Sony Alpha 7R II Review
Controls and Handling
In terms of controls, the a7R II has evolved slightly, compared to the previous version and gains the revised grip and dials that appeared with the a7 II. This is a mixed blessing: everyone in the office prefers the new grip, but it's still not enough to get a full grip around with all your fingers (your pinky and ring finger may run off the bottom). A vertical grip goes a long way to solving this without adding much weight (and gives you double battery life to boot). Yes, things get heavier with bulky lenses, but it's specifically with heavier lenses that we appreciate any and all weight savings when it comes to the body. Furthermore, new Zeiss FE lenses come in at quite modest weights. A Sony a7R II with vertical grip, two batteries, and Zeiss Batis will give you a very hand-holdable, robust, yet lightweight feel.
The repositioned and slightly cowled dials are a different story, and split opinion considerably, with some shooters finding them harder to access. The rear thumb dial, in particular, is too recessed, making it hard to turn in that your thumb will often brush past it rather than turning it. And when you do turn it, the 'clicks' and detents are so subtle that you often won't know exactly how many clicks you've turned the dial, which means it's not easy to dial in a specific exposure change without verifying the change in the display. It's much the opposite with many other cameras: if you want to increase shutter speed a stop, you simply turn a dial exactly 3 clicks, receiving proper haptic feedback to know you've turned the dial 3 steps. We struggle to quickly change exposure with this level of precision using the dials on the a7-series cameras.
In fact, almost all the dials and buttons on the a7R II are more or less mushy, particularly the AF/MF toggle, as well as the back dial and its 4-way buttons. You think you've pressed it, when either you haven't or the camera simply didn't register your press. Or perhaps you think you pressed the DISP (up) button on the 4-way dial, but you actually turned the (ISO) dial upwards as you went to press 'up', and changed your ISO from Auto to 50 and your screen goes dark. This can make for a frustrating experience, especially for landscape photographers wearing even light gloves. Dials, and to an extent buttons, simply need to be done a la Nikon D810-style, or perhaps O-MD E-M5/10 II style.
|The Sony a7R II has plenty of customizable buttons, including C1, C2 and C3 on top of the camera. And on the back of the camera: C4, Left, Right, Down, AEL, AF/MF, and the center click wheel button.|
The a7R II offers 10 customizable buttons, assignable to a large set of useful functions. For a body this small, the number of customizable buttons (and dials) is formidable; however, if you're a seasoned shooter or pro, you may find yourself still needing quick access to more options, and you'll be left assigning them to the Fn menu (see below) which is slower to operate. Hence, we wouldn't mind seeing even more customizable buttons on the a7-series cameras, and there's space for a full-fledged dial on the top left shelf of the body. Furthermore, given that the functions we like to access for stills shooting are very different to those we tend to use during video shooting, it behooves the camera to offer discrete button customization for stills vs. video. Perhaps a switch between two custom setups, a la Olympus.
And though Sony has recently become quite good at making most options assignable, some things like movie and crop options, amongst others, remain unassignable to the Fn menu. Below we list out all of the possible assignable options for the buttons, as well as the control wheel on the back of the camera.
|Back control wheel||
C1, C2, C3, C4
Left, Right, Down*
Focus Hold button
• Standard (center button only)
|• [Spot] AEL hold*
• [Spot] AEL toggle
• FEL Lock hold*
• FEL Lock toggle
• FEL Lock/AEL hold*
• FEL Lock/AEL tggle.
• AF/MF Control Hold*
• AF/MF Ctrl Toggle
• Center Lock-on AF
• Eye AF*
• AF On*
• Focus Hold*
• Aperture Preview*
• Shot. Result Preview*
• Bright Monitoring
• Focus Magnifier
• Deactivate Monitor
• Grid Line
• [Movie] Marker Disp. Sel.
• Audio Level Display
• Peaking Level
• Peaking Color
• [Stills] Silent Shooting
• Finder/Monitor Sel.
• Send to Smartphone
• Download Appli.
• Application List
• Monitor Brightness
• TC/UB Disp. Switch
• Not Set
*'Hold' functions, and all other functions that require the button to be held down, cannot be assigned to the left, right or down buttons of the four-way controller.
Menus and Fn menu
Sony's full menu system, accessed by pressing the 'Menu' button on the back of the camera, is frankly a disorganized mess. For example, 22 AF options are split across 11 different submenu pages under 2 different main menu headers. The lack of organization is inexplicable, but what makes it even worse is the lack of a customizable 'My Menu', which would at least have allowed user to collate all frequently used menu options under customizable tabs. It's silly that I have to go to the second line of the fifth page of the sixth tab simply to format my memory card, something you might (and should) often do.
Thankfully, pressing the Fn button brings up the 'Function' or 'Fn' menu on the main display which is customizable, offering a nice, quick way to access most settings. The 4-way controller allows you to select a menu option, and turning the back (or front) dial scrolls through options within a setting. Only problem is: not all Menu items are assignable to this menu (e.g. movie or crop mode, monitor brightness, etc.), meaning that if these items aren't assignable to buttons, or if you simply don't wish to assign them to a button, you're still forced to access the disorienting full menu system. That would be fine if we could collate said items under a 'My Menu', but we can't. Below we list out the options assignable to the Fn menu.
|Assignable to the Fn menu:|
|• Drive Mode
• Selftime during Brkt
• Flash Mode
• Flash Comp.
• Focus Mode
• Focus Area
• Exposure Comp.
• ISO AUTO Min. SS
• Metering Mode
• White Balance
• DRO/Auto HDR
|• Creative Style
• Shoot Mode
• Picture Effect
• Picture Profile
• Center Lock-on AF
• Smile/Face Detect.
• [Stills] Soft Skin Effect
• [Stills] Auto Obj. Framing
• [Stills] Image Size
• [Stills] Aspect Ratio
• [Stills] Quality
|• SteadyShot Adjust.
• SteadyS. Focal Len.
• Audio Rec Level
• Grid Line
• [Movie] Marker Display
• Audio Level Display
• Peaking Level
• Peaking Color
• [Stills] Silent Shooting
• Not Set
Auto ISO functionality in the a7R II has been much improved over the original a7 cameras, and currently, along with Nikon and a select couple of Canon DSLRs, represents a 'best practice' Auto ISO implementation. Auto ISO is highly programmable, and in Manual mode, exposure compensation can be used to bias the algorithm. This means that in M mode, ISO can be solely thought of as a bias-able image brightening parameter.
When setting Auto ISO, users can pick a minimum (down to 100) and maximum ISO (up to 104,200) for the camera to work with (in 1 EV steps). You can also set a custom minimum shutter speed threshold: the lowest shutter speed the camera will tolerate before increasing ISO. We prefer to assign this function ('ISO AUTO Min. SS') to a dedicated button or Fn menu item for quick access. You can choose a shutter speed ranging from 30" to 1/8000 sec, in 1 stop increments. You can also have the camera automatically choose a minimum shutter speed based on the 1/focal length rule ('Standard'), with 'Slower', 'Slow', 'Fast', and 'Faster' biasing this speed by 1 stop in the appropriate directions.
Note that in 'Standard', the shutter speed never drops below 1/60s, even with wide lenses where 1/focal length rule would dictate slower speeds. Presumably, this is to ensure most subjects remain sharp. Because of this, the slowest speed the 'Slower' option will allow is 1/15s.
|New Forest pony by Dutch Newchurch|
from Equines in 2018
|Leader of the pack by Wu Jiaqiu|
from My Best Photo of the Week
|Czech Crown by Tobik|
from Coins - Macro only
SmugMug has acquired struggling photography site Flickr for an undisclosed sum, with CEO Don MacAskill promising to give the neglected photo sharing service 'the resources that it deserves'.
The APO-Makro-Plasmat 105mm F2.7 is Meyer Optik's latest Kickstarter lens revival, and it promises "natural sharpness, unbelievable color reproduction, and a glowing bokeh united at every step of the aperture" ... whatever that means.
The update also comes with "post-scan cloud processing," which allows you to render 3D models with 4K resolution textures for better detail and realism.
Chinese accessories brand Meike has announced it will introduce an 85mm F1.8 lens for Canon and Nikon full frame DSLRs that will feature autofocus. This will be the company’s first AF lens.
The World Photo Organization has finally revealed the overall winners for the 2018 Sony World Photography Awards, including the coveted Photographer of the Year, Open Photographer of the Year, Youth Photographer of the Year, and Student Photographer of the Year winners.
Venus Optics has unveiled four new lenses that will ship later this year: a wide-angle zoom for Sony FE, a circular fisheye for Micro Four Thirds, a wide-angle lens for the medium format Fujifilm GFX, and a 2x Ultra Macro for multiple full-frame mounts.
The One Backpack is a 5-in-1 modular backpack that can be used as a camera bag, work & gym pack, suit carry backpack, travel pack or tech-backpack.
This highly-specialized lens is perfect for sports, action and wildlife photography. Check out these first sample images for a taste of what it's capable of.
For KFC Hong Kong’s latest ad campaign, New York City-based advertising agency Ogilvy and Mather used Photoshop to magically morph pieces of flaky fried chicken into fire and smoke in various scenes.
The Android and iOS app from Surpuba AR lets you place animated 3D models in real-world environment using augmented reality technology. You can alter poses and location, insert lighting equipment, and more... right from your phone or tablet.
Under the agreement, the two companies will work together to develop Oppo's smartphone camera roadmap, covering optical zoom, depth mapping and other innovative imaging features that dual cameras allow.
Canon is jumping into the portable printing game with the new IVY Mini Photo Printer: a rechargeable battery-powered printer for creating 2x3 prints and stickers of your smartphone snaps on-the-go.
The program first launched last year, but only as a temporary promotion limited to previous-generation GoPro cameras exchanged for discounts on current-generation models. This time around, GoPro is accepting nearly any digital camera in any condition.
One of the most usable 360° cameras on the market is getting even better. With its latest update, Rylo adds a 180° mode, bluetooth remote capture, and a cinematic motion blur effect for your timelapse shots.
Phase One has released the first major update to its Capture One Pro 11 photo editing program. The update adds support for 8 new cameras and 16 new lenses, and includes several new features and functional improvements that speed up workflow.
We recently got our hands on Samsung's latest and greatest smartphone, the dual camera, variable aperture Galaxy S9+, and took it to mostly sunny Southern California for a long weekend.
It's spring, and that means wedding season is upon us! If you're one of the many photographers planning wedding shoots this year, this is a great time to think about including aerial photography in your plans.
The first firmware update for the Sony a7 III addresses an issue in video mode wherein "blinking pixels" would show up along the base of footage recorded with certain settings.
Researchers with Switzerland's EPFL have developed a soft exoskeleton that enables its wearer to control a drone using their upper body. The human-robot interface is said to offer "natural and intuitive control of drones."
Photokina has released an official list of confirmed exhibitors for the 2018 expo, quieting rumors that major brands like Canon and Profoto might follow in Elinchrom's lead and skip this year's show.
For owners of Sony's a7R III, a9 and the new a7 III, there's now an easy fix for the rare but dreaded 'striping' in backlit shots with lots of flare. Click through to learn more.
The team behind the ubiquitous JPEG format has unveiled an all new image format designed to quickly and efficiently stream content across wired and wireless networks alike. Surprisingly, it actually uses less compression than traditional JPEG.
Canon USA has released a promotional video showcasing its latest CMOS sensor technology. Albeit over daraticized, it’s an interesting overlook at the work it’s continually putting into its camera systems.
The large-format digital LargeSense LS911 is the "world's first 8x10 digital single shot camera for sale." The camera features a 12-megapixel 9x11-inch monochrome CMOS sensor, which translates into massive 75 micron pixels.
Pricing and availability have been announced for Tokina's high-end Fírin 20mm F2 FE AF autofocus lens for Sony E-Mount. If you're curious about this lens, you'll be able to pick up your own starting in June for $950 USD.
It's the copyright lawsuit that refuses to die. In September 2017, PETA finally settled its monkey selfie lawsuit with photographer David Slater, but the request to dismiss the case has since been rejected by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
As part of his ongoing ‘Good Light’ YouTube series, London-based photographer Sean Tucker has created a simple tutorial on how to find good natural light for portraits.
The 2018 Pulitzer Prizes were announced yesterday, with the photography awards going to photojournalist Ryan Kelly for image of a car plowing into protesters in Virginia, and the entire Reuters photo staff for a series on Rohinga refugees fleeing persecution.
When it was announced in 2016, the Rokinon AF 14mm F2.8 FE was among the first full-frame autofocus lenses for Sony's a7-series mirrorless cameras. We wanted to see how this affordable wideangle prime performs on Sony's latest a7R III.
ARQ files shot using the Pixel Shift mode in the Sony a7R lll—and processed using Sony's own Imaging Edge software—can now be opened and edited in Lightroom Classic CC after the latest update.