Gear: Sony A7R2 Review

 

Sony-a7rII-Press-Image-Upper-Front

 


I will start all of my gear reviews with a disclaimer:

I primarily do landscapes, travel and architecture shots. I am not looking for speed demon cameras, lightning fast autofocus, or high aperture lenses. As a result, I’m just going to talk about pros and cons about the camera in terms of the features I use and what I use it for. Also, I almost never record video.


 

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Rear view showing the controls and flip screen.

 

Pros:

  • High resolution (no problem cropping and still being able to print big)
  • No Anti-aliasing filter (sharpness is amazing)
  • Light weight (but with the Canon lens adapter it’s closer to an SLR’s weight)
  • Exposure dial (great for quickly changing exposure)
  • Flip screen (great when the camera is low, such as on a tripod)
  • In body image stabilization (if you need it, it’s there)
  • Shadow recovery is phenomenal
  • Dynamic range is amazing
  • Low noise (see the example photo below, taken at ISO 3200)
  • Quick focus (and focus points cover most of the sensor)
  • Focus peaking (great if using manual focus)
  • Lens adapters (it can take adapters to fit a large variety of lenses)
  • 4K video
  • Eye focus mode (but you need Sony lenses for this)
  • Dual electronic level (but not as exact as the Canon ones)
  • Quick menu (saves you from having to go into the menus)
  • Electronic first curtain shutter (ensures no vibration with the shot)
  • Tons of options (I just do landscapes but I can see a lot of options in the menus for other types of photography, plus you can get apps from the app store)

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Size compared to the Canon 5DSR (on the right).

 

Cons:

  • Dust on sensor (since there’s no mirror in front of the sensor it is prone to dust)
  • Sony lenses are just ok, “GM” lenses are out of my price range
  • Lenses are expensive (about 30% more than Canon equivalents)
  • Not a swivel screen (for me, most of the time when I’m taking a low level shot it is a vertical shot, and the tilt screen is no use, a swivel screen would be much nicer)
  • Confusing menus
  • No GPS (I don’t need Wifi, I would prefer GPS in a light camera that I’ll be taking travelling with me, don’t want the hassle of having to do it through a cell phone)
  • No flash
  • Heavier than the A7R
  • Uncompressed files are huge (over 80mb per photo!)
  • HDR has never worked (I checked the manual and online forums in case I was doing something wrong, mine just doesn’t work, I get “HDR!” error every time)
  • Eye sensor too sensitive (I figured out how to fix this, set it to a custom button)
  • Focus point selection too tedious (I figured out how to fix this, set centre button to “standard”)
  • Battery life (charging batteries will become part of your life)
  • Three dials (I prefer two, so I can remember which controls aperture and which controls shutter speed)
  • Must pay for basic apps (in a $4000 camera? Ridiculous.)
  • Max shutter speed is 30 seconds (then you have to use a remote)

 

Aug12_2016_A7R2 (60)-edit-edit
A night shot taken with the Sony at 3200 ISO.

 

Aug12_2016_A7R2 (60)-edit
A close-up of the above shot (no editing done to the RAW photo) showing the low amount of noise present at ISO 3200.

 

Summary/Overall:

I really like this camera.

My main reason for buying this camera was that Canon was continually “dropping the ball” in terms of what I was looking for in a camera. I know every company has to do what it has to do to survive, but I often felt that they were putting their needs ahead of the customer’s. I think technology should be updated based on advancements in technology, not because you can add something that you left out on purpose from the older model and calculated what you could get away with from a marketing/sales perspective. Ok, I’m done my rant, for now. I had been wanting a high resolution body for years, but when the 50 megapixel Canon 5DSR came out it still had Canon’s old sensor technology that wouldn’t allow me to boost the shadows in my images without introducing significant noise. Not to mention that recent Canon bodies all seem to be overpriced compared to the competition (but when compared to Sony, factoring in the expensive Sony lenses makes it about the same system investment I think). Then the Sony was announced and it satisfied a lot of my issues; high resolution, relatively light, and it had a flip screen. Plus, I didn’t know what a benefit it would be to NOT have an AA filter. Now that I’ve had a camera with no AA filter over the sensor I don’t think I can ever go back. Anyway, I had the opportunity to get a great deal on one, even before it was available, so I paid for it and waited. Usually I don’t buy a camera body until it goes on sale to make way for the newer model, but in this case my opportunity was time sensitive.

I got the Fotodiox adapter for $100 and have been using my Canon lenses since. It gives me full performance, except on my older 70-300mm lens, which I have to manually focus. I’m still using my Canon lenses because they work fairly well (although dedicated Sony lenses would be a bit better) but mainly because of how expensive the Sony lenses are. I think their marketing strategy is to make great value bodies and then make back their profit on the lenses. For example, Canon’s 16-35mm f4 can regularly be found for around $1200 Canadian on sale; in comparison, the sale on the Sony 16-35mm f4 usually puts it around $1800 Canadian. This is what has kept me from fully committing to the Sony system. (I had a similar experience with an APS-C travel camera. I wanted an A6000 but the lens I wanted, the 16-70mm, was $1450 at the time. For the price of that lens alone I got a Canon M3, the 18-55mm, the 11-22mm, and the 55-200mm.) Plus, after reading a lot of lens reviews, the Sony lenses aren’t as good as Canon’s (although that 16-35mm f4 for the Sony gets universal praise, and it’s about 150g lighter than the Canon version). A few years ago a well known photographer told me that most modern camera bodies are good enough, but that I should get the best lenses that I can afford. So it’s tough because the Canon lenses are nice, but the Sony bodies are soooo much better. But, Canon is closing the gap on sensor quality with it’s new generation of sensors (5D4, 80D, M5). But, they still have AA filters.

One of my concerns lately has been weight, and I wasn’t too happy that they put stabilization in the body, adding almost 50% more weight than the original A7R. I’m shooting from a tripod most of the time; maybe my resale value will be higher one day, when I can say that the stabilizer has only been turned on a few times. I think they’re still putting stabilizers in their lenses too, which doesn’t make for lightweight shooting (but might be good for video, to double up on stabilization). If it weren’t for the shutter shock issue in the A7R I would have gotten that camera instead (only about 450 grams for a full frame 36 megapixel camera!). Also, I don’t like the fact that simple features have been left out, like time-lapse, and you have to pay for them at the app store; when paying this much for a body it shouldn’t leave things out.

At first I was annoyed with the eye sensor which would continually turn the back screen off whenever anything got close to it. I once saw it get triggered by a mosquito flying by! But to be fair, Manitoba mosquitoes are pretty big. I figured out how to set a custom button to control the screen and viewfinder. I was also annoyed by how tedious it was to change my focus point. Again, after some research I figured out how to fix it so that I just have to hit the central “ok” button to allow for focus point re-positioning. However, in my opinion, it should be moveable at any time without pushing a button first, such as on the Canons. The menus are a bit cluttered and confusing, but you can put a ton of functions in the function menu for quick access.

Anyway, like I said, I like this camera. The difference in sharpness and shadow recovery capability blows my old 6D out of the water. With 42 megapixels I can crop the shot in half to get a panorama, and I still have more pixels than I did with the 6D. I know megapixels aren’t everything, but I like having them as I sometimes make 40×60 inch prints for customers. I also don’t want to be looking back saying I wish I would have shot that certain shot (that will never happen again) with more pixels. The only thing stopping me from fully getting into the system is the expensive lenses, and third party lens companies don’t have many options for the types of lenses I need. Sigma? Where are you? Although Sigma’s new Art series lenses are way too heavy. I can’t seem to win. I’ll keep waiting to see what happens on the lens issue.

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