Sony A7R II Review
|Common names:||Sony Alpha ILCE-A7R II, Sony A7RII|
(35.9mm x 24.0mm)
|Viewfinder:||EVF / LCD|
|Native ISO:||100 - 25,600|
|Extended ISO:||50 - 102,400|
|Shutter:||1/8000 - 30 sec|
5.0 x 3.8 x 2.4 in.
(127 x 96 x 60 mm)
|Full specs:||Sony A7R II specifications|
A7R II Summary
Sony's full-frame A7-series cameras have been a smash hit. Now, the Sony A7R II takes it to the next level with a more comfortable body, an impressive on-chip phase detection autofocus system, five-axis in-body image stabilization, better third-party lens support and in-camera 4K video capture. (And that's just a few of its high points!) Is it time you made the jump to a full-frame mirrorless camera, or upgraded from an older Alpha model? Find out now in our in-depth Sony A7R II review!Pros
Superb image quality; Very high resolution; Surprisingly good high ISO performance; Fast autofocus; Compact, comfortable body with lots of customization potential; Bright, roomy and clear viewfinder; Tilting LCD display; Five-axis stabilization; Intuitive Wi-Fi / NFC connectivityCons
Movie button is poorly located; No touch screen; Not as fast to start up or shoot photos as a similarly-priced SLR; Rather slow buffer clearing; No built-in flash; Single card slot; Not weather-sealed to the same degree as some rivalsPrice and availability
The Sony Alpha A7R II began shipping in August 2015, with a retail price of around US$3,200 for the sole body-only configuration.Imaging Resource rating
4.5 out of 5.0
Sony A7R II Review
08/04/2015: Real-world gallery photos added
08/27/2015: Performance test results posted
09/23/2015: Field Test Part I added
11/11/2015: Field Test Part II added
12/11/2015: Print quality analysis added
12/14/2015: Image quality comparison added
12/15/2015: Conclusion posted!
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Named as the Best Camera of 2015 in our Camera of the Year awards, the A7R II is an excellent high-resolution yet compact mirrorless camera. For those wanting DSLR-style handling and performance, Sony's recently introduced the A99 Mark II, which pairs their SLT camera technology with the same 42MP full-frame sensor and 399-point on-sensor phase-detect AF system as in the A7R II.
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You knew it was coming. The higher-resolution "companion" to the Sony A7 II and much-anticipated update to the Sony A7R has arrived. The aptly-named A7R II shares the much-improved ergonomic redesign introduced by its A7 II sibling, as well as presenting a whole host of new features and technology aimed at providing the utmost in image and video quality as well as performance.
At the heart of the matter is a new 42.4-megapixel back-illuminated Exmor R full-frame CMOS sensor. This brand new sensor makes it possible to have a camera that not only provides very high-resolution stills and video, but also provides a high performance and speedy experience that's typically seen with lower-resolution cameras. As Sony puts it, you no longer have to pick a high-res camera or a high-performance one.
With its new sensor, the A7R II not only gains a notable boost in resolution from 36MP to 42MP (while continuing to do away with the optical low-pass filter), but it also provides a noticeable boost in high ISO sensitivity -- up to an expanded ISO 102,400 -- thanks to the back-side illuminated design and powerful BIONZ X image processor. The new sensor's structure and copper wiring also allow for improved data throughput off the chip at up to 3.5x faster than the predecessor, which means having the camera ready to shoot shot after shot as it reads off the sensor data much more quickly.
And now, for the first time in the "R" version of the A7-lineup, the A7R II features on-sensor phase-detect AF, which Sony claims provides up to 40 percent faster AF performance compared to the original. The A7R II's focusing system offers the world's widest coverage area of phase-detect sensor at 45-percent of the frame thanks to the whopping 399 phase-detect AF points (which is huge bump up from the 117 PDAF points of the A7 II).
With the original A7R, burst shooting performance was not one of the camera's strong suits, with a rather paltry 4fps burst rate without continuous AF and a measly 1.7fps with C-AF. Now, with the A7R II, the higher-powered autofocus system allows the camera to shoot at 5fps with continuous AF. It's still not the speediest camera out there in terms of burst rate, but considering the resolution of this full-frame sensor, it's still quite the feat.
In addition, the Alpha A7R II features a new shutter mechanism that Sony claims produces 50% less vibration compared to its predecessor to help combat shutter-induced blur which is particularly important at these resolutions, and it's also highly durable with a cycle rating of approximately 500K actuations. The A7R II can also be set to Silent Shooting mode which employs an all-electronic shutter in order to shoot silently, without any sensor vibration.
This new "R" model also gains Sony's impressive 5-axis sensor-shift image stabilization that was introduced with the A7 II. This 5-axis system, working in concert with Sony's OSS-capable lenses, helps correct for pitch and yaw movements, shifts along the X and Y axis as well as rotational movements, and all up to an impressive 4.5-stops of correction.
For the A7R II, it's not only still images that gain a noticeable increase in resolution and quality, but videos as well. Like the A7S before it, the A7R II is able to capture ultra-high-resolution 4K video (3840 x 2160), however, unlike the "S" model, it can record 4K video internally to the memory card (or stream an uncompressed 4:2:2 8-bit signal via HDMI, or do both simultaneously).
But there's a bigger story surrounding 4K video with the A7R II, and that is it's the world's first to offer in-camera full-frame 4K recording. Indeed, the A7R II captures 4K video using the full width of its full-frame sensor. Initially, this is way more pixels than is needed for 4K resolution video, and so the A7R II condenses the pixel-by-pixel information into a highly-detailed, crisp 4K video resolution. The camera also offers a cropped Super 35mm mode, while still capturing a higher-resolution 5168 x 2912 (5K) frame and condensing it into the 8MP-equivalent 4K video size.
Furthermore, the A7R II makes use of Sony's higher bitrate XAVC S file format, which supports 4K bitrates up to 100Mbps. Full HD and 720p video recording is also offered in XAVC S format at 50Mbps (AVCHD and MP4 formats are also available for these resolutions). And like the A7S, the A7R II includes advanced video features including Picture Profile support with S-Log2 gamma for increased dynamic range control, REC control and timecode support.
The exterior design of the A7R II borrows heavily from the much-improved, redesigned A7 II in terms its shape and contoured grip and control layout. In fact, aside from the different model badge and 4K logo, the camera is practically identical. As we mentioned with the A7 II, this redesign is a much-welcomed improvement. The camera is much more comfortable to hold and the button placement and other controls are in more natural locations; overall, the camera feels great in the hand. The one primary, if not only, exterior change compared to the A7 II is the locking mode dial, which we think is a very nice little touch.
If you've picked up the A7 II, then the handling characteristics of the A7R II will be strikingly familiar, though it does feel just a hair heavier than the A7 II. Looking at the Sony-provided weight specs, at 625g (with battery and memory card), the A7R II is noticeably heavier and beefier-feeling than the original A7 (approx. 465g with battery and card) and tips the scale a bit compared to the A7 II as well (approx. 599g with battery and card).
Like other Sony A7-series cameras, especially the more recent A7 II, the build quality of the A7R II feels excellent and super-solid. According to the press materials provided and from speaking with Sony representatives, the A7R II's full magnesium alloy body construction features some environmental sealing, though a rubberized gasket around the lens mount is, sadly, still absent. The buttons and dials do feature sealing, and the body construction components themselves, we're told, are built with such tight tolerances that the camera is considered dust and moisture resistant. However, Sony does point out that the camera is not waterproof, nor is it splashproof.
In other design improvements, the electronic viewfinder gets some love as well, and now features the world's highest viewfinder magnification at 0.78x for a full-frame camera (up from 0.71x in the A7R and A7 II). Indeed, the new 2,359K-dot XGA OLED Tru-Finder feels much larger thanks to the improved approximately 38.5-degree field of view. Technologically, the EVF has been completely redesigned with a new four-lens construction, including double-sided aspherical elements and Zeiss T* coating to insure crisp image resolution and minimal surface reflection, respectively.
The A7R Mark II's LCD monitor size remains the same at 3 inches, but it's a 1,228,800 dot RGBW panel versus the 921,600 dot RGB display initially used for the A7R (Sony may have made a running change to A7R's panel since we reviewed it, though, as some sources indicate a 1.23M-dot RGBW panel for the A7R as well). While still not a fully articulating tilt/swivel design, the range of the tilting mechanism has been improved to match the A7 II's, allowing the panel to tilt upwards to about 107 degrees, up from 84 degrees on the A7R, though downward tilt is slightly more limited to about 41 degrees, versus 45 on the predecessor.
Like the previous A7-series cameras, the A7R II features both built-in Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity and utilizes Sony's PlayMemories suite of on-camera add-on applications and mobile apps. One particularly interesting new addition to the PlayMemories line of add-on functionality is the Angle Shift feature. In conjunction with the already-existing Time Lapse add-on, the new Angle Shift feature uses the sensor's massive resolution to crop in and add panning, tilting and zooming "effects" for even more dynamic, motion-control-style videos, all without the need for heavy, expensive or complicated time-lapse equipment, motorized sliders and various other accessories.
A wide variety of wired connectivity options are offered, including a 3.5mm stereo microphone jack with plug-in power, a 3.5mm stereo headphone jack, the previously mentioned HDMI port (Micro Type D), and a combined USB 2.0 data / wired remote / charging port, which Sony calls the Multi-Terminal Interface.
As well as the ability to control it remotely via Wi-Fi or wired remote, the A7R II lets you trip the shutter release from an infrared remote, using a receiver in the handgrip.
The camera also comes with the same cable lock protector that ships with the A7S II, to help prevent the HDMI cable from coming loose.
Like other A7 models, the A7R II does not include a built-in flash. That limits users to external strobes only, and they're attached via the top-deck Multi Interface Shoe mount. This has proprietary intelligent contacts, and can also be used to mount various non-flash accessories. The A7R II also accepts Minolta / Sony iISO strobes using an optionally-available adaptor.
The A7R II stores images on Secure Digital cards, including the higher-capacity SDHC / SDXC types, and the higher-speed UHS-I types. Note that an SDXC card with a U3 speed rating is required for 100Mbps 4K or Full HD XAVC S video recording. The A7R II's single flash card slot can also accept Sony's proprietary Memory Stick PRO Duo cards, if you prefer, though they don't support XAVC S video capture.
The A7R II uses the same NP-FW50 lithium-ion battery pack as its predecessor. Battery life remains the same when using the LCD monitor at 340 shots per charge, but has improved slightly when using the EVF at 290 shots versus 270 for the A7R.
Sony decided to include a second battery in the A7R II bundle, as well as an AC adapter for in-camera charging via USB and a dedicated battery charger (BC-QM1). Nice! And of course the A7R II is compatible with Sony's optional VGC2EM vertical battery grip which doubles battery life with two batteries installed.
Sony A7R II Field Test Part I
Object of desire: Sony's flagship full-frame shooter is even better than ever!
I found a whole lot to like in both cameras on that trip, and my colleagues here at Imaging Resource agreed. Both cameras were no-brainer choices for our Dave's Picks list, and also placed well in our 2013 Camera of the Year awards. (The A7 earned itself a Camera of Distinction award overall, while the A7R took top prize as our Camera of the Year.)
Since then, the A7-series has grown to six models. Alongside the original two cameras, the followup Sony A7S traded resolution for sensitivity, and also emphasized video thanks to 4K capture capability, although an external recorder was needed. And this year, all three models have been replaced with ever more impressive successor cameras: the A7 II, A7R II and A7S II.
How well does the A7R II live up to its predecessors' great reputation?
Sony A7R II Field Test Part II
A tale of two nights: From the county fair to glittering New York
Nutshell view: A quick recap of my earlier experiences
After that first experience with the new model, a followup to the earlier Sony A7R, I found much to love on the new Mark II model. In particular, I really appreciated its brand-new body, inherited with some subtle tweaks from its current-generation sibling the A7 II.
The ergonomics are noticeably better, with the shutter button in particular being much more comfortable to reach and press with your index finger. No question: The A7R II is a much better camera than was its predecessor in this respect.
How does the Sony A7R II handle low-light shooting?
Sony A7R II Image Quality Comparison
How does the A7R II compare to its rivals?
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 A7R II to any camera we've ever tested!
Sony A7R II Print Quality
How will your photos look on paper?
ISOs 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.
Read about the Sony A7R II Print Quality
Sony A7R II Conclusion
The full-frame flagship, reinvented as an even better camera
Over the last couple of years, I've gotten to shoot with some really cool cameras, but the original Sony A7R holds a special place in my heart. I first shot with that camera on a press trip in Nashville, Tennessee, and while it had some rough edges here and there -- I wasn't thrilled with the shutter button placement, for example -- I found a whole lot of potential in a camera so compact, yet housing a full-frame image sensor.
A couple of years down the road, the A7R II follows on from that camera, and that gives it some mighty big shoes to fill. The great news is that it's more than up to the challenge, with significant upgrades throughout. Where its predecessor was a magnificent portent of things to come, the A7R II feels much more polished and complete.
Want our final thoughts on Sony's full-frame flagship?
In the Box
The Sony A7R II body-only retail box (as reviewed) contains the following items:
- Sony ILCE-7RM2 Camera Body
- 2 x NP-FW50 Lithium-Ion Rechargeable Battery (1020mAh)
- BC-VW1 Battery Charger
- AC-UD10 AC Adapter
- Power Cord
- Shoulder Strap
- Body Cap
- Multi-Interface Shoe Cover
- Eyepiece Cup
- Cable Protector
- Micro-USB Cable
- Large capacity SDHC/SDXC memory card. (SDXC U3 memory card required for 100Mbps XAVC S video format.)
- High Quality Lenses
- Sony VGC2EM Vertical Battery Grip (~US$350)
- Sony HVL-F20M External Flash (~US$150)
- Small/Medium Carrying Bag
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