Sony A7R II Image Quality Comparison

Below are crops from our laboratory Still Life target comparing the Sony A7R II's image quality to its predecessor, the A7R, as well as its more affordable sibling, the A7 II. Since resolution is the name of the game here, we've also compared it against the highest-resolution DSLRs from rivals Canon and Nikon, namely the Canon 5DS R and Nikon D810. And for good measure, we've also included Ricoh's superb Pentax 645Z DSLR, giving a comparison with a current-generation medium-format camera.

NOTE: These images are from best quality JPEGs straight out of the camera, at default settings including noise reduction and using the camera's actual base ISO (not extended ISO settings). All cameras in this comparison were shot with our very sharp reference lenses. Clicking any crop will take you to a carrier page where you can click once again to access the full resolution image as delivered straight from the camera. For those interested in working with the RAW files involved: click these links to visit each camera's respective sample image thumbnail page: Sony A7R II, Sony A7R, Sony A7 II, Canon 5DS R, Nikon D810 and Pentax 645Z -- links to the RAW files appear beneath those for the JPEG images, wherever we have them. And remember, you can always go to our world-renowned Comparometer to compare the Sony A7R II to any camera we've ever tested!

 

Sony A7R II vs Sony A7R at Base ISO

100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Sony A7R test image taken at ISO 100
100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Sony A7R test image taken at ISO 100
100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Sony A7R test image taken at ISO 100
Sony A7R II at ISO 100
Sony A7R at ISO 100

At base sensitivity, it's pretty obvious that the Sony A7R II's 42-megapixel sensor is gathering more detail than the 36-megapixel chip in its predecessor, the Sony A7R. Both cameras yield a clean, crisp image as you'd expect, and given there's nothing other than the resolution difference to choose between the pair, we'd call this one for the A7R II.

Sony A7R II vs Sony A7 II at Base ISO

100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Sony A7 II test image taken at ISO 100
100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Sony A7 II test image taken at ISO 100
100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Sony A7 II test image taken at ISO 100
Sony A7R II at ISO 100
Sony A7 II at ISO 100

The resolution difference is even greater when compared to the A7R's most affordable current-gen sibling, the 24-megapixel A7 II. Here, the higher-res camera has a clear edge -- as you'd expect, given the price difference -- especially in the red fabric swatch and mosaic label.

Sony A7R II vs Canon 5DS R at Base ISO

100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Canon 5DS R test image taken at ISO 100
100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Canon 5DS R test image taken at ISO 100
100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Canon 5DS R test image taken at ISO 100
Sony A7R II at ISO 100
Canon 5DS R at ISO 100

With a resolution of 50 megapixels, the Canon 5DS R is the only full-frame camera in this comparison to best the Sony A7R II in terms of sensor resolution. And as you'd expect, at base sensitivity the Canon DSLR does indeed resolve a bit more detail than its mirrorless Sony rival. In other respects, the pair show only relatively minor differences. Canon has slightly more accurate color though, which coupled with its higher resolution gives it the edge at base sensitivity.

Sony A7R II vs Nikon D810 at Base ISO

100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Nikon D810 test image taken at ISO 64
100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Nikon D810 test image taken at ISO 64
100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Nikon D810 test image taken at ISO 64
Sony A7R II at ISO 100
Nikon D810 at ISO 64

Placed head to head against the 36-megapixel Nikon D810, the Sony A7R II once again has a noticeable resolution advantage. It also handles the difficult red fabric swatch much better than does the D810, which shows significant moiré patterns. (That's the wavy red bands in the swatch.)

Sony A7R II vs Pentax 645Z at Base ISO

100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Pentax 645Z test image taken at ISO 100
100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Pentax 645Z test image taken at ISO 100
100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Pentax 645Z test image taken at ISO 100
Sony A7R II at ISO 100
Pentax 645Z at ISO 100

The Sony A7R II comes surprisingly close to the Pentax 645Z at base sensitivity, given that its full-frame image sensor is much smaller than the medium-format chip in Ricoh's camera. The 645Z is clearly resolving quite a bit more resolution than does the A7R II, something which is particularly apparent in the red fabric swatch. Sony's color rendition is more convincing, though, especially in the pink swatch.

Sony A7R II vs Sony A7R at ISO 1600

100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Sony A7R test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Sony A7R test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Sony A7R test image taken at ISO 1600
Sony A7R II at ISO 1600
Sony A7R at ISO 1600

Stepping up to ISO 1600-equivalent, things get a bit more interesting. The Sony A7R II still yields a bit more resolution than did its predecessor, but that comes at the expense of a bit more noise in the bottle crop. But if we look at the mosaic label and fabric swatches, the A7R II's noise reduction algorithms have done a better job, with less of the smudginess apparent in the earlier camera's images.

Sony A7R II vs Sony A7 II at ISO 1600

100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Sony A7 II test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Sony A7 II test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Sony A7 II test image taken at ISO 1600
Sony A7R II at ISO 1600
Sony A7 II at ISO 1600

As you'd expect thanks to its much larger pixels, the Sony A7 II turns in a cleaner-looking result than its much higher-res sibling at ISO 1600-equivalent. However, the A7R II extracts a good bit more detail than the A7 II is able to, and we'd have to give it the edge here overall.

Sony A7R II vs Canon 5DS R at ISO 1600

100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Canon 5DS R test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Canon 5DS R test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Canon 5DS R test image taken at ISO 1600
Sony A7R II at ISO 1600
Canon 5DS R at ISO 1600

At ISO 1600-equivalent, the Canon 5DS R still has a slight resolution edge over the Sony A7R II. Its less-aggressive noise reduction doubtless helps out here, but the other side of the coin is that the Canon's image looks a bit noisier. Which approach is better likely depends on your personal tastes and workflow needs; we're going to call this a tie.

Sony A7R II vs Nikon D810 at ISO 1600

100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Nikon D810 test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Nikon D810 test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Nikon D810 test image taken at ISO 1600
Sony A7R II at ISO 1600
Nikon D810 at ISO 1600

Moving on to the Nikon, the D810 shows similar noise levels to its higher-res rival, but it's clearly trailing in other respects. There's much more detail in the Sony A7R II's crops, and it also better holds onto contrast in the difficult red swatch.

Sony A7R II vs Pentax 645Z at ISO 1600

100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Pentax 645Z test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Pentax 645Z test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Pentax 645Z test image taken at ISO 1600
Sony A7R II at ISO 1600
Pentax 645Z at ISO 1600

The Sony A7R II's color rendition is still more pleasing at ISO 1600, and noise is slightly better controlled too. When it comes to detail, though, the larger medium-format sensor of the Pentax 645Z pays dividends. There's little if any sign of the fine thread pattern of the red swatch in the Sony's crop, for example, while the Pentax still shows it fairly clearly.

Sony A7R II vs Sony A7R at ISO 3200

100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Sony A7R test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Sony A7R test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Sony A7R test image taken at ISO 3200
Sony A7R II at ISO 3200
Sony A7R at ISO 3200

Moving up to ISO 3200-equivalent, the Sony A7R II yields a noisier bottle crop than that from the original A7R. That seems in part to be down to less aggressive noise reduction, though, with the A7R II holding onto more detail which its predecessor loses to noise reduction smudging.

Sony A7R II vs Sony A7 II at ISO 3200

100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Sony A7 II test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Sony A7 II test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Sony A7 II test image taken at ISO 3200
Sony A7R II at ISO 3200
Sony A7 II at ISO 3200

It's a similar situation against the A7 II, as well. Again, the Sony A7R II's bottle crop is noisier, but more detail remains in its mosaic label and fabric swatches.

Sony A7R II vs Canon 5DS R at ISO 3200

100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Canon 5DS R test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Canon 5DS R test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Canon 5DS R test image taken at ISO 3200
Sony A7R II at ISO 3200
Canon 5DS R at ISO 3200

The higher-res Canon 5DS R turns in a rather noisier bottle crop than that of the Sony A7R II, but that noise has a more film-like grain that's rather easier on the eye. However, the A7R II has a pretty clear advantage in terms of detail, and it also better holds onto contrast than does its Canon rival.

Sony A7R II vs Nikon D810 at ISO 3200

100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Nikon D810 test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Nikon D810 test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Nikon D810 test image taken at ISO 3200
Sony A7R II at ISO 3200
Nikon D810 at ISO 3200

At ISO 3200-equivalent, the Nikon D810 better tamps down noise in the bottle crop, but the Sony A7R II's mosaic and fabric swatch crops have more detail, better contrast, and aren't as muted as those from the Nikon.

Sony A7R II vs Pentax 645Z at ISO 3200

100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Pentax 645Z test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Pentax 645Z test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Pentax 645Z test image taken at ISO 3200
Sony A7R II at ISO 3200
Pentax 645Z at ISO 3200

Once again, the huge sensor of the Pentax 645Z yields a better result at ISO 3200. Where the Sony A7R II has lost most of the thread pattern in the fabric swatches, its medium-format competitor still retains quite a bit of that detail. The same is also noticeable in the mosaic label, although not to the same degree. (That's in part due to the different scale of the two images making that from the Pentax appear softer, but it seems the Sony camera is also using a bit stronger sharpening.)

Sony A7R II vs. Sony A7R, Sony A7 II, Canon 5DS R, Nikon D810, Pentax 645Z

100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Sony A7R test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Sony A7 II test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Canon 5DS R test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Nikon D810 test image taken at ISO 64100% crop from Pentax 645Z test image taken at ISO 100
100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Sony A7R test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Sony A7 II test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Canon 5DS R test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Nikon D810 test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Pentax 645Z test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 6400100% crop from Sony A7R test image taken at ISO 6400100% crop from Sony A7 II test image taken at ISO 6400100% crop from Canon 5DS R test image taken at ISO 6400100% crop from Nikon D810 test image taken at ISO 6400100% crop from Pentax 645Z test image taken at ISO 6400
Sony
A7R II
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Sony
A7R
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Sony
A7 II
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Canon
5DS R
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Nikon
D810
ISO 64
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Pentax
645Z
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400

Detail comparison. When it comes to high-contrast detail, the Sony A7R II turns in a very good performance. Contrast falls a little as sensitivity rises, but the ISO 6400 crop is surprisingly close to that at base sensitivity. And while some sharpening haloes are visible, they're not as pronounced as those from the A7 II, D810 or 645Z. The Canon 5DS R noticeably trails its rivals in terms of contrast.

 

Sony A7R II Print Quality

Excellent 30 x 40 inch prints at ISO 50/100/200; a nice 16 x 20 at ISO 3200; a good 5 x 7 at ISO 25,600.

Canon PRO-1000 Printer ImageISOs 50 through 200 produce stunningly sharp prints at 30 x 40 inches and higher. And with 42MP resolution to play with you won't likely run out of resolution until the prints are substantially larger. Everything about prints at these lowest ISOs is simply amazing.

ISO 400 is also able to deliver an excellent 30 x 40 inch print with no noticeable noise present anywhere. This is one of the best looking prints we've seen at this sensitivity from any camera.

ISO 800 yields very good 24 x 36 inch prints, with virtually no noise in the flatter areas of our test target, and no noticeable softening in our target red-leaf swatch. 30 x 40 inch prints are still usable at this ISO sensitivity for wall-display purposes as well; definitely a strong showing here for printing purposes.

ISO 1600 prints are quite good at 20 x 30 inches with terrific color reproduction and sharp, fine detail. 24 x 36 inch prints here aren't bad either, but minor noise in a few of the flatter areas prevents our good rating on those.

ISO 3200 images look quite good and crisp at 16 x 20 inches. Looking closely reveals just a trace of minor noise in some areas of our target, but there's still an amazing amount of fine detail and vibrancy present at this print size.

ISO 6400 delivers a solid 11 x 14 inch print with fairly good colors and fine detail. There is a definite hint of noise present in some areas of our test target, and a noticeable reduction in overall vibrancy, but still not a bad print for this ISO sensitivity.

ISO 12,800 yields an 8 x 10 inch print that just passes our "good" rating. Contrast detail is beginning to suffer in our tricky red-leaf swatch, which is typical for most cameras at this lofty sensitivity.

ISO 25,600 is almost able to deliver a good 8 x 10 inch print, but there's just a bit too much noise to warrant our good seal. 5 x 7's are quite good considering just how high this ISO is!

ISOs 51,200 and 102,400 aren't able to produce usable prints at any size and are best avoided.

It's very comforting to know that you can dial your sensitivity up to ISO 12,800-equivalent and still expect a solid 8 x 10 inch print, and the Sony A7R II can do just that. With a higher resolution sensor than the original A7R from 2013 we were eager to see if there would be any noticeable improvement in high ISO capabilities to accompany the resolution increase, but our take is that they're virtually identical regarding print quality and sizes as ISO sensitivity rises. The A7R II sports two higher ISO settings, but we found them to be unusable for printing purposes at any size. Still, the Sony A7R II retains all the terrific ISO performance up to ISO 25,600 as we saw with the A7R, and that's certainly a good thing.

About our print-quality testing: Our "Reference Printer"

Canon PRO-1000 Printer ImageTesting hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 printer, which we named our "Printer of the Year" in our 2015 COTY awards.

The Canon PRO-1000 has a lot of characteristics that make it a natural to use for our "reference printer." When it comes to judging how well a camera's photos print, resolution and precise rendering are paramount. The PRO-1000's more than 18,000 individual nozzles combine with an air feeding system that provides exceptional droplet-placement accuracy. Its 11-color LUCIA PRO ink system delivers a wide color gamut and dense blacks, giving us a true sense of the cameras' image quality. To best see fine details, we've always printed on glossy paper, so the PRO-1000's "Chroma Optimizer" overcoat that minimizes "bronzing" or gloss differential is important to us. (Prior to the PRO-1000, we've always used dye-based printers, in part to avoid the bronzing problems with pigment-based inks.) Finally, we just don't have time to deal with clogged inkjet heads, and the PRO-1000 does better in that respect than any printer we've ever used. If you don't run them every day or two, inkjet printers tend to clog. Canon's thermal-inkjet technology is inherently less clog-prone than other approaches, but the PRO-1000 takes this a step further, with sensors that monitor every inkjet nozzle. If one clogs, it will assign another to take over its duties. In exchange for a tiny amount of print speed, this lets you defer cleaning cycles, which translates into significant ink savings. In our normal workflow, we'll often crank out a hundred or more letter-size prints in a session, but then leave the printer to sit for anywhere from days to weeks before the next camera comes along. In over a year of use, we've never had to run a nozzle-cleaning cycle on our PRO-1000.

See our Canon PRO-1000 review for a full overview of the printer from the viewpoint of a fine-art photographer.

*Disclosure: Canon provided us with the PRO-1000 and a supply of ink to use in our testing, and we receive advertising consideration for including this mention when we talk about camera print quality. Our decision to use the PRO-1000 was driven by the printer itself, though, prior to any discussion with Canon on the topic. (We'd actually been using an old Pixma PRO 9500II dye-based printer for years previously, and paying for our own ink, until we decided that the PRO-1000 was the next-generation printer we'd been waiting for.)

 



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