The Sony Alpha 7R was revolutionary at the time of its release and delivered outstanding image quality in a compact form. Michael Topham finds out if the Sony Alpha 7R II is a significantly improved successor
Sony Alpha 7R II Review – Build & Handling
The Alpha 7R II’s design might not be radically different to the Alpha 7R, but the small changes that have been made combine to make it a much more pleasing camera to handle and operate. I never found the twin dials the Alpha 7R inherited from the NEX-7 to be the most enjoyable to use and they’re now replaced by slimmer dials that are better positioned and offer improved grip. The relocated shutter button now resides on top of the handgrip in a much more comfortable position, freeing up space for an additional custom button on the top-plate. The mode dial is fractionally larger and features a locking button, while the annoying lip above the screen that made it slightly uncomfortable to use the menu and magnify buttons has been addressed by placing these on a 45° angle. The movie-record button is still awkwardly positioned on the corner of the body to the right of where the thumb lays to rest, and very little has changed with regard to the buttons and control wheel to the right of the screen.
Those with an eye for detail will notice ISO has now been assigned to the four-way controller, replacing what was white balance on the Alpha 7R. Another small refinement is the way memory cards are now inserted into the side of the body, which I also prefer to the way cards were pushed forwards into the original Alpha 7R.
In terms of its overall finish, Sony has strayed away from the clean, smooth, semi-gloss black finish of its forerunner, opting for a matte-black speckled finish that gives it a smarter, premium appearance. The hard plastic eyepiece on the Alpha 7R didn’t offer much in the way of cushioning, so it’s good to see Sony replacing this with a softer eyepiece, which provides increased comfort when the camera is raised to the eye.
Just like the Alpha 7R, the Alpha 7R II employs top, front and rear covers made of a rigid magnesium alloy. These contribute to an extremely solid and robust feel. Adding to this, the rubberised grip is nicely sculpted and fits the hand very well. Buttons and dials feature seals against dust and moisture, while the SD card slot and the areas of the housing that join together feature an interlocking system to prevent inclement weather and dust particles from reaching the internals. It’s also worth noting that all FE E-mount lenses available for the Alpha 7R II as well as the HVL-F43M (£275) and HVL-F60M (£439) flashguns feature sealing to the same level as Sony A7-series bodies.
Those wishing to improve handling in the portrait format and hold two NP-FW50 batteries may be tempted by the new VG-C2EM battery grip (£249). Bearing in mind a single battery only holds enough charge for 270 shots with use of the EVF, it’s an accessory that’s certainly worth consideration. Though I didn’t get an opportunity to use it with the Alpha 7R II in this test, it’s an accessory that’ll help to prolong shooting time before you need to change batteries.