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Inspiration

5 Compelling Reasons To Add A Sony Pro Mirrorless Camera | There’s No Need to Switch Systems

By Marlon Richardson on May 16th 2016

More than any other company, Sony has led the charge in establishing the relevance and benefits of mirrorless cameras. From their original of the entire E-mount to the latest and greatest, Sony has been at the forefront, and with the release of the A7rII, Sony has introduced a truly impressive camera that deserves a deeper look from even the most diehard DSLR users. This isn’t a review, but more an inauguration of the idea that when thinking of a Sony pro mirrorless the argument doesn’t have to be a matter of changing systems, but rather adopting the highly adaptable A7 into the kit you already have.

Building on the full-frame legacy of Alpha bodies, the a7RII includes a robust list of flagship level features: 42 megapixels, five-axis sensor-shift stabilization that works to degrees with any mounted lens, 399 phase detection AF points, 4K capable internal video recording, S-Log, omission of an anti-aliasing filter, silent shutter, magnesium alloy weather sealed body, and the beat goes on. In addition, Sony is producing an increasingly formidable list of high quality E-Mount native lenses. Nothing is perfect and the A7rII isn’t exempt; some quibbles might include a poorly optimized menu system and a relatively short battery life, but otherwise the a7RII is easy to love. At this point, for aspiring portrait and studio pros who aren’t already deeply invested in a system, it would be hard not recommend Sony’s Pro Mirrorless System as a legitimate option.

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What excites me about Sony’s Pro Mirrorless system is that it does not require pros with an extensive investment of high-quality lenses from another system to start over from scratch with Sony – it’s simply not the case. All you’ll need is an a7RII (or A7sII) and the applicable adaptor for high quality lenses you already own. Other than losing some focusing related options you’ll get the full benefit of all the A7rII features.

So if you are already heavily invested in Nikon, Canon, Leica, or Sony’s own Alpha mount, here’s where you’ll see massive benefit from not replacing your kit but adding a Sony pro mirrorless to it.

5 Axis Image Stabilization

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The a7RII features a 5-axis stabilization system built into the sensor. The sensor moves itself to counteract unintentional movement while you shoot stills or video. In practical terms, it’ll allow you to shoot at lower shutter speeds with significantly reduced image blur due to camera shake.

On other high megapixel bodies like the Canon 5DS and Nikon D810, it can be difficult to take images tack sharp handheld at shutter speeds slower than 1/400s. With the A7rII you can expect to still achieve sharp focus handheld at much slower shutter speeds. Yes, the 5-axis stabilization is that good.

It’s is also a boon for anyone with a stable of high grade manual focusing lenses, as besides peaking and focus-magnification to make your life easier, the added benefit of stabilization should improve your previous keeper rate with those lenses. Leica, Contax N/645, Mamiya, and those with a cache of exotic lenses have a sensible option that keeps those lenses useful and relevant.

Image Quality

The a7RII’s ‘first of its kind’, backside illuminated architecture for improved low-light performance, reduced shading, and color shifts at the periphery of the frame, is particularly useful for any 3rd party lenses mounted ,as native E-Mount lenses would have built-in correction.

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This is a still taken from 4K video on the a7RII

Sony shines like no other at the moment in image quality. Even before Sony updated the firmware of the a7RII to allow for full uncompressed 14-bit readout for files, the a7RII has still been the highest rated sensor tested by DXO since August 2015. To put it against a contemporary, the a7RII noticeably exceeds the Canon 5DS in both noise levels and dynamic range. Pitted in companions to the Nikon D810 the A7rII is superior at noise levels while only giving ground slightly in dynamic range at it’s base ISO (50-100), but then after, it exceeds the best from Nikon’s best.

Bracketing exposures isn’t really a viable option for anything that moves. For portraits, the leverage afforded by the a7RII’s dynamic range allows for greater control of shadows and highlights, and the ability to push files without gaining any grain in the shadows or other aberrations cannot be overlooked. We’ve never seen this kind of image quality and performance in a compact high resolution body that can capture nearly any scene easily, that can also adapt any 3rd party lens.

Full-time Live View Exposure

Simply put, when you turn on Live View you’ll see exposure adjustments in real-time. This greatly reduces the need to take several test shots when shooting. Combined with the a7RII’s remarkably good EVF, you’ll notice your rate of under/overexposed images is significantly less than with your DSLR.

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The a7RII’s live view, peaking, and focus magnification take all of the guess work and frustration out of composing. Even better, Sony, in partnership with Phase One incorporates all these features when tethering the a7RII form Capture One Pro 8 and on.

As of today, for exclusive DSLR users there is no equivalent to this very useful feature – It’s only available in mirrorless camera’s with the a7RII being the only high resolution variant to note.

Compact & Lightweight

With no lens mounted the A7rII is an extremely compact and lightweight camera. This is particularly helpful for pro users who are adding a camera to their existing kit – we’re not speaking solely of the primary camera here. Adding an a7RII, a few batteries, and an adaptor roughly equates to packing another medium telephoto lens in your bag.

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Image via Sony.com

To keep the combo compact for everyday use, you’ll need to also use compact lenses. Now, it’s true some of the high quality E Mount lenses like Sony’s new G-Master line are far from minute, and very likely, if you’re a Canon, Nikon, or Sony A Mount user, a combo with the a7RII won’t be compact. However, Sony’s Batis and Loxia line are quite small. For 3rd party use look into Contax G, Voigtlander M and Leica M lenses for making the package small enough to fit in a coat pocket and easy enough to keep with you all the time.

[REWIND: The Ultimate Camera Giveaway | Win a Canon 1DX II, Nikon D5, or Sony A7R II!]

Shoot 4k Internally or Super 35 & S-Log2

Even if you only shoot very short clips the A7rII is an impressive video camera that sits amongst the elite in it’s class. Although it’s primarily a stills image machine the boffins at Sony clearly had videography in mind with some of the decisions they made.

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Consider that it shoots 4k in full frame or Super 35 crop mode. In full frame the a7RII bests other camera’s in it’s class, but overall lags the very best full frame sensor video camera’s like the Canon C500 or the Sony a7sII. However, in Super 35 crop mode the processor down samples from 15 megapixels to 4k for improved video quality putting in the same quality class as it’s sibling, the A7sII – a little spoken about fact.

Sony also included it’s pro grade S-Log2 Gamma Picture Profile which allows the widest color gamut and most information in the shadows and highlights. No other camera made today delivers top level stills and video performance together quite like the a7RII for that reason.

Should I Add The Sony a7RII To My Kit?

This could seem one big advertisement for the a7RII, but perhaps it’s significant to consider that it has had so much good publicity that you needn’t have had me speak highly of it to know it’s highly capable and regarded. The primary point here is to offer you information framed to show you that if you’re looking to add to your kit, or you want some of the A7’s benefits but worry about having to entirely switch, that you can have the best of both worlds. The A7rII particularly lets you enjoy that, and compatibility continues to grow.

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The flexibility that the a7RII provides is where it’s unmatched. As I mentioned from the onset, it’s hard not to love it, and Sony did us all a favor by not mandating that we buy native E Mount lenses to enjoy it’s flagship camera. This camera does so much right; It’s light, high-resolution, stabilized, and even weather sealed, and it can be compact and stealthy with 3rd party or E-Mount lenses with silent shutter enabled; It can also be larger and well balanced with a battery grip and DSLR lenses, and it can be a serious tool for video production capable of adapting anamorphic lenses fitted with an external recorder, microphone, and gimbal.

What it is, is a chameleon of camera that can earn a spot in any pros bag. Unlike previous A7-series cameras that have more glaring drawbacks, the A7rII is a ‘do everything camera’ that doesn’t demand a complete system-wide switch, or loyalty at all.

*You can win an A7RII right now in what may be our best giveaway ever. Click here to enter and for details.

Marlon is a South Florida-based wedding and portrait photographer, writer, and interactive designer. Involved in photography since the 90’s, his background began with repairing film cameras from a master Vietnam veteran, followed by years of assisting professional photographers then before starting his own business in 2006. Marlon at his heart is a tinkerer that has love for and adept in every medium of photography.

When not working Marlon is all about spending time with his wife, Naomi and two boys, Taze and Brassaï.

http://www.marlonrichardson.com

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Tom Barrett

    Really makes me think now…

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  2. Alex Petrenko

    By “losing some focusing related options” you mean “completely losing autofocus”?

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    • Marlon Richardson

      No, I mean that Sony has some E-Mount only focusing modes like “Zone Focusing” that only works with native lenses.

      If the adaptor that you use provides AF, you’ll have it. Canon and Sigma, have released some particularly fast adaptors for Canon mount lenses. From my tests they are right around the speed of the 5d3. For those who like to AF, using an EVF makes it absolutely cake!

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    • A R

      Marlon Richardson; ../”Canon and Sigma, have released some particularly fast adaptors for Canon mount lenses. /..” :
      Canon has released (a particularly fast!) adapter ? Yeah thank You for this serious investigation and trustworthy education of Yours !! (BTW; Does it allow Eye-AF ?) What’s that Canon’s adapter’s reference please?…

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  3. William Irwin

    I personally would rather switch into a system completely than to “bridge” into it. My opinion is you should be using the glass for the system that the body supports. Many of the lenses are designed for the characteristics of specific cameras so what you see on a Canon with 85mm 1.2 may not be quite the same as what you would see on a Sony.

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    • Marlon Richardson

      No reason not to use a great lens on a body as modular as the a7rsII or a7rII. Canon isn’t ever going to let you use that L glass on a mirrorless camera that they make. It’s all no telling when their sensor development is going to catch up to what Sony is doing. Also, keep in mind some great lenses are apart systems that are now dead. Even more so, you have many 3rd party lensmakers like Sigma, Carl Zeiss, and Tokina that release identical lenses in several mounts.

      It’s true the color science between Sony and Canon is definitely not the same. However, they added dynamic range and better noise performance is pretty amazing. Otherwise you aren’t getting any “Canon” magic just by sticking their lenses only on systems they release.

      No need to hold yourself back for no reason.

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    • William Irwin

      I don’t feel like not having the Sony system will “hold me back”. I just see no need for the added expense at this time.

      I guess I see things differently than most people. I tend to look at the overall system with the most important part being the glass. Sure you can have a camera like Sony A7IIR which by the numbers the king of the pile according to most. However there are many other factors such as the Menu system, the Lens collection and the Professional Support that go into decisions for which system to purchase. For my needs Canon is fine and I can produce great quality images and so do many other professionals.

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  4. Mike Upton

    I remember a time not that long ago (maybe 5 years ago) where I used to get LAUGHED AT for shooting Sony by the CaNikon campers and told “Your first step to becoming a professional is by throwing your camera away and getting a Canon or Nikon. No one will respect Sony EVER.” . My how the tables have turned.

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    • Marlon Richardson

      It’s been a long time since Canon and Nikon have had to compete with anyone other than themselves. Nowadays there is lots of competition for most jobs or enthusiasts needs.

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  5. Mark Romine

    I recently picked up a used mint a7rII and a Ziess 28 f2 and 55 f1.8. I love shooting mirrorless at weddings, it’s fun. But I don’t see anyway that I am going to switch everything from Nikon to Sony. I’m a two shooter wedding studio and each of us shoots with two Nikon bodies throughout the day. The expense to equip two of us with four Sony bodies, Ziess lenses and a new flash system would be prohibitive to say the least. Plus I don’t know if I could ever mentally get past shooting with cameras that only have a one card slot. If I’m going to make a complete switch to a mirrorless system it would have to be to a more affordable Fuji or Micro 4/3 system like Olympus.

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    • Marlon Richardson

      that’s pretty much the point of this article. Unlike with Fuji and Olympus you aren’t giving ground IQ wise or shooting in different sensor ratios.

      Just as you’ve done, one can add an a7rII with a native lens or an adaptor to an existing kit from another system.

      I honestly think Sony had this in mind with they way they market this camera as well as how equitable they are with adaptor production.

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    • Mark Romine

      That’s why I will probably end up staying with Nikon. I would love a full Sony kit, would actually need four of them but the cost is ridiculous. Most of their lenses like the new G series are too big, heavy and expensive.

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  6. robert s

    “This could SEEM one big advertisement for the a7RII”

    no it didnt seem. it is.

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  7. Paul Wynn

    Thanks Marlon for this overview of the Sony A7Rll. For some time now, I’ve been thinking of adding a mirror less camera to my kit. From reading your article it sounds like Sony have produced a real winner, I like the approach that has been adopted for using lenses from other manufacturers, very grown up thinking.

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    • Marlon Richardson

      I think it’s a smart move by position their A7 series as a bridge camera. Switching systems has always been a tedious and expensive move to make. With the A7 series pro’s and enthusiast already heavily invested with another system can get into Sony’s mirrorless system just by buying a body and adaptor.

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    • Anders Madsen

      I’m sorry, but I simply have to call big-time B.S. on this one. It is very far from “just buying a body and adapter” in most cases, and anyone believing so is in for a real disappointment.

      I’m currently considering a switch from Nikon to Sony (more video requests coming from customers, and Nikon has very little to offer in terms of 4K video), and my findings are nowhere near “buy body and adapter and off you go”.

      If you look at Brian Smiths very extensive list of adapters (http://briansmith.com/gear/sony-lens-adapters/) you will see that 90% or so will offer manual focus only, and if you start digging into the Youtube reviews of e.g. the Commlite adapter for Nikon, you will see that although Commlite states that the adapter is working in fast AF mode with e.g. the Nikon 24-70 f/2.8G (http://www.ebay.com/itm/172118708706?rmvSB=true), the real world experience of a customer (http://www.tommayphotography.com/2016/02/17/commlite-nikon-f-to-sony-e-adapter-review/) is very much different. Please note that the review was done with the production version of the adapter, not the beta that Matt Granger tested (and found completely unusable).

      There is a separate adapter for Sigma lenses that will make them work very well (at least as far as I can tell), but the review linked above from Tommay Photography clearly shows that other third-party lenses is a completely different story – two out of three Tamron lenses did not work at all.

      The honest assessment of the ability to bridge between an existing system and the Sony FE mount would – in my opinion – be something like: Yes, it can be done, if you are a Canon user with a compatible selection of lenses (the Canon 24-105 f/4 is one of the current production lenses known to have issues, e.g.) or you don’t necessarily need native AF performance.

      For any other system, be prepared to sacrifice your autofocus and use manual focus only. You are not “losing some focusing related options”, you lose AF. Period.

      For all systems be aware that the adapters are for stills photography – AF in video mode is generally not usable.

      This is not really the camera or adapters fault, but most Canon lenses were not designed with video in mind, and the AF performance is usually very choppy, whereas native FE-mount lenses have a much better chance of working well.

      Since a lot of switchers probably are in the same situation as me (wanting to do proper video but the current system does not offer the needed features), switching with no good video AF support for the lenses does not make much sense. Yes, you can focus manually but modern AF lenses has a horrible manual focus (focus throw is to short and there is a lack of good report between the turn of the focus ring and the actual movement of the lens elements), so in the real world, you will probably want to use native FE-mount lenses for video doing autofocus, and lenses designed for manual focus in all other cases.

      Look, I get it. You have your Sony system and you love it, and that is really great! Honestly – no sarcasm intended in any way, it’s definitely a fantastic system. However, this article is not representative of the real world scenario, and if people took your word for it, they would more likely end up in a frustrating situation than not, potentially making you (and by extention SLR Lounge) a prime target when they are venting that frustration.

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    • Marlon Richardson

      What I’m saying is nothing new. Thousands of pro photographers have “added” the Sony a7sII or a7rII to their existing kits and it’s not causing them the pain you claim. Go online look around, it’s not hard to find many, many happy pro users who’ve simply added a Sony A7 to their kit. Nothing misleading here.

      If you are a Nikon shooter who is getting serious about video then you’d be better off completely switching to Sony’s E-Mount. Nikon has produced a succession of solid video camera’s yet and it doesn’t look like they will be focused on it for their current systems.

      However, if you want a high resolution option to go with your D5 or D750, the Sony A7rII is a valid option opposed to the D810. For one, you’ll be able to shoot at lower shutter speeds without camera shake. Two, the camera is light and small so it’s easy to carry with your other cameras. Three, they are world-class video cameras, even with Nikon lenses attached. Four, you get fulltime live view with manual focusing aids.

      Is the AF going to be on par with the D810 or D5 with the best Nikon AF adaptor available? Nope. If that drawback over shadows all the benefits then adding a Sony to your kit is not a good idea.

      P.S. – There is a pretty neat Leica M adaptor for E-Mount available. Yep, it AF’s manual focus only lenses. Go check it out!

      P.P.S. – If you look at some gear testing sites you’ll find that users are reporting that their Canon lenses are working fantastically with new Sigma adaptor and Metabones adaptor.

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    • Anders Madsen

      Oh, but I don’t disagree that a lot of pro shooters have added a Sony kit to their existing kit and are happy with it.

      However, my argument was, that unless you are a Sony A-mount, Canon EF-mount or Sigma SA-mount shooter, there are no adapters that will give you usable autofocus with your lenses on a Sony body, and you will most likely have to operate two systems in parallel or switch entirely if you use autofocus.

      Although Commlite has an adapter that works on paper, this test from a few days ago shows that it is not production ready yet:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JB492D23cYg

      Note that according to Commlites compatibility chart on eBay, both the 70-200 f/2.8 and 24-70 f/2.8 should be fully compatible with the adapter but is clearly not.- focus has improved but aperture control has gone completely.

      Yes, it will probably be fixed in a later firmware update, but still – it’s in no way usable for a pro shooter as it is.

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    • Marlon Richardson

      And BTW, I don’t own the A7rII or A7sII specifically because I don’t enjoy the handling of it. For my needs, that’s a deal breaker.

      I don’t personally have to love or own a camera to recommend it to other folks. Lot’s of photographers want to dip into mirrorless. Sadly, Nikon and Canon aren’t serious about offering anything useful just yet. Till then, Sony is the modular option and best option available.

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    • Marlon Richardson

      I’d add Leica (or any Leica M Mount lens), Contax 645/N/G, and OM-D E-M1 to that list of systems with excellent support.

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