There’s really only so much to say Sony’s A7R v Mirrorless camera. Sony has made a lot of right decisions with this new model, making it one of the best cameras money can buy right now. The new AI autofocus system is a great improvement. Improved built-in image stabilization is great for hand-held slow shots. The new articulating display is so good that every other manufacturer should copy it as soon as possible. The 61-megapixel sensor delivers some of the best image quality you can get today without going medium format – trusting your computer and storage to process these beefy files.
But while Sony has made some recent strides to offer quality-of-life improvements like a better menu system on its latest cameras (which is only marginally better, if I’m honest), why are its latest cameras still plagued by poor ergonomics?
I know what you’re thinking: “Oh, he’ll find something to complain about.” But camera ergonomics, body handling and grip quality are important. They’re actually pretty important, especially for anyone in situations where they’re going to be using the camera for hours on end. I know this from photographing weddings, where I use one camera (usually two) for anywhere from nine to 12 hours. I know this very well for the A7R V, as its body is very similar to one of my personal cameras, the Sony A7 IV.
Sony installs something new in its cameras (control layout, autofocus system, etc.) and slowly rolls out the same or nearly the same feature in other models in its lineup. On the one hand, this is great because you can get an exceptionally advanced feature set from an expensive model in a very affordable camera. But if there’s something about the design that doesn’t excite you — like poorly-shaped grips that aren’t tall enough — unfortunately, you’re going to be stuck with it for a while.
How bad are these Sony ergonomics? It is so bad that I feel compelled to write about it. Last year, while talking shop with other photographers, I jokingly started coining a phrase to describe what these grips do to your hand: Sony Knuckle.
Ergonomics, handling and comfort matter
Sony knuckle is pain and irritation on the side of your middle finger PIP Joint, from the pressure point of the camera grip under the shutter button. Any Sony Alpha full-frame camera made in the last five years has this oddly narrow, outward projection under the shutter built for your middle finger. But it is not bent Well doneOr enough. It needs more height or a gentle curve or both. It feels good when you first hold the camera, but the more you use it, the more you realize how uncomfortable it is. Zoom in with heavy use over a full day or back-to-back days, and – more than once I’ve felt a small blister form. Some of the pros I work with who use Sony cameras have experienced the same thing, so while I can’t say it happens to everyone, I can confidently say that Sony Knuckle is not an isolated condition.
But that’s not the only reason Sony’s ergonomics need improvement. The grips are also very short. Like many camera systems that focus on small, compact sizes, the A7R V — again, like every other camera in Sony’s current lineup — left my pinky finger hanging down. I think this is part of why the Sony knuckle feels so bad – because my pinky finger can’t support the camera, and the middle finger puts too much pressure on the knuckle.
I actually tried to fix this by buying A small additional base plate For the bottom of my A7 IV (which I also use on the A7R V), and while I appreciate that the base plate makes more room under my pinky, it creates its own problem by causing pain. In the middle of my palm. I’m not surprised that this little add-on bottom plate couldn’t automatically fix all of these ergonomic SNAFUs, but so what. There is The solution?
It’s time for Sony to completely rethink the grip on all of its cameras. They should be slightly taller and should be made of a very high quality, soft grip material. We can knock the likes of Canon and Nikon for being so late to the mirrorless party and always getting their act together, but gosh, these traditional camera brands know a thing or two about the grips that go into cameras. Although my old Nikon D700 and D3 cameras were larger and heavier than the ones we use today, they were easy to hold and use all day. Although Canon EOS R A much cheaper camera than the A7R V I’ve owned for a while, it has a grip that’s miles ahead of anything Sony currently makes. It’s roomy enough for your entire hand and soft enough to give a little when you squeeze it.
With this unfortunate downside, it’s one of the best cameras money can buy right now
As full-fledged cameras become more and more technologically capable with automated or assisted features unthinkable just a few years ago, the human interface cannot be forgotten or left out of the way. Almost every time I use the A7R V, I’m amazed at what an extraordinary imaging device it is. Its improved autofocus recognizes subjects and continues to track them even if they drift away or are temporarily blocked, which is actually a small win. Whether I’m photographing a bride or snapping some fun photos of my eccentric house cats – it’s something I greatly appreciate in my photography – because it gives me confidence that I’m going to get the shot dog-sharp soon. My subject returns.
But we cannot forget that these devices must be designed for humans. Just as every camera has a diopter control that allows us to adjust the viewfinder to our thin, inefficient eyeballs, all cameras need a grip that’s comfortable to hold and not feel like a torture device after long use. Sony, if you can make a camera that can automatically distinguish between birds and bees, you can make a camera that doesn’t feel awkward to hold.
Photo by Antonio G. Di Benedetto / The Verge