Review – Sony A7R II

Introduction

Sony A7 II was a hot stuff when it was announced and launched. So how about A7R II? Is it an A7 II with more megapixels count or an original A7R with 5-axis in camera body image stabilizer only? No. Sony A7R II has packed more than enough features to distinguish itself than the A7 II and the original A7R. Let’s have a quick look at what excited features it has come along.

The Sony A7R II uses world first 35mm back-illuminated CMOS sensor. Although the megapixels count is boosted to 42.4 MP from its predecessor 36 MP, Sony A7R II has better low light performance and lesser noise than the A7R thanks to the new back-illuminated sensor.

BSI Sensor
New BSI Sensor Illustration

The new sensor in A7R II is capable to output the captured data 3.5 times faster than A7R, with the combination of the 399 AF points and Fast Hybrid AF system, Sony A7R II’s AF speed is 40% faster than A7R as well. A new Zeiss T* coating EVF which features world highest viewfinder magnification at 0.78x is also equipped on the Sony A7R II.

Many owners of the original A7R feedback that its shutter has too much vibration that caused the blurriness of the images. The Sony A7R II now comes with a new shutter which has 50% lesser vibration than its predecessor. Besides, Sony A7R II allows you to do the in-camera 4K video recording in XAVC S format at maximum 100 Mbps now (You will need a SDXC memory card with UHS Speed Class 3 to do so).

Sony A7R II also features the 5-axis in camera body image stabilizer we have seen in its brother A7 II and it will support all native E-mount lenses and almost every non-native lenses up to 4.5 stops slower shutter speed. The other features are similar/same as what we had seen on the Sony A7 II.

Pros & Cons

+ 399 AF points, faster and more accurate

+ Better low light performance

+ Durable reduce-vibration shutter

+ Full alloy-magnesium built body

+ Dust and moisture resistance

+ Better ergonomic, larger and more comfortable grip

+ Up to 12 customizable buttons

+ Powerful and smart 5-axis in-body image stabilizer

+ Wired and wireless remote control

+ 100% coverage and excellent quality of EVF with world highest viewfinder magnification 0.78x

+ NFC and Wifi capability

– Heavier and bulkier (compare to first generation A7 series)

– Expensive

Body and Design

The Sony A7R II does not have much difference than the A7 II. The Sony A7R II’s body is fully built by alloy-magnesium and it is dust and moisture resistance. Sony A7R II body weight 582g/1 lbs 4.5 oz.

The Sony A7R II has the same design as A7 II, a larger grip and better shutter button position than the original A7R.

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Better Handgrip

There are 2 customizable buttons c1 and c2,1 mode dial, 1 exposure compensation dial on the top of the body. The Sony A7R II introduce a new lock button for the mode dial where you will need to press the button before you switch the mode. This prevent your camera’s mode to be changed accidentally.

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Sony A7R II Top View

The front and rear dials are well built, their can be easily reached by single hand during shooting.

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Sony A7R II Rear View

The rear of camera body contains the rest of the buttons. The buttons on the left and right of the EVF on the rear body are the menu button (on the left) and C3 button (on the right, works as zoom in display mode as well). You will need some time to familiar with their positions if you are moved from the Sony APS-C E-mount camera.

The LCD screen can be tilted upward about 107 degrees and downward about 41 degrees.

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Screen Tilted Upward

The Sony A7R II allows you to pull the screen out a bit to avoid the blockage by the EVF’s eye cap.

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Screen Tilted Downward

The micro HDMI port, micro USB port and minijack ports are all located at the top-left side of the body.

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Multimedia Ports

The battery slot is remained at the bottom of the body.

The memory card slot is located at the bottom-right side of the body. The movie recording button is located at the right hand side of the camera body to prevent accidentally touch, but it also causes little inconvenience if you do the movie recording frequently.

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Memory Card Slot

Features

Speedy AF System

Sony A7R II features 399 phase-detection AF points that cover 45% of image area and 25 contrast-detection AF points.

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399 Points Phase Detection AF Area Coverage

Thanks to the new BSI sensor, the Sony A7R II is capable to shoot continuously at 5 fps, and the camera buffer will hold 23 frames (RAW) or 9 frames (uncompressed RAW) before slow down.

The focus sensitivity range from -EV 2 to EV 20 at ISO 100 equivalent with F 2.0 lens attached. There will be an autofocus lock-on notification sound in AF-A and AF-S mode. The AF-A is a new focusing mode that will switch itself between AF-S and AF-C automatically according to the subject status (still/moving).

I included 2 sets of continuous shots at below with scaled original shots and follow by 100% cropped shots.

Test Set 1

Test Set 1 (100% Cropped at 1200px Long Edge)

Test set 1 focused on my friend’s face and the Sony A7R II did tracking the face accurately.

Test Set 2

Test Set 2 (100% Cropped at 1200px Long Edge)

Test set 2 focused on the bowling ball, again the tracking the bowling ball accurately.

Throughout the review period, the initial lock-on on Sony A7R II is not always accurate (it might lock-on to other subject but it will be tracking the wrong subject accurately). The initial AF accuracy dropped and even hunting when the light condition becomes dimmer (like indoor Karaoke room). However, the lock-on speed is pretty fast and the tracking accuracy (in AF-C) is very high once it locked-on the subject.

The Sony A7R II’s focus-peaking function does some pretty job to assist the manual focusing. You may set the focus-peaking color into red, white, or yellow, and the area that is being focused will be surrounded by the color dots.

Silent Shooting

Sony A7R II allows you to shoot completely silent as the A7S does. The continuous shooting mode will be disabled when the silent shooting mode is turned on, you can only activate the silent mode in single shooting and other bracketing mode.

You can turn on the silent shooting from the menu second tab at page 5 -> Silent Shooting. You can also assign this function to one of the custom button so that you can switch between silent shooting and continuous shooting (you have to turn the silent shooting mode off) easier.

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Silent Shooting Mode

Reduced-vibration Shutter

The shutter on the original A7 series is loud and even “shake” your hand. The old shutter always caused the blurriness in the image especially when the camera is being used on a tripod for long exposure. The Sony A7R II features a newly-design shutter which greatly reduced the “shaking” feel and noise. The shutter vibration and noise can be further reduced if the e-front-shutter is turned on.

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Reduced-Vibration Shutter

Large EVF

The electronic viewfinder (EVF) on the Sony A7R II has the world’s highest magnification at 0.78x. It is coated with Zeiss T* Coating to minimize the surface reflection, and it is joy to use the EVF on the A7R II.

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5-Axis In Camera Image Stabilizer

As expected, the A7R II also features the 5-axis in camera image stabilizer as we had seen on the A7 II. The 5-axis image stabilizer provides up to 4.5 stops efficiency, and it is compatible with all the native E-mount lenses (without adapter) and other lenses (with appropriate adapter, and you will need to set the lens’ focal length in the A7R II manually in order to enjoy the 5-axis image stabilization).

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As what we have seen in Sony A7II, you do not have to turn off the 5 axis image stabilzer when using the Sony A7R II on a tripod. Yes, the Sony A7R II’s 5 axis image stabilizer will not cause any blurriness when it is being used on a tripod.

The 5 axis image stabilizer did excellent job, the shot below was shot at 35 mm at 1 second handheld (It is almost 5 stops slower than the 1/40 s safe minimum shutter speed).

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Original Shot
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100% Cropped

Customizable Controls

You can customize almost every buttons on the Sony A7RII, but some specific functions can be only assigned to specific buttons.

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Remote Control

You may control your Sony A7R II either by USB wired remote control or by a wireless remote control.

Uncompressed 14 bit RAW

Sony had finally supported uncompressed 14 bit RAW capture to ensure finest and greatest dynamic range. Unfortunately, it hadn’t supported the uncompressed format at the time I reviewed the unit so I can’t compare the difference between the new uncompressed format and the original compressed 14 bit format.

Professional Video Recording

The Sony A7R II is capable to do movie recording in 4K XAVC-S format, and it uses the advanced S-log2 gamma to capture wide dynamic range which provides more flexible tone adjustment in your video. You need a minimum UHS Speed Class 3 SDXC memory card in order to do the recording in XAVC-S format at 100 Mbps.

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ISO Performance

Sony A7R II’s ISO range from ISO 50 to ISO 102400. Yes, ISO 102400. When packed with 42 MP on the full frame sensor, it is interesting to know how does the Sony A7R II performs in the low-light situation with the new back-illuminated sensor.

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Creative Sound Blaster Roar for ISO Test

The center of the shot above is cropped for ISO comparison as below. We will see how well the Sony A7II controls the noise level while retains the details (look at the pattern in the alphabets) in high ISO.

The RAW does not apply any noise reduction while the JPEG is applied the default noise reduction settings in Capture One Pro 9. You may click the image below for 100% cropped view.

RAW (No Noise Reduction)

Without any noise reduction, the RAW file still quite clean up to ISO 3200, there are some noticeable color noises appear at ISO 6400 but the shot is still clean. The color noises at ISO 12800 and ISO 25600 are more significant but the details still retain greatly. The color noises after ISO 25600 increase terribly and beyond usable without any noise reduction.

JPEG (Noise Reduction in COP 9)

With noise reduction in COP 9, the shots are clean and retain great details until ISO 12800. Details are lost noticeable from ISO 25600 and lost greatly from ISO 51200 onward.

In-Camera Multi-frame Noise Reduction

There are “Auto” icon and “Auto ISO” icon in the ISO adjustment options. “Auto” is normal auto ISO while the “Auto ISO” is actually multi-frame noise reduction. In multi-frame noise reduction mode, the Sony A7R II captured multiple shots at once and merge all the shots in order to maximize the details and minimize the noise. The test shots below were shot from ISO 12800 onward.

The multi frame noise reduction get the shots done nicely up to ISO 25600. The color noises are lesser than the RAW (no noise reduction) but it didn’t outshine the post-processing noise reduction at ISO 51200 and ISO 102400.

Auto ISO Minimum Shutter Speed

Finally, you’re allowed to set the minimum shutter speed in Sony A7RII when using Auto ISO mode. It is in the menu first tab page 5, under ISO AUTO Min.SS.

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When you had set the maximum ISO and minimum shutter speed, the camera will always raise the ISO to the maximum ISO before it slower down the shutter speed. In another words, the shutter speed might slower than your desired minimum shutter speed if the light condition is too bad.

Battery Life

The Sony A7R II has similar battery life as other mirrorless camera, nothing surprise here. With mix-usage of EVF and LCD screen, a fully-charged battery can last for 290 – 340 shots. It uses the same battery model (NP-FW50) as other E-mount series camera. Therefore, you may already own few extra batteries as backup.

Sample Shots

The following shots are taken by the Sony A7R II and post-processed by Capture One Pro 9 with little adjustment.

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Bottom Line

The less-vibration/silent shutter, faster AF performance, and better high ISO performance of the Sony A7R II give the more pleasant shooting experiences than using the A7 II. The battery life is on average with average 300+ shots, the more annoying issue is the memory card was filled up much faster by shooting raw with the 42 MP sensor (it would be much faster if shooting in uncompressed RAW). 200 shots of compressed RAW files will take up 9+ GB of spaces so that you will need extra memory cards (16GB) or use larger capacity cards (64 GB or 128 GB).

That’s all for the Sony A7R II review, hope you enjoy it and happy shooting. Cheers!

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Contact me by email: jamesphotography2013@gmail.com

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