2017 Roundup: Semi-Pro Interchangeable Lens Cameras $2000+
Sony Alpha a7R II
42.2MP BSI CMOS full-frame sensor | 399-point Hybrid AF | Internal 4K recording
What we like:
- Nearly class-leading low light and dynamic range performance
- Internal 4K video
- Incredible AF precision and speed
- Very effective sensor stabilization
- Phase-detect continuous AF with 3rd party lenses
What we don't:
- Stop-motion playback makes it hard to follow action in continuous bursts
- Buffer takes too long to clear
- Frustrating menu organization
- Small, finicky dials
The Sony a7R II is the world's first camera to use a full-frame backside-illuminated (BSI) CMOS sensor. This flagship sensor rests in a 5-axis stabilizing mechanism optimized for the high-resolution 42.2MP sensor.
New ground is also broken in terms of AF technology. The new sensor boasts 399 phase detect AF (PDAF) points, offering the most coverage of any full-frame camera. AF performance is exceptional in both stills and video, and unlike high-resolution DSLRs, there is no need to microadjust lenses for accuracy. Our continuous AF tests found the a7R II to challenge capable DSLRs, even in low light when paired with fast primes. Features like continuous Eye AF help ensure shots of people are always focused on the eye, even if subjects are moving.
Image quality from the a7R II is in many respects class-leading. It offers a much improved JPEG engine over its predecessor, which offers excellent detail retention, even in low light, thanks to very well balanced noise reduction and sharpening. BSI architecture allows for incredible low light noise performance despite the high resolution, rivaling even the a7S II at all but the highest ISOs. Raw dynamic range is second to only the Nikon D810, offering incredible exposure latitude and ability to lift shadows to deal with high contrast scenes. Uncompressed raw allows as much detail as possible to be recovered from shadows and high contrast edges, without odd compression artifacts.
Electronic first curtain and fully electronic (silent) shutter modes ensure wonderfully detailed files with no risk of the shutter shock issues that plagued the original a7R. Combined with the lack of a mirror, you'll have to worry less about mirror and shutter-induced shake than you might with a comparable DSLR. Meanwhile, in-body image stabilization ensures flexibility of use handheld.
Internal 4K/30p recording is available in both full sensor and APS-C (Super35) modes, while 1080p maxes out at 60 fps (120 fps is available in 720p, though). You'll get sharper and better low light footage in full-frame 4K from the a7S II, but 4K Super35 on the a7R II is incredibly detailed thanks to oversampling and every pixel being read. On-sensor phase detection enables fast and decisive AF in video with very little hunting. Combined with face detection, it's getting so good that one could even imagine using AF in video for professional use. Meanwhile, the S-Log2 profile helps the camera cram as much dynamic range in to the footage as possible, allowing videographers to shoot in challenging, high contrast light.
The a7R II pushes the boundaries of not just mirrorless cameras, but also cameras in general. It has many new features that photographers of the future will wonder how they ever lived without. And they're not just there to round out a spec list; IBIS, E-shutter, AF without the inaccuracies of DSLR phase-detect systems, and Eye AF all get the camera out of the way and allow you to focus on image making. If you're a landscape, event, photojournalist, or portrait photographer, you're likely to experience a higher keeper rate with the a7R II than most DSLRs. So while we have our reservations regarding the ergonomics and menu system, it's hard to argue that the a7R II isn't disruptive for its sheer photography-accelerating technical prowess.
May 26, 2017
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