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Sony Alpha A7RII: Initial Thoughts From The Sony Press Event

By Miguel Quiles on June 11th 2015

sony_alpha_a7rii_initial_thoughts_miguel_quiles_2Sony put the photography community in a tizzy yesterday when they announced three amazing cameras: the A7RII, RX100IV, and the RX10II. I was fortunate to have been invited to attend the event and had the opportunity to test out the highly anticipate a7RII. Here are my initial thoughts.

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The day started with a press conference, which was headlined by Sony President and COO Mike Fasulo. Anytime the President of a major company shows up to an event it’s safe to assume that big things are in store. There was definitely a high sense of anticipation in the room which was mostly filled with journalists for various publications, eager to hear what was up Sony’s sleeve. As the presentation began, Mr. Fasulo stated that there were three revolutionary cameras that were set to be announced. With that, they began their presentation of the a7RII, RX100IV, and the RX10II.

sony_alpha_a7rii_initial_thoughts_miguel_quiles After a brief presentation highlighting each of the new cameras, those in attendance were invited to the penthouse suite at the top of the Le Parker Meridien to get a hands-on preview of all of their new cameras.

sony_alpha_a7rii_initial_thoughts_miguel_quiles_5As we all lined up to enter the room, you could see that Sony had brought several cameras for everyone to try out along with some info stations showing all of the new tech that they added to this latest generation of Alpha cameras.

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After a quick tour, I went straight over to check out the new a7RII. The camera body felt just like my A7II, which is currently my daily shooter. Had I not seen the new branding on the camera, I would have thought it was the A7II. The weight was comparable as was the layout of all of the buttons, with the exception of the mode dial which has a small button in the center to lock your settings in place.

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Looking through the viewfinder, I found that the electronic viewfinder (EVF) was very crisp and quick to activate when I put it up to my face. The shutter sounded similar to the A7II (though I didn’t do a direct comparison), but now you have the option of shooting with a silent shutter. This was one of the big features I had hoped to see in this revised camera, as it would come in handy when shooting weddings and street photography.

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Sony definitely exceeded what I was expecting to see in a revised A7R, but here are the specific features that I’m most excited about:

  1. 5-axis Steadyshot: Having the ability to use practically any lens with a stabilized camera body is huge. It’s easily one of my favorite features on my A7II and I’m happy to see it in this camera.
  2. Faster AF: The difference between the AF on the new a7RII vs the older version is night and day. The system has matured tremendously which should make a lot of pro shooters very happy.
  3. Internal 4k recording: This was one of the biggest surprises for me. Having the ability to shoot 4k with a full frame camera (the first of its kind) opens up a whole new world of possibilities. I’m definitely going to upgrade my workstation when this camera is released.
  4. A7II body design: One of the major reasons I upgraded from the original A7 was the new design on the A7II. The grip was better, and the shutter button and layout overall was vastly improved. The a7RII essentially has the same look and feel that should appeal to photographers who are transitioning from larger DSLR bodies.
  5. High ISO/MP combination: Unlike the upcoming Canon 5DS/R, the Sony a7RII makes no compromise when it comes to high megapixel and low light capabilities. The native ISO on the a7RII is 100-25600 compared to 100-6400 on the Canon. The a7RII is expandable up to 102400 which is pretty insane given all of the other features mentioned above. Oh, did I mention that it’s also nearly $700 less than its closest competitor, the Canon 5dSR? That, my friends, is a wrap for me.

Sony knocked it out of the park with this new release. It has everything for the aspiring professional photographer and videographer, all in one package that’s more affordable than a lesser-equipped Canon or Nikon. I’ll definitely be in line to pick this up as soon as it’s released.

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View from the Le Parker Meridien penthouse

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Sony Artisan Brian Smith shooting with the new a7RII

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I managed to shoot a couple of quick videos at the event as well. Unfortunately I wasn’t prepared with all of the gear I would have liked to shoot some cleaner videos, but as I always say “better something than nothing.”

In the first video, I interview Sony Alpha Product Manager Kenta Honjo and discuss all of the newly released cameras.

Lastly, I take a moment to interview Sony Artisan and Pulitzer prize winning photographer Brian Smith. He is one of the few photographers in the world to actually shoot with the new a7RII, so I wanted to get his take on what makes the camera so exceptional.

To get your pre-order in on any of the three cameras, head on over to B&H for the A7RII, RX100IV, and the RX10II.

Miguel Quiles is a commercial wedding & portrait photographer based out of New Jersey. He’s been involved in the photography industry for over 15 years, starting off first as a salesman at a local camera store. Since that time, Miguel has been refining his skills and pushing the limits of his creative abilities through the medium of photography.

As a self-taught photographer, Miguel hopes to share his experience and knowledge with new and upcoming photographers who wish to take their work to the next level.

25 Comments

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  1. Sedric Beasley

    Does this camera come with dual card slots? I can’t see using any camera for paid work without that at a minimum. Need to have photos written to two cards at the same time for backup.

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    • J Cortes

      Sadly It does not come with dual card slots . It’s a very nice little machine , however I prefer the size of a small to medium DSLR such as the Sony a99 or D750 .

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    • Max C

      I only wish it had dual slots but that should not be a barrier to buy because I have never heard of any problems with single card slots but it doesn’t hurt to have two.

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    • Sedric Beasley

      This is a 3 thousand dollar camera. I don’t think this is aimed at the hobbyist but the pro’s based on the cost. The card slot should not stop you from buying the camera but; if you are going to shoot a wedding with a camera with only one card slot you are asking for trouble. Even though the risk could be low in having a card go bad on you, having a backup for anything can give you piece of mind.

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    • Matthew Saville

      I’ve been a wedding photographer digitally for about 12 years now, and only a few of those years have offered me the benefit of dual card slots. I do greatly appreciate them, however I still have worklfow tools in place that allow me to back up my images on-site if necessary, and plenty of other options. Even though I’d love to have dual SD card slots in the A7R II, I wouldn’t hesitate to use it at a wedding as long as I had my proper workflow tools in place for backup.

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  2. James Whitehouse

    Which lens did you use for the interior shots? That bokeh is good enough to eat!

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  3. Peter McWade

    I currently have the A7R and love it. I thought about the A7S but decided to wait as I wanted to get some better low light video ability. Im mostly shooting macro and with manual lenses. I have a great assortment for my Sony and can see myself upgrading to the new A7R11 and I will have two Sony cameras in my bag and all my lens collection will fit both. Im ready to go all in and go professional and move out of the just for fun photography.

    Im ready for preorder. I did that with the A7R and never regretted that move from Canon.

    Pete :)

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  4. Brian McCue

    It will be interesting to see how the Mirrorless market develops, looks like Sony is all in.

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  5. J Cortes

    Nice piece of hardware . Wish it had two card slots and more importantly a better ecosystem to go along with it .

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    • Dustin Baugh

      Sigma and 3rd party manufactures are starting to do a good job covering the gap Sony left. Or better price points with decent quality equipment.

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  6. Jesper Ek

    Conservative and staying with Nikon.

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    • Dustin Baugh

      That’s kind of the bottom line in the camera wars right now. For all the noise on photo site like this you’re still in a great position sticking with an existing Nikon setup.
      Or Canon.
      Or whatever else.

      Camera technology is so fantastic now that all the new bells and whistles are icing on the cake. If you can’t create amazing photographs with existing (even years old) camera tech… The issue isn’t the camera.

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  7. Chuck Eggen

    As nice as this looks I’ll probably never own one. I can’t imagine having to go through the pains of buying additional glass for one camera in my gear corral.

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    • Thomas Horton

      That’s why I think that a good Mirrorless camera that can support many different lens formats (via adapters) would be a good sell.

      I like the idea of a modular camera system where you can buy the components you like to customize the system.

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    • Perry Smith

      I’m (vaguely) considering this camera with a Metabones adapter. I’m currently shooting Canon.

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    • Perry Smith

      Has anyone used one of these or perhaps its elder brother for street photography?

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    • Matthew Saville

      Yes, Perry, I’ve been using the A7R II for street photography a bit, and others here at SLR Lounge have used most all of the other mirrorless options for street photography as well.

      The A7R II I can report is an absolute delight to shoot street photography with. Especially when paired with such a small, unassuming yet extremely high-res lens like the new 55 1.8. Pair such a high-res lens with 42 MP, and you can shoot street photography in amazingly fun ways, and crop with a very healthy margin of printability… AF is killer in candid street situations, even in truly abysmal light, unless maybe you’re trying to focus on bats in flight? Or the batmobile doing 70 MPH on a back alley? I dunno I was highly impressed… ;-)

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  8. Matthew Saville

    With the caveat that “nearest competitor” is a bit laughable considering all of the amazing features that Sony has put into the A7R II, I’d say that its nearest competitor is actually the Nikon D810, which costs $200 less, and only weighs 8 oz more.

    ;-)

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    • Holger Foysi

      People get crazy about the AF already (Canon, A-mount, native), without even a reliable review out there. I read it is about 40% faster, which still will be much less than what I hoped for (A7r was quite slow, slower than A7ii especially with AFC and in low light, so I expect it to be similar in performance or slightly better than the A7ii). There is still no need to dump my D750 and D810, but we see the large strides Sony is taking these days, cornering Canon and Nikon. It will be interesting to see the reaction, if there is any…
      I am still missing a native flash system from Sony. In case I ever replace the Nikons with Sonys to shoot weddings, there needs to be a flash system similar to Nikon’s and two memory card slots.
      Interestingly with the lenses now out, the weight differential is shrinking (70-200/4,35/1.4,90mm,85 Batis,…. Of course you can go lighter, but I want fast primes and AF).

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    • Max C

      How can the Nikon D810 be the nearest competitor when it doesn’t capture 4k? Your post makes no sense.

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    • fotosiamo

      That so called nearest competitor does not have backside illuminated sensor, 5-axis stabilization, 42MP, and 4K internal (heck even external) recording.

      So yea, not as near as you would like to think. That’s definitely more than $200 worth of upgrade.

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    • Dave Haynie

      Well, the 42Mpixel sensor puts this about mid-range between the D810 and the 5Ds in resolution. But here’s the big sensor news: this is a backside illuminated sensor (BSI), the largest one in any camera so far. The previous largest-BSI sensor is in the Samsung NX1, etc… which is certainly among the best overall of the APS cameras, the highest resolution (28Mpixel), and the third still-oriented ILC capable of 4K internal recording (this is the fourth). BSI has the potential, at least, of increasing low light response and dynamic range… same pixel grid but larger actual pixels.

      Weight with these is misleading, though. Yeah, it’s 8oz less than the D810. But the D810 uses a 1900 mAhr battery yielding a CIPA rating of 1200 shots… and DSLRs tend to be pretty regular on these numbers. The A7RII uses the same 1020mAh NPFW50 battery used in the other Alphas. That yields 270 shots (CPIA) in the A7II, so you’re not likely to see more here. So you can add the battery grip, making the A7RII heavier and larger than the D810, and still not get have the still battery life. They’re probably close shooting video, but I’d stil bet on nearly 2x the battery life for the D810. Same basic argument if you compare it to a Canon 5D or 6D.

      Of course, if you’re thinking about 4K video, your choice is this, the Samsung, or the Panasonic GH4, unless you have a Canon Cinema budget. Sony will probably have the same 29’59” time limit on shooting that all the other Sonys have, while the Panny goes until your memory card fills. This seems more shooting squarely at the Canon 5D DSLR-for-video market. And Sony knows that, thanks to the Cinema EOS line, Canon is very unlikely to add 4K to a DSLR that’s not the EOS 1D C (which does 4K, for a price… ). The EOS 1D C can fit only 32minutes of 4K on a 128GB card, but that is in 4:2:2 MJPEG, so the quality is high. This is encoding in 100b/s long GOP AVC, which is the same as the GH4 (though I don’t know if it does DCI 4K or just QFHD).

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    • Dave Haynie

      Here’s another interesting question: that’s one sweet sensor. I was expecting BSI to come to full frame, and expecting Sony to do it. 42Mpixel with video speeds and probably more light sentivity than their 36Mpixel chip, maybe even the 24Mpixel chip. So on to the question: does Nikon get this? If so, when?

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    • Matthew Saville

      @all: Did you read what I wrote?

      “With the caveat that “nearest competitor” is a bit laughable considering all of the amazing features that Sony has put into the A7R II, I’d say…”

      The 5Ds doesn’t have any of those newfangled features either, so I was merely mentioning that price-wise, it would be prudent to mention the D810, not just the 5 Ds/R.

      “People get crazy about…”

      Yes, people sure do get crazy about all kinds of stuff. The thing is, photography is such a broad field. Many, many things are not at all exciting for certain folks, and yet completely game-changing for others. Similarly, some features are unimportant for some, but mission-critical for others.

      This is why there is such a chasm between folks who couldn’t give a crap about a new camera, regardless of how high-tech it is with all its bells and whistles, right along side folks who are doing backflips about new possibilities that have opened up for them.

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    • claude laramée

      “Yes, people sure do get crazy about all kinds of stuff. The thing is, photography is such a broad field. Many, many things are not at all exciting for certain folks, and yet completely game-changing for others. Similarly, some features are unimportant for some, but mission-critical for others.
      “This is why there is such a chasm between folks who couldn’t give a crap about a new camera, regardless of how high-tech it is with all its bells and whistles, right along side folks who are doing backflips about new possibilities that have opened up for them.”…”
      Matthew I like that comment !
      The cameras are getting so much sophisticated that more people can use them without years of training/education. It brings the focus on the story telling /content/capture of that moment where lies the challenge and thrills of photography. You get the tools that suits your needs (and wallet) and if you can’t afford the toys, you rent them. The competition between the manufacturers is such a good thing,
      I just wish that the prices would go down faster :-)

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