#387. Sony A7rII review. First Impressions

By pascaljappy | Review

Aug 03

This Sony A7rII review guest post by Bob Hamilton is summary of recent email exchanges between Bob and myself. For those who do not know him, Bob is a very talented Scottish photographer with a passion for Saga Islands (see his website here). 2 things you need to know about Bob to put the following comments into perspective:

  1. He is a Leica S owner and expert. The photographs he has sent me made using that camera are mind-bogglingly good.
  2. He owns a Sony A7r and, like me, has experienced the exhilaration of total camera failure (and abysmal Sony after-sales service) at the very worst moment (in a once in a lifetime remote location)

So be assured that Bob definitely isn’t a Sony fanboy and that his comments are 110% objective !

With that said, let me stress the first impressions aspect of this review. No need to start a flame war is something in the following lines doesn’t please your expectations or match someone else’s findings!

First impressions are that it is a grade better made and much more robust than its predecessor – especially the lens mount which shows no real movement now.

From having one of the worst shutters I have heard, Sony have transformed the camera into having one of the best – a marvellous little “snick” and no more.

It now feels almost like a professional tool.
It’s early days yet but this has a different feel to it than the “old” model – a much more solid and capable camera and one more like the RX1r which is why I was lured into buying the A7r in the first place. If, as I suspect, its performance with legacy rangefinder lenses (especially the wides) is significantly improved, it will be a complete game-changer and signal the end of the Leica M for all but the rangefinder diehards.

The camera is extremely responsive now and there is no longer the really worrying clunking noise on turning it off or on. They really do seem to have sorted the shutter.

659DSC0362 Kirkton Glen

Kirkton Glen – Sony A7rII and Leica Tri-Elmar-M at 21mm (c) Bob Hamilton

A minor miracle appears to have occurred in that two of my favourite M lenses – the 18mm Super Elmar and 24mm Elmar – appear to show no colour fringing, whereas they were simply awful on the original A7. The 18mm Super Elmar and 24mm Elmar still have some problems (vignetting and softness at the edges) but are much, much better than they were on the A7r1. I would think anything from 35mm on will perform well.

The performance of the 28-90 Leica R lens is maybe not the best on the camera, especially at the wider focal lengths. The Tri Elmar seems to behave well as it did on the previous model.

Jury still out on non native lenses but the general impression is one of impressive general improvement.

659DSC0318 Balquhidder and Loch Voil from Creag an Tuirc

Balquhidder and Loch Voil from Creag an Tuirc – Sony A7rII and Sony Zeiss FE 55/1.8 (c) Bob Hamilton

I have to say that I find focusing manually quite difficult (the EVF is nowhere near as good as the Olympus one in this respect) . It’s strange, but I find it quite easy to manually focus native or A mount lenses on the A7r2 but not so easy, in fact downright difficult, to focus legacy lenses, even when the lens is opened right up to the widest aperture. The subject matter makes quite a difference – buildings are easier than landscapes – but the native lenses are easier regardless of subject.

I do use focus peaking, but don’t totally trust it and I find the 5x magnified view of the EVF not to have sufficient detail to focus accurately, especially as the line between being in and out of focus is so fine. I must learn to trust the peaking facility but, like you, dislike the distortion it brings to the viewed image – a bit like the blinking zebras which must be capable of bringing on epilepsy in a susceptible person…!!!

659DSC0238 Loch Voil from Creag an Tuirc

Loch Voil from Creag an Tuirc – Sony A7rII and Leica Vario-Elmarit-R ASPH 28-90/2.8 at 90mm (c) Bob Hamilton

I tried the A mount Sony Zeiss Distagon 24mm (used via the latest A to E adaptor) both in auto and manual focus modes and the auto focus was way off with the manual focus being spot on which was the same experience as I had with the A7r1 – infinity focus was almost impossible with the lens continually focusing on about 5 metres instead.
The sensor stabilisation is good, if not as good as the Olympus offering and is probably round about 3 stops as opposed to 5 which not surprising given the difference in sensor size.

659DSC0166 Red Squirrel, Kirkton Glen

Red Squirrel, Kirkton Glen – Sony A7rII and Sony 70-200 FE (c) Bob Hamilton

The resolution is greater than the Leica S type 006 but the image quality, although excellent, is not quite on a par – I don’t know whether it’s the CCD sensor (16 bit colour as opposed to ?) or what must be among the finest lenses ever made but the S still holds the crown for me. As I said, though, early days yet and I need to print something decent to get a real flavour of the camera’s capability. What I do know is that yesterday’s walk was a lightweight pleasure with camera, Tri-Elmar, 35mm, 55mm and 70-200mm lenses…!!!

I’ve ordered the Batis 25mm lens and look forward to its arrival.

Image of red squirrel attached taken with the 70-200mm FE lens – couldn’t have taken it with the Leica S – enough said.…!!!

I printed one of the waterfall images, taken with the Tri Elmar at the 21mm setting, at the largest my printer is able to do – 620mm by 430mm (328dpi) – and I have to say that the resulting print is quite impressive with pretty good tonality and plenty of detail across most of the frame with only the very (and I mean very) extreme corners being slightly less sharp. That bodes well for future Batis lenses.

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  • peterv says:

    Thanks for the interesting review. As a Leica S owner, this was an interesting perspective for me. I hope someday someone will make a Leica S – Sony EF adapter so we can use our S lenses on the Sony’s if needed.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Oh wow, that would be an amazing idea!

      That said, I do expect colours on the A7rII to be slightly inferior to those of the S, irrespective of lenses. 9/10 compared to the Leica’s 11/10 😉

  • Matti Meikalainen says:

    How about field curvature with the wide angle rangefinder lenses? With A7 and it’s thick optical stack field curvature is simply massive – the corners and center focus at wildly different places.

    This problem is most clear at infinity and least at minimum focus (with unit focusing lenses). It would be nice if you could and would do some relevant measurements.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Hi Matti. Sony lenses are designed based on a thick optical stack so it’s very unlikely Sony would change this and risk making their lenses perform less efficiently, particularly to help third-party lenses perform better. However, based on Bob’s finings with the 18mm Super-Elmar and 24 Elmar which, although still not perfect, are significantly better, it appears something is indeed happening either in in-camera post-processing or before the sensor.

      When my camera arrives early next week, we’ll be posting tests with multiple difficult wide angles that didn’t work well on the A7r (Zeiss Biogon 25, Leica Summicron-M 28 and more) as well as reports using easier lenses such as the Zeiss Distagon 35/1.4 ZM. Not much longer to wait 🙂

  • Mark Muse says:

    Thank you for the informed comments.

    I would add that the 28-90 Elmarit R is pretty weak at 28mm on any camera, though it gets better above 35mm, and positively shines above 50mm.

    Regarding field curvature, I made an interesting observation using the Zeiss 21 ZF.2: On the Nikon 800e the lens is extremely sharp in the center, but suffers significantly towards the edges of the frame regardless of the aperture. I was so disappointed that I had several conversations with Zeiss about my “bad” copy. Enter the A7r1 and A7II: The extreme field curvature I experienced on the 800e vanished! It must have had to do with the Nikon approach to undoing the antialiasing on that camera. I have since been revisiting and acquiring more film era lenses (Contax CY, Contax G, Pentax, etc.) and having quite a good time with them on these bodies.

  • Vincent says:

    Hello, continues to cite the test with 18 mm and 24 Super-Elmar Elmar and sony A7RII. But where are the photos?

  • Amado Keesey says:

    Yes, there are limitations with the LAEA4 adapter, including the SLT mirror which causes a little bit of light loss, and most AF points clustered in the middle. I don’t have that adapter personally, but my husband just got the A7RII tonight and will be testing out the LAEA3 adapter.

  • Vincent TARROUX says:

    Hi Pascal,

    Since I read your review I have seen some pictures of A7RII where I can find some electronic first curtain shutter artefact in the bokeh.
    I’m not sure because I have only the A7… But with this one, when your shutter speed is above 1/1000s there is a half moon effect with bokeh balls (horizontal “cut” with a darker low part). The faster the shutter, the more obvious the problem is.
    So it seems that Sony didn’t work on this one, could you confirm my impression?
    To avoid it I don’t use electonic shutter when I use fast aperture lenses but it’s kind of annoying.
    Also, I never could have a look on silent mode combined to fast shutter speed (1/1000 to 1/8000), I guess there is no problems like that one on this setting .

    thx for reviews,


    • pascaljappy says:

      Hi Vincent, I haven’t tried that. Good idea though. I’ll see if I can reproduce your findings later this week and will update this thread accordingly. Thanks!

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