My thoughts about the Sony Alpha 7r II

So Sony announced their newest flagship camera and it got a lot of hype. And after my initial enthusiasm cooled down a bit I collect my thoughts and ask myself the essential question: Would the a7rII improve my photography if I upgraded from my Alpha 7?

sony_alpha-7r-ii-_05

Image quality

The specs tell us that the camera will sport a 42MP back side illuminated (BSI) sensor.

Lets have a look at the resolution first: I usually print no bigger than 30×45 cm (12×18″) and the difference between a 16Mp and a 24MP file is hard to tell at that size. So I don’t need 42MP for bigger prints but they would certainly be handy because I could crop more and still retain high resolution files.  And it is always nice to know that I could print really large if I wanted. Thresolution would be handy when I use my Canon FD 4/300 L in the zoo, at 18MP I would get the field of view of a 450mm lens. So thanks for the many pixels, they might be handy.

Right now we don’t know if the BSI sensor will bring any improvements to image quality. Sony claims it will but I am sceptical so far, Samsung’s NX1 which was the first APS-C camera to use a BSI sensor did not bring any improvements over Sony’s 24MP APS-C sensor. And the improvements in image quality we have seen in the last couple of years are really really small.

What I miss on the spec sheet is a lower native ISO value, Nikon’s D810 has a native sensitivity of ISO 64 which resulted in a noticeably improved dynamic range of 14.8 stops according to DxO-Mark. 

The a7r II still forces you to use a lossy raw compression. For me this is a no issue. I have seen compression artifacts in some of my images but in about 35.000 images there wasn’t one which I would have judged unprintable because of it. I think it can become a problem for night sky photography.

sony_alpha-7r-ii-_01

The Image Stabilizer

Sony claims an efficiency of 4.5 stops which they also claimed for the a7 II. In the real world the a7II’s stabilizer compensated 2-3 stops so I expect the same for the a7r II. Modern optical stabilizers in Canon’s newer lenses are even more efficient and compensate more than 4 stops so I hope to see some improvement here in the future.

Stabilizers can be a really useful feature and I would love to have it in my a7. When I reviewed the Sony 4/16-35 ZA the OSS in that lens allowed me to take some pictures I could never have taken without it and I had less need to carry a tripod.

You can of course get the same stabilizer in the much cheaper Sony Alpha 7 II (affiliate link).

Coming back to the initial question: I think this feature would make the biggest difference for my photography.

The Shutter

The shutter was the Achilles heel of the a7r, because it could cause vibrations in a range of shutter speeds from 1/30 ton /125 which would blur the image a bit. And it was also very loud.

Sony has improved the Alpha 7r II a lot in this aspect, not only does it have an electronic front  shutter curtain (like my a7) which will be the end to blurry images.

It also has a fully electronic shutter which is completely silent. This will be very handy for any kind of photography were stealth is  important. And it could be really handy for time lapse filming because it does not strain your shutter.

Another interesting aspect is that the shutter is now rated at 500.000 actuations. Sony didn’t publish a figure for the a7r or a7 but my a7’s shutter had to be replaced after 30k actuations which is probably bad luck. I think this improvement increases the value of the camera because it will last longer.

The Viewfinder and the screen

The resolution of the viewfinder has not been improved and I am a bit disappointed about that. Sure 1024*768 px in the current one work okay but I think a higher resolution viewfinder could have improved the experience noticeably.

The good news is that the optics in the viewfinder have been improved and that it has the highest magnification (0.78) of any mirrorless camera I know of, all other a7-series cameras have a magnification of 0.71. This will make it easier to see the image and the experience will be more immersive.

I think the screen on my a7 and the arII is too small. There is a large black frame around it, so it could be bigger.  The new screen seems to be a bit brighter but size and sharpness are the same. Pretty please Sony, your smartphones have much nicer screens than your cameras and bigger screen would improve my experience a lot.

Oh and then there is the touch screen, I mean no touch screen. My ancient Nex-5n has one and it is really useful to activate focus magnification anywhere in the image and placement of the AF point. So that’s another feature I miss from this camera.

Autofocus

Based on the specs it is very hard to say anything meaningful about the AF, it is certainly improved over my a7 and the original a7r but by how much is hard to tell. I think it is safe to assume that it will be quite fast in brighter environments, how good tracking and low light AF work remains to be tested.

One very interesting aspect is that Sony claims to have improved AF performance with lenses adapted via the LA-EA3 adapter. This could be huge news because this would mean that newer Sony A-mount and Canon EF lenses could be used without any serious drawback.  Today you can use these lenses but you either have to focus them manually or you could use the very very slow AF.

Initially we had only DPReview’s comment on the topic: “We’ve used an a7R II with a Canon 24-70mm lens and a Metabones adapter, and focus is indeed very fast indeed”.

By now I have seen a couple of videos demonstrations and to me it seems as if the AF works well with some lenses. David Kilpatrick, whom I know as an independent reviewer, also reports that “we found that the Canon 85mm f/1.8 USM didn’t work on any adaptor on the A7R II, while the 40mm f/2.8 activated the PDAF points and focused very rapidly, and a 24mm f/2.8 USMf/2.8 focused fast” 

So I think the actual performance will depend on the AF technology used in the lens. The 2.8/40 has a stepping motor and it is a very new lens. The 1.8/85 is one of Canon’s oldest lenses in the EF-lineup.

In the demos I have also seen more hunting than I would have expected from my a7 in similar situations. So right now I think that AF performance with A- and EF-mount lenses is improved by a lot, if you compare it with the a7r or a7II but it won’t be on the same level as the AF with native FE-mount lenses.

Size, Weight and built quality

My Alpha 7 weights 474g, the Alpha 7r II weights 625g. It is still a lot lighter and smaller than a Nikon D810 or Canon 5dr but if you use this camera you will always have to carry the weight. With my a7  can decide to either attach a L-bracket and have a nice grippy camera or to mount a small lens and have a quite small and light camera. So yeah, the weight would be a step back for me.

The grip and the new shutter button on the a7II received mixed feedback, some saw it as a nice upgrade, others preferred the a7’s controls.  I would expect the a7rII to be very similar to that and only some time with the camera would allow me to find out if i liked the controls.

I think the built quality of the a7 is okay, I have used it a lot over the last 19 months and everything works well with the exception of the mount which has become a bit lose. It is not that annoying yet and that part can be replaced but yeah, this shouldn’t have happened. The a7r II has an improved mount and more metal parts, I would expect it to be a bit more durable than the a7.

Other Aspects

Video: I am not a Video guy  so I will keep this paragraph short: As of today only the super expensive Canon 1Dc and the Sony a7s can record 4k video and the a7s needs an external recorder for it. It will be interesting too see how the camera deals with scaling artifacts and codec issues but I guess it could become popular among filmers. Video guru Philip Bloom seems to be pretty enthusiastic about it.

Dual Card Slots: Nikon has them in their D7x00 series cameras for a third of the a7rII’s price so I guess it’s a space problem but still I think a $3200 camera should have two card slots.

 

PERCEIVEDWORTH1
Source: http://www.lensrentals.com/blog/2013/01/rogers-law-of-new-product-introduction

 

$3200 !?! 3500€??

The camera is expensive. Is it too expensive? The answer probably depends on your perspective.

The Canon 5DS R costs $3899. The Nikon D810 cost $3299 when it was released and is down to $2999 today. So I think the price is an indicator for Sony’s new found confidence. The a7 and a7r were significantly cheaper than CaNikons FF cameras but when they were released there were only three native lenses and very few pros would have considered them as their main cameras.

By now Sony has a decent lineup of native lenses and it seems as if newer A-mount and EF-mount lenses will work well enough. They also started a pro service. And the a7rII has many features the competition lacks: in body stabilization, 4k Video, a small body, better DR than the Canon. So to the people who would have bought the 5DS R or D810 instead the price is probably just right.

Then there are many hobbyists like me who got into the system also because the camera’s were affordable and because manual lenses work so well on it. And even though the features are very attractive they probably won’t convince too many people to spend that much money on the camera. Because at the end of the day they won’t make that much of a difference for most of us.

Conclusion

This analysis is of course mostly based on the spec sheet and I would need some weeks with the camera to make certain that it hasn’t any serious flaws. If it clears that test I expect the a7rII to be a great camera because of it’s many useful features.

  • The image stabilizer is a handy feature (but it can also be found in the a7ii)
  •  I am excited about the much improved support for A- and EF-mount lenses.
  • The larger viewfinder is nice, a resolution upgrade is missed
  • The silent shutter can turn it into a very stealthy camera
  • The resolution will be handy at times

Of course there are a couple of things  I don’t like

  • The weight
  • No resolution improvement to the EVF
  • Monitor remains small.
  • No dual card slot
  • The price

Personally I will stick to my trusted Sony Alpha 7 for some more time. I think that the Alpha 7r II would allow me to take some images I can’t take today, I would guess that I might see a difference in 10% of my images, mostly because of the image stabilizer.The operation would probably be a bit nicer as well and I could use many interesting Canon EF and Sony A lenses.

In the end I think the price/performance ratio isn’t the best at the current price and my money is better spent on new lenses and traveling but I could well imagine to buy the a7r II in about 18 months when the used prices will be about half of the current new price.
If I was a professional photographer or if money wasn’t a concern to me I would certainly preorder it right now.

If you want to preorder the camera it would be a great help to me if you used one of my affiliate links to B&H photo or  Amazon.com. Thanks!

 

 

 

 

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I like to be outside with my camera and I am also a gear head with a love for manual lenses.

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29 thoughts on “My thoughts about the Sony Alpha 7r II”

  1. Nice personal opinion about this new A7RII camera!

    It’s nice to have, but it is not an must to have.!

    I am going to stick with my A7 and A6000!

    1. I have one A6000, very nice to work with. I also have 5 A1 Nikons prime lenses, 28, 50, 85, 135 and 200 mm, I will use them on A7. You have experience with this? So I have 2 Nikons AF D, 28 – 70 mm 3.5 – 5.6 and the 70 – 210 mm 4 – 5.6.
      My second question is about what kind of adapter I need to work with all lenses on the A7

      Dick E

  2. -> If I was a professional photographer … I would certainly preorder it right now.

    Sorry, I can’t agree: Pros need workhorses and blacksmiths in the neighbourhood. Up to now Sony is far off to both.

    1. >> Pros need workhorses and blacksmiths in the neighbourhood.
      >> Up to now Sony is far off to both.

      I think you are off.

      I know of several professionals (focus on portrait/studio/wedding/event/architecture) who have the thing on preorder… one of them dropped Canon a while ago for Sony, despite the fact that the Sony Pro service did not exist at the time he moved. Reason for move: Lack of dynamic range of the Canon sensors, EVF and the possibility to keep his Canon L glass with the A7Rs he is using now… he pre-ordered th A7Rii after a touch&try.

  3. Your comment about the A7R shutter shake–I have never experienced it. I have both an A7R and the A7 II. I can set the record straight, that shooting both camera side by side, the A7R shoots every bit as sharp (at any shutter speed) as the A7II, and the A7R has both a much greater color depth and dynamic range. I am talking a sizable difference here.

    While it is true the A7R has a violently loud shutter, (it sounds like knife blades scraping together), and it is frustratingly slow to process to memory, I think that this whole business of “shutter shake” is in people’s heads, and would appreciate pictures to prove it valid. To date, I have never seen a single photograph.

    One thing that people neglect on the topic the A7R’s shutter shake is the plastic lens mount. Take a picture with an A7R with your finger on the joint between the lens and camera flange and one can feel actually the vibration. If people truly have issue with blurry photographs, that is more likely the cause. But then again, when I take photographs from a tripod, they are always tack sharp.

    1. Images illustrating the issue: http://beforethecoffee.com/sony-a7r-vibration-comparison-with-nikon-d3-and-sony-nex-7/

      “The lens incorporates a image stabilizer (“Optical Steady-Shot” or OSS). Whatever Sony claims it to be – it doesn’t work overly well on the A7R due to the shutter vibration issue of this camera. The number of sub-standard outliers were shockingly high during our field trips and that’s especially at rather conventional shutter speeds. A7R users should try to stay faster than 1/500sec when using this or any other tele lens in this range. That being said, the situation should be much better on the A7 or A7s. Their electronic shutter option should do the trick (which is why we would clearly recommend the A7 or A7s over the A7R).” source: http://www.photozone.de/sonyalphaff/870-sony70200f4oss

      “When carefully inspecting my files at 100% magnification, the vibration blur was noticeable above 100mm from 1/30s until the 1/125s shutter speed range. The blur is very subtle but it is still there. I didn’t detect noticeable vibration when shooting with my TS-E 90mm f/2.8 but did see vibration blur when shooting with my 70-200mm f/4L IS and 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS lenses” source:http://www.fredmiranda.com/A7R-review/

    2. > Your comment about the A7R shutter shake–I have never experienced it.
      > …
      > But then again, when I take photographs from a tripod, they are always tack sharp<

      Actually, I own and use both A7 and A7R. Both have been equipped with a third party full metal E-Mount flange (Photodiox Pro Tough E-Mount) which is anything but floppy.

      The A7 does not have a shutter shock problem even when the electronic first curtain is disabled to avoid uneven exposure when using fast telephoto lenses and short shutter times.

      With most lenses I do not have a problem on the A7R either. However, A number of long telephoto lenses have given considerable grief in the shutter speed range 1/1..1/250 s when the camera/lens combination is tripod-mounted using the telephoto lenses' tripod mounting ring/assembly whilst the camera body is free-floating, hanging off the mount at the end of the tele lens. I had problems with my favorite 'long lenses' (750mm f/6 (LZOS custom made seven-lens APO), 350mm f/2,8 (Olympus ED) and 280mm f/1,7 (Kern – Cassegrain) – the shock of the first curtain first violently closing and then opening again makes parts of the lenses (or their focussers) oscillate at their resonant frequency and introduce blur. This happened on my first trial with an A7R, making me give it back and staying with the A7. Later I acquired another A7R, as it delivers significantly superior RAW files than the A7. I first thought the "Tough E-Mount" would help with the long lenses, but I did not… the workable solution has been a heavy solid aluminium 'brace' (cross section 10x40mm) between the camera tripod connection and the joint between tripod and tele lens, solidly bolted down on both sides. Since then, shutter shock is no longer an issue for me with the A7R…

      The tripod has not been a factor in this game – effect could be reproduced with a heavy duty Slik tripod with Linhof leveling head (usually used with my 4×5" Cambo Wide or Linhof Technorama), a heavy-duty wood/metal tripod by Ertl/Munich with an Ertl tilt/swivel head rated for cameras and survey instruments up to 50 kg, and a modern "Carbon fibre compound" Manfrotto tripod and Manfrotto tilt/swivel/leveling head.

  4. Good thoughts Phillip. Interesting comments as well. I have an A7 with OM and FD glass and would love the improvements of the A7RII. If money wasn’t an issue, I’d pre-order as well. For me, especially shooting nature with my FD 500mm f4.5L the extra MP for cropping and IBIS would be phenomenal. Add the work they have done to mitigate any shutter shock and this is looking golden. Very enabling to what I want to do. I too wish for a higher res. EVF and dual card slots. Don’t care so much about the LCD, but improved EVF could make a difference with MF. I often struggle with nailing focus just with peaking. What I’d really love is if peaking, instead of highlighting in focus areas, it opaqued out of focus areas. Subtraction rather than addition. Either way though, I have no doubt that Sony will aim to address dual slots, EVF, LCD, battery power, and any other areas DSLRs might try to maintain an advantage in. Oh, and I’d love internal 4K too. Why hold back? 😉 I am anxious to see reviews and user tests, but wouldn’t mind if an A9 caused the used price on the A7Rii to hit $1600 next year sometime. 😉 That’s when I’d have a hard time resisting an upgrade from my A7.

  5. Your comments reflect my thoughts as an A7 user too Phillip.
    Concerning the loosening lens mount on the A7, I’m sure you must have considered changing it for a “tough-mount”, what are your thoughts? I’ve held back so far, due to several reports of losing infinity focus with some lenses.

    1. I was held back by reports that Novoflex adapters didn’t fit anymore and it wasn’t that annoying. Good to know that there is a newer, improved version. So far it isn’t so annoying that I would spend 80€ on it but knowing that there is a fix will bring some peace to my mind 😉

  6. I’ve ordered one on ebay from Fotodiox direct, (cheaper than Amazon) after reading this:
    “The TOUGH E-Mount Signature Edition – now in a limited edition brass finish! We have been overwhelmed by the response we’ve gotten to our mount replacement kit. Replace Sony’s original plastic & metal combo mount, with our solid brass TOUGH E-Mount. We’re only doing a limited run of these all-brass versions. Once they’re gone, they’re gone!”
    I’ll report on my findings, though I don’t use Novoflex adapters, only Kindai Rayqual, Pixco VA and Fotodiox Pro.

  7. Thanks for publisching your thoughts concerning A7 RII. Your way in evaluating A7 related equipment is quite similar to mine. I come in the main points to the same conclusions as you do.

    A7 RII is the flag-ship of the A7 family. Therefore Sony is selling at a very high price. Too high price for me and many other photographers. This limits sales and there will be for long time always enough demand for used R IIs. So for my feeling used price will not fall to 50% of new camera’s price within 18 month. That is why I imagine to buy a A7 II for use of IBIS with legacy lenses and FE 55/1.8 + 35/2.8.

    You can get the A7 II used in good condition with warranty for 1/3 of the price a new A7 R II. Use of bigger EF and A-Mount lenses via electronic adapter as well as 4K video are not of interest for me. The reamainig advantage of A7 RII over the A7II therefore would be for me the 42MPix sensor, I really would like to use. Paying 2,000 Euro more than for an A7 II is too much and better to be invested in glass. Thus, I will probably search for a used A7 II.

    But if you would convince me, that I could buy an A7 R II for 50% of today’s price in 18 month, I would skip the A7 II. Maybe there are examples for such strong price drops for flag ship cameras as the A7 RII…

    1. Well, I am extrapolating the price from the price drops of the other a7 series cameras and it is no more than a guess. I think that Sony can produce this camera much more cost effective than CaNikon can make their flagship cameras so I think Sony is more likely to drop the price earlier so they can sell to the audience which isn’t willing to pay 3500€ for this camera.

  8. Sure there is a lot of politics in pricing. In the Long run an A7 II should not cost that much more than an A7 in production. Hopefully Sony will correct prices according to your guess with time. If I get a good offer for an A7 II I will take this one and postpone high resolution photographing for a while.

  9. Hi, I do not own a Sony A7 r 2. I have looked at the footage and images advertised and I don’t really like the color. Always seems a bit cold, a bit blue. I do like the color on my
    Cannon 1 D X. I would be really interested to hear what people think of the Sony’s color.
    Now, I’m sure everything can be done in post, but with my 1D X straight out of the camera
    the color is just superb. Thoughts ?

    1. I used a 5dII for some time. My impression was that the Raw files looked good out of cam with nice colors and good contrast. Sony raw files in my experience need some processing to look good but you can mangle them much further than the Canon files before they fall apart and after processing I prefer my Sony images, especially for landscape stuff, less so for portraits.

      1. I concur exactly ;o) The big advantage is the extra dynamic range of the A7, especially in shadow detail at base ISO.
        As has been discussed on FredMiranda Sony Forum, a lot of the apparent colour difference is with Adobe ACR/Lightroom and not the Sony files themselves. I’ve never opened them in Sony’s software though, to see the difference.

  10. Hi Phillip, i’ve a question about the A7RII, while using it with your vintage lenses did you ever thougth that those lenses weren’t enough for a camera with so much megapixels?
    i took a Canon 7D when it was release and with my lenses i always had that feeling, that i didn’t have with the camera i had before,
    now i have a Sony A7 and i want “to make a gift to myself” buy an A7RII but i’m afraid to experience the same feeling.

    1. This article was written before the a7rII was released to the market and I never used one.
      I think though that some of my lenses which perform well on 24MP will struggle to do the 42MP sensor justice. They won’t perform worse than on the a7 but the gain won’t be very noticeable in some cases. But I also own a few lenses which would perform very well on it.

  11. Hymm… Phillip – im Bezug auf Deine doch gute Kentnisse auf diesem Gebiet , möchte ich wagen noch eine Frage an Dich zu richten. Und zwar.. welches Porträtobjektiv würdest Du als empfehlenswerte Alternative – in Verbindung mit der Sony Alpha 7RII, jedoch nicht unbedingt in Kombination mit Minolta Linsen – vorzuschlagen (+ event. dazu passende Adapterlösung) ? Deine Meinung ist mir recht wichtig 🙂

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