I have to be honest — when the Sony a7C came out, I wasn’t exactly blown away. It basically took the internals of the a7 III and moved them into a compact, rangefinder-style body. But after using it for a couple weeks … I’m pleasantly surprised.
While the rangefinder style body took a bit of getting used to, it’s laid out quite well. The button placement makes sense and are easy to find by touch. The viewfinder — while small — is very bright and detailed. And that flippy screen? Well, let’s just say I’m a huge fan.
Ergonomics and body styling
I’ve never been a huge fan of the rangefinder-style of cameras. While they look awesome, they’re not the most practical for how I photograph. The biggest thing for me is that I’m left eye dominant, meaning my nose hits the back screen.
But with the a7C, for whatever reason it felt a little more comfortable than the other camera bodies I’ve used from other companies. My nose wasn’t quite as smooshed and I could easily look through the viewfinder.
The other thing I always want with a rangefinder-style body is a deeper grip. The a7C delivers. While not as deep as Sony’s other cameras, it’s deep enough to make me feel like I have a secure grasp on my camera.
If you’ve used any of Sony’s APS-C cameras, the a7C will feel right at home. It’s designed very similar to the a6600, which in this case, I think is a good thing. Why mess with something so successful?
When shooting still life, the a7C was a joy to use. Having a smaller camera for walking around was easier than having something much bigger and heavier. Autofocus with still subjects was speedy and was able to lock on pretty well to plants that moved slightly with the wind.
What did surprise me is how well balanced something like the Sony 90mm f/2.8 Macro was on a smaller body. While it’s a lighter lens, it’s pretty large, and I still didn’t feel like my setup was front-heavy. When I put my Sigma 24-70mm on, it got a little heavier up front, but I still felt comfortable holding it. It’s definitely something to consider, though, if you’re planning to use larger telephoto lenses from Sony.
I also practiced some longer exposure shots, and was able to achieve one second handheld. While that’s not exactly something to write home about, I can tell that it’s improved over the a7 III (which I struggle to get sharp images from below 1/40s).
Being able to go up to a 1-second exposure allowed me to get sharp exposures of a waterfall, and to have the water blurred while the rocks tack sharp. Still, it would really be nice if Sony upped its game when it came to in-body image stabilization.
I also took the camera to our city’s new skate park to test out the autofocus even more. Paired with the Tamron 28-200mm (B&H | Amazon), the autofocus was good, but left a little to be desired. With the same settings as my a7 III (B&H | Amazon), I had more usable photos. The a7C would regularly focus on the background, for instance, no matter what the focus sensitivity was set to.
Eye AF did seem to improve slightly over the a7 III, but when a face isn’t visible (or when a mask is worn), you can’t take advantage of it — especially from far away.
A couple head scratchers
While the a7C definitely exceeded my expectations, there were three things missing for me.
One, I’m not sure why the a7C didn’t adopt the new Sony menu style that debuted with the a7S III (B&H | Amazon) earlier this year. After all, the a7C was announced after the a7S III, so there’s no reason why it couldn’t have been added in.
Two, the lack of a front dial and joystick. It took me a bit of getting used to having to adjust my shutter speed with the back wheel, instead of the front dial like I do with my a7 III. And while I don’t personally use joysticks much, I know a lot of people that do. If you’re planning on getting the a7C for a backup camera, it might be something to take into account. While a lot of the buttons and back functionality is similar, there are a few minor differences for sure.
Finally, a second card slot. In today’s day and age, any camera priced above $1500 (which this is) should have dual card slots. And they should be UHS-II slots, at that. As someone who photographs a lot of corporate photographs, not having dual card slots is concerning in case of card failure.
Who is the a7C for?
I can see the Sony a7C (B&H | Amazon) as fitting two audiences. One, the video audience. Having a flippy screen is a great thing for vloggers, and the video specs (4K at 30p) are suitable for this audience. Those that currently use a camera like the a6600 and have been wanting a full-frame camera will be very happy with the a7C.
But it’s also a great stills camera for photographers on-the-go. It’s compact and lightweight, certainly taking up less space in my camera bag than the a7 III. While autofocus isn’t perfect, it works well in most instances.
The a7C may have gotten a lot of mixed reactions initially. But after using it for a short time, I recommend it for anyone looking for a small, compact, rangefinder-style camera.