Sony's New Mirrorless Cameras Pack Full-Frame Sensors On The Cheap

We got wind of it earlier this week, but now it's real: Sony has two new full-frame, interchangeable-lens cameras up its sleeve for a super-competitive price, too. Meet the new cameras in the Alpha range.

The entry-level model is the A7, while the more premium model will be known as the A7R.

The A7 looks a great-deal like Sony's RX1 full-frame fixed-lens camera, and packs in a 24-megapixel sensor.

The unit is dust and moisture sealed, as are the lenses that go with the new full-frame cameras. We'll get to those.

Sony is trying to sell the entry-level A7 to the prosumer segment, hoping that the variety of technologies, size and weight win customers over.

You'll be paying $1999 for the A7 body, which is actually pretty competitive.

The A7 sports hybrid contrast/phase-detect auto-focus that should deliver speedy results similar to Sony's cams with the same feature, like the NEX-6. Also like the NEX-6, the A7 has a 2.4 million dot OLED electronic viewfinder resting on top, looking much like Olympus' OM-D cameras.

Moving up from there is the A7R: a 36-megapixel full-frame camera aimed squarely at the Nikon D800 competitor.

The R-branding means a few things, including the removal of the low-pass filter. These filters traditionally were used to avoid ripply patterns and distortions on your images because of the design of image sensors. Brands like Sony, Canon and Olympus are now confident enough in their sensor design that they don't include the low-pass filters, leading to better images in the long-run.

It will be interesting to compare the image quality of the two side-by-side, because many contend that packing too many pixels on a sensor decreases image quality, especially in dynamic range and noise levels. In addition to those concerns, there is one big concession for A7r users. The sensor does not feature the hybrid AF, so expect auto-focus speed to be a bit behind the A7.

Both cameras feature Wi-Fi, NFC, headphone and mic inputs, and a new BIONZ X processor that Sony says will do wonders for JPG quality and also enable full HD 60p video.

The A7R with its larger sensor and filter-free feature set will run you $2499 for the body-only: a right-sight cheaper than the Nikon D800, which comes in at $3399.95 based on today's pricing.

Interestingly, the sensor in the D800 is exactly the same one that's in the A7R, making this one kind of a no-brainer.

Along with the two new cameras, Sony is introducing three new full-frame Zeiss lenses into the range, all of which are weather-sealed.

By "weather-sealed" Sony means you can take it out in slightly heavier rain or a desert and not risk it going kaput, but it's not about to prescribe a dunking for its new glass.

The 35mm f/2.8 Zeiss lens will cost $999, while a new 55mm f/1.8 Zeiss lens will set you back $1299. That 55mm lens is delayed in Australia until January, however. There's also a new 24-70mm f/4 Zeiss zoom lens on offer which will run you $1499.

You can only purchase a single kit in the new range, with Sony offering the entry-level A7 body, as well as a Sony 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 full-frame E-mount lens for $2199.

Sony is aiming this one at switchers who already have existing glass in their camera bags, which means it will be offering adapters and attachments for people to use their Canon, Nikon and Leica lenses. There are also adapters for existing Sony customers that want to use their E-Mount or A-Mount lenses. There are 16 lenses in said-ranges, and the new cameras will crop the sensors down to half the megapixels in order to cut down on vignetting on your images.

Sony will have these new cameras along with the new lenses on the market from 20 November.

Michael Hession contributed to this report

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