The Sony A7SII Review. The King of The Night gets updated.

The Sony A7SII Review. The King of The Night gets updated.

By Steve Huff

You can buy the A7sII at Amazon HERE

You can also buy it at B&H Photo HERE.

It seems that every time I sit down to write a review lately it is for a new Sony camera, and believe me, as much Sony as you see written here and all over the web (due to so many new cameras coming from them before the Holidays), it is not stopping here. With the RX1R Mark II on the way within days Sony is like a runaway freight train, except instead of crashing and burning at the end of the road I think Sony is hoping for world domination in the world of Mirrorless cameras. I have to say, their plan is working well for them as I know so many who are shooting with the latest generation A7 bodies these days, and they all love them. The A7II, A7RII, and now the A7SII are fantastic full frame 35mm digital cameras that can do it all. With impressive image and video specs, the new breed of a7 cameras are stunning and surpass the 1st gen A7 bodies by a large margin IMO.

But this review is for the newest Sony in the A7 line, the new and improved a7SII. If you missed the original a7S review, see it here as this will not rehash the things that are the same there. 

Empty Swings – A7SII, Voigtlander 35 1.7 Ultron – Click for lager. 

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After reviewing the INCREDIBLE a7R2, it became my #1 go to camera. It pushed aside my old A7s and A7II as it offered the best of both of those bodies. With the A7SII, Sony’s most sensitive low light camera as well as an amazing video machine, Sony has taken the proven sensor and has now put it in the new body which is more solid, with a  better control layout than the previous A7, A7s and A7r. This body is the same as the new Mark II versions, and as I have said before, it is a pretty substantial improvement. After shooting the new a7sII for a while, it was tough to go back to the old A7s body as it felt so much different…not as nice and the shutter button placement on the new body is so much better and natural it is tough to go back to the old style after using the new breed for a while.

But at the end of the day, did Sony pack enough in the Mark II to make it a worthy upgrade to someone who has an a7S already?

A7SII

Well, maybe. Maybe not. That all depends on YOU and what you want. If you want the new body style, then yes. If you was 5 Axis IS, then yes. If you want even better AF performance and new processing then YES! What you will not get in the new A7SII is a new sensor or better low light performance than its older sibling. It is still the tried and true 12MP sensor from the original A7s, which means low light performance will be about the same and IQ should be about the same. Even so, in my shooting I have found that I was getting slightly better color and pop with the new A7sII, though it could have been because of the lens I was using for much of the review..the Excellent Voigtlander 35 1.7 in Leica M mount.

The uber cool Voigtlander 35 1.7 works so well on the new Sony A7 bodies…and the Leica M of course!

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This particular lens gives a “Leica Look” and it has no issues on the A7RII or the A7SII. It’s small, manual focus is easy and the quality is not far off from the Leica or Zeiss 35’s. When I switched back to the standard Sony lenses, I see the familiar rendering of the original “S” model, unless I used the one Sony/Zeiss lens that also gives this look, the 35 1.4 Distagon. When I use the 35 1.7 M mount, I see images that remind me of the old Leica M9, which is legendary in its image rendering. Nothing like it, even today. That lens can be seen at cameraquest.com HERE. My review of that lens is HERE. 

The Color, Pop, Depth and overall IQ of the A7SII is stunning. This are all JPEGS out of camera! EXIF is embedded. I have not seen rendering like this since the Leica M9 ;) 

Click them for larger and better..to see them correctly! 

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Away We Go! 

So after a couple of weeks with the new A7SII, and while still owning the original A7s I was critical of the new body, mainly because I have bonded with my original. Yep,  it has been here since launch. These cameras are not cheap, so I wanted to see if I would pay the upgrade fee for the SII over my old S Mark 1. Before I get into that, let me tell you what Sony improved in the new A7SII over the A7s Mark 1.

  1. New body style. The new A7SII now has the A7RII and A7II body style. I LOVE the new body style and prefer it to the original in a big way. It feels more solid, it feels more comfy and the controls are laid out more natural for your hands. a7SII WIN. 
  2. Seemingly faster AF. While the original A7s was the best A7 body for Auto Focus the A7sII seems to step it up as I was seeing slightly quicker auto focus and it still has the uncanny ability to focus in the dark, even  when I do not use the Af assist. This is the one Sony a7 body with the best AF performance. a7sII Win!
  3. Slightly different IQ out of camera. It seems the colors and snap and pop are slightly different, in a good way. Many shots remind me of the old Leica M9 in rendering, just with a crazy ISO capability. Could be the lens choice as Leica M lenses seem to give more color saturation and pop.
  4. Improved video specs for the video pros. I am not a video guy, but this camera can shoot pro level video without question and I have shot at ISO 200-400,000 and had results I could actually use. It sees in the dark, without question! Video is fantastic. a7SII Win!

Here is what Sony says about the A7SII sensor and BIONZ processor…

“A 12.2MP full-frame Exmor CMOS sensor and BIONZ X image processor work together to enable an expansive dynamic range with minimal noise and notable sensitivity from ISO 100-102400, which is further expandable to ISO 50-409600. Coupled with the large individual pixel size the 12.2MP sensor affords, this camera is well-suited to use in low-light conditions.

The sensor’s design also features a new-generation RGB color filter array, as well as a gapless on-chip lens design. Together, these two technologies enable truly efficient light-gathering abilities that further reinforce the low noise, high-sensitivity design. Furthermore, an anti-reflective coating has also been applied to the seal glass of the image sensor to minimize surface reflections, glare, and ghosting for contrast-rich, color-neutral imagery.

The sensor and processor combination also avail a wealth of performance-related benefits to still shooting, including a Speed Priority continuous shooting rate of 5 fps, or a 2.5 fps shooting rate with continuous AF.

The Fast Intelligent AF system employs 169 AF points (up from 25 points of the original) , which is comprised of 25 contrast-detection points and nine central AF points that have been split into 16 segments each, in order to provide both speed and accuracy in low-light conditions down to -4 EV.

So in a nutshell, the Af is better and faster than the previous A7 body and that one was already the best A7 Af system out there, and the new a7SII focuses without an issue in just about any light I have had it in.

I also have been enjoying shooting in B&W with the a7SII as I find it does very well in this area. These were all shot B&W in camera, all JPEG up to ISO 25,600

1st two with the Voigtlander 35 1.7 Ultron, 3rd with the Zeiss 24-70 f/4 and the last with the gorgeous 35 1.4 Sony/Zeiss

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Niche?

The a7sII is what some would call a “niche” camera as it has a lower megapixel count than what is generally accepted today by pros and pixel peepers. I find 12 to be great for my uses and I would take a guess that 90% of shooters who read this page would be fine with 12MP in the real world as well. Posting images online, making prints up to 16X20 and general use does not require any more than this. I see many friends who just shoot JPEGS casually yet they are using 30-50 megapixel cameras. I see their images on Facebook and as small JPEGS or prints. For that, nothing more than 12MP is needed. If you want to make huge prints on your wall with detail and finesse, you will want a higher MP camera, but for the average shooter, hobbyist or enthusiast I feel there may be more to like from the a7SII than even the fantastic a7RII, but with that said, the mighty a7RII is not that far off in performance from the A7sII when it comes to AF and ISO.

The a7SII focuses faster. It will focus in the dark. It has amazing low light video capabilities and can shoot in places you never could before…of course once you start cranking the ISO past 60,000 or so you will get some offensive noise, but I have images shot at even the max, as a torture test at 409,000 in NO light (only in B&W) just to see what that setting would yield.

High ISO. One strength of the a7s and a7SII both. Same sensor, same ISO capability. 

Now if shooting at 409,000 forget about shooting in color. Turn that camera to HC B&W (high contrast) and take a shot in the dark, literally. The image below was shot in DARKNESS. As in, where I stood I could not even see the ocean! The camera, at this setting gave me an image full of noise and grit but at the same time, it reminds me of some fast film I used to shoot. ISO 6400 film, but this is 409,000 ISO! I can see someone doing a very moody portrait session on the beach at midnight, no lights or flash…may not be ideal but could yield interesting results. I am not afraid of grain, never have been which is why I turn off all noise reduction as soon as I get a new camera. 

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If we step down the ISO a tad…

1st two, 128,000

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ISO128I1

ISO 102,800

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Color at 256,000 and lit by the moon

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25,600 at night…

25600beach

All samples above were without any noise reduction, zero. All were out of camera JPEG’s, so nothing here is from RAW as Adobe has not updated their software yet for this camera at the time I did teh review. Also, be sure you click the images for the real deal, to see them larger and better and to see the real noise.

Overall the a7SII keeps with the tradition of amazing low light performance, and for me, even after trying all of the others that do well in low light (yes, even the Nikon D750, Canon’s, etc) nothing can do what the a7S series is really capable of. By the time you hit 12,800 on the others you want to stop..with the a7S II you can keep working…yes, with some noise, but you can keep working or maybe even get shots no one else could even dare to try and get. It’s that kind of camera and makes you want to push the crazy limits.

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I even shot some personal video on the beach at ISO 256,000 and 409,000 and it was useable.. I was amazed at what it was doing for me in no light. The a7RII was not too far behind, but it couldn’t match the SII in the dark, focus wise or with ULTRA high ISO as the RII stops at 102,000 ISO. The SII can go up past 400,000 but expect serious grain at that level. In other words, the RII is close  to the SII in Af speed and ISO but the SII does indeed edge it out in both areas.

But it’s just as good in GOOD light!

So while many feel this camera is a one or two trick pony (low light or video) it offers so much more like class leading AF speed and AF in the dark, it offers 5 Axis IS, it offers solid build and great button placement and amazing video. Oh, and it also does DAMN well in great or good or decent light!

Loving the color and pop of the a7SII files..EXIF is embedded on all images but these are shot with a mix of the New Voigtlander 35 1.7 and Sony Zeiss 35 1.4, two fabulous 35’s for the A7 series. OOC JPEGS!

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As with the original Mark I a7s, I see the character and almost medium format look of the files. Many were afraid of this camera due to the 12MP sensor (too low for many) but to the friends I know who bought an a7S, they LOVED it tremendously and created some amazing images with it. Believe me my friends, there is nothing to worry about with the a7S or a7SIi. If you like shooting in low light, or lower than low light, you should seriously consider this camera as it opens up a whole new “nighttime” world where flash or light is not needed. It’s a cool thing and even though other cameras today can shoot in low light or even lower than low light, none of them can do it like this “S” series from Sony. I can only image what they will be doing in 5 more years.

ISO 4,000 with the Sony/Zeiss 35 1.4 at 1.4 – OOC JPEG, zero NR

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But is it worth the upgrade if you own an a7S?

Even after 2 weeks with the a7SII I am still not 100% sure I would spend the extra on the new version. The a7s sells for $2200 and the new Mark II is $3000. That is a $800 difference. If you already own an A7s, then trying to sell it means you will get around $1400 for it and then have to pony up $1600 MORE for the new version. If this is the case, you have to ask yourself if you want the following:

  • New body style and control layout
  • New 5 Axis IS for image stabilization in video and photos
  • Faster AF, best AF in the A7 line
  • Better video specs over the original  – 4K capable now in camera

Speaking of video, here is the blurb for the new video specs:

“Internal UHD 4K Recording and Full Pixel Readout – Internal recording of UHD 4K movies is possible in multiple frame rates up to 30 fps and, based on the 12.2MP resolution, full pixel readout is possible that is void of pixel binning for higher quality imagery with reduced moiré and aliasing. Full HD 1080p recording is also supported in frame rates up to 120 fps, and both resolutions utilize the 100 Mbps XAVC S format contained within an MP4 wrapper with 4:2:0 sampling. The high-speed, 120 fps recording also enables 4x and 5x slow-motion movie recording with the frame rate set to either 30p or 24p.

In addition to high-resolution internal recording, uncompressed HDMI output also enables the use of an optional external recorder for clean 4K recording with 4:2:2 sampling.”

So you get the 120fps slo motion features as well over the a7s. With the new firmware update from Sony, the a7SII can also shoot uncompressed RAW files. Just what everyone has been asking for.

A7s vs A7sII vs A7rII – QUICK IMAGE COMPARISON for Color and ISO at 25,600. 

Many would call this a silly test. I mean, who shoots at 25,600 ISO? Some do, but not many. The a7SII can go on to ISO 400,000+ so 25,600 should be a piece of cake. This was in my office, late afternoon, one light on in the corner BEHIND the dog toy. Each file is from the camera, as a JPEG. The a7RII file has been resized down to 12 MP so it is a fair fight. Click each one to see the OOC file (again, a7RII was downsized to 12MP)

They all look pretty similar showing the RII hanging with the big boy in the high ISO arena, at least at 25,600!

 

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A7SISO25600

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As you can see, the a7S and a7SII are about the same, while the a7RII is hanging right in there! Not too shabby!

So, again..would you buy an A7sII if you have an A7s?

So while I enjoy the hell out of the new a7SII, I do not think I would sell my a7s and pay $1500 more to get the new version. $700 maybe, $1500 no.

If I was new to the a7 family, I would 100% go with the a7sII over the old model simply due to the fact that 12MP is plenty for me, and I prefer the faster AF, and the best low light performance I can get. It’s got everything one would need BESIDES massive resolution. and while the new A7rII is no slouch in low light, its not quite at the level of the a7SII once it gets darker and  the ISO gets cranked past 25,600.

Few more images with the a7SII. Even in low or mixed light, the camera does very well. Remember, I have all noise reduction OFF. I use NONE. These are all OOC JPEGS. 

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My Final Conclusion

Sony seems to be really shooting for the stars as these new Mark II series of A7 have all been phenomenal. Mirrorless is taking off in a huge way. DSLR sales are down, way down..mirrorless sales are UP, way up. I remember when the A7 arrived, the original..many predicted the doom of Mirrorless while I was predicting the slow death of DSLR’s. The slow death of DSLR’s IS happening as many have been switching to mirrorless  – some do it every single day and companies like Sony, Olympus, Panasonic and now even Leica are leading the way for those who want a great mirorrless experience with not many limitations.

In the case of the Sony a7SII, the ability to shoot in any light, with almost any lens made and having 5 Axis IS inside with a great EVF and LCD along with perfect button and control placement, well it just makes it a cool and very capable camera. Nothing quite like it out there right now.

If 12MP doesn’t bother you, I see no reason to go for the A7II or RII over this one. With some M mount lenses this guy will give you an almost Leica M9 feel, not 100% but close. The color pops, OOC JPEGS are fantastic and in the hands of someone with uber talent there would be nothing this camera can’t do..well, even today these cameras are not better than a DSLR for continuous AF but I feel we will be there within a year or two, so sports shooters..I’d stick with your DSLR even though these cameras are plenty fast for just about everything else.

With cel phones taking over as the most used camera in the world, us enthusiasts and hobbyists are becoming a niche breed ourselves. Me, I can’t stand using a phone for any real serious shooting. As good as the iPhone camera is, it does not match something like the Sony A7 series or Leica or Olympus or most other serious cameras. I will take a real camera anyway over a phone, and always will. There will always be a desire for REAL cameras and while one day they may get close to extinction, they never really will. Kind of like Viny Records. They are still being made today for most new music releases. Yep, good old records and they sound GLORIOUS and give a much more “real” experience over digital files or CD. Same way I see a real camera vs a phone. :)

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Pro’s and Con’s of the A7sII

Pros

  1. New body style, better controls and more solid feel
  2. 5 Axis IS inside!
  3. Improved video specs over the original A7s. 4K, slo motion, etc..
  4. Improved AF speed, also focuses in extremely low light
  5. Beautiful IQ with saturated colors and 3D pop 
  6. Built in mics for video are fantastic
  7. Low light capabilities are best in class, without question
  8. Sony has many lenses available now for the FE mount system
  9. Almost any lens can be used here, and M lenses work well with the SII

 

Cons

  1. Same sensor as the original so do not expect ISO improvements or massive changes to IQ
  2. Battery life not the best, as with all Sony A7 series bodies.
  3. Price..at $3,000 it is not cheap, but IMO worth it if you want versatile camera that can shoot anywhere, anytime
  4. No real weather sealing here
  5. Continuous AF could be improved to get to pro DSLR level

So should you buy an a7SII? Well, that is up to you.

This review was shorter than my normal 7-10K word reviews because this is basically an a7s but with a few nice improvements and upgrades along with the new body style. Nothing revolutionary or mind blowing over the original but still enough for many to lust for and want to shoot with this beautiful camera, and it is a beautiful machine. As I shoot it I think back to just 10 years ago at what we had in the digital camera market and if someone would have told me that today in 2015 we would have cameras doing 4K video, ISO 400,000+ and using live view EVF’s that are actually usable..I may not have believed it. We are living in that future and the choices are here. It’s an amazing thing and I can only imagine what the next 10 years will bring to the digital photography world.

Bottom Line: If you want an A7 body, I’d go for this one or the RII. Both are “End Game” cameras, at least for a few years until the next big thing. I still have the original A7s and love it. With the SII and RII, there would be no situation you couldn’t cover.

Oops! Sony did it again!

WHERE TO BUY?

You can buy the A7sII at Amazon HERE

You can also buy it at B&H Photo HERE.

Both shops 100% recommended by me!

HLPHH

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82 thoughts on “The Sony A7SII Review. The King of The Night gets updated.

  1. are you sure this is zero noise reduction? i think the cam automatically applies noise reduction and other stuff when you are outputting jpeg. this is why jpegs look cleaner than raws with nr turned off. the only way of having really zero noise reduction would be to output raw and turn off noise reduction in the raw converter.

  2. Hey Steve,

    Thanks for the review, it’s comprehensive and must have taken some time.

    With your daylight shots what picture style were you using out of interest? I just got an A7SII and don’t have time for testing before going to Croatia on vacation. Will be shooting with my Canon FD primes.

    Cheers!

  3. Hi Steve, thanks for the review. Something that is not mentioned is magnified playback, and whether it is the same as the A7II or A7r, or similar to the A7rII. With the A7rII , I am told, magnified playback will magnify to the selected AF point – invaluable for fast field editing and checking. It will even change the magnified position from shot to shot magnified scrolling to match the moving AF selection from Eye-AF. The A7II and A7r playback always begins at the centre screen (even with Eye-AF on the A7II), and one must scroll to check focus, with button pushing made more complex with E-mount because there is no diagonal scrolling.

    Magnified playback that goes to the selected AF point is something that the SLR’s up to the A900 do, that was not carried over to the A77/A99, or E-Mount. It was great to hear that it returned with the A7rII, because it always made checking focus on eyes fast and simple. Has it been included with the A7sII?

  4. I am wondering how the a7s ii compares to the Olympus cameras from an image quality standpoint. I know that a full frame sensor will best a 4/3 sensor, but will a 12MP full frame sensor best a 20MP 4/3 sensor? I know in low light it is no contest, but what about “normal” lighting, etc.? Any thoughts would be much appreciated. Basically, is there any instance where the Olympus would top the a7s ii? Thanks.

    1. Yes, the A7sII will beat any Micro 4/3 for noise, dynamic range, and everything in between. You will get that rich full frame file from an A7s or A7sII with deep color information, and all the good stuff. I can’t see any area where M 4/3 would top the As7II unless you want more resolution.

  5. Hi Steve,

    I’m looking at jumping into the world of Leica, and i want to pair my lenses with a Sony a7sii or a7rii, but i’m not sure what would be better for me. It’s going to be for travel photography, some portraiture and some casual studio portraiture.

    Is the a7rii really very different from the a7sii in terms of ISO if i downsize the photos in post? (going from 42 to 12 mp). Are there any specific differences i might care about? I may also use Canon AF lenses with it as that is my current system.

    Many thanks!

  6. Hi Steve, thanks for the review.

    Regarding lenses for A7S II, does the choice matter if you are more into video or more into stills?

    If not, if you were to pick

    – 1 lens only, which one would you get?
    – or if for any 2 lenses, which ones would you recommend?

    Thanks
    Jon

    1. Hmmm. Well, all depends on your tastes. I like the 35 1.4 ALOT. But its huge. I also love the Zeiss Batis 25 and 85, two of the best I have used. The Loxias are fantastic if you like Manual Focus. Hard to make a bad choice. What I do not like is the 24-70. Its soft and lackluster IMO which is why I did not review it.

      1. Thanks for this. Am thinking of buying two lenses mostly.

        One possibility is picking Batis 25mm and Sony Sonnar T* FE 55mm f/1.8. The 55mm is cheaper than Batis 85 but get’s very good reviews as well as Batis 85. Another thing is that it has no built in stabilization. Aren’t you paying for somthing you don’t need in Batis 85 ? (the stabilization, as A7SII has 5-axis stabilization in-camera)?

        Anyway, if you were to choose between the 55mm or 85mm ? Which one would you be happier with and use more often? (I know both are good for portrait stills, and I’m more thinking of when shooting videos)

        Thanks
        Jon
        Iceland

  7. I own a a6000 with several e-mount primes and a zoom.

    I am planning to buy a7ii or a7s(or a7sii) because the a6000 suffers from noise and and very slow AF in low light condition. I haven’t had a chance to use the a7s yet but did have a chance to use the a7ii which impressed me with much less noise at higher iso compared to my a6000.

    If you were me which one would you go with?
    I’ll probably buy 2470z and batis 85 with it.

    1. Id skip the 24-70. I have tried 2 copies and both were a tad soft wide open and have very low contrast. I never use it and is the ONE Sony lens I do not recommend. The Batis 25 and 85 would be amazing, or even the 16-35 if you like ultra wide.

      1. Just about to through my cash for my new system!
        Which would you recommend.

        1. a7s2 + fe 1635 f/4 + batis 85mm

        2. a7s2 + fe 35 f/1.4 + batis 85mm

        3. a7s2 + batis 25 + batis 85mm

        4. a7s2 + fe 1635 f/4 + fe 35 f/1.4

        Thanks again!

  8. Steve,
    I just reread that last paragraph of yours and I get what you were saying, and for most people phone cameras are all they need or want. Something to point and shoot that will give them pictures they are perfectly satisfied with. And the phone photos are constantly getting better. Photographers will always need cameras, we need to have easy and fast control to be creative with the images we’re making. So you’re right, as long as there are photographers there will be cameras. Same with vinyl records, as long as there are people that want them, somebody will make them. I see a better comparison between vinyl and film, some people think film is better. I much prefer my digital music to my old records, and digital cameras to my old film cameras. Anyway, thanks for all good work you do.
    Al Harp

  9. Steve,
    Comparing vinyl records vs todays digital recording, I won’t comment on, but the analogy about phone cameras and actual cameras is absurd. The fact that phone cameras are a super pain to use manually and only have digital zoom limits their ability to ever compete with a real camera. Anyway, I generally love reading your reviews and check them out when deciding to purchase my cameras and lenses. I have the a7Rll and love it. I gave my a7 to my daughter. I also have the a7ll and the a6000. Thanks to your reviews I’ve been on the Sony band wagon since the NEX5, I had the NEX5N, and then the NEX5R, gave both of them to family members as I upgraded. So, I’m with you most of the time, just thought you lost your mind a little at the end of this review.
    Al Harp

  10. Ok…The rest of the marketplace is screaming forward…and the cost is just way out of line…As someone who was a long time Hasselblad, Leica shooter. I understand what is worth paying for. The A7SII is a temporary step forward…and I shoot a lot of night images but the sensor on this camera needed to be inline with the A7Rll to make it a cost equal product. I respect everyone’s decisions to use what works for them but this is just not a value added product. When I can get a higher output base sensor…do I need total darkness for my work…once in a blue moon. Thanks for your work and reviews they are always helpful Best Regards

  11. I traded my A7II, which I really liked, for the A7SII. When I purchased the A7II, I did not think the A7SII would be released so quickly, or even at all. During my treks around Chinese and American cities in the later afternoon or evening, or even at night, I’ve always had a problem with less than optimal lighting conditions, and I hate flash. The most intriguing camera (for me) to come out recently (not so recent anymore) was the Nikon Df. I came close to purchasing it, but now I have the smaller, and better, A7SII. I really wanted (as Huff puts it) ‘those big, fat pixels’). Hard to believe, perhaps, but I really missed my much earlier camera, the Nikon D200, 10.2 mp. There’s still some prints, for sale, from that camera on my website, http://www.TheArtfulToad.com, and I’ve sold a good number of them. A photographer does not have to do highly detailed panorama landscapes or portraits or wedding photography to be considered a ‘pro’. I looked back over one review of the Nikon D200, and it’s interesting to note: “excellent resolution, ” (at 10.2 mp!) “although not a huge step up from eight megapixels” (!!). My goodness, since that time, look what has happened to people’s attitudes about what MP’s are needed. However, each to their own. For my purposes, I sell maximum 13×19″ and 11×14″ prints, and my favored sizes are 8×10, 8×12, and my favorite: 5×7. I’m not a video guy, at all, but being a poet with many publications in quality literary journals over the past 35 years, I’m starting a project to video record me reading my poetry! The A7SII is just the right camera + video recorder for me.

  12. Hi Steve. Great review. I still have my Sony A77m2 and I’ll eventually make the jump to full-frame someday. The reviews I’ve read so far mention the A7Sii as a great camera for video and not so much for stills because of the 12 mega pixels. I don’t shoot video, but the camera surely attracts me because of the low light capability. So what do you suggest if a person like myself hasn’t made the jump yet to full frame?

    1. The S and SII make for a phenomenal still camera, and 12 MP is plenty for up to 20X30 prints, and those who say it isn’t really are pixel peepers instead of photographers and pixel peeping has nothing to do with making a beautiful photograph or memory. I am fond of the A7s and A7sII. I own the original and its one of the cameras I have kept the longest in my digital life. That and the Leica M have stuck around the longest. ;) Id be between the A7sii and the A7RII but the SII will be faster, better in lowest of light and will Af more constantly in low light and even the dark.

  13. This review got me over the hump of which camera to buy, the 7RII or the SII. Thank you for your practical and thorough approach to the review. It has shown me the versatility of this camera to the type of shooting I look to do with it. Nicely done.

  14. I’ve been fence sitting since the A7’s first came out, still sitting there: I’d like to do this once and be happy! Just curious about photographing kids in low light gyms playing basketball or outdoors playingfootball….Newer versions have better AF, but will the A7R II or A7S II work better in that kind of situation, also lens selections.

  15. JED: Thanks for checking that out, David. Very good of you to bother checking.

    DB: Not at all, JED, glad to be of help.

    JED: No, really; many thanks.

  16. Back home, and measured the distance from lens mount to sensor, and it’s greater than the distance from lens mount (of adaptor) to rear of retracted / collapsed Elmar lens. Just mounted – and collapsed – the Elmar f2.8 on my A7S and it doesn’t touch the sensor.

  17. JED,

    Yes, I have tried that (Elmar 50mm f2.8) and, of course, it’s terrific (..on an A7S). But I’m not at home right now, and can’t remember for sure whether or not it can be safely collapsed ..but – as far as I think I remember – I did NOT collapse it ..just in case!

    Theoretically, it should be OK, as the adaptor brings it further out of the camera, to the same distance that it would be out from, say, the M9 sensor (I do collapse it on an M9), but I think I measured the clearance, and decided not to risk it! ..I can tell you for sure when I’m home again next week.

    Just to be safe, you can wrap an elastic band around the collapsible barrel of the Elmar, which would make it impossible to push it all the way in: that’s the simplest, quickest and most reliable precaution!

    It’s a terrific lightweight lens, just like a lightweight, and smaller, and much less expensive, 50mm f1.4, but stopped down to f2.8.

  18. Anybody tried an Elmar 50mm f2.8 or f3.5 on A7 with Voigtlander adaptor? Interested to know whether it can be collapsed for travel without touching sensor

  19. Hi Steve, enjoy your site a lot, particularly, those photos from other people, very inspiring.

    I am planning to upgrade my a7 to one of the mark 2s. After reading your review, one thing draws my attention, it is the photos having the Leica M9 looks. I replaced my M9 with the a7 a while ago, do miss the M9 rendering and pop. So, is it all the mark 2 of a7 having this characteristic, or just the a7Sii? I am planning to upgrade to either the a7ii or a7Rii as I am not much a video and low-light guy.

    Thanks a lot!! Do look forward to your reply and the RX1Rii review!

    Regards,
    Shaun

  20. Hi Steve, what if you would purchase your first a7s but you have a tight budget and is satisfied with 1080p? Would you think the a7s mark i be a good buy?

  21. Now that you’ve had your hands on it for a while; how would you compare the 7Sii with a 28/2 mounted to the Leica Q system, not taking into account one being a fixed lens camera? I’m on the fence about which one is better for that focal length setup. I tried out the 7ii & 7Rii (not with the 28/2) and just not enamored with the shooting experience on the Sony (the “this camera makes me want to go out and photograph” some cameras can bring). Thanks

    1. Well, the SII will kill the Leica in any low light use but the photo quality character will be quite different between the two. The Q has a contrasty picture with bold color and pop. The SII can do this but out of camera the files are less contrasty and have a more neutral color tone. The SII is fantastic, and if debating between it and the Q, just think if you will ever want anything besides the 28mm focal length. If you would be 100% happy with 28, go for the Leica as it has beautiful IQ. If you want versatility, the ability to swap a lens or two, shoot in really low lihgt and have pro video capabilities, go with the SII as it is technically the better camera and offers you much more. Size wise, they are not that far off from each other.

  22. “DSLR sales are down, way down..mirrorless sales are UP, way up.”

    But overall, all camera sales are down and DSLRs still outsell mirrorless by a factor of more than two to one. So it depends on how you want to spin the metrics.

    That being said, I will agree with the overall speculation that mirrorless is the future and will continue to gradually erode into DSLR sales.

  23. Steve, appreciated the review! I feel that Sony has taken a ‘classic’ (Sony A7s) and made it even
    better! Some of the features that I like about the Sony A7sII are:
    * better low light & high ISO performance (less color noise)
    * 14-bit dynamic range
    * five axis image stabilization
    * improved ergonomics (love the new grip)
    * 4k internal video capability
    * option for a five second self-timer delay
    * minimum shutter speed that is user selectable in auto ISO
    * choice of compressed or uncompressed raw files
    * improved image quality via tweaks to the bionz x processor
    * larger, brighter, & sharper appearing evf
    * silent shutter option along with 50% less shutter vibration
    * and, finally, just a nice film-like quality to the smooth, clean files

  24. Thanks to Artful Toad for the perspective of an artist. Personally, sometimes (but not always) I prefer less detail in shadows and elsewhere and a more blocky graphic look (Hopper, Monet, Warhol, etc.). It depends on the subject and artistic intent. To my eye, the A7s files have a special look that I quite like – sometimes very smooth looking with good saturation. Perhaps this lack-of-noise smoothness can be mistaken for a lack of detail and that perception can be changed by adding grain in post if desired. Thanks again to Artful Toad for an interesting post.

  25. @ David Babsky,
    Thank you so much, David for your very clarifying explenation. Since I’m only into still images, I really wasn’t aware of this. But indeed, it makes a lot of sence. I understood that Sony also choose the 43MP resolution of the RII because of video applications, instead of trying to exceed 50MP. In both cases a wise decision of Sony, IMO.

  26. I am not surprised that you didn’t post my comment last night. Obviously it’s something you don’t want to acknowledge or discuss. A review site like yours that sells advertising to the very companies (Sony) that make the products you review, has a serious conflict of interest and no credibility when it comes to giving an impartial, objective review.

    1. Every site has advertisers. Look at DPreview, Imaging Resource…or ANY larger review site. They all have advertising from camera companies. It’s the business model of any blog…get visitors, get ads, pay for the site to stay alive. if you come here to make BS accusations and talk BS then you are not welcome here, and since you feel this way then I will ask you to not come here again. Easy. Just continue being a nasty negative person who probably hates their life so they have to be negative to others to make themselves feel better. Sad way to live. So I suggest never coming here again, you and your BS nonsense, well, it is not and never welcome. Thank you.

  27. I’ve had the RX100 I, III; RX1, A7II. Now I only have the A7S II, and will keep that camera. I DID like all of the previous Sony’s, but was desperate for image stabalization. However, I really wanted a lower light capable camera and a less MP camera. I sell my pictures on http://www.TheArtfulToad.com, and have many sales from my early Canon G series camera, which was 10 MP. I never create prints larger than 11×14 and 13×19. I also do not want large files on my computer and alternate storage. Also, I do a lot of walking around China in the evening, and want to snap shots w/o fiddling around with ISO. However, I will set the ISO to a max, say nothing over 2500 and let shutter speed and aperture take care of the rest. I will retire end of Marchy 2016, and will be spending a great deal of time in China, much walking around, traveling, shooting. I rarely (in the past) use video, but as my primary artistic endevor is poetry (many publications), I want to record myself reading my poems. Regarding the much-coveted ‘detail’. People will disagree, and depending on what they want, I want less detail. I think there’s far too much fretting over detail. I want people to see the forest, not the trees. Edward Hopper is one of the greatest painters of the 20th century. Almost no detail. As Steve said in earlier discussion about the A7S I, he likes the “big fat pixels”. So do I. Anyway, just my thoughts.
    Steve: one more thing: As I am soon to retire, I want you to know (and I think I speak for many of your website readers) that you bring some morning joy to all the over-worked people who take a break from their daily grind, and check out your site every day. Much thanks!

  28. Dirk,

    You say “..It would have been different with an increased MP sensor on the SII – anything from 14MP and up. We can wonder why Sony didn’t add a few extra MPs..”

    The reason why the pixel count wasn’t increased is that this is primarily a video camera as much as a stills camera ..and the 12 megapixel count gives an image 4240 x 2832, a so-called “4k” (..four thousand pixels wide..) image, which is, approximately, the new video standard ..so-called ‘Ultra-High-Definition’, which is one step up from standard 1920 x 1080 ‘Full High-Definition’ video.

    It’s because this is predominantly a compact video camera for shooting 4k video without “line-skipping” (which means throwing away intermediate horizontal lines of pixels) and without “pixel-binning” (which is the merging together of groups of pixels to produce a lower resolution image than a ‘native’ resolution of, say, 18mpxl (..which is generally done when starting with a much higher-pixel-count image ..e.g; 18mpxl or 24mpxl or greater..) that’s the reason why the A7S series cameras deliver such very high quality video without noticeable “moiré” (..the interference patterns which are produced by line-skipping or pixel-binning when shooting video of very finely-detailed structures).

    If the megapixel count were increased, the A7S series wouldn’t be able to give such a ‘clean’ video result at 4k UHD, and so wouldn’t be such a more useful video camera than, say, the Canon 5D or 6D series, or similar SLR-style Nikons.

    Because this is a mere 12 megapixel sensor in 36mm x 24mm “full-frame” 35mm film size, each photo site (pixel) is so much larger than in most (all?) other cameras, and therefore catches more light, and so the camera delivers great images in very low light. That’s an advantage for video and for stills! Another important selling point.

    Increasing the pixel count of these A7S cameras would wreck their appeal for those of us who shoot video as well as stills, and the similar Panasonic GH series cameras would then look more appetising, and Sony would lose sales.

    For people who do want more pixels there are the Sony A7 series and the Sony A7R series. But for people who shoot video as well as stills – especially in low light, like in cities at night – and who want to shoot 4k UHD with a shallow depth of field (..and therefore want a “full-size” 36mm x 24mm sensor and the lenses to match that large size sensor..) the ‘only’-12mpxl ‘4k’ A7S series are really excellent tools for both stills photography and – especially – for UHD video!

  29. Thanks for taking the time to reply. Even my A7 is technically superb and no doubt the new models are significantly improved, but they still have the same basic design, layout, and menu system. Nothing wrong with them per se, but I just don’t seem to get along with them as well as I have with Olympus(OM-D) or Canon(5D mk2), both of which felt immediately familiar the first time I used them.

    In theory the various A7 models combine the best of both worlds but to me it just feels like something was lost in translation.

    But I do love my Ricoh GR, so I’m going to give a used GXR with the M module a shot.

  30. Thanks for the review. I’ll be keeping my original A7s along with the absolutely terrific A7r2 which is easy to shoot hand held. I think the next Sony I would jump on is a sports oriented high frame rate auto focus speed demon. Until such a Sony appears, I’ll eagerly await your RX1r2 review and see how tempted I am by that camera.

  31. Only tangentially related to this review, but I got an A7 to use with old lenses and I’m not entirely convinced.. Technically it works just fine, but the ergonomics and user interface leave a lot to be desired.

    With SLR lenses the adapter makes the lens noticeably longer and the focus ring is way too far forward to be comfortable; with M lenses that’s not a problem but the whole camera is just so.. uninspiring. Technically it works well, but doesn’t feel nice to use. As an example the custom WB setting is silly, when you enter the WB menu you have to scroll through the three custom presets before you can set a new one. It’s probably the most important setting in the whole camera and it’s needlessly complicated.

    I wish someone would build a simple camera with manual focus in mind. The only controls I need on the camera are shutter speed, ISO, and WB. Basically a seventies camera with added WB control. I don’t even need a monitor. Leica is the only option that gets close, but they are rather pricey.

  32. Karim– I think the key with A7RrII comparison is the downsampling to 12 megapixels. I rented an rII over the weekend for evaluation and found it very hard to get a sense of the high iso performance — at normal sizes it looked great, but lots of noise if you zoom in. If you pixel-peep at 42MP you will see all sorts of stuff that you won’t see at any reasonable size print or crop.

  33. Hello Steve. Great job, you did. Again.
    About the price, you write: “So while I enjoy the hell out of the new a7SII, I do not think I would sell my a7s and pay $1500 more to get the new version. $700 maybe, $1500 no”.
    This is significant, since the MK2 is $800 more expensive than a new MK1, that is $100 more than you feel justifiable over your used MK1.
    Another thought about the price: the A7II was launched at about the same price as the original A7 was. Nevertheless it offers so much more! Now I wonder, if we consider this extra package and add it to the A7S MK1, what does the MK2 has more yet to justify the extra $800? BTW, same goes for the R MK1 versus MK2, the latter costing around $1400 more.
    Is Sony overpricing the S MK2 and R MK2? I’d say no, by all means. Maybe some will think that, if they can keep the prices way low for the basic model, they would also have to do it for the SII and RII. But that’s faulty reasoning. If we compare those with other players in the market, the prices are justified. A company needs to make a good profit to go on with the necessary R&D. Nobody would gain when Sony would price themselves out of the market, by making not enough profit. IMO, what Sony did was underpricing the original A7 and A7r (probably a strategic decision to strongly enter the FF market), and they are still underpricing the A7II, making the latter a fantastic option – by far the best value for money. That all being said, I would indeed welcome the price of the RII and SII to drop with say 3 to 500 Dollars/Euros.
    With the present price tag, the SII indeed will become a niche model, IMO, with the RII coming so close in ISO performance. It would have been different with an increased MP sensor on the SII – anything from 14MP and up. We can wonder why Sony didn’t add a few extra MPs. My guess is that they are working very hard on a new sensor, but still need some more time, since I reckon they want to come with something around 18MP. Think of it: the MPs of the old M9, but with 400K ISO. I’m sure something like that will come. My guess is that the present SII is an intermediate model, since they simply hàd to apply the new body style to the S as well.
    Concerning ISO performance, what really would interest me is to make a comparison between the SII and RII of two identical shots, not OOC, but edited to your best effort and then compare the S file with a resized R file, because that’s what we do in real life – editing to get optimal result. I guess the IQ of the R can gain more from it than the S’s, that is when keeping the smudging effect (which appears on pixel level of the 43MP file) below the pixel size of the resized 12MP file. I know that’s not your way of working, but I believe it can do a good job, if one takes good care not to overdo it.

  34. Steve,

    Great article thanks.

    It could be interesting to see some similar pics from the original A7S using the Voigtlander 35 1.7 to see if it gets the same M9-esq pop and rendering. What do you think?

    T

  35. Steve, I own a Nikon Df and a Nikon 810. Often, I find myself reaching for the Df because the 16 meg raw files do not take up nearly as much room on my computer and are perfect for everything other than the most severe cropping. 12 megabytes is plenty for me as long as the lens is superb.
    Richard

  36. I would say that those high ISO examples are pretty bad, even downsized for the main page. I know they are better than every camera out there, but honestly they are still unusable in my opinion. I’m sure part of it is the jpg algorithms used as I’m certain shooting RAW and using a desktop converter like Lightroom would yield much better results as I have always confirmed in my own images. A bit of colour noise removed (25), but zero detail noise reduction (0) can give nice tight grain. The jpg’s from this camera are splotchy (almost like compression) and full of colour noise. Would love to see a comparison of a JPG vs. a Raw edit as I bet it would be night and day.

  37. Steve, a very useful, concise review. So thanks!

    If it is true that the Golden Rule of photography is ‘Get the shot,’ then this camera is the one that fulfils that to the maximum degree while delivering high quality imagery. Yes, some cameras might be a bit better for sports or for commercial work, but the A7sII does everything well.

    You suggested that this camera is a niche camera. Well, I disagree – cost aside. It can do anything, though it isn’t the best at most things. The M9 might better for a few things, and the A7rII will be better for a few things, etc. But it’s the DSLRs which are niche cameras. In fact I’m not sure that low end DSLRs serve any purpose at all. Even the Leica is less of a niche product than something like a Nikon D4.

  38. “Have you tried this and what are you thoughts?”

    Maybe you missed it, but he has done this – go to the heading, ‘A7s vs A7sII vs A7rII – QUICK IMAGE COMPARISON for Color and ISO at 25,600.’ I actually prefer the A7rII!

  39. Steve has a much better understanding of the resale value of cameras but I have thus far gotten 75% of the purchase price of all my digital cameras after two years of ownership. I always keep them in pristine condition, have every original component that came with the packaging, always throw in something extra, and I sell them at the time that the next iteration of the same camera comes out. So then it is always a minor cost for the upgrade. Always stay current or else the value of your digital camera will just plummet.

    Now on to the Sony A7Sll. I know I’m a broken record at this point but please, Sony, jump on board with Profoto! (We need more TTL support from Profoto besides Nikon and Canon.)

  40. you said that the rendering produced from this a7s mk 2 is similar to the m9 which I kinda agree with you. my question is.. what about the a7s mk 1 vs the m9? does the a7s mark 1 has the same rendering or similar to the m9?

    thanks for the great review steve, it’s always a pleasure to read your blogs.

  41. Thanks Steve.
    I can’t wait for the touch screen on A7s Mark 3.

    The voigtlander 35 1.7 looks really promising. Have you tried other M mount lens on the A7s II? Do you still have the Zeiss ZM 35 1.4?

  42. Hi Steve, thank you very much for the review of the a7SII, I was waiting eagerly. Surely I will read several times. I own the original Sony A7S Why to choose Summicrom APSH 35mm f2 and f1.4 APSH Summilux 50. I’m really pleased the results. Not worth switching to a new model for me.
    Thanks again for your extraordinary dedication.
    Carlos

  43. Thanks for the A7S II review. I use the A7R, A7S, A7 II and A7R II. I’ve found the A7R II approaches A7S performance and really like its (the A7R II’s) low light performance, although above ISO 12800 the A7S does (sort of) rule the roost! However, downscaled A7R II images are darned closed to those off the A7S all the way to ISO 102400.

    I’ve full spectrum modded both the A7S and A7R for astrophotography. They are both GREAT in this capacity and for IR!

    I would like the new A7S II but simply can’t justify the additional cost when image quality is much the same as that off my A7S; maybe when the price drops…?

    bwa

  44. Just a correction, sake good order. My old Voigtländer lens was a 55mm1.4, not 50mm and it was with Rollei mount. I have not checked if you could use that with a Sony A7 but guess so, as presume adaptors are available for most old lenses…..

  45. Thanks for the interesting review. Indeed a tempting camera, although there still is some room for improvement, with all this noise and funny colors at very high iso… Just kidding :-)
    Too bad for me that my old Voigtländer 50/1.4 SLR lens ended up as paperweight many years ago and now is gone..
    Your picture of the police officers with hats, reminded me of a somewhat similar ‘old style’ b&w photo I saw earlier today:
    http://dcmny.org/islandora/object/nyhs%3A1104

  46. Another great review and insight into the Sony A7 series.

    Some reviewers have said that if you take a photo of the same image with same settings and a really high ISO (Something where the noise difference will be apparent) and down size the A7RII image file size (pixel x pixel) down to the same file size as as the A7SII’s, you’d get the same (if not better) low noise as you would for the A7SII, thus negating the A7SII’s high ISO low noise advantage.. you might even get more detailed image at the same time as well. Have you tried this and what are you thoughts?.. if that’s the case, sounds like you might be better off with the A7RII if the high ISO low noise is the same (if not better) in most cases.

    I agree that 12mp is probably plenty of image resolution for majority of people. I’d try to get an A7SII if possible, just for the low light capabilities alone.. And, whether newly entering the A7 system or even if you have an A7S (or other A7), if the A7SII’s unique feature set and capabilities really appeal to you, but you’re not in a hurry, I say wait.. Sony outputs so many new cameras in such a short time, it quickly makes those not so old models quickly lose value relatively fast,, the A7SIII is probably going to be out before the end of next year, then you can get the A7SII for several $100’s less by then.

    Thanks again for providing your thoughts and opinions on this new Sony A7SII.

  47. Steve…how does A7RII compare to A7II in terms of low light iso? Cleaner? 1-2 stops less noise? I know A7SIIis probably best for low light…. I am just not too sure if 12MP is enough for me

  48. Nice images and thanks for the review. But I am still seeing some serious limitations beyond ISO 10,000. I would like to see how these shots would render with noise reduction, because most of them are unusable with substantial grain.

    1. I do not use NR as it smudges details, I hate it as it kills the images. Id rather have grain that smudging. Also, I have used ISO 80k images from the S, as in they appeared in a publication. So it is usable beyond 10k.

  49. Steve, Doest the original A7s with the voight 35mm 1.7 look M9ish too? Why not include that in your comparisons. I am sure lots of us would like to see that before making any decisions. Colors look a bit oversaturated to me and they are loosing color detail just an observation.

  50. Steve, thank you for your enthusiasm and continuing to carry the passion forward for the new tools available to photographers. Your site is a regular and enjoyable stop for me..

    I’ve owned all 3 new Sony a7’s. I prefer the a7rii. I find it superior in every area below 12,800. It might not focus as well as the a7sii in pitch black, but in testing both, shooting volleyball in a dark gym, the speed and accuracy of the a7rii trumped the a7sii – by quite a bit. It was so much better, in fact, that after shooting two matches with the a7sii, I packed it away, and shot the rest of the day with the a7rii and happily returned the a7sii to lens rentals.

    Could I push higher ISO in the a7sii? Yes, but only about two stops.did I shoot video? Not at all. Am sure the a7sii wins there. Was I shooting streets at night? Nope, so can’t compare that. But, with 399 pad focus points, and 42mp, for general shooting, I’d spend the extra bucks on an a7rii. That said, how wonderful it is to have such great choices!

    Now, if the a7sii shot at 10fps, and focused faster in afc mode, that would be amazing! Perhaps the a7000???

  51. Steve: Thanks. Helpful re: non issue. I love my RX1 for a daylight walk around camera. Sii seems like a great complement. (And, who knows, I may really splurge and get the very cool new RX1Rii!)

  52. Thanks for the review Steve.
    I enjoy reading your reviews as you’re doing it as a user. Real world experience > the laboratory numbers and datas.
    Hope I’ll finally make up my mine on Rii or Sii now.

  53. Steve: Thanks for the review: very helpful! For me I shoot mainly for web/screen images and smallish prints (11×14 or smaller). Combined with my frustration at getting low light shots in the past it seems the Sii is a perfect fit for me. (I’m new to A7 series.)

    I tend to shoot quickly when seeing events unfold on the street. One issue I’ve heard conflicting reports about is the A7Rii versus the A7Sii in regards to blur/sharpness. The essence of one claim is that the Rii is less forgiving in terms of focus/sharpness: you need to be careful to get it right. Whereas the Sii is more forgiving. I think this mainly has to do with 12 vs 42 Mp counts and how much blur is picked up (more on 42). From a practical perspective do you see this as an added bonus for the Sii (one can shoot with less blur, especially for quick shots) relative to the Rii? Or is it really a non-issue?

    I’ve dreamed of being able to get good night shots, and shots indoors with poor lighting without a flash. I wasn’t willing to jump in with the original A7S, but it looks like this is the right timing for me.

    1. For me it is a non issue as my RII handheld shots never are blurred and provide great sharpness. So for me, its not an issue. The A7sII sounds like the camera for you though, will do just what you need.

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