The A7R teardown: A look inside Sony’s awesome full-frame mirrorless camera

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The usual warnings apply:

  • Do not try this at home. This post was made by semi-trained, semi-professional repair technicians who sort of know what they’re doing.
  • The following blog post contains graphic images of the inside of a very nice camera. If such things make you squeamish, don’t read further. 
  • No cameras were harmed in the making of this blog post. The camera has been fully reassembled and is functioning normally.

Yeah, We Had to Do It

Ever since we first tested a Sony A7R, we were dying to take a look under the hood. Say what you will about Sony as a company, but they create some of the most elegantly-engineered camera bodies we’ve seen. Plus, the A7R is something of a groundbreaking camera, and we wanted to see how they crammed all that stuff into its little body. Oh, and finally, we’ve wanted a closer look at how thick the cover glass over the A7R’s sensor is, since there is some evidence that it may affect the edge performance of certain adapted lenses.

But we were a bit afraid of what we were getting ourselves into. Because Sony engineers its cameras so efficiently, they tend to be difficult to disassemble, let alone reassemble. And Tyler, knowing us like he does, had probably set computerized alarms on the inventory control system, notifying him the instant an A7R got sent to the repair department for any reason. But Tyler was out sick for half a day — and there were actually some A7R bodies in stock. So we did what we had to do. Continue reading

Tamron 150-600 Telezoom Shootout

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There’s been a lot of interest in the newly released Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 SP Di VC USD lens. (For those wondering what the initials mean, VC means vibration compensation, the others all read ‘marketing drivel’.) But meaningless initials or not, with a price under $1,100, a superior range, and vibration compensation, this lens has created a lot of excitement.

Recently, the good people at Imatest have developed an ultra-high resolution, backlit chart printed on photographic film that is perfect for testing long telephoto lenses in the lab. The combination of a new, cool Imatest setup and a new, cool lens proved irresistible, so we decided to compare the new Tamron with the older Tamron 200-500mm, Sigma 50-500mm OS, and Canon 100-400mm IS lenses.


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Assumptions, Expectations, and Plastic Mounts

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Photography companies love catchword marketing. They like catchwords because photographers make assumptions about what those words mean, even though the words really don’t mean anything. So basically, they say nothing, but it makes you believe something.

Two of my favorite examples are “professional quality construction” and “weather resistance”.  When I read those terms, my brain translates them to “Blah, blah, blah. Blah, blah.” They are subjective terms, just like ‘elegant design’ and ‘innovative styling’.

Most photographers, though, make all kinds of assumptions about what those catchwords mean, and have all kinds of expectations about the equipment that is described by these largely meaningless bits of marketing. We all know what Oscar Wilde said the word assume really means. Expectations, of course, are simply a down payment on future disappointment.

I have watched several world-class internet meltdowns with great amusement recently. All were started when photographers found out that their assumptions and expectations about what catchwords meant were wrong. They became a firestorm when people added a lot of ‘facts’ that weren’t really facts.

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Sony A7R: A Rising Tide Lifts All the Boats?

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I have to admit I didn’t get too worked up when the Sony A7 and A7R were released. The last time I wrote about Sony it was how there were so few lenses for the NEX system years after introduction. So now we’re going to a system requiring a whole new lens mount. Sure the camera’s specs were interesting. But the idea of yet another camera body good mostly for shooting lenses on adapters wasn’t very exciting. So I planned to ignore it.

But my friends over at Imaging-Resource / SLRGear.com were waxing poetic when they talked about their testing of the A7. Then they started claiming that the lenses were really good, too, and sent me some rather shocking test results. Plus, I will admit when it arrived I kind of liked the look and feel of the camera. It’s a very small camera for a full-frame, but with a nice deep grip that felt good in my overly large hands. Sort of a retro appearance. So even though we were a bit backed up, Aaron and I decided to at least run some some preliminary testing in our Imatest lab with the A7R.

Let me be clear – this isn’t an A7R review. Think of it more as a screening test to see if I was even interested in looking at it more seriously. For me, the lack of lenses with a newly released camera means going through several adapters and numerous lenses to see if I could make a reasonably useful kit. There are other options out there that would be a lot less trouble. So unless there was something about it to really impress me, I’d just skip it for now. If things were merely good, I wouldn’t be interested in looking further.

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Iceland Spar: The Rock That Discovered Optics

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Every year, I can’t think of anything I want for Christmas.  So this year, I was pretty excited to come home and tell my wife, “I know exactly what I want for Christmas. A nice big piece of Iceland spar.” I even sent her a link to make it easy. (It’s certainly a comment on our times that I sent a text link across the room to my wife.)


It’s not motion blur, it’s Iceland spar! 

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Available Positions – January, 2014

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Customer Service Representative

We are seeking a full-time customer service representative for our Memphis, TN headquarters. Customer service is our #1 priority, and our customer service representatives ensure our customers have an outstanding experience every time they need to contact us. We are looking for someone who can remain calm and pleasant even under trying and stressful circumstances. Organizational skills and the ability to multitask are absolute musts!

Job Functions:

  • Answer customer service emails/phone calls/chats in a fast-paced environment
  • Work through complex issues with customers and possibly third parties, such as shipping companies
  • Create shipping labels for customer orders
  • Work with customers regarding any billing issues
  • Follow up with customers who have not returned accessories from rentals

Skills Required:

  • Strong customer service experience, preferably in a call center environment
  • Fast typing, with correct grammar and spelling
  • Calmness & the ability to handle a stressful office environment
  • Upbeat personality and demeanor
  • An interest in photography and videography


If this sounds like you, please send your resume to jobs@lensrentals.com – Phone calls will not be accepted!

Photo & Video Technicians

Location: Memphis, TN

We are looking for qualified photo & video technicians to join our team. As a member of our receiving department, you will be on the front lines to ensure customer quality. A technical mind, a passion for gear and how it works, and customer service skills are all important for this position. Like all positions here, an attention to detail and an ability to work fast and under pressure are extremely critical.


  • Punctuality
  • Extreme attention to detail
  • Ability to work under pressure and/or deadlines
  • Ability to do repetitive tasks without going insane
  • Ability to stand for long periods of time and lift up to 50 lbs
  • A passion for photo and video gear. Both the technical side of the equipment, and the practical
  • Customer service skills & general friendliness
  • Photo or video experience of some kind

If this sounds like you, please send your resume to jobs@lensrentals.com - Phone calls will not be accepted!


Administrative Assistant

Location: Memphis, TN

We are looking for an administrative assistant to join our team. The ideal candidate for this position will assist our executive-level employees with varied tasks and will be involved in all areas of our operation.


  • Punctuality
  • Extreme attention to detail
  • Extensive Microsoft Office experience
  • Thick skin – you’ll have multiple bosses who are demanding, and not shy about it
  • College degree preferred
  • Bookkeeping or accounting experience preferred

If this sounds like you, please send your resume to jobs@lensrentals.com - Phone calls will not be accepted!

Metabones Blackmagic

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Metabones, maker of the impressive Speedbooster adapters is back at it again. When the Speedbooster first came out, I wrote about it being like magic, increasing the aperture and field-of-view of Nikon and Canon full-frame lenses mounted to NEX and micro 4/3 cameras, while maintaining or even improving image quality. Now they’ve brought the Metabones magic to the Blackmagic cinema and pocket cinema cameras.

The original Metabones Speedboosters are available in several versions adapting various full-frame lenses to NEX, micro 4/3, and Fuji-X cameras. They offer a magnification factor of 0.71X; meaning the lens focal length changes by this factor and the aperture increases by one stop. For example, a 100mm f/2.8 full-frame lens becomes a 71mm f/2.0 lens when mounted on an NEX camera by a Speedbooster.

For people shooting video on micro 4/3 and APS-C size sensors, the Speedboosters give them an opportunity to shoot with full-frame lenses and reduce the ‘crop factor’ associated with shooting on the smaller sensor size. The also increase the aperture of the lens, letting in more light.

The New Speedboosters

Dr. J. Brian Caldwell (the Speedbooster’s designer) and the folks at Metabones got excited over the possibilities that Blackmagic cameras presented in two ways. First, because the Blackmagic cameras are less than 4/3 sensor size, people shooting with these cameras are always looking for lenses with a wider field-of-view and aperture, a perfect situation for a Speedbooster. Blackmagic shooters are already using m4/3 mount Speedboosters on their cameras regularly.

The other exciting possibility came about because Blackmagic cameras have a bit more wiggle room than micro 4/3 and NEX cameras; the sensor is a bit further back from the mounting flange. This meant they could design a larger Speedbooster with 6 elements and a bit more spacing, rather than the 4 elements in the original Speedbooster.

I was able to talk with Brian about the opportunities this provided and was given two prototypes to use for some preliminary testing here at Lensrentals.

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Photo Geek Contest 2013 Winners

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I am the poster child for that old saying, “Be careful what you ask for. You might get it.” I thought it would be fun to have a little contest just for the Photo Geeks who read my blog posts. I thought maybe 10 or 15 people would enter and we’d be like the 8 year-old soccer team: Trophies and pizza for everyone at the end of the season!

Of course, there was the possibility that no one would enter. In that case, I figured, no one would notice and I’d get to keep the prizes. I’m always OK with keeping prizes.

Well, so much for my plans. The First Annual Photo Geek Geek Photo contest received over 400 entries from at least 20 countries. And they were really good. Many of the entries went to a level of geekiness that surpassed anything I’ve ever tried (and that’s saying something). Others were geekily created images that could well be entered in a straight photo contest. There were beautiful images, funny images, intimidating images, and images that we don’t have words to describe.

The contest pages have had well over 30,000 visits. We felt there were so many deserving entries that we increased the number prizes. Then we increased them again. The judges have exhausted themselves trying to pick out the very best among the best. The truth is, I think all of the judges felt inadequate to the task. There were so many outstanding images that we feel bad for the many excellent ones that weren’t awarded.

I’m going to put thumbnails of the various winners up below, but I do encourage you to go to the contest page to see them in their original size. Many, being geeky things, really lose something when downsized to fit on this page.

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Black Friday Deals

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It’s time for our 4th Annual Black Friday Sale. This year, we are getting the party started early, 10 AM CT on Wednesday. You can get 25% off any rental placed at Lensrentals.com during the sale.

At our sister site, LensAuthority.com, we’ll be giving you 10% off all used equipment. We also have some great doorbusters. And this year, we listened to you, and will be offering at least 6 copies of each doorbuster for sale, increasing your chances of being able to snag one.

To get your 25% off rentals at Lensrentals.com or to get 10% off your used gear purchases at LensAuthority.com, simply use the promo code: BLACKFRIDAY Continue reading