Review: Sony A7S II

Forewords

This is the first post in 2016, I have been working hard to bring a new and fresh look for this website. Started from this review onward, the camera/lens review will be focused on ‘more shots, less words’.  Hope you like the new changes 😉

Introduction

When the original Sony A7S came out, it impressed many of us with its amazing low light capability. Sony had introduced the 2nd generation of the A7 series which are well known with the powerful 5-axis image stabilizer, let’s move on to see how does the Sony A7S II perform with the combination of powerful 5-axis image stabilizer and the amazing low light capability.

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Sony A7S II

Pros & Cons

+ Improved autofocus algorithm with 169 contrast-detection AF points

+ Long Battery Life

+ Reduced-vibration shutter (50% less vibration compared to original A7S)

+ 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)

– Same image sensor as original A7S

– Expensive

Body and Design

The Sony A7S II’s body is fully built by alloy-magnesium and it is dust and moisture resistance. Sony A7S II body weight 584g/ 20.6 oz.

The Sony A7S II has the same large grip and re-positioned shutter button . The camera on-off switch is built surround the shutter button.

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Larger Grip and Re-position Shutter Button

Button positions and features are same as what you got in the Sony A7/A7R II. At the top right of the camera, you will find the mode dial, two customizable buttons, and the exposure compensation dial.

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There is a lock button for the mode dial which prevent the camera mode to be changed accidentally.

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Mode Dial Lock

The toggle between AF/MF and AEL at the back can be set as triggered/hold in the settings, for example you can press the button once to change between AF and MF, or you can press and hold the button to change focusing mode temporarily.

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At the back of the top right area, there is an unnamed dial in between the mode dial and exposure compensation dial which can be used to control your aperture/shutter speed accordingly to your current camera mode.

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At the right side of the Sony A7S II, you get the recording button above and memory card slot at the bottom.

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Camera Right Hand Side

At the left side of the camera, you get the audio port, mic port, micro USB port, and the micro HDMI port.

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Camera Left Hand Side

The non-touch 3″ LCD screen can be tilted approximately 107 degree upward (without pull out the screen) and 41 degree downward.

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Screen Tilted Upward
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Screen Tilted Downward

At the top center of the camera (above the EVF), you will get multi-interface hot shoe which allows you to attach external flash and other compatible accessories.

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The camera body built, button layout are consistent through 2nd generation of the Sony A7 series. They have better ergonomic, tougher built but heavier and bulkier than the 1st generation too. However, the Sony A7S II is still smaller and lighter than other full frame camera but not that significant anymore.

Features

New Contrast Detection AF System

Sony A7S II boosts the contrast-detection AF points to 169 points compared to the original A7S 25 points. It is fast and accurate but not as fast as the Sony A7R II’s 399 phase-detection AF.

Regular Continuous Shooting

At 2.5 fps maximum speed, the Sony A7S II managed to capture 5 shots before the car ran out of the scene. The focusing were accurate at the front of the car at shot 1, 2, and 3. In shot 4 and 5, the focusing were a bit lost.

Speed Priority Continuous Shooting

In speed priority continuous shooting mode, the Sony A7S II managed to shoot 16 shots at maximum of 5 fps before the car ran out of the scene. The accuracy is great as most of the shots had focused accurately at the front of the car.

When using continuous focusing mode, the Sony A7S II’s continuous focusing feel like hunting rather than focusing, but that’s the nature of contrast-detection autofocus. Autofocusing in the night is pretty good thanks to the -EV4 focus sensitivity of the Sony A7S II.

Some panning shots of carousel using continuous shooting mode.

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ISO 100 1/30s
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ISO 320 1/30s
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ISO 250   1/30s

Quick shots of the flash mob dancing.

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ISO 3200  1/125s
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ISO 4000 1/125s
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ISO 4000 1/125

ISO Performance

Sony A7S II’s ISO range from ISO 50 to ISO 409600 which is the same as the original Sony A7S (they used the same image sensor too). Therefore, you could expect to see similar ISO performance by Sony A7S II.

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Creative Sound Blaster Roar for ISO Test

The shot above was cropped in the center for ISO comparison. The RAW below did not apply any noise reduction while the JPEG was applied the 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 12800, significant noise was kicked in from ISO 25600. With the overall image was acceptable up to ISO 102400. More color noise occurred in ISO 204800 but the details were still well maintained. At ISO 409600, the image looked pretty bad as significant details were lost and there were a lot of color noise.

JPEG (Noise Reduction in COP 9)

With noise reduction in COP 9, the shots are clean and retain great details until ISO 51200. After applied noise reduction, the image at ISO 102400 left with very little color noise but lost some details as well. The noise reduction did not seem to get the image better at ISO 204800 and ISO 409600.

Auto ISO Minimum Shutter Speed

You’re allowed to set the minimum shutter speed in Sony A7S II when using Auto ISO mode. It is in the menu first tab page 4, under ISO AUTO Min.SS. The minimum shutter speed will be guaranteed only when the Sony A7S II has not hit the user preset maximum ISO.

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Below are some shots with high ISO.

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ISO 6400   1/125s
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ISO 16000   1/60s
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ISO 10000 1/125s
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ISO 12800 1/125s
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ISO 6400 1/125s

Look! How much details retained in the shots at ISO 20000 below.

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ISO 20000   1/125s
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ISO 20000   1/125s

When shooting with Sony A7S II, I could pay more attention on composition using same amount of time as I did not have to worry much about the high ISO and shutter speed anymore.

Battery Life

According to official specification, the Sony A7S II quoted 310 shots for viewfinder and 370 shots for LCD screen. In real life shooting, the Sony A7S II actually gave more impressive results. Throughout a roughly 1.5 hour event, it took only 40% of battery life for 200 shots with mix used of EVF and LCD. If simply calculate by maths, you could get nearly 500 shots with one full charge battery!

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ISO 2,500  1/60s
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ISO 320  1/125s

Well, Sony A7S II might not be able to give you 500 shots in real life, but it always gave me over 400 shots before I had to change the battery. Impressive!

5-Axis In Camera Image Stabilizer

As expected, the Sony A7S II also features the 5-axis in camera image stabilizer as we had seen on the Sony A7 II and A7R 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 A7S II manually in order to enjoy the 5-axis image stabilization).

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As what we have seen in Sony A7II and Sony A7R II, you do not have to turn off the 5 axis image stabilzer when using the Sony A7S II on a tripod as the Sony A7S II’s 5 axis image stabilizer will not cause any blurriness when it is being used on a tripod.

The shots below were shot at 28 mm at 1.6 second and 1 second handheld respectively (It is almost 5 stops slower than the 1/30 s safe minimum shutter speed).

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Some shots with slow shutter speed.

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ISO 4,000   0.8 s
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ISO 800   1/13s
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ISO 100  1/13s

The combination of the incredible low light capability and the efficient 5-axis image stabilizer of the Sony A7S II are great combo for handheld shooting in those dark places that do not allow to set up tripod, e.g. museum, crowded places.

Uncompressed 14 bit RAW

The Sony A7S II supports the uncompressed 14 bit RAW currently, you can upgrade the firmware of your Sony A7 II/A7R II in order to get the uncompressed 14 bit RAW option too.

demo

The following comparison were cropped from the compressed RAW and uncompressed RAW as shown above (the compressed/uncompressed RAW were shot with same settings) .

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In the first comparison, the color of the roof top of the building from the uncompressed RAW is smoother than the compressed RAW.

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In second comparison, the uncompressed RAW shows smoother green compared to compressed RAW’s ‘dry green’.

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In third comparison, the white clouds (near the blue clouds) in uncompressed show some details that do not exist in the compressed RAW.

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In the fourth comparison, I couldn’t find any significant difference between the compressed and uncompressed RAW.

From the comparison above, the uncompressed RAW showed better tonal gradation than the compressed RAW. The compressed RAW file size is around 13 MB while the uncompressed RAW file size is around 25 MB.

Other Features

The following features are available in Sony A7S II as well

  • Reduced-vibration shutter (50% less vibration than original A7S)
  • Silent shooting mode
  • External power supply (use portable powerbank to power your Sony A7S II!)
  • World’s highest magnification EVF at 0.78x with Zeiss T* Coating
  • Internal 4K video recording
  • Gamma display assist (allows you to view the natural contrast of the image while recording in S-Log2/S-Log3 settings)
  • 120 fps full HD recording (for 4x/5x slower playback)
  • Clean HDMI output (supports both 4K and full HD uncompressed recording to be outputted to an external recorder or monitor)
  • 12 customizable buttons
  • Remote control (supports wired USB, IR remote control, and using Smart Remote app with handphone)

More Sample Shots!

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ISO 400 1/125s
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ISO 3,200 1/125s
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ISO 3,200 1/1000s
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ISO 100 1/80s
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ISO 320   1/125s
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ISO 3,200 1/8000s
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ISO 4,000 1/200s
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ISO 5000   1/125s
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ISO 3200   1/2500s
DSC04077_1000_1-125s_2
ISO 1000   1/125s
DSC03786_4000_1-640s_2
ISO 4,000 1/640s
DSC03765_1600_1-1600s_4.5
ISO 1,600 1/1600s
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ISO 3,200 1/60s
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ISO 1,000 1/60s
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ISO 4000   1/125s
DSC04359_1600_1-125s_2.8
ISO 1600   1/125s
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ISO 400 1/60

Bottom Line

The battery life of Sony A7S II is awesome for a mirrorless camera. The 12 MP lower resolution image sensor contributes to the better battery life and better high ISO performance.

Although the Sony A7S II shares the same image sensor as the original Sony A7S, but with the enhanced AF algorithm, better ergonomic, better video recording, and the 5-axis image stabilizer, the Sony A7S II had been greatly improved in many areas. However, I would say that the Sony A7S II is a more refined Sony A7S rather than a revolution like the Sony A7R II.

That’s all for the Sony A7S II review, hope you enjoy it and happy shooting. Cheers!

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Contact me by email: jamesphotography2013@gmail.com

5 thoughts on “Review: Sony A7S II

      1. Thanks Mar, are you looking for any camera? Sadly I didn’t own the A7S II but I will still posting more photos taken by my trustworthy NEX-6/SEL24F18Z and review units 😉

        Like

      2. I currently own a Canon 1200D with std and wide lens but would like to trade up to a camera which would produce an increase in picture quality (sharp and excellent tonal range). Having tried several Canons, Nikon and Sony, I have come to the conclusion that they are not worth the money (£1000 plus). My 1200D cost me around £350, now worth £250 but it does produce a reasonable quality image. My problem is I am not a professional and take pictures for a hobby but I would like to produce a quality end product. So far my output has been on the web and via computer screen bty would like to produce large wall murals for personal use in the near future.

        Like

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