Spoiler alert. I really like this camera.
Nothing new, which is good actually. A reshuffled 90% A7III with better AF, much deeper continuous buffer, and other tweaks in a smaller body better suited to adapting MF and legacy glass with a smaller viewfinder that loses a card slot, thumbstick, front dial, and custom buttons in the process for a couple of hundred less. Except they just put the A7III on a $300 off sale just to make things interesting.
Long winded version
For this post I will list the objective and subjective things I really like about this camera and compare and contrast it with the camera the A7c was based on, the A7III.
Sidebar: Full disclosure. I love my A7III. It is not a brand thing. Between digital and definitely film I have literally owned near every modern (and some no longer around) camera brand on the planet. Out of all the brands I have tried and read about it is the one camera that best suits me. So I will not be spending any time talking about base performance items like image quality or AF. I will mention enhancements but everything else will be my thoughts about the unique aspects of this specific camera and what differentiates it from the A7III in my experience.
- The party piece that gets the most press for this camera.
- Quite noticeable in a good way.
- A7 cameras are not that large to start with. With the A7c it is not about an immense reduction in size but how they cut it down. The reduction comes down to two areas.
- Losing the fake DSLR hump in favor of an a6100 type viewfinder arrangement.
- Reducing the grip. This was done very well. While smaller it is still large enough to afford a firm grasp and most importantly make room for the big boy battery.
- Noticeably lighter than the nearly 1.5 lb. (650g) A7III at closer to 1 lb. (509g).
- To see if it was as noticeable as I thought I handed both to my better half and my wife agreed that the A7c was noticeably lighter and she is never wrong as far as I am concerned.
- AF Enhancements (above A7III)
- Eye AF in Video (A7III has Eye AF w/ stills only) and real time AF tracking. Works as billed and is as accurate as one would expect from Sony at this point.
- As good as the A7III is there are definitely noticeable tweaks that improve AF further in normal use as well. Not a massive difference but I did notice when shooting them back to back.
- MF Improvement
- Not sure what they did but the Focus Peaking Algorithm works better than previous A7 bodies I have used. Where manually focusing wide aperture lenses previously required punching in to focus accurately I was able to consistently nail focus using a long focal length bright lens (75mm lens wide open at f/1.25) without having to punch in. Shorter and/or less bright lenses are now a breeze. For pixel peeping critical shots punching in close is there still but that is now an option rather than a must do. Put more plainly this is huge for me as it greatly reduces my personal need for a rangefinder mechanism camera. Your mileage may vary.
- Gyro data for post stabilization.
- Good to have feature shared with the A7SIII and ZV-1. Allows for gimbal like stabilization adjustments in post. Wonderful demo here:
- Larger Continuous Shooting Buffer
- The A7III shoots up to 10 fps for up to 89 Frames (Raw) / 177 Frames (JPEG) while the A7c tops that shooting up to 10 fps for up to 115 Frames (Raw) / 223 Frames (JPEG).
- I noted in a comparison between the A7RII and A7III that there was a marked improvement in button feel. Well the A7c takes button feel a touch further with a “plush” feel to the buttons that is especially noticeable with the AF-ON button.
- The A7c eschews the Sony standard rubber baby elephant skin print (left image below) for a tight patterned grip that I prefer. Better looking as well.
- The Doors.
- Technically this should go under the build/fell category, but the difference here is so great I chose to make this its own bullet.
- The A7III’s double SD card door is just fine and better executed than the just ok single SD card doors on the A7II and A7RII. But turn to the other side of the A7III and it is a different story. There you will see the only build aspect of the A7III that ever gave me pause. The flippy flappy dangly doors covering the accessory ports. Sure, they did the job but they were fiddly to open and close, felt like they could snap off if one were to pull to hard, and did not give a great sense of weather sealing confidence. But for the record I have never experienced any breaches.
- The A7c is a completely different case however. The SD card slot was moved to the left side of the body in the middle along with the accessory ports. The middle SD card door has a lock switch to open and close it and a hinge that holds its position when open replaces the small bit of plastic the A7III doors dangles from. The top door covers the mic jack and the bottom door covers the headphone jack (a pleasant surprise in such a small camera body) and two USB ports, one micro USB and one USB-C. These two doors snap firmly into place and opens on a hinge that holds it place when open rather than dangling around. A nice touch that adds a bit more of a quality feel.
- Record Button
- I appreciated Sony moving the flush with the surface hard to find by feel video record button from the shoulder of the A7II/A7RII to the dedicated button next to the viewfinder on the A7III. Now the A7c one ups that by taking a page from the A7SIII and ZV-1 with its record button being relocated to the top panel.
- Fully Articulating Screen
- The back screen has been swiped from the Sony ZV-1 and I like it. It feels solid and I really like being able to fold the screen against the body when not in use. I joke about doing this to create my own fake back screen delete Leica M-D but I could actually imagine myself shooting EVF only when shooting legacy manual focus glass. (Set it to black and white and pretend it is a monochrome while I am at it. Ha… <ahem> Just joking Leica adherents. I come in peace.)
- No Record Limit
- Straightforward. Will record video until the battery dies instead of the A7III 30 minute limit. Longer if you plug it in I understand.
- 1/4000s mechanical and 1/8000s e-shutter
- I admit I would have an issue with the 1/4000s top mechanical shutter speed if the 1/8000s e-shutter was not available. But since it is I am good.
- Additionally I assume that this was compromise necessary to accommodate the smaller camera size so I am ok with it.
- New design for the smaller body and works just fine as far as I can tell. I am just glad that they included it if I am honest.
- Smaller Viewfinder
- New design for the smaller body and works just fine as far as I can tell. I am just glad that they included it if I am honest. Wait…
- Shutter Sound… I love the shutter noise! <ahem>
- Right out of the gate I love the way this new shutter sounds. It is one of the most wonderful shutter sounds I have ever heard.
- This does nothing to make a better picture, but it definitely adds to a very pleasant shooting experience.
- Also my wife noticed and was impressed by the shutter sound. And as I stated earlier she is never wrong.
- A great looking little camera perfectly suited for legacy glass shooting while not imbalanced when using native glass of any size.
- Comes with a silver top also that is nice. Sony is just released a white version of the ZV-1 also I see. A little bit of a style flex for the steadfastly sensible Sony. I see you. But I am more of a “Darth Vader, your camera is ready.” kind of a guy so all black it is.
- I also appreciate that there was no attempt to “fake it” for nostalgia’s sake. Cameras like the Nikon Df and the digital PEN-F come to mind. They worked so hard to make the PEN-F look like the film variant with design flourishes like the picture profile dial where the shutter was before. But I have a film PEN-FT (Review I wrote for KEH.) and the digital variant felt inauthentic. Like a current camera in a vintage costume rather than something special in the end. That is why I sold the digital PEN-F (While I still have other more straightforward Olympus digital cameras still.) and still have the analog PEN-FT. If you go that far do you know what I would have liked that front dial to be? The shutter dial. But nope. Sony did better merging form factor and modern features with the A7c in my opinion. Nothing Earth shattering. No unnecessary or costume design flourishes. Just nice. I like it.
- User Experience
- Simply put I really enjoy using this camera. As much as I appreciate the A7III my opinion towards it is based on its capabilities. It is such a solid performer. After flawlessly creating so many solid images appreciation has grown into a fondness for it. As much as one can feel towards an inanimate object that is.
- The A7c retains that same technical excellence but adds a component the A7III does not have. Add those small form factor, material, construction, design, and size tweaks to such an excellent starting point and you have a camera that I genuinely like for subjective reasons as well. That is a first for any Sony I have ever used.
- Are their “fancier” cameras or better looking cameras? Sure. But aesthetics mean nothing if the product does not perform to your needs or expectations or if key features or functionality are left out. A few compromises have been made but no show stopping functional missteps like some others for my purposes.
Many posts are contemplating which camera one should choose between the A7III and A7c. I look at it this way. Both of these cameras are so reasonably priced that you could purchase both for less than one A7SIII assuming you did not need the A7SIII’s fantastic video feature set with some change left over. (Plus an A7IV might be on the horizon that could wreck shop like the A7III did in the near future. But that is a contemplation for another day.)
So back to the A7c. Do I recommend it? Yes. Definitely.
Here is an ongoing gallery of images of and taken with the A7c. Sample photos of and with below also. If you are like me and value adapting legacy glass as well as shooting a wide range of native glass while not being short changed on features this is an excellent option.
These are good time for camera customers.
Photos With (Quick day 1 early shots. No surprises. A repackaged A7III sensor.)