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Thread: Sony A7II - The Mirrorless Perspective from a DSLR User

  1. #1

    Default Sony A7II - The Mirrorless Perspective from a DSLR User

    Mirrorless cameras... Am I a fan of them? What does it feel like to use one?

    In the beginning, my trusty EOS 7D I’ve used for years was all I need to get the job done. I had a slew of Canon lenses; they served me well. I was using the 7D because it was fast in almost everything I throw at. Moreover it was something my late-dad bought for me back in October 2009. I shoot events photography on occasional basis and if opportunity comes (though rarely) I get to shoot weddings. But at the heart of all, (and as some of you may know me) I shoot landscapes. Thus at times I wished I had a full-frame camera to take advantage of a larger sensor for the kind of work I’m doing. I’ve never used a mirrorless camera before. I’m not sure what to expect out of it. I’ve heard all sorts of functionality with the offerings of a mirrorless camera that goes well beyond a “normal camera”.

    So what does it feel like transitioning from a DSLR to a mirrorless? That’s what I’m curious to find out.

    But before I get into that, let me assure you this is the first time in my life I’ve ever get to use a camera with a full-frame sensor for an extended period of time. This is something I’ve been dreaming about for years but never had the chance to do so, or the money to upgrade my camera to experience the transitioning from an APSC sensor to a full-frame camera.

    What does it mean for me? Lower noise? Better range of lens selection? Better dynamic range? True 35mm equivalence (for once)? I’ve heard all these things with the Sony Alpha series. I just never really got to try it extensively till now.

    (Left) Sony A7II and the worn but reliable, 6Ĺ year old EOS 7D (right)


    When I held the camera for the first time, it felt like I was holding a toy. Now before you go flaming me with your sword with what I said, that’s actually not a bad thing. As a matter of fact, it’s a compliment - It’s an awesome toy. It’s a small, surprisingly compact piece of equipment. If the A7II was released say in 2010, no one would have thought or even expect a 35mm sensor to exist in that sucker. To me it don’t matter when it was released, my point is I still can't believe I’m holding a relatively small camera with a full frame sensor. Coming from a DSLR-only background, this was a pretty big deal for me. From then on, I kinda got the concept of a mirrorless camera. Overall handling was surprisingly top-notch despite its compact size… What an age we live in.

    The mighty A7II in all its glory It's small, but still comfortable to hold in the hand


    In the package were two lenses - The Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35mm and 24-70mm both rated at f4 and was designed by Zeiss Optics. I’ve shot with Zeiss CP.2 Cine lenses for filming before but have never tried to use Zeiss’ E-mount lenses designed for photography. The lenses appear smaller than they are. The 16-35 had a thread size of 72mm and the 24-70 had a thread size of 67mm. I just wish both lenses would use the same thread diameter so that I don’t have to purchase separate ring adapters to mount my filter holder but, oh well.

    During the weeks I’ve also requested more E-Mount lenses to add into the arsenal of lenses but at the time of offering there weren't a lot to choose from, but at this rate of what I am shooting it’s completely fine with me in this regard. But I hope to see more in future.


    I have to say, the menu navigation has taken a huge leap of improvement over the years. The important functions such as white balance and ISO settings are now readily available and much quicker to access than ever before. And it gets even better: all the buttons are completely customisable. You can literally remap the buttons to whatever function you desire from the default setting.

    But if there’s something I need to nitpick, I’ve experienced a certain palpable delay or lag when accessing and scrolling through the menu. Not a big issue but certainly noticeable. This lag or delay is also noticeable on the apps page. For example, I downloaded the Time-Lapse app and it took a solid 5-8 seconds to load and access the menu of the app and setting certain parameters within it feels painfully laggy and slow to use. I hope they’ll at least update the app to improve overall performance.

    In terms of accessibility, it feels like a step up from previous generations of Sony cameras and much easier to access certain important functions such as White Balance and AF Drive. The autofocus performance is great at best and I get most subjects locked on accurately even in low light places, but with that said the AF does hunt at times so I highly recommend switching to manual focus with peaking enabled to assist you focusing your subject.

    Overall performance is manageable but however, I personally feel it still falls short in comparison to some higher end DSLRs in terms of shutter lag and AF speed and as a user coming from an EOS 7D. Oddly enough, going back and forth between the two cameras sometimes makes the A7II feel “sluggish” to use. Hopefully future A7 cameras can improve on AF speed and achieve lower shutter lag. I heard this isn’t much of a problem using the much newer A7R II, but my point is, using the A7II I get the feeling it is designed to target towards enthusiast and hobby photographers who usually don't demand speed and performance out from a camera and subjects usually range from portrait, stills and landscape and/or architectural photography. Subjects like these, final image quality is key.

    Controls of the A7II are far more readily accessible than predecessors of Sony cameras

    Last edited by SomeFormOFhuman; 5th April 2016 at 05:22 PM.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Sony A7II - The Mirrorless Perspective from a DSLR User


    Hereís the part every landscapists will enjoy - The A7II does excellently what is was designed to do. For nearly a year, I've shot countless landscape and architectural images with it and I have to say, what everyone said was on point - the dynamic range is excellent and itís a huge step up from I've been using. However there's one thing I've noticed that I have to take into consideration when shooting your subjects directly where the sun isÖ it does not handle highlight details well and tends to exhibit highlight clipping even when the exposure is metered correctly @ 0EV. Over the weeks I found a neat little trick and that is to shoot at -1.5 to -2 stops or lower (depending on how your meter your scene). In short I highly recommend that you use the histogram and that the exposure is at a healthy level as it helps retains some highlight detail. Or, you could also enable the Zebra mode which tells you which highlight parts of the image is clipped or overexposed.

    I realisedÖ the A7II does exceedingly well with retaining details in dark corners and shadow areas. And my God, it does it well. If there's one thing the A7 series is known for, this is it.

    Original +3 stops


    ISO performance is fantastic even in low light. I guess that's the power of a fullframe camera. However as a landscape shooter, what I'm more concerned is how well it handles noise at really long exposures. I'm talking about exposures ranging from 2 to 5 minutes, and even more. I was concerned about that at first because I never had good experience shooting really long exposures with my 7D, noise and image grain was something I had to deal with even at base ISO. With the A7II I can breathe a sigh of relief, it does surprisingly well in handling sensor noise at long exposures. I even went to turn off the Long Exposure NR setting in the menu and the long exposure image it outputs is still clean and noise free.

    Alright, so you've finished capturing your subjects in long exposure and you wish to take some more shots of the location you're in. (Pro tip: I do that all the time to check any new POVs I could find for future use.) You turn on the A7II and you realise you now have 75-80% of battery life leftÖ 75% is fine, but I remembered leaving the house an hour ago with 100% battery, how did it drop to 75% so fast?

    The long exposure noise output performs well on the A7II. This was exposed about 4 minutes with a 12 stop ND filter. Marina Barrage, Singapore Another long exposure shot that was exposed for about 2:40 minutes. Toa Payoh, Singapore


    I guess this is the main achilles heel using the camera. Battery life on the A7II as much as I hate to say it, abysmal. Most of the shoots I venture out to (be it sunrise or sunset) will leave me about averaging 70-80% depending on your usage and whether or not you took any long exposure shots (shooting in long exposure drains the battery much faster in this regard because the shutter is left open and the sensor exposed to collect light for a longer period of time). In comparison with the EOS 7D, I rarely got below 95-90% for majority of the shoots I ventured to for the first hour of use.

    Unfortunately there is also no way to charge the A7II with an external power bank if youíre out in the field and I heard this feature is only supported on the A7R II. Therefore I always make it a habit to charge the batteries each time with the supplied charger I return home from a shoot. And, if you're going to shoot hyperlapse with this camera (like I did one time which went from 100 to 0% in 45 minutes) I highly recommend getting extra batteries for the A7II. Moreover the external battery charger is sold separately, that means you can only charge one battery at a time through the camera with the supplied USB 2.0 cable.
    I guess this is the nature for most mirrorless cameras weíd come to expect. Might it be the EVF display at fault?


    Like most mirrorless cameras these days, the A7II comes with an EVF display instead of an optical viewfinder. The thing about the EVF in the A7II is somewhat a blessing and a curse. It has all the features like focus and exposure peaking and various other on-demand features on the display when youíre framing your images. However as a landscape shooter I ran into multiple instances where I was at a really dark place, the EVF wasn't helping somewhat. I remembered I was at Sembawang Beach at 6am walking around to find good composition and some foreground investigation. If you were actually in the place itself, you *can* see a little bit of the scene and your foreground with your naked eye but when youíre dealing with such darkness you canít quite compose your shot with the EVF on the A7II or let alone see anything with it. All I saw was complete darkness and I had to wait for light to come on a little bit more or shine a torch on the foreground to get a focus. I once also took the A7II to a concert hall to shoot a friendís orchestra performance and the EVF exhibited certain amounts of lag at shutter speeds below 1/50Ö I can definitely see the usefulness of an EVF display especially with all the awesome features which are shown in real time. EVF tech has definitely come a long way since its older predecessors and has improved since... Don't get me wrong. Maybe Iím a little old-fashioned but I still prefer good ol' Optical Viewfinders over EVF displays for many reasons which I guess you guys already know. I'm still not used to seeing ghosting and image lag on a viewfinder, and personally I still see the viewfinder as a tool to compose your shot and nothing more; not be bombarded with all the stuff that's on the EVF's screen. The good thing is, you can turn them off in the settings.


    Maybe no camera is perfect but at the end of the day, the final image is all that matters. And as a landscape shooter all I can say is, I am completely blown away by the RAW image quality the A7II manages to output. If there is one take away I can really love and I really need for such a camera is the awesome dynamic range it delivers and itís a huge step up from what Iíve been using in the past. Just make sure your histogram appears in the healthy range and and that no highlight is clipped and youíre good to fire away. Or if youíre on tripod, do enable exposure bracketing to achieve all highlight and shadow details in the scene. Also, be prepared to get extra batteries and a dedicated external charger which I highly recommend for this camera.

    Iím gonna have to say, this is one heck of a camera and Iíll continue using it for all my landscapes and architecture photography. Who knows, maybe Iíll invest in a metabones adapter to mount all my Canon lenses I have invested over the years to add on to the A7II. Iíd highly recommend it.

    Full Frame Sensor in a small package
    Excellent Dynamic Range (especially with new software updates with uncompressed RAW)
    Good ergonomics and decent handling
    Improved controls over its predecessors
    Versatile connectivity options such as NFC and Wifi
    High customisable buttons
    Good ISO performance especially in LE shots
    Compact and Lightweight
    Rotating LCD display is a plus

    Remote smartphone control (play memories app) does not allow RAW support only JPG
    AF hunts in low light and a little bit slow
    EVF finder vs OVF dilemma (A problem when shooting in really dark places and lag)
    Few choices of Sony E-Mount lenses to choose from
    Abysmal battery life
    External battery charger sold separately

    Last edited by SomeFormOFhuman; 5th April 2016 at 04:07 PM.

  3. #3
    Member ahblack's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Singapore (west)

    Default Re: Sony A7II - The Mirrorless Perspective from a DSLR User

    Nice review! Amazing photos to support the content, two thumbs up!

  4. #4

    Default Re: Sony A7II - The Mirrorless Perspective from a DSLR User

    Quote Originally Posted by ahblack View Post
    Nice review! Amazing photos to support the content, two thumbs up!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2006

    Default Re: Sony A7II - The Mirrorless Perspective from a DSLR User

    Great review and real nice photos.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Sony A7II - The Mirrorless Perspective from a DSLR User

    nice review.

    regarding the EVF when shooting in dark places.. does enabling Live view Effects to "ON" or "OFF" position in the menu help see in the dark?

    The live view effect when set to "OFF" would always help you see in the dark to compose the a view as it will often see in the dark. but i am more familiar with the setting turned to the "ON" position and either look at the evf or LCD, put the camera on a tripod, in auto ISO mode, open the aperture of the lens and the shutter to 20 or even 30 sec exposure and i can see a brightly lit screen even on a near dark environment, once i have adjusted my desired ISO, aperture and shutter speed to my liking, i then take a shot and adjust fron there accordingly..

    above is base on the older A7 which i am currently using..

  7. #7

    Default Re: Sony A7II - The Mirrorless Perspective from a DSLR User

    Unfortunately there is also no way to charge the A7II with an external power bank if youíre out in the field and I heard this feature is only supported on the A7R II.

    Correction on one of the comments: You can charge A7II with a power bank.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Sony A7II - The Mirrorless Perspective from a DSLR User

    Quote Originally Posted by Helbreath View Post
    Unfortunately there is also no way to charge the A7II with an external power bank if you’re out in the field and I heard this feature is only supported on the A7R II.

    Correction on one of the comments: You can charge A7II with a power bank.
    Late reply, I can confirm that i can charge the older A7 model using a 10400 mAh power bank which i bought for $10 about 2 years back on one of the IT show. There is a catch however that it will not charge when i plug it initially on the powerbank directly.. (no light confirmation on the a7 and the powerbank that camera is being charged). i even have to change the charging cables a couple of times to no avail then i tried testing the usb by plugging it on a pc. i clicked the camera ON and the transfer protocol begin automatically and the usb light on the A7 is ON. unplug the pc connection and put it on the powerbank and i was able to charge the camera with both the A7 and the powerbank's charging lights ON.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2013

    Default Re: Sony A7II - The Mirrorless Perspective from a DSLR User

    Amazing pics. Inspired.


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