Sony a7SII Review - an Unpolished Masterpiece

The Sony A7sII definitely caught me by surprise. Only a few weeks after completing the review of the awesome Sony A7RII, Sony introduced another killer camera. So I’ve taken this camera through it’s paces shooting everything from weddings to landscapes to see if the A7sII is a worthy upgrade.

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Even the Original a7s still holds it’s own against any other sub $3000 and for good reason. The video quality is stunning, it’s so good in low light the moon is my new light source, and even though it doesn’t shoot 4k internally, it will via an external recorder which no other full frame camera even if you double the price. So let’s talk about what’s new for a minute. You now have 4k internal recording in XAVC at up to 100mbps. Sony has also brought the 5 axis in body stabilization system from the A7RII, increased the autofocus speed and points to 169, brought s-log3, and 120fps for amazing slow motion at 1080p. Not bad.

When it comes to ergonomics, things are just about the same so definitely check out my review of the original A7s but in general, we have tons of custom buttons, menus, and plenty of options for those who need a bit more control. In fact, just about every feature you need from a pro end video camera can be found inside of this menu. But, good luck finding it because the menu system continues to be one of the worst around. In fact, every single issue I had with the original A7s still exists in the a7s II! Along with the crappy menus, we still are missing a touch screen (and I REALLY want one, the ergonomics are ok at best, the video record button...a pretty important button still has the worst location I have ever seen with almost no tactile feel, the batteries still barely last an hour, you only have 1 SD card, and overall it’s just not a fun camera to use. In addition, we still have no f2.8 zoom lenses without adapters, and while the lens selection and quality of options have been massively improved, they will cost you quite a bit. While I was quick to excuse these downsides in the original a7s, since Sony appears serious in tailoring the A7s series to videographers with a 2nd generation, these issues hold a bit more weight.  

And just as I’m about to get mad at Sony for the poor ergonomics, I hit the play button and watch as this 4k full frame camera that fits in my palm takes video on par with cameras costing 3 times as much. With the same 12MP sensor, the quality hasn’t changed much, but now we have full 4k recording in camera with a full sensor readout and things look amazing.

While autofocus has technically been improved from the original A7s with more points, it still lacks compared to the A7RII and even other competitors like the Canon dual pixel system and the Samsung NX1. For single point photographs, I had no issues whatsoever, but tracking was too slow and unpredictable to use reliably. Also, without a touch screen, changing focus points while shooting is a challenge and usually shakes the camera enough to make it not worth my while. With my Samsung NX1, I could actually pull off clean focus pulls using the autofocus system and the speed set to slow. We also lose the ability to focus with 3rd party lenses from the A7RII which is unfortunate. Again, things are better than the original a7s but after coming from an A7RII which performed quite well, I can’t help but feel that the autofocus performance is a significant downgrade.

The 5 axis stabilization on the A7sII surprisingly works extremely well! I was able to hand hold 50mm shots without any support systems and have a great look. Photographers would also appreciate this ability but with the A7RII out, I don’t see any reason for photographers to purchase the A7SII as the A7RII is one of the greatest photo cameras around. That said, the IBIS system in the A7SII is a significant feature for videographers making it exceptionally easy to travel light with an awesome video camera, no external monitors or recorders, and no support systems.

The arrival of Slog3 also makes grading a bit easier and with a minimum ISO of 1600ISO instead of 3200 ISO, it’s easier (though still difficult) to pull off in daylight without stacking too many ND filters. There are some additional improvements like uncompressed 14bit RAW files and a better shutter mechanism that photographers will appreciate to a certain degree.

Overall, the arrival of the A7SII further proved that Sony is ready to lead in this category of camera. Sony also made it ridiculously easy to travel light with the stabilization and in camera 4k that previously required additional accessories on the other cameras. With the A7RII offering many all of the same features and more, I see the A7SII gaining traction with full time videographers looking for professional quality and features in a smaller and less expensive package than the C500 or FS5. That said, Sony has done nothing to fix the major weak points of the A7 series platform with this new camera and they could learn quite a bit from cameras like the GH4 and NX1 to aid in ergonomics and usability. And with Sony defining a clearer direction for the A7s as a video centric camera, I’m done making excuses for this. I still think for many, the A7RII would be a better choice with better autofocus and the ability to take some amazing stills with the 42mp sensor, but for those clearly focused on video, it’s hard to argue with the quality and features of the A7SII. This future proof camera blows the competition out of the water in so many ways and if you are looking for the best quality around, the A7sII is likely the camera for you.


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