A Hands-On Review of the Sharp-Shooting Sony a7R II
by Theano Nikitas
January 21, 2016 —
The high-resolution model in Sony’s full-frame a7 series mirrorless camera line, the a7R II is even better than its already-impressive predecessor. It’s been updated with, among other improvements, 5-axis image stabilization, a new 500,000 cycle shutter and a silent shooting mode designed to cut down on vibration, as well as uncompressed 14-bit RAW option (available via a firmware update).
The a7R II, built around a newly developed 42-megapixel backside illuminated sensor (the world’s first full-frame BSI) provides excellent low light/high ISO performance from 100 to 25,600. The ISO is expandable to 50 and up to 102,400. You’ll also find more responsive autofocus, slightly faster continuous shooting (5fps up from 4fps on the original) and, importantly, internal 4K video capture.
At $3,200, the a7R II is a little pricier than the original model but offers so much more that we think it’s worth it. And with Sony and third-party manufacturers introducing new E-mount lenses and adapters at a rapid clip, it’s easy to create an entire system based around this feature-rich, technologically advanced camera.
The new a7R II has 5-axis image stabilization, a new 500,000 cycle shutter that’s also designed to reduce vibration, and a silent shooting mode.
Video footage was equally as impressive, especially in full-frame 4K (a Super 35mm crop mode is also available). Images were sharp, clear, with accurate exposure and color rendering. There were few anomalies and while HD and UHD footage was stable, 4K shot in crop mode exhibited more rolling shutter than footage shot in any other resolution. It wasn’t a deal breaker but something to keep in mind.
What We Liked
To squeeze out extra sharpness from the sensor and keep shake-induced blur to a minimum, the a7R II offers five-axis image stabilization, a dampened shutter and a silent shooting mode. I generally try to shoot at a minimum of 1/125 sec. to avoid camera shake but was easily able to handhold the camera at much slower shutter speeds without any ill effects. Video capabilities and features are more advanced and we have a soft spot for the camera’s slow motion 120fps movie mode. Overall, the a7R II is an impressive update.
What We Didn’t Like
Although some controls can be customized, I missed a dedicated button for manual focus point selection. I was, however, able to customize one of the controls for that function.
How It Compares
In the mirrorless category, though, Sony is really competing against itself. The a7R II is the high-resolution option from Sony, going up against the less expensive 24-megapixel a7 II and the 12-megapixel a7S II with its extreme low light/high ISO capabilities. Of the three, we think the a7R II is perfect for wedding and portrait photographers who, like many of their peers, want to switch to a mirrorless system for at least some of their assignments. It’s a terrific all-around camera, delivers excellent image quality and, while not as see-in-the-dark capable as the a7S II, offers great low-light performance.
Theano Nikitas, a full-time freelance writer and photographer, has been writing about photography for more than 18 years. She’s written several books, pens Rangefinder’s weekly Tech Tuesday blog posts and, although she loves digital, she still has a darkroom and a fridge filled with film, thanks to her long-time passion for alternative processes and toy cameras.
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