Buying the Original Sony a7 in 2018: What You Need to Know

A couple of months ago I was in the market for a new camera to be used primarily for stills. I like my Canon EOS M3 and it's great for shooting video, but as a still camera, it just doesn't fit my needs. A few things I was looking for in my perfect camera included a full frame sensor, a viewfinder, light weight, and low cost. Even though I have been a Canon shooter since 2009, the Sony a7 was just what I needed. With that decision made I needed to find one for the right price so, I turned to eBay. After stalking the auctions for about a month, I finally found an a7 (body only) in excellent condition for under $550 and it came with three batteries and a wall charger!

Sony a7After receiving the camera and making sure everything worked, I found out it had some quirks that I had to work around. The first thing I needed to do was update the firmware, which isn't as easy with Canon cameras. With Canon, you put the new firmware file on the SD card, put it in the camera, and updated it there. With the Sony I had to download the firmware file, a firmware updater program, connect the camera to the computer via a USB cable, and then install the update. I followed the directions for using MacOS X and even though it seemed like a lot of steps, I figured it would be easy enough until I actually tried it. For whatever reason, I could not get the updater software to recognize the camera. I made sure my Mac was running the latest version of MacOS, made sure I had the latest version of Sony's software, and still nothing. Thankfully, I still had a Windows PC I could try this out with, and sure enough, I was able to update the a7's firmware without issue.

With the firmware updated I was able to set up my camera by setting the date and time and changed the video mode from PAL to NTSC; I didn't think much of that at the time. After using the camera for a few days I became annoyed with it because every time I turned it on, I'd see a message stating, "Running on NTSC." I couldn't figure out for the life of me why Sony would put this in the camera, much less, have it pop up on startup; thank you captain obvious. So, I finally decided to do a Google search and see why this message was there and if I could disable it. It turns out that if you buy the camera over seas, or where the video standard is PAL, you'll get this error when you switch to NTSC. Because the seller lived in Texas, I never even thought to check that. After a bit more searching I found out that the Sony a7IIIs have a menu option to disable that message, but the older a7s don't. Luckily, I found a site that offers a third party program called OpenMemories-Tweak. This is an app that is installed directly onto the camera and it will allow you to disable the message and tweak a few other things. Here is a tutorial on how to install it.

With those two major issues fixed and out of the way, I've been extremely happy with the Sony a7. I'm not going to go into a full review because there are plenty of those out there, but I will say it's still worth buying in 2018. The image quality is amazing, I love the EVF, and it's ergonomically perfect for my hands. You can pick one up brand new from Amazon with a kit lens for $998. I opted to go for just the body and get two Canon FD vintage lenses which only cost me $60 for both. I have the FD 50mm f/1.8 and the FD 28mm f/2.8 and have been getting amazing results with both. I primarily shoot street and candid portraits, so they work perfectly for me. If you're in the market for a new camera but don't have a lot of money to spend, the Sony a7 is a no brainer. It's a 24 megapixel full frame camera for less than a thousand dollars new. Just be aware that you may have to overcome a couple of hurdles to get it running smoothly.

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