Sony A7 II Image Quality


Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Typical saturation levels and hue accuracy.

ISO Sensitivity
In the diagram above, the squares show the original color, and the circles show the color that the camera captured. More saturated colors are located toward the periphery of the graph. Hue changes as you travel around the center. Thus, hue-accurate, highly saturated colors appear as lines radiating from the center. Mouse over the links to compare ISOs and click on a link for a larger version.

Saturation. The Sony A7 II's mean default color saturation is 111.2% at base ISO or in other words, oversaturated by 11.2%. That's about average these days. Mean saturation remains fairly stable across the ISO range, dropping gradually as sensitivity rises to a minimum of 107.6% at maximum ISO. Reds, dark blues and dark green are boosted the most, but not as much as we often see. Most other colors are pushed just a bit, though yellow, light green and aqua are slightly undersaturated which is quite common. Overall, saturation levels are quite pleasing to our eyes, and you can of course tweak saturation to your liking. Most consumer digital cameras produce color that's more highly saturated (more intense) than found in the original subjects. This is simply because most people like their color a bit brighter than life.

Skin tones. The Sony A7 II does fairly well with Caucasian skin tones when white balance is adjusted to match the lighting. Brighter flesh tones have a healthy-looking pinkish tint, though darker areas are nudged slightly toward orange. Still, pretty realistic results here. Where oversaturation is most problematic is on Caucasian skin tones, as it's very easy for these "memory colors" to be seen as too bright, too pink, too yellow, etc.

Hue. Like many cameras, the Sony A7 II shifts cyan toward blue, red toward orange, orange toward yellow and yellow toward green, but shifts are relatively minor. (The cyan to blue shift is actually fairly minor and very common among the digital cameras we test; we think it's a deliberate choice by camera engineers to produce better-looking sky colors.) With an average "delta-C" color error of 5.45 after correction for saturation at base ISO, overall hue accuracy is about average, with accuracy only moderately lower at higher ISOs. Hue is "what color" the color is.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images


Exposure and White Balance

Indoors, incandescent lighting
Warm cast with Auto white balance; Incandescent is pretty good, and Manual is very good. Average exposure compensation required.

Auto White Balance
+0.3 EV
Incandescent White Balance
+0.3 EV
Manual White Balance
+0.3 EV

Indoors, under normal incandescent lighting, color balance is too warm and orange with the Auto white balance setting, though results here are slightly better than average. Results with the Incandescent setting are quite good and only slightly warm. Results with the Manual setting are the most accurate, though just slightly cool. The Sony A7 II required +0.3 EV positive exposure compensation here, which is about average for this shot. (Our test lighting for this shot is a mixture of 60 and 100 watt household incandescent bulbs, a pretty yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the U.S.)

Outdoors, daylight
Excellent results under harsh lighting, with very good handling of contrast, color, and exposure.

Manual White Balance,
+0.7 EV
Auto White Balance,
0 EV

Outdoors, the Sony A7 II performed very well. +0.7 EV exposure compensation was required to keep the mannequin's face bright in our "Sunlit" Portrait shot, which is average among the cameras we've tested. Contrast is a little high as you might expect under such harsh lighting, but despite the bright appearance, the camera does a great job of holding onto detail in both the shadows and bright highlights, even without the help of DRO. We preferred Manual color balance for our "Portrait" shot, though Auto white balance produced very similar results. Default exposure is just slightly underexposed in our Far-field shot, but with very few highlights blown or shadows lost, again with DRO disabled. Shadows were remarkably clean, though some very deep ones had a blue tint to them. The Far-field shot with Auto white balance has very good color, just a touch cool. Overall, great performance in harsh lighting, especially considering DRO was off for these shots.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Very high resolution, ~2,850 to ~2,900 lines of strong detail from JPEGs, about the same from RAW files.

Strong detail to
~2,900 lines horizontal
Camera JPEG
Strong detail to
~2,850 lines vertical
Camera JPEG
Strong detail to
~2,900 lines horizontal
ACR converted RAW
Strong detail to
~2,850 lines vertical
ACR converted RAW

In-camera JPEGs of our laboratory resolution chart reveal sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 2,900 lines per picture height in the horizontal direction and to about 2,850 lines per picture height in the vertical direction. Complete extinction of the pattern didn't occur until about 3,600 lines in both directions. Adobe Camera Raw wasn't really able to extract more resolution here from matching RAW files, but it produced a lot more color moiré and false colors as it often does at and above the limits of resolution. Use these numbers to compare with other cameras of similar resolution, or use them to see just what higher resolution can mean in terms of potential detail.

Sony A7 II Sony A7

The Sony A7 II's in-camera JPEG showed much lower levels of color moiré than its predecessor's JPEG, though some odd horizontal artifacts can be seen in areas with vertical detail, which may be the result of color moiré suppression possibly interacting with phase-detect AF pixels (hints of similar artifacts can be seen from the A7 but not from the A7R). We doubt these artifacts will be an issue in the vast majority of real-world images, though. See the Aliasing Artifacts section below for more.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sharpness & Detail
Excellent detail and sharpness, with very few sharpening artifacts (at low ISOs). Mild noise suppression visible in the shadows and areas of low contrast.

Excellent definition of
high-contrast elements with very low sharpening artifacts.
Subtle detail: Hair
Noise suppression tends to blur
detail in areas of subtle contrast.

Sharpness. The Sony A7 II captures very sharp, crisp and detailed images overall, and it doesn't leave behind heavy sharpening halos around edges with high contrast that we often see around the lines and letters of our bottle label crop (above left). The A7 II's RAW images don't need a lot of sharpening because of the weak optical low pass filter, but Sony really has done an excellent job with the A7 II's low-ISO JPEG processing. Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.

Detail. The crop above right shows fairly mild noise suppression in the darker areas of the model's hair. A number of low-contrast strands are smudged together, though higher contrast strands are distinct, though as you can see some suffer from the "jaggies" (see below). Still, excellent results here considering the resolution. Noise-suppression systems in digital cameras tend to flatten-out detail in areas of subtle contrast. The effects can often be seen in shots of human hair, where the individual strands are lost and an almost "watercolor" look appears.

Sony A7 II ACR RAW conversion,
no sharpening, no noise reduction
Sony A99, ACR RAW conversion,
no sharpening, no noise reduction

Aliasing Artifacts. As mentioned previously the Sony A7 II captures sharp, detailed images thanks to its high resolution and weak optical low pass filter, but that means it's also susceptible to moiré and other aliasing artifacts when used with a sharp lens.

As you can see in our Still Life shots, luminance moiré patterns can for instance be seen in the red-leaf fabric. Compared to another 24-megapixel full-frame camera with a stronger anti-alias filter (the Sony A99 in the table above for example, though its transmissive mirror may also be contributing a slight low-pass filter effect), you'll immediately notice the A7 II's crop contains aliasing artifacts in the form of a wavy moiré pattern that the A99's crop does not contain (both images are at ISO 100 taken with our very sharp Sigma 70mm f/2.8 Macro lenses at f/8).

With the increasing trend of using either a very weak or no optical low pass filter, quite a few cameras produce similar artifacts these days, and the A7 II's JPEG processing engine actually does a good job at suppressing aliasing-related false colors in our Resolution target. But it's not fool proof as we've shown, and luminance moiré is much more difficult to deal with. That's something to be aware of especially if you shoot a lot of man-made subjects with repeating patterns, such as buildings, fabrics, etc. Techniques than can be used to reduce aliasing include shooting at a smaller aperture so that lens diffraction acts as an anti-alias filter, defocusing slightly, shooting at higher ISOs, and post-processing particularly with RAW files.

RAW vs In-Camera JPEGs
As noted above, the Sony A7 II produces in-camera JPEGs with lots of crisp detail. Additional detail can often be obtained from carefully processing RAW files with a good converter, so let's have a look at base ISO:

Base ISO (100)
Camera JPEG, defaults
RAW via Adobe Camera Raw

In the table above, we compare an in-camera JPEG taken at base ISO using default noise reduction and sharpening (on the left) to the matching RAW file converted with Adobe Camera Raw 8.7 using default noise reduction with some moderate but tight unsharp masking applied in Photoshop (200%, radius of 0.3 pixels, and a threshold of 0).

As you can see, the Adobe Camera Raw conversion contains more fine detail, even revealing some of the threads in our challenging red-leaf fabric, but it also reveals a bit more luminance noise in flat areas. You can always turn up the luminance noise reduction (default of zero was used here), though noise levels are already quite low. Also note the moiré pattern in the red-leaf pattern in both images.

Bottom line: Although Adobe Camera Raw is able to extract more fine detail, the Sony A7 II's JPEG engine does a very good job at low ISOs, with a great balance of fine, crisp detail, low noise, and low sharpening artifacts straight out of the camera.

ISO & Noise Performance
Improved noise reduction, but still over-processed at high ISOs.

Default High ISO Noise Reduction
ISO 50 ISO 100 ISO 200
ISO 400 ISO 800 ISO 1600
ISO 3200 ISO 6400 ISO 12,800
ISO 25,600

The Sony A7 II's JPEG images are quite clean and extremely detailed at ISOs 50 though 400, with almost no image degradation as ISO rises within this range. ISO 800 is slightly softer though fine detail is still excellent. ISO 1600 is the first sensitivity step that shows any significant blurring of fine detail, but detail retention is still very good. ISO 3200 is softer as you'd expect, however fine detail is still quite good, however images start to take on a more processed look, though the A7 II's noise reduction processing appears to be a little more refined compared to its predecessor. At ISO 6400 fine detail takes a bigger hit though there's still some left, and chroma noise artifacts starts to appear in the form of yellow and purple blotches in the shadows. ISO 12,800 is significantly noisier and sharpening combined with strong noise reduction give the image a somewhat hammered look in darker areas and shadows, though hard edges aren't as rough and haloed as we saw with the A7. Almost all fine detail in the hair is lost at ISO 25,600 and the image looks almost like a painting with a stippled effect and strong chroma blotching.

It appears as though default noise reduction processing has improved slightly over the A7, though images still look over-processed at high ISOs when viewed on screen at 100%. Overall, the A7 II offers very good high ISO performance, though some full-frame DSLRs do significantly better. As always, see the Print Quality section below for maximum recommended print sizes at each ISO.

A note about focus for this shot: We shoot this image at f/4 since the scene isn't brightly lit as it's in typical indoor lighting. To insure that the hair detail we use for making critical judgements about camera noise processing and detail rendering is in sharp focus at the relatively wide aperture we're shooting at, the focus target at the center of the scene is on a movable stand. This lets us compensate for front- or back-focus by different camera bodies, even those that lack micro-focus adjustments. This does mean, though, that the focus target itself may appear soft or slightly out of focus for bodies that front- or back-focused with the reference lens. We know this; if you click to view the full-size image for one of these shots and notice that the focus target is fuzzy, you don't need to email and tell us. :-) The focus target position will have been adjusted to insure that the crop area of the scene is focused properly.

Extremes: Sunlit, dynamic range and low light tests
Very high resolution with excellent highlight and shadow detail. Very good low-light performance, capable of capturing bright images in near darkness.

+0.3 EV +0.7 EV +1.0 EV

Sunlight. The Sony A7 II handled the deliberately harsh lighting in the test above brilliantly. We preferred the +0.7 EV exposure here, as the +0.3 EV exposure is a touch dim in the face while the +1.0 EV exposure is a bit too bright. Contrast is a little high, but shadow and highlight detail are both very good. Despite the bright appearance, few highlights are blown in the model's shirt and face at +0.7 EV, though the red channel is clipped in some of the flowers as is often the case, and in specular highlights where you'd expect clipping. There are some dark shadows however they're quite clean, though very deep shadows are posterized as expected. Overall, excellent performance here.

For best results, be sure to use fill flash in situations like the one shown above; it's better to shoot in the shade when possible. See below for results with Dynamic Range Optimization and High Dynamic Range features enabled.

Because digital cameras are more like slide film than negative film (in that they tend to have a more limited tonal range), we test them in the harshest situations to see how they handle scenes with bright highlights and dark shadows, as well as what kind of sensitivity they have in low light. The shot above is designed to mimic the very harsh, contrasty effect of direct noonday sunlight, a very tough challenge for most digital cameras. (You can read details of this test here. In actual shooting conditions, be sure to use fill flash in situations like the one shown here; it's better to shoot in open shade whenever possible.)

Face Detection
Aperture Priority, 0 EV
Face Detection Off
Aperture Priority, 0 EV
Face Detection On
Auto Mode,
0 EV

Face Detection. Like most cameras these days, the Sony A7 II has the ability to detect faces (up to 8 in a scene), and adjust exposure and focus accordingly. As you can see from the examples above, face detection worked as expected in Aperture Priority at f/8, producing a brighter image than without it by reducing the shutter speed from 1/40 to 1/25s (that's a bit slow for handheld and the type of subject, but it had little other choice since the aperture and ISO was manually selected). Full Auto mode is a bit better than Aperture Priority without face detection, however it is still a bit dim. It selected a larger aperture of f/5 while maintaining a relatively fast shutter speed of 1/100s, and automatically applied DRO (see below) to reduce overall contrast.

Outdoor Portrait DRO Comparison



Level 1

Level 2

Level 3

Level 4

Level 5

Dynamic Range Optimization is Sony's name for their dynamic range enhancement technology. DRO divides the image into small areas, analyzes the range of brightness of each area, and adjusts the camera's image processing parameters accordingly to make the best use of the available dynamic range. Auto DRO is enabled by default on the Sony A7 II. You can also set the level manually, from 1 ("weak") to 5 ("strong"), or turn it off. As one would expect, DRO is only available for JPEG files.

The above thumbnails and histograms show the effects of the various levels of DRO on our "Sunlit" Portrait shot with no exposure compensation. Mouse over the links on the right to load the associated thumbnail and histogram, and click on the link to visit the full resolution image. As you can see from the thumbnails and associated histograms, increasing DRO progressively boosts shadows and midtones while leaving highlights essentially intact, though boosting shadows does make noise slightly more visible. The Auto setting did a pretty good job overall, and the five manual levels give quite a bit of control over the effect.

Above, you can see the effect of DRO settings on our Far-field shot. The default Auto setting produced a nicely balanced exposure, despite the harsh lighting. A useful feature.

Outdoor Portrait HDR Comparison



1 EV

2 EV

3 EV

4 EV

5 EV

6 EV

High Dynamic Range. The Sony A7 II's HDR mode takes three images in rapid succession, one nominally exposed , one underexposed, and one overexposed, then combines them into one high dynamic range JPEG automatically. Lighter areas from the underexposed image are combined in-camera with darker areas from the overexposed image to produce an image with compressed tonal range. The camera then saves a single composite image, as well as the nominally exposed image. The overlaid images are micro-aligned by the camera, but it can only correct for so much movement. If it can't micro-align successfully, an icon indicating HDR capture failed will appear. For best results, the subject should not move or even blink, so it's not really intended for portraits. There is also a manual mode where you can select 1 EV ("weak") to 6 EV ("strong") difference in exposures.

Mouse over the links to load the associated thumbnail and histogram, and click on the link to visit the full resolution image. As you can see, the Auto setting did a decent job, similar to the 3 EV manual setting. The higher the manual setting, the more highlights were toned-down and shadows opened up, but as you can see higher settings can produce flat and unnatural results with this subject.

Far-field HDR Comparison

Above, you can see the effect of HDR settings on our Far-field shot. Watch out for ghost images from subject movement during the capture sequence, though, as can be seen in some of the shots above.

(Note: The Far-field DRO and HDR shots were mistakenly taken at f/18 and ISO 6400; we'll retake these once the weather cooperates.)

Dynamic Range Analysis (RAW mode). While we once performed our own dynamic range measurements based on in-camera JPEGs as well as converted RAW images (when the camera was supported by Adobe Camera Raw), we've switched to using DxO Labs' results from their DxOMark website. As technology advanced, the dynamic range of modern high-end cameras in some cases exceeded the range of the Stouffer T4110 density scale that we used for our own measurements. DxO's approach based on RAW data before demosaicing is also more revealing, because it measures the fundamental dynamic range of the sensor, irrespective of whatever processing is applied to JPEGs, or to RAW data by off-the-shelf conversion software.

In the following, we use DxO's "Print" dynamic range results, which are scaled based on camera resolution. As the name suggests, this scaling corresponds to the situation in which you print at a given size, regardless of how many megapixels the camera might have. (In other words, if you've decided to make a 13x19 inch print, that's the size you're printing, whether the camera's resolution is 16 or 300 megapixels.) For the technically-minded, you can find a discussion of the reasoning behind this here on the DxOMark website. Also note that DxO Labs uses a signal-to-noise (SNR) threshold of 1 when defining the lower boundary of acceptable luminance noise in their dynamic range measurements, which corresponds to the "Low Quality" threshold of the Imatest software we used to use for this measurement.

The Sony A7 Mark II's dynamic range performance is very similar to its predecessor, the A7, so here we compare the Sony A7 II to the Nikon D750 and Canon 5D Mark III full-frame DSLRs.

As you can see from the above graph (click for a larger image), the A7 II's dynamic range isn't quite as high as the D750's at most ISOs, with the D750 producing about 14.5 EV at base ISO versus the A7 II's 13.6 EV, which is almost a full EV advantage for the Nikon. The Sony does however catch up at ISOs 400 through 1600, but then the D750 retakes a slight lead up until ISO 25,600 where they are both essentially the same.

The Sony A7 II's dynamic range is however dramatically better than the Canon 5D Mark III's at lower ISOs with an almost 2 EV advantage at base ISO (13.6 vs 11.7 EV), though at ISO 1600 and above, the two cameras perform roughly equivalently, with the Canon even pulling ahead slightly at ISOs 6400 and 12,800.

Click here to visit the DxOMark page for the Sony A7 II for more of their test results and additional comparisons.

  1 fc
11 lux
1/16 fc
0.67 lux

2s, f2.8

30s, f2.8

30s, f2.8

1/15s, f2.8

1s, f2.8

1s, f2.8

1/125s, f2.8

1/8s, f2.8

1/8s, f2.8

Low Light. The Sony A7 II performed well in our low light tests, producing usable exposures with very low noise down to the lowest light level we test at (1/16 fc) at base ISO of 100. Noise is well-controlled at ISO 3200, though as expected, at the highest ISO of 25,600 luminance noise is high and blotchy chroma noise can be seen in darker areas. With noise reduction minimized (right-most column), noise "grain" is quite fine and tight and not too objectionable except at the highest ISOs.

We found a few hot pixels, particularly when long exposure noise reduction is turned off (where you'd expect to find them), but nothing significant. We didn't detect any significant issues with banding (pattern noise), however some minor heat blooming can be seen emanating from the bottom of the frame in longer exposures at the highest ISOs. That's not unusual, though.

Auto white balance did a very good job here, producing a fairly neutral, just slightly cool color balance.

The Sony A7 II's autofocus system was able to focus on our target down to the 1/8 foot-candle light level unassisted with an f/2.8 lens. That's fair for a mirrorless, but not as good as most DSLRs. However with the AF illuminator enabled, the camera was able to focus in complete darkness. This of course will vary with subject type and distance.

How bright is this? The one foot-candle light level that this test begins at roughly corresponds to the brightness of typical city street-lighting at night. Cameras performing well at that level should be able to snap good-looking photos of street-lit scenes. (A useful trick is to just prop the camera on a convenient surface, and use its self-timer to release the shutter. This avoids any jiggling from your finger pressing the shutter button, and can work quite well when you don't have a tripod handy.)

NOTE: This low light test is conducted with a stationary subject, and the camera mounted on a sturdy tripod. Most digital cameras will fail miserably when faced with a moving subject in dim lighting. (For example, a child's ballet recital or a holiday pageant in a gymnasium.) Thanks to its larger sensor and Hybrid AF, compact system cameras like the Sony A7 II tend to do better than point & shoots, but you still shouldn't expect a quick autofocus lock with moving subjects.

Output Quality

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 in 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!


The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Sony Alpha ILCE-A7 II Photo Gallery .

Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Sony Alpha ILCE-A7 II with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!

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