STEADY AS SHE GOES

Sony A7 II

HWM (Singapore) - - TEST - by Mar­cus Wong

The A7 was a ground­break­ing cam­era in that it was the first mirrorless sys­tem cam­era to fea­ture a full-frame sen­sor. A solid cam­era that proved the con­cept was fea­si­ble, it laid the ground­work for the A7R and later on, the A7S. Its di­rect suc­ces­sor, the new A7 II has fi­nally been re­leased and Sony again extends the bar by mak­ing it the first full-frame mirrorless cam­era to fea­ture 5-axis in-cam­era im­age sta­bi­liza­tion. This fea­ture was pre­vi­ously only avail­able in flag­ship Olym­pus OM-D se­ries cam­eras. With its in­tro­duc­tion, the A7 II can now use just about any lens, even older man­ual lenses via adapters and still re­tain full im­age sta­bi­liza­tion, which Sony claims an equiv­a­lent to 4.5 stops of cor­rec­tion.

The A7 II comes just about a year af­ter the launch of the A7, and while the over­all de­sign is largely sim­i­lar, the new body is slightly wider and taller, and fea­tures an im­proved lay­out that seems to have taken into ac­count a lot of the grouses with the orig­i­nal de­sign. The but­tons on the back of the cam­era are slightly larger now, mak­ing them eas­ier to ac­ti­vate; the shut­ter but­ton is also larger, and more cru­cially has been shifted fur­ther to the front, mak­ing it eas­ier to reach for. Ev­ery­thing is just bet­ter spaced, with the di­als feel­ing more sen­si­bly sized now, mak­ing the cam­era more com­fort­able to use over­all. Even so, it is still one of the most com­pact full-frame ILCs around.

The menu sys­tem hasn’t changed though, with the ex­cep­tion of a few added movie op­tions as the A7 II now sup­ports cap­ture up to 1,920 x 1,080 (60p) at a max­i­mum bit-rate of 28Mbps in AVCHD and XAVC-S.

While it ap­pears that the aut­o­fo­cus sys­tem is also largely the same – with the same lay­out that has 117 phase de­tec­tion points and 25 con­trast de­tec­tion points – Sony claims that the A7 II has im­proved aut­o­fo­cus al­go­rithms re­sult­ing in up to

30% faster AF per­for­mance com­pared to the orig­i­nal A7. Our own testing shows this to be a pretty ac­cu­rate es­ti­ma­tion, and cer­tainly puts it on par with some of the other rel­a­tively newer DSLRs like the Nikon D750.

More op­tions for cus­tomiza­tion is some­thing Sony has made an ef­fort to im­ple­ment here, as no less than 56 func­tions can be as­signed to a to­tal of ten pro­gram­mable but­tons, mak­ing it eas­ier for you to set the cam­era up just the way you want it.

The over­all ex­pe­ri­ence of shoot­ing with the A7 II doesn’t change from the orig­i­nal – stick to shorter lenses and you’ll be per­fectly com­fort­able. Us­ing longer telephoto lenses still feels a lit­tle un­bal­anced, but we do think it’s a lot bet­ter with the new hand­grip – the added girth of the new body de­sign gives you more to hold on to than be­fore, and that re­ally makes quite the dif­fer­ence. An­other thing we found was that the EVF can be a lit­tle too dark at times, but that’s an easy fix – just go into the menus and set bright­ness man­u­ally ac­cord­ing to the en­vi­ron­ment.

As might be ex­pected, the images from the A7 II do not vary too much from the orig­i­nal, though we do find that it han­dles noise slightly bet­ter. We’d read­ily print images at ISO 12,800 with this cam­era af­ter a bit of sharp­en­ing in post, but we do find that the white is no­tably less neu­tral.

We hardly found our­selves need­ing to go slower than 1/60s out­doors. Even in­doors in our labs, we man­aged per­fectly sharp images hand­held at a man­age­able 1/13s, at about the 35mm set­ting. The 5-axis IS doesn’t seem to be a ma­jor fac­tor un­less you’re re­ally un­steady or use a lot of man­ual lenses.

In terms of ef­fec­tive res­o­lu­tion, the A7 II doesn’t change much from the orig­i­nal, which is to say there’s all the de­tail you would ex­pect from a 24-megapixel cam­era. The big­ger dif­fer­ence comes at the higher ISO set­tings, where the im­proved al­go­rithms of the new model han­dle the color noise slightly bet­ter. Images are no­tice­ably biased to­wards warm tones though, so you’ll get nice rosy tones out­doors, but a bit too much warmth un­der tung­sten light­ing.

Is the dif­fer­ence enough to jus­tify an up­grade if you al­ready have any of the A7 se­ries? Prob­a­bly not. But if you’re in the mar­ket for a full-frame cam­era or shoot in low light a lot, we’d def­i­nitely rec­om­mend you take a look at the A7 II.

TESTED & RATED

8.5 /10

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