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Sony A7R II: Other Areas That Need Attention via Firmware Update

See also Sony Announces an Uncompressed File Format for A7R II and Future Cameras.

Now that Sony is offering a lossless format (albeit uncompressed it seems), here are other areas that need attention.

12-bit land mines

See Sony A7R II RAW (ARW) Files: Format, 12 Bit Degradation:

  • The quality-damaging 12-bit mode when using Bulb Mode must be fixed (14-bit).
  • The quality-damaging 12-bit mode when using long exposure noise reduction must be fixed (14-bit).
  • The quality-damaging 12-bit mode when using continuous shutter must be fixed (14-bit). If that means slowing the frame rate (as an option), so be it.
  • Long exposure noise reduction is a cure worse than the disease. And with a proper exposure at 30 seconds, there is no issue to begin with.
  • Silent shutter mode should not be 12-bit. Maybe this is a technical issue, but it’s a land mine for some shooters.

Other areas

  • A menu preference that uses the regular shutter instead of the EFC shutter if the shutter speed is too high for reliable quality exposure.
  • Sony, please be the first company to offer a Hide all JPEG Cruft and Hide all Video Cruft options. And it should hide the Application menu, which I do not want and never use. Replace it with a My Menu feature. Clutter makes it feel more toy like, not like a real camera, and if nothing else, impedes efficient usage.
  • Add a true raw histogram. Or at least allow the selection of a wide-gamut color space for histogram rendering.
  • The RGB histogram is too small and hides small but critical blow-out areas in its smallness.
  • If JPEG is mandatory (uggh), add a modern 16-bit variant.
  • There is no way to transfer a complete camera setup to another camera. This is a major headache given the kitchen-sink settings menus and button/menu customization. So much of a headache that I ended up with JPEG files instead of RAW for my images one day over in Germany (I had along one new A7R II body, and bugs in the menus wiped out my settings).
  • It should be possible to make a 45/60/120/240/... second exposure by dialing in an explicit time. There is no reason to be limited to 30 seconds and forced to time things manually with Bulb mode. And please, Sony, don’t make us manually close the shutter as the super-dumb Nikon implementation does: enter the desired time, go back to warm car out of freezing temps, count on job done. The Ricoh GR does this right, up to 6 minutes.
  • There should be a true ISO 64 with ultra high quality and dynamic range as with the Nikon D810 (the hardware may not be good enough, but it doesn’t hurt to ask!).
  • There should be an option to disable SteadyShot at some shutter speed cutoff, because it is not foolproof.
  • There should also be a display of the focal length set for SteadyShot (serious image damage if wrong focal is chosen).
  • There should be a best-of-N shot selection mode for low speed handheld shooting, based on image analysis.
  • It should be possible to take N frames and merge them in the camera (in raw), e.g. multiple exposures for overlaying images.
  • Sound-based focus peaking (pitch and volume) while manually focusing (not just visual).

More suggestions (which I agree with) from Ming Thein:

  • Show flashing exposure zebras in full screen image playback
  • Intervalometer
  • Speed up menu operation
  • Direct AF point selection on D pad
  • One press to magnify to preset zoom level. H/M/L is fine. And make it available in all modes, not just MF.

Milton M writes:

This is a goldmine of great suggestions for future enhancements! I think you should re-look at the utility of the application menu, however. Ming Thein can find the intervalometer he wants, there.

I also find the Smart Remote Control app useful. This lets you use your smartphone to control the a7R remotely. The EVF/rear LCD panel display is displayed on your smartphone. This is quite useful in situations where it is impossible or at least not easy to see either the EVF or the rear LCD panel displays. I enjoy using this feature when I use my a7R on my copy stand to copy prints. I also use the Direct Upload app to quickly transfer photos to my smartphone for upload to Facebook.

DIGLLOYD: An intervalometer is a core feature; implemented as an app it just speaks to a failure of conception and design.

I heartily dislike the very idea of downloading “apps” for a camera, unless they offer compelling features clearly outside the core feature set that ought to be in the camera. Basically, the camera ought to be a camera. There is the hassle of having the camera being another software device to update, the crash risks, the security risks and more. These are hardly innocuous threats given the root kit approach Sony uses for firmware updates (and consider the latest iPhone malware apps that got into the Apple Store!). Does anyone realistically expect Sony to do 1/10 as good a job on security as Apple?). A company that requires 'root' just to install a software update? Seriously? The last thing I want is an “app” on my camera.

As for remote control via a phone, certainly such things can be useful in studio scenarios and speciality areas. But for general photography in the field, the last thing I want to do is carry one more gadget and juggle that with the camera. OTOH, if all JPEG support could be an app, I would celebrate, since I would never download that app, and all the JPEG confusion would disappear. And then maybe photography could be more about making images, and less about figuring out that 80% of the menus are crap derived from JPEG-centric thinking.

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