Photography / Features

5 Takeaways from The Sony a7RII Webcast

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The new Sony a7R II Mirrorless Digital Camera was the star of the show during a live-streaming panel discussion, hosted by B&H, with noted professionals discussing their impressions after using this outstanding camera. We’ve compiled five “takeaways” from the conversation, highlighting the camera’s unique features.

  1. The a7R II is the product of two years of intense evolutionary development from a company listening to its customers and incorporating features from the previous a7 models to create a camera without compromise for all photographers and videographers. Sony makes all of the components that go into the a7R II.
     
  2. Sony has responded to feedback from its customers and created a fast Hybrid Autofocus system with 399 Phase-detection points, spread throughout the frame, and 25 Contrast-detection points. AF and AE tracking has been enhanced and eye-point focus is available for sharp portraits. In addition to the quickly growing set of dedicated Sony FE lenses, autofocus is also supported on newer Canon EF lenses.
     
  3. The a7R II provides incredibly high ISO sensitivities. Its low ISO capture is virtually noise free and its dynamic range is the equal to any camera available. With a 42.4MP image, there is more flexibility to down-scale and apply noise reduction to match the low light ability of the a7S.
     
  4. Internal 4K video capture!
     
  5. Compact size is important, but ergonomics and functionality are more so. The a7R II provides a larger, more stable grip and the updated magnesium-alloy body has improved weather sealing and a robust lens mount for working with large lenses. Shutter vibration is significantly reduced and a silent mode is supported.

Discussion 7

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The assertion that "its dynamic range is the equal to any camera available" is inaccurate, FYI.

Thank you for the comment Paul. It seems that the original a7R is ranked at or near the top in terms of dynamic range of available full frame cameras, depending on sensitivity settings. And while you may be correct, based on the hands-on experience of our panelists and despite its higher resolution, the a7R II matches or exceeds the capability of the other a7 cameras. Perhaps we should have chosen the phrasing, 'its dynamic range is comparable to any of the best full frame cameras available'. 

Another false assertion, and this one is big: "...create a camera without compromise for all photographers...". Lossy RAW file formatting is indeed a compromise, one that is a deal-breaker for many pro shooters.

Sony's recent weak assertion that they're working on a solution is not good enough. 

Jon, I'm a little curious about your point. All of the a7 series cameras score very highly on image quality tests. Any test of that kind is done using the RAW files taken from the camera, meaning that we're seeing image quality results of the entire process pathway, from sensor to file. So, while these cameras are no doubt capable of a little more in terms of image quality, it would seem that the sacrifice in quality due to Sony's lossy compression is outweighed by other advantages. The files are what is tested, and the files score very highly when compared to any other camera on the market.

I agree with you. Sony is doing a disservice to its customers and its reputation by throwing away image quality by choice, when image quality should be a top priority. I disagree though, that the lossy compression of a7 RAW files should turn people away from these cameras. It's a minor issue, and it's outweighed (even if only considering image quality) by other factors.

To give an analogy; a car model outperforms its opposition in the important metric with which you're most concerned, despite having a tubular chassis, while its competitors have monocoque constructions. Would you buy the worse performing car because you prefer monocoque construction, even though what concerns you most is in fact better on the other car? (all else being equal here, where in the case of the a7 all else is most certainly not equal).

Please clarify the topic in regards of the words *lossy RAW*

English is not my native language so I don't understand what it means. IS the camera having issues with raw files? Please explain with other words. 

If you have trouble with understanding this reply, you may email askbh@bhphoto.com and indicate your native language and we can try to translate it in reply to your email for you. 

The camera is not having issues with RAW files.  The type of RAW file it generates are called "lossy" in that when compressing the image file, the camera will remove what it considers to be unecessary data from the image in the name of saving space.  Overall its not a huge issue except for instances where where one may be boosting the contrast of the image up.  It would become noticeable in situations where the background is flat combined with a high contrast subject in the foreground. When it occurs one would notice posteriszation and color fringing.  Sony is aware that many users do not prefer this type of process and are working to come up with a solution for them. 

You're puzzled by my factual statement that, contrary to your assertion, Sony did indeed compromise? Interesting. 

Regarding your "all else is most certainly not equal" statement, indeed: Sony menus, repair service/support and build quality are inferior to the best from Canon and Nikon. 

To be completely honest, Sony's bizarre decision to intentionally degrade their RAW files pales in comparison to the issue that bothers me most. And yes, the next assertion is very subjective: the Sony feels more like an expensive gadget than a pro-level camera that has been refined over decades. This is simply what shooting for 30+ years tells me. I know that many other photographers disagree.