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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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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