31st March 2016, 10:04 AM
Review of Sony Sony’s α7RII
Review: Sony’s α7RII
The Sony’s α7RII is the company’s latest flagship full-frame mirrorless model to hit the interchangeable lens camera segment. Packing a high-resolution 42-megapixel full-frame sensor in a magnesium alloy chassis, the shooter features 399 AF points and 5-axis image stabilization for blur-free images.
Besides stills, the camera is also capable of internal 4K recording from full sensor width or “Super” 35 crop as well as Picture Profile system including S-Log2 gamma. Whether you're a seasoned still photographer or an aspiring videographer, there’s something for everyone.
I managed to get our hands on a review unit and ran it through its paces over the weekend. We won’t be presenting you with a scientific review with boring MTF charts, but more of a real world experience of using it in the field. Here are some of my thoughts about this new 42-megapixel full-frame mirrorless camera.
If you’ve used the earlier Sony’s α7R, you’ll notice that the α7RII uses a new chassis which sees improvement in grip design. The newer camera uses a larger grip and a repositioned shutter button that lets you hold the body in a more ergonomic manner that provides for a better handling experience.
For one, the bigger grip allows me to use the camera one-handed--I was out with a heavy bag of groceries, yet I managed to whip out the α7RII to grab some street shots with ease. Also, the grip area is definitely more comfortable to hold with all the dials and buttons within reach of your right hand.
Advanced users will appreciate the custom button feature where most of the button settings on the camera are fully customizable with a selection of frequently used settings. I only wished that the camera came with a touchscreen, which would have made it easier to zoom to check my shot, rather than to fiddle around with buttons.
Having a tilting screen is useful, especially when I want to shoot from the down low or the up high. That being said, a fully articulated LCD that flips out and turns would be much more flexible when exploring different vantage points.
Overall, in terms of build quality, the α7RII is an upgrade to its predecessor in terms of handling, build quality due to the camera’s use of an all magnesium alloy shell and a more durable lens mount. It also features some form of dust and moisture sealing, as I’ve shot with it in a mild drizzle with no issues.
I’m quite fond of the new XGA OLED Tru-Finder electronic viewfinder which gives me the ability to view my actual exposure just before I press the shutter button, so I can make quick adjustments on the fly before taking the shot. This 2.36-million dot EVF display also comes with a large 0.78x magnification allowing a wider field of view as compared to previous generations of a7 cameras and DSLRs with optical viewfinders. The display gives you a WYSIWYG view and refreshes quickly, so you don’t have to guess the timing of your subject and get the shot at the right moment.
Autofocus performance is another area in which the Sony’s α7RII excels in. The camera’s comprehensive AF coverage of 399 AF points cover 45% of the total image area, allowing me to track my pet poodle with ease. Autofocus was snappy and accurate; I had no problem getting sharp shots of my dog, especially when you couple AF tracking with 5 frames-per-second burst mode shooting. Autofocus performance is an expectation that tops my list when it comes to choosing a camera, not only does it need to focus quickly, but it also has to be accurate, and I think the Sony’s α7RII more than meets my expectation.
Another highlight of the Sony’s α7RII has got to be its Five-Axis Sensor-Shift Image Stabilization. More often than not, I enjoy shooting images in available light, especially indoors. If you're going to be shooting without flash, there’s bound to be that dreaded camera blur caused by handshake. Short from having a fast lens, the camera’s inbuilt 5-axis image stabilization really helps by giving me a good 4-stop advantage in low-light conditions. I’ve tried it in a variety of dim lighting scenarios such as back alleys, dimly-lit restaurants and pubs, all which the Sony’s α7RII seems to handle well, compensating for movements in the X,Y,yaw, pitch and roll axes. Besides working well with native lenses, the IS technology also benefits my whole collection of manual lenses. Even if the manual lenses don’t communicate with the camera, you can manually set the desired focal length of your lens into the camera to gain a more stabilized advantage.
The α7RII comes with a new shutter mechanism which eliminates the shutter shock issue found in the original a7R. The shutter is made from carbon fiber and also features a shutter brake mechanism. I found the shutter sound to be soft, yet robust. It isn’t as jarring so I have no qualms in using it on the streets.
However, those who would want it for stealthier situations such as plays can use the silent shutter option which totally eliminates any sound from the shutter mechanism. But bear in mind that the rolling-shutter effect may happen during silent mode when shooting under fluorescent light settings. This can be eliminated by switching back to the mechanical shutter or using a slower shutter speed.
There are also some minor features in the camera that are sometimes overlooked. There are some instances where I go to a shoot only to realize that I forgot to charge my batteries the night before. That's why the α7RII’s USB charging capability is a lifesaver as it allows me to charge my camera using my mobile powerbank on the way to the shoot. Another great feature is the camera’s built in Wi-Fi capability that lets me share images instantly on social media. I no longer have to do the whole export process on my desktop back home, which can get in the way of the whole shooting process. For me, I want to spend more time shooting than staring at a computer screen, and this feature saves me time.
31st March 2016, 10:15 AM
Re: Review of Sony Sony’s α7RII
In terms of image performance, the α7RII’s 42-megapixel full-frame sensor produced rich colors without going overboard and stayed true to what I saw in the actual scene. But what I felt was improved from the earlier model is the dynamic range of this camera, which is very good in terms of tonality. I can comfortably shoot with the sun in the frame and know that my image files will have enough pixel data to salvage a blown image and get a usable image at the end of the day without harsh gradations.
I also realized that I can achieve some very soft, tonal gradations in the sky when shooting sunsets. White balance performance was pretty good, with great looking skin tones outdoors in mixed lighting, as well as indoors.
The α7RII boasts a native ISO range from 100 and all the way to 25,600, which is expandable from ISO 50 to ISO 102,400. For my shooting style, the α7RII is usually set on Auto ISO all the way, set between ISO 100 to 12,800. From ISO 100 to 6400, you can get relatively clean images and when you edge closer to the ISO 10,000 arena, there is some grain in the shadows but the IQ is still acceptable to me. ISO 12,800 is as far as I would push it. If you’re shooting some black and white street you could probably go higher than that as I found the grain to be rather film-like. Then again, I would not recommend going all the way to ISO 102,400, unless you really have to.
Not only is the α7RII great for stills, it is no slouch in the video segment. For those who enjoy videography will be please to know that you’ll be able to record in the highest quality possible, think 4K quality. Previously only the α7S was capable of capturing 4K, but you still needed an external recorder to do so. But the good news is the recording of 4K can now be done directing onto the SD card itself, so you don’t have to lug around an additional accessory.
In the α7RII, users have the choice of capturing videos in full-frame mode or Super 35 mode. Videographers will enjoy using the Super 35 mode as it gives full-pixel readout, but at the expense of recording with an APS-C crop factor. Either way, the camera can shoot 4K internally at 8-bit 4:2:0, or 8-bit 4:2:2 with an external recorder. There’s also the option to use S-Log2 picture profile making it possible to shoot a very flat linear image that maximizes dynamic range. This is also useful in allowing for extensive adjustments using editing software to obtain more optimum dynamic range and color without loss in video quality.
In my opinion, the Sony’s α7RII is a very capable interchangeable lens camera with all the bells and whistles. It produces very high-resolution images, with great color, accurate white balance (for skin tones) with a wide dynamic range (for landscapes). The camera also does high-quality 4K video recording internally which will come useful should I venture further into videography. Autofocus was swift, accurate and it had no problem keeping up with fast moving, active subjects. The α7RII’s short flange distance and built-in stabilisation also gave my old film lenses a new lease of life, opening a new window of shooting possibilities for me.
Overall, I feel that the Sony’s α7RII is an excellent performer that should satisfy both hobbyist and professionals alike. With its high resolution image quality, internal 4K video recording along with a feature-rich system, the α7RII would likely appeal to photographers looking for a serious shooting machine that excels in both still images and videography.
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31st March 2016, 10:20 AM
Re: Review of Sony Sony’s α7RII