To put it simply, if Nikon delivers a D900 with 42 or 50 megapixels or so, and an EVF option, the A7R II will have little appeal to me by comparison (other than using Zeiss Batis and Zeiss Loxia lenses).
I’ll take the Nikon D810 operational behavior and buttons and responsiveness any day over the A7R II. I’ve wasted time constantly with clicks and button presses and trip-me-up lag-time issues in the field—these are simply, ludicrously just wrong and badly designed, unnecessary issues. Especially for a camera that costs a bundle (and more than a Nikon D810!).
Moreover, with cold stiff hands the A7R II sucks (its badly-sized and bacly placed buttons and dials are a bane with stiff fingers and/or gloves). Even the weight of the A7R II is not much of a win when extra batteries are accounted for and/or a lens adapter. So while it is a fine camera, it cannot be called a mature and sensible design by any means.
Joe M writes:
Lloyd, this is to thank you for the frank and accurate assessment of the Sony A7RII on your blog of October 4.
I'm a documentary filmmaker, current A7RII owner and previous Canon and Nikon shooter. My crew also has several D810s and a GH4. We're thinking about getting another A7RII. We also use the Sony 28-135 f/4 cinema lens, which although not optically equal to a Canon/Nikon 70-200, is still a good match for our use.
My experience matches yours exactly. The A7RII has a great sensor and good video features but the clumsy UI and sporadic weird lags are constantly frustrating. The fact you can't put format, Super 35 mode, or exposure bracketing directly on a menu or button is hard to believe. The inability to review a shot while the buffer is draining is yet another frequent irritation.
I tried out the Sony time lapse app -- the intervalometer doesn't work in silent shutter mode! Why!! The A7RII's fully electronic shutter is great for time lapses to avoid wearing out the shutter. Now we get to keep using external intervalometers because their app is stupid.
Our GH4 is an EVF mirrorless camera but its UI has a logical design and it's very reliable. I don't love everything about it but it doesn't have those glaring weird issues like the Sony.
Also like you said it's more than the menu aspect of the UI. It's the myriad of tiny ergonomic touches like button size and spacing, detent strength, texture or guard ridges on the controls, etc. The Sony looks nice gleaming under a spotlight, sitting on a velvet cloth for a product shot. It's not so nice to use in a field environment when you're cold, hot or tired.
We'll keep using the A7RII and may even get another one, but the moment Nikon or Canon has a full frame EVF camera, good-bye Sony (assuming Sony hasn't improved it by then).
Considering all the "big name" reviewers, I don't understand why nobody else is mentioning these items, but I'm glad you are. IMO you are not being overly critical -- you mention the good features as well. But the others largely aren't mentioning these deficiencies and it gives a misleading impression. They are the ones who are off base, not you.
DIGLLOYD: I give Sony a lot of credit for making the A7R II a lot better camera than the A7R. But a rethink is needed for the A9 or whatever it will be called. Sony needs to hire photographers and get it right—that would be unbeatable given the technical prowess of Sony.
Steven K writes:
I just wanted to say I agree with your assessment 100% about the A7R ll I can only hope that Nikon comes out with what you are calling for or maybe Sony will keep the A mount alive with a more standard size body.
A7 series has a place yet do to its minimal size, endless menus, poor battery life it becomes a real nuisance in terms of usability.
The whole A7 series, though revolutionary in many aspects is still not a true photographer’s tool IMHO . A great gadget with impressive specs, but for me in my hands I just don’t get it.
I think probably the real issue is a lot of us older time photographers who grew up with film, multiple formats, etc., then made the transition to digital over the past 10 years in some ways we are really not the target market for these new “gadgets”
DIGLLOYD: today (a day after writing the above) it was freezing cold, dense fog with blowing snow. I love the A7R II EVF (Nikon, please get a clue for a D900!), but I have now grown to dislike the A7R II controls in such conditions, particularly with gloves (it’s either wear gloves with holes worn in the fingers, or temporarily lose use of my hands after 20 minutes or so). An irritation with the A7R II has been building up all week. Love it, hate it.
Battery life has been reasonable for me: 300 shots or so. I constantly turn the camera on/off however. But the on/off switch itself is badly designed, frequently turning on when cramming back into my pack.