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 – Performance

The Alpha 7R was criticised in a few areas of its performance, so it’s good to see Sony addressing and improving the Alpha 7R II in this regard. Though the Alpha 7R’s contrast detection system seemed perfectly adequate at the time and has been issued with firmware updates since, in low light – and when paired with other lenses via compatible adapters – it’s noticeable that it doesn’t provide the fastest autofocus acquisition speeds by today’s standards.

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Attaching the Canon EF to E-mount Mark III Metabones adapter ahead of testing the A7R II with Canon L-series lenses

Setting up the Alpha 7R alongside the Alpha 7R II and running a series of side-by-side comparison tests in both high contrast and low-light conditions, revealed the new fast-hybrid AF system is a radical improvement on the Alpha 7R’s contrast-detect system. Though the Alpha 7R II locked on to subjects at a similar speed to the Alpha 7R in high-contrast conditions, it’s when the light levels drop that you really appreciate how much faster and more responsive the Alpha 7R II’s focusing system really is. Subjected to a low-light interior scene with the AF illuminator switched off on both cameras, there was no contest. While the Alpha 7R took some time to acquire focus on a central subject, the Alpha 7R II acquired focus in a fraction of a second.

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The A7R II with the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS II USM attached via a Canon EF to E-mount Mark III Metabones adapter

I found similar results when I attached a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS II USM lens to both cameras, using the Canon EF to E-mount Mark III Metabones adapter that Sony provided for review. Compared to the original Alpha 7R that demonstrated hesitation at locking onto distant subjects, the Alpha 7R II locked onto the same subjects instantly with barely any fuss. The developments that have been made to Alpha 7R II’s autofocus performance make it a much more compelling choice for those wishing to use their existing lenses by mounting them via an adapter – including Sony users who may own Sony A-mount lenses and want to attach them via the LA-EA3 mount adapter (£129).

I tested the Alpha 7R II with both the stabilised Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar T* FE 24-70mm f/4 ZA OSS lens and the non-stabilsed Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA prime. When E-mount lenses with optical stabilisation are mounted (such as the 24-70mm) the in-body 5-axis system teams up with the OSS system of the lens, with the sensor correcting for rotational and translational movements, leaving angular movements to be compensated for by the lens’s stabilisation. With the electronic front curtain shutter and SteadyShot deployed I found it possible to shoot pin-sharp 42.4MP images handheld as slow as 1/20sec. Much like I did when I reviewed the Alpha 7 II, I found myself customising SteadyShot to the C2 button on the top-plate for quick-access and I found it useful to set up silent shooting to the C1 button beside it.

Another area of improvement to the performance is the aforementioned shutter. Even with the Alpha 7R II’s electronic front curtain switched off, the shutter is slightly quieter than the Alpha 7R. When the 7R II is switched on, the loud slap you get from the Alpha 7R is no longer there, and it’s a much less obtrusive camera to use when you’d like to work discreetly. Of course there’s the silent shooting mode too, which uses the electronic shutter. However, it doesn’t feature Sony’s new anti-distortion shutter technology, which was recently outfitted on the Sony Cyber-shot RX100 IV and RX10 II to minimise the effects of rolling shutter and allow both to shoot as fast as 1/32,000sec.

  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!