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News & Insight

Sony A7R II Crowned King Of DxOMark | Is The Tesla P85D Of Cameras

By Kishore Sawh on August 28th 2015

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In a world of marketing, at every corner we are bombarded with superlatives and their overuse, but I think we can say without hesitation that the Sony A7 line has been game changing, and is, in many respects, a benchmark product. Is it perfect? No, but what is? More importantly, it is a slate wiper in that is has cleared what many of us thought mirrorless could or would do. And its latest iteration, the A7R II? Well, that’s pretty much the Tesla P85D of cameras.

For those who aren’t ‘Musk’ aware or Tesla inclined, the highest end of the range Tesla Model S electric car has shattered what we mere mortals thought could be achieved in a car that doesn’t run on fossil fuels. And it’s not just good ‘for an electric car’, it’s brilliant for any car and has even earned the highest scores of Consumer Reports and the likes, more than any car before it. 

This is sort of what Sony has been doing, and it has culminated recently with DxOMark giving their highest score ever to the sensor in the A7R II, or to be more precise, it’s the best performing sensor DxOMark has ever seen. That makes this a nugget of precious metal in a sea of cheap Korean plastic facsimiles.

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With a new nigh score benchmark now set at 98, it takes the crowning and coveted spot from the D810. When we consider the rankings and ratings, we should always consider cameras with similar resolutions and such, and the obvious comparisons are between this, the D810, and the Canon 5DS. The D810 is right on the 6 of the A7RII with a 97, and the Canon? A paltry 87. Given that Nikon has been using Sony sensors for a while now, this should come as little surprise, but Canon clearly needs to send a few of their massive marketing budget dollars to the RND department.

[REWIND: Sony A7R II Impressive Focusing With Canon Lenses Makes It Even More Tempting]

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The massively impressive area was in low light performance where the camera displayed extremely good performance in color sensitivity and dynamic range. These are just about the most sought after features in modern cameras today. That and high functioning AF.

It seems pertinent to point out too, however, that this is only a sensor test and not a reflection of the camera as a whole. When we think about purchasing a camera, there are other things to consider such as layout of buttons, ease of use, responsiveness and battery life (two areas the A7II has been criticized for) and more. That said, on paper, it reads like the resume of an old Etonian and Cambridge grad – well, maybe less pedigree.

You can see the full DxOMark review here, and our own Matt’s initial thoughts with it here.

About

A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Richard WILSON

    I stop buying cameras that has less than 1” sensor and non BSI sensor.

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  2. robert garfinkle

    It’s all good, keeping what I have. Technology will always get better and better; yet won’t make me a better photographer.

    But, will say, a camera’s capabilities / features do give me wiggle room to extend creativity – where I might be able to do something different expression-wise, but again, the photographer in me can only make that happen.

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  3. Sedric Beasley

    If Sony makes Nikon Sensors and if Canon has a rumored Mirror-less camera then there is no need to switch from DSLR. Just wait long enough and not worry about your investment.

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  4. robert garfinkle

    I’ve been in the computing industry for close to 20 years. I went through the phase at one point (early on) – of wanting to build / have the best / fastest computing device in it’s class. It did satisfy ego to more or less of a degree, yet did have it’s place in practicality – meaning, there was a justifiable reason to purchase such a beast – reason: I was (and still am.. ) a developer and when developing we do need computing devices which can perform. Today, I do not have the fastest computer, nor the one with the best video / audio – I have one which enables me to do a job. I am satisfied with that equation. Have I grown up, maybe so.

    Yes, I won’t kid you, did I need a D810, no. Could I have opted to keep my D7000 from a few years ago, absolutely. BUT (a big BUTT!!)

    I have evidence through experience that owning a D810 (or D800) has enabled me to do things that I could not have done with a D7000 – am I happy with the fact that I threw down for that… period. Whilst admittedly, yes, ego did write the check to bring the D810 to my fingertips, there was also a practicality to the madness, which was capability, and it was to the camera’s abilities like shutter speed, ISO performance, dynamic range, and DXO’s 97 blessing that left the D810 the king, (up till now). Also, (too as well) the reason to initially purchase Nikon was due in part by a friend who said they trust Nikon having owned it for so long – his experiences even owning other brands (i.e. Canon, Pentax etc) he liked Nikon’s unprecedented belief that a camera owner should be able to keep lenses around forever while the bodies advanced etc… and the most important part, that Nikon just can deliver an amazing image the only difference being the button pusher behind the equipment.

    So, I purchased Nikon – and that’s where I stand.

    btw – a camera’s abilities have nothing to do with my capability (or not) in taking a decent photo – all evidence in critiques (with the exception of maybe one) which highly suggest I do not know what I’m doing – but aside from that I can tell you this, there is no one person in this forum who could deny me the luxury of enjoyment (satisfaction) I get even in the midst of screwing up a photo most of the time – photography just does something to and for my soul.

    Wrapping up (the “finally” of my editorial.. :) ) – The one thing that will never change is that things “must” and do “change” – technology will advance, in this horse-race of an industry – that being photography – it survives solely on the anvils of innovation – just like computers do (or any other technologically dependent industry). If manufacturers cannot deliver the next best thing, what’s the point?

    Matt S seems to not so much knock “The Others” (i.e. Nikon, Canon, etc) only to say that they have to start changing their game a bit, but I get the sense from Matt that he trusts Nikon. I will say however that the Sony does really land a beautiful image for sure, and if I had the ability to compare it to the D810 I would – but I can’t – I think it’d be a better comparison to see the differences / similarities between the two.

    I will share a recent story, then I’m outta here for real –

    I was taken back by some photos that I took July 18th – to which the “only” credit I will take for these photos is the fact that I chose to take them, the rest was pure capability of the equipment (a Nikon D810 and the Sigma 150 – 600mm Sport lens) – mind you, they are not perfect by any means, but there was one aspect that left me dumbfounded – and I will share one link with you to prove my point.

    We had an array of storms which brandished cloud to cloud lightning. I had the opportunity to shoot differently this time, and do the bulb setting approach (vs. hammer away at the shutter – degrading my camera’s life… ) What astounded me (and you will see in the photo) was the insane amount of detail captured in the lightning at the distance I was shooting – check the exif info if you want, or you can trust me, while I was using the Sigma 150 – 600mm it was left at 150mm. I was shooting at a distance of 28.5 miles from the tower of lightning – you would not believe that, but I can prove that too. I was dumbfounded that the camera could event capture that level of detail. This I believe was all due to the large megapixels and the pure dynamic range plus the lens. Please do not give me any photographic credit.

    http://robertgarfinkle.photography/810_1432.jpg

    and the radar map where I indicate where I was in relation to the storm – http://robertgarfinkle.photography/map.jpg

    I am the red dot by the lake and the storm cell is arrowed – ok, our cameras take images of objects light years away, granted, but for some reason, looking at the shards of lightning fragments in the above image, it’s hard to believe this image was rendered…

    I’ll stick with what I have thank you :)

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    • robert garfinkle

      Oh, I might add – shooting using the bulb setting on my camera afforded me 148 legit “keepers”. Total number of shots taken that night was about 302, so near a 50% ratio in capturing lightning shots, for me, not bad. Historically, in order to get even 5 shots “keepers”, using the hammer the shutter routine, I’d roll through about 20,000 shutter clicks – I will never do that again. :)

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    • Ralph Hightower

      Robert,
      That’s a stunning photo of lightning! Photographing lightning is on my “bucket list”.
      Like you, I’ve been working in the computer industry as a developer, though I’ve been doing it for 40 years.

      I bought my first SLR camera in 1980. I chose the Canon A-1 for its shutter-priority, aperture-priority, and program mode. I have used manual mode for moon photography and panoramas.

      When I bought a DSLR, I could’ve switched to Nikon since I would have to invest in new lenses since Canon changed their mount from FD to EF. But I remained in the Canon camp.

      I continue to shoot film with my A-1 and F-1N along with digital.

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    • robert garfinkle

      Ralph? and you don’t have to reveal, but are you in the chicago area, or have you been – I new a hightower computing firm back in the early 90’s on forward. They worked with a firm I was employed at

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    • Ralph Hightower

      Robert,
      No, I haven’t been in the Chicago area. I only passed through Chicago at O’Hare.

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    • robert garfinkle

      Gotcha Ralph – yeah, there is (or was) a high tower computing company in Chicago way back…

      as for lightning, thanks for the compliment. it is a challenge for sure.

      typically, when attempting to capture lightning, I hammer away at the shutter – just kills the camera, and I get so few, if any – you can imagine.

      but, in the image you saw, over 140+ successful images returned in 45 minutes, using the bulb setting. but here’s the deal:

      1. I opted to ONLY keep the shutter open for close to 10 seconds, no more than that – the main reason, I did not want to risk murky over exposed hazy cloud layers or background ambient light – the lightning was so frequent that I never experienced missing more than a frame, maybe two toward the end of the shoot.

      2. I reset the interval (releasing the shutter and opening it again) even at the slightest flash.

      I set ISO (at first) to 640, roughly between f5.6 – f6.3, then moved the ISO to 400, same aperture.

      I remained at 150mm – distance, 28 miles – still don’t know how it caught that detail. shocked.

      I was on a tripod. and used a wired cable release.

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  5. Dalibor Tomic

    Yea, and can someone explain to me why DXO dot’t test Fuji X sensors?

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    • Matthew Saville

      You’re absolutely right, they haven’t tested a Fuji camera since 2012 it seems, which is a shame because the X100T and XT1 are incredible sensors that give full-frame a run for its money especially at high ISO.

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    • Matthew Saville

      It’s very surprising to see that the A7RII takes a step backward from the original A7R in terms of dynamic range, but I suspect that is simply what Sony felt was the flood of feedback with their 36 MP sensor. Insane dynamic range, but needs better high ISO.

      Personally as an astro-landscape photographer, I highly value both. Which is why IMO a D750 or D810 is still a killer choice, depending on your preferred balance of those two image quality factors.

      Still, the A7R II sensor is downright impressive, considering it defies the stereotype of more megapixels = worse high ISO performance.

      Keep in mind though that these results are down-sampled to 8 megapixels for DXO testing, and going from 41 to 8 is very helpful in that regard. At 100%, the A7R II doesn’t necessarily offer much better than my D750 at high ISO.

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  6. Dave Haynie

    The P85D is so last week.. when do we get the “P90D of Cameras”… complete with ludicrous mode?

    Still, very impressive, particularly given that both the resolution and the low-light sensitivity went up. That’s the effect of the industry’s first full frame backside illuminated sensor I suspect. Samsung set new levels of quality when they did the first APS backside sensor in the NX1 earlier this year. This suggests that anyone without BSI technology is going to be seen as a dinosaur pretty soon… yeah, Canon, I’m looking at you. Time to innovate.

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  7. Martin Francis

    Obviously nobody who observes the industry wants to see a two-horse race between Canon and Nikon, but I can’t help but feel the best thing about the A7 series would be if they inspired the Big Two. It’s exciting to think of a small, slim, cutting-edge mirrorless with a premium full-frame sensor with more familiar menus and ergonomics, hopefully with a lens lineup to match.

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  8. Dustin Baugh

    I can’t wait till these sensors start showing up in other cameras. I’m glad Sony is focusing on the sensor market.

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