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Evaluated: “Sony, Fix These Things and Win” aka How Does the Sony A7R II Stack Up?

See reviews on Sony mirrorless.

Sony A7R II

Update, August 22 2015: The evaluation is in on the Sony A7R II: Sony wins. Nikon and Canon should be scared out of their wits.

The time has arrived for me to buy a Sony kit. I refused to buy the fundamentally flawed Sony A7R, but the Sony A7R II is a camera I will acquire as soon as it arrives. This is not a statement on “switching” (I cover all the major brands and I still like the D810 a lot), just a statement that I did not want to flush my money down the toilet on the Sony A7R. The A7R II fixes the key issues (not all but most) while delivering advances in resolution and 4K video and build quality and other areas.

I will also be buying the Zeiss Batis lenses as references lenses for the Sony platform. Note: I strongly advise pre-ordering Zeiss Batis or otherwise planning on waiting a long time for delivery).

Moreover, with the vibration free shutter of the Sony A7R II, I fully intend to see just how good the Zeiss Otus lenses look on the 42-megapixel Sony A7R II. That is after I do the same (next week I hope) on the Canon 5DS R.


In last year’s Sony, Fix These Things and Win, I listed what I saw as the key shortcomings of the Sony A7R. The list is reproduced below, with comments.

Here, “FIXED” means “appears to be fixed, pending confirmation with a shipping camera”.

KUDOS to Sony for addressing so many issues. Dang on the crummy 11+7 bit lossy compressed format—why degrade the output from a camera otherwise so well specified—make it a lossless-compressed 14-bit file format please.

  1. √ FIXED Deliver a 36 - 56 megapixel mirrorless camera with an EFC shutter (zero vibration), so that peak image quality can be reliably achieved. Bonus points for a medium format sensor.
  2. √ FIXED:. Add a lossless-compressed 14-bit file format. Keep the 11+7 bit format for those who want it, but deliver ultra high image quality for those who want it (and make the electronics ultra clean, so that it really does matter).
  3. √ FIXED: all magnesium body with mode dial lock and “stronger and more rigid mount and body support use of large and heavy lenses...”. Deliver cameras with robust high strength lens mounts, not the toy-grade build of the current lineup that is seeing replacement products! Bonus points for weather sealing.
  4. √ FIXED Deliver 5-axis sensor image stabilization in this high-resolution camera.
  5. IMPROVED, but same resolution. Deliver a 4MP EVF, built-in.
  6. IMPROVED, better grip like the A7 II, still needs work. Make the camera larger (somewhat): the buttons are too small and fiddly compared to a Nikon D810. A7R with gloves (cold) means taking gloves off. No fun.
  7. √ FIXED, counting the two (soon three) Zeiss Batis lenses and the Sony 28mm f/2, Sony 35/1.4, and 90mm f/2.8. Aggressively move the lens lineup forward, perhaps by paying Zeiss to extend the Loxia line quickly and with ultra high performance lens designs (Zeiss Otus grade, but half the price and near-perfect f/2.8 designs).
  8. √ FIXED: 4K video with flexible options. Add 4K video.
  9. UNCHANGED. Bonus points: near-zero blackout time, emove Sony crapware from menus, add a “My Menu”, offer raw-only shooter mode (eliminate all JPEG cruft, have a right proper raw histogram).

Dinosaur companies

Long live the DSLR. It has many fine qualities and the need for it won’t go away soon, nor will Sony match the Canon and Nikon lens lines any time soon (except that most of these lenses can be used on Sony!!!). Anyway, speaking in market share terms, who cares? As in truly lusting after a DSLR any more? The 95% of the market is moving to mirrorless while the Walking Dead CaNikon duopoly apparently does nothing more than waste year after year scratching their respective behinds. Neither of these companies even offers an EVF option for their cameras, their 1080p video quality is low-res mushy crap, the rear LCD is still not Retina, conventional autofocus is great for sports but lacks precision and accuracy for general purpose shooting, and an OVF is 100% useless for most shooting tasks (and totally useless for accurate manual focus).

Nikon and Canon are in very serious trouble in the face of these gains from Sony, and Sony is just warming up—2016 ain’t gonna be less good. The A7R II is maller and lighter and cheaper, has better sensor with more megapixels than the D810 and almost as much as the Canon 5DS (but probably better dynamic range than 5Ds), 4K video, in body image stabilization, and adaptability to wide range of lenses with another Batis lens due this fall and more lenses in the pipeline from Sony. The A7R II will have its flaws, but given the improvements, who know how far Sony will carry this forward. Scary shit for CaNikon.

The market needs competition. Are Canon and Nikon even capable of breaking out of their dinosaur mindset, let alone designing something groundbreaking? It seems increasingly dubious because the core issue is a corporate culture based on fear and doubt, of circling the wagons around the traditional product line. Neither company (people at the decision making levels) gives a crap what I think (“I” meaning myself and others like me), a position I regard as unwise to the point of stupidity and indicative of impending disaster for these companies.

Did I mention computational photography? That should be next on the list for Sony. Damn I wish I had a group and budget to “drive” innovation in a company with resources. I would eviscerate the dinosaurs.

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