Sony a7C Review: Full-frame quality in a small body

Do you want to leave it to chance when taking photos of your baby’s first step? You probably don’t want to use your smartphone and miss that decisive moment. This is when the like of a “real” camera like the Sony a7C mirrorless camera will do the job.

It comes with a 24.2-megapixel full-frame image sensor with Bionz X image processor. It has up to 623 phase detection autofocusing (AF) points, can shoot up to 10 frames per sec (fps) and 4K videos up to 30fps.

PRICE: $2,499 (body only), $2,899 (body and 28-60mm lens)
IMAGE SENSOR: 24.2-megapixel full-frame
SCREEN: 3-inch rotatable display with 921,600 dots, electronic viewfinder with 2.4 million dots
SENSITIVITY: ISO 50 to 204,800
SHOOTING SPEED: Up to 10 frames per second
WEIGHT: 424g (body only)

Targeted at content creators, the a7C features a flip-out touchscreen display that allows you to take selfies with ease. It also comes with in-body image stabilisation to reduce camera shake.

The a7C is essentially a combination of the 2018 a7 III’s full-frame image sensor and the compact body of a6600 that uses a smaller APS-C image sensor.

In other words, you have the compactness of an APS-C mirrorless camera with full-frame’s picture quality.

In fact, even in terms of design, it looks like a fusion of the two. The electronic viewfinder (EVF) is found on the camera’s top left like a6600 instead of being in the middle in a7 series.

The review unit has a silver metallic top while the rest of its body comes in black. All the controls – including the mode dial, exposure compensation dial and video recording button – are located on the right side, which is good for one-hand operation using you right hand.

The top of a7C. (Photo: Sony)

But some buttons and dials found in a7 III are missing. For instance, there is no command dial in front of the grip. Also, there is no mini-joystick below the rear command dial.

Its rubberised grip and rear thumb rest does not give that much secure grasp of the camera, compared to the a7 III.

In addition, the EVF is quite small and you might not even see the full picture. The rotatable display is a nice touch, especially so when you can video record in portrait mode and it stays as such for easy upload to Instagram.

Not to mention, there is only one SD card slot, unlike the dual SD card slots found in a7 III.

For this review, I used the 28-60mm f/4-5.6 pancake zoom lens. And it really makes the camera look small. I have no trouble putting the camera with lens into any bag.

The a7C offers a compact package when used with the 28-60mm f/4-5.6 pancake lens. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

Operation-wise, this is one speedy camera. It takes one second to start up and one second to shut down, compared with the usual two seconds each for its competitors.

+ Full-frame camera in compact size
+ Great image quality
+ Fast AF performance
+ Long battery life

– Not cheap
– Could do with more controls
– Small electronic viewfinder
– Only one SD card slot

Using an SD card with a writing speed rated at 95MB per second, it shot 85 RAW images in 9.3 seconds before the buffer ran out.

The AF performance is equally impressive. In bright sunlight, AF was instantaneous. In dim lighting conditions, the camera took 0.5 seconds to focus with the help of the AF assist light.

With its Real-time Eye AF for both humans and animals, you can photograph both easily. Just look at the photos of the community cats I photographed and the self-portraits I did.

You can capture a fast-moving cat sharply with the a7C. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

Image quality is superb – sharp with great dynamic range, and full of details even in darker areas. You can do a tight crop and still get clear details.

Noise performance is excellent too. There were very few noise artefacts all the way to ISO 6,400. Noise became more visible at ISO 12,800, but detail loss remained minimal.

Shot using a7C with an aperture of f/22 aperture and shutter speed of 1/13sec. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

Even photos taken at ISO 25,600 are still good enough for small prints and Web use. However, I would not recommend shooting at ISO 51,200 and above, as there are significant amount of artefacts leading to substantial detail loss.

Video quality is also superb with great clarity and fidelity. Although the 30fps for 4K videos is not the best, it is good enough for most purposes. Especially if you are going to use it on social media.

Rated at 680 still images on a full charge, its battery life is twice that of most mirrorless cameras. In my tests, I found that there are still 60 per cent battery life after I shot around 400 still images.

At $2,499, the a7C is only $400 cheaper than the still-very-capable a7 III. But if you think of it as an “a7 III Lite”, this camera might just be what you want.

DESIGN: 8/10

Trevor Tan

Started out with dreams to become a street photographer, Trevor Tan somehow became a tech journalist with over 16 years of consumer tech experience. Maybe he plays too much video games and buys too many new gadgets.
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