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Sony A7R II – Review

Introduction

The Sony A7R II was released in August 2015 and by Sony standards, this is already a really old camera!

Sony has been releasing cameras annually, however I do suspect the Sony A7R II will have a longer life-span compared to the other Sony camera bodies due to the simple fact it’s current features out-perform a lot of the competition at a competitive price point.

There have been many other reviews on this camera and all that I have come across, has praised this camera as being something great!

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Most of the reviews available were when the camera was just released back in 2015 and even though there was plenty of information currently out there on this camera, I did want to throw my hat in the ring to discuss my experiences with this camera after 9months of owning it.

My review won’t discuss every detail of the camera, instead it will simply discuss my experience with it during these 9months from shooting professional portraits, event work, landscape, travel camera, and general family photos.

I will be discussing my pet peeves, my loves, and whether I feel the camera is a good recommendation. So without further ado, let’s get to it!

Tech Spec – Click Here (http://www.sony.co.uk/electronics/interchangeable-lens-cameras/ilce-7rm2)

Handling & Build Quality

To give some perspective, I am 6ft4” with fairly large hands and I have no real complaints with the handling. I am fully accepting the Mirrorless bodies are an attempt to make cameras smaller, therefore I can’t expect for a camera to be smaller yet be a perfect fit for my larger hands. So although I have found other cameras, such as Nikon D750, to be a better fit, I can’t complain with how the Sony A7R II handles and I just have to get used to it myself.

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Photo Taken on: Sony A7S & Sony 35mm f/2.8 @ f/2.8, ISO200, 1/2500sec

I do feel however, Sony could offer an additional grip for those who would want a larger grip. I personally am happy with where it’s at.

The build quality seems good and if I were to rate out of 10, I would score it a 6. I don’t have confidence it could survive a drop, nor do I feel confident at all with rain landing on the camera.

Photo Taken on: Sony A7RII with Sony 35mm f/1.4 @ f/1.4, ISO100, 1/320sec

Photo Taken on: Sony A7RII with Sony 35mm f/1.4 @ f/1.4, ISO100, 1/320sec

I had previously dropped my Sony A7s 5-10” off my bedside table and clipped the second drawer down and the screen glass cracked with the screen mount bended. Bearing in mind I basically caught it JUST at the point of impact, so it didn’t fall from high and the impact was minimal, yet the screen has been significantly damaged.

Now holding the Sony A7R II, I do feel it’s better than my previous A7s, but not significantly and I do not dare to do a drop test on this camera for the sake of it and I do hope I never have to find out how durable it truly is.

Lens Selection

The Sony A7 system has been criticised a lot since its release for the poor/limited lens selection. Well 2yrs after the first Sony A7 was released the lens selection is HUGE! Well, not really… But we have enough now!

Fast primes which start wide to short telephoto and zooms which go from ultra-wide to telephoto… not quite Super-Telephoto…

In general I have found the Sony lenses more pricey than the Nikon or Canon counterpart, however from my experience (with Nikon specifically), the Sony lenses do compare very well, if not outperform.

Shooting It Professionally

Due to the fact it only has 1 Card Slot, I don’t really have confidence in this camera shooting it for professional event work. I have had cards fail on me and although there is data recovery software available, it’s not always reliable and does not always recover successfully. So I will always advise people to back-up to a second card where possible.

Sony A7R II with Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM @ f/1.4, ISO100, 1/1600 (HSS Off-Camera Flash)

Sony A7R II with Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM @ f/1.4, ISO100, 1/1600 (HSS Off-Camera Flash)

Sony A7R II with Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM @ f/1.6, ISO100, 1/2000sec

Sony A7R II with Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM @ f/1.6, ISO100, 1/2000sec (HSS Off-Camera Flash)

I have however used it for some professional jobs such as portraits where in a worst case scenario, we can recreate the shoot if needed, likewise I had used this camera in corporate events where there are no real specific moments (I.e. first kiss at a wedding) and the company’s that book me literally want a general feel and vibe for their events.

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Sony A7R II with Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM @ f/2.8, ISO100, 1/50sec

I took delivery of the Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM and now that I had a short telephoto in my possession I really wanted to see how it would perform in an event scenario. The 85mm focal length I do struggle a little with events as I do personally like to stand as far back as possible to not draw too much attention to me, which prevents me from grabbing the ideal candid moments. However, with the Sony A7R II, I was able to crop in slightly if needed.

Sony A7R II with Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM @ f/1.4, IS100, 1/320sec

Sony A7R II with Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM @ f/1.4, IS100, 1/320sec

The AF performed decently, however I didn’t necessarily have the confidence for subject tracking in low-light, which is generally the situation where event work generally takes place. This could be partially due to the lens performance also, as 85mm generally do not AF very fast, so I would be looking forward to testing this body on the 70-200mm f/2.8 as soon I get my hands on it. However, the AF in general is a little iffy when subjects are coming towards or away from you.

With the durability concerns, weaker battery, poor AF in low-light, I do struggle to recommend this camera for professional use. There are photographers out there, such as Jason Lanier, who solely shoot this system and shoot it professionally. I am not saying it’s not possible to shoot these cameras professionally, I am merely saying that I am choosing not too as I do feel the Nikon kit is much more reliable in many ways.

Shooting It For Fun

‘Fun’ is a loose term for this section in the sense I am talking about personal shoots. If I am shooting TFP work, family/friend gatherings, landscapes etc. I regard as fun. No money involved, no pressures to get things done right within one atttempt, no worries about if anything fails at the pivotal moment etc.

I absolutely love this camera for that!

Sony A7R II with Sony 16-35mm f/4 @ f7.1, ISO100, 30sec (HDR Edit)

Sony A7R II with Sony 16-35mm f/4 @ f7.1, ISO100, 30sec (HDR Edit)

I originally obtained a mirrorless system for the size/weight benefits, however I quickly realised even with the weight/size savings, a mirrorless system is just as cumbersome as a full-sized DSLR in many ways. However the benefit for me was the Live View shooting.

Shooting Live View on a DSLR is a nightmare as the AF is painfully slow, shooting a Mirrorless system via its EVF or Live View, it is comparable to a DSLR and easily out-performs the lower model DSLR’s.

Raising a DSLR to your face announces to the people around you that you are about to take a photo. It will break the moment if someone realises you are about to snap a shot and the candid moment is gone. What mirrorless allows me to do is to shoot quickly and accurately with the camera low-down away from my face which is much more discrete.

I have caught pictures of my family I couldn’t have otherwise have done.

Sony A7R II with Sony 28mm f/2 @ f/2, ISO200, 1/50sec

Sony A7R II with Sony 28mm f/2 @ f/2, ISO200, 1/50sec AWB

Things I Love About This Camera

My experience with the Sony A7 series began with the Sony A7 II, then the Sony A7S and moved onto the Sony A7R II. I added the A7S to my arsenal not because of the low-light capabilities, but for the silent shutter. My biggest pet peeve with the Sony A7S was that it was only 12mp and I just kept thinking that in the future, I will be looking back at my old family photos in low quality, so where possible I did want to future proof whatever I could. Now the Sony A7R II is out, 42.4mp and silent shutter I couldn’t pass up!

Following on from the future proofing of my photos, Video is also something else I wanted to future proof and with the internal 4k recording, I am able to capture home videos in the next upcoming video standard. I still feel 1080p is currently the standard, despite 4k TV’s being heavily advertised and amongst my social circle a lot of people have upgraded. But with most broadcasts still being done in 720p and 1080i and the very limited streams available in 4k, it’s not quite todays standards. With the Sony A7R II being able to record in 4k I am able to future proof family videos.

The Continuous Eye-AF is amazing! Although I have found at times it chooses the wrong eye, it does a pretty good job. In those odd occasions where it selects the wrong eye, it’s a simple fix to switch over to manually selecting points and selecting it manually the old school way. Eye-AF has been available for a while on the Sony system, however continuous Eye-AF is something new since this model and I absolutely love this feature.

IBIS is another feature I am loving about this camera system as its so easy to switch from photo to video and have great stability. I do randomly decide to capture video of my family and no matter what lens I have mounted, even if its an adapted lens I can achieve great stable videos. For photos I have achieved shots as slow as 1/4sec!

One New Change

Sony A7R II with Sony 16-35mm f/4 @ f/4, ISO100, 1/4sec

 

Things I Hate About This Camera

Hate is a strong word, but it was the opposite of “Love” so lets run with it…

 

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Photo Taken on: Sony A7S with Sony 35mm f/1.4 @ f/1.4, ISO200, 1/800sec

I currently have my ISO set to the rear rotating dial and this works for me to quickly change the ISO. However this also works against me as I keep knocking my ISO setting accidently and keep having to change it back. But on the plus side, it’s quick to do so! lol… But it can be frustrating, recent example… I was doing a Portrait shoot for a friend and I wanted everything at ISO100, I accidently knocked down to ISO80, below the cameras native ISO setting and I didn’t notice the difference as it’s only 1/3 stop, but just more of an annoyance than a problem seeing as I could have corrected this issue in post.

Likewise with this dial, it is used to select focusing points and because the dial is so sensitive I have at times switched focusing modes, not just points!

So I guess I can summarise the above by simply saying “I’m not a fan of the real rotating dial”. It’s just a little too sensitive for me and not tactile enough for selecting up, down, left and right.

Note: The image shows rolling shutter issues which warped my god-daughters head as she came down the slide

I love the silent shutter, but what I do hate about it is the progressive scanning of the sensor. I guess it would be a bit too much to ask for this camera to globally scan the sensor seeing as it’s such a small body with limited processing power. However, with a progressively scanned sensor you do rolling shutter issues and weird lines through your shots under certain lighting situations. The remedy for this is matching your shutter speed to the light frequency and I have found 1/50-1/60 works well.

Sony A7R II with Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM @ f/1.4, ISO400, 1/500sec

Sony A7R II with Sony 35mm f/1.4 FE @ f/1.4, ISO400, 1/500sec

Note: The stripes on the wall at the back is the light from the TV pulsating, luckily this shot is still usable as my niece of was dominantly lit by the window

The EVF sensor! The camera comes defaulted to having both EVF and Monitor on Auto. It will detect when the camera is raised to the eye to switching Monitor to EVF, however I find this sensor very sensitive and there is no way to turn down the sensitivity. I do like to shoot from the varying angles and if I have the stomach down towards my stomach, the screen will switch off and goto the EVF, this becomes frustrating to the point I have actually just turned off the EVF completely as I do favour the Live View Monitor in general. But there are odd occasions I do prefer to use the EVF.

What I Hope To See In It’s Predecessor

For the A7R III, or A7 III generation, I would like to see a global sensor readout to resolve the rolling shutter and flicker in photos. I do appreciate this is a big ask as they would be eating into their pro-line market for video, but there would still be a market for the pro cameras such as the FS-5 etc. for functionality, battery etc.

As mentioned in the previously, the rotating dial is a little sensitive, not only would I like the clicks to be a little more hardened, I would prefer to have a dedicated ISO button. The Nikon system has a dedicated ISO button whereby you hold that down and then rotate a dial. I think this method is much more efficient and saves some accidentally changing the setting. I do still wish the dial would be made less sensitive also as it’s sometimes fiddly when selecting AF points. If they could implement a system where the dial itself needs to be pressed down whilst rotating to change settings, that would be a great addition I feel. (If Sony does implement that, you read it here first 😉 )

Side Notes

Unlike other reviews for this camera, I have not mentioned the menu system or batteries. I do think these complaints are a little redundant by now as the Sony Menu system we can get used too. Over time you will remember where certain functions are and you will simply just get used to it. I personally cannot think how it could be improved, but I am getting used to it the more I use it.

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Battery life is one of those things where if you increase the battery size, the camera size and weight will go up! I am not sure how much more can be done for processing efficiency to help the battery life, but I personally do not want them to change the battery itself right now as I am pretty invested into the Sony system and have a couple of spare batteries now. Ideally I would like the batteries to remain consistent.

I have never really had a complaint with the battery life as a photographer. I can get through a day shooting with 1 or 2 batteries. Very rarely going to the second battery and if I do, it’s mainly because I’m shooting video as well.

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If I were to use it professionally however, I think I would just prepare myself to switch batteries more often, or buy the battery grip!

Video overheating has been heavily documented and most people claiming they barely reach two 30min clips before overheating. I personally have not experienced one overheating issue in the 9months of owning this camera, however I think the longest clip I have recorded is only 10min. I only record short snippets of my family and that’s mainly my niece or nephew doing something funny. Otherwise I have not done long-form video.

Would I Recommend This Camera?

This is a very tricky question to answer as it’s highly dependant on your current situation, what you shoot and what you currently have.

The best way I can answer this question for this particular camera is that I do not regret buying it not one bit and it gets used almost daily. I do own a good selection of lenses and can cover most shooting scenarios that I would potentially need to cover.

If you do not have many lenses, I do think the Sony A7 II is a much better value as it’s less than half the price and offers great image quality and IBIS. Unfortunately no silent shutter or 4k, but most people do not shoot silent shutter and not many photographers do serious video.

As recommendations are generally a personalised answer, I will say as a general thing, I wouldn’t recommend this camera.

But to the ones who know how they will benefit from this camera, I feel it does perform well to what’s expected of it. Some will complain that the video overheats etc. but my personal opinion, this is a photography camera first and a video camera second, so on that note I do feel it performs well for what should be expected of it.

YouTube Reviews

I have watched many reviews on this camera before buying…

If you wanted to check out them out for more info. the videos I recommend are

The Camera Store TV (TCSTV)

DigitalRev (DRTV)

Tony & Chelsea Northrup

DPReview

Jason Vong (Newer Review)

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2 Responses

  1. Jason says:

    Awesome job, Leo! And some amazing shots as well! Being still a relatively new Sony user, I didn’t know Continuous Eye-AF was a new thing on the a7R II.

    You hit up a lot of great points, especially the 1 card limitations this camera has. Knock on wood, I haven’t had a fail card yet shooting with it but man, I’d probably used my a6300 and snap a couple back up shots just incase to combat this issue. Hopefully the next iteration will have dual card slots.

    Another great point about the a7R II being photo first video second (the second part I still need to do). I love it being this way as I personally shoot both. Video has always been my primary background so having it as an option on an already amazing photo camera really makes my job easy. Some of the few complaints I have… it feels like Sony purposefully crippled some of the video functions on this camera. 120fps in 720p… REALLY?! And sometimes it’s hard to tell if something is in focus when using the magnify function. There are a lot of quirks I have but the one thing that I am EXTREMELY happy about is being about to shoot Super 35mm in 4K, something that is missing in the a7S II for whatever nonsense reason.

    Whooo… wow didn’t mean to go off on a mini rant… anyway! Great job! Thanks for sharing your experience! 😀 and also the feature at the end! 🙂

    • Leo Hoang says:

      Hey Jason, you did a great job with your review, had to share your video. I have not yet ventured into video as its currently beyond me! But I can only imagine how much longer it takes to edit after simply writing my review!

      I’m subscribed to your channel, so will keep following your work. Keep it up! I look forward to your next Weekly Wednesday Vlog 😉

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