Sony outdoes itself again with the Alpha A7R II, this year’s best camera
ossibly the most discussed, written about, and argued-over camera in recent memory, the Sony A7R Mark II is causing quite a stir. Sony has been outdoing itself with every new variant of the A7-series, but with the A7R II, it’s gone beyond basic evolutionary upgrades. The mirrorless interchangeable lens camera is packed with cutting-edge parts, as well as a trick or two up its sleeve.
Yes, it’s easy to get mesmerized by fancy specs, but the A7R II delivers on quality, too.
Features and design
While this is our full review of the A7R II ($3,200, body only), we have previously covered the camera considerably, from its unveiling to a hands-on and comparison with the Canon EOS 5DS R, another high-megapixel full-frame interchangeable lens camera. In the press, the A7R II has received a large amount of ink, and deservedly so – it is, technologically, one great camera. The mirrorless, compact body (5 × 3.9 × 2.4 inches without lens, and 22 ounces with battery and card) has a 42.4-megapixel back-illuminated (BI) full-frame sensor – a first for the industry. The camera captures 7,952 × 5,304-pixel stills as well as 4K video in Sony’s XAVC-S format. And with its Fast Hybrid Autofocus technology, the A7R II can autofocus select Canon lenses (using an adaptor), breaking the wall that’s existed between camera brands.
The A7R II has a magnesium-alloy body and is dust- and moisture-resistant. It looks similar to the original 36.4-megapixel A7R and the more recent A7 Mark II (which was the first to add five-axis image stabilization to the A7-series), but there are a few subtle changes in design and layout of controls. On the front is the Sony E-mount, and there are 13 specific full-frame lenses to choose from, as well as third-party E-mount lenses from Sigma, Tamron, etc. With an adapter, you can also use Sony’s full-frame A-mount lenses.
However, as mentioned, the A7R II has the unique ability to not only use Canon lenses, but also to autofocus them (phase detection). To do this you’ll need an adapter from Fotodiox or Metabones. Depending on the lens, it will focus automatically using the A7R II’s autofocus system – one key reason this camera has created so much buzz. As we pointed out in our comparison test, some lenses will not work. But, it opens up the opportunity for Canon lens owners to use a Sony mirrorless camera without having to buy new glass.
Also on the front is an AF Assist lamp to help focus in low light, a remote sensor on the textured grip, and a lens-release button.
The top deck has “4K” and “SteadyShot Inside” decals, reminding you that it can shoot 4K movies (at 30p) and its built-in five-axis image stabilization will steady any lens you attach. These are another two improvements over the original 36.4-megapixel A7R, which grabbed Full HD AVCHD videos and did not have in-body IS. Also on the top is the “hump” for the electronic viewfinder, with hot shoe above it. The 0.5-inch EVF with diopter control is rated 2,359K dots. Colors are quite good, and while there’s a little lag, it didn’t affect our shooting. Stereo mics flank the EVF. There’s also a locking mode dial (also new), Custom 1 and C2 buttons, as well as an exposure compensation dial (+/- 3 EV steps). On the sloping grip is an on/off lever, shutter, and nearby jog wheel.
The A7R II shines in everyday shooting, when there’s good ambient light.
On the rear is a fold-out, 3-inch tilting LCD. With a 1,229K-dot resolution, we didn’t have issues looking at it in direct sunlight (just turn on the Sunny Weather option in the settings menu). We wish Sony had included a touch-capable LCD, however.