src="http://www.mirrorlessons.com/wp-content/themes/mirrorlessons The Sony A7r II In-Depth Review, Chapter II: The image quality champion
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A7r mark II

Date: 30/11/2015 | By: Mathieu

The Sony A7r II In-Depth Review, Chapter II: The image quality “champion”

E-M1, 1/100, f/ 4/1, ISO 200

The Sony A7r II In-Depth Review, Chapter II: The image quality “champion”

Last weekend I was invited by the Cambrian Photography store in Colwyn Bay to hold a 60 minute seminar about mirrorless cameras for their annual Winter Show. During my presentation I touched upon sensor specifications, emphasising that despite the difference in size and megapixel count, I’ve managed to achieve great results with all the cameras I’ve reviewed on MirrorLessons. I truly believe that today’s sensors are all capable of delivering excellent results, regardless of whether we are talking about 1-inch, Micro Four Thirds, APS-C or full-frame.

Of course, new technology always generates excitement: a new sensor with more megapixels or better low-light performance is always attractive on paper, even though it won’t necessarily improve our photography. Plus, when everyone is talking about a new technological development, it becomes more difficult to ignore.

Since its announcement in June, there has been an impressive amount of coverage about the Sony A7r mark II. I am guilty as charged as well since this article is the 9th I’ve published about the A7r II and is part of a long and in-depth review of the camera. Competitors have sat down in front of their computer to express their opinions, and heck, even Patrick from Fujirumors wrote a piece about this camera!

sony a7r ii image quality
A7r II, 1/100, f/8, ISO 200 – FE 70-200mm

All this excitement surrounding the new A7r II made me ask myself: Why are we so desperate for innovation?

Is photography so related to the technology inside the gear we use that we constantly feel the need for incredible updates to keep us motivated? Or is it just the pleasure of trying something new that might improve the quality of our work or simplify our workflow?

Nikon and Canon are often accused of not innovating enough, despite the fact that they are still producing some of the finest cameras on the market. The A7r II, on the other hand, has been labeled more than once as “revolutionary” or a “game changer”.

One thing is for sure: Sony clearly knows how to use this strategy to its advantage. Putting exciting new technology into every release and diversifying products as much as possible keeps all the attention on the Sony brand, makes competitors look inferior in comparison, and invites customers to buy and upgrade more frequently.

sony a7r ii image quality
A7r II, 1/800, f/8, ISO 200 – SAL 70-400mm

Although the new sensor isn’t the only feature that’s boosted the popularity of the A7r II, it definitely plays an important role.

According to DXO ratings, this camera has the best full-frame sensor on the market, and this score has given it a place on the front page on every media outlet. So, with that said, let’s talk about this image quality “champion”.

Our Sony A7r II coverage:

  1. First Impressions (Sony’s press event)
  2. Lantern Parade (Low-light image gallery)
  3. Bird Photography (with the Sigma 150-600mm EF mount)
  4. Zeiss Milvus (Sample images)
  5. Voigtländer VM lenses (12mm f/5.6 & 21mm f/1.835mm f/1.7)
  6. Complete Autofocus Test (FE, A, EF lenses)
  7. Compressed vs uncompressed RAW
  8. A7r II vs A7s II comparison (with ergonomics/ease of use)
  9. Complete Image Quality test and final conclusion


Megapixels and detail

The A7r II’s sensor has 42 megapixel and its resolution is only second to the 50MP of the Canon 5DS and 5DSR in the full frame camera segment. When the Nikon D800/D800E came out, I remember some discussions where people expressed their amazement at being able to enlarge their portraits and see all the detail reflected in the eye of the person photographed. The same applies to the Sony A7r II, which you can see in the example below:

a7rii image quality
A7r II, 1/500, f/2, ISO 100 – Zeiss Milvus 2/100
a7rii image quality
A7r II, 1/500, f/2, ISO 100 – Milvus 2/100 – 100% Crop

Yes, that’s how sharp your image can be with the A7r II. However, we all know that this camera doesn’t exist for the sole purpose of pixel-peeping. The primary benefit is of course to have more detail and what can be summarised as a greater sharpness and richness of the image itself.

The best way to appreciate these extra pixels might not be the simplest. Forget social media sharing such as Facebook or Instagram; it is with a high resolution monitor (a Retina Display or a 4K/5K monitor) or even better, a large print (A3 or larger) that your image will truly come to life.

a7rii image quality
A7r II, 1/125, f/4, ISO 250 – FE 55mm
a7rii image quality
A7r II, 1/125, f/4, ISO 250 – 100% Crop

The large number of megapixels also leaves more room for cropping. I tend not to alter the original composition too much because I prefer to get it right in-camera in the first place. Plus, cropping can easily become a lazy attitude especially if you primarily share your images on social media.

However in a working environment or for certain genres of photography, cropping can be both a necessity and a useful tool as well. During my multiple bird photography sessions with the Red Kites, cropping allowed me to create a better composition and track these birds of prey easily by keeping the focal length short. Even after cropping 30% or 40%, I still maintained a high megapixel count of 26-29 MP.

Below you can see two examples that we can call somewhat extreme. The first image of the Red Kite was shot in APS-C mode on the A7r II which means the resolution dropped from 42 to 18MP. I was using a 600mm focal length so the equivalent field of view became 900mm approximately. The bird was very high in the sky so I had to crop in post production as well, and from these 18MP I got a final image of 6MP. It’s quite a long way from the initial 42MP but the image still looks good and can be printed in small format.

a7rii image quality
A7r II, 1/2000, f/6.3, ISO 160 – Sigma 150-600mm C

The second image of the chrysalis below was shot with the 55mm f/1.8 prime lens which is not a macro lens by any means. I used the Raynox 250 close focus adapter (see review here) and switched once again to APS-C mode to get even closer to the soon-to-be-born butterfly. I made an additional crop in post-production for a final image of 13MP.

a7rii image quality crop
A7r II, 1/50, f/8, ISO 500 – FE 55mm – Raynox 250

As with every high megapixel sensor, it is also important to use good lenses.

The A7r II is demanding and the level of detail a high quality lens can render will definitely affect the result. I already showed you an example with the Zeiss Milvus lens at the beginning of this chapter. Below you can observe another one with the FE 55mm 1.8, which still remains one of the best lenses designed for the system. Despite using a close focus adapter, the level of detail remains very high.

a7rii image quality
A7r II, 1/500, f/8, ISO 400 – FE 55mm – Raynox 250
a7rii image quality crop
A7r II, 1/500, f/8, ISO 400 – 100% Crop

On the other hand, a lens like the FE 24-240mm has less resolving power at certain focal lengths and apertures so you can get softer results like in the example below.

a7rii image quality
A7r II, 1/320, f/8, ISO 100 – FE 24-240mm
Click on the image to open the full res version.

A high number of megapixels can also pose problems, as in the case of the first A7r and its shutter shock issue. Although it is one of those topics that can easily be blown out of proportion, it was definitely something to be aware of with critical shutter speeds between 1/100 and 1/200. The A7r mark II has fixed this problem with a newly designed mechanical shutter that is more discreet and has a longer lifespan (500,000 cycles on paper). With the addition of an electronic first curtain and a full electronic shutter option, I can safely say that it is very unlikely to have serious issues with shutter shock on the A7r II.

To be honest, I only struggled on one occasion while taking some shots of an artisan at work. I got better results once I set the first electronic curtain.

a7rii image quality
A7r II, 1/125, f/2.8, ISO 400 – Without First electronic curtain shutter
a7rii image quality
A7r II, 1/125, f/2.8, ISO 400 – 100% Crop


Colour Profiles

With the Raw files, you can easily change the colours according to the colour profiles of your favourite post-processing software. For this article, I used Adobe Lightroom, which includes many of the colour profiles (what Sony calls Creative Styles) available on camera that affect the Out Of Camera JPGs. With Sony cameras I tend to use the Raw version but having good colours from the in-camera JPG is important and can save you some work if your image already looks good.

With the A7r II, both the Creative Styles and the JPG engine have been enhanced.

On the previous Sony cameras, I always found that the colours leaned towards an overly yellow tint especially in the case of the portrait profile. With the A7r II you can still experience a yellowish tint on some occasions but it is less common. The Auto White Balance will often lean towards a cooler rendering in contrasty situations but you can adjust it in the menu to make it warmer, select a preset or adjust it manually, which in some situations is the best thing to do.

a7rii colors
A7r II, 1/4000, f/2.8, ISO 200 – FE 55mm – Standard Style – OOC JPG

There are many Creative Styles available. One of my personal favourites is the Autumn Leaves profile that is only available in-camera unfortunately. It renders lovely colours especially at sunset or sunrise when the light is warmer.

sony a7r ii colours
A7r II, 1/100, f/8, ISO 100 – 24mm Art – OOC JPG

For landscapes, I sometimes choose the eponymous preset but I often find the need to warm the colours with the Raw version in Lightroom.

  • Slide to the right to see the Landscape Style OOC JPG
  • Slide to the left to see the Post Processed Raw version with the same Landscape profile.

A7r II, 1/100, f/11, ISO 100 – FE 24-240mm

 

The weakest point of previous Sony A7 cameras is also related to the skin tones. I generally don’t like the default Adobe standard profile in Lightroom/Camera Raw, as it tends to have a magenta tint. The Sony Portrait profile will often make the skin too yellow. This again has been improved on the A7r II. Depending on the light, I would use one of the Natural, Standard or Portrait profiles.

First example: strobe lights

  • Slide to the right to see the Neutral Profile
  • Slide to the left to see the Portrait profile.

A7r II, 1/160, f/4, ISO 200 – Zeiss Milvus 1.4/85

 

Second example: artificial ambient lights

  • Slide to the right to see the Standard Profile
  • Slide to the left to see the Portrait profile.

A7r II, 1/60, f/1.4, ISO 200 – Zeiss Milvus 1.4/50

 

Third example: daylight in the shade

  • Slide to the right to see the Standard Profile
  • Slide to the left to see the Portrait profile.

A7r II, 1/400, f/2, ISO 100 – Zeiss Milvus 2/100

 

Fourth example: daylight in the shade, backlit situation

  • Slide to the right to see the Neutral Profile
  • Slide to the left to see the Portrait profile.

A7r II, 1/500, f/2.8, ISO 200 – Zeiss Milvus 1.4/85

 

Of course it is important to know how these Colour Profiles work if you intend to use the OOC JPGs. For Raw files, they can be a starting point. I also got the chance to test the A7r II colour profiles designed by Huelight. I mention his work often when I review different cameras. On some occasions, his profiles are a great starting point and are a good replacement for the camera profiles if you want an alternative to Adobe Standard.

First example: sunset

  • Slide to the right to see Sony Vidid Profile
  • Slide to the left to see Huelight Vivid profile (V111).

A7r II, 1/800, f/8, ISO 200 – SAL 70-400mm

 

Second example: portrait with strobe light

  • Slide to the right to see Sony Portrait Profile
  • Slide to the left to see Huelight Portrait profile (V06).

A7r II, 1/500, f/2.8, ISO 100 – Zeiss Milvus 1.4/85

 

If you like to work with OOC JPGs, another option is to use the Picture Profiles (PP1 to PP7) which are primarily designed for video. They won’t give optimal results with the factory settings and it might take some time to find the best combination between the different gamma and colour curves but it can be an extra tool worth giving it a try. Note that with the picture profiles, ISO low (50, 64,80) is not available.

Below you can see an example with a customised PP1 profile where I used the Cine1 Gamma and Cinema Color Mode.

  • Slide to the right to see Sony Standard Profile
  • Slide to the left to see the PP1 custom profile.

A7r II, 1/2000, f/2.8, ISO 100 – FE 55mm

 



Dynamic Range

Another main advantage of the Raw files is of course the dynamic range and in this area, the A7r mark II doesn’t have many rivals.

The amount of information in the highlights and shadows is impressive and the versatility of the 14 bit RAW files is nothing short of spectacular. Instinctively I am still tempted to take bracketing shots to create an HDR image later on, but with the A7r mark II and its sensor, I found that a single shot is enough in most cases. Note however that if you recover the shadows a lot, some noise will appear. If you intend to post-process the image to the extreme, it is better to choose the uncompressed Raw format, as it will produce less noise when recovering shadows. To find out more, you can check out our Uncompressed vs Compressed RAW article where you will find full resolution examples.

Regarding the bit depth, note that the camera records in 12 bit instead of 14bit when you perform long exposures in Bulb mode, use the long exposure Noise Reduction, shoot in continuous mode or use the electronic shutter. In real life I haven’t noticed any substantial differences concerning image quality but it is useful to know.

In the three examples below you can slide between the original shot and the post-processed version.

A7r II, 1/800, f/11, ISO 100 – 24mm Art

 

A7r II, 1/1000, f/5.6, ISO 100 – FE 28mm

 

A7r II, 1/100, f/5.6, ISO 400 – FE 70-200mm

 

Again for OCC JPG lovers, the camera offers a few interesting settings, one of them being the DRO (Dynamic Range Optimiser) that includes 6 different levels to get more or less DR and add some extra details to the shadows.

a7r ii dynamic range
A7r II, 1/500, f/8, ISO 100 – Ultron 21mm f/1.8 – OOC JPG
a7r ii dynamic range
A7r II, 1/400, f/5.6, ISO 100 – 24-105mm Art – OOC JPG
a7r ii dynamic range
A7r II, 1/50, f/11, ISO 100 – 24mm Art – OOC JPG

The camera’s metering system is very good and can be trusted in most situations. The only thing I noticed is that in backlit situations, the Spot mode is more accurate than the Centre mode which tends to underexpose a little too much. One thing I wish is that the spot metering would work in conjunction with the flexible Spot AF instead of being available at the centre only. That would be useful in many situations. The camera also has the Auto ISO min. S.S. feature and my conclusion is similar to the one I came to in the A7s mark II review. It allows you to tell the camera if you prefer a faster or slower shutter speed than the standard 1/60s when shooting in Aperture priority and Auto ISO. You can also manually select a minimum shutter speed. However if the camera evaluates that there isn’t enough light, it will automatically choose a slower speed regardless of your settings.



Low light and 5-axis stabilisation

The A7r II features the world’s first full-frame sensor with BSI (Backside Illumination). Simply put, the photodiodes (the elements that capture the light and transform it into an electric signal) of the BSI sensor are closer to the on-chip lenses. On traditional sensors, there is an active matrix wiring layer between the micro lenses and the photodiodes as you can see in the graphic below. On the BSI sensor, the wiring layer is placed below the photodiodes.

sony a7r ii review

This is a technology that has been seen on other cameras and most recently on the Samsung NX1 and its 28MP APS-C sensor. The A7r II is the first to incorporate it in 35mm format. The primary benefit of BSI technology is to gather more light which not only positively affects dynamic range but also low-light performance.

Low light is an area where the A7r mark II managed to impress me more than once because despite the many pixels, it performs very well up to 6400 ISO or even 12800 ISO.

A7r ii iso performance
A7r II, 1/100, f/2.8, ISO 6400

Further confirmation came when I compared the camera to its twin sister, the Sony A7s mark II. Of course, you might disagree with me if your tolerance for noise is lower than mine. Personally, I don’t mind noise in my images as long as they retain enough detail and it isn’t so invasive that it becomes a distraction. Another interesting option considering the high number of megapixels is to downsample the final output to 24 or 20MP. This helps to reduce the noise while maintaining a more than decent resolution. You can check out some full resolution images taken at different ISO values in this Smugmug gallery as well as the low light image gallery of the Lantern Parade that I published a few months ago. In this article I will show you two more examples where I found it useful to have such good high ISO performance and resolution.

The first set of examples features the butterflies I captured at The Magic of Life Butterfly House. Even though it was dark inside the butterfly room, I only worked with natural light. Being able to shoot up to 3200 ISO with very clean results allowed me to keep a slower aperture and a reasonable shutter speed.

A7r II iso performance
A7r II, 1/200, f/11, ISO 1600 – Sigma 150mm Macro
A7r II iso performance
A7r II, 1/200, f/5.6, ISO 3200 – Sigma 150mm Macro
A7r II iso performance
A7r II, 1/100, f/8, ISO 3200 – Sigma 150mm Macro
A7r II iso performance
A7r II, 1/200, f/8, ISO 1250 – Sigma 150mm Macro
sony a7r ii review
A7r II, 1/200, f/8, ISO 1250 – 100% Crop

The camera proved an excellent companion for indoor shows and concerts as well, as long as there was some artificial light. The silent shutter was a godsend for remaining discreet and not upsetting the audience.

A7r II 5-axis stabilisation
A7r II, 1/50, f/2.8, ISO 5000
A7r II iso performance
A7r II, 1/50, f/2.8, ISO 6400

You can set the tolerance for the noise reduction at high ISOs but it will only affect the JPGs. I usually keep it to Low which is a good middle ground. The noise reduction for long exposures also works well but for some application such as astrophotography you might want to avoid the dark frame processing because it reduces the bit depth to 12. The files look great even without NR applied.

A7r II iso performance
A7r II, 10s, f/2, ISO 3200 – Ultron 21mm f/2.8

The other good thing about the low-light capabilities of this camera is of course its 5-axis sensor stabilisation system which is an upgraded version of the first system introduced on the A7 mark II. I’ve praised this feature many times on Olympus cameras and it is rapidly becoming one of my favourite aspects on the A7 mark II series as well. With native or third party lenses that can transmit the focal length and distance information to the camera, the A7r II uses 5 axes. It is not as good as the Olympus OM-D series and the A7s II too performs slightly better; I would say the average performance is 1/5 of a second with short and normal focal lengths. I occasionally managed to get close to 1s but I wouldn’t rely on such a slow speed.

A7r II 5-axis stabilisation
A7r II, 1/5s, f/5.6, ISO 100 – FE 28mm

With lenses that include optical stabilisation, the A7r II will use 3 axes on the sensor and combine them with the two axes of the lens. This can actually work better when you use telephoto lenses. With the FE 24-240mm for example, I managed to go as far as 1/15s at 240mm with a perfectly sharp shot. Of course the OS performance of the lens, as well as the weight and how balanced the lens is on the camera body, can affect the result. The native FE zoom lenses are smaller and lighter but A-mount and DSLR lenses will of course be heavier.

A7r II 5-axis stabilisation
A7r II, 1/15, f/11, ISO 100 – FE 24-240mm

With manual focus lenses such as the Voigtlander series, the camera will use only 3 axes but the performance remains very good especially with wide angle lenses where there is less shake to correct. It is important to set the focal length manually in the Steadyshot settings so that the camera can compensate correctly.

A7r II 5-axis stabilisation
A7r II, 1/2, f/2.8, ISO 3200 – Ultron 21mm f/1.8


4K and Movie recording

The A7r mark II is an exciting camera because it has very interesting specs for video that include 4K. You can shoot up to 30fps with two bitrates (60 and 100mbps). Given the high resolution, it is better to use 100mbps which is already very compressed for 4K video. Bear in mind that you will need an U3 type SD card. You can choose the full frame format or the Super 35mm crop. The latter records with a full pixel readout without pixel binning which reduces aliasing and moiré. Super 35mm, which is very similar to APS-C, is also the main format digital cine cameras have adopted. The difference between the two is noticeable especially at high ISOs where the S35 mode has a cleaner image with less noise. However the Super 35 crop has more rolling shutter in comparison to the full frame format.

Below you can watch a quick ISO comparison between the full frame and Super35 modes.

 

The quality of the 4k footage is excellent: very clean with lots of details. With the picture profiles you can record with a more cinematic look. They also provide more dynamic range while with the default Creative Style profiles, highlights can be easily blown out. My favourite setting is the same I used recently with the A7s mark II. It is the PP1 that I customised as follows:

  • Gamma: Cine1
  • Color mode: Cinema
  • Black level: -4
  • Knee: Auto
  • Black gamma: middle, -7
  • Saturation: +17

In some situations I also like to use the Autumn Leaves Creative Style which, despite being designed for stills, can render very rich and warm colours. I started to test it after our interview with talented Filmmaker Brandon Li who uses the A7s with that profile most of the time.

You can also choose to record with the S-log2 gamma and S-Gamut colour profile to have a very flat image with the widest dynamic range possible. The minimum ISO available becomes 800 which means that you will also record more noise in the shadows. This solution will allow you to colour grade your footage with more precision with a video editing software. Personally I prefer to have a satisfying custom Picture Profile with other gamma curves that needs less colour grading and is ready to use right away. I would consider S-log2 if I was recording in 4:2:2 8bit via the HDMI output on an external recorder. The internal X-AVC S codec has a 4:2:0 colour space and given the compression of the file itself, you are still losing lots of data anyway.

 

The A7r II is also an excellent Full HD camera. Here again the best performance is in Super 35 mode. You can shoot up to 50/60fps with the same X AVC S codec at 50mbps. If you want more slow motion capabilities, the camera has a 100/120fps option as well but it is recorded in HD ready only (720p) and the quality is not as good as with Full HD.

Among other interesting features, you will find zebra pattern, marker display (aspect ratio, safety zone, guide frame), TC/UB settings and the ability to select NTSC or PAL. The only annoying thing about the last option is that you will need to format the memory card when you change the setting. You can also record audio via the built-in stereo mic or the 3.5mm Mic input and control the volume in 31 steps. The camera has audio meter monitoring on the LCD screen and a headphone output.

Several reports have cited an overheating issue when recording in 4K. I only experienced it once shortly after buying the camera in July. We were shooting a hands-on video for our Youtube channel and recorded for approx. 40 minutes. A yellow warning sign appeared on the LCD/EVF screen first, and the camera shut down one minute later to cool down. It didn’t affect short movie clips. I checked this again recently by leaving the camera to record for 30 minutes straight and this time I didn’t encounter any problems. So the issue can appear but not all the time. I also wonder if the recent firmware update for the camera might have helped as well.

Below you can watch a 4K compilation of various shots recorded with the A7r II. If you are interested in more videos, you can also check out the following:

 



Conclusion: the best image quality yet?

I think it is honest to conclude that the Sony A7r II delivers some of the best, if not the best image quality I’ve seen on a mirrorless camera as far as stills are concerned. The 4K and Full HD video quality is also excellent, meaning that this product can work well as an A or B camera for serious filmmaking. However if video is your main priority, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the A7s mark II instead because of its unbeatable low-light performance.

All things considered though, I wouldn’t immediately pick it as my favourite camera just because of the IQ. A camera to me is so much more than just the sensor.

As I mentioned at the beginning, I review many different products every year and I admit that in the end the sensor performance is what excites me the least.

I believe that today all the most recent chips deliver stunning IQ with excellent dynamic range and ISO performance. The true value of a camera should be found in its other features. This is why all the media coverage that any new DXO lab result gets is not a determinant factor in my opinion.

Of course image quality can be a crucial factor for many of you, so I’ll repeat one more time: if that’s your main priority, then you won’t find anything better at the moment. Plus, this camera also excels at many other things: it has one of the best autofocus systems I’ve tested on a mirrorless camera, the 5-axis stabilisation works well and the EVF is among the best. I like the ergonomics and the only two real complaints are the short battery life (a recurrent problem on all A7 cameras) and the very confusing menu system. Thankfully the degree of customisation on the camera is not bad but it takes time to find the optimal settings.

Below is a final recap with the pro and cons of the camera based on all the tests performed with this camera.

thumb-up What I like about the Sony A7r mark II:

  • Good ergonomics and button customisation
  • Excellent EVF
  • Stunning image quality at low and high ISOs
  • One of the best autofocus systems in the mirrorless segment
  • Can work really well with several A and EF mount lenses, AF included
  • Effective 5-axis stabilisation
  • Valid option with manual focus and old SLR/Rangefinder lenses
  • Excellent 4K video especially in Super35 mode

thumb-down What I don’t like about the Sony A7r mark II:

  • Sony really needs to hire someone to clean up the messy menu system
  • Battery life is very short when using AF-C, 5fps or 4k video
  • The Auto ISO Min. S.S. can’t be 100% trusted
  • Lossless compressed Raw would be of better use than just uncompressed
  • The resolution in the EVF decreases when using magnification
  • Peaking MF assist is not always reliable
  • Overheating is a possibility when recording long movie clips in 4K

Our Sony A7r II coverage:

  1. First Impressions (Sony’s press event)
  2. Lantern Parade (Low-light image gallery)
  3. Bird Photography (with the Sigma 150-600mm EF mount)
  4. Zeiss Milvus (Sample images)
  5. Voigtländer VM lenses (12mm f/5.6 & 21mm f/1.835mm f/1.7)
  6. Complete Autofocus Test (FE, A, EF lenses)
  7. Compressed vs uncompressed RAW
  8. A7r II vs A7s II comparison (with ergonomics/ease of use)
  9. Complete Image Quality test and final conclusion



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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!

  • T_B_S_

    Even I’m a Fujifilm fanboy, good job Sony!
    (and Mathieu with his review)

  • http://www.mirrorlessons.com Mathieu

    True, but the Sony batteries are quite small so carrying 3 or 4 is not a big issue. As for the chargers, the one Sony provides is quite small so carrying one extra is not a big deal. You can also buy a third party charger (Patona is a very good brand). There is also a twin charger like this one (http://www.hahnel.ie/index.cfm?page=li-ionchargers&id=145&pId=145). You can also charge one battery via USB in the camera directly. I agree that it is extra accessories to carry around but the real issue might be to find enough plugs in the hotel room (or carry a multi-plug adapter).

  • Wade Marks

    One problem with needing to carry multiple batteries is that I need to manage their recharging, which may necessitate multiple chargers. It may sound trivial but it’s not.

    Say I go on a trip and take the Sony, plus at least 3 to 5 extra batteries. I get back to the hotel at night and want to charge those batteries while I sleep. If I rely only on the one supplied charger then I have to get up in the middle of the night to switch the battery on the charger. So I need multiple chargers. But this is not only extra expense but extra hassle to carry when traveling. After a while it defeats the purpose of the smaller size of mirrorless to have to carry all of these batteries and chargers.

  • Wade Marks

    I agree…Sony could do better but it’s not in their corporate DNA to produce easy and fun to use products. They just stuff as many features as they can and hope to sell product on spec sheet alone.

    Take away the sensor and no one would care about Sony cameras. The sensor is the only redeeming quality, and admittedly it is a big plus.

    And as you mention, their pricing is way out of whack for what they are. Speaking of Leica, if I were going to spend money on the A7r2 plus one nice Zeiss lens, I would just buy the Leica Q…sure that would be a fixed lens so no way to change lenses on the Q…but it would give me a far more enjoyable experience than the Sony.

  • http://www.mirrorlessons.com Mathieu

    I always try to be as fair as possible with my reviews so I highlight the positives and the negatives also in comparison to the competition. Concerning the menu system, it is true that you get used to it but despite having tested many Sony cameras, sometimes I still can’t find a specific setting without going back and forth through the different pages. That doesn’t happen with other cameras. Also I think it is really just a question of re-organising it and it is difficult to understand why such a big corporation like Sony can’t fix this properly.

    As for battery life, I learned to carry with me 3, 4 batteries with most of the mirrorless cameras I’ve tested or used for work. It is not a big deal for me but it is fair to mention that it battery life is not the best among mirrorless cameras. But as you said, there are workarounds like a battery grip. Personally, I prefer to keep the size smaller and carry more batteries. I learned to find the best moment to swap them even during events and in the end it is fairly easy.

  • vett93

    I like your reviews generally, Mathieu. However, I don’t agree with your two issues with the A7RII. I think the menu is fine. It may take some learnings. But it is quite functional. One issue is that not all functions can be set on the buttons. That is more annoying to me.

    I don’t understand the issue with battery life either. We want a small camera with a lot of capabilities and functions. But we want a big battery that can take 1000 shots? Is that logical? I can take 300-400 shots with one battery. With a battery grip, I can do close to 800 shots. That can go through a lot of events without changing battery.

  • Chas

    Your viewpoint on Sony’s maturity is spot-on Mathieu. I’ve grown weary of these negative Sony hating trolls constantly bitching and complaining about what Sony hasn’t gotten right just yet. If you go back to the original A7 (only 2 years) and take a tally of all of it’s cons, they’ve just about got them all sorted with the 7RII except for one or two remaining areas that still need work. And if they follow your advise and slow down and listen, as MingThein wrote in his post this morning; “the competition can pack up and go home.”

  • soundimageplus

    Sure that explains the lens issue, all systems are at that point. But surely that doesn’t explain poor battery life, video overheating, poor resale value etc. Sony did after all buy up a long established company and therefore a whole lot of lens designs and patents plus presumably expertise on how to make a camera. Minolta may not have been the best but they had a lot of experience and surely Sony had access to that. Plus how does being a newcomer lead to serious overpricing, which is one of Sony’s most significant flaws. Leica they are not.

  • http://www.mirrorlessons.com Mathieu

    But we must not forget that the A7 system is young while the Canon DSLR system has way more years of experience and as a consequence is more mature. No mirrorless system is at the level of DSLR when it comes to maturity. The only one that gets close is micro four thirds since it is the oldest (among CSC).

  • soundimageplus

    Absolutely agree 100% on the app / wi-fi situation, really awful. I’d really like to like Sony, as the IQ and some of the other stuff is exactly what I want. But it is this failure to understand that the basic stuff needs to be right that puts me off Sony. The FE range has a gearhead / enthusiast / advanced amateur / techfan target market written all over it and with the FF thing, it seems like it’s a great camera for that market.

    I just wonder how long it will take for all the deficiencies to put people off. The poor battery life, lack of lenses, lack of resale value, poor wi-fi and apps, so so build quality and this constant video overheating. Because the only real advantage I see is that 42.5MP sensor. I went for Canon 5DS, despite no 4K and the weight and size because they sorted out their cameras basic operational stuff years ago. For example I’ve had the thing weeks and charged my battery up once!!! It’s a camera I feel I can rely on and use for a few years and it will still have a decent resale value. That’s not what I feel I get from Sony.

  • http://www.mirrorlessons.com Mathieu

    I agree that there is room for improvement regarding some features and some aspect of these Sony cameras. For me the best example is the whole Playmemories app store and Wifi capabilities. You need to create an account (unless you have a playstation account already LOL) to download paid apps that give you features even an entry level Lumix cameras has (Timelapse to name one). When a pro spends 3000$ on a camera, it doesn’t expect something like that.

    Lately Sony is showing to listen a little bit more. Let’s hope they will keep listen to photographers. Personally I would love for them to slow down on all these camera releases. Seven full frame cameras in 2 years is too much. The A7r II is a great camera, definitely the most mature A7 body and can remain on top for some time. They can improve different things with firmware updates while gathering in-depth feedback over a longer period of time. Then they can release in 2 years time a killer camera. Honestly they could do it. And by that time, we will have a more complete set of FE lenses as well.

  • soundimageplus

    When I got offered a project that required me to shoot with the maximum number of MP’s possible, I came down to a choice between this Sony and the Canon 5Ds. Despite the extra weight (of the body) I went for the Canon. Battery Life, lens choice, proven reliability, speed and those extra pixels were the main reasons for my choice (plus the fact that I got the Canon body for £500 less than the Sony) but so was the fact that having owned and used three FE cameras, I couldn’t shake the feeling that Sony cram a lot into their cameras these days but have somehow forgotten the basics.

    That a camera system should ‘match up’ bodies and lenses.
    That it should be designed by photographers rather than a tech. team.
    And that there should be some confidence that the system will be around in a few years time.

    I was very impressed by the A7r II’s image quality and in terms of sharpness it may be better than the Canon, but the 5Ds is a camera that will probably be Canon’s flagship high MP model for 2 to 3 years to come. Sony have such a short history in serious still camera manufacture and have already admitted that they would probably have ‘done a Samsung’ if it wasn’t for the FE range. They seem destined to leave the a-mount and their APS-C range (plus their owners of course) high and dry and basically I don’t trust them an inch. On that basis I doubt that, despite what they offer in terms of tech., I will buy a Sony again.

    It’s a personal choice I know, but every time I used an FE camera, at some point during my time with it I wished I’d brought something else with me and I’ve always thought that what is inside Sony FE cameras, housed in a Fuji or Olympus body would be a much better combination. I do honestly admire Sony for their technical achievements but I still can’t love (or even like) their cameras. For me there has always been ‘something missing’ and I’ve always felt I was using a ‘gadget’ or a device rather than a camera and that what I was holding was the product of science alone rather than science shaped by art. As I indicated, this is my personal prejudice and many would disagree with me, but I spend several hours of every day with a camera in my hand and I want that experience to be a pleasurable one. And try as I might that has never happened with any Sony camera and / or lens I’ve ever owned.

  • http://www.mirrorlessons.com Mathieu

    Thanks. Glad that the review is of help. Lenses always play a big part, actually I think they are more important than the camera in many situations.

  • http://www.mirrorlessons.com Mathieu

    If Leica send me one to test, I’ll be more than happy to compare the two cameras. For the experience I had with the Q (sensor is basically the same), I would tend to lean in favour of the A7r II. I find the RAW files a little bit more versatile when it comes to heavy post production and you don’t get banding issues at high ISO.

  • emersonik

    This blog is unique because it goes against the flow (more megapixels, more blablabla). Almost all sites recommend ILCs without considering the lenses that go with them.

    Your thoughts are very useful and practical. Thank you.

  • Chas

    Excellent review Mathieu, as always. The Leica SL is starting to get a little traction, any plans to compare it to the A7RII? Any early thoughts on which one has the better IQ?

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