East Grinstead photographer and filmmaker Nitsan Simantov. Wedding photography and commercial video production in London and West Sussex.

A7 / A7r / A7s software issues 'fix list' for Sony

Dear Sony (and other readers),

I am a full time professional photographer, filmmaker and Youtuber, and I have almost no complaints like this about the many other camera systems I have used, even the older Sony NEX cameras, which i have used a lot. I have written this for Sony as well as for public readers.

I do love the A7 and A7S, and I have used them a lot now, next to my 5D III, and they get so many things right, but the firmware has some really dumb issues that could easily be fixed with a firmware update. There are simply SO many restrictions, issues, warnings and "bugs" in the software. Here are the main ones in no particular order:

  • The menus are slightly more organized than the NEX cameras but still often very hard to find what you need. Currently every setting you would need to reach often during shooting is in one of just two categories, one is a camera symbol, one is a generic "settings" symbol - Neither one of those actually tells you what you're supposed to find inside. Please organize features by category.
  • There is no way to set minimum and maximum shutter speed. This is a potential issue for both stills and video shooting. Video mode should have a 'limit minimum shutter' option to prevent accidental movement of the shutter below the current frame rate, because this can completely ruin your footage. Stills mode should just allow you to select maximum and minimum values for the auto exposure modes.
  • There is no adjustability for the sensitivity of the viewfinder's proximity sensor, so the screen will often turn off and switch to the viewfinder if I try to make a little sun block with my hand when looking at the screen. And the camera is unusable at a low angle unless you hold it very far from your body, or start digging through the menu to find the option to disable the viewfinder completely.
  • No OSS (image stabilization) with some lenses. For example, the 16-50mm.
  • A long lag when wanting to zoom into a photo in play mode. It also zooms in all the way into the image, faaaar too much, rather than having an option for the default amount of zoom, or remembering your last zoom level.
  • The screen lags like hell whenever you half press the shutter if using a Sony lens. Some settings like autofocus, optical stabilization and the screen quality setting have an effect on how bad it lags.
  • Focus peaking could be improved. Currently i find that looking at the aliasing patterns on the viewfinder is often more helpful than the focus peaking.
  • You can't set custom white balance in movie mode. You have to turn the mode dial to "M", then go back to movie mode to use it.
  • Auto exposure modes are often unusable on the A7s when shooting video with S-log2, and lets face it, the S-Log2 mode is the main thing that makes this camera good for video shooters. It HEAVILY under exposes the image in all the automatic modes, even M with auto ISO, EVEN if you set the exposure compensation as high as it will go. Underexposed images from the A7s are often unusable, so this is a big issue. And yes, the auto exposure modes are extremely important to many shooters, for fast shooting and even for scenes with brightness changes during the shot.
  • Exposure compensation limited to -2 to +2 in video mode instead of the usual -5 to +5. This must be fixed.
  • You can't take a photo in movie mode, not a big issue but it's annoying.
"Running on NTSC." - Yes, because that's the option I chose in the menu.

"Running on NTSC." - Yes, because that's the option I chose in the menu.

  • Constant USELESS warning messages. "Running on NTSC" shows up every time you turn on the camera if you are in NTSC mode (which is needed for 24p and 60p video). "Image database file not found. Create?" is another annoying one at startup. No need to ask me, just do it, like other cameras do.
  • It randomly asks you to format your card (I am not sure of the exact reasons, something to do with the files it finds on the SD card), risking an accidental wipe of all your data because you are now so used to just pressing "OK", "OK", "OK", for the constant stream of warning messages. It did erase one of my cards, luckily I didn't lose anything important. The warning message for this is in broken English, it reads: "Recording is unavailable in this movie because format is set to NTSC. Format?". This can happen when you've used that card with multiple cameras or even just because you change some video mode/quality settings on the A7 itself.
  • No warnings for when you REALLY need them, such as when you accidentally enter into the multi-shot noise reduction mode, by going one step below "Auto" when adjusting your ISO, (Avoid this issue by staying in RAW mode!). It still says "Auto" but now it takes three photos every time you press the shutter, and combines them.
  • Another reasonable place to put a warning is if you go one click too far in the "drive mode" setting (single shot, burst, etc), now you are in digital range optimizer mode, the camera is now recording three near-identical RAW(!) images for every time the shutter goes off and pointlessly eating up tons of space on your memory card with no warning or explanation.
  • When you want to shoot a HDR image you have to first change the camera to JPEG mode, then enable HDR mode in the menu, then do the process again when you want to go back to shooting RAW images. The HDR mode is very useful and it worked just fine on the older NEX cameras and other cameras like the Canon 5D Mark III.
Auto Review setting options.

Auto Review setting options.

  • If the "auto review" setting is ON (automatic viewing of your image after taking a photo) then you have a huge lag between photos, because you have to take the shot, wait for the image to come up, then half press the shutter to go back into shooting mode to take the next shot. This would easily be fixed if you had the option to have the viewfinder JUST for shooting and the screen JUST for viewing, just like any DSLR, and it could also significantly improve battery life since the big screen won't be constantly on when the camera is at your side, but there is no option to do this in the A7. 
  • If the auto review setting is OFF (no immediate playback after taking a photo) you can shoot much more quickly (still much slower than a DSLR), but then if you want to view your image shortly after taking the shot, you press play button and it gives you the error message "Writing to memory card. Unable to operate." You have to exit the warning, wait, then try again. I don't see how this could be a hardware speed limitation since this is not an issue on any other cameras. Even on the much older NEX cameras it would show you a preview of the image right away even if it was still in the middle of processing or writing to the card, which just means the colors looked a bit different for a second until the camera had finished processing. Much better than the ridiculous warning message on the A7 series cameras.
  • Half the menu options are often not available because it's in the "wrong" mode, or sometimes due to another menu option being set to something the camera doesn't like. And it often just gives you a very very vague reason for why you can't do that thing you want. For example if I want to turn on the focus magnifier feature I get the message: "This operation or setting not available as follows. Focus Mode. Single-shot AF". Again, in broken English. Sometimes it doesn't even give a reason!
    Someone experienced could often figure out what the issue is, but good luck figuring it out if you don't know how every setting affects every other setting.
"Lens. Invalid with this lens" - Thanks Sony, that's very helpful.

"Lens. Invalid with this lens" - Thanks Sony, that's very helpful.

  • Audio goes completely out of sync if the video file gets split in two after you reach the 2GB file size limit.
  • Super slow start up time. This is a big issue because the screen is always on, so you would want to turn off the camera to save battery, then when you need to shoot, the camera is not ready. Sometimes it's a few seconds, sometimes up to 13 seconds! This issue is often worse with non-original batteries, but seems to have been greatly improved on the A7S compared to the A7.

Strange flickering / FPN issue when shooting video with high ISOs and flat profiles. FPN means "Fixed Pattern Noise", although for some reason these patterns roll around on the screen so I don't know what is the cause yet. I still need to fully test this. Once again, often avoidable but can possibly completely ruin your footage. Do not confuse this issue with LED dimmers or incorrect shutter speeds, this looks similar but can happen even in daylight. Here is a video demonstrating this.

  • There are some unnecessary restrictions on what functions can be customized to what buttons. We want full customization options please. The easiest way would be that while you are anywhere in the camera's menu with any setting or option highlighted, press a specific button to bring up the selection of shortcut buttons it can be set to.
    For example: Press menu, go to "APS-c size capture", but instead of pressing the select button, hold down the function button for one second, a mini menu now comes up and allows you to choose what button you want to set this function to, scroll down and select the 'custom 3' button. Now while shooting you can press the 'C3' button to quickly switch to APSc crop mode.

It's not all bad though. The A7 series of cameras have so many lovely and awesome features, and they could easily become close to perfect with a firmware update. Hopefully also some dual card slots in future versions of these cameras. See my full review of the A7S here [LINK].

Shot on the Sony A7 during my last wedding.