A7RII review: Versatile Device. Excellent Image Quality

Started Oct 4, 2015 | Discussions thread
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PVCdroid
PVCdroid Senior Member • Posts: 4,331
A7RII review: Versatile Device. Excellent Image Quality
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Note 1: The full review is on the NEX E-mount forum. Reviews of this camera default to that forum for some reason without the ability to change it.

Note 2: This is my opinion and my review. I have seen others post their reviews of the A7Rii and receive inappropriate negative feedback. This is my honest opinion of the camera and in some cases, Sony. I am clearly a big Sony fan and this is an enthusiastic review. I am writing this for my own reference and to those considering this camera. I am also writing this review to acknowledge, and in my small way, attempt to dispel the negativity thrown at this camera from reviewers and forum participants. Many complaints are not real and I attempt to address them in this review as the camera exists on firmware V1.10. That’s a good thing btw. Sony will improve this camera through firmware updates as noted below.

Review

The A7RII opens up many shooting opportunities for me including low light, action/ motion and 4K video work. The biggest benefit of this camera is IBIS. It allows low shutter speed shooting on non-stabilized lenses like the beautiful SEL5518. This camera is the best I have ever used. I can take a couple batteries with me and shoot for the day including short video work. It has been pretty much glued to my side over the past six weeks. The sensitivity of this camera is a step up from the A7r which is still very impressive. Color depth is also a step up from the A7r, especially in low light. High ISO performance is very good with a full stop advantage from my experience between the cameras. Working with a raw file in Capture One or Lightroom shows this flexibility and improvement. The EFCS and silent shooting options are bonuses over the A7r and of course, 4K video.

A few items, inaccuracies and clarifications from my perspective using this camera:

4K video shooting – 4K video shot and viewed on a 4K TV is stunning. This is the extent of my experience shooting video. The camera does not overheat under normal use. Note: Video is limited on professional DSLR cameras, including the Sony mirrorless, to 30 minutes). The A7Rii will overheat if continuously shooting 30 minute clips over and over. External recorders should be used for lectures, etc. over 30 minutes in length.

Zoom options: Sony Zeiss 24-70/4 has plenty of detail available and renders quite nicely with great color. It’s sharp on the A7rii and if flexibility is required, it is a great option. Otherwise, shoot the lovely FE primes available. (I’ve been using the very sharp 28/2 FE a lot lately). Shooting between F5.6 and F13 produces sharp corners if that is required on the 2470. The 28-70 and 24-240 are options as well for zoom lenses and both are good when flexibility is needed. I haven’t tried the 24-240 yet.

Battery: Battery performance is acceptable. The small and affordable NP-FW50 is especially useful across multiple Sony cameras. My hope and theory is that this same battery will be upgraded and provide longer life in the near future. Otherwise, they are cheap and light weight. A simple battery back for video shooting is advised. This is the first Sony camera that allows for battery charging and simultaneous camera/video use. A tip for better battery performance is to stop wandering around in the menu system and get the camera set the way you want. I have provided some tips and recommendations below.

Menu system: A revamp would be nice but I have figured out where everything is just like all my technology. Additional custom key mapping is a benefit and I don’t find myself in the menu system too often. M1 through M4 memory recall is also a menu system avoider.

Focus speed: A7Rii focus speed is very fast and more importantly, highly accurate. Low light focus speed is a big step up from the A7r but in its defense, that camera wasn’t built for speed.

JPEG Quality: Very good and hard to replicate at times in Raw. The tone curve used by Sony is quite good I think. I normally shoot raw but find occasions to use JPEG and some of the creative features on the camera.

Raw Quality : Pixel peeping is an unfortunate habit of mine but normally just to ensure I have accurate focus. I have not had a problem with artifacts but understand that in extreme cases it can be a concern for some. Sony will deliver uncompressed RAW this month. I might turn it on for Astro photography shots I’ve done in the current for RAW format are very good, as good as the A7r. Blacks can be rich and lots of star detail. There are some hot pixels if long exposure noise reduction is not used. Capture One has a single pixel noise reduction setting that fixes hot pixels perfectly and with one click.

Flash Photography: I own the HVL-F60M flash for professional use and it does not overheat. V1.1 firmware fixed the problem which I didn’t experience in the first place. This is an excellent flash combined with the A7rii for professional work. The Phottix Odin supports it for off camera wireless solutions and multiple flash TTL/ratio control. Many other recent products have been introduced specifically for the A7 series.

Professional Use: This is a professional camera. Reviews indicating otherwise are either terribly biased or the reviewer has not figured out how to use the camera in an efficient manner.

Focusing: For action, AF-C and Expanded Flexible AF shooting is best. For non-moving objects, I like DMF mode and flexible spot medium. For landscapes, DMF mode and Wide area focus.

EVF: The EVF is beautiful and provides ease of manual focus using magnification to fine tune focus. It is larger and I don't have to take off my glasses to use it which was my normal practice with prior Sony cameras.

Lens Choice: The best shooting experience is with FE lenses and there are plenty of high quality lenses available with 6-8 more that will be announced by the end of this year. I have tried most of the FE lenses and Sony seems to be on track for pro and enthusiast lenses of very high quality. Use of A-mount lenses for auto focus is an excellent option with the LA-EA4 (older Minolta lenses) and LA-EA3 (newer Sony or third party A-mount lenses).

Resolution: I tend to crop quite a bit and enjoy the increased resolution when I’m trying to get just a part of the image. The files are very flexible and can be pushed/pulled, cropped to extremes with detail to spare it seems. I used to bracket nearly all landscape shots with the NEX-7 and pulled back with the A7r and even further now with the A7Rii. It just isn’t necessary anymore in my opinion. Plus it’s a relief….what a pain.

Build Quality: I've noticed the improvements in durability and weather resistance with this camera. The ports are more secure and the camera is rugged. Professionals are using the camera in extreme conditions without failure. A common reported failure is the display stopping because the hot shoe gets wet without it's insert/cover in place. Drying the hotshoe and pins resolves the problem. A not so common failure is the story from an unreliable source with one drop from a leaf above him destroying the camera. Now that's creative. Reasonable/normal usage isn't going to be a problem.

Dual Card Slots: I don't believe in them anyway. They are prone to failure on their own. SD cards have become very reliable and improved in just the past year. A number of techniques can be used to mitigate concerns including tethering, wifi direct upload, copying card contents to an external reader.

This camera should provide at least a few years of photographic opportunity for me, both professionally and personally. That’s a long time in camera technology. It’s getting a lot of flak from traditionalists that seem glued to their camera type. Many feel the need to lash out inappropriately to those that want to say something positive about the camera. This happens IMO when a disruptive product threatens traditional technologies or processes. The A7 series cameras, and this camera in particular, meets that disruptive definition. The A7rii is a serious tool for artists and photographers, enthusiast and professional. Hobbyists?: Not really. KR, MT, TN were not honest in their reviews in my opinion because mirrorless is still viewed as a threat to their intended readership. They are in a precarious position.

There are many examples of professionals exclusively using the A7 series cameras without issue. The debate and argument that this camera is not of professional grade is senseless. Better tools do exist with faster frames per second, weather intenseializing in speed or weather sealing but this camera is no slouch with a high quality rugged build. I can’t think of another camera with this IQ and speed covering such a wide range of shooting conditions. The ability to put nearly any lens made on it and capably focus it is a benefit that should not be discounted. The FE lens line up from Sony and Zeiss is surprising me and the lenses available are of very high quality. And, six more will be announced this fall. These are exciting times in photography. I borrowed the 90/2.8 macro and nearly cried when I had to return it so it’s my next lens. I also borrowed the 35/1.4 and thought it rendered beautifully.

The Pro Imaging Support program was introduced in Europe last and the US, this year. I’ve borrowed a couple lenses using it and it was such as smooth and easy experience initiated with just an e-mail and my member number. I had to change the shipping address mid shipment and Sony/ Lens Rentals who coordinates the Sony inventory of loaner lenses, made it happen. I haven’t had the need for service yet but they will likely handle any needs well with a guaranteed turnaround and/or loaner equipment. I’ve used the Laredo and Precision service centers and prefer the prior but believe Precision is getting better. I did have an unpleasant experience with Precision and a damaged adapter that Sony replaced for me.

I’m a voracious reader and researcher and put a few months into choosing the NEX-7 and Sony as my preferred photography gear. I love the innovation that this company is pursuing and believe it is the best solution for me. It has worked out very well considering my background and interest in photography over the years, basically avoiding the early transition from film to digital. I have included some personal images here shot over the past week as review examples. The ones I selected emphasize the flexibility of the A7Rii and fun I’m having with it. I shot th e blood moon last Sunday and admit it was hard to get sharp focus shot but know many others struggled as well. The bright normal moon is pretty easy. A couple other shots are of Arizona scenery as a car passenger @ 70mph @ 1/8000 shutter speed (EFCS off) using the FE 28/2. That was fun!

Lenses I’m shooting with and some comments. Except for the Nikon lenses, all of these were purchased over the last 2.5 years. There are many I would like to buy if I had unlimited funds, but̷ 0;…

Sony FE:

  • Sony Zeiss 24-70/4 FE (Workhorse)
  • Sony Zeiss 55/1.8 (My baby)
  • Sony 28/2 (My second baby)

Sony E:

  • Sony Zeiss 24/1.8 (Very nice and useful for 4K video using A7Rii and
  • Sony Zeiss 16-70/4 (Love it)
  • Sony 50/1.8 (Love it)
  • Sony 55-210/4-6.3 + DHG-1758
  • Sony 10-18/4 (Good wide angle capability on A7Rii without APS-C mode but post processing is required)

Other:

  • Sigma APO DG OS 50-500/4-6.3 (Good with either LA-EA3 or 4)
  • Canon 50mm 1.4 FDN
  • Nikon 105/4 macro AIS
  • Nikon 35/2.8 AIS
  • Nikon 28/2.8 AIS (Nice and sharp)

Minolta AF (used with LA-EA4 for full EXIF and auto focus)

  • Minolta AF 50/2.8 macro (Love it)
  • Minolta AF 24/2.8 (Nice)
  • Minolta AF 28/2.8 (Love it)
  • Minolta AF 100-200/4-5.6
  • Konica Minolta 17-35/2.8-4 (Nice and sharp when stopped down. Creative ability at F/2.8)

Key Camera settings and recommendations for shooting RAW or 4K video with EFCS on A7Rii:

  • AF-S and AF-A generally not used. AF-C and DMF mode are my preferences.
  • Peaking level: Mid
  • Peaking Color: Yellow
  • ISO Auto Minimum SS: Faster
  • Pre AF: Off
  • Priority Set in AF-S: AF
  • Priority Set in AF-C: AF
  • AF w/shutter: On
  • AEL w/shutter: Auto seems to work well
  • APS-C/Super 35mm: Off unless shooting Super 35 video
  • Lens Compensation: All turned on at all times
  • Custom settings:
  • Control Wheel: Not set (prevents you from nudging ISO accidentally)
  • AEL Button mapped to Eye AF (Easy to hold the button for close eye sharpness and then shoot)
  • Smile/Face Detection: On/Registered faces. Note: This prioritizes registered faces but works just like the ON setting without prioritization. Note: I leave this on for all shooting. It very rarely gives a false read and helps whenever people are involved. For instance, if I have Flexible spot focus set and am out shooting at an inanimate object, it performs as intended. If a face is in the scene, face detection takes over. It’s the best of both settings and the camera rarely misses.

General usage and technique

  • Moving subjects: AF-C and Lock on AF: Flexible Spot M.
  • Static and landscape shooting: DMF and Wide for landscape shots. Here I can fine tune focus with the focus ring
  • Astro shooting: Black and White Creative Style for ease of focus with peaking.
  • Portrait shooting: AF-C and Wide with face recognition on. Here you can see PDAF points flutter on your subject and press the EYE-AF AEL button to get the eye in focus.
  • Steady Shot (IBIS): I have been leaving this on most of the time unless shooting under ½ second shutter speed or on tripod. Even with it on and tripod, it seems to help sometimes. I have the trash can button mapped to Steady Shot on/off and frequently will quickly change it and shoot two images to see the difference.
  • Metering Mode: Multi but change to Spot for portrait work indoors or out (face recognition on and registered if key subject)
  • Creative Style: Although this doesn’t affect RAW shooting, there are benefits to choosing the style for playback off the camera onto a TV for instance. I use Night for low light which gets rid of that annoying yellow base color in low light shots. Vivid is used for all other shooting. Image Data Converter will recognize the creative style set in RAW whereas Capture One or Lightroom ignore it.
  • Multi-frame ISO used in JEPG mode up to ISO 51,200. This can be very creative in low light astrophotography shots and other extreme low lighting conditions
  • ISO: Auto min 100 max 6,400 (I have never been a very high ISO shooter) Max for me on the NEX-7 was 800/1600, 3200 on the A7r and now 6400 for the A7Rii. Jim Kasson provided a good analysis of ISO performance and I do frequently use ISO 100 or ISO 640 for the beset IQ.

My photography experience/background

  • Photography enthusiast beginning at 14 with Minolta SRT-101
  • Progressive darkroom experience from BW to C-41 processing using Beseler enlargers
  • Associates degree in Photography
  • Nikon F2AS purchase in 1978 - used stolen in the mid 90's
  • Portrait Studio photographer from 19-21 shooting Mamiya medium format
  • Fashion/model photography
  • Gave up photography at 22 to pursue education/accounting career
  • After 25 years and still a CPA, I started getting interested in photography again
  • Nikon Point and Shoot cameras from 2006 - 2013
  • Revived serious interest in photography in 2013 and purchased NEX-7. I fell hard for resolution/image quality/small package and began shooting RAW and using Lightroom. I looked at DSLR a couple times of times prior to the NEX-7 and shot each at the urging of friends but was aghast at what had happened to my beloved Nikon F2 SLR design. I think something went very wrong along the way in the design department shifting from SLR to DSLR. This is my personal opinion of course.
  • Purchased Canon 13x19 printer and began buying ink in bulk and refilling my own ink cartridges.
  • Spent a lot on legacy and native lenses looking for the best, yet affordable, image quality
  • Selectively began shooting paid work including portraits, events and weddings
  • Expanded to A7r last year and continue using NEX-7 as second camera
  • Switched to Capture One for post processing. Lightroom disappointed me with A7r raw processing
  • Joined Sony Pro Imaging Support
  • Upgraded to A7rii via pre-order

Thanks for reading!

Patrick

Blood moon - Sigma 50-500 DG APO OS for A-mount with LA-EA3

View: original size

Very low light - Minolta 100-200

View: original size

One shot - very low light w/SEL2470

View: original size

Cat eater

View: original size

Actually not. He's a good boy

View: original size

70mph as passenger. FE 28/2 out the sunroof

View: original size

Another shot out the sunroof at 70mph

View: original size

FE 28/2 again.

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