait orientation images.
As I mentioned earlier, it can also be rotated to face forwards so that it’s visible from in front of the camera.
Frustratingly, despite making changes with the Sony A7S III which was announced before the A7C, Sony has once again limited the degree of touch-control available with the camera’s screen. You’re limited to using it for setting the AF point and zooming in to captured images.
That’s especially frustrating if you want to vlog with the camera on a tripod. As you can’t access any of the controls via the screen, you have to walk around to see the buttons and menu.
I hope that Sony opts for the menu arrangement and better use of touch-control that we’ve seen with the A7S III and Sony A1 when it brings out the Sony A7 IV.
Judging by their specifications, Sony has used the same electronic viewfinder for the A7C as the A6600, they both have a 0.39-inch 2,359,296-dot OLED unit. That’s unusual because we’re used to seeing 0.5-inch type viewfinders in full-frame cameras. The Sony A7 III, for example, has a 0.5-inch OLED with 2,359,296 dots. So while the A7C’s viewfinder has greater pixel density, it’s smaller.
That reduction is size is quite noticeable and there’s no eye-cup so you feel like you’re peering in. Also, on bright sunny days you may find that you need to shield your eye to get a clear view.
Like the screen, the viewfinder gives an accurate preview of the image colour and exposure, but it’s worth setting the Display Quality to ‘High’ rather than ‘Standard’ for the smoother, more natural view.
While I have a few frustrations with the Sony A7C’s build and handling, its image quality is excellent. The 24Mp full-frame sensor captures a good level of detail and the images don’t take up an excessive amount of space on your memory card or hard drive.
Sony A7C Image Quality
A full-frame sensor with 24million pixels strikes a nice balance between image size and pixel size. That also means that the A7C keep noise under control very well for much of its sensitivity range.
Images look clean up to around ISO 1,600 and it’s only at around ISO 12,800 that you start to notice some of the finer details being lost or slight smudging of out of focus areas.
But generally, the ISO 12,800 results are very good – especially with raw files. You can even push up to ISO 25,600 without too much concern.
Sony claims that the A7C can capture 15 stops of dynamic range and it certainly doesn’t lose the highlight or shadow detail too readily. Also, should you need to underexpose a low ISO image to preserve extra highlight information, you’ll find that the shadows can withstand a hefty degree of brightening without noise or loss of colour being problematic. In some cases, you can expect to be able to brighten an image by 4EV or more.
This latitude is especially useful when you’re adjusting an image with subtle gradations as you can make adjustments without fear of banding becoming a problem. That’s handy when you’re working on a landscape image with a weak blue sky.
Sony’s Alpha 7 series AF systems are excellent and the one in the A7C doesn’t disappoint, it’s fast and accurate. When the Focus Area is set to ‘Wide’ so that the camera can select which of the AF points to use, it does a great job of latching onto a moving subject and staying with it.
The Eye AF system also works very well, whether you’re shooting stills of humans or animals and video of humans. If you’re vlogging, you can be confident that your eyes and face will be sharp.
Combined with the 10fps shooting, the Sony A7C’s excellent AF performance makes it a very capable sport and action camera. However, its small form isn’t ideally suited for use with long, heavy lenses.
Although it lacks raw video shooting capability, the A7C produces high-quality 4K video with the option to shoot in S-Log2 or S-Log3 when you want the extended dynamic range and extra scope for grading.
There are also 3.5mm ports for connecting an external mic and headphones to ensure that you get good quality sound.
Thanks to its high-quality sensor and excellent autofocus system, the Sony A7C is capable of delivering superb images and video. Its small size is also attractive for street and travel photography. However, the kit lens feels rather limiting. Its 28mm wide point isn’t quite wide enough while the 60mm longest point isn’t quite long enough. I guess I’ve been shooting with 24-70mm lenses for too long. At f/4-5.6 the maximum aperture also feels a bit mean. I’d rather pair the A7C with a Sony Vario-Tessar FE 24-70mm f/4 ZA OSS to get the wider focal length range and constant aperture or a small prime lens like the Sony FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA Sonnar T Carl Zeiss to get more control over depth of field.
Given the quality of the build of the A7C, the small viewfinder feels like a mismatch. Granted, it keeps the size of the body down, but you don’t get a full-frame shooting experience with it.
As it was announced back in February 2018, the price of Sony A7 III has dropped a bit since its release. Unless you’re really keen to get the A7C’s vari-angle screen and smaller dimensions, the A7 III makes a more attractive purchase.
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