Is the Alpha 7S II the best choice for those specialising in video and low-light photography? Michael Topham finds out how well it performs in these two key areas
Sony Alpha 7S II Review – Build & Handling
The Alpha 7S II follows in the footsteps of the Alpha 7 II and 7R II with a similarly revised body layout. Each generation of Alpha 7-series cameras sees the build quality and handling improve, and compared to the original Alpha 7S, the Alpha 7S II’s body is slightly chunkier, presenting a larger grip to wrap more of your hand around. The grip is not only improved in terms of size, but it’s better sculpted too, and by moving the shutter button and encircled on/off button forward it improves comfort when shooting stills.
Long gone are the pesky front and rear dials the Alpha 7S inherited from the NEX-7, which are replaced by slimmer dials that don’t click when they’re rotated. The annoying lip that made it awkward to access the recessed menu and magnify buttons has also been addressed by placing these on a 45° angle.
My main reservation with regard to the handling of the camera is the position of the movie-record button. As I mentioned when I reviewed the Alpha 7 II and 7R II, it feels awkward having to pull your thumb away from the thumb rest to start and end recording. Thankfully, this is an easy fix by assigning the movie-record function to the AEL button. It’s also possible to assign it to any one of the four custom buttons around the body.
The level of control on offer for reassigning different functions to different buttons is second to none – just as it is on other Alpha 7 models. The hardest part is remembering what you assigned to which button when you return to the camera after having not used it for a while.
It’s useful to have ISO assigned to the four-way controller, which takes the place of the white balance button on the original Alpha 7S. Other refinements include a softer eyecup to the viewfinder, a locking-mode dial and a change to the way memory cards are inserted, which now slot in from the side of the body.
It’s only when the Alpha 7S II is positioned alongside its forerunner that you start to appreciate the differences in terms of its finish. Sony has veered away from the smooth gloss finish of its predecessor, opting for a matt-black stealth finish instead. Other subtle details, such as its blackened hotshoe give the camera a smarter appearance, and in a similar fashion to the Alpha 7 II and 7R II, the Alpha 7S II employs top, front and rear covers made of magnesium alloy to give it a solid feel in-hand.
Despite it not being classified as weather sealed, the Alpha 7S II has dust and moisture-resistance measures in place to prevent any unwanted particles entering the body. These measures include protection around buttons and dials, as well as a double-layered structure that’s designed to interlock the panels of the body tightly together. The extent to which this moisture resistance is effective is unknown, but I experienced no problems while using the camera for a prolonged spell in drizzle.
Like the Alpha 7 II and 7R II, the 7S II accepts Sony’s VG-C2EM battery grip (£249). As well as providing three extra buttons for instant control over custom assign functions, it accommodates two NP-FW50 batteries to ensure you don’t get caught short of power.