ceony made some huge waves in the filmmaking world with their A7S, but the newly announced A7R II might just be the better choice for many filmmakers.
I’ve never owned a Sony A7S but I have shot with the camera numerous times and was always impressed by it. I love how small and compact the body is, the image quality is superb, and the low light performance is the best of best.
That said, the A7S was never the perfect camera for me. When it was released I already owned the GH4 which did internal 4K, and the fact that the A7S needed an external recorder for 4K recording somewhat defeated the purpose for me. I know that internal 4K isn’t a concern for all shooters, but for me it was an issue… When I’m shooting on a camera that’s as small as the A7S I typically am shooting guerrilla style and want to keep my kit and overall footprint as small as possible. Adding a Shogun to the camera to get 4K effectively makes the overall setup a lot larger, and makes it far less enticing to shoot with for my needs.
I also wasn’t a huge fan of the color science on the A7s – but the same could be said about practically any other Sony camera. Sony has done an amazing job of pushing technological boundaries with their cameras, but they still haven’t nailed down their color science. Manufacturers like Blackmagic and Canon have had it down on some of their cameras for a while now… But Sony’s colors always felt a bit harsh to me and even with grading they often still feel somewhat video-ish.
So with all of that in mind, I never ended up investing in an A7S. I had rented/borrowed it on several occasions as needed, but to me it had a very specific purpose… Low light. For ultra low-light situations it offered the best performance of any camera I had ever used, so it was the clear choice when shooting that type of material. If I was the type of shooter that was always working in no-light/run and run situations, I probably would have invested in an A7S. But in reality, I just didn’t need to shoot above ISO 1600 most of the time, and that’s where the A7S really starts to blow other cameras out of the water.
The A7R II on the other hand offers a lot of excellent new features that make it far more enticing to me than the A7S, despite the fact that it won’t have the same low light performance (due to the much higher megapixel sensor).
Here some A7R II specs to get you up to speed:
- 42MP Full-Frame Exmor R BSI CMOS Sensor
- BIONZ X Image Processor
- Internal 4K XAVC S Video & S-Log2 Gamma
- 5-Axis SteadyShot INSIDE Stabilization
- 399 Phase-Detect AF Points & 5 fps Burst
- 0.5″ 2.36M-Dot XGA OLED Tru-Finder EVF
- 3.0″ 1,228.8k-Dot Tilting LCD Monitor
- ISO 102,400 and Silent Shutter Mode
- Durable Reduced-Vibration Shutter Design
- Built-In Wi-Fi Connectivity with NFC
I’ll need to shoot with the A7R II before making a firm decision on whether or not it’s worth investing in for myself. But I have to say that right off the bat it does seem to be a far better option for me than the A7S for these 5 reasons:
As I mentioned above, one of the big drawbacks for me with the A7S was the lack of internal 4K. That has been addressed on the A7R II as the camera will allow you to record 4:2:0 8 bit 4K footage straight onto your SD cards. Yes, it would have been nice to have 4:2:2 10 bit (at least through the HDMI output), but that’s just not the case. It will however give you 4:2:2 8 bit through HDMI which helps. Regardless, the fact that this camera allows you to capture the extra resolution without needing a Shogun not only makes it more practical, but also more cost effective.
One of the biggest issues I had with the A7S were the severe rolling shutter artifacts present when shooting in full frame mode. Shooting in Super 35 mode helped the rolling shutter problem substantially, but it by no means eliminated it completely. With the A7R II however, things have improved quite a bit in this department. Again, I haven’t shot with the camera myself – but based on the footage I have seen and the research that I’ve done, the A7R II in Super 35 mode practically has no rolling shutter artifacts at all… Even when whip panning.
Low Light Is Still Great
There’s no question that the A7S will outperform the A7R II in low light based on the megapixel count alone. As many of you know, larger pixels offer better low light performance, so naturally the 12 megapixel A7S is going to have much larger pixels than the 42 megapixel A7R II. That said though, the A7R II will still likely perform very well in low light. Pixel size isn’t the only factor contributing to a clean low-light image, and Sony has delivered great low-light to us on many of their other higher megapixel cameras… So I have high hopes for the A7R II in that department as well. For me personally, I rarely shoot above ISO 3200 (and even then it’s usually an emergency scenario) – so I am very confident that the A7R II will deliver great low light at reasonably high ISO’s, even if the numbers aren’t as crazy as what the A7S can deliver.
5 Axis Stabilization
Like some of Sony’s other cameras, the Sony A7R II features 5 axis stabilization built right in to the camera body. This means that no matter what lens you’re using (even fully manual vintage lenses), you can utilize image stabilization. For me, this is one of the most exciting features that the A7R II has to offer for a number of reasons. Firstly, as I mentioned I like to keep my footprint as small as possible when shooting on mirrorless cameras, and having stabilization built into the camera means I may not need a shoulder rig or rail system in many situations. But also, the fact that I can use my fully manual lenses on the A7R II is huge, considering I don’t really want to invest in Sony glass at the moment.
I primarily shoot video of course, but also do shoot stills both professionally and personally, and the A7R II is going to be a far better stills camera than the A7S. The biggest difference of course is the megapixel count, which on the A7R II clocks in at 42MP. That’s pretty crazy, considering the size of the body and how many other features have been packed into the camera itself. While stills may not be a huge consideration for some filmmakers, I would guess that a lot of you out there need to shoot high res photos from time to time, and having the ability to do so with a 42 MP camera in your back pocket is pretty incredible.
There’s never going to be a perfect camera, and naturally everyone’s needs are different when it comes to choosing the right tool for their work. That said though, the A7R II seems to be a much better choice than the A7S for the type of work that I do. If I needed ultra low-light ability, I would still go with the A7S… But with that aside, the A7R II beats the A7S in many ways. I’ll need to shoot with it to really make that call, and I do have some concerns (such as moire and aliasing), but I certainly have high hopes.
While I might not be a huge fan of Sony’s color science, I am confident that they will continue to improve it through firmware updates, and with all things considered the A7R II still offers a lot of performance in a very small package. The price is relatively steep (about $3200), but you won’t need a Shogun for 4K, and the features built into the camera will definitely give it some longevity. All in all, I think it will be a worthwhile investment for many.
I’m sure that when the Sony A7S II comes out we’ll see a lot of the same features that we’re seeing in the A7R II (such as internal image stabilization) integrated as well… And the Sony A7S may just trump the A7R II in every way. But really, that’s always going to be the case. There’s always a new and better camera around the corner, which is why it’s so hard to decide which camera to buy and when. Regardless, for many of us the A7R II is going to offer all of the things we wanted in the A7S and then some, and I personally can’t wait to shoot with it.
If you’re interested in purchasing the A7R II you can do so through B & H using the link below:
Sony A7R II – $3198.00 at B & H
Also be sure to follow me on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter for more updates!
Interesting Article, especially since we have differing opinions. I personally choose the A7s II. Here is a little comparison I made between the two: http://www.camerasharp.com/sony-a7r-ii-vs-sony-a7s-ii-one/
Let me know what your thoughts are Noam!
Thanks for sharing this Brad. I haven’t read your article yet, but to clarify – this post was comparing the A7R II to the original A7S. In fact, I ended up picking up an A7S II myself after this article was written, so we are probably on the same page! I’ll check out your post when I can.
Do you have a video link to see how well the Sony A7R II perform at night with limited light, would be nice to see a good comparison between the A7R II and the A7S II
I still can not decide which camera to buy, I love taking photos too and the 42 MP on the A7R II sounds good on paper regarding sharpness. I have seen video clips shot with the Sony A7S II and they look so good, specially at night, any way help me make up my mind
I will be sure to do a test in the near future with the A7S II and A7R II. I am actually working on some new blog content centered around some of Sony’s products, so be sure to check back soon!
I just saw a very disappointed reviewer of the A7r2, who’s camera, in just a bit more than 80F over heated and did not recover in a timely manner. With record times in 4K of between 12-15 min, it is not a viable option for filmmakers. Could never use it for any event or news recording and on on film sets, with the hurry up and wait, folks would go nuts waiting for a camera when one is finally ready to shoot and take 8 has to wait a half hour for the camera to recover.
This concerns me so much. I nearly went out and bought one. Grrr. I need to read more about using external recorders and how that solves the overheating problem.
Good to know Lydia. Having never shot with the A7R II in the field I can’t speak to any experience with it in that regard. But your point is very valid in that no one should ever make a decision on a camera based on the specs on paper alone. You really need to go out and shoot with it to understand it’s strengths and weaknesses, and whether or not it works for you. Thanks!
What do you think is involved in fixing Sony’s colour science issues? Can it be resolved with a simple firmware update? Do the colours on the A7RII still look a bit harsh? I saw some pics from a 5DMKIII vs A7RII and the A7RII did seem a bit harsher. But again, can this be resolved via the settings (white balance for example) or a firmware update?
I still think Sony has a ways to go with regards to color science, but I am hopeful any and all issues can be resolved with firmware updates in the future. That said, the one (and probably only) area where Canon has a lot of the competition beat is still color.
A7S II will never happen, but i would love to have one:)
It will have to eventually! Maybe not for a while though… In the mean time, I am strongly considering the A7R II and may just have one in the next few weeks.
Why the Sony A7R II is Generating Even More Buzz Than the Sony A7s | 4K Shootersat
[…] Cinema5D, Lightmill, Noam Kroll, Davide […]
Thanks for the review! Looking forward to your review if you’ll have one.
I would love to do one soon! Actually thinking of buying the A7R II in the very near future.
kthanks, i am privileged to know all this . And further i want to know for this a7r2 camera which lenses are essential and their approximate costs .
Hi Rajan! No problem at all. I would recommend visiting http://www.bnh.com and searching through their Sony lens selection to get a full idea of what is available and the most current prices.
Noam, Thanks for being so informative, I bought an a7s and six weeks later Sony announce the a7r II I was a little sick. the A7r II has everything I’ve been waiting for. I been shooting portraits for a while and was wanting to try out the video side also. My dilemma is selling my brand new a7s for 2k and buying the a7r II. or just use the a7s for a second camera. Oh one other question i haven’t heard weather or not if the a7r has the bright view finder. What do you think?
That’s always frustrating, but unfortunately part of the process! I have purchased so many cameras only to have them rendered outdated months later, or have the price cut in half practically right after I bought them. It’s the sad nature of buying gear… That said, I think unless you need 2 cameras you should just stick with one. Either keep the A7S or sell it for the A7R II. I’ve made the mistake in the past of holding onto cameras just because I liked having them available, but then didn’t need to shoot on all of them. If you’re going to sell it, you’re better off doing it while it’s still worth something! Hope that helps…
Well, “LOW LIGHT IS STILL GREAT” doesnt really fit into “5 REASONS WHY I’D PICK THE SONY A7R II OVER THE SONY A7S FOR VIDEO”, but i gotta 5th point for you:
sure its great to have night vision in your camera in 3% of cases, but in the other 97% its a pain in the ass to have such a sensible camera. i mean native iso at 3200 is just super annoying, right?
Totally… That was pretty much what I was trying convey. I think many people assume any camera but an A7S can’t perform in low light, when in reality they can. And most of the time you shouldn’t need to shoot with such a high ISO anyways. Thanks for the note!
Hello! I like this post and like this camera. Unfortunately it’s too pricey for me. What you think about Sony a7II? It’s almost same camera without 4k and with half-price, isn’t? If 4k is not required and price is important, do you recommend a7ll over the a7Rll? Or in that case you better buy GH4? It’s pretty much same price and have 4k. I know you are big fan of GH4, but if 4k is not the most important which one you would choose. Purposes of the new camera is shooting commercials, music videos and learn shooting techniques. Hope you have same good advice which help me to make right decision.
Hi Herni! Great question… I think if it was between the GH4 and A7ii I would still go for the GH4 as I like the image quality/colors more for video. That said, the A7ii looks excellent as well. If you are shooting some still photos as well though, the GH4 definitely won’t give you the same results as the Sony.
If A7S has good autofocus that is my dream camera. Only think lacking in a7S is autofocus. I’m waiting for a7S II. I don’t need huge non worthy pixels to hurt my computer when my outputs are never more than 4MP
Good point… Looking forward to seeing what they come up with!
Great article Noam! I too am intrigued, we seem to follow similar paths (5d3-C100-Gh4 for me) The Metabones combo with AF and internal IS are two of the biggest things for me. Entertaining the idea of selling the 3 cameras listed and going for the A7RII as B-Cam and FS7 for slowmo/ ND/ XLR/ client doubts!
Sounds like an excellent plan Jef. One of the biggest issues right now with mirrorless cameras is their size, which ironically is also one of their biggest strengths. But as you said, when dealing with clients it can be frustrating to have to explain to them what your camera is capable of.
I really like what Sony has done with the FS7, but still have some issues with their color science. That said, if you are shooting mainly doc/commercial/event work, it is a really great choice.
Great review as always.
And how do you find soem comparision btw new sony A7R2 and Samsung NX1.
The reason why I am asking this is it that I just bought NX1 in a month because of the internal 4k function.
But now… SONY also have it.
Still NX1 is attractive in price wise.
But I want to know your technical opinion and comparision btw A7R 2 and NX1.
I mainly take photos now but the main purpose why I bought NX1 was filmmaking.
So.. what do you think?
Hi Demian – thanks for the feedback! The NX1 is really an amazing camera and has some benefits over the A7R – most notably the price.
Personally, I wouldn’t jump on the A7R II if you are already comfortable with the Samsung and happy with the images it produces. Even if you are mainly shooting photos, the NX1 is still a very capable camera. It may not be 42MP, but then again who really needs that much resolution? I’d stick with it for a little while and then see what the other manufacturers come out with later in the year… I’m sure there will be some more announcements in the next few months that will shake things up even further.
I was under the impression that it could still output 4:2:2 8 bit 4K to an external recorder. Which you’d also need to use if you were ever recording longer than 30 mins. For films when doing short scenes it’s not an issue but there are circumstances and uses where it’s needed.
Also you put scene when I think you meant seen, made that sentence a bit confusing for a moment! (In the rolling shutter segment)
Thanks for the catch Jon! I’ll go and fix that now… And great to know that it does 4:2:2 not 4:2:0 externally.
Great as always!
I cant afford the Sonys now, but I think the A7S II will be a great camera, worth to buy. But I prefer the compacter Micro 4/3 to the FF Sonys. The glass available for Micro 4/3 is overwhelmy!
The chase to the perfect camera or camera combo is now easier due to the rapid developtment. I think Canon and Nikon are already why behind Sony, Panasonic and Olympus.
I do have two Lumix G6, but I will likely trade both for one Lumix G7 and a Oly M5 Mark II, great video and 4k the former, better photos, 5 axis stabilization and water seal the later.
I hope Panasonic comes with the rumored new organic sensor inside the GH5 and body stabilization, that will be a gamechanger.
Thanks Tom! Glad you enjoyed it and it sounds like your setup is going to be fantastic. One of the best things about MFT cameras is the ability to use such a wide range of glass, which naturally is why you are able to use a G7 and M5 mark II without having to worry about compatibility issues.
I am hoping for that organic sensor as well, but have also heard it could take a couple of years until it’s actually ready… Fingers crossed!