Sony a7RII Review

We are hobbyists and take photos for our own pleasure. When we first saw the specifications on the a7RII, we were extremely excited. Yes, it’s expensive, but it has just about every feature we wanted.

Features

  • 42 megapixels world’s first backside-illuminated full-frame sensor, with class-leading dynamic range, color depth and high ISO performance.
  • 4k internal video recording with color profile at 30fps, with Super 35mm mode and clean HDMI output.
  • SteadyShot 5-axis in-body stabilization.
  • High ISO performance, ISO 25600 expandable to ISO 102400.
  • Silent shutter mode and electronic front curtain shutter, rated up to 500,000 shutter actuations.
  • 399 phase detect points and 25 contrast-detect points, rated to -2 EV sensitivity for low light autofocus performance.
  • Continuous eye autofocus, which automatically detects and tracks an eye of a moving person.
  • Bright electronic viewfinder, with 2,359,296 pixels, 0.78x magnification (largest for full-frame), and 100% coverage.
  • Articulating LCD screen with 1,228,800 pixels that tilts both up and down.
  • Minimum shutter speed for auto ISO, with options to change how the camera responds to changes in lighting.
  • 1/8000th second shutter in both stills and movies mode, 1/250th second flash sync speed.
  • Small and compact body size, despite weighing a little more than its predecessors.

That is not to say it has no drawbacks. These are things about the a7RII that we wish it had, but which it does not have:

  • No dual card slots.
  • No touch screen, something that would be great for pulling focus during video.
  • No USB 3; the file sizes are huge, and it sure would have been nice to have faster transfer rate.
  • Less than stellar battery life: rated for 290 shots when using the viewfinder, and 340 shots when using the LCD.
  • Although the build quality has been upgraded to all plates made of magnesium alloy, I still would not completely trust the weather sealing claims.
  • Still incomplete native E-mount lens selection, like no 18mm wide angle or 135mm long portrait prime lenses.

Because we also had the Sony a7II, we felt right at home with the a7RII. We quickly set up the menu system to our liking and started taking photos.

Shooting Experience

My husband was immediately wowed by the large, bright and beautiful viewfinder. We both prefer electronic viewfinders and the “what you see is what you get” effect of them, and this camera has the best one we’ve seen. Unlike traditional DSLRs, an EVF allows one to review photos and look at menu options without needing to squint in bright daylight. Speaking of reviewing photos, one nice touch is that when zooming in during playback, the screen automatically zooms in on the focus point, so we can pixel peep whether or not the eyes are sharp.

We love that we can use the Sony 16-35mm f4 lens to take sharp photos without a tripod, thanks to the awesome 5-axis in-body stabilization that Sony calls SteadyShot.

The camera is a little heavier in the hand than the a7II, but not by much. We also use the Peak Design sling and strap, which distributes the weight comfortably and is useful for changing between carry positions quickly.

We often taken 500+ photos over the course of a several hours, with some reviewing in between. We generally never need to switch out the battery unless we shoot all day.

Autofocus

The autofocus is extremely responsive, noticeably faster than the a7II, and my husband remarked that it was practically on par with the APSC Sony a77II camera we previously owned, which boasts sports-oriented lock-on tracking and fast autofocus.

The a7RII has 399 on-sensor phase detect autofocus points with 25 contrast-detect autofocus points, and focuses down to -2 EV, which definitely makes a huge real world usage difference. Even indoors under low light conditions, the autofocus was fast, confident and accurate. My main complaint about the a7II, low-light focusing speed and accuracy, was addressed by the a7RII.

The a7RII also has continuous eye AF, an amazing autofocus feature for taking portraits of our high-energy kids. It works extremely quickly with the native E-mount lenses we have, finding the eye almost instantaneously and keeping focus as the person moves around the frame.

I told my husband that I wanted an “idiot proof” autofocus so I can get good photos of our kids, and the a7RII is it. I have never had a photo session with our kids, gotten home, opened the photos up in Lightroom, and had the eyes nailed in virtually every photo. This was truly a game-changing feature for us. We have used DSLRs, DSLTs and other mirrorless cameras in the past. Nothing else we have used came close to this level of accuracy for photos of our kids, who move constantly!

The camera also detects kids faces even when they are turned to their side. We do have to be a little closer for this to work reliably. The hit rate was above 50% even when the eyes are looking away or down.

Eye AF also works when the eye is not horizontal, looking away or looking down. If there are two people in the frame, as long as the eye AF button is pressed down and locked onto the desired eye, it will continue to track that eye.

We often switch between eye AF and normal tracking AF-C, which results in a good hit rate. In good light it is around 90% for us. In low light it’s above 50%.

A DPReview test shows that the a7RII can even outperform other cameras in certain low light conditions, achieving focus when some other full-frame cameras cannot.

Image Quality

We are highly impressed by the image quality, color, dynamic range and well-controlled noise from the huge 42 megapixel RAW files.

Since the a7RII does not have an optical low-pass filter, or anti-aliasing filter as it’s sometimes called, sharp lenses really came to life in high resolution.

Low light noise performance is excellent. Even ISO 12800 is quite usable. The a7RII seems to have about a stop better high ISO performance than the a7II, which has about two stops better than the APSC cameras we have used.

The above photo was taken in silent shutter mode, which is so quiet that there is literally no sound. The only way I know that I even took a picture was a slight stutter in the LCD view! One thing to note, however, is that this lowers the camera to shooting in 12-bit instead of the higher quality 14-bit RAW. Since JPEGs are 8-bit, JPEG quality is unaffected.

Having 42 megapixels also means having more creative freedom to do multiple compositions and different types of processing from one image.

Closing Thoughts

A note about the advantage of mirrorless here: with our previous cameras that had mirrors, we had to spend a long time doing the tedious task of micro focus adjustment, which tells the camera how to align the autofocus module with the lens. It is a frustrating and imprecise procedure, especially with zoom lenses. On many cheaper DSLR models, this feature is not available. The advantage of on-sensor autofocus is that you don’t have to do this at all, and even on cheaper mirrorless bodies, AF module alignment is not an issue.

To summarize, we both love the camera. It is fast, responsive, compact, feels great to shoot with and has class-leading image quality.

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21 responses to “Sony a7RII Review”

  1. Greg Page says:

    Thanks for sharing your experiences. It would have easier for you just to enjoy the camera but it’s great for the rest of us just to see the images. …and drool…

  2. salsaguy says:

    Great review and images. Very jealous. Now I will have to really save up and get the A7R2 instead of the A72….going to be a long wait. Wish it had touchscreen as well. Still dont understand why new cameras dont have USB3 support when its been out for ages now.
    Enjoy the camera. Are you going to have to do a weekly swap so you can both enjoy it? or buy a 2nd one? Will you keep the A72 or sell it to get another A7R2?

  3. Thank you for your post. I look forward to recibe mine! Great images. Congratulations from Marbella, Spain

  4. Bob says:

    Outstanding review and very nicely written!! I have an A7RII on the way and your review confirms that I made the right decision. The information you provided is objective and well rounded; far more informative than many of the “expert” reviews.

    Thanks for taking the time to publish this.

  5. Mark says:

    Nice and helpful review, the sunsets look fabulous!
    Congrats on the new camera and my sincere hopes for full enjoyment!
    Mark

  6. Tim says:

    Have you had any issues with overheating whilst recording 4k video?

  7. […] Sample Images (Photographyblog). OSX + A7R ii woes (SonyAlphaForum). User hands-on impressions at Lightfinity. Sony A7 II Rolling Review Part III (Planet Alpha). A7rii QC issues and overheating […]

  8. Hi Tim. We have not extensively tested the video. We’ve taken a few 4k video clips, but none of those came anywhere close to heating up the camera.

  9. Joe says:

    Great looking images. BTW if you want fast transfer of your files use the UHS-II Lexar 2000x 300Mbps SDXC card that comes with a USB 3.0 UHS-II card reader. I use it with my NX1 and GH4 4K video files for fast transfers. I also have the A7r and VG900 but use UHS-I Class 10 cards with them.

  10. Plextor says:

    Hello, thanks for the great review with great pictures!!
    I’m interresting in the “Peak Design sling and strap”… I’m hesitating to buy something similar like the “Blackrapid Sports” or “Sun sniper “but I think I would not like to hang the A7RII upside down (hooked on the tripod slot).
    It seems that this Peak design is attached to the normal strap eyes? It also seems to hang horizontally which seems much nicer?

  11. Yes, the Peak Design strap is attached to the normal strap eyes, and you can have it either hang horizontally or vertically. It has quick release and quick adjust mechanisms. My husband loves it.

  12. Geo says:

    Great pics! Did you use a flash at all for the outdoor portrait of you and your son?

  13. Thank you Geo. No, we did not use flash or a reflector. It was a quick test using natural light only.

  14. Plextor says:

    Thanks for the clarifications…
    Thanks for your hard work and help on the forums….

  15. Ray says:

    Thank you for your review. Great photos.

  16. Reed says:

    Nice review and wonderful photos. Thanks for sharing. Making me seriously trade my Canon gear for a Sony package.

  17. brad says:

    Nice writeup!! What are the two attachments on the left side strap adaptor? What strap are you using, and what is the little red thing?

  18. Gilbert says:

    Hello Rose & Charles and thank you for the detailed articles on the A7 cameras! I stumbled upon a link to your site on a DPreview forum, glad I found it! Lovely pictures here and great reviews.

    I am really tempted to make a switch from Canon … my f 1.2-2.0 lens miss focus at least 60-70 % of the time it’s pathetic… do you find overall you get much more ‘keepers’ now that you have gone mirrorless? Thanks again… I think I’m going to wait until fall to see what Canon comes up with but I’m really itching for a switch to Sony!

  19. Hi Gilbert, thank you! Under decent indoor lighting we get a lot of keepers. Rate on the kids is at least 70-80% sharp on average, and over 90% on adults who are not moving as rapidly and erratically. We generally pick out the poses and expressions, and then check to see if the eyes sharp. Generally they are, although fast motion and motion blur can cause issues.

    The other issue comes when there are multiple faces in the scene, or the person is turned slightly sideways, and I should have stopped down farther. In those cases one of the eyes will be sharp, and it’s mainly an issue of technique. The a7RII is definitely not a sports camera, but it can capture a toddler riding a bike at a leisurely pace with the eyes sharp.

  20. Gilbert says:

    thanks for the kind reply I think I’m gonna go try them out in store later this week!

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