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Sony A7R II: Focus Accuracy Better than Any DSLR I’ve Ever Used

Get Sony A7R II and Zeiss Batis B&H Photo.

See my in-depth review of the Sony A7R II.

Something strange happened on my recent trip: I did not see any mis-focused images from the Sony A7R II. I mean, none.

Try doing that with a Nikon D810 or Canon 5DS R with an autofocus lens—I have and never come close, as past autofocus assessments show. And it’s hopeless to focus a lens manually using the optical viewfinder in a DSLR—the focusing screen is designed for autofocus and can’t show more than about f/2.8 - f/4 equivalent—massive slop—and it is a different optical path almost never the same distance as the sensor (inherent error even with perfect eyes). So one has to resort to magnified Live View using a loupe—clumsy at best compared to an EVF, though it’s perfectly reasonable on a tripod. The omission of an EVF option with the Nikon D810 and Canon 5DS R is so at odds with usage realities that it begs credulity.

Some advances really matter: those that eliminate or greatly mitigate longstanding technical challenges that reduce the hit rate.

Add the electronic first curtain shutter for zero vibration: focus nailed every time, plus no mirror slap, all handheld. And image stabilization to boot no matter which lens is used (and just about any full-frame lens of any brand can be used, with adapter).

The DSLR is looking like not just a dinosaur, but a lame dinosaur, given these advances. How long will CaNikon watch Sony advance without responding? The optical viewfinder is great for some things, but I say get rid of it—it is a huge liability for most things. Mirrorless is now the leading technology on the market, solving real issues for real photography.

The Sony A7R II makes outstanding images with low noise and excellent dynamic range at 42 megapixels that are always in focus. Notwithstanding some file quality limitations and disappointing 12-bit behavior in certain situations, nothing else can touch this track record of ultra-high hit rate. And it does so in a relatively compact form factor: when I shot the Dana Glacier examples, it was the ideal camera; I could not take a tripod climbing class 4 and class 5.0A, so the Nikon D810 was really a non-starter there (at least without more planning and difficulty). And so I would say this: I think it is a mistake to 'diss' the Sony A7R II for its faults (but its A7R predecessor cannot be forgiven for its shutter), which most of the time either have a workaround (very careful exposure) and/or are unusual or rare. Trade that off against focus errors of all kinds, size and weight, etc. It’s a fair trade. When and if Sony can fix the few image quality issues, and perhaps add a bit more dynamic range with a Nikon D810 style ISO 64, it’s going to be very hard to argue in favor of any DSLR for 99% of shooters, including my workhorse Nikon D810.

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