Photography / Hands-on Review

Mirrorless Hits its Mark: the Sony a7RII

It seems that, this time, Sony has made a camera that will make even the most steadfast DSLR shooters pause and consider mirrorless cameras, if only for a second. That, in itself, makes the a7RII a huge accomplishment and makes me extremely lucky for the opportunity to take it out for a test drive. 

I was given just one weekend with the a7RII, which frankly is not enough time to truly delve into all of the camera’s nuances, so I focused on the still-photography side of things. Fortunately, fellow writer Justin Dise took care of the video features with his own review. So, be sure to check that out to get the whole picture. 

Build and Handling

Let’s begin with the body redesign. It embraces the form factor first introduced with the a7II, which is great because Sony did many things right with the new body. This includes relocating the shutter release to a more natural position, making the grip larger, and ensuring better button placement with more customization. The magnesium-alloy body also sees a new textured matte finish that is much more resistant to dirt and fingerprints than the earliest models, and it feels great in the hand.



 

A significant update from earlier models is the revamped electronic viewfinder. While it keeps the same 2,360k-dot resolution, the optics have been enhanced and it has been made much larger, with a magnification of 0.78x, which makes using it a lot more comfortable. After using the a7RII, the EVF on my a7S seemed much more cramped. One thing I did notice was that during image magnification, the image appeared to be very low res, with pixilation and jagged edges that made manual focusing a bit more difficult. But, besides this, the viewfinder is a welcome improvement.

Inside the body we can see that Sony really has listened to critiques of the original a7R with the redesigned mechanical shutter. Giving the whole system a facelift, the shutter cuts down on vibrations by about 50% and has been made to withstand 500,000 actuations. This ameliorates a huge problem users had with the original a7R and allows photographers to get as much detail as possible out of the high-resolution camera. Additionally, Sony was able to implement an electronic first-curtain shutter setting, as well as a completely silent shooting mode like we saw on the a7S. The new shutter was also one of the first things I noticed when I started shooting with the a7RII. The shutter was very smooth and sounded clean; you didn’t hear any additional rattling of introduced shake. It also happened to be a little bit quieter than the shutter in my a7S.

Another internal update was the addition of 5-axis SteadyShot INSIDE image stabilization. Even if you don’t normally feel like you need it, the stabilization of the viewfinder while composing your photo is invaluable. It appears to be a little bit better than just having optical stabilization in the lens, though this is one of the more difficult things to show off. The huge advantage really comes with using adapted lenses, which you set up by simply plugging the focal length into the menu, now allowing old legacy lenses or fully manual optics to benefit from modern stabilizers. Video shooters will also love this new capability, especially those who constantly find themselves out without a tripod.

A less noticeable change is that the mode dial now locks, which turned out to be more annoying than helpful. The dial was already stiff enough and in a position that made accidental turns difficult, so now it requires force and the simultaneous pressing of a button. On another note, the customization of all the buttons and dials is a highlight, though an absolute necessity since, otherwise, you will spend too much time navigating through the menu system. This has been a problem for many Sony cameras, but as they keep adding more and more features, the menu does feel like it is getting a little crowded. I was scrolling through tons of video-related items just to find the one photo-specific setting I required. Some cleanup, or maybe a custom page, would be a nice improvement in the future.

The top of the camera is still equipped with the Multi Interface Shoe found on its predecessors (though now it is a sleek black instead of silver), meaning you can attach a flash, microphone, or other accessory with ease. I have the large HVL-F60M flash, which completely throws my a7S off balance. But, with the a7RII, while it is still noticeably large, it manages to stay balanced, especially with larger lenses like the FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro OSS lens. This is a huge update, as previously, if you wanted an on-camera flash you either had to settle with an awkward setup or one with much less power.

Now, I found the larger size to be a huge asset, though I know many will lament the growing size of the a7 series. Mirrorless cameras were often advertised as a much smaller and lighter option than a DSLR, and yes, there is some merit to that. The a7RII seems to ignore this concept, but it really is just that you can’t get a camera with anywhere close to the capabilities of the a7RII without moving to a larger body. And, while some will find the size a little large, there will be just as many that say it still isn’t quite large enough. In the end it comes down to personal preference and, in my opinion, it is a well-balanced compromise between size and features.

Image Quality

The real test of any camera is, of course, the image quality, and with a brand-new full-frame back illuminated 42.2-megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensor, the a7RII really does deliver. The technology has, for the first time, made its way into full-frame territory and claims to offer less noise, faster processing, and generally improved image quality and dynamic range. In practice, I did notice all of these things, but there were a few caveats.

Is it fast? Definitely. The camera easily hits its 5 fps continuous shooting rate and can maintain it for a little more than four seconds, allowing for about 22 RAW files to be captured in a single burst, complete with AF. The write speeds, on the other hand, were very limiting. Every time I tried to review a photo I had just taken, I would get an error message that the camera was still writing to the card. This would last for a couple seconds before I could finally pull the image up. Also, a full string of RAW images would take about 2 minutes to fully clear, so sports and action shooters should be wary of this.

FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS;  ISO 100; f/4; 1/100 second

 

Does it cut down on noise? Yes, impressively so. The a7RII manages to both increase resolution and still offer an excellent noise profile. It’s not quite as good as my a7S, which I am able to use easily at ISO 25600 and even 51200, but it holds its own despite having over 3x the resolution. I would comfortably use images up to ISO 6400, and possibly even 12800, if I applied noise reduction. Part of this is just how the noise reads in the image. It feels more reminiscent of an organic film grain than the ugly digital noise we have come to expect. The level of detail retained is also quite incredible, but be sure to turn off the internal noise reduction, as I found that it was extremely overzealous and smeared fine details.  

Below, you can find a whole series of converted RAW images with no noise reduction, from ISO 100 up to the maximum of 102400.

ISO 100
 
ISO 200
 
ISO 400
 
ISO 800
 
ISO 1600
 
ISO 3200
 
ISO 6400
 
ISO 12800
 
 
ISO 25600
 
ISO 51200
 
ISO 102400
 
 

Now, how about overall improvements? Most importantly, the dynamic range of this sensor is incredible. I know there is a lot of worry about the lossy compression with RAW files, but in my short time with the camera, I didn’t find any issues. I’m sure that in certain instances where users are really pushing the camera to the limits, some problems may crop up, but for most general shooting conditions I can’t see this being much of a problem—besides the constant thought that maybe I could be getting a lot more from my images. The color also seemed a little more accurate than what I get from my a7S, but it still maintains Sony’s usual bluish tones with auto white balance.

The resolution is obviously one of the major selling points of this camera, for stills shooters. This is a lot of information, and something that can only truly be appreciated when you zoom in to 100%. The camera is near the top when it comes to resolution in this class of camera, and studio and landscape photographers will find the detail incredible. When shooting with strobes, and at ISO 100, I was just blown away. The large files did choke up the camera a little when you were scrolling through them for review on the rear LCD. The a7RII would hesitate for a second or two when you hit the magnification button to check focus.


FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS; ISO 100; f/5.6; 1/100 second
 


100% zoom
 

Looking through the viewfinder, I felt extremely confident in the images being captured. The camera was able to display astounding dynamic range, and the metering did a very good job of keeping highlights in check. I was never worried about the camera accidentally blowing out a huge portion of the image and, if I needed to bring the sky down, the accessibility of the exposure compensation dial made it incredibly easy to correct. Also, the new dials for aperture and shutter speed offer greater grip and allow you to turn them confidently, as much or as little as needed. Then, when I brought the files into Capture One and Photoshop, I was able to pull down the highlights further and bring the details out of the shadows.

Autofocus

With a Fast Hybrid AF system that utilizes 399 phase-detect AF points covering 45% of the sensor area, the a7RII was expected to bring mirrorless focusing to another level. I initially had reservations as to how well this would perform in real life; when I owned an a6000, while it was impressive, tracking had a tendency to miss. The a7RII, on the other hand, greatly surpassed my expectations, holding its own against many professional DSLRs I have had the opportunity to use in the past.


FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS; 16mm; ISO 250; f/5.6; 1/1600 second
 

Heading over to the Astoria Skate Park, I found a skateboarder willing to help put the camera to the test. I set up the camera in continuous AF (AF-C) mode with Lock-On to see how well it could track a moving subject, and this is where I was really surprised. The camera locked on quickly, painting a green box around the subject, and moves with them to assure you that the subject is still being tracked. When I was shooting, it locked onto the skater and followed him through a series of different moves.

While focusing did seem to be just a hair off in a couple of shots, it was so close that it didn’t really matter, in most cases. Also, you can dial-in speed settings to tune the system specifically to your subject, and whether you require precision or need to just keep up with a fast-moving body in motion. There is also a huge variety of focus modes and settings available, though I did notice that when set to Wide, it had a tendency to get confused on what exactly to focus on. Other modes, including contrast-based ones, all show a drastic improvement compared to the a7S and a7R, which have a solely contrast-based system.

AF-C (Continuous AF) in Lock-On: Expanded Flexible Spot Mode at 5 fps with FE 70-200mm f/4 G OSS
 

Eye AF makes an appearance, as well, with the ability to utilize the phase-detect points and continuous focus system. The camera’s ability to locate and track an eye in the frame was astounding, as it kept up with people turning their heads. This is useful for many photographers, but it would be even more functional if some of the most awesome features weren't buried in menu systems.

One other important thing to note is the availability of phase-detect AF when using Canon EF and Sony A-mount lenses. I found that it was almost as impressively fast as native FE glass but that it was a little more inconsistent and, occasionally, was prone to hunt more. This is a huge advantage for Canon and A-mount shooters who are considering making the switch but don’t want to completely invest in a new lens system. It is important to note that not all adapters and lenses will work perfectly, so if it is important that this feature works, you are going to have to try it out yourself.

Tethering and Battery Life

Sony has developed a partnership to release a free version of Capture One for reading RAW files and, while RAW conversion is a very personal thing, Capture One is one of the top dogs in this arena and well worth checking out. You will have to move up to the Pro version for full tethering and editing capabilities, but this justifies the cost if you like the software. Of course, tethering support is superb and, for those who usually have their system connected to a computer, they will find that the a7RII can easily find its way into your workflow. Also, a huge benefit is that the camera can receive power over USB while you are shooting, meaning you can charge the battery as you shoot, effectively providing users with an AC power source.


 

FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS; ISO 100; f/4; 0.6 second

Strobe support is also lacking, once again. The camera does not have any dedicated ports for flash beside the hot shoe, which is fine for most people using remote triggers, like me. But sometimes a sync cable is a great option or backup, and currently it is not possible. I was using a simple Profoto Air Remote with a couple of B1 Air Battery-Powered Flash heads that worked wonderfully. I did find that at lower power settings the LED modeling light caused flicker in the viewfinder, an issue I had never encountered with a DSLR, thanks to the optical viewfinder. I would greatly appreciate a flash system, or a more standardized port on both the camera and flashes for better lighting solutions, something crucial for many photographers.

One of the biggest sticking points of the camera is the battery life. The a7RII does use the same batteries as its predecessors, which is great if you already have a pile sitting around, because this camera will eat through batteries. It does come with two batteries and a wall charger to alleviate some of the problem. However, after shooting for a little bit, and admittedly looking through images and scrolling through the menu more than an average user, I found it was draining way more quickly than any other camera I have used. Also, I believe there is some kind of drain occurring when the camera is switched off, as I noticed a notably lower battery percentage reading when I picked it up the next morning.

Other Features

Built-in Wi-Fi is available for remote operation with a smartphone, and while I didn’t spend much time messing with it, the operation seems about the same as all previous models. It is a nice addition, and if you are out and about and want a convenient photo for Instagram or Facebook, it works quite well. I did have some odd connection problems on iOS devices though, so the app may be in need of an update for newer versions of iOS. We also see the return of the apps. Some capabilities, like Time Lapse, require an additional purchase for use. These can be installed on multiple cameras, so if you already bought them you won’t need to buy it again but, I feel that after you buy a camera like this, some of these features should be built in.


FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS; 28mm; ISO 100; f/4; 1/250 second

Final Thoughts

Simply stated, I loved the a7RII, even though at times the minor issues were more than just small annoyances. Once you look at the files and set your buttons, dials, and function menu up exactly as you want—which is, perhaps, one of the absolute best features of the camera—it will be hard to put down. The camera also feels good in the hand and feels like it can take more of a beating than its predecessors. This is crucial if I want something I can just throw in my bag and get on the road. And, on top of all of this, it offers incredible detail, a wide dynamic range, and though I didn’t delve into it, internal UHD 4K recording.

It is important to note that even though I did encounter a variety of small issues, the image quality makes many of these just not worth worrying about, and I would have no problem recommending this camera to most people. The only reservation I would have is with photographers who solely shoot in a studio, as a full-sized DSLR with proper ports, a more balanced build, and an optical viewfinder may benefit them, as the weight-savings of the mirrorless design doesn’t really matter too much.

In the end, Sony has released a truly impressive camera, and one that I expect to find at or near the top of many “Best Cameras of 2015” lists at the end of this year.

 

To read more about the a7RII's 4K capabilites, read Justin Dise's review to get the whole picture.

 

FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS; 16mm; ISO 100; f/4; 1/800 sec.
 

FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS; ISO 250; f/5.6; 1/125 sec.
 

FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS; ISO 2000; f/5.6; 1/125 sec.
 

To learn more about the Sony a7RII, watch​ the B&H live panel discussion, by clicking here.

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Thank you for a review! Feels like I read over a hundred different articles and reviews about this camera for the last week. All specs looks amazing but I am a Canon user.... I was looking for a new Canon camera 5DSR and end up getting really excited about this one. I really don't want to give up on my L Cannon glass since I already invested a lotin it. Have you tried to use this camera with non native lens? Some people say that metabones not communicating well with some of Canon lenses (slow focus i guess) and now I am really stucked in a middle. I still planning on getting F2.8 24-70mm lens for my Canon FF camera but if I  will be getting a Sony body maybe it's better to get one whicvh is specifically design for it..? Do I even want to keep Canon? I am still hoping that Canon will came up something better than 5DSR. So if anyone is struglle in switching from Canon to mirrorless Sony please share your thoughts. 

Hi Evelina,

Thanks for reading. I actually shoot both Canon and Sony and have had the opportunity to use the 5DS & 5DS R, you can even check out my review here. To your question, the only thing that would immediately make me choose the Sony over the Canon is if I needed video. The a7RII is an obvious winner here and hybrid shooters will benefit greatly from all of the added features and abilities. In terms of still photography, it is not such a clear cut answer.

I always recommend that people go to a store to pick up and feel the cameras they want to buy, or if possible rent them for a short while because choosing the right camera comes down to more than just specs. I personally know many people who prefer the larger feel and control scheme of a DSLR and would pick the 5DS over the a7RII without a second thought, especially if you are very comfortable already with Canon's system. Learning a new setup takes some time. Also, I feel that Sony’s flash system and connectivity for strobes is lacking compared to Canon. If you find yourself working in a studio setting or with Speedlites, the 5DS/R will likely be a better choice. But, those who need higher ISOs, want a smaller body, or just prefer the feel and controls of the a7RII will obviously find Sony’s option to be the better choice. It always comes down to what you intend to shoot.

In terms of adapted lenses, I did have a very short period of time where I tried some of my Canon glass using the Fotodiox adapter and I was pleasantly surprised. I found that with my EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM and EF 50mm f/1.4 USM lenses that focusing was almost the same as with native Sony lenses. There were a couple moments of hunting or missed focus, especially in lower light, but overall it was quite nice. I did have a time where I tested a pre-production a7RII with the Metabones adapter and the EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM and that performed spectacularly. BUT, I have had issues in the past with certain off-brand lenses on my a7S. I unfortunately cannot confirm specific compatibility between lenses without actually picking up the exact lenses and testing them out. Differences in firmware or production with both the lens and adapter will make a difference too. In the end, I can’t recommend or not recommend using adapters as this is a constantly changing area, but I will say that native lenses will generally perform more reliably.

-Shawn C. Steiner

Shawn, thank you for great reviews (and linking to my favorite photo "candy" store.  I have shot both large and medium format landscape photography and used to shoot Canon FD for wildlife. I've switched to digital and trying to decide on a system - my wife won't let me buy multiple systems (she already thinks I own a camera store). I'm torn between the Canon 5DsR, the Nikon D810 and the Sony a7rII. I'm concerned about the lossy RAW of the Sony - both Diglloyd and DPReview, which generally liked the camera, talked about the artifacts and posterization in night and high contrast situations. Despite the detail, this may not fit for late evening or early morning landscapes. the Canon has great detail but less dynamic range than the Nikon, but both have broader systems so I can shoot both landscape and wildlife. Help!

Hi Michael,

Personally (though many people will and have already disagreed), the lossy RAW doesn’t bother me (one could also compare medium format. It only pops up in very select circumstances which I don’t find myself in. Some other reviews have shown the issue when they pushed the RAW files exposure 4 stops in post production or with long star trail images (though these have shown to be better than the original a7R), but both of these are not common things for me to do. If they were, I may reconsider picking up the a7RII.

On the other hand, there are other reasons many people will choose a full-sized DSLR over mirrorless and that comes down to many other personal decisions. I will say that if you need to shoot the best video as well as photo, the a7RII wins hands down. Also, if you still have your FD lenses and want to adapt them, then the a7RII is the only way to go. But, if you prefer the comfort of a 5DS R or D810 body, then that may be the way to go. The differences in resolution are likely not going to have a huge impact, unless you consistently find yourself printing large format. Also, the 5DS R and D810 are built upon older systems that could be considered more reliable, especially when considering available lenses and professional services.

In the end, as long as you don’t have strict video requirements, all of these cameras will serve you well. As always, I’d recommend renting, borrowing, or at the very least just holding them all in a store and picking which one you feel most comfortable with. As your comfort will have a larger impact on image quality then just comparing spec sheets.

I know it isn’t a definitive answer, but I hope it helps!

-Shawn C. Steiner

Thank you Shawn!

Just a cautonary note.  Take your memory to the B & H, put it in the camera and shoot, shoot, shoot.   This experience for me was heartbreaking because I wanted the Sony to be my new dream camera.  I was even ready to buy some Zeiss glass.  The Sony felt much better in my hands than I expected.  The dials were great and logical.   But not a single picture had spot on focus and at ISO 3200 the grain was already a problem.  I do a lot of stitching on an uber-fast computer.  But stitch together 8 of these huge raw files and you could have dinner in the meantime.  For good ergonomics, not much wieght, a feasible file size, lots of Canon glass, I'm sticking with my 6D and hoping the next model will be even better.  And, if I were strong enough to lug a big camera all day, I go with some variation of the 5DIII.  Just sayin', try it before you buy it. You might end up saving a couple grand on something that is of more practical value.

Spot on focus unfortunately seems to be a major problem with these A 7 series cameras. I had hoped that they had corrected this with the A7RII but after reading your review I'll pass. I also saw that ISO at 3200 had that grainy look. Maybe the rumored A9 will get Sony closer to something worth the money.

I share the same feeling my friend... I was about to buy the new 5DSr when heard about the a7RII. After a extensive searching I decided go with a7RII. I hope not get repented.

Ditto almost everything you said Evelina. I already own the EF 24-70 2.8 II plus three other excellent L lenses, three 600 flashes, remote flash controller and 5D3.   BUT, yesterday I pulled the trigger and ordered a A7R2, a third battery and Metabones adaptor.  I've been on the fence since June but a big upcoming trip forced me to make a decision.  I'm a bit nervous about the massive number of menu settings and the concerns we've been reading and watching in all these reviews.  Unfortunately the camera won't be in stock a while so I'll have to keep sweating it out to find out if I made a good decision. 

I could have written this myself. I too am Canon owner of many years and love my Canon equipment. I have most L lenses but not to excited about using them on Sony. I like ibis, electronic view finder, and the smaller size for a second camera when I don't want the bulk of my DSLR. Canon has new mirrorless coming out, but without the features I like on the Sony. What is a person to do. I would like to see more images with the non native lenses though just in case I would like to use that option. I can't find many images taken with Canon lenses online.

"The huge advantage really comes with using adapted lenses, which you set up by simply plugging the focal length into the menu, now allowing old legacy lenses or fully manual optics to benefit from modern stabilizers." I don't know what this means and how it would apply to a zoom lens like say a canon 17-40mm lens. I have one on order.

Hi Dale,

Let me try to help explain this. With “dumb” adapters (no electronics) you would manually choose the focal length so that the camera’s internal stabilization can be optimized for that setting as the type and amount of stabilization required for a 16mm lens is very different that that of a 200mm lens. This system works great for prime lenses, but for zoom lenses you should probably pick something either in the middle or towards the end you will usually be shooting with. For example, if you adapt a 70-200mm and usually shoot at 200mm, it would be best just to go with 200mm. You could also just go in the middle and seeif that works best for both. This may be more of a trial and error situation.

Now, with the Canon 17-40mm you are looking at, if you use an electronic adapter, the lens may actually transmit focal length information automatically and then you can without worry just keep in it Auto mode. Unfortunately, this is going to depend heavily on the adapter, lens, and camera working perfectly together, which I cannot confirm with this combination as it will depend on brands and firmware versions.

Hope this helps.

-Shawn C. Steiner

The A7RII still has lossy raw files, and weights almost as much as a DSLR.The weight jumped 150g from the A7.  It may be mirrorless but it is big and heavy and not for me. 

Frank S.

The A7RII is still almost a pound lighter than the Canon 5dIII and Nikon D800. They are all about the same retail price. With in body image stabilization I won't need a tripod for landscape shots. The prime lenses designed for the A7 series are generally light and small. For example the 35mm f2.8 and the 55mm F1.8. This also means a camera bag I can carry on my belt. Zeiss has some nice new glass in 25mm and 85mm. The image stabilization will make the excellent 55mm f1.8 lens even better. I currently use the A7R. I am an "In the mountains", mountain photographer. I am 70 years old and have to haul this gear up and down Sierra Nevada mountain trails. To me, every ounce ****** and the choice is obvious. I know you Canon and Nikon fanboys look for reasons not to get the Sony but the criticisms seem nit picky to me. The arguments that there is not enough good glass for the emount is simply not true. How many lenses do folks take into the mountains? If you want a Canon or Nikon in the mountains with all the lenses be prepared to hire a mule. 

It is not how many lenses we carry to the mountains. Believe it or not there are other photographers who go other places than mountains. The problem is that Sony is not ready for prime time without a full line up of dedicated lenses. With the use of adaptors, in addition to full sized canon or other speciality lenses most of the size and weight advantages are neutral. Finally the price is currently about $1000 higher than a Nikon D810 which has been in "prime time" since inception.

Bob T,

"Believe it or not there are other photographers who go other places than mountains." I am well aware of that. I prefaced my statement about what I use the Sony camera for and why. I think it is a great "in the mountains" full frame camera period. Did I say it could compete as a studio camera? No. Most folks I run into on the trails use a cell phone or a point and shoot. Galen Rowell used the lightest camera and few lenses when he photographed in the mountains. Nothing has changed.   

$1000 higher than the D810. If you are being a stupid troll at least be more convincing. It is $200 higher than the now-reduced price of the D810. And obviously the Sony will drop in price within 6 months. 

See, that's what I don't get about these cameras... you have a camera that's smaller and lighter, but Zeiss glass tends to be heavier than most at a given length/range, and especially compared to a "C"  size where you can get away with 2/3 the length.  "In the mountains"  I'm guessing that you could use a low enough ISO that a premium quality APS-C (or maybe even µ4/3) wouldn't take much of a performance hit; the thinner air aggravating the heat dissipation penalty that the large sensor-small body imposes.  That puts the center of gravity closer to your body.  (Landscapes, not so much, but do you have a long tele for wildlife?)

This is, of course all conjecture on my part as I have no experience with this series... as of yet I haven't actually even seen one in the field!  And no, I'm not a Nikon or Canon fanboy... I actually use a Pentax, but mainly because at the time I got my first DSLR, they were the only sub $1k available that would do 5-digit ISO and looking at comparison shots at review sites, they had the best IQ in the 800-6400 range.  And "we"  have had Shake Reduction with adapted and legacy glass for years.  My fave lens for zoo use is an old K-Mart brand (seriously!) 135mm 2.8 manual focus that I picked up on Flea Bay for $12 shipped.

CHUCK,

"I'm guessing that you could use a low enough ISO that a premium quality APS-C (or maybe even µ4/3) wouldn't take much of a performance hit". I DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU ARE REFERRING TO HERE? A CAMERA OR LENSES. IF YOU ARE REFERRING TO LENSES, IT DOESN'T MAKE SENSE TO PUT AN APS-C LENS ON A FULL FRAME CAMERA.  I HAVE A SONY G LENS 70-200 F4 WHICH IS FINE FOR WILDLIFE. WE'LL SEE IN A COUPLE OF WEEKS IF I CAN GET CLOSE ENOUGH TO SOME SIERRA NEVADA BIGHORN SHEEP. YOU SEEM TO BE UNFAMILIAR WITH THE ZEISS GLASS FOR THE E-MOUNT. SOME ARE HEAVY BUT MOST ARE REASONABLE.

According to the DPREVIEW the Nikon D800 produces cleaner images, has lossless RAW and better selection of lenses, and arguably abetter ergonomics. The Sony is definitely a fine camera, never the less.

Seemed like a good product. There were two reasons I sold my a6000 and they both had to do with the MIS. Sony has a bad habit of insisting on proprietary product line. There is not a GOOD shotgun microphone for the a6000 and it looks like they've done the same here. If we were videographers we would buy video cameras, but even for us, still photogs, there are subjects which NEED video. Good video doesn't happen with built-in microphones. All good microphones--Rode, Sennheiser, etc.--come with 3.5mm plugs. The a6000 didn't have that. Only the MIS. Similarly, third parties make TTL flash equipment for Canik, but not for Sony, partly because Sony has twice changed the configuration of the MIS.

Sony can make good products, but their insistence on proprietary, non-standards (Remember Betamax? Remember the MemoryStick?) make them useless for me.

For the A7rII you can get the Sony XLR-KM2 which is a very decent short shot gun, and it comes with XLR - so you can plug in your Rode/Sennheiser. I've used that on the A7s many times, and I'll take that over 3.5mm plugs any day.

Hi David,

Unfortunately, due to only having a weekend to review the camera, I couldn't review the video-oriented features in addition to the photography-oriented ones. Luckily, if you go here Justin Dise does an excellent job of discussing the camera's amazing capabilities in video, including a photograph of the different ports available as the camera does in fact have a 3.5mm input for mics as well as a 3.5mm output for monitoring. Though I would tend to agree with the comment Flemming posted saying that the XLR-KM2 is an excellent use of the MIS. XLR ports are much more reliable than the small 3.5mm connection, though larger and a little less convenient for this size of camera. There is also the option to go with  I will tend to agree that while the MIS is a nice feature when considering the ability to add functionality through the input of mics, XLR ports, or even monitors, the incompatibilities are a major drawback. Additionally, a dual-system setup is always the best way to record audio, though it does require more work in post production.

-Shawn C. Steiner

Actually, Beta was before VHS, and was adopted by Toshiba, Hitachi and Sanyo (if my failing memory serves) as well... it also outperformed VHS and was first with Hi-Fi audio, AND had an accessory PCM adapter available making it a semi-pro digital audio recorder in the days when a CD burner was still well north of $500.  The reason VHS outlasted Beta was that you could get 8 hour tapes.  (What they didn't tell you, of course, was that the extra-super-duper-fit-Clockwork Orange-on-one-tape slow speed had miserable performance and ruined the heads.)  But the rest, yeah, you're right.  AND the CD, which was really released about 6 years before the tech was mature enough IMHO, killing Hi-Fi as an enthusiast hobby.

Great review, makes me wonder if I should have waited when I purchased my Sony a77ii a few months ago. Just curious, would you have a very brief comment that compares the two cameras? The full-frame vs. APS-C difference is obvious, but other than that how would you compare them? Thanks!

Hey Ken,

Comparing the a77II and a7RII is almost impossible. If we are talking about specs, the a7RII with its newer technology and high-end design is the easy winner, but there are many more factors to consider, one of which is simply price. These two cameras are at two very different price points for two very audiences. Also, the body designs are very different and some people would just prefer a DSLR type camera to a mirrorless. On top of this, some people are content with lower megapixel counts and APS-C sensors. It is just what works for them. The a77II is a great camera, and you should make the most of it.

Thanks for reading!

-Shawn C. Steiner

I dunno.  When you start mounting big DSLR zooms to a mirrorless, you might as well enjoy the big grip on a DSLR to hold that large, cantalivered weight on the end.  

I think you may have missed the mark with reservations for studio photographers. Weight is less a concern for sure, but there are other features that are also extremely important.

I recently switched from the Canon 5D family to Sony A7R. I am a studio photographer, and one of THE best features is focus peaking. During a long day, my eyes tire and I find focusing more difficult and focus peaking really helps. For a difficult shot where I need certain elements in focus, focus peaking can't be beat when using a TS-E lens.

Another nice feature not available on any SLR is the option to have the viewfinder display the actual exposure or to brighten the viewfinder is a real bonus in a dimly lit studio.

Divorcing Canon was expensive, but I am happy I did and look forward to the A7RII.

Hi Bruce,

Thanks for your input here. This comes a lot down to personal preference where I felt that my own reservations may be helpful to those that share that opinion. I have no doubt that this camera will find its way into many studios as the resolution and tethering support is superb. For this review though, the flicker with LED modeling lights and lack of real strobe support (subjective, I know) was a major downside.

I can understand the importance of focus peaking in some applications, but generally when I work I am shooting tethered, so checking focus on the computer immediately after in Capture One is preferable than focus peaking to me. The Bright Monitoring feature is really nice, but also, again a personal thing, I'm generally not too bothered or working in such a dim environment that it bothers me.

Thanks for reading.

-Shawn C. Steiner

You didn't mention how fast your card was, when you mentioned the slow write speed. Myself using a PNY Elite Performance card at a write speed of 90 MB/s, the speed is fantastic, especially for such a large file.

Hello Randall,

I used two different cards, one was the Lexar 64GB Professional 1000x UHS-II SDXC Memory Card which is definitely overkill for the a7RII since it doesn't have a UHS-II slot and saw the same performance as with a Sony 64GB UHS-I U3 SDXC Memory Card which showed the exact same issue. These are both great for speed and unfortunately showed that the bottleneck was the camera.

-Shawn C. Steiner

Great review. how about the a7rII vs the nikon D1? I can't seem to trade in my D1 but this is making me think twice...

Did you have a chance to use any of the Canon big glass? Like 100-400?

Hi Ron,

Unfortunately, I did not have time or the resources to test out a wide range of Canon lenses on the camera. I will advise that if this feature is important to you that you go and test it out first, to make sure that your specific lens and adapter combination works with the camera.

-Shawn C. Steiner

Sorry to say that many of the shots in the skate board sequence are clearly out of focus even at the relatively small image size. Can't see how that compares with pro level cameras as claimed like the 1DX or D4s for tracking. I'm sure Sony isn't making ridiculous claims about servo AF, but many are and yet time after time the evidence is sorely lacking. Better than before, most likely, but as good as a pro DSLR or even prosumer level camera highly unlikely.

I can't see how woeful battery life is a minor annoyance, it's a major flaw and given the extra size of the camera it's remiss of Sony to totally ignore battery life or not offer a larger battery. Battery life appears to be about 1/3-1/4 of a good DSLR like the 5D III and about 1/8-1/10 that of a pro DSLR. It's one thing I hate about my Olympus m4/3 camera which can barely get 200 shots. I'll bet Sony fixes that battery drain issue via firmware update if possible, and also the poor write speeds are very discouraging and hopefully that can be addressed. I won't be rushing out to purchase one and will wait at least 6 months before I decide despite there being a huge amount to like about this camera, other than the massive price increase from the A7R despite the Yen being so much weaker now.

Hey Whayne,

Cameras are a very personal tool for photographers and what works wonderfully for one person may be the worst thing for another. I own DSLRs, a mirrorless, and a point-and-shoot and each one serves a different purpose. Whether this camera is right for you or whether the performance is not up to par for your specific subject matter is completely up to you to decide.

On battery life, I admit in the review that it isn’t as great as a DSLR, I personally did not find it to big a huge issue for my shooting style and I never ran out of juice while shooting. I was able to get around 200-300 shots on a single battery without issue, which I find to be plenty. Also, I always make sure to walk out the door with a fresh battery in the camera and a couple backups in my bag, something I do even when I shoot with my DSLRs so I never really think of battery life as a concern. Some people may disagree with this or have a wildly different shooting style, in which case they can pick up a battery grip to extend shooting time if that works or they may in fact be better off with a different camera.

-Shawn C. Steiner

Hi Shawn:

   Your skateboarding photos looked very well in focus, but I tried using AF-C (with FE55mm lens in f1.8) with not very good result, I never got more than 50% of in focus hitting rate. Can you explain your setting and techniq when you shooting moving subject? Thans a lot!

Hi Gary,

There are a lot of things that could be causing this so I will do my best to help. I personally found the Lock-On settings with the Expanded Flexible Spot to be most reliable than just the standard modes when tracking subjects so this could greatly improve your hit rate. Also, I was shooting outdoors with good light so my AF performance benefitted from this. In lower light the phase-detection system will falter (as with any camera) and this could also explain your poor hit rate. Another thing would be using Wide vs Zone or Spot, which are more narrow focus areas. It could simply be that your camera is focusing on something else, not necessarily that it is missing focus. This really becomes a very trial and error area for cameras and simply going through the modes to find what works best is always the ideal option when possible.

Hope this helps!

-Shawn C. Steiner

Has anyone tested A7rII for night sky photography. I am interested in both the noise factor of the dark sky and sharpeness/DR of the stars with wide angle lenses wide open at speeds under 15 seconds and ISO 1600 to 6400.

One of the unique qualities that no one is talking a out is the fact that the brightness of the viewfinder is adjustable.  Great for night shots.

To the gentleman who addressed the the issue of telephoto lenses for wildlife photographers and suggested 70-200 to be fine, perhaps in a zoo.  I am a wildlife photographer, and the reason that I was looking into a smaller camera other than my current DSLR (which I love) is that I am a very small middle age woman and simply cannot handle the weight of a 500mm or 600mm lens (approx 10 lbs) on my back along with everything else, or realistically even to quickly change that large/heavy of a lens in difficult situations.  I'm currently at my limit with my nikon 80-400 lens and am going to purchase a Tamron 150-600, as that is the lightest/only lens in that range, since Nikon has chosen not to make a lighter (less expensive) non prime 600 mm lens at this time.

Unfortunately, it seems like until there is a full range of lenses for this Sony camera, I will have to forge on.

dollbert,

"To the gentleman who addressed the the issue of telephoto lenses for wildlife photographers and suggested 70-200 to be fine, perhaps in a zoo." You missed my point. You are a wildlife photographer and need 400mm plus lenses. I am a mountain landscape photographer and primarily need ultrawide lenses. I have a 70-200mm lens that can shoot wildlife but I am not primarily interested in wildlife. If I was, I would have more magnification. I do have a 30X optical zoom Panasonic Lumix that I carry as a backup camera which translates to 700mm plus. 

Here is an article I wrote with photographs I took yesterday with the A7RII.

http://midsierramusing.blogspot.com/2015/08/yosemite-day-hike-to-ostrand...