What to Make of the Über-Sony A7 II?

We’re not yet at the second Sony Alpha A7 generation, and look what Sony comes up with: the Alpha A7 II, a full-frame mirrorless with 5-axis image stabilization, the first of it’s kind in the full-frame market which is where the hopes of the world’s three leading camera makers lie. The A7 II embodies the further fine-tuning of an already highly successful lineup that alters the face of digital imaging technology. No doubt its image stabilization will perform as reliably as Olympus’, meaning even if you have shaky hands now due to excitement you’ll be able to capture a perfectly clear shot with an 1/8th of a second exposure, or even slower.

Sony Alpha A7 II
Sony Alpha A7 II

Instead of the 24MP I’d have preferred the Sony A7S’ lower 16MP 12MP count, but Sony knows perfectly well what they’re doing. The 5-axis stabilization is a huge boost to low-light photography. No one’s hand is really stable. Optical image stabilization physically counteracts the small hand movements which inevitably occur when holding any camera without a tripod. Will be interesting to see how the A7 II compares to the current low-light king, the Sony A7S (Amazon / B&H Photo / Adorama / eBay).

Sony Alpha A7 II
Sony Alpha A7 II

The new system, likely licensed from Sony’s strategic partner Olympus, corrects movement along five distinct axes including shifts in the left/right and up/down directions as well as three angular movements pitch, yaw and roll. These last three are caused when the camera tilts up or down; swings left and right; or rotates clockwise or anti-clockwise in your hands. Sony claims up to 4.5 stops of correction, which means you’ll be able to hand-hold the camera using shutter speeds up to 4.5 stops slower without visible camera shake.

Holy 5-axis image stabilization -- Sony promises a compensation that is equivalent to using a 4.5-stop faster shutter speed.
Holy 5-axis image stabilization — Sony promises a compensation that is equivalent to using a 4.5-stop faster shutter speed.
Add the advantage of the A7 to adapt a huge range of lenses, many of which don’t offer any built-in image stabilisation, especially vintage lenses. The A7 II is able to stabilize all of these lenses. This makes a whole lot of sense especially when full-frame lenses are larger and and more difficult to stabilize than those designed for smaller formats, such as Micro Four Thirds.

What else is new? A more advanced “lock-on AF” feature optimizes focusing on the subject based on its size to further increase subject tracking ability. Sony also claims the A7 II is ready to shoot 40% quicker than current models from the moment it is switched on. Plus the ergonomic refinements, including a redesigned grip with an enlarged shutter release button placed further towards the front of the camera. The new grip looks much more like that of a typical DSLR. This too results in a reduction in camera shake.

Aside from the bulkier build, the camera’s design, form factor and controls largely remain the same. If this is still not good enough for you, there will be a rumored next Sony A9 generation in early 2015, most likely with an cosmetic overhaul of the body. Those familiar with Sony’s design philosophy know once they establish a platform the looks largely remain the same.

Sony A7 vs. Sony A7 II
Sony A7 vs. Sony A7 II | Camera Size

For now the A7 II will be available in Japan, so maybe it’s more of a bridge camera to test the waters for a globally marketed A9 with all the bells and whistles we dream of. It will be too early for Sony’s newly developed sensor, using a new technology called APCS (Active Pixel Color Sampling) that allows each pixel to sample RGB data individually, which eliminates the need for color filter arrays and complex debayering processes.

Sony A7 vs. Sony A7 II
Sony A7 vs. Sony A7 II | Camera Size

Because of this technology, Sony can use roughly 1/3 of the amount of pixels to output an image with the same resolution as a much more pixel-dense sensor of the same size. This also means that the individual photosites can be much larger, which theoretically will allow for tremendous gains in low-light ability and dynamic range, depending on how the sensor data is processed.

And then there’s Sony’s curved sensor technology, allowing for a whole new revolution in the design of more simple yet no less sophisticated lenses. You’ll most likely find these new technologies first in smaller cameras and smartphones. But clearly Sony is redefining digital imaging technology, one can only reckon how the Canon and Nikon strategists who plan for the decades ahead are panicking.

For now it’s certainly an important camera, this A7 II, first full-frame mirrorless with serious image stabilization.

BTW, Adorama has a Sony A7 trade-in promotion.




  • Игорь_СПб
  • Wolfgang Lonien

    Daniel, I think the A7S has 12, not 16MP – just like a D700 had. And I disagree: while 16MP would be good enough, 24MP seems to be the sweet spot between file size and resolution. An interesting alternative to a D750, so to say, especially for all those old OM Zuiko or other manual lenses (the EVF makes them much easier to focus IMHO).

  • Mixed it up with the Df, thanks Wolfgang. Certainly a camera I would consider. The previous A7s are a bit smallish, this II certainly has more refined ergonomics.

  • On the other hand, who would go to such great lengths only to spread a rumor…

  • After the initial shock and (pleasant) surprise I asked myself what this camera could offer to me. I confess I have friends who, because of passion or work, own almost every kind of gear, from Polaroid sx-70 to medium format cameras, film and digital, even some strange machinery I can’t figure how it works but it’s supposed to take pictures. And I could easily borrow something from them if I needed.
    Personally I’m mostly a m43 user, I use it for passion and sometimes for work: when asked for an assignment I ask the customers what do they will do with the pictures: if they go on a website or on a catalogue that’s fine. If they need to be printed wider than a meter I’ll start considering one of the friends above mentioned.
    And here’s my point: I feel lucky and blessed to have this possibility, but really, I don’t think I’ll start a “new journey” with this camera because it has little to offer to me except for a jump in IQ I honestly don’t need (I don’t like nor need to pixel peep at photos).
    I’m glad there were no preorder links yesterday, on the sites praising this (great) camera, because I had some kind of G.A.S. attack.
    And probably I’ll stick with my dream tool, the Monochrom. A completely different camera, but also a different shooting experience compared to the mass of digital cameras.
    My best photofriend tells me I’m crazy..

  • While it’s dearly necessary to add a dash of insanity to one’s life, isn’t every camera a potential Monochrom? If you master silver gelatin prints, then I’d go for the Monochrom without thinking twice. Otherwise? Depending on your style of photography, I’d instead save up for good glass.

  • Of course every camera can shoot also in b&w, but the limitation of the b&w can be liberating. Also the lack of gimmick features.
    Add to this the rangefinder experience: the living world around the brightlines and the scene frozen in the frame, as I call it, and my photography zen session is complete. :)
    I agree with you about printing: in general we should do it more often, after all a hard disk is just a hard disk, filled with photos that probably in some years noone will ever look at anymore..

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    What to Make of the Über-Sony A7 II? | The…

    […] We’re not yet at the second Sony Alpha A7 generation, and look what Sony comes up with: the Alpha A7 II, a full-frame mirrorless with 5-axis image stabilization, the first of it’s kind in the full-frame market which is where the hopes of the world’s three leading camera makers lie. The A7 II embodies the further fine-tuning of an already highly successful lineup that alters the face of digital imaging technology. No doubt its image stabilization will perform as reliably as Olympus’, meaning even if you have shaky hands now due to excitement you’ll be able to capture a perfectly clear shot with an 1/8th of a second exposure, or even slower…… […]

    http://www.scoop.it/t/full-frame-mirrorless/p/4032141219/2014/11/21/what-to-make-of-the-uber-sony-a7-ii-theme

  • Bengt Nyman

    The Sony 5-axis ISIS image sensor is great news for the entire industry.

    The real Sony question, however, is about lenses. In the E-mount range there is only one lens that matches the superiority of the Sony image sensor, and that is the Zeiss 85 mm f/1.8.

    In the A-mount range there is none, making A-mount adaptation pointless.

    Adaptation to manual or AF Canon lenses is one step better but IQ is handicapped by excess vignetting due to the cameras pixel optics which are designed for the E-mount 18 mm flange distance.

    Adaptation to Nikon lenses is even more limited due to the lack of an Nikon adapter with auto focus. And even if there was one, vignetting would be a problem.

    Sony makes the worlds best image sensors. Nikon, and soon Canon, recognizes this and act accordingly. Even though most of us would like to see the ultimate FF, mirrorless camera with a full range of high IQ lenses on the market today, it looks like we will have to wait for Nikon and Canon to make it happen.

  • Dave

    What a refreshing and encouraging comment! While owning FF and m43 cameras at the time, I mostly use m43. I find IQ very good and appreciate its versatility, small size and precision. The FF is still there to compare IQ when GAS or doubts appear… :-) But comparisons always prove m43 and FF are comparable in IQ, at least for the sizes I use the m43 and that is large fotobooks at standard dpi. I find an artistically good pic from m43 does not lag behind an equally good pic from FF since a better technical display does not draw as much attention as the art behind it. I’d even speculate that these mushy Cartier Bresson’s would not be as attractive if shown crystal clear as we should show our work today.

  • Hi Dave, the fact is that today if you rely on a smaller sensor than a 35mm equivalent you look like an amateur. This is plain wrong.
    There are people who keep asking “what camera did you use? What lens for this shot?” And so on, as if the camera or the lens alone could bring you a nice photo.
    No doubt there are differences between a m43 sensor and a 35mm equivalent. As there are differences between a Medium format and the latter.
    If a customer tells me that he needs to have a poster 6 meters width, first I have to check if the 50 mp Hasselblad of my friend is available.
    No way I would use a d800: even stitching the images the Hassie will wipe the floor with the d800 files (I saw comparision tests made by my friend).
    Each situation requires the proper tool, but the person pressing the shutter is way more important.
    M43 users are often considered fools because they (we) are happy of the gear: it’s foolish to say that a m43 sensor equals a full frame sensor, but it’s not fool at all to say that a m43 sensor delivers enough IQ for a lot of people.
    My personal experience with the m43 system is that a photo has a different look (obviously) compared to a picture of the same subject taken with a full frame camera: this happens to me when I’m forced to shoot at actors on the red carpet, and the compare my shots to those of my collegues next to me.
    Are the worst? No, just difference.
    Then I think that praising the IQ of a camera by pixel peeping an image is only good in front of a good drink, but in pra tice is useless.
    When you say that some blurry photographs from some famous photographers still stand out despite the the “low quality” of the final image itself issimply the proof that the man behind the camera, and the subject in fron of it, are the two most important things.

  • Robert Mark

    I’m intrigued by the A7ii, but that’s about it. Kudos to Sony for a quick turnaround of the model to address the handling issues with the A7. If they’ve used the Oly IBIS, it would appear that there is real synergy happening between the companies. That portends well for significant sensor and focus enhancements coming for Olympus bodies next year. APCS sensors in a E-M1n body would be more camera than 99% of photographers need.

    After a full year of shooting the E-M1, I have not found my images lacking in any way, compared with the 5D3 images I was making previously. 16 vs 20 MP just isn’t much of a difference and my clients have not noticed. My back and neck have noticed.

    The benefits of MFT outweigh the benefits of so-called “full frame” for me, so I’m not a candidate for change, but I think its great that Sony is pushing the limits for 35 mm lens owners. I’d like to add a Pentax 645z to my kit, which would give me a meaningfully different tool to work with.

  • Andy Umbo

    The most important use of M4/3rd’s (and why I’m investigating it now), is the multi aspect ratio. As a long time film professional, I am mad at the tyranny of the 3:2 aspect, and prefer the 4:3 or even the 1:1. That many of the affordable professional camera are all 3:2 is disconcerting. It was like a breath of fresh air to go back and shoot 4:3 (or really 4X5), when I picked up my first M4/3rd’s camera (as well as 16:9 and 1:1). One look at the 43rd’s Rumors site, and their occasional link to the 4/3rds users group on flickr, and you’ll see some very top-notch output from M4/3rd’s cameras!

    Most of the Sony mirror-less cameras shoot 3:2, and maybe 1:1, but nothing else. Interesting to note that virtually all the high-dollar large sensor professional cameras (read D120SLR), are in the 4:3 aspect ratio. The one interesting feature of the Sony A7 series cameras is the ability for the 12 megapixel model to shoot in the “quiet” mode, where it locks open the mechanical shutter and just uses an electronic capture of the still image. This is important because as a studio manager for an e-commerce retailer, we are going through shutters on Nikons like crazy, because they weren’t meant to be used full time constant on ‘live view’ and tethered. They last about one third of the time.

    The other problem with Sony is the lens line. The lenses available are sparse, and the Carl Zeiss ones are too, too expensive (and frankly, according to the lens test sites, not all that good, sad, because I’m a Zeiss-O-phile); and their Sony braded stuff is not that good to begin with. You can make the bodies as good as you want, but where’s my sharp, reasonably priced 24-85 zoom, or f/2.8 primes?

  • RobertTarabella

    I have to respectfully disagree with the presumption that a 6 meter poster (common billboard size) requires a 50MP file. It’s all about viewing distance. If your 6m poster is intended for viewing from 2 meters away, then I would agree with your 50MP requirement. But viewed from typical distance, the 6m poster will look fine shot with any current sensor.

  • When writing about a bigger than usual print I was thinking about some Ansel Adams photos, printed 3 x 3 meters, where you can stand at one meter from them and feel as if you were inside the picture. Of course a 10 mts width billboard hanging from the roof of a tall building does not need that great resolution at all, since people will (distractly) look at it from meters and meters away.