Sony A7 II Image Quality Comparison

Below are crops comparing the Sony A7 II with the Sony A7, Canon 6D, Fujifilm X-T1, Nikon D610 and Samsung NX1. All of these models sit at relatively similar price points and/or categories in their respective product lineups as advanced enthusiast or professional-level cameras.

NOTE: These images are 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 A7 II, Sony A7, Canon 6D, Fujifilm X-T1, Nikon D610 and Samsung NX1 -- 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 A7 II to any camera we've ever tested.

Sony A7 II vs Sony A7 at Base ISO

Sony A7 II at ISO 100
Sony A7 at ISO 100

No surprises here that the image quality is practically identical between the original A7 and the A7 II. With both cameras sharing the same 24.3MP full-frame sensor and BIONZ X image processor, the base ISO images are crisp, vibrant and full of fine detail.

Sony A7 II vs Canon 6D at Base ISO

Sony A7 II at ISO 100
Canon 6D at ISO 100

This is an interesting comparison with both cameras producing lots of fine detail, but the Sony does noticeably better with the mosaic, while the Canon does a bit better with the tone-on-tone detail in the red fabric. Despite having a low-pass filter, we can see some moiré pattern interference in the red fabric in the A7 image. The Sony, however, does do considerably better with detail in the pink fabric.

Sony A7 II vs Fujifilm X-T1 at Base ISO

Sony A7 II at ISO 100
Fujifilm X-T1 at ISO 200

Pitting a 24.3 full-frame camera against a 16.3 APS-C camera is a little unfair, but the two cameras have similar form-factors, and the X-T1's unique X-Trans sensor is known to produce fantastic images, so we thought this could be an interesting comparison. In all three comparisons, both cameras produce lots of sharp, fine detail, but the Fuji struggles in the pink fabric and just doesn't have the "pop" of the sharpness from the Sony (which could be in part due to differences in their in-camera sharpening).

Sony A7 II vs Nikon D610 at Base ISO

Sony A7 II at ISO 100
Nikon D610 at ISO 100

Similar to what we saw with the A7R vs D800E, it appears that the Sony is applying a bit more in-camera sharpening versus the Nikon. Both cameras produce a lot of fine detail, and both do great with the red fabric. The Sony wins with the pink fabric in this comparison. Sony has made huge strides in their JPEG processing, and particularly with how they can create dramatically sharp images without creating halos or outlines around objects.

Sony A7 II vs Samsung NX1 at Base ISO

Sony A7 II at ISO 100
Samsung NX1 at ISO 100

Despite having a smaller sensor, the 28MP NX1 is able to produce very high-res images and give the full-frame A7 II a run for its money here at base ISO. Fine detail on the bottle and mosaic crops from both cameras are very impressive and rater evenly matched. The fabric swatches however show the biggest difference. Pink fabric detail is excellent from both cameras, but while the A7 II shows some moiré interference, the NX1 is cleaner but displays slightly less fine detail.

Most digital SLRs and CSCs will produce an excellent ISO 100 shot, so we like to push them and see what they can do compared to other cameras at ISO 1600, 3200, and 6400. Recent advances in sensor technology have made ISO 1600 look a lot more like ISO 100, but there are still cameras whose quality starts to fall apart at this setting. We also choose 1600 because we like to be able to shoot at least at this level when indoors and at night.

Sony A7 II vs Sony A7 at ISO 1600

Sony A7 II at ISO 1600
Sony A7 at ISO 1600

Again, both cameras here at ISO 1600 display very clean, highly detail images, with very little, if any, difference between the two.

Sony A7 II vs Canon 6D at ISO 1600

Sony A7 II at ISO 1600
Canon 6D at ISO 1600

The default noise reduction from the Canon in the first crop seems to be just a hair cleaner and smoother than the Sony, but it's quite minor. Both cameras retain lots of fine detail in the mosaic, with the Sony in the lead thanks to its excellent sharpening, and both do almost equally well with the red fabric (though the edge goes to Canon with a better leaf pattern).

Sony A7 II vs Fujifilm X-T1 at ISO 1600

Sony A7 II at ISO 1600
Fujifilm X-T1 at ISO 1600

The smaller sensor of the Fuji holds up surprisingly well here at ISO 1600. There's more grain in the bottle crop from the Fuji (but not an extreme amount), and the Sony produces crisper detail in the mosaic. However, the Fuji is able to produce a much more distinct red leaf pattern. The overall win goes to the Sony, but it's frankly surprising how well the X-T1's smaller sensor does here.

Sony A7 II vs Nikon D610 at ISO 1600

Sony A7 II at ISO 1600
Nikon D610 at ISO 1600

This is a bit of a mixed comparison, with no clear winner. The Sony does better at cleaning up high ISO noise with their default level of noise reduction in the bottle crop, and also produces crisper detail in the mosaic. However, Nikon does markedly better with the red fabric, while the Sony handles the pink fabric much better. Apart from its handling of the red fabric, we'd give the nod to the Sony A7 II here.

Sony A7 II vs Samsung NX1 at ISO 1600

Sony A7 II at ISO 1600
Samsung NX1 at ISO 1600

The NX1's default noise reduction processing is taking an aggressive stance toward noise at this ISO, and the artifacts from this processing are quite visible in the bottle crop and really reduces fine detail rendering in the fabric swatches. All told, the A7 II takes the crown in this comparison set, though that's no surprise given the NX1's smaller sensor.

Today's ISO 3200 is yesterday's ISO 1600, so below are the same crops at ISO 3200.

Sony A7 II vs Sony A7 at ISO 3200

Sony A7 II at ISO 3200
Sony A7 at ISO 3200

Looking very closely, you can see slight differences in the A7 II's NR processing compared to its predecessor. However, by and large, again, the images at ISO 3200 are strikingly similar. There's still a great amount of fine detail and low noise at this higher ISO level.

Sony A7 II vs Canon 6D at ISO 3200

Sony A7 II at ISO 3200
Canon 6D at ISO 3200

The Sony does a bit better with the mosaic crop in terms of fine detail, but the Canon looks slightly cleaner with noise in the bottle crop and does slightly better with the red fabric. A toss-up, really, depending on what you're looking for. We'd personally probably go with the A7 II, but others might as easily pick the 6D.

Sony A7 II vs Fujifilm X-T1 at ISO 3200

Sony A7 II at ISO 3200
Fujifilm X-T1 at ISO 3200

Both bottle crops here looking very similar with both cameras doing equally well at controlling high ISO noise. The Sony does better with fine detail in the mosaic crop, while they both struggle with the red fabric pattern. Again, advantage Sony, but we're surprised by how well the X-T1 does, given the difference in sensor sizes.

Sony A7 II vs Nikon D610 at ISO 3200

Sony A7 II at ISO 3200
Nikon D610 at ISO 3200

Interestingly, the high ISO noise starts to hurt the image quality from the Nikon, which you can see in both the bottle and mosaic crops. The Sony shows less noise and is able to produce a lot of fine detail in the mosaic. As before, the Nikon does better with the red fabric, while the Sony handles the pink fabric better.

Sony A7 II vs Samsung NX1 at ISO 3200

Sony A7 II at ISO 3200
Samsung NX1 at ISO 3200

The strong NR processing is really the NX1's big downfall here in this comparison. The A7 II still displays great control of noise, while displaying a lot of fine detail, despite having NR processing enabled by default. The NX1 however has a lot of fine detail smoothed away by noise reduction processing here, but again, keep in mind the NX1's much smaller photosites.

Sony A7 II vs. Sony A7, Canon 6D, Fujifilm X-T1, Nikon D610, Samsung NX1

ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
ISO 200
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Detail comparison. High-contrast detail is also important, pushing the camera in different ways, so we like to look at it too. Both the Sony A7 II and A7 show a fantastic amount of high-contrast detail all the way from ISO 100 to ISO 6400. There is also a difference in the default level of contrast applied to in-camera JPEG across these different models and brands. While all cameras here do well in the ISO 100 comparison, both of the Sonys really pull out ahead with much-improved sharpness. It's even more noticeable as the ISO rises, with ISO noise taking its toll on fine detail and contrast. The Canon 6D does quite well at the higher ISO levels as does the Samsung NX1, but the Sony A7 II really maintains a high level of fine detail, contrast and low noise at the higher ISO sensitivities.


Sony A7 II Print Quality

Excellent 30 x 40-inch prints or larger at ISO 50/100; ISO 3200 images look good at 13 x 19; ISO 12,800 images make a good 5 x 7.

ISO 50 and 100 images look excellent at 30 x 40 inches or larger until you run out of resolution, with super-sharp detail and rich color across the board, even at handheld distances. Wall-display prints look great even up to 40 x 60 inches.

ISO 200 and 400 prints also look superb at 30 x 40 inches. There's excellent detail, nice color, and no trace of noise or noise suppression artifacts.

ISO 800 images look quite good at 24 x 36 inches, with only the slightest hint of noise in flatter areas and mild softening in reds. 20 x 30-inch prints are fantastic, and eliminate virtually all of these minor concerns.

ISO 1600 shots show a slight pattern of luminance and chrominance noise in the shadows, but you have to look closely to make it out -- even at 20 x 30 inches, which is a nice size for this ISO. Detail is still quite sharp except for our tricky red swatch, which most cameras typically have trouble with. 16 x 20-inch prints tighten up a lot more and are superb.

ISO 3200 prints at 13 x 19 inches start to show a light grain pattern in the shadows, with reds becoming a bit softer. We can still give this size our "good" rating, but for ultra-critical prints at this sensitivity you'd be better to remain at 11 x 14 inches.

ISO 6400 images almost make the grade at 11 x 14, but there is just a bit too much noise in flatter areas with default noise reduction to call them "good". Certainly OK for less critical applications, but we can call 8 x 10s good, and that's still a nicely-sized print for this sensitivity.

ISO 12,800 prints will work for less critical applications at 8 x 10 inches and almost warrant our "good" seal, which is really amazing. 5 x 7's are quite good for most-any application, and colors still look nice, retaining good overall saturation for this sensitivity.

ISO 25,600 prints are a bit on the soft side in general, but will work for a decent 4 x 6, which is not bad!

With the same 24.3MP full-frame sensor and BIONZ X image processor as the original A7, it's no surprise that print quality results are the same. The A7 II delivers excellent results in the print quality department, as expected. At base sensitivity and up to ISO 400, 30 x 40-inch prints look outstanding indeed (with larger prints certainly capable until you run out of resolution). And while not of the super-crisp caliber of the 36MP big brother A7R, they're still world class and among the best for the 24-megapixel resolution. There is a noticeable downturn in quality and a rise in noise beginning at ISO 3200, but it's nice to know that even at ISO 6400 you can still achieve a good quality 8 x 10 inch print. And well done again Sony for producing a decent print even at the highest-rated sensitivity!

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

Testing 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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