Thursday, June 11, 2015

First thoughts on the Sony A7RII 42.4mp digital camera

A little while back I began performing tests with a Sony A7 series cameras in anticipation of the A7RII, which everyone knew would be announced soon, and probably in June. Turns out the rumor mill was right. Yesterday, Sony announced the new A7RII, but instead of a 36mp sensor or an anticipated 50mp sensor it will have a 42.4mp sensor. Sony has been ahead of the pack with sensor development in their A7 series, and undoubtedly this new one will be a top-of-the-line winner. Sorry, Canon. I know you announced a new 50mp sensor, but Canon sensor track record hasn't been in the same league with Sony So, yes, I'm betting on the Sony sensor here. Plus, the A7RII will accept Canon lenses -- along with the lenses of many other manufactures --  with AF to boot.

In my first report on the Sony A7 series cameras, I was critical of the fact that the camera came out with no solid lens support. On top of that, I was skeptical of a full-frame mirrorless camera in general. I always thought that it would take a typically large full-frame lens to cover the full frame senso thus defeating its purpose. Sony fooled me. Apparently, all along their strategy had been to make the A7 series adaptable to the vast lineup of high quality lenses from other manufactures -- an idea smartly echoing back to the old Alpa 35mm cameras.

I wouldn't need an A7 with a 24mp sensor because I already have that file size with my Leica M 240, but a larger sensor -- particularly with Sony quality -- such as that in the new 42.4mp of the A7RII, is another story entirely.

When I began my recent tests with the A7 cameras, it was to determine how smoothly it worked with Leica M-mount lenses. Why? Because every time I am surprised by the sharpness of one of my older photos and I check to see what camera was used, it always turns out to have been taken with a Leica lens. I am sold on Leica optics. Yes, the lenses are ridiculously expensive, but when sharpness matters above all else, and the inconvenience of manual focus can be tolerated, for me Leica wins every time. At present I am planning a series of super-high resolution images of New York City, and Leitz lenses are one of the top runners in my tests. If I can marry the optics with a camera like this new Sony A7RII, it might be a marriage made in heaven. We'll see.

Of course, this is just my reason for wanting an A7RII camera, but there are many new ground-breaking innovations that may move this camera to be leader of the mirrorless pack.

The α7R II has the first  35 mm full-frame CMOS image sensor with back-illuminated structure. This delivers a 42.4 megapixel resolution, plus expanded sensitivity and extra-low noise performance. On top of that the new architecture speeds readout resulting faster AF performance and continuous shooting rate of 5fps, quite fast for a sensor producing 42.4mp images.  Sony A7 cameras are already the lowest in noise at high ISO's. This sensor will be even better.

The XGA OLED viewfinder advances the optical finder another notch, especially when coupled with the world's highest mirrorless magnification of 0.78x. 

I have a feeling the A7RII is going to appeal big time with film makers. The thing all videographers have been lusting for, 4K, is not only here, it can record at 4K resolution in a 35mm full-frame format also. Plus it can do so in a camera body that can accept almost any form of quality optics. 

There are 399 focal plane phase-detection AF points covering 45% of the image area. This is coupled with 25-point contrast-detection AF coverage for very impressive AF capabilities.

The A7RII will have 5-point image stabilization built right into the camera. This system is built to compensate for five types of camera motion that generally occur in handheld shooting and will be magnified by the high res 42.4 high res sensor. 

Hmmm...I wonder what this will look like with a Leica M lens on it?

The list of ingredients in this camera is impressive, but I will say what I always say: Without quality and convenient lens support even the best camera is worthless. The A7 series has been around long enough to have established the lens support it needs. Interestingly, this came from a wise Sony strategy of creating an open architecture making it convenient to adapt other manufacturer's lenses. This still leaves one big problem. Mirrorless is expected to be a small, convenient format. Full frame mirrorless cameras negate this feature by requiring super-sized optics -- unless the optics are M-Leica in size, which takes me to my main reason for looking to this camera as a high res vehicle to very small, very high quality Leica lenses. 

That said, I may be one of the first photographers picking up one of the first A7RII cameras when they become available in August. I have been burned by this eagerness in the past with problematic first editions. So I'll be going into this with fingers crossed. 

Tha A7RII is expected to be out in August and sell for $3199. Check back here for leads on early offers and ordering information. 


  1. nice post. The A7r mk2 has some great features but I fear it will have no soul. I'd be curious to hear your thoughts on the Leica Q that was also released yesterday.

  2. After returning two A7 II's I was testing because of camera failures, you would think I had learned my lesson. As for the Leica Q, stay tuned. :)