At the time of its release, the A7 was overshadowed somewhat by Sony’s flagship CSC, the A7R. Michael Topham finds out whether its successor, the A7 II is significantly better and improves on the A7’s aesthetics and its handling quirks

Product Overview

Overall rating:

Sony Alpha 7 II

Features:
Build/Handling:
Metering:
Autofocus:
AWB Colour:
Dynamic Range:
LCD viewfinder:

Pros:

  • - Becomes the first full-frame CSC to feature 5-axis in-camera image stabilisation
  • - Inherits the excellent OLED electronic viewfinder from the Alpha 7
  • - Redesigned handgrip and control layout enhances operation and handling

Cons:

  • - Loud shutter with no dampening or silent shooting mode available
  • - Control wheel at the rear is rather small and fiddly to use
  • - Movie-record button could be better positioned for videographers

Product:

Sony Alpha 7 II Review

Manufacturer:

Price as reviewed:

£1,500.00

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Introduction

Sony Alpha 7 II Review – At a Glance

  • 24-million-pixel, full frame CMOS sensor
  • 1200-zone metering system
  • ISO 50-25,600 sensitivity range
  • 0.5inch, 2.4-million-dot EVF
  • 117 AF points (phase-detection AF) 25 AF points (Contrast-Detect AF)
  • 3in, 1,228k-dot LCD screen
  • £1599 (body only)

When we reviewed the original Sony A7 it left a number of lasting impressions. Not only was it seen as a game changer in the way it managed to shoehorn a full-frame sensor inside a such a compact body, the superb image quality it produced alongside its comprehensive specification made it stand out as an attractive proposition for those seeking a lighter and more compact substitute to a heavy and bulky DSLR.

As is often the case however, a few underlying issues destined there would always be areas for improvement. The limited number of full-frame E-mount lenses available at the time was the main drawback for those tempted by switching systems, not to mention its handling quirks and design, which failed to have the same aesthetic qualities that we’ve seen from the likes of Fujifilm and Olympus.

A year on and Sony looks to improve where the A7 left off by launching the A7 II, which doesn’t directly replace the previous model in the lineup, but sits alongside it as an upgraded option. The question I’m out to answer is whether Sony have succeeded at making the Alpha 7 II a better full frame proposition for photographers looking to downsize and shed weight without having to make any sacrifices when it comes to image quality, performance and handling?

Sony Alpha 7 II Product Shot 1

Sony Alpha 7 II Review – Features

The headline feature of the A7 II is its new 5-axis in-body image stabilisation system, which takes on an entirely different approach to the type of IS system we’ve seen in Sony Alpha mount cameras before. It shares similarities to Olympus’s in-camera stabilisation found in the OM-D E-M5 and E-M1, however Sony claims the A7 II’s system is an entirely new and unrelated, despite the fact the two companies entered a technology sharing partnership in 2012.

The benefit of this advanced IS system means that as well as being able to compensate for the familiar pitch and yaw movements, whereby the lens rotates upwards and downwards, or from side-to-side, the A7’s 5-axis system adds in corrections for movements of the camera vertically and sideways, with the fifth axis corresponding the rotational correction around the lens axis, which is crucial for movie shooting or long exposures. It’s also something in-lens optical stabilisation systems simply can’t rectify.

The outcome of employing this IS system is to allow users to use shutter speeds 4.5 stops slower than would otherwise be possible and open up the opportunity for image stabilisation to be used with any lens mounted to the camera – whether it be a zoom with optical stabilisation or a prime lens without.

Sony Alpha 7 II Product Shot 7Stabilisation aside, the 24.3-million-pixel CMOS sensor and Bionz X processor are carried across from the A7, meaning it has the same ISO range of 100-25,600, which can be expanded to as low as ISO 50 when required. Though the hybrid AF system appears the same on paper with an array of 117 phase-detection and 25 contrast-detection focus points, the AF algorithms have been updated to make it 30% faster and ensure it’s more reliable when it comes to tracking moving subjects.

It appears that the A7 II makes use of the AF technology from the A6000, with all the phase-detection areas continuously feeding back distance information to the processor to ensure it’s not affected by foreground objects that could come between the camera and the subject, ignoring them instead of attempting to refocus.

Other similarities to the A7 are its 5fps maximum burst rate and 0.5-inch 2.4-million-dot OLED EVF. In addition there’s a 3in, 1228k-dot tilt-angle screen at the rear (not the touchscreen type) an anti-dust mechanism to help vibrate dust particles adhering to the optical filter, not forgetting Wi-fi and NFC connectivity for hassle-free wireless image transfer to Android or iOS mobile devices using Sony’s Play Memories app.

Videographers haven’t been forgotten about either. There’s now support for the XACV S codec that allows a bit-rate of 50Mbps, the addition of S-Log 2 gamma to retain the maximum dynamic range for easier colour grading in post-production, as well as the option to record a shareable MP4 file at the same time as full resolution AVCHD or XACV S movies are recorded. All these features combined with focus peaking, audio monitoring and vast customisation control adds up to make it a highly tempting proposition for the enthusiast photographer it’s clearly well catered for.

  1. 1. Introduction
  2. 2. Build and Handling
  3. 3. Performance
  4. 4. Image Quality
  5. 5. Verdict
  6. 6. Hands-on First Look
Page 1 of 6 - Show Full List
  • Jeremy

    Hi there,
    Have had a Sony A7 MkII for about 6 weeks now. Pictures are great but battery life is awful even in aircraft mode. Feed back from Sony is no plans for an upgraded battery. Have bought a Hahnel and Duracell equivalents and plan to test how they compare to Sony original for time in use. One other minor irritation encountered by other A7 users is that the rubber eye piece becomes dislodged brushing up against clothing. Sony advise that gluing this to its slide on mount is not a recommended practice. Chocolate Tea pot on feed back from Sony so far.
    Jeremy

  • Michael Topham

    Hi Peter,

    The point you make about the A7 II’s weather resistance is an interesting one. Just to clarify, the A7 II has the same sealing qualities as the other cameras in the a7-series. What this means is that there are seals against dust and moisture and these seals are found around the buttons, dials, inputs/outputs etc. You’re right in saying Sony don’t officially say the camera is ‘Weather Sealed’ and I sincerely apologise if you felt this point in the review was misleading. I can however say that after using the A7 II in very light rain, albeit for only 30-45 minutes or so, our review sample didn’t have any issues. Regards, Michael

  • Peter Kelly

    How come my comment from a different article is here?

    That said, the point I made about AF is still valid, but I have another observation or, should I say, correction.

    You have put “also weather sealed” in the review. This is completely untrue and Sony have removed any reference to weather sealing from their literature. Should you suffer a fault caused by a little drizzle you will find yourself with a large repair bill because Sony will not honour the warranty under such cases.

    They have clarified their original claim about sealing to mean that the camera will only resist minor condensation when going between different environment temperatures. Now they only say “built to withstand the rigors of shooting in the field”, so even damp isn’t mentioned!

    I suggest that you confirm this and make an appropriate change to your article.

  • Peter Kelly

    I understand Sony’s reasoning, but I’m surprised by the relative quiet from existing A7 owners regarding the AF speed.

    In that you say the sensor is the same and the processor is the same, but only the algorithm is different to improve performance. Surely that would mean all it would take for the existing A7 to match the new AF speed and performance is a firmware update?

    In the past, Sony owners have always ranted about the lack of any firmware updates to address ‘niggles’ and Sony release very few, so I’m quite surprised there hasn’t been a torrent of demands for this algorithm to be made available. Perhaps it will, in a year or two…LOL