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 – Image Quality: Detail and Noise
It’s the image quality produced by the Alpha 7R II’s new back-illuminated sensor that most will be keen to read about. Those who’ve been waiting to find out how the sensor performs won’t be disappointed – the 42.4MP sensor produces astonishing results both in the lab and out in the field. As you’d expect, it resolves finer detail than the Alpha 7R and its 7952×5303-pixel resolution equates to a 22x15in or 57x38cm print at a critically sharp 300ppi output resolution. Just like Canon’s EOS 5DS and 5DS R models, the detail the sensor is capable of resolving really has to be seen to be believed. Just as impressive is the way the Alpha 7R II’s sensor controls noise. Staggering results are obtained at ISO 6,400 and useable results can even be obtained at ISO 12,800 and 25,600 by applying a touch of noise reduction.
To be expected from a 42.2MP sensor with no optical low pass filter, the Alpha 7R resolves absolutely outstanding detail. A close examination of our resolution chart at ISO 100 indicates it can resolve 4,800l/ph – not quite a match for the Canon EOS 5DS R’s 5,600l/ph result at the same sensitivity, but a stunning resolution performance nevertheless. The Alpha 7R II attains the same resolution up to ISO 200, dropping only slightly to 4,400l/ph at ISO 400. Detail holds up very well to ISO 3,200 and drops only slightly to 4,000l/ph at ISO 6,400. Push beyond ISO 25,600 and detail starts to drop off to 3,600l/ph at its highest two sensitivity settings.
Below are 100% crops from our resolution chart, shot using the Sony FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* lens. Note that because of the Alpha 7R II’s high resolution we’ve shot from double the distance as usual, and the numbers on the graph need to be multiplied by 200 to get the resolution in lines per picture height.
There’s one word that sums up the Alpha 7R II’s noise performance and that’s sublime. Opening our raw files in Camera Raw and inspecting them closely at 100% revealed there’s barely a hint of luminance noise between ISO 100-1,600 and it’s of such fine texture at ISO 3,200 and 6,400 that what you can see of it under close magnification is easily removed by applying some noise reduction in post processing. Inspecting ISO 12,800 revealed it’s more than useable too, as is ISO 25,600 with a push. The detail the sensor resolves right up to ISO 25,600 is nothing short of outstanding.
Colours between ISO 100-25,600 are excellent, with saturation only starting to take a slight hit at ISO 102,000. As for JPEGs, the in-camera noise reduction does take the edge off the finest detail as you start to encroach upon ISO 6,400, so it’s certainly advised to shoot in raw when you find yourself pushing the Alpha 7R II’s sensor to the extremes of its ISO range.