Sony A7R II Camera Review

The full-frame DSLR killer

Compact systems cameras are thought of by some as a halfway house between a compact camera and a DSLR. You get a smaller frame, but whether in shooting performance or image quality, there’s going to be something lacking compared to a big, chunky DSLR. Not so with the Sony Alpha A7R II.

With a spec roster that reads like the Christmas wish list of a camera nerd, this is every bit as exciting as the first Sony A7 and Sony A7R duo from 2013. They were the first full-frame CSCs, but this one improves virtually every part.

You’ll pay an eye-watering £2,599 body-only for the Sony Alpha A7R II, but at every turn it seems to have the chops to square up to full-frame DSLRs like the Nikon D810 and Canon EOS 5D MKIII. We took a closer look at the camera ahead of our usual review.

SEE ALSO: Alpha A7R 11

Sony Alpha A7R II: What’s new?

There’s so much new in the Sony Alpha A7R II that we can’t list the lot with our pummelling you with specs. The sensor is one of the most interesting parts, though.

It’s full-frame and ups the resolution from 36.3 megapixels in the A7R to 42.4 megapixels. That’s more than the 36.3-megapixel Nikon D810, more than the 22.3-megapixel Canon EOS 5D MKIII. You have to head to the Alpha A7R

Sony Alpha A7R II: Design and Handling

Of course, versatility is nothing new to the A7 series. When first looking at the Sony Alpha A7R II what I noticed first was the new design.

The aesthetics are somewhat similar – a modern design with nods to the same classic film DLRs Olympus references in its OM-D series. However, the feel has changed.

The Sony Alpha A7R II grip is much deeper than that of the original A7R, making it feel much more substantial, and getting you a surer grip. As you’d hope at the price , this is a magnesium alloy construction that feels strong too. It’s weather sealed as well, making it the perfect outdoors-y camera once paired with the right weather-sealed lens.

Alpha A7R 7

Some controls have moved too. The shutter button and front control dial have been shunted forwards onto the top of the grip, making them sit more naturally under your finger. A7R owner? Naturally you’ll want to gets your own hands on the A7R II to see the improvement, but I think it’s substantial.

Sony Alpha A7R II: Performance and AF

The AF changes are much less subjective. The Sony Alpha A7R II has a 399-point on-sensor phase detection system, a huge improvement over the relatively weak AF systems of the A7 and A7R.

As it’s on the sensor, the phase detection AF can be used with any lens, including non-native lenses that require an adapter. I even got to compare performance with an A7R, using a Canon 50mm lens attached. The Sony Alpha A7R II was an order of magnitude faster than its predecessor.

If you’re thinking about switching from a DSLR to the Alpha series, this is a pretty compelling argument for the move.

Alpha A7R 3

So is the EVF. It’s perhaps the best we’ve seen to date, with XGA resolution (or 2,359,000 dots), 100 per cent coverage and 0.78x magnification. That’s the highest magnification of an EVF we’ve seen. It’s big, clear and bright. The A7R has a great EVF too, but this one should appear slightly larger.

One sacrifice of an incredibly high-res full-frame camera is shooting speed. The Sony Alpha A7R II’s 5fps shooting speed means it’s not for pro sports photographers. However, that’s the same speed as the Nikon D810, and one frame per second faster than the first A7R. It’s not bad.

Alpha A7R 5

Sony Alpha A7R II: Video

One area where the Sony Alpha A7R II soundly beats the DSLR competition is video. It can shoot at 4K resolution, without needing an external recorder like the A7 S.

The Sony Alpha A7R II records using the XAVC S codec, at up to 100Mbps at 4K resolution, or 50Mbps at HD. There’s also a special Super 35mm crop mode that emulates the field of view of cameras like the Red Epic while using oversampling at a rate of x1.8 to help reduce noise.

With extra features like Time Coding and shooting modes that design for post-production grading, the Sony Alpha A7R II should be able to easily edge out the Panasonic GH4 as the CSC of choice for video shooters. For those that can afford it, at any rate.

Alpha A7R 9

First Impressions

The Sony Alpha A7R II is a dream camera for many. It takes everything that made the A7 and A7R so important, then adds and improves so much it comfortably outpaces the rate of improvements we see from Nikon and Canon in their DSLR ranges. Sony is not treading water.

This is a system camera that should interest professionals as well as just keen hobbyists, while its impressive video skills mean it’s anything but a stills-only specialist.

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