Sony a7R II Review

Sony a7r II Review: the mirrorless evolution

After the Sony a7R and a 7II, Sony has come with an upgraded addition to their a7 series: the Sony a7R II.

This mirrorless camera with full frame, 42.4 megapixel, back-lit sensor stands for one of the highest quality images yet, with amazing dynamic range and well-controlled noise when using higher ISO’s.

The improved AF, 4K internal video and improved weather-sealing are just a few of the great qualities of this all-round, professional camera.

Here are some of the greatest pros and cons for us landscape photographers:

Sony a7R II review

PROS

  • 42.4 MP back-illuminated full frame sensor
  • No Optical Low Pass Filter
  • 5 axis Steadyshot image stabilization system
  • Electronic viewfinder with 100% coverage and 0.78X magnification
  • Electronic front curtain shutter release option
  • Ability to shoot in uncompressed RAW

CONS

  • No touch screen
  • Not so great battery life: 290 - 340 shots
  • No USB 3 to speed up transfer rate of huge files

Sony a7r II in depth review

Sensor

The first an obvious advantages of this camera to us landscape enthusiasts, is the amazing sensor.

The a7RII comes with a 42.4 megapixel, full frame sensor – one of the best sensors you can get for landscape photography.

It makes for extremely clear images, amazing dynamic range, awesome colour depth and captures all the details in your landscapes flawlessly.

The camera now also allows uncompressed RAW shooting, unlike some of its predecessors, to make full use of the sensor.

Optical Low Pass Filter - OLPF

Like the Nikon d7200 we reviewed, Sony has chosen to leave the optical low pass filter out of this camera, allowing for even sharper images.

The noise that might come with this when shooting with higher ISO’s is very well-controlled in this camera, and it performs amazingly in low-light conditions.

It is not rated as highly as the Sony a7S II is in this department, but since high ISO’s are not often necessary for landscape photography, a higher resolution sensor is more important than the ISO capabilities!

When shooting in low light, this camera allows you to use a long exposure (30 sec.) without too many lit-up pixels. They will occur slightly, but it’s nothing that a dark filter can’t fix.

Tilting LCD Screen

You can live view your amazing quality image using the high resolution (1,228.8K dots), tilting LCD screen, that now has an improved performance in sunlight thanks to the newest WhiteMagic technology, that doubles the brightness of your display through a RGBW pixel structure.

Sadly, this great screen does not respond to touch, which is great for easy focussing of focus pulling when shooting the occasional video

Photography Ambition

4K Video

Which brings me to the next point, which is absolutely no necessity for landscape photographers, but is more like a cool bonus: this camera does 4K internal video!

So if you, like me, enjoy taking the occasional video, this camera will provide you with the highest quality available today. Here’s some living proof of that:

5-axis Steadyshot Image Stabilization System

Lastly, this camera is one of the best if you enjoy hand-held shooting.

Not only is the a7RII equipped with 5-axis Steadyshot Inside Image Stabilization, which compensates for 5 types of camera shakes and is compatible with any lens, even third-party lenses when used with an adaptor, it also has gotten a great improvement in the shutter release department.

Whereas older Sony models have had the critique of noisy shutters that even cause image blur, this new Sony is not only a lot quieter, it also comes with an electronic front curtain shutter release option.

This option completely gets rid of shutter-related blur in images, and is great if you end up in a situation where you do not want your shutter to make any sounds.

Furthermore, the electronic viewfinder on the a7R II almost forces you to use it, it’s that great.

I am personally a big fan of electronic viewfinders, because they allow you to see exactly what image you’ll end up with after the ISO, shutter speed and aperture have been taken into account.

It also allows you to enter the menu without having to take the camera away from your face and having to squint in the sunlight.

Watch this video if you’re curious about the look of the viewfinder:

Battery Life

Of course this camera isn’t perfect, and there are some cons that could be a problem for landscape photography.

The first of which being the relatively short battery life of only 290 shots when using the viewfinder, and 340 shots when using the LCD screen.

This will require you to carry some batteries around when going out for a shoot, which kinds of takes away from the compact, easy-to-travel-with size of the body.

Touch Screen

Another minor draw-back for me is the lack of touch screen.

Like I mentioned before, I prefer to be able to choose my focus point by a simple click of my fingers, and in this case it would be great to be able to focus pull while shooting video.

And yes, the uncompressed RAW files are of great quality, but they are also huge, and unlike some other Sony models the a7RII isn’t equipped with a USB 3 that could significantly speed up the transfer rate of the files.

Lastly, this camera is a lot more expensive than we’re used to with Sony full frame cameras.

The quality does go up along with the price, but if you’re shooting on a budget this camera is probably not the best choice for you.

Alternatives

Nikon D810

Photography Ambition

When it comes to cameras for still photography, I have always had a weakness for Nikon – not only because of the amazing lens quality that goes with it.

This Nikon does not disappoint either. It features a 36.3MP FX-format CMOS sensor, and like the Sony left the Optical Low Pass Filter out for increased sharpness in the images.

This camera has a battery life that is around four times that of the a7R II (1200 shots), but there is no 4K video capability.

The noise that can occur on high ISO images when using other Nikon model has been drastically decreased with this one, and on top of that the ISO range of 64-12800 can be brought down to 32-51200 – a feature a particularly love for shooting landscape in low light.

This Nikon is also around $1000 cheaper than the a7R II, but lacks one big quality the Sony does have, namely the electronic viewfinder.

If you’re a landscape photographer that is not big on video and basically always uses live view to take pictures, and you don’t want to spend almost $4000 on a camera, this Nikon might be a good option for you.

Check out the detailed review here

Samsung NX 1

Photography Ambition

A lower sensor resolution of 28 megapixel, but still a very capable APS-C BSI-CMOS sensor. This 2014 model from Samsung comes with an articulating screen, with sensitivity to touch. It shoots video in 4K, and has no optical low pass filter.

Like the Sony a7R II it is also light (550 g) and has a reasonably trustable weather sealing on the body.

The Samsung is a bit faster with continuous shooting (15.0 fps), but lacks image stabilization.

This makes this camera more suitable for sports- and wildlife photography and not so much for hand-held landscape shots, but because of the high quality sensor and lack of low pass filter this camera will still deliver good quality if you want to shoot landscape on a lower budget than the a7R II requires.

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II

Photography Ambition

The follow-up to the Olympus OM-d E-M1, this camera comes with a four thirds CMOs sensor (20MP). This means trading a lot of the Sony a7R II’s amazing sensor, but you will notice this in the price.

The Olympus has a weather sealed body, great LCD screen (3”, 1.037k dots) with touch sensitivity, and the ability to do time-lapse recording.

What I like most about this camera is the fact that the ISO can go down to 65, which really allows you to make use of a longer exposure time and avoid any noise when shooting in low light (on a tripod, of course).

The battery life on this camera is also slightly longer than the Sony, with 350 shots. These qualities make it a capable camera for landscape photography, but because of the insane continuous shooting of 60fps that this camera pulls of, I would really recommend this camera for sports- or wildlife photography.

Conclusions

Although the Sony a7R II is well more expensive cameras than her predecessor Sony a7R, in my opinion it is definitely worth the money.

If you are looking for the sharpest, most detailed images – this camera might be the one for you. The 42.4 MP sensor and lack of Optical Low Pass Filter guarantee some of the highest quality prints you’ve ever printed.

The camera’s outstanding electronic viewfinder and 5-Axis image stabilization also make it a great option for landscape photographers going for the hand-held shots.

Along with the 4K video ability and articulating screen, this camera is one that has the capability to please many.

Sony a7r II Review

Check out more Camera Reviews here 

About the Author Luca

Hi, I am Luca, founder and editor in chief at photographyambition.com. I am crazy about photography and I always have a camera with me. When I am not busy with my day job, enjoying my family or taking photos, I am on Photography Ambition to share what I have learnt so far.

Leave a Comment: