Aug 312015
 

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The Sony A7RII Camera Review. A real world look.

By Steve Huff

Buy the A7RII at Amazon or B&H Photo

Here we go! After a few weeks of use with this camera I can finally sit down and write about all of my thoughts on this incredible technological marvel, the new Sony A7RII. As of the end of August there are many who received their new A7RII and are enjoying it. I can state with conviction that I have enjoyed every second I have had with this stunning memory maker. I hope you enjoy reading my real world review as much as I have enjoyed creating it for you.

Zeiss Loxia 50 on the RII at f/2 – click it for bigger!

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Let me start this Sony A7RII review by saying I have never shot, tested, used, owned or reviewed a camera in 35mm full frame format that competes with this one as an overall package. It does everything I need, and then some. It offers me fantastic low light abilities, fantastic video abilities, amazing snap and detail and beautiful files that print out as large as you would ever need, and look amazing as well. The camera is a true beauty, and one I expected to like not love (I usually steer away from mega megapixels due to the usual compromises involved).

55 1.8, late night low light with the A7RII – click it for bigger!

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The A7RII, when announced, was something I thought was a “Uh Oh” moment for Sony. I assumed ISO would suffer, speed would suffer and the camera would  be cumbersome and slow due to the 42MP sensor (Like the original A7R was when compared to later models). Sony was promising a “no compromise” experience, the best of the A7II, A7R and A7s all in one camera almost…well, they did not say that specifically but hinted at it on more than one occasion or gave the idea that yes, this is one camera that can do it all.

Here is an image shot with the little Voigtlander 40 2.8 for the Sony system. See my review HERE. LOVE this lens on the A7RII!

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The shot below was with the Zeiss 35 Loxia, another fantastic lens on the A7RII. Maybe not as brilliant as the 35 1.4 Distagon but so small and lovely to use. Shot at f/2 in a very dim and low light restaurant. The sensor of the A7RII sucked in the light and “lit it up” which is what my Leica M always seems to excel at. This lens renders a nice organic image on the A7RII sensor. 

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When I finally was able to test this camera, I started to realize that their claims were true (no compromise). Here I was with a “much smaller than any full frame DSLR” beautiful camera in feel, build and looks and when I started shooting it I was blown away by the speed improvements, IQ, color, AWB, metering, ISO performance, video and EVERYTHING it was doing for me. Those 1st few days were great but I knew I was in the “Honeymoon Phase” and that excitement would eventually wear off, as it always does. That is why these companies cam make a new camera like this every two years, as many people (the ones stricken with GAS) love to upgrade for something new and exciting after some time and tech keeps evolving at a rapid rate in the Sensor arena, so companies like Sony who make these sensors are pushing strong with the hardware to go with these incredible imaging sensors.

Outside at night with the Sony/Zeiss 55 1.8 (at 1.8) and the A7RII

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So I kept shooting and using the camera and every day my enthusiasm would jump UP instead of DOWN, which was odd while testing a new camera. The more I used it, no matter the light or situation, it never failed me in any way, and always delivered beautiful results. It was quick, it was easy to use manual focus glass on, it felt beautiful and with my wooden JB Grip, I had many asking me what kind of camera I was using as it looks stunning with a nice prime lens and that grip!

This one, the Zeiss 16-35 on the A7RII. Lovely lens that I am now addicted to for its amazing performance. Click for larger!

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Then again, I also use the Voigtlander 15 4.5 III in Leica M mount and also adore it for its small size and brilliant performance. Click for larger! 

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In any case, the more I shot this with Sony FE lenses, Zeiss FE lenses, Leica M mount lenses, Canon EF lenses..the more impressed I was. When I did this ISO test against the A7s I was blown away. When I shot it indoors, outdoors, in brutal full sun, in the magic hour or for portraits or landscapes, the A7RII just delivered the goods without muss of fuss. The Dynamic Range of this camera/sensor is astounding.

The 24-70 Zeiss on the A7RII

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The 12-14 Bit Controversy

All the while I was enjoying the A7RII I was seeing forum postings about pixel peeping nonsense that has nothing to do with taking, displaying or printing photos. Was boggling my mind. If you believe what some who never touched the A7RII say, you would think you could not get a decent image from this camera due to the 12 Bit RAW files. Lol. As you can see in this review, I see no issues with any of these images in regards to 12 vs 14 bit raw files. I also do not see any issues in my huge prints I made. Hmmmm. The whole 12 bit vs 14 Bit RAW thing stems from pixel peepers and has nothing to do with the real capabilities of this camera as a serious or pro photo tool. I know pros using it without issue, at all, ever. So that is what matters. The real results.

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With that said, I feel Sony should go to 14 Bit just to please those customers who want it. Shouldn’t be too hard for them to do with a camera on this price level and it should be 14 bit anyway, again, at this level. 

As you can already sense, I love the A7RII. Spoiler. Bam. BUT it is not perfect and I’d love to see a couple changes made down the road to get it closer to where perfect lies.

The 1st image below was shot with the Zeiss 24-70 at f/4. VSCO Filter applied. I found this lens to perform exceptionally well on the A7RII. The filter here crushed the blacks, but sometimes I like this look. 

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Below, using the Canon 50 1.2 via a Metabones adapter. No more front or back focus with this lens ;) 

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Before I get into all of the Nitty Gritty, I’d like to say that while I really liked the original Sony A7 and A7R, I never LOVED them for the long haul or when compared to the newer gen A7 series. Compared to what we have in the A7II and A7RII and even A7S the A7 and A7R were slow, clunky and LOUD. Todays A7RII is like a different camera when compared to the A7R of yesterday. Newer body style, better build, quieter shutter, silent shutter, 5 Axis IS, 4K video, 40% faster AF, much better C-AF, and the list goes on. Shooting the A7RII is very enjoyable so the usability factor is up there with this one, and that is unusual for a Sony camera as old NEX bodies were more like mini computers than cameras. The A7RII is very much a “camera” but one that is loaded with features and usable function.

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Using it with a Canon lens was also enjoyable. The image above and below were both shot with the Canon 50 1.2 using a Metabones adapter, and the AF was faster on the A7RII than the Canon 5DIII using the same lens! Crazy but true, and verified by many who were with me. I loved the 50 1.2 Canon so much on the A7RII I put one in my Amazon cart right after testing it out. I never did buy it as it’s not a cheap lens but one day I just might as it seems to do really well on the A7RII.

Was much more enjoyable to use on the A7RII than it was on my old 5D from long ago (would always front focus or back focus on the 5D for me). This lens keeps its 3D character on the A7RII.

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One more from the Canon 50 1.2 (see it HERE). Beautiful color, rendering and Bokeh.

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It’s all in the details..

For me, I enjoyed the Sony A7s with intense enthusiasm (and still do) because those big fat megapixels on that big full frame sensor just delivered the goods. It was the 1st A7 body that really pushed on with speed, low light, video and user experience. Due to the 12MP on the huge sensor we were getting insane high ISO performance that was previously not possibly. We were close with the Nikon D4 and Df but the A7s pushed it over the edge for low light work. Video guys were using video at crazy high ISO and getting nice clean footage out of it. The A7s and A7II, for me, were the pinnacle of the A7 series. Until now. With the A7RII I am seeing the best of all previous A7 bodies rolled into one, and then some.

Click the image for larger view and enjoy the details ;) Taken from a Helicopter while in Portland.

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With the A7RII we have a camera that is not only full frame, not only 40% faster than the previous A7R for AF and not only built to a higher standard, we have a camera that creeps somewhat into the A7s territory for low light high ISO work. We have a camera that is the technically best in the Sony line for video (though some overheating issues have been reported).

We have an improved 5 Axis IS (though it still is not up to Olympus E-M5 II levels of performance for the 5 Axis IS) so ALL lenses can be stabilized on this new massive sensor, even old Leica glass. We have a huge EVF that allows us to see what we do in real-time as in, “what we see is what we get”. We have a swivel LCD and a vast selection of native and non native lenses to pick from to use on this camera. We have an amazing street camera in the A7RII because while we do not need 42MP of resolution, with the camera being fast and good in low light, we no longer compromise here (huge MP used to mean crappy low light, not anymore). This also gives us great cropping ability with all of those megapixels.

Man, remember the days of 1MP cameras? Now we have 42 in a smallish full frame compact body. Crazy!

Take a look at the images below. Click on them and see them larger with a full 100% crop

1st a full size from RAW image, OOC

1st one, Zeiss 35 Loxia at f/2

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Next, Zeiss 16-35 at f/4

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Loxia 35 at f/5.6 – CLICK IT TO SEE THE INSANE DETAIL!

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Voigtlander 40 2.8

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Image then a crop. Taken with the Batis 85 

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Click it for 100% crop!

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One more crop but you must click the crop to see it in its full size. 

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It’s a pretty amazing thing what Sony has accomplished in such a short time span. About two years from the first A7r to the new A7RII and we have a camera that is BRILLIANT in almost every aspect.

Sure, there will be those who still prefer a DSLR, Optical VF and the DSLR way of shooting but for many, and yes there are many, this Sony represents the wave of the future for hobbyists, enthusiasts and pros alike. It is a camera like the Sony A7RII that is breathing new life into what was becoming a tired industry. This A7RII has shaken up things a bit, and for good reason. Even Leica is starting to really sit up and take notice as mark my words, they will be releasing a Sony A7RII competitor soon, they have to as this camera and the previous A7II and A7s have eaten away at some of their M sales I am sure.

ISO 8000, 55 1.8 at 1.8, Zero NR (I never use NR, always OFF)

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Just look at the impressive specs below of the new Sony…

THE SPECS OF THE A7RII:

With a world’s first full-frame 42.4-megapixel Exmor R back-illuminated structure CMOS sensor, the Alpha a7RII Mirrorless Digital Camera from Sony is prepared to take mirrorless imaging to another level. This sensor design both improves low-light operation and speeds up data throughout, enabling fast high-resolution stills and UHD 4K video recording. Working with the BIONZ X image processor, these images can be produced at sensitivities up to ISO 102,400 and at a continuous 5 fps shooting rate. Five-axis SteadyShot INSIDE image stabilization has also been implemented, compensating for vertical, horizontal, pitch, yaw, and roll movements.

Speed has received a major boost with a 40% increase in speed over its predecessor. The AF system received its own massive upgrade with the use of 399 phase-detect points and 25 contrast-detect points for a speedy Fast Hybrid AF system which will offer extremely accurate tracking. The phase-detection points even extend to A-mount lenses when used with the LA-EA1 and LA-EA3 adapter.

Designed to last, the updated magnesium alloy body has improved weather sealing and a robust lens mount for working with large lenses. Also, the shutter has a reduced-vibration design, cutting down shutter vibrations by about 50%. Also, it now uses an electronic front curtain shutter and is rated for 500,000 cycles. Silent shooting is also available for a quiet shooting experience when needed.

Onto video, the major addition is internal UHD 4K 3840 x 2160p recording at 30 or 24 fps with the XAVC S format at 100 Mbps. This is possible using either the Super 35 crop mode, with no pixel binning, or the full-frame readout. Full HD 1920 x 1080p is still readily available at up to 60 fps and HD 1280 x 720p is possible at up to 120 fps. Additionally, the a7RII benefits from the inclusion of the S-Log2 Gamma and S-Gamut settings as well as fully customizable picture profiles.

Composing and reviewing your images as you work is handled with either the 0.5″ 2.36M-dot XGA OLED Tru-Finder electronic viewfinder or the 3.0″ 1,228.8k-dot tilting LCD monitor. The viewfinder offers 0.78x magnification and a 4-lens system with double-sided aspherical elements for comfortable viewing. The monitor helps in odd positions by tilting up 107° and down 41°. And, to stay connected, the a7RII packs in Wi-Fi connectivity with NFC for remote operation and transfer of images to a smartphone, tablet, or computer.

Zeiss Loxia 35 mid day sun – OOC

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42.4 MP Exmor R BSI CMOS Sensor and BIONZ X Image Processor

The world’s first back-illuminated full-frame sensor, the 42.4-megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensor present in the a7RII works with the BIONZ X image processor to offer high-resolution stills and video while minimizing noise and improving speed. This sensor structure works with gapless on-chip lens design and an anti-reflection coating, as well as eliminating the optical low-pass filter, to improve light collection and enhance detail. Also, the copper wiring layer dramatically improves data transmission speed for creating high-resolution 42.4-megapixel stills at sensitivities up to ISO 102,400. Also, it enables internal UHD 4K video recording with a wide dynamic range using the full-frame sensor.

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5-Axis SteadyShot INSIDE Image Stabilization

Packed into the svelte a7RII is a 5-axis SteadyShot INSIDE image stabilization system. This compensates for five types of camera shake encountered during handheld shooting of still images and video. This allows users to confidently use any lens, even adapted lenses, for critical imaging without encountering blur from camera shake. This system will compensate for approximately 4.5 stops of shutter speed for working with a huge variety of subjects.

For long focal lengths, the system will correct for pitch and yaw adjustments. Macro and high magnification imagery on the other hand will benefit from the inclusion of horizontal and vertical shift compensation. And, all shooting styles will get usage out of the roll compensation. All 5 axes of stabilization will function at all times, even when used with third-party lenses and adapters or lenses with built-in optical stabilization.

When using lenses that do not transmit imaging data to the camera, manual settings can be used to input the correct focal length and ensure proper stabilization. Also, the viewfinder can be used to preview the amount of compensation by pressing the shutter release button halfway or magnifying the image.

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Fast Hybrid AF with 399 Phase-Detect Points

Lock onto your subjects quickly and without hesitation thanks to the revamped Fast Hybrid AF packed into the a7RII. It uses 399 on-sensor phase-detect AF points with 45% coverage along with 25 contrast-detect AF points in order to improve the speed, accuracy and tracking performance of the system. Faster readout thanks to the back-illuminated sensor structure also allows for tracking while shooting at the top continuous shooting rate of 5 fps. This can be captured in a burst of up to 24 frames when shooting in JPEG Fine L format at 42 MP and a continuous AF Display allows users to view the active AF points.

Another feature available with this AF system is a Lock-on AF tracking that will analyze more information from the scene to provide dramatically improved accuracy and stability. Eye AF is also available which will prioritize a subject’s pupil for excellent portraits even with a shallow depth of field.

Zeiss 50 Loxia

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UHD 4K Video Recording in XAVC S Format

In addition to the first BSI full-frame sensor, the a7RII is the first full-frame camera to offer internal UHD 4K video recording at 30 or 24 fps. This is possible using either the full-frame sensor or the Super 35 format which uses oversampling with full pixel readout and no pixel binning. This limits moire and aliasing common with high-resolution sensors. Video recording also benefits from live tracking thanks to the 399 phase-detection AF points present in the Fast Hybrid AF system. An additional benefit of this camera is the ability to switch back and forth between NTSC and PAL operation for worldwide use.

When recording internally, users will record video with a 4:2:0 sampling at 8-bit, however, to even further improve image quality the a7RII has clean HDMI output for use with an external recorder. This allows users to capture 4:2:2 uncompressed video and save in an edit-ready format.

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Timecode and User Bit Settings

The a7RII has multiple timecode recording options to meet different workflows. It has the standard ‘Record Run” mode that only advances the timecode when recording, as well as “Free Run” timecode that advances the timecode even when not recording, which can be great for syncing multiple cameras at live events. It can also record timecode in both drop frame and non-drop frame modes. When recording internally the a7RII is also able to output timecode via HDMI.

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Customizable Picture Profiles and S-Log2 Gamma

To make sure the a7RII is able to use its extensive dynamic range while recording video it incorporates extensive customizable color and gamma controls. Users can adjust the gamma, black level, knee, color level, and more. Also users can use the same S-Log2 Gamma Curve that is found on high end Sony Cinema cameras that squeezes up to 1300% more dynamic range into the video signal then traditional REC709, for increased post-production flexibility.

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3.0″ 1,228.8k-Dot Tilting LCD Monitor

With a higher 1,228.8k-dot resolution, the LCD screen will provide shooters with an excellent screen for composing images, adjusting settings, and reviewing video and photos. It also tilts upward 107° and downward 41° for working with multiple shooting angles. Use in sunlight is improved with the implementation of WhiteMagic technology which doubles the brightness of the display through a RGBW pixel structure.

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0.5″ 2.36M-Dot XGA OLED Tru-Finder Electronic Viewfinder

With its 4-lens optical system using double-sided aspherical elements the viewfinder faithfully displays what will appear in your recording, including the effects of your camera settings. You’ll enjoy rich tonal gradations and improved contrast. High-end features like 100% frame coverage and a 0.78x magnification enable comfortable and stable eye-level composition.

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Redesigned Grip, Shutter Release Button, and Controls

With a larger, more refined shape to the grip, users will find the a7RII to have a more secure feel and grasp even when large lenses are mounted. Also, the shutter release button has been reshaped and moved forward for a more natural shooting position and a decrease in camera shake. The controls also have been refined with new position for easier handling and improved operation. Button customization is available with the ability to assign any of 56 functions to any of the 10 customizable buttons for a more personalized setup.

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Magnesium Alloy Construction and Robust Lens Mount

The compact form is well-built with a magnesium alloy top cover, front cover, and internal structure. The lens mount has been redesigned with a greater strength and rigidity for extra security when using larger or longer lenses. The body itself also features greater sealing for dust and moisture resistance, providing more protection when shooting out in the elements. Additionally, the optical filter on the sensor has an anti-static coating and there is an anti-dust mechanism to prevent dust from adhering to the sensor.

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Reduced-Vibration Shutter & Silent Shooting

Cutting down on mechanical vibrations by 50% is the durable reduced-vibration shutter implemented in the a7RII. It has been tested to last for 500,000 cycles and also uses an electronic front curtain shutter. Additionally, a Silent Shutter mode is available for completely silent shooting when needed in certain environments.

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Audio Input & Headphone Jack

The a7RII features a 3.5mm microphone input jack for compatibility with external microphones. And for users needing more the a7RII is also compatible with the Sony XLR-K2M XLR Adapter for recording professional balanced XLR audio signals with phantom power and adjustable mic/line inputs. For monitoring audio the a7RII features a 3.5mm headphone jack as well as real time audio levels for a visual reference.

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Built-In Wi-Fi Connectivity with NFC

Built-in Wi-Fi connectivity enables the a7RII to instantly share imagery to mobile devices for direct sharing online to social networking, via email, and to cloud storage sites. NFC (Near Field Communication) is also supported, which allows for one-touch connection between the camera and compatible mobile devices; no complex set-up is required. Once connected, the linked mobile device can also display a live view image on its screen and remotely control the camera’s shutter.

Additionally, PlayMemories Camera Apps are also supported via the built-in Wi-Fi connection, and allow you to personalize the camera’s features depending on specific shooting styles. Apps are available to suit creating portraits, detailed close-ups, sports, time lapse, motion shot, and other specific types of imagery.

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Other Camera Features

Picture Effect modes: Posterization (Color, B&W), Pop Color, Retro Photo, Partial Color (R/G/B/Y), High Contrast Monochrome, Toy Camera, Soft High-Key, Soft Focus, HDR Painting, Rich-Tone Monochrome, Miniature, Watercolor, and Illustration.

Creative Style settings: Standard, Vivid, Neutral, Clear, Deep, Light, Portrait, Landscape, Sunset, Night Scene, Autumn Leaves, Black & White, and Sepia (all with +/- 3 step contrast, saturation, and sharpness adjustment).

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Color space: sRGB standard (with sYCC gamut) and Adobe RGB standard compatible with TRILUMINOS Color.
Picture Profile parameters: Black Level, Gamma (Movie, Still, Cine 1-4, ITU709, ITU709 [800%], S-Log2), Black Gamma, Knee, Color Mode, Color Level, Color Phase, Color Depth, Detail, Copy, and Reset.
Scene Selection modes: Portrait, Landscape, Macro, Sports Action, Sunset, Night Portrait, Night Scene, Hand-held Twilight, and Anti Motion Blur.

Face Detection is available to base exposure and focus on up to eight recognized faces. Furthermore, Eye AF can be used for even greater precision by maintaining critical focus on a subject’s eye.
2x Clear Image Zoom can be used to effectively double the magnification afforded by any lens in use with minimal image degradation. For even greater magnification, 1.5x and 2x Smart zoom is available, as well as 4x digital zoom.

Pre-flash TTL control with flash bracketing available and a variety of flash modes, including: Flash off, auto, fill-flash, rear sync, slow sync, red-eye reduction, hi-speed sync, and wireless control.

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More of MY Experience with the A7RII

Here we are 3700 words in and I have yet to show you guys comparisons, Leica M mount results, High ISO performance…wow. From this point on I will try to be to the point and quick so let’s start with some high ISO results against the top dog in high ISO, the Sony A7s. I assumed the A7RII would be sub par at high ISO due to the massive 42MP sensor. Well, I was wrong, and this is good! So below I will get to high ISO, Leica M lens use, Dynamic Range and more. Let’s get to it!

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HIGH ISO PERFORMANCE vs LOW LIGHT INDUSTRY LEADER A7S

Let’s take a look from ISO 6400 all the way to 102,800 ISO on both the new A7RII and the high ISO king, the A7s. WOW, this is 42MP? IT DOES QUITE WELL though I would only use it at up to 6400 comfortably with the occasional 12,800.

Text that says what camera is what is on each image, click them for larger and 100% crops!

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So there you go. The A7s still beats the A7RII (as expected) at the extreme higher ISO’s but the A7RII did much better than I had thought here. ISO 12,800 is VERY VERY usable, which is unheard of in a 42MP sensor.

Also, When out and about shooting in VERY low light or near darkness the A7RII gave me no issues. I never ever ever use Noise Reduction, so EVERY shot you see in this review or any other reviews by me in the last 4-5 years will not have NR applied.

Two more high ISO shots in VERY LOW LIGHT! The 1st image we were in a DARK room and her face was lit by her iPhone, that is all. ISO 6400, Zero NR as always. Click it for larger and know this is what you can expect of the A7RII in super low light at 6400 ISO. The image shows much more light than my eyes saw! 2nd shot is also 6400.. Lens is the 55 1.8

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ISO 12800, crazy low light room. 55 1.8

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ISO 102,400 – Zero NR here. Zeiss Loxia 50

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For being a 42MP sensor, this is extremely impressive.

LEICA M MOUNT WIDE ANGLE PERFORMANCE

Testing the Leica 28 Summicron and 35 Summicron up close, mid distance and at infinity. From what I understand, shooting at infinity is where these M mount wide angles pose the largest problems with the A7 series, so I was asked by a very knowledgable guy who loves his Leica glass to test these two lenses, and if they do well at infinity then it could mean the A7RII is fantastic with M glass.

Let us take a look and see how it went..1st up, a few images using the Leica 28 Summicron f/2 lens:

Looking at these snapshots with the Leica 28 Summicron tells me “no problems”!! No magenta edges, no off color, none of that..

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In this next image you can see the searing on the left and right side of the image (the red wood) which is an issue if you want across the frame sharpness. In fact, I would recommend the Sony 28mm f/2 over the Leica as depending on how you focus (infinity or up close) there could be some soft corners…

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Here is a shot with the 28 cron and a 100% crop, plenty of detail here..CLICK IT FOR LARGER and 100% crop! Corners have some softness but no color issues. 

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NOW THE 35mm SUMMICRON

The 35 Summicron also shows no magenta colors, edges or problems unless you are shooting something like a sweeping landscape using infinity focus, which is where you will see the softness/smearing on the sides of the frame.

This is the Sony A7RII with Leica 35 Summicron at f/4. Click for larger. No vignetting issues, no color issues but there is some edge smearing when shooting at infinity (or so it appears). 

The good news is that for 98% of uses, the 28 and 35 Leica cron work great on the A7II. So if you have one of them, they will do well on the A7RII unless you are doing critical landscape work shooting at infinity.

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Few more snaps with the 35 Cron. Click them for larger. 

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Detail and snap looks as it should with the 35!

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For wide open shooting up close and mid distance this lens is great on the A7RII

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So at the end of the day, it seems the Magenta sides and color issues when using wider angle Leica lenses are no longer issues, as in 100% gone, which is fantastic. The new backlit sensor does indeed fix the #1 issue we had with M glass on the A7 series. Bokeh and character rendering all are the same as they are if shooting these lenses on a Leica M. In other words, if I shot a portrait using the 35 cron on the M and A7II, my guess is that no one would be able to tell me which was shot on which and the Sony may even produce a sharper image.

If I was buying an A7RII I would stick with native lenses for the most part, and would pick up vintage M mount lenses for their character here and there (the cheap ones). I would not invest $4-5k in a 28 cron or 35 summicron for the A7RII as I feel there are cheaper lenses that do just as well on the camera. The Sony/Zeiss 35 1.4, (the Zeiss 35 1.4 M mount is also fantastic), the Sony 28 f/2 is cheap and punches well above its price point, etc. There are some amazing Leica 50mm lenses I would consider like the 50 Summilux ASPH or 50 APO which work amazingly well on the A7S, A7II and now A7RII. Other less expensive 50’s I would buy for the A7RII in Leica M mount would be the Voigtlander 50 1.5 Nokton ASPH or the Zeiss 50 1.5 Sonnar. Both are spectacular on the A7s, A7II and A7RII,

If I already owned a few Leica M lenses I would 100% buy an A7RII to use them with as a backup to my M or whatever I was using. In many ways the A7RII beats the Leica M. In some ways the Leica M beats the Sony (Build, feel, design, RF use, simplicity).

So there ya go, and the new 15mm III from Voigtlander works VERY well with the A7RII, sharp across the frame, no distortion, tiny. :) The A7RII is a VERY versatile camera.

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DYNAMIC RANGE

Dynamic range is spectacular just going by the fact that it is simple to NOT blow highlight and that shadow detail is incredibly easy to recover as well. The info is there, packed in to the file and if we under or over expose, we can easily fix the issues. Of course, underexposing is always easier but the challenge has always been when we pull out those shadows, we also pull out noise and in some cases, banding or other artifacts. With the A7RII, I had no problem recovering the shadows from the shot below which I exposed this way purposely. As always, click images for larger.

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So as you can see, the DR of this sensor in the A7RII is rather good. I look forward to seeing DXO’s test of the sensor to see what the numbers are. I am not a huge DXO guy but I do like their Dynamic Range and ISO tests.

COMPARED TO the A7II and A7S and old A7R

Compared to the A7II and A7s (TWO cameras I adore) the A7RII is like having the best of both of those bodies into one. It beats the A7II for me as I prefer the image quality I am getting from the new backlit sensor in the RII over the A7II. With fantastic low light ability, fast AF and the ability to shoot any fast prime ever made (just about) the A7RII has taken the place of my A7s and A7II, and condensed it down to one body. The A7s still has a place in my heart as it is a unique camera and it is still on my shelf. LOW megapixels, easier to handle the files, easier to edit on a low horsepower computer and lovely color and speed as well as industry leading low light abilities.

The A7RII is not too far off from the A7s in low light, which is astounding and makes me think a new A7SII will have 1 million ISO possibilities. I could be wrong but I feel that is where we are headed.

To see my A7s review, click HERE

To see my A7II review click HERE

To see my original A7R review, click HERE

SO basically, for me, the A7RII is “IT”. It replaces the A7II for me, as there is no need for both. I still have an A7s and will keep that one around for when I want low MP and extreme low light use.

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AF SPEED – MUCH IMPROVED OVER A7R and equal to or a tad faster than the A7II in my experience 

The AF speed is MUCH faster than the old A7R and its not subtle. If you have been shooting an A7R and move to the A7RII you just might be shocked in the 40% faster AF speed, AF accuracy and the shutter which is now MUCH quieter! The new body style is also more rugged and solid and feels fantastic. Sony really did their homework with this camera and while it is not perfect (no camera is), it is fabulous and quite a special machine. Well worth the investment if you are a passionate shooter like myself. It brings many levels of joy and with the new AF speed, I no longer miss shots as the A7R used to make me do with its dodgy AF, especially in low light.

Also, I feel I can AF faster with the A7RII than I can with a Nikon Df, which gave me many AF misses. With the EVF showing me exactly what is IN focus, if it did miss I could easily fix it on the spot. So yes, the AF is at the level of the A7II, maybe a bit faster (seems like it is)

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VIDEO

This camera is WAY beyond my capabilities as a videographer but many have been reporting overheating issues with video recordings longer than 30 minutes. I remember having this issue with my old NEX-7, but I have not experienced myself with the A7RII yet, but my videos have been 15-20 minutes max. Seems Sony has some overheating issues with some of their cameras when shooting video. Should not be here in a camera of this level or price point so if you shoot video segments longer than 30 min at a time, you may want to dig into this issue deeper on other review sites that specialize in video reviews. All I can say is that the video I have shot so far (for my own personal projects) has been superb, especially with the new enhanced 5 Axis IS, which is in body. Shooting with a Zeiss 16-35 is so nice, it almost seems like a steady cam is attached when shooting at 16mm.

If I were buying this strictly for video work though I would investigate the over heating issues 1st!

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Leads me to two more weaknesses with the A7RII, video overheating is one..and the 2nd and 3rd?

*EVF PERFORMANCE

The EVF of the Sony A7RII is an upgrade from the old A7R but it is not without issues that some have been reporting all over the internet and camera forums. When using a manual focus lens, let’s say a Zeiss Loxia (which I love to death on the A7RII). Turn the focus ring and the A7RII will automatically magnify the EVF screen so you can critically focus. Press your magnify button again and it will blow up even bigger, but when this happens you will see some degradation in the EVF frame, something the A7II and old A7 series did not do. There is some sort of degradation which makes it hard to critically focus, so I never blow up the EVF image that large, as it is does the opposite of what I need, making it harder to manually focus.

Other than the Manual Focus issue with the EVF, it is fantastic. I still can easily manually focus my Loxia lenses, so do not think it makes it hard or impossible, it just makes it “harder” than it should be if you magnify the screen to its max level.

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*BATTERY LIFE

The weakness that has started with the original A7R continues..battery life. For some this is an issue. For me it is not at all as I get 350-400 shots per charge, and I have 6 batteries (but only carry two with me when out shooting) and batteries are cheap if you go 3rd party, very cheap.

Many want 2000 shots from a battery charge and many shoot their cameras like a machine gun. Me, I do not and if I am out for 8 hours shooting I may come home with 40 images. Many would come back with 3000. So if you are a massive frame rate machine gun shooter, you will need a few batteries or you will need to slow it down, or bring along a Nikon D4 with it’s massive weapon of a battery.

If you are like me, and getting 300-400 shots per battery is PLENTY, then this is a non issue. When shooting video you will use more power so the battery does suck down MUCH more when filming video. But the A7RII is just as impressive with still images as it is video. In other words, it is NOT a video specific camera, at all. I am more impressed with the photo side than video on this camera.

I slightly mis-focused this one with the Zeiss 35 Loxia

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PROS AND CONS

Pros

  1. Lovely build and feel
  2. 5 Axis IS is now enhanced for the new sensor
  3. Splash proof
  4. Compatible with ALL FE lenses and E lenses
  5. Compatible with all Leica M lenses, Canon and Nikon (with adapters)
  6. Nice big fat EVF
  7. Tilting LCD
  8. Gorgeous IQ and color
  9. Improved AF speed by 40%
  10. Much nicer AWB than previous model
  11. Pro level video features and capabilities.
  12. Feels fantastic in the hand
  13. High ISO is incredible for megapixel size.
  14. All buttons are customizable! Woohoo!
  15. Sony’s best digital camera ever IMO.
  16. Resolution can be mind blowing
  17. Near medium format feel at times (to the images)

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Cons:

  1. Expensive at over $3000
  2. Still some smearing issues with some wide angle Leica M mount lenses
  3. EVF degradation issue at max magnification for manual focus
  4. Battery life could be better, especially for video use.
  5. Could be simpler. I’d love to see an A7 series body stripped down  to basics, like a Leica. ONLY for photo, no video.
  6. 12 Bit RAW, they should make it 14 bit for those who want it.

ZEISS 16-35

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MY FINAL CONCLUSION

Well here I am again writing a conclusion on another Sony camera. I remember vividly reviewing the early NEX-3 and 5 years ago. Both revolutionary cameras at the time that I loved back then. Today it’s all about full frame and pushing the limits of 35mm IQ, low light high ISO and even image stabilization. The latest and greatest camera in the mirrorless world is the A7RII and for me, it surpasses any and all that have come before, quite handily. Is it the best 35mm full frame camera in the world? Maybe not, but then again, maybe it is. Depends on your needs and wants, and for me, it is the one I would choose if I was buying ANY 35mm format full frame digital camera today. Here is why…

  • Massive resolution
  • Finally…fast AF speed
  • C-AF is quite good though not pro DSLR good
  • High ISO is up there with the best in the world
  • Video is outstanding (as long as we do not overheat)
  • Color, detail and image quality up with the best available in 35mm
  • Pro-ISH build and feel here, much better than previous A7R and A7
  • Large EVF, I prefer these to OVF’s today by FAR!
  • Camera handling, speed and response is fantastic
  • Hundreds, if not thousands of lenses can be Mounted and used. Limitless creative possibilities with ONE camera. It’s a beautiful thing.

The A7RII is one hell of a camera, and it’s not just me saying this. Many long time reviewer’s are praising it as well, and the reason is because it is the real deal. Many are complaining about the 12 bit RAW thing, and I understand the concern (on paper) but for me, I have never had any issue with any of my A7RII images that have been taken since using it in Portland at the Sony media event and now in my home. NOT ONE issue related to 12 bit raw, so for me, it is a NON issue. Though I do get it, and I hear Sony is looking into this as I write this.  If I ever have an issue due to having 12 bit vs 14 bit RAW I will let you all know. I do not expect to EVER have an issue as I do not pixel peep at 400%, or even 200%.

At the end of the day, the Sony A7RII is quite an achievement. Sony never gave up, never stalled, and they listened to what WE had to say. They implemented many of our needs and wants and we now have a NEAR perfect camera in the A7RII for those who just love to shoot, love photography and love when they see such amazing quality when they load the images.

Zeiss Batis 85 f/2

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From Zeiss to Sony to Leica to Canon to Nikon to others…so many lenses can be used to great effect with the A7RII. With its in body 5 Axis Image Stabilization, its resolution and all the things I Just mentioned, there is really nothing NOT to like. For me, it’s the best camera in 35mm full frame format that I have ever used, tested or reviewed. This is my new #1 replacing my A7II. I will keep the A7s for those moments when I am in the “S” mood or need that extra bit of low light ability.

Sony 35 1.4 Distagon – Chris from the Phoblographer

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If you want the best that 35mm can offer you in IQ and features and size and ease of use/joy of use, take a long look at the A7RII. It may be your dream camera. Now I have to try the Canon dream lens on the A7RII which I will then dub the “Dream Team”! Hehehe.

Where to Buy?

I would buy the A7RII at Amazon HERE or B&H Photo HERE. Two of the best retailers on the planet.

A few more A7RII Snaps…

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Purchase the A7RII at B&H Photo HERE

Purchase the A7RII at Amazon HERE

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HLPHH

PLEASE! I NEED YOUR HELP TO KEEP THIS WEBSITE RUNNING, IT IS SO EASY AND FREEE for you to HELP OUT!

Hello to all! For the past 7 years I have been running this website and it has grown to beyond my wildest dreams. Some days this very website has over 200,000 visitors and because of this I need and use superfast dedicated web servers to host the site. Running this site costs quite a bit of cash every single month and on top of that, I work full-time 60+ hours a week on it each and every single day of the week (I received 200-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I need YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis.

To help out it is simple, and no, I am not asking you for a penny!

If you ever decide to make a purchase from B&H Photo or Amazon, for ANYTHING, even diapers..you can help me without spending a penny to do so. If you use my links to make your purchase (when you click a link here and it takes you to B&H or Amazon, that is using my links as once there you can buy anything and I will get a teeny small credit) you will in turn be helping this site to keep on going and keep on growing.

Not only do I spend money on fast hosting but I also spend it on cameras to buy to review, lenses to review, bags to review, gas and travel, and a slew of other things. You would be amazed at what it costs me just to maintain this website, in money and time. Many times I give away these items in contests to help give back you all of YOU.

So all I ask is that if you find the free info on this website useful AND you ever need to make a purchase at B&H Photo or Amazon, just use the links below. You can even bookmark the Amazon link and use it anytime you buy something. It costs you nothing extra but will provide me and this site with a dollar or two to keep on trucking along.

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

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Aug 262015
 
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A Manual Approach to Wedding Photography

by Joao Medeiros

I’m not comfortable writing. Images, particularly photography are what drives me. Since very young Art was part of my life, I went from painting and waiting to be an architect to abandon everything for a life in the theatre, just to pursue a career in Jazz playing trumpet.

But at my twenties, I was struggling to make it and everyone was making sure I knew I had to earn money to be a successful individual. Money was never my interest, I’m passionate about Art, any form of it. But Photography had a degree of intimacy and control that I had never experienced.

I went to college to take a photography bachelor and complemented it with a bachelor in Fine Arts and a master’s degree in Visual Arts teaching, things went on for a while, drifting in teaching, corporate/event photography, restoration related jobs before I finally found the one area where I had complete creative freedom. A freedom that allows me to choose the gear that gives me pleasure while creating and expressing myself through Photography and eventually sharing my Vision.

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Weddings are something that has been with society since we had the need to express our love for our life companion. Happiness is something that needs to be shared and celebrated with our loved ones. And that’s what I like about them, it’s all about family and friends making the most of Life. When I was in college, I did the whole course with only an Olympus OM 1 and a 50mm, since then manual focus is second nature to me, even when I had top DSLR’s AF never grew on me. But when I used the first serious EVF (Panasonic GH2) I knew what I wanted and what I wanted to see while composing. Eventually, when I step up to weddings I needed the best dynamic range and colour I could get my hands on it, so I bought a Sony A99 and a Nikon D800e to figure out my needs. After a year the Sony won me, not because it was superior to the D800e, it was Sony’s approach to photography that made it. The fully articulated LCD, I. S and Minolta’s heritage all over the place made the A99 a superior tool in my hands.

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When the mirrorless Sony A7 appeared on the scene I had no doubts and bought one immediately with a set of Zeiss ZM and Voigtlander lenses with the VM close adapter. Since then, shooting has been a real pleasure. Nothing beats feeling your shots, even when we are capturing fleeting moments like kisses, exchanging vows/wedding rings or sharing a secret while on the dance floor at 4 am. Having a small, robust camera with the best glass in the industry makes me feel very confident and secure that when I get home, I have all I need to put together a body of work that reflect my vision. That’s the main lesson I learned, you really need to follow your own unique vision of things.

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We are all different, but you really need to push beyond the limits to reach for that inner voice. Recently I added the amazing sigma Art 35mm f 1.4 to my set, the only complain is its sheer size when compared to my little Zeiss ZM 35mm f2. My workflow is pretty straightforward, I use B&W mode to concentrate on composition and focus while having red peaking and magnify to guarantee that every moment is in focus. For 75% of all my work, I use the 35mm focal length with my Sony A7 and take advantage of the articulated LCD from the A99 to get more discrete and intimate portraits with the 85mm, also from Sigma. Just a little detail, I removed the slt mirror from the A99 and use it in manual focus, so it’s basically a big mirrorless camera. I’m more of a guest than a professional photographer, at least that’s how I’m perceived by my clients, family and friends. A friend who happens to make a living from photography. I really try to enjoy the wonderful day, conscious that I’m very fortunate to be at a private party while making a living. I’m always the first to arrive and the last to leave, it’s after all a body of work and not just a staged kiss with the golden hour moment. It’s people that drive me, the concept of family and friendship not staged moments.

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I’m looking forward to get the new Sony A7RII since it brings some new features like a new and stronger shutter that it’s better damped, the I. S, min. auto shutter, copyright embed info, better high ISO performance and even the silent shutter option although with some caveats.

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Thank you.

Regards

João de Medeiros

http://joaomedeirospamelaleite.tumblr.com/
https://instagram.com/joaomedeiros.pamelaleite/
https://www.facebook.com/MFotografia.JoaoMedeiros.PamelaLeite
http://www.joaomedeirospamelaleite.com/

Aug 182015
 

CAMERA SIZE: Sony A7RII Size Compared!

Many have been e-mailing me saying things like:

“I hear the A7RII is the same size as the Nikon D810, so what is the advantage for me to go to Sony”?

“The A7RII is just as big as most DSLR’s, FAIL”

“Why is it SO BIG!?!? The A7RII offers no size advantage over a 5DIII”

I just shake my head and chuckle. Not sure what planet some of these people are living on but the A7RII is MUCH smaller and MUCH thinner than any full frame and 95% of APS-C DSLRs, and with a better sensor than any of them IMO ;) Take a look below at some size comparisons thanks to CAMERASIZE.COM

Starting with the Leica M. The M is longer but the A7RII is taller due to the EVF hump. The A7R II is also thicker, giving the Leica the “smallest full frame camera” award next to the Sony RX1 of course. 

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How about the “Small” full frame DSLR? The Nikon Df. The Df is taller, longer, and thicker. The A7RII gives better IQ and performance IMO.

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The trusty Nikon D810, which one person told me was the same size as the A7RII. The Nikon is MUCH taller, longer and MUCH thicker.

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The D4..well, no need to comment on size here.

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Now the 7D Mark II, which is smaller than the 5D III…AND an APS-C sensor, so this one is not even full frame!

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..and the 5DIII…

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..and for giggles, the Canon 1Dx. WOW!

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So this should verify that the A7RII is smaller than just about any DSLR, and all of full frame DSLR’s by quite a bit, it also beats out all of these on most things such as IQ, usability, fun factor and low light abilities (again, IMO).

Amazing what Sony have done here and I hope Canon and Nikon have a plan! I have been shooting the A7RII all day and this is one hell of a camera. It is small compared to these beasts but feels amazingly solid and nice in the hand and never overbearing or too heavy. AF is speedy and with a Leica lens, mostly all Sony FE lenses or a Zeiss Loxia I feel like I can shoot ANYTHING I want, anytime, without worry or problem. This is the only camera I have used or tested that I would possibly call “and end game” camera for many years to come. Besides moving up to Medium Format, it’s hard to fathom what could get better here for 35mm. This weekend look for  tests with the Leica 28 Summicron and 35 Summicron, up close and infinity tests. Then a review of the A7RII to follow!

Steve

Aug 182015
 

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Quick high ISO Comparison! Sony A7s vs Sony A7RII

Many h ave been asking me to do a high ISO comparison with the Sony A7RII vs the all time high ISO king, the Sony A7s. The Sony A7s is a special camera for a few reasons, one of them being the extreme low light capabilities which came about due to Sony using a 12MP sensor. The less MP on a full frame sensor usually means better low light or high ISO performance. With the new resolution monster, the A7RII, any were expecting high ISO to be mediocre. This is not the case. In fact., it looks DAMN good against the A7s. Think about it..12MP vs 42MP and the 42MP sensor is not far off. AT ALL.

As always with my ISO tests I let the camera choose exposure as this is how 99% of people use these, either in A mode, S mode or even AUTO mode. In other words, very few manually expose these cameras, so here is the output from each as exposed by the meter in each camera. What you see is what you get.

Also, these are from RAW and all noise reduction was off. Sony made some claims saying the A7RII is a NO COMPROMISE camera due to the new sensor design, Meaning, you can have high res and great high ISO all in one. Now imagine when they redo the A7s with the new sensor tech..this is when I think we will hit ISO 1 million and have it be usable. ;) My older A7s review is HERE if you missed it! Also, before you ask, the grip on the A7RII above is the JB Designs A7RII wooden grip. 

Click each image for larger view and full 100% crops! I will go all the way to the top ISO in my full review which will be up within 2-3 weeks!

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Aug 172015
 

Sony A7s and 16-35 Head to Tasmania!

By Peter Amber

Hello Steve,

Earlier this year I took along the FE 16-35mm as the go-to lens with my A7S and traveled around the beautiful Tasmania, Australia. The 16mm focal length came in handy for landscapes and interior shots, and I find it more fun to use than the 24-70mm. As I shoot videos, the zoom lens came in handy and coupled with the APS-C function gave an effective coverage of 16-50mm to play with. Here are some images and video from our travel around Tassie. As usual keep up the awesome site guys!

www.vimeo.com/peteramber/tasmania

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Regards,
Peter/Amber
www.peteramber.com

Aug 142015
 
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A Sony A7RII Review

by Chad Wadsworth – His website is HERE

Blasphemy be damned, I’m going to admit that I wasn’t all that excited about the Sony a7R II prior to its release.

I’m a simple stills guy so the 4k video is wasted on me; I also like my fat pixel 12mp a7S files just fine, thank you and I dreaded having to deal with both the processing and storage requirements of a 42mp image. Furthermore, I already enjoy the refreshed body style and IBIS on the a7 II and I’m not a switcher – been shooting Sony for a few years now and sold all my Canon L lenses long ago.

My prior detachment aside, the release of this camera is a watershed moment in the mirrorless epoch. The a7R II spec sheet reads like something out of the future, a no compromise piece of kit that is both evolutionary and revolutionary at the same time. Who wouldn’t be interested in this camera? As professionals or even enthusiasts, we desire the best and this camera promises to be that at a great many things. Even if it falls short in a single category like low light (little brother a7S still reigns supreme), its second best still trumps most everything else on the market.

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So yeah, I want the best and I want it compact and rugged and efficient and with a great compliment of lenses. I know it will eventually be eclipsed by something newer and greater but at this point in time, I can with a good conscience state that it is the best digital camera I have ever owned.

I’m not going to do a detailed review, many others are far better at that, but I can share some thoughts and photos that I hope will be helpful. All images have been edited from RAW to my personal taste.

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In the pro column, the camera is mature. Sony has had time since the release of the a7 (their first full frame mirrorless system camera) to evolve and improve on many aspects of the platform. The menu system is by now second nature to me but more importantly, with the release of the a7R II, Sony has vastly expanded the level of button configuration. Virtually every physical control on the camera has some level of customization. This means that for all but the most arcane settings, there are direct physical controls. We’ve all seen the comments labeling Sony products as computers or gadgets, compared to other brands’ “real cameras”. The truth is that all modern digital cameras, yes I’m looking at you too Leica, are electronic, computer controlled devices. With the a7R II, I can hide that electronic menu interface for 99% of the photography I do while still harnessing secondary features like IBIS, focus magnification or display options with physical buttons. The closest example of this type of physical control from the golden age of the 35mm film world was the Minolta Maxxum 7 (also known as the a-7!) which was laden with physical controls for every imaginable setting. For the uninitiated, Sony purchased Minolta’s camera and lens line in 2006 – check out this report from way back then – Farewell Konica Minolta.

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The a7R II is the second camera in the line to be blessed with IBIS or SteadyShot, also a Minolta invention. Once you’ve used IBIS there’s simply no going back. Hand holding a 135mm lens at 1/5th is doable with IBIS and good technique – amazing. For some of the photos here, I used the lovely Batis 85mm which has its own optical image stabilization that works in tandem with IBIS for even greater control. The jittery view of a long lens simply melts away to calm when IBIS kicks in. Sony saves battery life by engaging the IBIS function only when the shutter is half-depressed so you can see the effect in realtime, before and after you engage focus.

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The original a7R suffered a heavy shutter action that was quite loud. Having never owned that model, I can’t comment but I will say that the a7R II has one of the sweetest sounding shutters I have heard. It sounds something like this: shhtiiiickkk. Really, take my word, it is wonderful – quiet and refined. Some people have even confused the normal shutter sound with the silent shutter feature which is incorrect as the silent shutter is just that: silent. And on the topic of the Silent Shutter setting, yes there are some compromises such as a restriction to single shot mode but come on, the use cases for silent high speed shooting have got to be minuscule.

Another aspect of the camera that impresses me is the new EVF magnification. At .78 it is the largest magnification of any modern camera, DSLR or mirrorless (the Nikon D810 comes in at .70) which results in a large comfortable view of the scene with excellent eye relief. This feature did have me excited and I’ll have a hard time looking through a view with lesser magnification now.

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The autofocus speed seems on par with the a7 II but tracking looks to be improved thanks to the 399 on-sensor phase detect points. I’ll need to do more shooting to be sure and I also want to do some concerts in low light, but for now I’m very pleased. Using the gorgeous new Zeiss Batis lenses for these first shots in Ogunquit, Maine resulted in quick, sure focus on the 25mm, with the 85mm a bit slower (common for longer focal lengths moving more lens mass) but still speedy. I’m finding that the Batis 25mm truly shines on the a7R II – sharp, sharp, sharp right to the corners with manageable distortion and excellent color. The ability to dial in hyperfocal setting in 2 seconds using the OLED is a nice feature that I used often on some of these tourist landscape shots. If you are looking for a top quality standard wide for the a7 platform, this is your lens. Overall, I’m very pleased with this combination and look forward to more options in the Batis lineup.

One of the big features of the new camera is its claimed compatibility (with an adapter) to Canon EF lenses. The previous a7 models also had this compatibility but the AF speed left much to be desired. With the a7R II, Sony is taking a broad shot across Canon’s bow, claiming much improvement, approaching native AF speed using EF lenses. Since I don’t have any Canon lenses I can’t comment with any authority but there seems to be a consensus in early reviews that the performance claims are accurate. Since the a7R II will be the first Sony camera for many Canon switchers I can only implore them to enjoy the compatibility with their existing lenses but do not ignore some of the class leading native FE lenses that are now available.

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Back to the a7R II – what about all of those pixels? The good news is that I’m seeing nothing but sharpness, no shutter shock or blurred details – and my MacBook Pro seems to be chugging along just fine so far. I get a longer delay when rendering a 100% view but for standard editing I haven’t noticed any speed bumps. The level of clarity and detail from the combination of this 42mp sensor and the Batis lenses has been simply astounding and will eclipse the performance of many Medium Format systems. Dynamic range has also been top notch and I expect it to be measured in the 14+ stop range at base ISO.

Shadow boosting and highlight recovery is child’s play with these Sony sensors and the a7R II doesn’t look to be compromising dynamic range or low light performance for high resolution. Check out the before and after sample below illustrating shadow boost at base ISO.

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No camera is perfect and I expect there to be a few niggles here and there but as I mentioned earlier, the a7R II is remarkably mature. As a photographer with some manual focus rangefinder lenses I do find that the new larger EVF has an unfortunate downside that lessens the shimmering effect of the older displays. This effect was from edge artifacts and could help the photographer determine when they had manual focused accurately without relying on focus peaking. The extra EVF magnification eliminates those edge artifacts making it more challenging to determine manual focus accuracy without entering one of the focus magnification modes. Now to be clear, Sony never advertised or even hinted of this EVF shimmering effect as a tool for focus, this is simply a trick that I and others have used for our benefit so we can’t berate Sony for eliminating what some may have thought was an annoyance.

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Aside from my gripe about manual focusing with the new EVF, I’ve discovered no significant faults that impact operation or lessen my enjoyment of the camera. My initial impression is that Sony has set a new high bar with the a7R II – a camera that will suit many, but of course not all styles of photography. For those that specialize in landscape, architecture, wedding or portraits, as well as the run and gun videographer, this could well be the one and only camera that you need in your bag. And let’s not forget, that bag is going to be a lot lighter.

Chad Wadsworth

Aug 072015
 

Why Pre-Orders ROCK! A7RII now 1-2 month wait!

I know many here pre-ordered the A7RII when it was announced for pre-order. Many of you are getting your cameras now, yesterday and today and have emailed me with your glowing thoughts on it. I am glad to see I am not the only one raving about this camera. I am without the A7RII now, but will have one again next week for 2 weeks for a full review. I did pre-order one but mine has not yet shipped from Amazon so I may have a wait! It appears if you order today, at least from Amazon, you will have a 1 to 2 month wait as the A7RII is more popular than Sony expected, selling twice as many pre-orders as the original A7 and A7R (true).

This is why I am a huge fan of pre-orders. When you see a new camera these days that you know you WANT and you know will be HOT and a massive seller, pre-orders are always best. When you pre-order a camera from Amazon for example, your credit card is not charged until the camera ships. If the camera takes 1-2 months to deliver you are locked in place and without even being charged and if you change your mind about it anytime before it ships you can cancel the order with one easy click in your Amazon acct. Very simple. It appears there were loads of pre-orders for the A7RII!

If you received your A7RII, leave a comment below and let me know what you think of it, what you love and even what you do not love about it!

 

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Aug 062015
 

BY REQUEST: Sony A7RII Shadow Recovery Sample

Many have asked to see how the new A7RII sensor handles shadow recovery. Below is a quick example. 1st one is out of camera how it was shot, and below that one is with shadow recovery. Notice how the details of the tree come out. Click on them for larger size, and if you are on a retina display, these are Retina Ready!

CLICK THEM FOR LARGER 2000 PIXEL WIDE VERSIONS

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More later as I am leaving portland today and heading back to AZ! My A7RII review unit will be here next week so my full long form review will be started then.

Aug 052015
 
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Day 3 With the Sony A7RII. Just some quick Samples..

So day three with the A7RII here in Portland just ended, and I am tired. So tired that I am now in my pajamas laying in bed and dozing off as I write this. Because I am so beat, I will keep the text short and let the images speak for themselves.

Also, for those who have been asking, I will post full res files in my full review in 2-3 weeks. I will test certain Leica lenses on the camera as well. So stay tuned for that.

For now, just a few more images from today. Myself and almost everyone here is loving this camera. Was speaking with some well known camera reviewer names today and they agree that this is a phenomenal camera. From its snappy AF, to excellent tracking C-AF to it much better build, quieter shutter, superb high ISO performance and great video it is so much different than the 1st gen A7 bodies…AND THIS IS GOOD.

Stay tuned for my full review soon.

For now, take a look at some images from today and yesterday afternoon with various lenses.

You can order the A7RII at Amazon or B&H Photo. They just started shipping today!

 All EXIF is embedded. Lenses used were the Zeiss Batis 25 and 85, Sony Zeiss 35 1.4, Zeiss Loxia 50 f/2, Zeiss 16-35

TO SEE THESE CORRECTLY YOU MUST CLICK ON THEM TO SEE THEM LARGER!! IF YOU DO NOT THEY WILL NOT LOOK AS INTENDED. Thank You!

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Aug 042015
 

Day Two with the Sony A7RII…so far. WOW!

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Yesterday I posted my very 1st views and thoughts on the new powerhouse Sony A7RII camera. After shooting with it all day today for the past 6 hours I have more images and thoughts and they are all GOOD.

I am currently on a bus with 30-40 other journalists and Sony as we had to Mt. Hood for more shooting (in snow) with the A7RII. Since we have a 2 hour drive I decided to use my iPhone 6 as a hotspot and update you guys on how it went this morning with the camera.

One test I wanted to try was to shoot the Voigtlander 15 4.5 VIII on the A7rII as I was hearing rumblings about how the new sensor design fixes most of the issues with wide-angle Leica M glass. I have the 15 III on me, so more Leica tests will happen next week when I am home but for now, the 15 is looking AWESOME on the A7RII.

click image for larger…

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As I walked around the Japanese Garden this morning with the A7RII, 15 III, Batis 85 and Sony/Zeiss 35 1.4 and 24-70 I was BLOWN AWAY at the camera. This is without a doubt, the BEST A7 camera EVER made. In fact, since I am in the honeymoon phase, I feel it is one of the best, if not the best camera I have ever used. SO many reasons why. Will I feel like this in 2 weeks? I think so, but who knows. I am just so excited by what this camera is giving me I look at it sitting here next to me and say “I WILL NEVER NEED MORE THAN THIS”.

I mean, I just want an A7RII  and some AMAZING glass to go with it, and there is TONS of glass you can shoot on the A7RII. Thousands of lenses from all manufacturers can be mounted with the right adapters and with the new sensor design, man… this is one powerful tool.

Even with its 42 MP the camera is responsive, quick and never feels sluggish. Manual focus is a breeze with the large clear EVF and low light is so much better than I thought it would be, I mean..it seems to be better than my A7II at high ISO, nearing the A7S (but not quite).

THIS CAMERA excels with out of camera quality. These are all from camera JPEGS, look at the color, the depth and the incredible medium format like IQ…click them for larger!

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It has been a lackluster year for cameras so far. I mean, we have had some amazing cameras come out..the Leica Q…a few others..but THIS is a game changer and when something like the A7RII comes along, it excites me and that excitement translates to these pages and the words I write.

I have shot with everything over the years and believe me when I say, so far, from two days with this A7RII, it is a special camera that has capabilities that far exceed my skill set. The video capabilities alone are incredible. The sensor is outstanding. They did their homework and listened to A7 users, and then they delivered this. THANK YOU SONY!

1st shot below was with the 35 1.4 Zeiss at 1.4. THIS is my fave 35 1.4 ever. 

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Here is a shot with the Canon 50 1.2 EF lens at 1.2. What is really incredible? Myself and all here agree, this lens focuses faster on the A7RII than it does on the Canon 5D series. Faster and more accurate. I borrowed this lens from someone here and now will go buy one as it is amazing on the camera. click it, and yes, this is an OOC JPEG.

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What I have been enjoying most is the rich color, deep IQ and lovely transitions. This sensor is just “WOW”. 

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So here I am still on the bus and with my laptop battery draining and my hotspot racking up data feeds I will close this out now with a couple more images from today. Tomorrow I will post more from this evening and tomorrow as we have so many events planned to use these cameras. I will also have a look at the RX10II as that is also sitting in my bag beside me.

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Believe the hype my friends, the A7RII is a take no prisoners camera and I see nothing out there that can do all it does, how it does it and do so with amazing and fun usability.

You can order the A7RII below from my recommended and trusted Sony dealers: 

B&H Photo A7RII ORDER PAGE!

Amazon A7RII

Aug 032015
 
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HANDS ON! Sony A7RII 1st Thoughts, Images & Video!

By Steve Huff

Woohoo! THIS IS GOING TO BE “NEW SONY WEEK”! Meaning, I am going to be posting quite a few updates on my use with the new Sony cameras, the A7RII and the RX10II!!

Below is an OOC JPEG from the A7RII and Zeiss 25 Batis at f/2. Just a random guy through a window! Click it for larger!

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So here I am in Beautiful Portland, Oregon with Sony and loads of other bloggers and media outlets as we get to test and shoot the new Sony line up over the next few days. This includes, for me, the Sony A7RII and Sony RX10II, as I already reviewed the RX100 IV (see that here).

I am SO SO EXCITED as I just came back from a 5 mile walk with just me, myself and the A7RII. I had the Zeiss 25 Batis attached and also shot a few with the Sony/Zeiss 24-70. I am happy to announce that the new resolution MONSTER, the A7RII focuses pretty damn fast. In fact, it appears the spotty and slow focus of the original A7 and A7r is GONE. The A7RII feels just as  fast if not faster than my A7II and A7s when it comes to AF! (single shot mode is all I have tested so far)

The two shots below are from the Sony/Zeiss 24-70, which somehow I have never reviewed! All JPEGS!

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Now, keep in mind that the camera has been in my hands for about 3 hours and I have only shot stationary objects so far. Over the next few days I will be shooting all kinds of things from landscape, to low light, to portraits (shooting RAW as well) and more. I will give this camera a massive workout so YOU GUYS can see what it is all about and if it is something that may be for you.

These two are OOC JPEGs and color with the A7RII and Batis 25

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FOR NOW, this is just a 1st hand on report, and my 1st thoughts and images after shooting with the camera.

Below, check out the video I made about the A7RII which says much more than I can write here to convert my feelings on this gorgeous very “finished feeling and mature” camera.

FYI: As I took a walk around my hotel in Portland I snapped away and what you see here is all 100% out of camera JPEGs!
My 1st impressions?

The camera feels amazing in the hand, looks very “finished” and handsome. It feels like the A7II in the hand. It is much faster to AF than I expected and the IQ, even from standard OOC JPEGS is VERY VERY good and sharp. I can not wait to process some RAW files. The ISO performance from the quick and dirty tests I did in my hotel room look great, and this camera, I feel will be THE camera to get for 2015.

It just has everything one would ever need.

  • Resolution? CHECK – 42MP!
  • Speed? CHECK! Just as fast to AF, if not faster than my A7II! (so far I have not tested continuous AF, but will)
  • Build? CHECK! This camera feels SOLID and very nice.
  • VIDEO? AMAZING 4K video specs on this camera!
  • An enhanced 5 AXIS STEADSHOT INSIDE! Enough said!
  • 2.36 Million dot EVF? CHECK!
  • Silent Shutter? CHECK!
  • High ISO? Check, up to 102k!

This camera does it ALL. OH, and it even seems to play well with wide angle Leica M mount lenses. Take a look at a shot, with crop, from the Voigtlander 15 4.5 at 4.5:

CLICK FOR LARGER and 100% CROP! OOC JPEG HERE!

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So far, just a few hours in, I am LOVING the A7RII and have no regrets for selling my A7II to fund this new camera. So far, I see the A7RII as a camera that can last for the long haul, finally!

PLENTY of MP, fast enough for my uses without question, low light ability is great, video abilities is more than I’d ever need, 5 Axis IS is GREAT to have and the fact that I can use hundreds of lenses is icing on the cake.

The cool thing? The A7RII is staring  to ship THIS week to all of those who pre-ordered! IF YOU DID NOT PRE-ORDER, you can do so HERE at the recommended dealers below:

B&H PHOTO – CLICK HERE FOR  THE A7RII page!

AMAZON – CLICK HERE FOR THE A7RII page!

I will be testing and posting about the A7RII ALL WEEK! This is just the beginning and the start of what will be a very thorough look at the camera with various lenses. 

Images below are all OOC JPEGS! CLICK THEM FOR LARGER!

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Be sure to check back to this website every day for new A7RII and RX10II coverage! I will also be posting to my Facebook with images as well as videos to YouTube! 

Thank You!

Steve

OH, HIGH ISO SAMPLES TO COME, BUT THEY LOOK AWESOME SO FAR!

ALL NOISE REDUCTION WAS OFF, AND THESE ARE OOC JPEGS.

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…and  a couple B&W OOC JEGS at higher ISO for fun…

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Jul 302015
 

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Many USED DEALS on Sony FE Lenses at B&H!

Looks like there are tons of Sony FE lenses at the used department of B&H Photo, and I know how much I love a great used deal, so let me share some of my faves with you guys! Also be sure to come back starting Monday next week as I will have full Sony A7RII, and RX10II coverage all week! Here, my YouTube (subscribe there to get the new stuff!) and Facebook! 

Loxia!

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1st UP, they have a Zeiss Loxia 35 f/2 for $1099 in a 9+ condition, which is almost like brand new. The Zeiss Loxia 35 is a great lens and one I use on the Sony A7 series all the time. Great build, small in size as it is manual focus only and easy to use with great Zeiss colors and pop. See my review of this lens HERE if you missed it!

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35 1.4 DISTAGON!

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B&H Also has THREE 35 1.4’s! This is a STUNNING lens but many give it up due to the size. At 1.4, I have yet to use a better 35mm lens from any manufacturer. You can see my review HERE but also check out B&H as they are selling a used “9” rated 35 1.4 for $1349 or a 16% savings. See it HERE.

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Sony/Zeiss  35 2.8 

The Sony 35 f/2.8 is one of the originals from when the A7 series launched. It is SMALL, actually tiny in comparison to the 35 1.4, and it is very sharp and has great punch. B&H has one in a “9” condition for 19% off, coming in at $649.95. You can see it HERE. 

Sony/Zeiss 16-35

The Sony 16-35 is one of my faves on the A7 series. For ultra wide it is my go to on the A7 along with the little Voigtlander 15 III but the Zeiss has Auto focus, the 16-35 range all in a nice medium size. Not too large nor too small. Just about right. IT IS 16% OFF AT B&H FOR A “9” CONDITION. See it HERE. My review can be seen HERE. 

THE FISHEYE CONVERTER for the 28 f/2! – $249!

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Here is the fisheye attachment for those who own the fabulous 28 f.2. This will convert the 28 into a fisheye lens, all for $249. 9+ condition, no signs of wear, $249! Get it HERE!

Enjoy!

Jul 302015
 

My First Impressions – Zeiss Batis 25/2

By Bob Israel

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Getting a new lens is always exciting. You read the reviews (including Steve’s), you ponder whether your excitement is from the hype from the previews of others. You ponder whether this is really a ‘need to have’ vs. ‘want to have’ lens. Finally, you make the decision and place your preorder. Then you wait . . . and read some more . . . and wait some more . . . and see some images . . . and wait . . . and then . . . it arrives.

First, it’s the unboxing, not like you see on you tube videos but the anticipation of holding the lens in your own hands for the very first time. Today I received the Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Distagon. I’ve had a love affair with Zeiss for a long time shooting contax C/Y, Zeiss ZE and ZM lenses. But the Batis 25/2 is the first I’ve owned that will autofocus on the Sony A7 series. To say I was looking forward to this day is an understatement.

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The lens is a thing of beauty. It has a modern look and feel and the OLED display just seems cool (yes, I’m a techie). The lens is much lighter in weight than I expected but it feels perfect on my A7II. I went out at lunch today and took a few shots. Nothing earth shattering but an assortment of wide open, closed down and into the sun variety.

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Then I looked at the images on my laptop. I got the same feeling and excitement as when I first shot with the Zeiss ZE line. It was an OMG moment. The colors are rich and the lens is sharp even wide open. The lens is marvelous when shooting into the sun. OK, I realize I’ve only taken about 40 images, but so far, it’s an instant love affair with Zeiss . . . all over again.

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-Bob Israel

Bob Israel
RJI Photography

http://www.rjiphotography.com
http://​w​ww.facebook.com/rjiphotography​
http://www.flickr.com/photos/rjiphotography

See Steve’s full review of the Batis 25 and 85 HERE

Jul 242015
 
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Olympus EM1 + Sony A7s – Still my favorite Combo!

By Neil Buchan-Grant

Hi Steve

I thought I’d share some new images with your readers. I’m still loving the Olympus EM1 and Sony A7s although I have to say, since the Olympus 40-150mm zoom and the new 7-14mm zoom came out, the Oly has had more use. I also recently bought the Oly MC-14 1.4x tele converter for the big zoom and for me its performance in terms of resolution and sharpness underlines the big range now offered by the Olympus system. These 3 PRO zooms give me pretty much all I need for general travel work and the 12-40mm has all but replaced my wide primes with no loss of image quality. I still only tend to get the A7s + Leica M 35mm or 50mm f1.4 Summilux’s out when I’m out at night or I’m shooting low light work but with these lenses it still offers something a bit special.

My friend a few weeks before giving birth – EM1 – 12-40mm 2.8 PRO @ 25mm – available light and off camera flash

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My friend and her baby girl who had just had another lifesaving operation only days after her birth – Sony A7s Leica M 50mm 1.4 – mixed available light

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My friend holding it together by reading Winnie the Pooh to her baby girl who was still gravely ill only one week after her birth – Sony A7s – Leica M 35mm 1.4 – mixed available light

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My work here is a mixture of commissions and personal shots ranging from an architecture job in Oxfordshire, corporate portraits and a trip to Wimbledon tennis championships to some intimate portraits of my friend Scarlet and her baby, Frida. The baby had a traumatic and complicated birth and had to be resuscitated several times in her first few days. Thankfully she’s doing brilliantly now and is thriving! Thanks again for the opportunity to share these with your readers and keep up the great work! If anyone is interested, I have a new, short program of workshops on my website here:

My friend and her baby Frida who was finally out of harms way and seemed to be enjoying her new world – EM1 – Leica DG 25mm 1.4 – window light

 

 

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Frida just a few days ago, now 2 months old and currently my favorite model! – EM1 Leica DG 25mm 1.4 – window light

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The Prado Museum in Madrid during a quick break – EM1 12-40mm 2.8 PRO @ 15mm

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A late night bar in Madrid – Sony A7s Leica M 35mm 1.4 – available light

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A studio portrait of the actress Hetty Baynes Russell, who was married to Ken Russell the British film director. – EM1 12-40mm 2.8 PRO – continuous light through 4ft softbox

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Another shot of Hetty – Sony A7s Leica M 50mm 1.4 – window light

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A photograph of a rather special Barn design in Oxforshire at dusk – my friends Arthur and Kate were the architects who designed it – EM1 7-14mm 2.8 PRO @ 7mm

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The same building during the day – EM1 7-14mm 2.8 PRO @ 7mm

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A model in Prague – EM1 Leica DG 25mm 1.4 – window light and reflector

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A corporate shoot in London – EM1 12-40mm 2.8 PRO – Off camera flash

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Self portrait in the studio – EM1 12-40mm 2.8 PRO @ 35mm – continuous light through a 4 ft softbox and reflector

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Britain’s number one female tennis player Heather Watson winning her match at Wimbledon – EM1 40-150mm 2.8 PRO with MC-14 @ 420mm (effective length) wide open at f4

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Another self portrait in my garden – EM1 7-14mm 2.8 PRO @ 10mm – available light and off camera flash

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A tree surgeon working behind my garden – EM1 40-150mm 2.8 PRO + MC-14 @ 420mm (effective length) wide open at f4

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The same shot as above from the same spot, the tree surgeon is just visible – EM1 7-14mm 2.8 PRO @ 7mm

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http://buchangrant.format.com/workshops where you can join me in Berlin, India or China/Tibet over the next 10 months!

Jul 212015
 

Winning 1st Place in The World’s Largest Photo Competition!

By Andrew Suryono

Hello Readers, My name is Andrew Suryono. I won 1st place in this year’s Sony World Photography Award, Indonesia National Award. Below is my winning photo, “Orangutan in The Rain.”

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This year 173,444 images was submitted from 171 countries, making Sony’s photography contest the largest in the world. Winning 1st place in this competition means a lot to me. Not only because this is the largest photo competition in the world, but also this is my first ever international award. I’m an avid reader of Steve’s site. I sent an email to Steve asking his permission to share my experience from winning the competition with you and he replied to me with a resounding YES in less than 5 minutes.

I’m super excited to share my experience with you here. Here we go! I’m sure many of you already have a question in mind: “What’s the prize of winning this competition, Andrew?” Did I read your mind correctly? :) Sony gave me a Sony A7s, a Carl Zeiss 24-70mm lens and a flight ticket to London (return). They also took care of my hotel accommodation, meals and transport during my 5 days stay in London. During this trip, Sony organized a photography tour where I can try all kinds of Sony’s new camera and lenses. I tried the Carl Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 lens, the Sony 28mm f/2 lens and the Sony 90mm Macro lens. Sony also did a photo exhibition to showcase of all the winners’ photos and finally end it glamorously with a gala dinner for the awarding ceremony. Here’s a picture of me holding the trophy during the Gala Dinner ceremony.

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On top of all that, I got tons of publication requests. My winning photo was featured in big sites such as CNN, National Geographic, Huffington Post, Daily Mail, The Telegraph and many more. I view photography as my hobby and I never thought I could make it this far. Hopefully my winning photo and achievement can inspire you or at least light up your day!

Until then, take care! If you want to learn more about me, feel free to visit me at: My Blog: www.photoseis.com My Photo Gallery: photoseis.smugmug.com

© 2009-2015 STEVE HUFF PHOTOS All Rights Reserved
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