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Sony A7S versus Sony A7R

The Sony Alpha A7S and the Sony Alpha A7R are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in April 2014 and October 2013. Both the A7S and the A7R are mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras that are equipped with a full frame sensor. The A7S has a resolution of 12 megapixel, whereas the A7R provides 36.2 MP. Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their size, their sensors, their features, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison: Sony A7S vs Sony A7R

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

Snapsort Sony A7S vs Sony A7R
Compare A7S versus A7R top
Compare A7S and A7R rear

In this particular case, the Sony A7S and the Sony A7R have exactly the same width and height, and, thus, have identically-sized bodies. However, the A7R is markedly lighter (5 percent) than the A7S. 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 camera comparisons there.

Camera Body Specifications
  Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(yes/no)
Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
Sony A7S» 127 mm 94 mm 48 mm 489 g 380 Y Apr 2014 2,499- i Sony A7S
Sony A7R« 127 mm 94 mm 48 mm 465 g 340 Y Oct 2013 2,299- i Sony A7R
Nikon D750« » 141 mm 113 mm 78 mm 750 g 1230 Y Sep 2014 2,299 i i Nikon D750
Nikon Df« » 144 mm 110 mm 67 mm 760 g 1400 Y Nov 2013 2,749 i i Nikon Df
Nikon D700« » 147 mm 123 mm 77 mm 1074 g 1000 Y Jul 2008 2,999- i Nikon D700
Sony A6300« » 120 mm 67 mm 49 mm 404 g 400 Y Feb 2016 999- i Sony A6300
Sony A7R II« » 127 mm 96 mm 60 mm 625 g 290 Y Jun 2015 3,199- i Sony A7R II
Sony A7S II« » 127 mm 96 mm 60 mm 627 g 370 Y Sep 2015 2,999 i i Sony A7S II
Sony A7 II« » 127 mm 96 mm 60 mm 599 g 350 Y Nov 2014 1,999- i Sony A7 II
Sony A7« » 127 mm 94 mm 48 mm 474 g 340 Y Oct 2013 1,699- i Sony A7
Sony RX1R« » 113 mm 65 mm 70 mm 482 g 270 n Jun 2013 2,799- i Sony RX1R

The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The listed launch 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: Sony A7S vs Sony A7R

The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants of image quality. A large sensor will tend to have larger individual pixels that provide better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color depth than smaller pixel-units in a sensor of the same technological generation. Furthermore, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more possibilities to use shallow depth-of-field in order to isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies and lenses.

Both cameras under consideration feature a full frame sensor, but their sensors differ slightly in size. The sensor area in the A7R is 1 percent bigger. 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 A7S and Sony A7R sensor measures

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 8.45μm for the A7S). It is noteworthy in this context that 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 pixel-units. 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.

A7S versus A7R MP

Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. This service assesses and scores the color depth ("DXO Portrait"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports") of camera sensors, and also publishes an overall camera score. Of the two cameras under consideration, the A7R has a markedly higher DXO score than the A7S (overall score 8 points higher), which will translate into better image quality. The 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 adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.

Sensor Characteristics
  Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Camera
Model
Sony A7S» Full Frame 12.0 4240 28321080/60p23.913.2370287Sony A7S
Sony A7R« Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/60p25.614.1274695Sony A7R
Nikon D750« » Full Frame 24.2 6016 40161080/60p24.814.5295693Nikon D750
Nikon Df« » Full Frame 16.2 4928 3280-24.613.1327989Nikon Df
Nikon D700« » Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832-23.512.2230380Nikon D700
Sony A6300« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40004K/30p24.413.7143785Sony A6300
Sony A7R II« » Full Frame 42.2 7952 53044K/30p26.013.9343498Sony A7R II
Sony A7S II« » Full Frame 12.0 4240 28324K/30p23.613.3299385Sony A7S II
Sony A7 II« » Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.913.6244990Sony A7 II
Sony A7« » Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.814.2224890Sony A7
Sony RX1R« » Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p25.013.6253791Sony RX1R

Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. Both cameras under consideration have a sensor with sufficiently fast read-out times for moving pictures, and both provide the same movie specifications (1080/60p).

 

Feature comparison: Sony A7S vs Sony A7R

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The A7S and the A7R 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 A7S and Sony A7R along with similar information for a selection of comparators. The full specs-sheets can be found in the camera manual or, for example, in the dpreview camera hub.

Core Features
  Camera
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec))
Build-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Camera
Model
Sony A7S»2400 n 3.0 921 tilting n 8000 5.0 n n Sony A7S
Sony A7R«2400 n 3.0 1230 tilting n 8000 4.0 n n Sony A7R
Nikon D750« »optical Y 3.2 1229 tilting n 4000 6.0 Y n Nikon D750
Nikon Df« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 4000 5.5 n n Nikon Df
Nikon D700« »optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 8000 8.0 Y n Nikon D700
Sony A6300« »2300 n 3.0 922 tilting n 4000 11.0 Y n Sony A6300
Sony A7R II« »2400 n 3.0 1229 tilting n 8000 5.0 n Y Sony A7R II
Sony A7S II« »2400 n 3.0 1229 tilting n 8000 5.0 n Y Sony A7S II
Sony A7 II« »2400 n 3.0 1230 tilting n 8000 5.0 n Y Sony A7 II
Sony A7« »2400 n 3.0 1230 tilting n 8000 5.0 n n Sony A7
Sony RX1R« »- n 3.0 1229 fixed n 4000 5.0 Y n Sony RX1R

Both the A7S and the A7R 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.

Review summary: Sony A7S vs Sony A7R

So what conclusions can be drawn? Is there a clear favorite between the Sony A7S and the Sony A7R? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.


Arguments in favor of the Sony Alpha A7S:

  • Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (0.4 stops ISO advantage).
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (5 vs 4 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Longer lasting: Can take more shots (380 versus 340) on a single battery charge.
  • More modern: Is somewhat more recent (announced 5 months after the A7R).


Advantages of the Sony Alpha A7R:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (36.2 vs 12MP), which boosts linear resolution by 74%.
  • 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 evaluation.
  • Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (1.7 bits more color depth).
  • More dynamic range: Captures a broader range 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).

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the A7R emerges as the winner of the match-up (7 : 5 points). However, the relevance of individual strengths will vary across photographers, so that you might want to apply your own weighing scheme to the summary points when reflecting and deciding on a new camera.

A7S 05:07 A7R

In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it says nothing about, for example, the handling, responsiveness, and overall imaging quality of the A7S and the A7R in practical situations. At times, user reviews, such as those published at amazon, address these issues in a useful manner, but such feedback is on many occasions incomplete, inconsistent, and unreliable. This is where reviews by experts come in. The adjacent table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog). The full reviews are available by clicking on the site logo in the table header.

Review Scores
  Camera
Model
cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
Sony A7S»-86/1004.5/54.5/55/5 Apr 2014 2,499- i Sony A7S
Sony A7R«HiRec82/1004.5/55/55/5 Oct 2013 2,299- i Sony A7R
Nikon D750« »HiRec90/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2014 2,299 i i Nikon D750
Nikon Df« »-81/1004/54/54/5 Nov 2013 2,749 i i Nikon Df
Nikon D700« »89/100HiRec4.5/55/54.5/5 Jul 2008 2,999- i Nikon D700
Sony A6300« »Rec85/1005/55/55/5 Feb 2016 999- i Sony A6300
Sony A7R II« »HiRec90/1005/54.5/55/5 Jun 2015 3,199- i Sony A7R II
Sony A7S II« »Rec-4.5/55/55/5 Sep 2015 2,999 i i Sony A7S II
Sony A7 II« »Rec82/1004.5/55/55/5 Nov 2014 1,999- i Sony A7 II
Sony A7« »HiRec80/1005/54.5/55/5 Oct 2013 1,699- i Sony A7
Sony RX1R« »--4/5rev4.5/5 Jun 2013 2,799- i Sony RX1R

Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, and comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date have little meaning. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.

 

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? 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 you cannot find the camera you are interested in, kindly get in touch, and I will try to add information on that model to the database.

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