The Sony A7C crams a full-frame camera in a svelte form factor

Making a compact and affordable full-frame camera is all the rage right now. Nikon’s Z5 is new to the market, with reduced features to bring the price down to $1,400, and the Panasonic Lumix S5 has supercharged the S1 with an updated focusing system, while also a reducing the size of the camera body by pretty much half.

Sony is taking the middle ground here. It’s not reducing the number of features from its all-around A7 III with this new camera, but it isn’t doing a heck of a lot to elevate the camera beyond that either. The Sony A7C (the “C” stands for compact) is pretty much the A7 III and a half. It’s just a little bit better in a few ways than the original, with a smaller body and only a couple compromises. It also has a lower price of $1,800.

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The smallest full-frame camera

While not actually the smallest full-frame mirrorless camera ever made (Sony actually has that in their RX1), the A7C is the smallest interchangeable-lens mirrorless camera available. It’s 20% smaller and lighter than the A7 III, and approximately the same size and weight as the A6600 and A6500 APS-C cameras.

Familiar specifications

The camera features the tried-and-true 24.2-megapixel, backside-illuminated CMOS sensor that is very popular these days and combines it with Sony’s BIONZ X image processor, which together allows for ISOs up to 204,800 and 15-stops of dynamic range in stills and 14-stops in video. This is the same set of specifications we see in the A7 III, however early indications are that the ISO performance within that range is improved.

That sensor is outfitted with 693 phase-detection points and 425 contrast-detection points, an identical setup to what is found on the A7 III.

The A7C offers the same shooting speed of 10 frames per second as the A7 III, but the A7C can shoot for longer: 223 continuous JPEGs before filling the buffer, compared to the A7 III’s 177 frames.

Ted Forbes / The Art of Photography

Sony completely rebuilt its 5-axis, in-body image stabilization system to accommodate the larger full-frame sensor inside the smaller camera chassis. Sony also only gave the A7C one SD UHS-II port as opposed to the normal two, likely a limitation of the size of the body and the price of the camera.

The viewfinder is a bit disappointing: It’s a very small, 2.359-million-dot OLED, which is pretty low resolution but not different from what we have come to expect in this price range. The Lumix S5 has the same resolution, and therefore likely the exact same EVF, which we noted as one of the only downsides of the S5.

Real-time tracking

Sony has outfitted the A7C with its popular and highly capable Real-Time Tracking feature, which can “lock” onto objects and autofocus on them as they move. In a very welcome move, Sony also expanded the functionality of this feature to work with the press of the AF-ON button, rather than requiring a touch on the rear LCD to initiate it.

Sony has outfitted the A7C with its popular and highly capable Real-Time Tracking feature

The A7C also has the same Eye AF capabilities we’ve come to expect from all recent Sony cameras.

Since Sony doesn’t show processor generations like other camera brands do, we can’t be sure this is a newer version of the BIONZ X processor. But based on the improved buffer size, indications that ISO is better, and the inclusion of Real-Time Tracking, we can assume that the processor in the A7C is a newer one, and certainly newer than the one in the A7 III. Sony did confirm to us it’s not the processor found in its high-end A9, though.

Battery

The A7C uses the larger and better Z100 battery instead of the smaller batteries found in the APS-C cameras, which is great to see. It leads to a Camera and Imaging Products Association battery rating of 740 images per charge, or 225 minutes of video recording.

Ted Forbes / The Art of Photography

The camera doesn’t ship with a battery charger, however, and will require charging using a USB-C cable unless you purchase a charger separately.

Video features

Ted Forbes / The Art of Photography

The video features here are going to seem very familiar — because they are pretty much what you get on the A7 III.

The camera can shoot 4K in both 24p and 30p, with up to 120 frames per second in 1080p Full HD. It also has S-Log 2/3 and is HLG/HDR-compatible.

It won’t be able to record 10-bit 4:2:2 video, however, and is instead limited to 8-bit 4:2:0, just like the A7 III. It also can’t do 4K at 60 frames per second, again a limitation found in the A7 III but not in the rival Lumix S5.

The camera can shoot 4K in both 24p and 30p, with up to 120 frames per second in 1080p Full HD.

The A7C has does feature both Eye AF and Real-Time tracking in all video modes, and now features a 3-inch, 921K-dot vari-angle LCD, rather than the simple tilt screen found on the A7 III.

It has both a microphone and headphone jack, Sony’s proprietary digital audio interface via the hot shoe, but not a full-size HDMI. Sony also moved the video record button to the top panel for easier access.

Because this camera swapped the multi-access port from micro USB to USB-C, remotes like the GP-VPT2BT, which would normally be operated via a wired connection, can still be used, but with Bluetooth instead.

Ted Forbes / The Art of Photography

New camera, compact lens, and flash

The Sony A7C will be available in early October for $1,800 and can be purchased with a kit lens — the FE 28-60mm f/4-5.6 lens — for a total of $2100. It is also compatible with a new $250 external flash. The lens is touted by Sony as the “world’s smallest and lightest full-frame standard zoom lens,” is optimized for self-shooting (think vlogging), and is a manually retractable lens to keep the whole package small.

The lens is planned to be released separate from the kit, but not until the end of 2021.

The A7C is an exciting, somewhat expensive addition to Sony’s lineup. We’ll let you know if we think it’s worth the $1,800 price once we are able to fully evaluate it.

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