Review : Sony A7R ii

The Sony A7rii is a full frame 42 megapixel compact mirrorless interchangeable lens camera with 5-axis image stabilization. It has 35mm BSI CMOS sensor, and including a hybrid autofocus system and 4K video capabilities which is the first of its type in this size of camera/sensor.

Sony a7R II Highlight specifications

  • 42MP Full Frame BSI CMOS sensor
  • 399 on-sensor Phase Detection points
  • 5-axis image stabilization
  • Internal 4K recording from full sensor width or ‘Super’ 35 crop
  • Picture Profile system including ITU-709 and S-Log2 gamma
  • Full magnesium alloy construction
  • 2.36m dot OLED viewfinder with 0.7x magnification
  • High speed AF with non-native lenses

Build 

Sony a7R II with the magnesium-alloy body with a new textured matte finish which is much more resistant to dirt and fingerprints than the earliest models and its extended grip and relocated shutter button are the factors which makes the camera a lot more comfortable to hold The camera is also noticeably thicker and heavier, making it feel a bit more solid in the hand.
The A7R II makes sharp, high-resolution images and has so many features, fancy specifications and the ability to use so many accessories and different brands of lenses with adapters
 Menu and Function Buttons
The movie record button is still, unfortunately, located in that awkward place on the side of the grip. While you still can’t re-map the record Start/Stop function to the shutter button, you re-map it to any of the custom function buttons found on the camera.
One feature that you still can’t assign to a function button is APS-C/Super 35 crop mode selection, so we’ll have to go digging through the menu to get to it. When menu is on, the menu button effectively takes you right to it, but any time you need to adjust anything else, it is annoying to fumble through the menu back to it. Let me simply say that the menu system of the Sony Alpha leaves a lot to be desired, and it would be better if Sony, give us Alpha shooters an easy-to-navigate menu.
 Image Quality

The real test of any camera is, of course, the image quality, and with a brand-new full-frame back illuminated 42.2-megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensor, thea7RII really does deliver. The technology has, for the first time, made its way into full-frame territory and claims to offer less noise, faster processing, and generally improved image quality and dynamic range.
This camera is pretty fast as it easily hits its 5 fps continuous shooting rate and can maintain it for a little more than four seconds, allowing for about 22 RAW files to be captured in a single burst, complete with auto focus. But in other hand its write speeds, are very limiting. The camera takes couple seconds to finally pull the image up . Also, a full string of RAW images would take’s about 2 minutes to fully clear.
Recording
The a7R II records 8-bit 4:2:0 4K (UHD) video at 24/25 fps internally to SD cards using Sony’s XAVC S codec, which is available at bit-rates of 50 Mbps or 100 Mbps. To record 4K video at 100 Mbps, a UHS-I U3-compatible card is required, so make sure you have a few handy.But using a external recorder, You can also output 4:2:2 4K video but unfortunately the HDMI output is still only 8-bit. While 10-bit would have been nice, Sony seems to be reserving that for their professional camcorders and cinema cameras, at least for now.
In addition to UHD-resolution video, we can record 1080p up to 60 fps and 720p up to 120 fps. But it is better to shoot at 24 fps, for getting 4K recording.
The a7RII offers both full-frame and APS-C crop (Super 35) internal 4K recording modes. Super 35 mode gives a best image quality, as it takes an 18MP crop of the sensor and then down-scales it to 4K without any line skipping or pixel binning, resulting in sharp images that are relatively free from Moiréand Aliasing. The full-frame mode uses the whole resolution of the sensor and thus uses pixel binning to down-sample it to 4K. While full frame isn’t quite as sharp as Super 35 and can pick up a small amount of moiré and aliasing in some shots, you’d really have to pixel peep to notice much difference, especially when the footage is down-scaled to 1080p. That is, unless you’re shooting in low light.
Low Light / High ISO Performance
Camera performs surprisingly well in low light, despite its 42MP sensor. I decided to do a direct comparison between the a7RII’s low-light performance in both full frame and Super 35 modes, and the Sony a7S
the a7RII in Super 35 mode is a valiant low-light performer. In real-world shooting, you will get good result shooting with the a7RII up to ISO 6400 in Super 35 mode. For non-paid work or content that is going to be delivered on the Web, you could easily get away with going higher, but how high comes down to personal preference, how much noise is acceptable to you, and how good your noise reduction software is.
The high ISO performances of 4K Super 35 and 4K full-frame modes are. Whatever the camera is doing behind the scenes, it’s clearly working for the Super 35 mode, and not so much for full frame. For any sort of low-light shooting, it is always better to choose to shoot in Super 35. we would even pair the camera with a Metabones speed booster to gain an additional couple of stops of performance, bring it even closer to the performance of the a7S while giving you that the full-frame look.
S-Log2 Gamma
Like the a7S, the a7RII features Sony’s S-Log2 gamma setting, allowing you to record a flat, “log” image that preserves more highlight and shadow information and can be color-graded later during post production. One of the biggest downsides to shooting with the a7S is that the base/minimum ISO you need to set for shooting in S-Log2 is 3200, which often requires up to 10 stops of neutral density to shoot outdoors, during the day. With the a7RII, you can shoot in S-Log2 starting at ISO 800. It may only be two stops, it would made a world of difference.
It is worth mentioning that S-Log2 can get a bit noisy in the shadows, compared to other gamma profiles. Common practice among those who often shoot in S-Log2 is to overexpose the scene by one or two stops for cleaner images. Color-grading S-Log2 footage can be tricky for non-colorists. A good place to start is to apply a pre-made S-Log2 specific LUT. You can use a default one from Sony
Rolling Shutter
Rolling shutter plagues many DSLR and mirrorless shooters, and is one of the biggest complaints heard about the a7S. Its rolling shutter is pretty pronounced, and for the kind of shooting some people do, this could be a deal-breaker. It isn’t as big of an issue for what I shoot, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t cause me frustration. Rolling shutter on the a7RII is a mixed bag. In 4K full-frame mode, there is a noticeable improvement from what you get on the a7S. Switching to the 1080p full frame improves it even more. Unfortunately, the mode that gives you the best image quality and low-light performance—Super 35—has the worst rolling-shutter effect. In fact, it looks to be as bad as or worse than the a7S in full frame So 4K full-frame mode offers better rolling-shutter performance, while Super 35 mode gives you the best image quality and low-light performance. This could create a conundrum, at times, as to which mode is right. If there is fast-moving action and good lighting, maybe you’d want to shoot in full frame, while shooting everything else in Super 35. it would be annoying to switching back and forth between modes during a project, but it is certainly something to be consider.
5-Axis Stabilization
 
One of the exciting new features of the a7RII is its 5-axis in-body image stabilization system. The sensor moves independently inside the body to counteract unwanted movement. It will automatically adjust to the focal length of the lens you’re using, so long as it transmits imaging data to the camera. For manual or adapter lenses you can set the focal length yourself, in the menu, to ensure proper stabilization.
It was doing a good job at minimizing the jitters and wobble of handheld footage. Documentary or run-and-gun-type shooters, One thing to note is that it can sometimes cause some weird side effects if the feature is left on while the camera is mounted on a tripod. Make sure to turn it off when you’re not shooting handheld.
Autofocus
The autofocusing capabilities of the camera, in both photo and video modes, have been revamped in the a7RII. The continuous autofocus feature was, in many cases, able to track a subject moving toward and away from the camera. When a subject quickly enters the frame, the camera was able to “rack” from the background to the subject pretty quickly, but the focus does tend to pulsate a bit before locking on the new subject, and the same goes for when the subject is removed and the camera focuses on the background again. I found that the “slow” speed setting gave me the best results in such situations.
Would I shoot a whole piece using autofocus? No, but it definitely has it place. For example, you can use it for multi-camera event work and cut between cameras when the focusing gets a bit wonky, or for documentary use. I only scratched the surface with the autofocus capabilities of the camera, so I’d like to play around with the feature more in the future.
Overheating
Given the right circumstances, any camera can overheat, but some cameras are more prone to this potential than others. Digital cinema cameras that shoot 4K avoid this problem by using passive heat sinks or, in most cases, fan-assisted cooling. The small form factor of the a7RII precludes a large heat sink or active fan cooling and, with all the processing required to record 4K internally—from a full-sized sensor, no less—overheating in certain conditions is to be expected. Having heard reports of other users dealing with overheating issues,
In a more controlled indoor and free of direct sunlight or high temperatures, the camera gets overheat after 40 minutes of continuous 4K recording (30-minute clip followed by a 10-minute clip). It’s important to note that I had the LCD screen closed against the body in this test. In a subsequent test outdoors in direct sunlight and with the LCD screen pulled away from the camera, I was able to record for 45 minutes straight without the camera giving me any warning, despite the fact that the body was significantly hotter to the touch than it was during the indoor test. I would have recorded longer, had my battery not died.
While more testing would be needed, I do believe that having the LCD extended away from the body does help keep the camera from overheating. It helps with air flow, and prevents monitor-generated heat from contributing to the problem. I suspect that Sony is aware of this, as in 4K recording modes the monitor and viewfinder brightness default to a lower setting, and the camera won’t let you adjust it.
An alternative solution would be to use an external recorder for 4K video, as this should reduce the work the camera’s processor has to do, resulting in cooler running. I should also note that during a four-hour shoot of on-and-off recording in Battery Park, in Manhattan, I didn’t have a single overheating issue. My monitor was almost always extended away from the camera body during the shoot. Take that for what you will.
We spoke with a Sony rep and, at the moment, there is no official statement from Sony regarding the camera’s potential to overheat during 4K recording.
Overall Impression
 
The Sony a7RII is a powerhouse of a camera that can deliver some of the best Super 35mm 4K video outside of professional cinema cameras—and even then, it can hold its own. Sony didn’t hold back when designing this camera, packing a full-frame BSI sensor, internal 4K recording, 5-axis in-body stabilization, and 42MP still images, to boot. For hybrid photographers/videographers, the camera is a no-brainer. Would I recommend the camera for a video shooter? Absolutely, but you’ll have to weigh the rolling shutter and heat issues into your consideration.
Review by : Swathi, Director of Photography 
Esacpe Velocity Cine Lab Pvt. Ltd.

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