2 years review of the a7rii

2 Years With The Sony A7R II – Review

It has been two years since I’ve published my extensive review of the A7R II and I wanted to share what I think of the camera, after having owned it for roughly 730 days. And now that the A9 has come out it seems like an even more perfect timing.
Sony’s photo division was very aggressive in developing and reiterating their technology at such a fast pace, that they made a big dent in the photography world. As of today, their market share is still growing, like in the US, where they have overtaken Nikon in the full-frame camera market.
All following image samples have been shot using the A7R II.

 

Nérac in France - Under a bridge along the Baïse river

Nérac in France – Under a bridge along the Baïse river

 

HYPE
There has been a lot of hype around the Alpha 7R2, but hype is not always a good thing, because it has the potential to alter expectations and even turn us into picking a side. There have been many defenders of other brands that didn’t speak well of the popular all-round camera. For instance, I know for myself that I have never liked hype in gaming or movie releases, and I even dislike it in music. As very often hype doesn’t build around the product itself, but around something more adjacent. Rarely does the hype emanate from the very substance of an end product (but e.g. from the well-made body or the behavior of an artist, instead of the music itself).

So, what happened is that we got inflated and overly positive reviews, because, for a reason, reviewers wanted to tell the world that this piece of gear is, despite its flaws, really worth it. But what of it now? What’s the verdict after all this time, and what are the alternatives (even from other brands) that have come out since then? Had there been a reason for hype? Let’s find out!

Simple natural light portrait shot in front of a palm tree

Simple natural light portrait shot in front of a palm tree

QUICK KEY SPECIFICATIONS REMINDER
Full frame 42,4MP sensor
5 axis IBIS
Enhanced Eye AF
4K video with FF readout, XAVC 100 Mbps
Digital viewfinder
No sound silent shooting mode
Wifi/NFC

Fading sun flower

Fading sun flower

BUILD AND HANDLING
Since the A7R2 has been out, many new lenses (and especially bigger and heavier ones) have been released. I was really happy with the better balance the second camera models had over the former ones when attaching 55 1.8 and even 16-35 style lenses, but with time came Batis and GM lenses that, in my opinion, resulted in an inferior handling experience.

I am the type of user that liked the original A7 form factor for its portability. Having such a small and light FF camera was what got me into the FE mount and sell my Canon 5DM3. But it looks like a large river of pro photographers’ tears has flooded Sony HQ, because they sadly make them bigger and bigger / heavier and heavier now, not differentiating themselves enough from the likes of Canon in my opinion (except for having the best sensor and video capabilities).

Natural light portrait in a forest

Natural light portrait in a forest

AUTO FOCUS
Even after all this time, I find that the A7RII still focuses very well in many situations.
But frankly: You really have to know how. What I mean by that is that you have to know your camera by heart, so that you can adapt and change to the right focusing mode at any given time. If you don’t, then the focus might be off or you may miss some shots. The modes to use are not always the ones you would intuitively choose, so you have to test around like I did here.

Jardins de Beauchamp in Marmande, France

Jardins de Beauchamp in Marmande, France

SHOOTING EXPERIENCE
I’ll get to the point instantly on this one: I don’t like it (any more?).
They say it’s not about the destination but about the journey. That said, I absolutely love the result, but not everything that I have to do to get there.
The thing that I really like about my cam is what this unmatched sensor is delivering. It is still the best sensor on the market as shows DXO right here. And as you may know, Sony sensors aren’t exclusively built into their own products, but have been used in devices such as Nikon DSLRs cameras, the Apple iPhone, Samsung smartphones etc., which does speak for their superior quality.
But to get back to my “it’s about the journey” point, the camera is a little slow: the menus are sluggish, the startup is not the fastest, changing modes is slow and it drives me a little nuts. But hey, the above-mentioned A9 is here to save the day regarding these issues, but it comes at a cost (not the same high res sensor and a steep price tag).
When I wish to take quick shots in a setting that diverges from one of my usual “memory” modes, then, well…nothing. I just miss it. And if it is nothing that I could miss that rapidly (like landscapes), then I must admit that I don’t really have fun fiddling with these slowly reacting menus and modes.

Nevertheless, the end-result is still marvellous. The pictures you take with this beast are simply jaw-dropping. Yes, even after 2 years this little box still delivers.

Natrural light portrait in front of the beach in Tossa de Mar, Spain

Natrural light portrait in front of the beach in Tossa de Mar, Spain

FIXES AND IMPROVEMENTS
The ILCE-7RM2 came with many small issues that have been fixed in the meantime. Installing the latest firmware gets rid of many of them, like the overheating, the hot pixels etc. But not only do the FW updates fix said problems, they also improve the startup time, the stability, RAW capabilities, the responsiveness and more.

Tall bamboo plants

Tall bamboo plants

ALTERNATIVES
None.

That’s how this section could have ended, haha. No camera really falls into this category.
The Nikon 800 series is bigger, heavier and more expensive with no comparable video capabilities; and it seems like Canon is not even in the same market anymore. Everything micro 4/3 or Fuji target yet another demographic and I can’t really make Leica, Ricoh and similar other brands count, as they yet again, just aren’t in the same category (except for the obvious: you can take photographs with all of them).
The whole FE mount Alpha line is just very unique in its way, but not only that, they also seem to remain unmatched in many categories they fall into.

My grandmother doesn't know that she's featured on my blog to showcase "fine detail"

My grandmother doesn’t know that she’s featured on my blog to showcase “fine detail”

CONCLUSION
No camera has matched the overall image quality of the A7 Mark II and while it isn’t the most fun to use, the results more than make up for it. The high dynamic range, the leverage in the RAW files, the ISO performance, the video capabilities and the resolution along with a great selection of lenses still make this one of the best cameras around.
I’d surely prefer one of Fuji’s neat cams in terms of usage and handling, or even something like the A6500 (which sadly aren’t FF), but as I’ve stated several times: The rendition of the pictures is just plain awesome. In a perfect world, we’d have the A9 focusing system along with the A7RII sensor for only 1999 €/$. Insert clapping and laughing sounds.

I call it: Water in..the plant

I call it: Water in..the plant

 

 

MORE IMAGE SAMPLES

The best lens to use on my wife is this one, by far!

The best lens to use on my wife is this one, by far!

Moselle river

Moselle river

They don't need any introduction, do they?

They don’t need any introduction, do they?

The Milky Way right above our (light poluted) house

The Milky Way right above our (light poluted) house

Young craftmanship

Young craftmanship

Fiddling Around

Fiddling Around

Fondo Cristal

Fondo Cristal

Villa vella - old medieval city in Tossa

Villa vella – old medieval city in Tossa

Storm is coming - Bridge of Grevenmacher by night

Storm is coming – Bridge of Grevenmacher by night

The french cellar

The french cellar

 

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Everything has been written and shot using my gear.

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