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Sony Alpha A7S II review

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Awards

  • Recommended by TR

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Summary

Our Score:

8

Pros

  • Great low-light performance
  • Excellent for video
  • Much-improved ergonomics

Cons

  • Limited detail capture among full-frame cameras
  • Unimpressive burst performance

Key Features

  • 12-megapixel full-frame sensor
  • ISO 100-102400 (409600 exp)
  • 5fps burst
  • Manufacturer: Sony
  • Review Price: £2,499.00

What is the Sony Alpha A7S II?

The Sony Alpha A7S II is a full-frame camera with a difference. Where its brother the A7R II uses a 42-megapixel sensor for massive amounts of detail, this camera pares the resolution all the way down to 12 megapixels to radically improve low-light performance.

This move makes the Sony Alpha A7S II a bit of a niche camera, but it certainly works. Great video quality and immense shooting versatility mean it’s a great success. Even if it isn’t for everyone.

You can get hold of the Sony Alpha A7S II for £2499 body-only.

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Sony Alpha A7S II – Design and Handling

The Sony Alpha A7S II is a full-frame compact system camera. Design and overall style are very similar to all the other models in the top-end Alpha range. It’s not a small camera, but it’s certainly smaller than DSLR alternatives like the Nikon D810.

What’s new for this second-generation model? The Sony Alpha A7S II takes on all the key design improvements we saw in the A7R II.

While the first-wave A7 models were standard-setting but felt a little awkward to operate in parts, the Sony Alpha A7S II uses redesigned controls that simply work better.

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First, the grip has been changed. It’s deeper, for a better in-hand feel. The shutter button area is also different. The button itself has been shifted forward, now sitting much closer to where your finger naturally lands. It’s simply more comfortable.

The Sony Alpha A7S II shape is similar to the last generation, but the finish has been altered. Smooth body panels have been traded-in for a textured, almost speckled finish that is much closer to that seen in the top-end DSLRs. It comes across as a bit more rugged, more hard-wearing.

As before, much of the camera is made of magnesium alloy. And while there’s no full weather-sealing, the frame is designed not to let in moisture. I used the Sony Alpha A7S II for a few hours out in bad weather with no ill effects.

Also new in this model is a locking mode dial, which helps avoid you flicking over to another shooting mode accidentally.

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Much like the A7R II, this is a comprehensive design upgrade over the last-generation model. However, the winning feature remains getting a full-frame sensor in a somewhat-compact body. Sony's lenses are rarely small, but pair this camera with the 35mm f/2.8 and you have a very manageable full-frame setup.

One sacrifice of this is that battery life isn’t remotely close to one of the similarly-priced DSLRs like the Nikon D810. A charge will last for around 300 shots, but conscious that this isn’t going to cut it for serious shooting trips, Sony actually packs two batteries in the box. The Sony Alpha A7S II can also be charged-up over USB using an external battery. Keeping one in your camera bag is a good idea.

Sony Alpha A7S II – EVF and Screen

The Sony Alpha A7S II at first seems to have the same EVF as the A7S. It uses a 2.36-million dot viewfinder. Higher resolution models exist, but are very rare at the time of writing.

There has actually been an improvement, though, from 0.71x to 0.78x magnification. This means the image will appear larger, which no-one’s going to complain about.

It’s a good EVF. I find its colours are a little undersaturated compared with what my eyes see, but only slightly.

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The quality of the rear screen is good too, and resolution has been improved. The Sony Alpha A7S II has a 3-inch 1.23-million dot screen over a 921k-dot one. It’s a movable screen too, tilting up and down to make shooting above and below head height easier.

Like the A7R II, the Sony Alpha A7S II has Wi-Fi and NFC to let you wirelessly hook the camera up to a phone or tablet to transfer photos.

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