Sony A7R II vs A7R

June 16, 2015

Sony A7R II vs A7R camera

Sony has announced the a7R II (α7R II), a revamped and upgraded version for the a7R which was announced on October 16, 2013. The new A7R II brings some prominent updated. In this article you’ll learn about the a7R II key features and how it is compared to the older a7R camera. We’ll start with an introduction to this new camera and move on to the specs comparison section.

Sony a7R II

The α7R II is Sony’s latest Full-frame mirrorless camera, a successor to the Sony a7R. It utilizes the E-mount and compatible with Sony’s wide selection of E and FE  lenses, including Zeiss branded lenses. Sony FE lenses were designed to match the sensor size, but you can use APS-C lenses in crop mode or with vignetting. Sony certainly shows us that it is a strong leader not only in ILC market, but in the digital imaging market as a whole.

Sony A7R II

Sony A7R II Full Frame ILC

Sony develops and manufactures its own sensors. 40% of all camera sensors in 2014 were actually made by Sony. Sony continues to push innovation forward. The a7RII is the first camera to feature a 35mm full-frame Back-illuminated CMOS sensor and employ a whopping 42.4 megapixel resolution, 17% more pixels than the A7R 36MP.

For those of you who aren’t techie, BSI sensor can increase the input photo from about 60% to over 90%. Latest generation BSI sensors are about two times more sensitive to light than the conventional front-illuminated ones. Unlike in FSI, BSI sensors have its wiring layer underneath the photodiode substrate. This way, Sony could produce sensors with better light gathering efficiency and improve the data-transfer rate. For photographers, this means speedier performance and better low-light capabilities. The sensor also lacks the optical low-pass filter, which further boosts its detail resolving power. The A7R II was designed for photographers who care about fine details and those who need that extra resolution for more flexible post-production editing.

42.4 MP effective resolution sounds a bit much, even for a full-frame camera. I already know that I’ll always wonder what if Sony had brought this camera with a 12MP sensor and how good its low-light performance could have been.  The Alpha 7R, the older model, has 36 megapixels, so Sony bumped up the resolution even more in this new model.Each pixel measures  approximately 4.5µm. In comparison, the Canon EOS 5D Mark III has 22 megapixel sensor with approx. 6.25µm. Nikon D810 has a 36MP sensor  with approx. 4.9µm (microns) size pixels.

A7R II vs A7R camera size comparison top view

A7R II vs A7R camera size comparison (top view)

We’ve already seen that the Alpha 7R was able to compete well against the 5D Mark III. Its ISO performance was about the same as the 5D Mark III (at least in my observation as you can see in this article here on dpreview). This is quite astonishing considering the resolution difference. You kind of expect to pay a hefty price for having such a high resolution, but as we can see, Sony’s next-gen sensors are the best there is. So with a new full-frame BSI sensor, you can understand why Sony wasn’t afraid to push the limit even further.  The A7R II features a fast hybrid AF system, but now with 399 phase-detection AF points that covers 45% of the image frame and 25-point contrast-detect AF. Sony claimed that the new AF system is 40% faster than its predecessor, the A7R.

The A7R II is built in the highest standards, with tough full magnesium alloy body. Its shutter was tested to 500,000 cycles and the shutter utilizes a new braking mechanism that reduces the front/rear curtain vibration by approximately 50%. This helps promote an even sharper image, because there is less shake during capture. There is also a ‘silent’ shooting mode, which uses the electronic shutter to eliminate any vibration when taking photo.

Another welcome update was made to the viewfinder. The Sony Alpha 7R II features a 0.78x magnification XGA OLDER Tru-Filder with ZEISS T* coating for crystal clear view when you compose your shots through the EVF. In fact, Sony claims that it’s the world’s highest magnification for any digital still camera. This new viewfinder feature new four-lens optical system with double-sided aspherical elements for even sharper and clearer view. This is a very important features that many enthusiast and professional are looking for. It promotes better connection with your subject and makes it easier to compose your image.

Other features include: 5-axis image stabilization (approx. 4.5-step faster shutter speed advantage), 4K movie recording in XAVC S format for brilliant detailed footage, 120fps high frame rate moving recording in HD, 1200-zone evaluative metering sensor, enhance Eye AF mode, Wi-Fi / NFC wireless connectivity, PlayMemories Camera app comparability,  S-Log2 gamma and S-Gamut setting, Clean HDMI output, auto HDR, D-range Optimizer, Multi-frame NR capture, focus magnifier and focus peaking and lots of other advanced features that will make it easier for you to capture the perfect shot and enrich your creativity freedom.

The Sony A7R II can record video internally or to an external device. It also supports a Super 35mm mode, which utilizes two-thirds of the sensor area (cropped mode, without pixel binning) that will give you a narrower field of view. The Super 35mm area on the sensor contains more pixels than needed for the 4K resolution, but Sony didn’t use pixel binding, but uses a unique full-pixel readout processing algorithm that helps further reduce moire and noise when recording videos.

Here’s a 4K movine shot in Super 35mm mode using the new a7R II camera and with various lenses, including the Distagon T* FE 35mm F1.4 ZA , Sonnar T& FE 55mm F1.8 ZA, FE 90 mm f/2.8 macro G ISS and Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35mm F3 ZA OSS lenses.

As you can see, (if you watch it on a 4K display), the video quality is just mind blowing, and this is on YouTube, so it’s highly compressed. Just imagine how it would look on your display straight out from the camera!

A7R II vs A7R

As you probably understood by now, the Sony Alpha A7R II is really an innovative and unique camera. And you get all that goodies in a durable compact camera body. Sony also improved the ergonomic design based on photographer’s feedback. The A7R II now has more prominent grip and an extra custom function button at the top instead than the rear as in the A7R.  All in all, the A7R II seems like a well-worthy upgrade, don’t you think?

In this section I’ll compare the A7R II vs the A7R, so you can observe the differences and see whether the new camera is worth buying or worth upgrading from the older model. Keep in mind, the new Sony Alpha A7RII is significantly more expensive than its predecessor. It costs around $3200 (prices via B&H as of the time of writing, 6/14/2015), $1300 more than the a7R (body only).  OK, let’s move on to the comparison, shall we.

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The new Sony A7R II brings lots of new improvements as you can see from the above side by side comparison table. I personally liked the new BSI sensor, 14-bi t RAW, improved ergonomic design, improved AF system,built-in stabilization and the wide variety of advanced video functions and 4K video recording. The A7R II improved where many photographers expected it to be improved. It certainly looks very attractive when compared to Nikon and Canon full-frame offerings, which I’ll compare in a later date.

Whether it’s worth the upgrade, it depends. If you already shooting with lenses with built-in IS, you don’t intend to shoot in 4K, you are satisfied with the A7R AF performance, you might be well satisfied with the A7R, which is also significantly cheaper and the price will drop once the A7R II is out. I think that the A7R II will definitely appeal better for videographers who will certainly appreciate its advanced video functions. BTW, both cameras offer clean HDMI output (but only 8-bit 4:2:2 unfortunately).

All in all, a great new full frame mirrorless camera that it’ll find itself in the hands of many enthusiast and professional photographers.

>> You can order the Sony A7R II from B&H Photo Video store via this link.

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