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
Build and Handling
The design of the original A7 wasn’t too dissimilar from the NEX-7, albeit with a centrally positioned EVF protruding on the top. Durability came from a body that was formed from magnesium alloy and as to be expected, it was dust and weather sealed too – characteristics the A7 II inherits and improves on with a magnesium alloy lens mount that’s said to increase strength and rigidity when large and heavy lenses are coupled. What the A7 lacked however was a handgrip that fully complimented the excellent fit and finish of the build quality, failing to offer the impression of its controls falling naturally to hand.
The good news is Sony has listened to users of the A7 and as a result of redesigning the grip on the A7 II have not only transformed the way it feels, they’ve turned it into an entirely different camera to operate altogether for the better. The repositioned shutter button, the slimmer and more positive front and rear dials, the two customisable buttons on the top plate, these all combine to make it more initiative to use and more DSLR-like to operate.
Having a dedicated dial that’s in easy reach of the thumb to adjust exposure compensation is invaluable when shooting in challenging lighting conditions, while the On/Off switch is perfectly positioned for use with the index finger, and contributes to a brisk startup time of 2.25secs, which Sony claims is 40% faster than on the A7.
Menu and magnification buttons take their respective positions either side of the EVF and those with an observant eye will spot the new matte-black speckled finish, which looks slightly smarter than the clean, smooth semi-gloss black finish of the A7.
My only criticisms regarding buttons is the rather awkward positioning of the movie-record button, which when pressed using the thumb has a tendency to jolt the camera slightly, and the rear control wheel being too small and fiddly to use in bitter winter conditions when gloves were worn. If the latter were to be made larger and more pronounced, similar to the rear of Canon’s full-frame DSLRs, it could enhance the viewing experience in playback mode and the operation of ISO, White Balance, Creative Style or Picture Style to which it can be customised when shooting.
Existing users of the A7 who purchased the VG-C1EM battery grip that was also compatible with the A7R should take note that it’s not compatible with the A7 II due to its revised body shape. Those set on the idea of holding two NP-FW50 batteries, baring in mind a single battery only holds enough charge for 270 shots using the EVF, will require the new VG-C2EM battery grip (£299).