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Sony A7R versus Sony A7S

The Sony Alpha A7R and the Sony Alpha A7S are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in October 2013 and April 2014. Both the A7R and the A7S are mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras that are equipped with a full frame sensor. The A7R has a resolution of 36.2 megapixel, whereas the A7S provides 12 MP.

Body comparison

The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Sony A7R and the Sony A7S. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are presented. All size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter. You can also toggle the display to switch to a percentage comparison if you prefer that the measures are being expressed in relative terms (in this case, the camera on the left – the A7R – represents 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Sony A7R vs Sony A7S front
A7R versus A7S top view
A7R and A7S rear side
Body view (A7R on the left)

In this particular case, the Sony A7R and the Sony A7S have exactly the same width and height, and, thus, have identically-sized bodies. However, the A7S is slightly heavier (5 percent) than the A7R. Cameras intended for semi-professional or professional use tend to be a bit bulkier in order to give them the necessary ruggedness. In this context, it is worth noting that both cameras are splash and dust-proof and can, hence, be used in inclement weather conditions or harsh environments.

The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete since they do not consider the interchangeable lenses that both of these cameras require. In this particular case, both cameras feature the same lens mount, so that they can use the same lenses. You can find an overview of suitable optics in the Sony FE Lens Catalog. Mirrorless cameras, such as the two under consideration, have the additional advantage of having a short flange to focal plane distance, which makes it possible to mount many lenses from other systems onto the camera via adapters.

The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, just select a new right or left comparator from among the camera models in the table. Alternatively, you can also move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible comparisons there.

Camera Body Specifications
Camera Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(y/n)
Camera
Launch
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Sony A7R (⇒ rgt) 127 mm 94 mm 48 mm 465 g 340 YES 2013 2,299discont. check
Sony A7S (⇒ lft) 127 mm 94 mm 48 mm 489 g 380 YES 2014 2,499discont. check
Nikon D750 (⇒ lft | rgt) 141 mm 113 mm 78 mm 750 g 1230 YES 2014 2,299 latest check
Nikon D810 (⇒ lft | rgt) 146 mm 123 mm 82 mm 980 g 1200 YES 2014 3,299discont. check
Nikon D610 (⇒ lft | rgt) 141 mm 113 mm 82 mm 850 g 900 YES 2013 1,999 latest check
Nikon Df (⇒ lft | rgt) 144 mm 110 mm 67 mm 760 g 1400 YES 2013 2,749 latest check
Sony A7R II (⇒ lft | rgt) 127 mm 96 mm 60 mm 625 g 290 YES 2015 3,199discont. check
Sony A7S II (⇒ lft | rgt) 127 mm 96 mm 60 mm 627 g 370 YES 2015 2,999 latest check
Sony A7 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 127 mm 96 mm 60 mm 599 g 350 YES 2014 1,999 latest check
Sony A7 (⇒ lft | rgt) 127 mm 94 mm 48 mm 474 g 340 YES 2013 1,699discont. check
Sony RX1R (⇒ lft | rgt) 113 mm 65 mm 70 mm 482 g 270 no 2013 2,799discont. check
Sony RX1 (⇒ lft | rgt) 113 mm 65 mm 70 mm 482 g 270 no 2012 2,799discont. check

The listed prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The A7R was somewhat cheaper (by 8 percent) than the A7S at launch, but both cameras fall into the same price category. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.

Sensor comparison

The imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors of image quality. All other things equal, a large sensor will have larger individual pixel-units that offer better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Moreover, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more control over depth-of-field in the image and, thus, the ability to better isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Both cameras under consideration feature a full frame sensor, but their sensors differ slightly in size. The sensor area in the A7S is 1 percent smaller. They nevertheless have the same format factor of 1.0. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Sony A7R and Sony A7S sensor measures
Sensor size

With 36.2MP, the A7R offers a higher resolution than the A7S (12MP), but the A7R has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 4.88μm versus 8.44μm for the A7S). Moreover, the A7S is a somewhat more recent model (by 5 months) than the A7R, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixels. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that the A7R has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.

A7R versus A7S MP
Sensor resolution

Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for most cameras. This service determines an overall sensor rating, as well as sub-scores for low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and color depth ("DXO Portrait"). Of the two cameras under review, the A7R has a notably higher overall DXO score than the A7R (overall score 8 points higher), which gives it an advantage in terms of imaging quality. This advantage is based on 1.7 bits higher color depth, 0.9 EV in additional dynamic range, 0.4 stops of reduced low light sensitivity. The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.

Sensor Characteristics
Camera Sensor
Class
Resolution
(Megapixel)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Sony A7R (⇒ rgt) Full Frame 36.2 7360 4912 1080/60p 25.6 14.1 2746 95
Sony A7S (⇒ lft) Full Frame 12.0 4240 2832 1080/60p 23.9 13.2 3702 87
Nikon D750 (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 24.2 6016 4016 1080/60p 24.8 14.5 2956 93
Nikon D810 (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 36.2 7360 4912 1080/60p 25.7 14.8 2853 97
Nikon D610 (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 24.2 6016 4016 1080/30p 25.1 14.4 2925 94
Nikon Df (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 16.2 4928 3280 no 24.6 13.1 3279 89
Sony A7R II (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 42.2 7952 5304 4K/30p 26.0 13.9 3434 98
Sony A7S II (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 12.0 4240 2832 4K/30p 23.6 13.3 2993 85
Sony A7 II (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60p 24.9 13.6 2449 90
Sony A7 (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60p 24.8 14.2 2248 90
Sony RX1R (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60p 25.0 13.6 2537 91
Sony RX1 (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60p 25.1 14.3 2534 93

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. Both cameras under consideration are equipped with sensors that have a sufficiently high read-out speed for moving images, and both provide the same movie specifications (1080/60p).

Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The A7R and the A7S are similar in the sense that both feature an electronic viewfinder, which is helpful when framing images in bright sunlight. Moreover, their viewfinders offer an identical resolution of (2400k dots). The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Sony A7R and Sony A7S along with similar information for a selection of comparators. If needed, the dpreview camera hub, for example, contains further detail on the cameras' specs.

Core Features
Camera Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(Y/n)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(Y/n)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec))
Build-in
Flash
(GN)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Sony A7R (⇒ rgt) 2400 no 3.0 1230 tilting no 8000 4.0 no no
Sony A7S (⇒ lft) 2400 no 3.0 921 tilting no 8000 5.0 no no
Nikon D750 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 1229 tilting no 4000 6.0 12 no
Nikon D810 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 1229 fixed no 4000 5.0 12 no
Nikon D610 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 921 fixed no 4000 6.0 12 no
Nikon Df (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 921 fixed no 4000 5.5 no no
Sony A7R II (⇒ lft | rgt) 2400 no 3.0 1229 tilting no 8000 5.0 no YES
Sony A7S II (⇒ lft | rgt) 2400 no 3.0 1229 tilting no 8000 5.0 no YES
Sony A7 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 2400 no 3.0 1230 tilting no 8000 5.0 no YES
Sony A7 (⇒ lft | rgt) 2400 no 3.0 1230 tilting no 8000 5.0 no no
Sony RX1R (⇒ lft | rgt) no no 3.0 1229 fixed no 4000 5.0 6 no
Sony RX1 (⇒ lft | rgt) no no 3.0 1229 fixed no 4000 5.0 6 no

Both the A7R and the A7S have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on ebay. The A7R was replaced by the Sony A7R II, while the A7S was followed by the Sony A7S II.

Summary

So what is the bottom line? Is the Sony A7R better than the Sony A7S or vice versa? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.


Arguments in favor of the Sony Alpha A7R:

  • More detail: Offers more megapixels (36.2 vs 12MP) with a 74% higher linear resolution.
  • Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
  • Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (8 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
  • Richer colors: Generates images with noticeably better colors (1.7 bits more color depth).
  • More dynamic range: Captures a larger spectrum of light and dark details (0.9 EV of extra DR).
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1230k vs 921k dots).
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in October 2013).

Reasons to prefer the Sony Alpha A7S:

  • Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (0.4 stops ISO advantage).
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (5 vs 4 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (380 versus 340) out of a single battery charge.
  • More modern: Was introduced somewhat (5 months) more recently.

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the A7R emerges as the winner of the contest (7 : 5 points). However, the relative importance of the various individual camera aspects will vary according to personal preferences and needs, so that you might like to apply corresponding weights to the particular features.

A7R 07:05 A7S

In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras is instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the handling experience and imaging performance when actually working with the A7R or the A7S. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased. This is why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The following table reports the overall rankings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites. You can find the full text of the reviews, respectively, at cameralabs.com, dpreview.com, ephotozine.com, imaging-resource.com, and photographyblog.com.

Review scores
Camera camera
labs
dp
review
ephoto
zine
imaging
resource
photography
blog
Camera
Launch
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Sony A7R (⇒ rgt) HiRec 82/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 5/5 2013 2,299discont. check
Sony A7S (⇒ lft) - 86/100 Gold 4.5/5 4.5/5 5/5 2014 2,499discont. check
Nikon D750 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 90/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2014 2,299 latest check
Nikon D810 (⇒ lft | rgt) - 86/100 Gold 5/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2014 3,299discont. check
Nikon D610 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 87/100 Gold 4.5/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2013 1,999 latest check
Nikon Df (⇒ lft | rgt) - 81/100 4/5 4/5 4/5 2013 2,749 latest check
Sony A7R II (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 90/100 Gold 5/5 4.5/5 5/5 2015 3,199discont. check
Sony A7S II (⇒ lft | rgt) Rec - 4.5/5 5/5 5/5 2015 2,999 latest check
Sony A7 II (⇒ lft | rgt) Rec 82/100 Silver 4.5/5 5/5 5/5 2014 1,999 latest check
Sony A7 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 80/100 Silver 5/5 4.5/5 5/5 2013 1,699discont. check
Sony RX1R (⇒ lft | rgt) - - 4/5 reviewed 4.5/5 2013 2,799discont. check
Sony RX1 (⇒ lft | rgt) - 79/100 Gold 4/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2012 2,799discont. check

Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, and comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods have little meaning. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.

Other comparisons

If you would like to see a different side-by-side camera review, just make a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting. If the camera you are interested in is not available, kindly get in touch, and I will try to add information on that model to the database.

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