A Review of the Sony A7II from a Newbie to Photography by Alex Foon

A Review of the Sony A7II from a Newbie to Photography

by Alex Foon

Sakura and Mount Fuji

Hi Steve!

First of all thanks for hosting such a wonderful, no-nonsense website that I’ve been religiously visiting every single day. The past six months had been a roller coaster ride for me (photographically speaking) and I just managed to find time, sit down and write a photography beginner’s review of the Sony A7 mark II.

Prior to 12 Dec 2014, my tool for photography had been limited to camera phone and then smartphones. Back then, I never understood why some of my friends were into this expensive hobby called “photography” – the hassle to carry DSLRs the size and weight of a bowling ball, lifting it up to your face, adjust the settings for what lasted like an eternity, and then fire in burst; when the simple action of whipping out the iPhone could seemingly produce similar results.

Fast forward to the fateful 12 Dec 2014, I touched down at the airport after a grueling business trip, in my mind I was thinking perhaps I could do a little shopping therapy and so I aimlessly walked into the Sony store. The storekeeper told me that their latest release was the Sony A7II (just launched that day) and 10 minutes later I walked out with the A7II kit bundle, not knowing better what I had gotten myself into.

Of course over the next few days I was quite excited about my new toy, I had absolutely zero idea about what was aperture, shutter speed, metering, exposure, depth of field and etc. (maybe I still don’t quite get it now). It was frustrating to have such a high-end camera and yet the images I captured were not up to my expectation. I started researching online about how to operate the camera and how to capture a photograph properly, and that’s when I chanced upon your review of the A7II. It was almost instinctive that I made another investment in a prime lens (FE Zeiss 55 1.8, still my favorite lens to date) instead of keeping the kit zoom 28-70 (not that it’s a bad lens either).

Marina Barrage Singapore

And then things started to get very interesting.

I suppose I needed to justify my impulse purchase, hence I brought the A7II with me everywhere I went, from daily grind in the office, to Penang, Ho Chi Minh City, Bangkok, Tokyo, Beijing and many more locales to come. The delectable combo of the lightweight A7II body coupled with solidly build FE lenses means it’s possible for me to carry them in my backpack all the time, and this allowed me to shoot whenever I find pockets of time in between.

Chinatown Singapore

Great Wall Beijing

The improved ergonomics of the second iteration of the A7 series body should not be underestimated. The grip is beefed up for a firmer one handed operations when needed, and coupled with the placement of the shutter button, this alone potentially allows an additional stop of stability over the corresponding mark I’s in the series. And you’ll be surprised that a 45 degrees slant of the C3 button (C2 in mark I’s) can really improve the functionality of the camera especially when using manual focus.

Speaking of focusing, having such a shallow depth of field in full frame bodies makes the autofocus unreliable at times, you thought you might have nailed the focus on the eyes but when you review it again the spectacles were in focus instead. So 90% of the time I opt to use manual focus. MF is made stupidly easy and some might even argue that it is faster than the AF on the A7ii, turn the focus ring and the image magnifies, press my assigned C3 button and the focus magnifier further zooms in for fine tuning.

Touting in Bangkok

Restocking in Chatuchak

With the OLED EVF, what you see is what you get! No more worrying about whether you nailed the exposure or the focus. The in-body 5 axis image stabilizer further supports the notion of WYSIWYG because I could be having seizure and still manage to see through the EVF and get a shot in focus. (alright, I promise this would be my only attempt in over-exaggerating, but you guys get the idea ;-D)

The short flange distance of the full frame A7ii camera body, working in tandem with manual focus assist tools and the IBIS, enable users to mount possibly every single camera lens ever made, as long as there is an adapter made to mount it. From my current favorite and affordable Minoltas, to the wallet breaking but absolutely fantastic Leicas, there is a lens for A7 users on any level of budget.

Shrine in Shinjuku

I understand that Sony had announced the lustrous A7RII, and how willing am I to sell a kidney for that one. Looking at it from another angle, I’m glad Sony had priced the A7II at almost half price of the A7RII. And for all the joy and memories it had brought me over past half a year, I think this was the best impulsive buy that I had ever made. Today, I hope I had at least learnt something about aperture, shutter speed and whatnots, and I might have found a lifelong passion in photography.

color

I will check out for now with 10 photos I had taken over the past 6 months with the A7II. Hope to finish my first roll soon on the Minolta SRT Super so I can send some entries in for Film Friday 😉

Till then, keep shooting.
Alex

Flickr: alex.foon
Facebook: facebook.com/sotongball
Email: [email protected]

Related Post

25 Comments

  1. Hi Alex, good to see you are enjoying the A7ii. Even if framing is a key stuff in photo and can/must be done with care using smartphone camera, serious lenses with good d.o.p will provide you some extra fun 😉
    I just own a A7ii and I am wondering if there is any settings to avoid display of the photo when shooting! I mean the only thing that is really annoying to me, is when shooting portrait, having this 1 second image display, especially when using he viewfinder. In one second my model still move and it is frustrating to do not see what happened during that time!
    Thanks for you help and keep it up!
    Cheers from Paris, France

    • Hi Stef, welcome to the a7ii family! I fully agree the shallow depth of field in a full frame format is really addictive and fun!

      Your issue is a rather simple one, and I did disable the auto review of the camera as well. My thinking is that “focus on shooting, review only when home”

      All you have to do is to disable the “Auto Review”. It’s found under Menu > Second Icon (Gear) > Second Page > Second Line (Auto Review) > off

      Hope my explanation helps 🙂

  2. I find it hard to believe that you’re a” newbie” to photography. Nice shots nonetheless.

    • Thanks Shukis! I am still learning but I really put my heart and soul into something I didn’t know i’ll enjoy doing so much for the past half a year 🙂

  3. Your framing is aesthetically awesome 🙂 a good friend of mine who got into photography also had the ‘eye’ for it and he started on instagram. Equipment comes later, you definitely have the ‘eye’.

    • Thank you jemoresantos 🙂
      Yes a few friends gave me some pointers along the way and they were very encouraging by saying the same thing!

      I think the bigger problem in my photography chase now is the unstoppable GAS. 21 lenses in 6 months!

  4. Wonderful shots, and a great eye for images. I would never have known you were a “beginner” if you didn’t say so!

    • Thanks Justin. These shots are probably the few that are presentable in my collection, likely one in a thousand shots. I think I owe to myself to emulate the pros with a prosumer new camera, if not it will be no different from shooting with my iPhone!

  5. Photos shows an excellent eye for light and composition; doesn’t come across as newbie. Selling my A7II and sticking with M240 and T for zoom lenses.

      • Great photos Alex. I don’t think you ‘need’ the Leica equipment, you’re doing just great with your A7II, It’s the ‘eye’ behind the glass that makes the photo and you have got that ‘eye’.

        • Thanks Roger, well one can always dream and have aspirations. The day I can afford my Leicas will be the day I have made it financially 🙂

    • Thanks mega! I would like to thank Steve again for posting my article. Goes to show that he takes the effort to read through all his emails!

  6. Nice review and some nice pics! Great first camera to have! As someone who’d apparently only ever shot with a camera phone before it’s kind of strange how you talk about the improved ergonomics of the a7ii etc compared to others, as surely if that’s all you’ve ever known, then anything is fine 🙂

    • Thanks Mark! It’s definitely the best first camera to have for me! After I purchased the A7ii I also played around with the a7/r/s in the store, and I definitely felt the large improvement in ergonomics! My opinion still holds true even after trying out other camera brands ever since (Leica, Fuji, Olympus, Nikon, Canon and so on…) This A7ii feels like an extension of my body 🙂

  7. Hi, not sure why you labeled yourself as a newbie, your images show some experience in photography 🙂 good job.

    • Thanks Ori for the appreciation. Truth is, I only got into photography with the A7ii six months ago. I guess I made up for the lack of experience by shooting almost everyday. I suppose once you found something you love to do, the passion would be enough to drive you to perfect the craft.

Comments are closed.