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

Product Overview

Overall rating:

Sony Alpha 7R II

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

Pros:

  • + Stunning image quality with high levels of detail
  • + Refined body design with improved handling characteristics
  • + Wide autofocus coverage across the frame
  • + Superb 5-axis image stabilisation to correct for camera shake

Cons:

  • - Large file sizes
  • - Low battery life (290 shots using viewfinder)
  • - Lacks touchscreen functionality

Product:

Sony Alpha 7R II Review

Manufacturer:

Price as reviewed:

£2,599.00 (Body Only)

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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.

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The dials the original Alpha 7R inherited from the NEX-7 are now replaced by slimmer dials that are better positioned

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.

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The Alpha 7R II’s feels superb in the hand thanks to its well sculpted handgrip and rear thumbrest

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.

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Additional NP-FW50 batteries cost £65 each. There are third-party alternatives such as the Ansmann A-Son NP FW 50 (£29)

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.

  1. 1. Sony Alpha 7R II Review: Introduction
  2. 2. Sony Alpha 7R II Review - Video Functionality
  3. 3. Sony Alpha 7R II Review - Build & Handling
  4. 4. Sony Alpha 7R II Review - Performance
  5. 5. Sony Alpha 7R II Review - Image Quality: Dynamic Range
  6. 6. Sony Alpha 7R II Review - Image Quality: Detail and Noise
  7. 7. Sony Alpha 7R II Review - Verdict
  8. 8. Sony Alpha 7R II Review - Full Specification
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  • Peterfacts

    I’d just like to address a couple of points to the reviewer:

    1) With the A7R II having a 7952 x 5304 pixel sensor array, doesn’t it mean that – at a pixel density of 300ppi – you would be able to print up to a maximum of 26″ x 17″, without resampling, and not 22″ x 15″?

    2) The camera’s LCD/TFT monitor is ‘the same’ only in the sense that it shares the same 3″/7.5cm diagonal dimensions as the original A7R. For the A7R II, Sony has i) altered the tilt angles of the assembly (it can now tilt up 107 degrees and down 41 degrees, as opposed to up 90 degrees and down 45 degrees for the original A7R), and ii) the display resolution has increased from 921.600 dots (A7R) to 1.23 million dots (A7R II)

  • entoman

    If you want to try astrophotography, surely you would be better off with a Nikon D810A, or if on a lower budget, a Canon 60DA. Both are specifically designed for astrophotography, but will also produce excellent results with “normal” subjects. If you prefer the quirky design of Sony cameras, I’d suggest the A7S which is designed for low-light photography. It has “only” 12 megapixels, but that is more than good enough for a razor sharp A4 print.

  • entoman

    Sony are trying VERY hard, and it’s great to see a company being so brave and innovative, which creates competition and can only result in better cameras from other makers.

    Sony cameras have fantastic specifications, and sensors that are way ahead of the competition, but there is more to a camera than specification. It is also vital to have a complete lens range (Sony have a rapidly expanding lens range but it still can’t match what is produced by Nikon or Canon), and camera bodies that handle well and will survive knocks and showers.

    Unfortunately this is the area where Sony continue to fail. The A7iiR has better control layout than previous models, but is simply not in the same league as Nikon and Canon. Sure, it’s possible to adapt to the quirky design, but Sony definitely needs to pay more attention to ergonomics if it really hopes to challenge Canon and Nikon.

    Someone on another website stated that Canon and Nikon produce cameras, but that Sony produce gadgets, and unfortunately that is exactly the impression that the A7 series conveys. Wonderful little machines and fun to play with, but not for professionals who are looking for a tool not a toy.

  • btechno

    Awesome, thanks!

  • Michael Topham

    Without running a direct head-to-head with both cameras and analysing a series of the same images side by side it’s difficult to draw a comparison. However, that said the noise performance on the Alpha 7R II is exceptional and having thoroughly tested it through its sensitivity range and analysed my results in detail, I wouldn’t hesitate to push to ISO 6400 in low light. Usually I’m not too keen on pushing beyond ISO 3200 on my EOS 5D Mark III. When we can get our hands on another review sample we’ll try and post a low-light comparison to show how the Alpha 7R II compares to other current full-frame models.

  • btechno

    How would you expect the alpha 7R II to perform shooting night scenes vs. the Canon 5D Mark III, for example? Does the back illuminated sensor help to mitigate the high pixel count? Although it wouldn’t be my primary purpose, I am an amateur interesting in trying out some astrophotography. Thanks!