Sony splits its small full
May 26, 2023
By Antonio G. Di Benedetto, a writer covering tech deals and The Verge’s Deals newsletter, buying guides, and gift guides. Previously, he spent 15 years in the photography industry.
Sony is once again trickling down high-end camera features to newer lower-cost models while simultaneously making some confounding design decisions. The new cameras are the $2,199.99 Sony A7C II and the $2,999.99 Sony A7C R, a pair of compact mirrorless twins that look and function mostly the same except for the resolution of their sensors. This pair of cameras are successors to 2020’s compact and well-regarded A7C. They are due to launch in September along with a new $2,299.99 Sony FE 16–35mm f/2.8 II ultrawide zoom lens.
The A7C II’s price puts it at $400 more than the first-generation model at launch, which is a steep increase. Sony typically keeps older models around even after they’ve been updated, though, so it will likely still be possible to buy the first A7C if the new model is too expensive.
The 33-megapixel A7C II looks identical to the 61-megapixel A7C R, save for the small logo differences and the fact that the A7C R includes an add-on handgrip at no additional charge. (It costs $159.99 extra to buy one for the A7C II.) They share the same processor, the same weight and dimensions, and they each inherit the dedicated AI processing unit of the Sony A7R V camera that gives it the best subject-tracking autofocus system around. The A7C R also shares that camera’s high-resolution sensor, while the A7C II borrows the one from the A7 IV — making these compact models a lot like a baby A7R V and a baby A7 IV with improved autofocus. And though they’re smaller, the new A7C cameras use the same Z-series batteries as their bigger counterparts, with no apparent compromises to battery life.
My colleague Becca Farsace and I both got to try out the new cameras; Becca tested the A7C II, and I tested the A7C R. While both have various performance and design improvements over the last-gen A7C — like slightly better grip construction, a new Slow and Quick mode subdial, and customizable right thumb wheel — there are some things still lacking in these new models just as there were in the original.
The grips are better, but somehow, the much less expensive and capable A6700 still manages to have better ergonomics on its built-in grip. I tried out some heavy lenses on both the A7C R and the A6700, and even though the latter is an APS-C camera with a slightly smaller footprint, its more contoured grip felt better in the hand — even under the load of Sony’s hefty FE 50mm f/1.2 GM lens. The A7C R’s ergonomics become better than the A6700’s once you attach its included add-on grip, as it gives you a solid resting place for your pinky finger, but then, you’re back to playing the accessories game to correct Sony’s design faults.
Subjective ergonomics aside, the omission of the A7C II / A7C R that’s likely to bother many serious photographers and videographers the most is (once again) a lack of a second SD Card slot. I know these cameras are not designed for working professionals, but not having a backup card slot (or even some built-in storage as a substitute) is usually a deal-breaker for pros and advanced enthusiasts who might otherwise like a compact body for both work and fun. I know from my hands-on time that the new A7C twins are more than capable of being used in a pro work environment like weddings, but not having those vital instant backups sadly makes either second-gen A7C a nonstarter.
Yep — still just one SD Card slot
But in Becca’s case, as someone who already owns the original A7C, this is a minor issue that she’s accustomed to. I wanted to get her firsthand take on whether the A7C II seems worth an upgrade to her, and here’s what she had to say:
The A7C II has a larger 33MP back-illuminated CMOS sensor than my older A7C, but what actually deserves attention are all the small physical changes to the system.
I love having an electronic viewfinder. It makes me feel secluded and in my own filming / photographing world, which helps me get into the storytelling zone. And with more and more Sony cameras — cough, cough Sony FX30, ZV-E1, and ZV-E10 — ditching this private, tiny screen, I am very happy to see it getting a small spec bump here. The difference is only .11x magnification from the original A7C, but it makes a large difference in practice. Settings are more readable and less eye strain ensues.
The A7C II’s grippier leatherette and slightly deeper handgrip allow for a more secure hold when larger lenses are mounted. And although my hands are that of a child’s, I agree with Antonio that these cameras greatly benefit from the add-on pinky grip for long-term handheld use.
And lastly, the cutout for pulling out the screen is now on the bottom, as opposed to the top of the screen, there is an added custom function button on the back, a physical switch for changing between S&Q (Slow and Quick mode), video, and photo modes, and the exposure compensation dial spins infinitely and has no text on it. Of these changes, I am most excited about the latter. I instantly switched that dial to white balance and was incredibly happy to never think about exposure compensation. Give me all the customizable dials, please!
Otherwise, the A7C II doesn’t feel all that different from the original A7C. In fact, it is my favorite Sony system for its small size, great specs, full-frame sensor, and EVF. But for Mark I users, I would hold off till the next generation. It isn’t so much of a jump in quality that an upgrade is needed.
While I wholeheartedly agree with Becca’s opinion on the A7C II, the A7C R may be worth the upgrade from a last-gen A7C if you really covet the big jump in resolution. If your primary focus is stills photography and you don’t mind some massive file sizes, the A7C R is a bargain compared to the $3,900 A7R V. You get a great deal of what that pro camera offers but for $900 less and in a smaller size.
Photography by Antonio G. Di Benedetto / The Verge
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