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