Sony a7C Review

Sony a7C

The Alpha 7C enters the marketplace as "... the world’s smallest and lightest full-frame body with uncompromising performance." [Sony] That statement succinctly summarizes the Sony a7C. This is a tiny, feature-filled, full-frame mirrorless interchangeable lens camera (MILC) that performs as superbly as we expect from a Sony alpha model. What do we give up to gain the small size? We'll explore that in this review.

Sony a7C Body

What are the differences between the Sony a7C and a7 III?

Starting the Sony a7C review with this question may seem strange until the vast similarities between these two models are understood. Size and the features directly related to size aside, these cameras are nearly the same. This sameness includes the imaging sensor and the resulting image quality. While the similarities reflect very positively on the a7C, the differences must be understood.

Let's look at the a7C vs. a7 III differences, starting with some visual comparisons.

Sony a7C Beside Sony a7 III

Sony a7C Beside Sony a7 III Top View

Sony a7C Over Sony a7 III

Sony a7C Over Sony a7 III Top View 2

  • Headlining the a7C advantage list is a considerably smaller size. Essentially, slice the a7 III off at the top plate, and you get the a7C. Additionally, the a7C's lighter weight is welcomed:
    • 4.88 x 2.80 x 2.35" vs. 5.0 x 3.9 x 3.0"
    • 124.0 x 71.1 x 59.7mm vs. 126.9 x 95.6 x 73.7mm
    • The a7C's grip is considerably smaller with a finer-textured grip surface.
    • CIPA Weight: 18.0 vs. 23.0 oz (509 vs. 650g)
  • The EVF included on this little camera is a very positive feature, but directly impacted by the camera's reduced size is the a7C's viewfinder size. While both cameras feature approximately 2.35 mega dot XGA OLED electronic viewfinders with 100% coverage, there are significant differences:
    • Size: 0.39 vs. 0.50" (1.0 vs. 1.3cm) (little vs. huge)
    • Magnification: Approx. 0.59x vs. 0.78x
    • Eyepoint: Approx. 20mm vs. 23mm
    • The a7C has a minimalistic eyecup.
  • Notably improved is the a7C's AF system, now including support for Real-time Tracking and Eye AF (human) while recording video.
  • The a7C has no joystick. While some will find the "joy" missing, the touch and drag AF feature works well.
  • The a7C has no front dial.
  • The a7C lacks the light flicker avoidance feature.
  • The a7C has an increased buffer size (115 vs. 40 RAW).
  • The a7C has a working range down to EV -4 vs. EV -3.
  • The a7C's max shutter speed is 1/4000 vs. 1/8000.
  • The a7C can X-Sync at 1/160 vs. 1/250 sec.
  • The a7C does not have first-curtain mechanical shutter available.
  • The a7C features a side-opening vari-angle LCD monitor (necessary for self-recording) vs. tilt.
  • The a7C has a movie button on the top where it is easier to reach from the front vs. the back-positioned button.
  • Battery Life: approx. 680 vs. 610 shots (Viewfinder, CIPA)
  • The a7C has upgraded 5-axis in-body stabilization and shutter units.
  • The a7C has one custom button vs. 4.
  • The a7C has 3 custom modes vs. 2.
  • The a7C has a silver shutter release button *with a click* vs. black with no haptic feedback.
  • The a7C features wireless support for 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands vs. 2.4Ghz.
  • "A digital audio interface has been added to the camera’s Multi Interface (MI) Shoe, allowing the ECM-B1M Shotgun Microphone or XLR-K3M XLR Adaptor Kit to be connected to input digital audio signals directly to the MI shoe for cleaner, clearer audio recordings." [Sony]
  • Vertical video support has been added.
  • Single SD memory card slot vs. dual.
  • Memory cards are more challenging to insert into and remove from the a7C.
  • The a7C arrives with a $100.00 lower list price, but at review time, the 2-year-older a7 III's street price is $100.00 lower than the a7C's — a difference not likely to be found significant to most.

The Sony a7 III is a very popular camera, and those already familiar with it now have a very good understanding of the a7C. Because of the similarities, the Sony a7C review is going to be very similar to the a7 III review.

Sony a7C Back Angle

Summary of Sony a7C Features

  • Measuring only 4.9 inches x 2.8 inches x 2.2 inches (124.0mm x 71.1mm x 59.7mm) and weighing just 18oz (509g)
  • Full-frame 24.2MP Back-Illuminated Exmor R CMOS Image Sensor with Evolved Image Processing
  • Wide ISO range of 100 - 51200 (expandable to ISO 50 – 204800 for still images) and 15-Stop Dynamic Range at low sensitivities
  • World Class AF system featuring 693 phase-detection AF points covering 93% of the image area, 425 contrast AF points, and fast and reliable Eye AF, including Real-time Tracking and Eye AF (human) while recording video.
  • Continuous Shooting at up to 10 fps with full Auto Focus/Auto Exposure tracking
  • Upgraded 5-axis optical in-body image stabilization with a 5.0 step shutter speed advantage
  • High Resolution 4K Movie Shooting with full pixel readout and no pixel binning across full-width of the full-frame sensor
  • 740-shot battery life (CIPA LCD rating)
  • Magnesium alloy monocoque construction

Sensor and Image Quality

Great image quality is the driver for most camera purchases, and with a Sony 24.2 megapixel full-frame (35.6 x 23.8 mm) Exmor R back-illuminated CMOS sensor and BIONZ X image processing engine claiming up to 15-stops of dynamic range, the a7C checks that box.

ModelFOVCFSensorPixel SizePixels/MegapixelsViewfinderDLA*
Canon EOS R51.0x36.0 x 24.0mm4.39µm8192 x 546445.0 .76x100%f/7.1
Canon EOS R61.0x36.0 x 24.0mm6.56µm5472 x 364820.1 .76x100%f/10.6
Canon EOS R1.0x36.0 x 24.0mm5.36µm6720 x 448030.3 .71x100%f/8.6
Canon EOS RP1.0x35.9 x 24.0mm5.75µm6240 x 416026.2 .70x100%f/9.3
Sony a7R IV1.0x35.7 x 23.8mm3.8µm9504 x 633661.0.78x100%f/6.1
Sony a7R III1.0x35.9 x 24.0mm4.5µm7952 x 530442.4.78x100%f/7.2
Sony a91.0x35.6 x 23.8mm5.9µm6000 x 400024.2 .78x100%f/9.6
Sony a7 III1.0x35.6 x 23.8mm5.9µm6000 x 400024.2.78x100%f/9.6
Sony a7C1.0x35.6 x 23.8mm5.9µm6000 x 400024.2 .59x100%f/9.6
* Learn more about DLA (Diffraction Limited Aperture)
View the full Sony a7C specifications to compare additional cameras.

While the a7C image sensor is among the lower resolution full-frame imaging sensors available, 24.2 MP is adequate for a large percentage of output requirements, and full-frame sensors capture lots of light, resulting in low noise levels at high ISO settings. Lower resolution has benefits that include smaller file sizes, faster processing, lower noise at the pixel level (but not at equivalent output sizes).

We captured most of our usual image quality tests with the a7C, but unfortunately, Capture One is lagging in introducing a7C compatibility. With the a7C having the same imaging sensor as the a7 III, I will substitute a7 III results for the image quality comparisons.

First, here is a resolution comparison between the Sony a7 III and the a7R III. Notice the common-to-Sony moiré showing in the a7 III results.

Next, we'll look at noise.

Sony a7 III ISO Noise Comparison

With the Sony a7 III noise test results, much can be discerned. The smoothly-colored Kodak color patches test chart combined with no noise reduction processing (key point) makes noise especially noticeable compared to detailed scenes that better-hide noise levels. As always, noise reduction processing can improve upon the noise level seen in these images, but noise reduction can be applied to images from every camera, reducing its differentiation. So, avoiding noise reduction in the comparison levels the playing field. The Sony RAW-captured noise test images utilized the "Uncompressed" RAW setting and were processed in Capture One with the Natural Clarity Method and the sharpening amount set to 30 (low).

From ISO 100 through ISO 800, noise levels grow, but they remain very low, showing the benefit of a modern, modestly-high-resolution full-frame sensor. At ISO 1600 through ISO 3200, noise levels are noticeable, but images still retain very high quality, and few will hesitate to use these settings. ISO 6400 images begin to show impact from noise, and at ISO 12800, images are looking a bit rough. Consider using ISOs of 25600 and 51200 only as a last resort. ISO 102400 and 204800 are available, and while they sound amazing, if your only option is to use these settings, consider packing up and going home. The signal-to-noise ratio is extremely low at these settings.

Noise reduction is available during post-processing of RAW images or in-camera during JPG capture. Two sets of with-noise-reduction results are included in the noise tool for the a7 III, showing the performance at low and normal settings. The default Standard Creative Style was utilized for these results, and a set of non-noise-reduced JPG images are included for a base comparison.

The first takeaway here is that Sony is applying too much sharpening by default (see the halos?). Also illustrated is that even the JPG image being created with noise reduction turned off appears to have some noise reduction applied. Noise reduction can make a huge difference in the results, but not all of it is positive. Noise reduction is destructive to fine details and must be applied carefully for optimal results. The same applies to sharpening, and a stronger amount of sharpening may be needed when noise reduction strength is increased, which then bodes well for Sony's default over-sharpening.

Sony promises up to 15-stops of dynamic range at low ISO sensitivity for stills, and Sony MILCs, including this one, are highly regarded for their dynamic range. One way to look at a camera's DR capabilities is to over or under-expose images and adjust them to the correct brightness in post-processing. The "Exposed +/-" results were captured between one and three stops brighter or darker than the standard results, then adjusted to the standard brightness in Capture One. These results combine to show how noise levels are influenced by the described processing adjustment, and they also show dynamic range issues.

While it does not have the highest resolution imaging sensor available in full-frame cameras, the a7 III and a7C have remarkable image quality for the price. Both of these cameras consistently produce great-looking images.

Sony a7C IBIS

Optical In-Body Image Stabilization

Camera shake directly impacts image quality for both still images and movies, and Sony's 5-axis Optical In-Body Image Stabilization (IBIS) is a difference-maker. Many of Sony's lenses, including the Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS Lens, have image stabilization included, and in-lens stabilization can be better-tuned to the focal length being used, but not all lenses have this feature. Lenses such as the Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens have greater versatility with IBIS available, and this camera has that. Also, IBIS can work in conjunction with OSS (in-lens Optical Steady Shot) for enhanced overall performance. Sony notes that the a7C has an upgraded 5-axis in-body stabilization system.

File Size and Media

Sony offers the "Compressed" and "Uncompressed" 14-bit RAW file format options. Because of the TIFF-like file structure (RAW converters create 16-bit TIFF files from Sony RAW files extremely quickly), Sony RAW files remain consistently-sized throughout the ISO range. Regardless of the ISO setting used, the a7C uncompressed RAW files are 47.1 MB. The compressed a7C RAWs are about 50% smaller.

Why not simply use the Sony compressed RAW file setting? That seems like the logical preference, with the dramatically smaller file sizes being much-preferred. Unfortunately, unlike Canon's RAW file compression, Sony's compression algorithm is a lossy one, meaning that some image detail is not retained during compression. In addition, compressed recording in continuous shooting modes drops the bit depth from 14 to 12.

Is the difference between Sony compressed RAW and uncompressed RAW noticeable? In real life images, expect some difficulty seeing any difference in unprocessed images. I'm very particular about image quality, and my Sony cameras are always set to capture uncompressed RAW images, ensuring no compromise.

The following table shows comparative RAW file sizes for a photo of a standard in-studio setup with a moderately-high amount of detail taken with the referenced camera.

Model / File Size in MB @ ISO:(MP)100200400800160032006400128002560051200102400204800
Canon EOS R5(45.0)51.653.153.655.657.760.163.066.470.575.179.5 
Canon EOS R5 CRAW(45.0)28.129.329.931.533.335.536.235.936.036.937.7 
Canon EOS R6(20.1)24.124.724.925.626.427.328.429.831.433.335.535.9
Canon EOS R6 CRAW(20.1)13.814.214.514.915.616.416.416.015.715.816.114.8
Canon EOS R(30.4)35.836.637.638.740.041.843.345.748.049.6*****
Canon EOS R CRAW(30.4)23.123.524.525.226.528.029.431.633.849.6*35.3***
Canon EOS RP(26.2)30.731.332.032.834.035.537.139.041.543.445.8 
Sony a7R IV(61.0)117.0117.0117.0117.0117.0117.0117.0117.082.082.082.0 
Sony a7R IV CRAW(61.0)59.159.159.159.159.159.159.159.159.159.159.1 
Sony a7R III(42.4)81.981.981.981.981.981.981.981.982.082.082.0 
Sony a7R II(42.4)82.882.882.882.882.882.882.882.882.882.882.8 
Sony a9(24.2)47.247.247.147.147.147.147.147.147.247.247.247.3
Sony a7 III(24.2)47.147.147.147.147.147.147.147.147.147.247.247.2
Sony a7C(24.2)47.147.147.147.147.147.147.147.147.147.247.247.2
RAW file sizes increase with 1. Resolution 2. Bit Depth (more is better/larger) 3. Detail (noise adds detail, so high ISO file sizes increase) 4. Lack of compression. Memory and disk are cheap – buy more.

Memory card slots require space in a camera design, and the a7C engineers were all about reducing space. While some will find the omission of dual memory card slots on the a7C to be a show-stopper, many do not use the dual card feature even when it exists and will be fine with a single slot.

Not surprising is the now somewhat old standard SD/SDHC/SDXC memory card format being provisioned. While faster card formats are available, they are larger, more expensive, and less common, including less common in existing kits. SD is still a good choice.

Frame Rate, Buffer Depth, Shutter

A dramatic feature upgrade received by the a7 III was the 10 fps high-speed drive rate, doubling what its predecessor, the a7 II, was capable of. Going from 5 fps to 10 fps is significant and shifted this camera well into sports and fast action speed range. The a7C also gets this feature.

ModelFPSMax JPGMax RAWShutter LagVF Blackout
Canon EOS R512/2035087/18050msn/a
Canon EOS R612/201,000+240 n/a
Canon EOS R2.2-810034/4750msn/a
Canon EOS RP4Full50/Full55msn/a
Sony a7R IV10.06868n/an/a
Sony a7R III10.0762820msn/a
Sony a7R II5.0242320msn/a
Sony a920.0362241  
Sony a7 III10.040163  
Sony a7C10.0213+115+  
View the full Sony a7C specifications to compare additional cameras.

With a formatted fast ProGrade Digital 64GB 200 MB/s V60 UHS-II SDXC Memory Card loaded and the Sony a7C set to "HI+" continuous drive mode, ISO 100, a 1/4000 shutter speed, a wide-open aperture, and manual focus, 40 uncompressed raw images before the buffer fills. Additional frames are then captured each .41 seconds, indicating that the a7C takes about that long to write an uncompressed file to the card. Switch to the smaller compressed raw file format, and the buffer depth increases significantly (expect 2x as many).

Why would one choose the high-speed drive mode (H) over the highest speed drive (H+)? There is a reason that a "+" was used to describe the fastest mode vs. simply calling the 10 fps mode "HI", and the primary difference is in viewfinder blackout time. With the EVF (or LCD) showing the subject a higher percentage of the time, subjects are easier to track while shooting bursts at the slower frame rate. That said, this camera's EVF is a good performer in this regard.

A performance-related consideration is that writing the full buffer to the card takes about 13 seconds with the referenced SDXC card. While you may not be capturing buffer-filling bursts most of the time, it is important to understand that writing to the card takes a noticeable amount of time, and some camera settings are unavailable during the write operation.

A (minor-for-most) memory card performance-related issue to mention is the memory card format time. Sony creates a database while formatting memory cards, and the entire format process is long, taking about 8 seconds to format the 64GB UHS-II SDXC card. While 8 seconds is not a long timespan, it seems quite long when inserting a not-preformatted memory card when action is happening. You may want to format your Sony-destined memory cards during shoot preparation instead of during a shoot. Note that, as with the a7 III, the cards insert label-forward in the a7C.

The a7C features a max 1/4000 shutter speed when using the electronic first curtain shutter, but 1/8000 is available with Silent Shooting enabled. The 1/160 X-Sync speed is rather slow.

I mentioned in previous Sony Alpha reviews that it would be great if Sony could incorporate haptic feedback into the shutter release so that the precise moment of shutter actuation was realized, especially when shooting with the full electronic shutter silent mode. Sony listened, providing a light click that can be felt.

With Silent Shooting enabled, this camera does not make any sound while capturing images. Turn Silent Shooting mode off (electronic first curtain shutter — full mechanical shutter is not available), and we can create the shutter audio clips.

Sony a7C One Shot Mode
Sony a7C HI+ Burst Mode

The camera sounds were recorded using a Tascam DR-07mkII Portable Digital Audio Recorder positioned 1" behind the rear LCD with record levels set to 50% at -12db gain.

This camera's ability to shoot in complete silence is a huge value for quiet events such as weddings and when skittish wildlife are the subjects. Silent shooting mode requires a full electronic shutter that comes with both advantages and disadvantages.

Let's start with the positives. With no mechanical shutter being used, there are no moving parts, shutter failure is not possible, there is no shutter vibration to be concerned with, and relevant to the just-finished discussion, the camera can be operated in absolute silence, full stealth mode.

The downsides of an electronic shutter are primarily related to the current-technology line-by-line reading of the imaging sensor. Fast side-to-side subject or camera movement can (and will) result in an angular-shifted image, with vertically straight lines becoming noticeably slanted (with the camera in horizontal orientation). Needed to be understood is that the second curtain of a mechanical shutter chasing the first curtain can produce the same effect. However, the difference between mechanical shutter (with electronic first curtain shutter), and electronic shutter performance in this regard has historically been quite big, and that is again what I see with the a7 III.

Another electronic shutter issue to be aware of is that certain light pulsing can influence the results, potentially creating banding. Also, be aware that the electronic shutter is not compatible with flash use.

Autofocus

The a7C gets the a7 III's excellent up to 693-point focal-plane phase-detection AF system, originally inherited from the a9. In the a7C, this AF system has been updated, notably including support for Real-time Tracking and Eye AF (human) while recording video. Eye AF in the latest camera models has been game-changing, and this camera's updated support performs impressively, tracking the subject's eye around the frame even when moving fast.

The Sony a7C's Focus Area options are Flexible Spot (S, M, or L point size selectable), Expand Flexible Spot (uses focus points around the spot as a secondary priority area for focusing), Center, Zone (9 selectable large AF areas) and Wide (all points active). While no joystick is available for AF point/area selection, the rear LCD's touch and drag feature makes this task easy, including when the EVF is being utilized.

The a7C, rated to focus down to EV -4 with an f/2 lens, will focus in extremely dark environments. I can leave a tiny crack in a door to an un-lit room, and this camera can focus on subjects throughout the room as long as they provide some contrast. As usual, focus speed suffers in low light, but this camera still performs impressively. With the focus assist light enabled, even complete darkness is not a problem within the light's range, which is decent. That the EVF shows an amplified signal coming from the imaging sensor makes this camera much easier to use in low light than optical viewfinder models.

In AF-S (single-shot mode), the a7C's AF has been extremely accurate. I use the small Flexible Spot AF most frequently in this mode, and the camera very reliably focuses on what it is told to focus on.

While the camera drives focusing at a fast speed, the speed of AF-S single focus lock is somewhat slow. That the camera always defocuses the lens prior to focusing is the cause of the slowness. Even if the subject is already in focus, the lens is adjusted to a closer focus distance and then focused back to where autofocusing was initiated. That defocusing adds a slight delay, and it is problematic in some situations when I need to focus and capture an image immediately, often due to a subject that is not still.

In AF-C continuous focus mode, the a7C gives up the focus hunting practice, and the result is faster focus acquisition.

Sony's face recognition mode performs impressively. With all AF points active, the camera would track a face around the screen as it approached with an even better accurate focus rate.

As mentioned, this camera's AF system is configurable and it is impossible to test all possible scenarios and all possible AF settings. Certain is that the a7C has benefitted from the a9's hand-me-down technologies.

Sony a7C with Mic

Movies

Sony MILCs have been praised by many in the video industry for including high-end features found in their mirrorless full-frame cameras. The Sony a7C has primarily inherited the great video features found in the a7 III, with the just-mentioned Real-time Tracking and Eye AF (human) being a big upgrade.

  • Full-frame (no crop) oversampled video capture at 4K, 30p, 24/25p
  • Up to 4K video output simultaneously to microHDMI and memory card
  • XAVC S format, H.264 compression with uncompressed Linear PCM Audio
  • 3.5mm headphone/mic jacks, microHDMI
  • Built-in stereo microphone
  • Full HD 1080p video at 120 fps
  • S-LOG 3 and HLG (Hybrid Log Gamma) Picture Profiles

Available formats and framerates are as follows:

XAVC S 4K [3840 x 2160px]: 30/25/24p at 60 or 100 Mbps
XAVC S HD [1920 x 1080px]: 120/100p at 60 or 100 Mbps, 60/50/30/25/24p at 50 Mbps
AVCHD [1920 x 1080]: 60/50i at 17 or 24 Mbps, 60/50p at 28 Mbps, 24/25p at 17 or 24 Mbps
MP4 [1920 x 1080, 1280 x 720]:60/50p at 28 Mbps, 30/25p at 6 or 16 Mbps

Movies can be recorded in any shooting mode by pressing the MOVIE button located on top of the viewfinder, where it can easily be reached from the front.

In Slow & Quick Motion mode, the camera records in XAVC S HD format and can be set to capture frame rates ranging from 1fps to 120fps in NTSC (1fps - 100fps in PAL), with the former being appropriate for speeding up slow-motion events such as flowers blooming and the latter being useful for slowing down fast action events such as an athlete scoring a goal or a bride throwing the bouquet. Note that audio is not recorded in S&Q Motion mode.

And on the subject of audio, sound is recorded via the built-in stereo microphone or alternately an external microphone using the 3.5mm mic jack.

Various markers and masks can be displayed, with options such as gridlines and aspect ratio masks aiding in shot framing. The a7C can be set to record 4K video in-camera (via the memory card) and output the video to the microHDMI (to a compatible playback monitor or recorder), or alternately only output the video to the microHDMI.

SteadyShot (IBIS) is available for enabling more stable video to be recorded, increasing handheld video production quality.

The Sony a7C performs well from an autofocus perspective in video mode. Focus distance transitions happen accurately and at a nice rate (not too fast, not too slow) at the default settings. Especially nice is being able to touch the LCD to change AF points during video recording when using the rear LCD.

The a7C's video quality is excellent, and the high-quality video capabilities add strongly to the overall value of this small, budget-friendly full-frame camera model.

Sony a7C LCD Open

Exposure/Metering System

The a7C has the same 1200-zone metering system found in the a7 III, a7R III, and a9. I have found the a7C, like the other Sony MILCs, to deliver good image brightness in most typical scenarios when using the auto exposure feature.

Note that the ability to detect flickering light and modify the shutter timing to avoid partially-lit frames with uneven white balance is not included in this camera.

Sony a7C LCD Open Back

Viewfinder and LCD

Quickly put the a7C to your eye and, via eye-detection, the camera is ready for you, nearly instantly switching the image display from the rear LCD to the EVF, ready for a quick capture. Those acclimated to the prior Sony full-frame alpha models will, like me, need to re-learn where to put their eye (to the upper-left corner vs. above the center) and will need to be cautious to avoid poking our eyes with the eyecup-lacking viewfinder. We also need to adjust to how small the EVF is, roughly APS-C DSLR optical viewfinder size, matching the size of the camera.

The a7C features a 0.39" (1.0cm) 2.36m-dot XGA OLED EVF with a low 0.59x magnification. Though this EVF is considerably smaller than the large a7 III EVF, the resolution is the same. The same resolution in a smaller EVF means higher pixel density, and overall, the a7C's EVF is nice for the size.

While the a7C's blackout period during image capture is very short. As with other Sony MILCs, DOF preview is optionally automatic (the default), with the background blur change seen as the aperture setting is changed.

The rear LCD is the same as on the a7 III, a nice but lower resolution model with about 921,600 dots. Instead of the tilt adjustment found in Sony's other full-frame alpha models, the a7C gets a vari-angle model. That this LCD can be positioned toward the front greatly improves self-recording capabilities.

While this LCD can be used for touch AF point selection when the rear LCD is active and touch and drag AF point selection when the EVF is in use, those functions are the limit of its touch capabilities. I'll take a small tangent to mention Sony's menu system (you will often view it on the LCD). I'm both spoiled and acclimated to Canon's excellent, logical menu systems, but I often feel lost in Sony's seemingly overly-difficult menu system structure. Fortunately, the My Menu feature allows a group of the most-used settings to be created in one easy-to-find location.

Sony a7C Front

Tour of the Sony a7C

With the a7C, Sony maintains its normal squared-off design traits with plenty of abrupt edges. To compare the Sony a7C with many more camera models, use the site's camera body comparison tool (a7C vs. a7 III comparison is preloaded).

Those familiar with other Sony Alpha full-frame cameras will find the a7C to have a significant subset of the features they are familiar with.

Sony a7C Back

Back of the Camera

The LCD monitor continues to be the dominant back-of-the-camera feature in today's cameras (when will we see an EVF-only digital interchangeable lens camera?).

At the bottom right of the camera back, we see the playback and delete/C (Custom) buttons retaining their normal locations. Note that this is the only semi-dedicated custom button found on this camera. Moving up, we find the control wheel that is now surface-mounted vs. being raised with a raised area surrounding the dial as in the a7 III. The a7C design is more challenging for thumb engagement. The control wheel icons/features remain unchanged from the a7 III and again is a 4-way controller (8-way functionality would be preferred).

The useful function button is back, providing quick access to 12 frequently used camera settings relevant to the still or video mode chosen. The joystick found on the a7 III has gone away, as has the AEL button. The AF-ON button has moved down to the joystick's position on the a7 III, and the menu button, displaced by the viewfinder, has moved to the top-center.

Located just to the right of the viewfinder is the diopter adjustment and within the eyecup (if it qualifies for that definition) is the eye-detection sensor. I frequently activate the EVF proximately detector when reaching for the menu with my left thumb, causing me to pause while figuring out why the menu is not appearing (a minor training issue).

The back view clearly shows the flat top of the camera, designed to optimally slide into the smallest spaces. I like the protection offered by the recessed hot show design.

Sony a7C Top

Top of the Camera

From the top view, we see that most common Sony buttons, dials, and features are present. Notably missing and frequently missed is the front dial. It seems like this feature could have been included. Also missed are the two custom buttons.

Added to the top, moved from the back, is the movie record button. The top position better facilitates self-recording.

The top view makes the viewfinder's extension (or lack of in this case) readily apparent. While there is little extension, the left-corner location of the EVF provides nose clearance. However, as I mentioned before, use care to not poke your eye with the EVF.

The a7C's mode dial is very slightly smaller than the a7 III's (I needed a caliper to determine that), and like the a7 III, lacks a lock release button in the center. The a7C mode dial has the normal options with three custom modes, up from the a7 III's two. Those who want to take advantage of a great camera without a learning curve (and those who just need the camera to decide what settings are needed in an instant) have the intelligent auto mode available.

The S&O mode dial option is back for "S"low and "Q"uick Motion movies. Just counter-clockwise to the S&O mode is the normal movie mode.

The exposure control dial takes its Sony-standard, easily thumb-accessible position. This dial is positioned close to the side of the camera, where it is exposed enough to easily turn. Less obvious and less easy to turn is the rear dial, located rearward between the mode dial and exposure compensation dial.

Once acclimated to the control positioning and feature locations, this camera is quite easy to use and a quality feel abounds, including dials that click reassuringly into positions. That said, I miss the front dial. I think it should have been included.

The shutter release button is now silver and notable is that it has a light click when fully depressed, a positive change for Sony.

Sony a7C Left Side

Side of the Camera

On the left side of the camera, from top-down, are a mic port (top port cover), the memory card slot (middle port cover), a headphone port, an HDMI (micro) port, and a SuperSpeed 5 Gbps USB 3.2 Type-C Terminal.

Sony a7C Left Side Ports Open

The right side of the camera features the NFC (Near Field Communication) touchpoint.

Sony a7C Right Side

Size of the Camera

Small and light is what this camera is all about. The a7C weighs only 1 percent more than the Alpha 6600, a camera with a considerably smaller APS-C imaging sensor. "The Alpha 7C achieves the world’s smallest and lightest compact body through upgraded 5-axis in-body stabilization and shutter units, and the utilization of magnesium alloy monocoque construction, often used in the bodies of cars and aircraft." [Sony]

ModelBody DimensionsCIPA Weight
Canon EOS R55.5 x 3.8 x 3.5"(138.0 x 97.5 x 88.0mm)26.0 oz (738g)
Canon EOS R65.5 x 3.8 x 3.5"(138.0 x 97.5 x 88.4mm)24.0 oz (680g)
Canon EOS R5.4 x 3.9 x 3.3"(135.8 x 98.3 x 84.4mm)23.4 oz (660g)
Canon EOS RP5.2 x 3.36 x 2.76"(132.5 x 85.3 x 70mm)17.3 oz (485g)
Sony a7R IV5.2 x 3.9 x 3.2" (128.9 x 96.4 x 77.5mm)23.5 oz (665g)
Sony a7R III5.0 x 3.9 x 3.0"(126.9 x 95.6 x 73.7mm)23.2 oz (657g)
Sony a7R II5.0 x 3.8 x 2.4"(126.9 × 95.7 x 60.3mm)22.0 oz (625g)
Sony a95.0 x 3.8 x 2.5"(126.9 x 95.6 x 63.0mm)23.7 oz (673g)
Sony a7 III5.0 x 3.8 x 3.0"(126.9 x 95.6 x 73.7mm)23.0 oz (650g)
Sony a7C4.9 x 2.8 x 2.4"(124.0 x 71.1 x 59.7mm)18.0 oz (509g)
View the full Sony a7C specifications to compare additional cameras.

While the Canon EOS RP is slightly lighter, the a7C is easily the smallest camera in this chart. Not in this chart is the Sigma fp, which is smaller still. Sony skirts that camera comparison by adding "with uncompromising performance" to their smallest claim, with IBIS notably differentiating the two cameras.

Sony a7C Size Comparison

Ergonomics, Build Quality and Durability

For a camera to be smaller than the rest of its contemporary peers, sacrifices can be expected. The grip makes a noticeable impact in body dimensions, this is the first reduction I'd expect, and the a7C brings no surprises in this regard.

Sony a7C Over Sony a7 III Top View 2

Made obvious in the top view comparison included again above, the a7C grip size is considerably smaller than the a7 III grip. With a very shallow finger groove and a smoother grip surface, the a7C is more challenging to hold when using heavier lenses.

Sony a7C Exploded Diagram

That said, with the compromise required to gain the compact size understood, the a7C's grip is not bad — a very reasonable compromise. Positive is that with the fingers rotated back to accommodate the shallower depth, my knuckles do not impact the side of larger lenses as strongly.

Sony a7C Magnesium Body

Overall build quality is as you expect from a Sony Alpha MILC — excellent. As seen above, magnesium alloy chassis is used for strength.

Sony a7C Weather Sealing

The a7C gets the weather sealing treatment.

Sony a7C Weather Sealing Back

Battery

The battery size and weight are prime targets for overall camera size and weight reduction. Fortunately, Sony opted to again use the NP-FZ100 battery pack in the a7C.

In the a7C, the NP-FZ100 is rated for approx. 680 shots using the viewfinder or 740 shots using the LCD monitor, up modestly from the a7 III's 610 and 710 specs. These numbers are sufficient for normal use, and in normal use, expect up to considerably more shots per charge, especially if continuous shooting modes are utilized.

As usual for Sony Alpha cameras, the battery door is spring-loaded, but the switch is not. It must be manually slid into the locked position after closing the door.

Nice is that this battery can be charged in-camera via the USB port and a USB wall adapter with a 2' (.6m) USB cable is provided. Not so nice is that a battery charger is not included. The Sony BC-QZ1 Battery Charger is optionally available, and if I used the a7C regularly, I would get it. With what comes in the box, the a7C requires a USB power source within 2' (.6m) of a comfortable location to place the camera (or a longer USB cable).

Sony a7C Bottom

Which Lens Should I Get for the Sony a7C?

The lens is a required a7C accessory. What is the best lens for the Sony a7C? Check out our Sony Lens Recommendations page for the latest advice, but if you are buying this camera for its compact size and light weight, the Sony FE 28-60mm f/4-5.6 Lens may be the perfect option. This tiny lens delivers excellent image quality for the price. Look for it in a kit with the a7C.

Another great Sony general-purpose lens option is the FE 24-105mm f/4 G OSS Lens. This pro-grade lens offers a long focal length range in a modestly-sized lens with a mid-level price.

Those who need to stop motion in dim light should consider acquiring the Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Lens, one of the best general-purpose lenses available.

For longer focal length needs often encountered by professionals, the Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS Lens is a great choice, and the Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens is a great option for the wide-angle needs. Browse our Sony Lens Reviews page for more good options.

Price

The Sony Alpha a7C hits the market priced similar to the a7 III, with a mid-level price. The a7 III is highly regarded for being a great value and, with overall similar capabilities, the a7C is the same.

Wrap Up

This camera has an extremely deep feature set and I can't cover everything this camera can do in a reasonably-concise review. Communications features alone include USB-C, Wi-Fi, NFC, and Bluetooth connectivity. The Sony a7C owner's manual provides a deeper look into the full capabilities of this camera. Read the manual, go use your camera, repeat.

The Sony a7C used for this review was acquired online/retail.

Sony a7C Angle

Summary

The Sony Alpha a7C is uncompromising, including from a performance perspective, as promised. Aside from some controls and a large EVF, there is little the a7C gives up to gain its ultra-compact size.

This camera's 24.2 MP resolution is not extreme, but adequate for many uses (with a smaller file size than their ultra-high-resolution alternatives), and this full-frame-sized imaging sensor delivers very low noise images with a high dynamic range (exposure latitude). Sony's latest AF technology, especially the Eye-AF feature, makes the photographer's job easier and the results consistently optimal.

Compact is convenient, and convenient means the camera is more likely to go with you. A camera with you will potentially capture far more images than one that remains at home, and this camera's image quality far surpasses that of your phone.

I adopted the Sony a7C for my recent general-purpose uses, including several family events such as the annual family outing to cut down the Christmas tree and for my passport renewal selfie. This camera has proven convenient and competent — it is a great travel partner.

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