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Date: 06/11/2015 | By: Mathieu

Sony A7r II vs A7s II: which one is better for video?

E-M1, 1/5, f/ 56/10, ISO 200

Sony A7r II vs A7s II: which one is better for video?

When Sony released the Sony A7r mark II, they made sure to give the camera not only impressive still capabilities but also advanced video recording. It is hard to beat this product when it comes to specifications: it has a new 42MP chip (the world’s first BSI 35mm sensor) and full pixel readout in 4K when using the APS-C/Super35 mode. Indeed, it comes across as the perfect hybrid camera if you want the ultimate image quality for still images and 4K video.

However, within the A7 line-up, there is also the video-oriented Sony A7s II, the successor to the A7s. It has a 12MP sensor that is designed more for video use and has better low-light capabilities than any other A7 series camera.

Since both the A7r II and A7s II have great video capabilities, it is natural to wonder:

How does the A7r II compare to the A7s II for video? Is there really a noticeable difference? Let’s check it out!

Below you can find a comparison video available in 4K where I summarise all the major differences between the two cameras for movie recording. Some of these differences are also described in detail further down.


Concerning the design and handling, both cameras look like twins but more importantly, they both have the classic digital camera design. Advanced filmmakers should definitely consider rigs and other accessories to make the shooting experience more comfortable.

Both cameras have a microphone input (3.5mm jack) and a headphone output. The HDMI port delivers a 4:2:2 8bit signal for monitoring or to use on an external recorder with less compression than the internal codec. The internal recording time is limited to 30 minutes.

A cable protector is included in the box and can be easily attached to the connector ports on the side of the camera. It is helpful to protect the HDMI and Mic ports and prevent them from accidentally disconnecting or breaking. The original A7s had a similar tool but is designed differently. The new one works better.

sony a7r ii vs a7s ii
The cable protector

The A7s II can shoot 4K internally with the X-AVC S codec up to 30fps. It can record up to 120fps in Full HD although the latter crops the sensor a little. The camera includes the S-log2 and the new S-log3 gamma profiles. It has been designed to give the best performance in full-frame mode. Thanks to the lower megapixel count (12MP), it can do a full pixel readout without pixel binning on the entire sensor surface and therefore avoids aliasing and moiré.

The A7r II can shoot 4K internally up to 30fps as well. The Full HD recording goes up to only 60fps while 120fps is possible in 720p. It features the S-log2 gamma profile. One important note is that the A7r II gives the best performance in Super35/APS-C crop. The camera uses a lower megapixel count (around 18MP) and is able to perform full pixel readout without pixel binning.

In good light and at low ISOs, you won’t notice a big difference between the two cameras and the A7r II performs well in full-frame mode as well. At high ISOs, however, the A7r II has less noise in S35 mode. As for rolling shutter, the performance of the A7r II is worse in S35 mode.

Below you can see the difference in ISO performance of the A7r II between the full frame and Super 35 modes.


Both cameras can record at a maximum bitrate of 100mbps for both 4K and Full HD formats. While for the latter it is an excellent compression, for 4K it is not a lot. However the XAVC S codec is excellent and I haven’t noticed any strange artefacts in the footage.

At low ISOs, you will notice a slightly different colour rendition, with the A7s II having a more yellow tint than the A7r II.


Both cameras include the movie picture profiles that Sony first implemented on the A7s. They come from Sony’s Cinealta series of professional digital cinema cameras, and allow you to change various settings including black levels, black gamma, gamma, knee, color mode, saturation, color phase, color depth and detail. These settings are more advanced that the ones found in the Creative Styles settings (color profiles for stills).

The A7s II features two S-log profiles that allow you to record the widest dynamic range possible and color grade in post production. When selected, the minimum ISO becomes 1600. The camera includes the new S-log3 profile that gives more dynamic range and an even flat rendering. However it also produces more noise in the shadows and that can become annoying in low-light. The results really depend on how you plan to apply the LUT profile in post and how you intend to grade the footage.

The A7r II only features S-log2 and the lowest ISO available is 800.


Note: with the original firmware, the A7s II had an issue concerning S-log2 and S-log3: if you included the sun or any other very bright light source in the composition, a black spot would appear in both 4K and Full HD footage. Sony released a firmware update (1.10) that fixed the black spot issue.

Despite the excellent quality you can get with the S-log profiles, I still prefer to use a custom picture profile made with other settings. The internal recording is compressed with a 4:2:0 colour sampling and I prefer to have an image that already looks good and needs only a few adjustments. You can already record a vast dynamic range by using the Cine1 or Cine4 gamma. I would use the S-log option only if I were recording on an external recorder via the HDMI 4:2:2 output.

Below you can watch a video recorded with the A7s II by using the picture profiles. They give you a good result straight out of camera.


At high ISOs, the A7s mark II has a clear advantage past ISO 3200. The high megapixel count of the A7r II starts to become visible especially in full-frame mode. In Super35 mode however the A7r II performs well up to 6400. After that the A7s II clearly becomes superior. Its footage in 4K looks really clear up to 25600 and I had to push it to 80000 to start seeing a lot of noise.

Both cameras can also shoot in Full HD and HD ready (720p). The A7s II has the advantage of slow motion capabilities in 1080p while the A7r II can only do it at 720p. The highest frame rate is 120fps (NTSC mode). The quality however is not as stunning as the 4K footage. This really shows that the two cameras have been designed primarily for 4K video. Especially at high ISOs you will find more visible colour noise in comparison to the 4K footage.

Concerning slow motion, the A7s II has an extra mode called HFR and it can save the video file already conformed to 25 or 30fps so that you don’t need to slow it down in post-production. However in HFR mode the files are saved at a lower bitrate (16mbps) so I advise that you use the normal movie mode to record the movie clips at 100mbps and slow them down in post production.

Concerning the autofocus capabilities, I found that the A7r mark II was clearly superior even in low light.

I was expecting something more from the A7s II given its great low-light sensitivity (-4Ev) and the way in which Sony promoted this great sensitivity for video recording as well.

The two AF systems are different and this explains the discrepancy between the two. The A7r II has a hybrid autofocus system with 25 contrast and 399 phase detection points while the A7s has a contrast detection AF system with 169 points.

Professional filmmakers would probably use manual focus when shooting with these cameras but I was curious to see the how the performance was in Continuous AF. The A7r II tracks faster and is more accurate. The A7s II is slower and may end up focusing on the background instead of the subject even when using the small or medium flexible spot. You can see some examples in the embedded video at the beginning.

Sony implemented 5-axis sensor stabilisation on all the mark II models. For video the performance is not as good as for stills. The best results are achieved with fixed shots where shake compensation is good. However when walking or doing more complex movements hand-held, the results are not exceptional. Both cameras perform the same way regarding stabilisation for video but the A7r II seems slightly better at times. Here again you can see some examples in the embedded video at the beginning.

In the end, the truth is that both cameras can deliver excellent 4K video.

It is true that the A7s II has been designed specifically for video and its low-light performance are the best you can find in the market. However the A7r II can be almost as good in most situations and has a faster AF. Personally, I would advise the following:

Choose the Sony A7s II for video if:

  • You shoot primarily in low or difficult light conditions
  • You want to take advantage of the best quality in full frame mode to use your 35mm format lenses without losing their original field of view

Choose the Sony A7r II for video if:

  • You don’t need extremely good low-light capabilities (the A7r II does really well up to 12800 ISO in S35 mode)
  • A fast autofocus can be of use in certain situations
  • You want a hybrid product to shoot great stills as well as video

Additional read and useful links:

If you had to choose between the A7rII and A7sII for video, which would you choose? Let us know in the comments section!


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About the author: Mathieu Gasquet

Mathieu Gasquet is a professional photographer with French and Italian origins. Besides running his own video and photography studio 3Dit Lab, he is also the official photographer for the National Cinema Museum in Turin. You can follow him on Google+, Twitter or Facebook!

  • Mathieu

    Ok I understand what you mean now. Thanks for mentioning the error! :)

  • Saad Rabia

    Yep I saw that, but the “The Sony A7r II and A7s II Main Specs” section shows the wrong information. Since it is in the top some people might read it and judge it as right. :)

  • Mathieu

    Yes, it is stated in the article at the beginning of the video chapter :)

  • Saad Rabia

    Thanks for the comparison! Just a quick note: The A7s II has S-log 3 and does 120p in Full HD. :)

  • Mathieu

    The A7r II is definitely a better option concerning the AF performance. I only experienced overheating once with 4k on the A7r II but it never occurred in other video modes.

  • PearlF

    Hi Mathieu,
    I like to take photos of wildlife in their natural habitat and so having a fast autofocus and the ability to shot in low light is important. From your review, can I gather that the A7r2 is a better option than the A7s2 (N.B. the lens I intend to use is the Sony FE 24-240 mm F3.5 – 6.3)?

    The issue with over heating in video mode for the A7r2 – does that only apply when it is taking 4K videos or even in other video mode?

    Appreciate your feedback as I am still undecided between the A7r2 or A7s2. Thanks.

  • Mathieu

    You’re welcome.

  • Mikhaell

    Thanks a lot for your answers, Mathieu!

  • Mathieu

    I would go with the A7 II because of the 5-axis stabilisation and also the ergonomics is better.
    I didn’t compare the A7r and A7r II side by side so I can’t give you a detailed answer. The A7r II has slightly better noise performance also consider that the amount of MP has increased.

  • Mikhaell

    Thanks again! I did not know about the flare. I think at night I would probably be using the A7sII. Obvious differences aside, from an IQ and “feeling” point of view, which would you prefer: A7II or the A7R?

    Also, how would you consider the A7R vs. A7RII colours and noise?

  • Mathieu

    I used the A7r again last year when I reviewed the Batis lenses. Yes the shutter sound is loud and you have to be careful with shutter shock but it is still a great camera in my opinion. The IQ is fantastic.

    I didn’t compare the A7 and A7 II side by side but when I reviewed the latter, I didn’t notice any difference concerning colours. Keep in mind that the original A7 has some annoying flares with certain lights at night (greatly improved on the mark II).

  • Mikhaell


    Thanks for your answer! I’m using Capture One Pro now, moved over from LR as I like the flexibility and IQ better.

    My concern with the A7 and II and R are regarding the colour science inside the camera (sw + hw), not the post work – I only shoot raw anyways.

    The thing is: if the A7 & A7 II are mostly the same in terms of colours, I might go for the original A7 for the really low price now. On paper, the A7s and sII use the same sensor, yet the colour reproduction is very different (I have uses them both together with identical settings). Also, the A7II is more than a year old and Sony might refresh it any day now :))

    If the shutter sound would not be that atrocious, I would consider the first 7R as well. What are your thoughts on this one?

  • Mathieu

    Hi Mikhaell,

    I agree that the A7r II is a big investment if you’re just interested in a few extra megapixel. I would say that the A7 II is the best option but regarding colours I didn’t see a difference in comparison to the first A7 series. That being said, with RAW files colours can be easily corrected and you can also create some custom profile/presets. I know it requires some patience but that is one advantage. Which software do you use to post process your still images?

  • Mikhaell

    Hi Mathieu,

    As always, very good points in your review. I’m following you on YT and read your articles regularly and love your style. This is the first time I have a question you might be able to help me with.

    I’m mostly a video guy, so I’ve jumped onto the A7s train and upgraded to the A7sII. For video, the A7sII is perfect for me.

    Now, I’m looking for a second body to use mainly for stills. I really miss those extra pixels for cropping and printing. My concern is regarding colours. With the first A7 series, especially the A7 and A7R, I felt there’s something wrong with the colour rendering. I have a lot of post and grading experience, so it’s not about how the image is processed in post, but rather how the sensor + algorithms interpret colours. The issues are with the reds and yellows. The A7s was better in this regard. A7sII seems to have fixed most of the colour problems and A7rII seems to be the best, as you also noticed with the slight yellow cast on the sII.

    Which one do you think is closest to the A7rII in terms of colour reproduction? How is the A7II ? Are the A7 and A7R also worthy of consideration? My feelings regarding their colour rendering is based mostly on what I’ve seen online. I’ve only used the rII and none of the other A7 cameras in any real environment.

    As I don’t really care about the video features on the rII, I find it hard to justify the investment in it as a second body for stills as this is not my main business.

    Thank you for your time!

  • Mathieu

    So it seems you are talking about lights on a stage, am I right? Anyway if you already test high frame rates with the Go Pro you should be fine also with the Sony cameras.
    As for your original question, of course the A7s II has better IQ and ISO performance so it really depends on how much light is on stage. With the A7s II you can shoot at 12800 or even 25600 ISO with little noise in the image.
    However if the footage from the Go Pro isn’t too bad, you will get better results with the RX10 II already because of its larger sensor in comparison to the go pro. You can work up to 1600/3200 ISO with more than acceptable quality.

  • Marc

    Pre-installed lights from roof-installed rows of (pretty standards) spots. I think there is approx 4x 10 spots for an approx 50m2 room. We made some captures with a go pro and while the resolution was really so-so and the noise a bit visible, we didn’t see banding (at least).

  • Mathieu

    Thanks Marc.
    Can you specify the kind of lights you would use indoor? Because with high frame rates you can have some banding problem depending on the light’s frequency.

  • Marc

    Hi! Excellent website, please continue :) (nice also to see some French colleagues with worldwide readers 😉 )
    I’ve asked a few months ago but now the Sony RX10 ii and A7s ii are both out and tested, hence my question: I need a good camera for indoor HD (1024p) video captures (no natural light source, so reduced light spectrum, but still bright lights) with high frame rates (120+ fps) – should I invest 1,6k€ for a RX10ii or rather twice more for the A7s? Based on my precise needs, will the cost difference be justified, and will I see a real benefit?
    Or would you rather recommend another camera option? (I have the impression that for slow motion, Sony currently rules, but I may be wrong)
    NB: if ever the choice to go is really the A7s ii (or any competitor), do you have a hint on where to look for the lenses?
    Sorry for asking so many questions, but I’m pretty sure you may already provide some clues very quickly :)
    Thanks a lot, in advance!

  • Mathieu

    With the A7 II you also get the sensor stabilisation that works with old manual focus lenses (you have to set the focal length manually in the menu).

  • Antiduott

    thank you for your answer ! probalby will go for the a7ii or a7s first version.

  • Mathieu

    Hi Michal. The A7rII has improved concerning the quality with old manual focus lenses. You will still get vignetting and some chromatic aberration but it performs a little bit better than the original A7r. Of course it also depends from lens to lens. I think that the Canon DF could do fine or better than the M42 russian lenses. Anyway if price is your main concern, the A7s II is definitely the most forgiving. You could also consider the A7 II that is cheaper than the other two.

  • Antiduott

    Hi mirrorlessons ! Very nice and helpful article! Was looking for somerthing in this area. Thank you. However i have one more question. If i use legacy canon FD and russian m42 lenses (i like manual focus, so far don’t have the resources for loxias, and af lenses) there’s probably zero reasons to go for a7rii( it’s way too expensive anyway) my lenses probably wouldn’t resolve the 42mgpx anyway right ? I currently shoot with sony nex5r but plan to upgrade finaly for FE nad be done with all the focal reducers. If you have time you can checjk my flickr thank you!

  • Mathieu

    The GX8 is excellent as well but the GH4 has more options and more connectivity (mic, headphone etc.). It can also output a 10 bit 4:2:2 video signal via HDMI that can be very interesting for recording into an external device.

  • David Dornblaser

    Thanks Mathieu. I do shoot m4/3’s with a variety of bodies. I have been doing mostly TED-style talks, interviews, and, demonstrations (cooking, etc.) with one or two cameras. I use an E-M5 II when I am not using a tripod. I would like have two 4K cameras dedicated for video (my friend who I shoot the TED-style talks with has the GX8). Thank you for your answer, it does make sense to remain within one system.

  • Mathieu

    Hi David, I would discard the GX8 because it has less options for video. For hand held shooting the A7s II has something more as long as your shots are static (like an interview hand held for example). Its low light capabilities can also be of great help for documentaries. Do you use m4/3 lenses for video? Because if that is the case, then the GH4 makes more sense because you don’t need to invest in new lenses.

  • Mathieu

    The A7 II is an excellent camera and you can definitely benefit from the internal stabilisation. Remember that with old film lenses it will only use 3 axes instead of 5. You will also need to manually input the focal length in the steadyshot settings to make it work correctly.

    Nice pictures on flickr, especially the black and white ones! Thanks for joining our pool!

  • Widder Shins

    Hello Mathieu, love the site. Thanks for all the hard work you guys do. I currently shoot with the original a7 and a future upgrade is weighing on my mind. If hard pressed to choose…I might just go with the a7II due to price considerations. No doubt the a7RII is a fine piece of kit but I shoot almost exclusively with old film lenses. Therefore the AF benefits don’t really come into play for me. But upgrading to a a7II would be cheaper and still give me the stabilization my a7 lacks.

    Btw, if you would like to view my work with the a7 please visit my flickr page. I joined your flickr group a little while ago and have posted a few images there. Thanks again.

  • Mathieu

    You can get good results at slow shutter speeds with the A7r II if you use the 5-axis stabilisation with the first electronic curtain.

  • Mathieu

    I agree, I rarely felt the need for something better even in low light.

  • Mathieu

    No camera is perfect, but the A7r II is definitely one of the best around.

  • walnut186

    Liked this review very much. I own the A7rii and am incredibly satisfied with it. I feel no need to go for an A7sii as this one does everything superbly. A great camera even with its little quirks.

  • glowinthedark

    As I already owned the a7S (Mk.1) I went for the a7RII. When I am doing low light photography, I still prefer the a7s because the of details looking much cleaner at higher ISO (at least this is my personal impression). This may also be related to the fact, that with the much higher resolution of the a7RII it is harder to get really sharp shots with slow shutter speeds (e.g. below 1/50), which seems to be more easy with the “low-res” a7s…

    Summing up; having both cameras seems to be good :-)

  • PJP

    Bonjour Mathieu, I travel a lot so after the A7r I went for the A7r mk2 and I don’t regret it. It’s low light abilities are really good so it is very much an all-round camera suitable for every situations.

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