Up until now, it looked like Sony covered their bases with both the a6000 and a7 lineups. And each series already offered an affordable well-configured entry-point. But, in 2020, Sony decided to do something different. And now their A7C, “C” standing for compact, is the truly affordable entry point into the full-frame a7 lineup. Technically, it sits in a separate range, alongside the a7 and above the a6000 lineups. And, in many respects, it’s essentially a full-frame a6600. But, it appears to be the camera content creators have requested.
On paper, it obtains much of the capabilities from the slightly pricier a7 III. But, interestingly, with a distinct look in a sleek profile closing matching the a6600. It also simultaneously comes to market taking the spot as the world’s smallest and lightest full-frame camera boasting in-body stabilization.
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Sony aims this camera directly at newcomers and smartphone users wanting a substantial upgrade in quality. But, as it stands, it competes with some incredibly tough competition. And it challenges Panasonic S5, Fujifilm X-T4, Nikon Z6, Olympus’ E-M1 Mark III, and Canon’s EOS R.
But the markets changed since 2018 with the debut of the a7 III. Consider this camera looks to be mostly the same as the a7 III, is it even a necessary release? Or has Sony added yet another option to confuse consumers? The competition at this price point is also incredibly tough. Does it offer anything new? And has Sony officially given up on their APS-C lineup, providing Fujifilm an opportunity to charge forward? Let’s find out.
What are some of the goods, bads, and uglies of the Sony A7C?
It features a 24.2MP Exmor R CMOS sensor and the Bionz X processor, a similar setup as the a7 III. But, they’ve redesigned the sensor to make it adequately compact for this camera’s size.
Nevertheless, image quality remains mostly unchanged to the a7 III in detail and latitude. And the camera’s 14-bit uncompressed RAW files still provide upwards of 15 stops of dynamic range. And they offer plenty of freedom for post-processing or large format printing.
However, Sony has refined the color science slightly. And, in this case, they’ve reduced the magenta hue in the shadows, creating a more vibrant and natural look. And the camera is noticeably more technically correct in the default profiles, with more faithful color. Overall, the new color science is excellent and matches the ZV-1 and a7S III for seamless integration.
While this camera is similar in size to an APS-C camera, its full-frame sensor is a key advantage. In size, this sensor is nearly twice that of the similarly-sized a6600 and 30x larger than a smartphone. And its large pixels provide a better signal-to-noise ratio, which increases fine details in texture and shadow areas. Plus, it produces a more shallow depth of field for better subject separation.
It also obtains the Shutter Auto White Balance lock, locking the white balance when the shutter is half depressed. It’s helpful to maintain a consistent white balance during continuous burst shooting.
It also offers a custom white balance meter that you can move around the screen to refine your target—an interesting addition.
The camera also offers continuous shooting speeds of 10 FPS, with either the mechanical or electronic shutter, both with full-time autofocus support. However, shooting at this frame rate doesn’t provide a real-time preview, only the burst’s last frame. For Live view, you’ll have to down to 8 FPS. But, otherwise, it has an excellent buffer of unlimited JPEGs or 45 uncompressed RAW files before slowing.
It shoots 4K UHD video up to 30 FPS and 1080p full HD video up to 120 FPS. And both resolutions shoot to the XAVC S format with data rates of 100 Mbps with 8-bit 4:2:0 subsampling. Like the a7 III, the camera oversamples its 6K sensor, producing greater detail and genuine 4K footage. Overall, while mostly unchanged from the a7 III, the footage it delivers is excellent. It’s equally sharp, with Sony’s pleasing color rendering and a similar 14-stops of dynamic range.
It obtains the Slow & Quick Mode, allowing you to access the in-camera slow and quick recording options. And you can record high-speed full HD videos up to 120 FPS in this mode, automatically slowed up to 5x in-camera. Or 60x faster than real-time for quick motion effects.
Like several Sony camera’s now, it also obtains unlimited video recording. So you can record as long as your SD card allows when using continuous power. And this becomes a key selling feature over the a7 III, which has the standard 29 minute 59-second limit.
- It supports vertical video, and it automatically tags the metadata for proper vertical playback on smartphones.
- It has a built-in Time Code display.
- It obtains zebras for highlight warning indication.
- It obtains the Gamma Display Assist, which helps gauge exposure when recording in a log profile.
It also obtains Sony’s full suite of picture profiles and gamma controls, including Cine1-4, Rec709, S-Log2, S-Log3, and HLG. These profiles provide a wider dynamic range than traditional Rec 709 and more post-processing flexibility.
The camera also outputs a clean, uncompressed 4K 4:2:2 8-bit signal via HDMI for use with external recorders or monitors. And you can use the camera as an external webcam via the Imaging Edge desktop app.
Low Light Performance
Low light performance is excellent and matches the a7 III. It features a native ISO range from 100-51,200, further expandable to 204,800. And users can expect usable results up to ISO 6,400 or 12,800 with minor post-processing.
It uses Sony’s latest 693-point phase-detection AF system with 4D focus, 93% frame coverage, and support down to -4 EV. Of the 693 points, 425 points use contrast-detection, increasing accuracy. This is a similar configuration as the flagship a9 and the a7 III. But, compared to the A9, it offers slightly better low light focusing, moving from -3 to -4 EV. Plus, it brings along Real-Time Eye AF for humans and animals and their latest AI-based tracking technologies.
And for this reason, it now becomes the most affordable full-frame camera to obtain these features. Overall, the camera’s focusing remains excellent. Sony virtually perfected autofocus with the previously released ZV-1, and this camera adds minor nuances to make it even better. The camera tracks confidently across various lighting conditions and maintains focus even when the face is partially obstructed. Sony also refined the Real-Time Eye AF for video, which now delivers confident focusing during recording.
Interestingly, they’ve also configured the AF-ON button to enable Real-time Eye AF, even when AF-C isn’t enabled. A subtle but helpful change.
The camera also obtains AF Fine-Tune, which allows you to adjust the Subject Shift and Transition Speed for the best results. And it gives you more freedom to customize how quickly the camera switches between subjects and the speed of the focusing.
It also offers focus peaking, Focus check, and focus magnification.
It uses the larger Z type battery, and battery life is excellent and arguably class-leading. Sony rates the camera to deliver 740 shots per charge using the rear screen or 220 minutes of continuous recording, both outdoing the a7 III in this regard.
Display & Viewfinder
It has an XGA OLED electronic viewfinder with a resolution of 2.36M dots, 0.59x magnification, and a variable refresh up to 120 Hz. The viewfinder is helpful, but compromises were made—more on this in the cons section below.
New for this camera is a 3.0-inch vari-angle TFT touchscreen LCD, making it the second a7 camera outside of the A7S III to obtain the feature. The screen does only offer a resolution of 921K dots, which is below average. But a fair trade-off to reduce the price. Nevertheless, the articulation here is an excellent addition, particularly for the target demographic. It provides superior versatility when working from high or low angles. And it’s ideal for vlogging and self filming. Otherwise, the display itself is reasonable. It’s adequately sharp and the Sunny Weather mode makes it easily bright enough for use outdoors. The touchscreen also supports touch focus, touch shutter, AF touchpad, and touch tracking. Essentially, this is the a7 III’s screen, now with articulation.
- It offers Programmable settings, three in-body, and four on the memory card. These allow you to recall full shooting setups quickly, saving time recreating them.
- It obtains the customizable My Menu, which you’ll need to avoid the camera’s complicated menus.
- It offers the My Dial Setting to assign functions to the control ring and control wheel.
- It obtains the customizable Function Menu (FN), which you can customize to access your 12 most used settings.
- Like the a7S III, the Movie and Photo modes are adjacent on the Mode Dial, making it faster to switch between each.
- It has a single customizable button, labeled C, which you can customize as needed.
Physical Layout & Ergonomics
Physically, the camera follows a new design in the a7 range, that’s interestingly more in-line with the a6000 lineup. But, simultaneously, it also added a range-finder inspired layout. Plus, unlike other a7 cameras, Sony’s simplified the top plate making the design much more straightforward. And they’ve also streamlined and refined the button layout. However, they went in an interesting direction this time, installing a top silver plate and two-toned finish. This addition gives the camera a more retro and nostalgic look. And coupled with the carbon fiber styled accents on the grip, the cameras modern, sleek, and quite handsome.
In size, the camera weighs 509g, including battery and SD card, nearly identical to the a6600’s 503g. And both cameras are almost identical in dimension as well. Thus, compared to the a7 III, the camera’s noticeable smaller and 27% lighter. Even so, Sony’s redesigned the grip, which remains surprisingly deep for such a small camera. And coupled with its weight, it offers exceptional one-handed control and balance with mid-sized lenses. But, crucially, this camera also maintains a robust magnesium-alloy chassis for the top, front, and rear covers. And this combination affords full weather sealing, with similar durability as the a7 III. Overall, the physical design of this camera is excellent. And while it’s similar in size and handling to the a6600, it offers the higher-end build of the a7 III.
- Sony’s also made a few subtle changes to make this camera easier to use. Below are these changes.
- They’ve added a dedicated SD card compartment, making it easier to quickly change either the battery or SD card.
- The repositioned the microphone port and other I/O to avoid any limitation to the screen’s articulation.
- They also increased the ON/OFF toggles resistance, making it slightly more difficult to turn than before. And it helps prevent accidental changes during transport.
- Sony’s also redesigned the port covers compared to other a7 bodies, which are now far more robust without any dangling flaps.
- Sony modified the tripod thread placement to avoid interfering with the battery compartment. A subtle change, but one most manufacturers overlook.
- It has a dedicated video record button on the top plate by the shutter release.
- It offers a dedicated exposure compensation dial.
- It has an AF-ON button for quick back-button focusing.
It obtains the 5-axis image stabilization system from the a7 III, which Sony calls Steady Shot. It’s been purpose-built and redesigned slightly to make it smaller to suit the camera’s size. But, Sony still rates it to deliver 5 EV stops of compensation. In performance, it mostly matches the a7 III, and it works reasonably well. You can expect sharp images upwards 1/20 second shutter speeds.
It has built-in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and NFC connectivity, allowing you to share or geotag images and control the camera wirelessly via the Imaging Edge app. The camera also offers the faster 5 GHz band. And, interestingly, Sony added the Movie Edit add-on, which also corrects camera shake via the app.
- It has a microphone input, and you can adjust the input sensitivity via the menu.
- It has a headphone output.
- It has a USB-C port, which supports the faster file transfer speeds, charging, and continuous power.
- It has a fully silent electronic shutter.
- It has built-in HDR.
It obtains Sony’s multi-interface hot shoe so that you can use proprietary accessories without cables.
Their GP-VPT2BT vlogging grip also works with this camera. And it’s an excellent addition if you plan on vlogging.
It obtains Sony’s 2x Clear Image Zoom, which allows you to zoom digitally without any deterioration to image quality.
It has Anti-flicker Shooting, helpful when shooting under fluorescent lights to maintain exposure and white balance.
It obtains Face Priority multi-metering, which uses the subject as the marker for proper exposure.
It has several lens compensation options, including Peripheral Shading, Chromatic Aberration, and Distortion, which help reduce these lens anomalies.
Like many Sony cameras now, it only offers 8-bit 4:2:0 internal recording, not 10-bit. And filmmakers will find the lack of 10-bit a slight limitation, especially considering several rivals at this price offer 10-bit internal recording or, at a minimum, 10-bit via HDMI. However, this, at least, means existing Sony users will find the post-processing experience immediately familiar. But, if 10-bit is essential to your workflow, consider another camera.
The camera also doesn’t offer slow-motion video in 4K in the form of 60 FPS, a feature several rivals at this price offer.
Like the a7 III, the camera has a mild 1.2x crop when filming 4K 30 FPS. And it also results in a slight loss in detail. However, it’s not significant enough that it negatively affects framing or lens choice. But, something to consider nevertheless.
Like the a7 III, it also suffers from rolling shutter when shooting 4K 24 FPS. So take caution when panning from side to side to avoid the distortion that occurs. Alternatively, shooting in 4K 30 FPS or the Super35 mode will help reduce these effects.
The electronic viewfinder has some compromises. While the 2.36M dot resolution matches the a7 III, the display is tiny at only 0.59x magnification, a 32% decrease. Comparatively, the a7 III offers a more standard 0.78x magnification. This smaller magnification makes it quite challenging to use the display. If your eyes are even slightly off-center, you’ll start to lose brightness in the corners. It also requires a bit of squinting, causing unnecessary eye strain. But, worse, the image quality degrades once the camera locks focus, and the contrasting areas have color fringing. Overall, if you prefer composing using a viewfinder, you may find these a deal-breaker.
Strangely, it doesn’t obtain the updated user-interface seen on the newly released a7S III. Instead, it uses the standard old-school interface, which as always, is confusing, clunky, and overly complicated. Nor does it provide the updated touch implementation seen on the a7S III.
No, we’re back to the same limited and incomplete touch functionality seen on the a7 III, a continued shame. So, instead, you’ll have to use the somewhat clumsy d-pad to navigate the camera. Overall, newcomers will find the interface a hurdle and rather difficult to master, as they’re not particularly intuitive. And given the camera’s target audience, this is a confusing move. But, long-time users will at least find them familiar.
It lacks the dual adjustment dials of the a7 III. Considering the space on the grip, this is an oversight in ergonomics.
It only offers a single custom button, losing the other three found on both the a7 III and a6600. And you may find this limiting if you prefer a lot of physical customization.
- It lacks a built-in flash, understandable given its size.
- It lacks dual card slots and the AF joystick of the a7 III.
- It has a micro HDMI port, a fair trade-off considering its size. But, these connections tend to be somewhat insecure.
- The camera only offers a flash sync speed of 1/160 second, slightly limiting when shooting outdoors.
Is this a good beginner camera?
It’s an excellent starting camera and one that offers a robust feature set with little faults. Its larger brother, the a7 III revolutionized our expectations for full-frame capabilities at this price. And this camera continues the tradition. And it’s at a price that competes with APS-C and Micro Four Thirds, but it offers the distinct advantage of a large full-frame sensor. And at its launch price, it’s relatively competitively priced. You will have to battle the antiquated Sony menus on this camera. Otherwise, it’s a strong contender if you’re looking to go full-frame and want a long-term option.
Is this a good camera for you?
This camera is an excellent option for vloggers and content creators. With its small size, headphone and mic jacks, side-hinged screen, and large battery, it’s quite a package. And comparatively, it becomes the ultimate tool for this at this price point.
For photographers, this camera is quite capable, but better options do exist. With the lack of dual card slots, downgraded EVF, missing custom buttons, and dual adjustment dials, Sony’s made trade-offs. However, it does give you access to Sony’s existing suite of full-frame E-mount lenses. And many of their mid-range lenses are equivalent to the top-end option of rivals. And at the same size as the a6600, it’s quite the option for traveling. So, depending on your preferences here, it could be a worthwhile option nonetheless.
For sports, wildlife, and journalism photographers, this camera is reasonably capable with its 10 FPS burst, confident real-time AF, and large buffer.
This camera makes an excellent b or c camera to existing Sony users, particularly if you want a lightweight and discreet option.
For videographers and filmmakers, this camera is quite a strong option. And it delivers Sony’s best AF system to date, coupled with exceptional battery life, unlimited recording, and log profiles. As a package, it’s arguably their best video camera outside of the a7S III.
This camera is a direct alternative to the entire a6000 lineup. If size and weight are a significant consideration in your decision-making process, this camera is equally capable as the flagship a6600. But, it provides the distinct advantage of a full-frame sensor, which makes it the better camera. If you’re looking specifically at the a6600, carefully weigh your options.
For those wanting an entry-point in the full-frame mirrorless segment, this is an excellent choice. It does have drawbacks and trade-offs over the larger a7 III. But, most of them are not deal-breakers. And at its launch price, it’s quite an affordable way to enter full-frame. If you don’t need the added ports, extra SD card, and programmable buttons, this camera is a healthy alternative.
In the end, Sony’s A7C is the more compact and lightweight alternative to the a7 III. It obtains most of its high-end capabilities in a form factor almost unseen in this segment. As it stands, it’s an outstanding option for those wanting the full-frame experience, in a more portable and versatile package. While there are trade-offs and drawbacks over the larger a7 III. They’re justifiable, and most of them are not deal-breakers. And as an entry-point in the full-frame mirrorless segment, it remains capable nonetheless.
Frankly, this camera is quite a feat on Sony’s part. Not only have they managed to reduce the camera’s size, but they’ve also accomplished outfitting it with a large full-frame sensor and image stabilization. And Sony’s simultaneously amalgamated a robust feature set that widens their potential user base. As a whole, it’s a strong contender for those wanting full-frame capabilities without the large price tag. And frankly, if you want the best AF system Sony offers, this is your best option.
Last Updated on May 13, 2023 by Photography PX Published September 19, 2020
Sony’s A7C is not only the world’s smallest and lightest full-frame camera, but it does so with a powerful feature set. It’ll be a camera that undoubtedly widens their user base, and, despite the competition, it’s one to watch.