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Sony A7R II review

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Summary

Our Score:

8

Pros

  • Fantastic resolution
  • Great higher ISO performance
  • Effective OIS

Cons

  • No flash unit
  • Limited battery stamina

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Key Features

  • 42.4-megapixel full frame sensor
  • 399-point PDAF
  • 5fps shooting speed
  • Manufacturer: Sony
  • Review Price: £2,399.00

What is the Sony A7R II?

The Sony A7R II is the second generation of a series that set out to prove how serious a compact system camera can be. With a full-frame sensor, the range has offered image quality similar to some of the very best DSLRs, such as the Nikon D810 and Canon 5DS R.

All this remains true of this series. But what the Sony A7R II does it to fix all the niggles of the original Sony A7R, by improving low-light performance and handling, and adding Sony’s excellent 5-axis optical image stabilisation. It’s worth considering as an alternative to the very top DSLRs if you’ll appreciate its smaller stature, and its 4K video capture.

As intimidating as its £2,399 body-only price may be, it's justified.

See also: Best Cameras 2015

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Sony A7R II – Design and Handling

The Sony A7R II doesn’t radically alter the basic design template of the A7R. It looks similar, but the two certainly aren't the same.

Rather than a semi-glossy finish, the A7R II sports a matte, speckled look that's a bit closer to that of a high-end DSLR. It looks and feels great, fitting the high price perfectly.

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The body uses magnesium-alloy plates on its top, front and back, also consistent with the high price. The Sony A7R II is extremely well made, and the grip is well sculpted too. It feels comfortable in the hand.

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Weather-proofing is also a feature. Seals across the Sony A7R II’s body keep out dust and water, meaning you can shoot in the most dire of conditions – if you also use a weather-sealed lens.

One of the issues with the Sony A7R at release was that there weren’t many lenses to choose from. As Sony releases more E-mount lenses, this is becoming less of an issue. The company is looking to offer 20 lenses in this range by 2016, and there are already mounts available that enable the use of Canon lenses, among others.

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Sony A7R II – Controls

Another issue that concerns the original Sony A7R is that its control layout doesn’t feel 100 easy and natural. For the A7R II, Sony uses dual-control dials similar to the company's NEX-7 CSC.

You get a very well-placed pair of manual control dials, and the shutter button has been moved so that it now sits more naturally under where your finger intuitively lands. There have been a few other tweaks too. For example, the eyepiece for the EVF is a lot softer, making it that bit more comfortable to use.

Next to the Sony Alpha A7R II, the original A7R seems a bit awkward. Sony has put in some good work here, with the small improvements adding up to a camera of more coherent operation.

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Sony A7R II – Screen and EVF

The Sony A7R II has a very good EVF. The jump down from a decent DSLR optical viewfinder may not be as huge as you might imagine if you haven't used an up-to-date one in a while.

It has 2.46 million dots to its name, equating to 1,024 x 768 pixels. That may not sound like all that much next to a phone display, but when you consider the EVF display is only 0.5-inch in size it becomes more of a technical feat.

This is also one of the very highest-resolution EVFs currently available, only topped by the Leica Q (Typ 116). It’s an OLED EVF too, ensuring great contrast and a fast response should you pan around quickly.

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It isn't only resolution that matters – but size too. With magnification of 0.78x the Sony A7R II’s EVF appears as large as a good DSLR OVF, making it a great way to preview your image. Of course, this is one of the fastest-moving areas in camera technology, and we’ll no doubt see even more improvements by 2016. But we’ve reached a very good standard already.

Below the EVF sits a regular screen, 3-inches across and 1.23m-dot resolution. It tilts out to enable you to take shots at an awkward angle, and is comparable with the stronger camera displays out there. It isn't a fully articulated screen, but that should be of no surprise when you consider the A7R II's smaller frame.

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toboev

June 23, 2015, 6:51 am

For all the goodies in the spec sheet here on offer, most could be available to DSLR designers too - higher resolution, BSI sensor, etc. The one exclusive design element of mirrorless is, well, the lack of a mirror - no DSLR will ever have that.

So one new spec detail which really sets this camera ahead of DSLRs is that finally they have exploited a key advantage of losing the mirror, which is the reduction (even near-elimination) of parasitic vibrations at shutter release. This they have achieved through the introduction of an electronic first curtain, which means there is essentially zero mechanical movement inherent in taking a picture. There is now no shutter vibration to spoil the benefit of no mirror slap.

Zubeir

June 23, 2015, 11:34 am

This camera is a game changer and has shifted the goal posts. Canon are you awake yet? If I had some spare cash I would snap this camera up without hesitation.

ptomsu

June 23, 2015, 4:32 pm

This camera is for sure a game changer. I will have to hold and operate it in person to be 100% convinced, but what I can see from the specs and reviews it should tick all the boxes I want and need. If they finally would make a decent Zeiss FE 80-400 - sigh...

mode11

June 24, 2015, 9:34 am

I wish camera manufacturers would stop this practice of listing the resolution of screens / EVFs in terms of every RGB sub-pixel in the display. 2,359,000 'dots' = 1024x768 in regular PC / TV speak.

Amazing camera though.

JJ Backer

June 25, 2015, 4:50 pm

YOU ARE WRONG! The EVF resolution is stated the same as what you call "TV/PC Speak" what you miscalculate is that 1024 x 768 = the total number of 'RGB' pixel clusters while the Sony EVF has a total of 2,359,000 'RGB' clusters which is above HD TV resolution of 1080x1920 = 2,073,600 'RGB' clusters versus the Sony EVF = 2,359,000 'RGB' pixel clusters... Obviously the aspect ratio differs from 16:9 for HD vs. 3:2 for EVF but bottom line is the Sony EVF is higher res than HD TV! You don't need to do the math, just look at the EVF resolution through any A7 series camera and you'll see it's not 1024x768, lol... If it were it were that low of res you wouldn't even be able to read the text on the EVF display it would be so grainy!

Same goes for the rear LCD display which has only 1,229,000 RGB clusters but is still well above the 768,432 res of 1024x768 in "TV / PC speak".... Have ever even looked through the viewfinder of an A7 series camera???

mode11

June 25, 2015, 4:55 pm

No, you're wrong. XGA = 1024x768. Look it up.

JJ Backer

June 25, 2015, 4:58 pm

If the EVF res was 1024x768 all you would see is a very pixelated image through the viewfinder!!! Think before you reply... Just look at any old 1024x768 crt display and you can tell without looking anything up! then actually look through an A7 EVF and you'll see immediately that you are WRONG! You are talking the difference between 786,432 'RGB' pixels vs. 2,359,000 'RGB'pixels !!!!!

mode11

June 25, 2015, 5:05 pm

Stop shouting. Sony themselves describe it as XGA. This is an industry standard of the resolution I described. If you have a problem with that, take it up with them.

ElectricSheep

June 26, 2015, 12:19 pm

Firmly on my radar. It's the ergonomics of the 1D / 5D range that keep me loyal to canon but my eyes are wondering to Sony these days for their innovation and image quality. And the new metabones adapter seems to play nice with Canon EFS lenses at last. With the battery grip this might replace my 5D3 for a daily driver, but for professional sports use, nothing beats the 1D range.

kg04

June 29, 2015, 1:48 pm

1024 x 768 = 768.432 dots -> x 3 (RGB) = 2.359.296 dots

Per William Petersen

October 4, 2015, 7:41 am

I am very disappointed. When it wants, it makes good pictures. But very often it can't find the sharpness. some times the screen is only black. Starting up the camera, can take up to a minute -and the motive is gone. Sony have a lot to do with this problems!

Emidio Web

October 6, 2015, 10:26 am

i just wonder if video is as good as a camcorder especially becouse it has a ois stability...

Olav Alexander Mjelde

October 7, 2015, 7:52 am

Why do you say finally? It's been there for the NEX series too, at least since 2013.. Not sure when it arrived.

toboev

October 7, 2015, 5:20 pm

I was talking about full frame, which I failed to make clear.

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