Sony Alpha 7 II Camera Review

Unless you’re living under a rock, you’ve heard all kinds of hubbub about the new smaller Sony mirrorless full frame cameras.   There have been stories about longtime professionals that have used Canon or Nikon cameras, changing to Sony (Stuck In Customs Trey Ratcliff says goodbye to Nikon and Hello to Sony).   Well, it was time for me to get my hands on a Sony, use it for a while and then write a review. So I give you this Sony Alpha 7 II Camera Review.

The great people at Hunt’s Photo and Video made this Sony Alpha 7 II Camera Review possible by making it easy to get my hands on a camera for my Yosemite National Park trip.

Sony Alpha 7 II camera Review
Sony Alpha 7 II camera Review

 

Which Sony Camera to Select?

In my initial analysis of these Sony mirrorless full frame camera, I quickly found 2 possibilities at a very different price range.

Sony a7 II body only

Srp $1799.99

Actual $1298

Used $899.90

Sony a7 III body only – The newly announced

Srp $1999.99

Actual

Used na

Sony a7R III body only

Srp $3200.00

Actual

Used na

Check out this comparison article and video: https://petapixel.com/2018/03/12/2000-sony-a7-iii-vs-3200-sony-a7r-iii-first-look/

Why Choose Sony a7 II

I am the type of photographer that tries to get the absolute most out of the absolute least. I want to get the best bang for my buck.  Therefore, my mind quickly focused on the Sony a7 II.  It is by far the best value for great quality.

Sony Alpha 7 II camera Review From Yosemite National Park
Sony a 7 II Camera Review From Yosemite National Park ~ Valley View

If you look around on the internet, will see the biggest knock on this camera is it’s relatively bad battery performance.  Keep in mind everything on this camera now is run through the video monitor and that takes a lot more power than an SLR camera.   Also being it is such a small camera they tried to save space by putting a battery that took up less space so the batteries have less capacity.

Much of the image processing and the low light functionality of the a7 II and the a7 III are basically identical, So battery performance seems to be a big differentiator here.

But it appears the a7 iii and the a7R iii perform about the same.   So what makes up the huge price difference?

If the difference is basically only battery performance, I can easily buy 4 or 5 batteries for the a7 II.

At the time of this writing, the a7 ii was being discontinued and basically closed out at a great price.  I will end up buying this camera for myself and then I will sell my Canon 5D Mark II.

Using the a7 II

Well, let’s start to take a look at the camera itself.  I have been a Canon user for quite a few years so I’m very familiar with its menu functionality and configuration.   I found the Sony to be relatively easy to figure out and within a 1/2 hour I was using it like I’ve been using it for a long time.

Sony a7 II Custom Buttons

It has 4 pre-configured custom buttons that navigate you to commonly used settings very quickly.  The really great thing about these buttons is that you can change what those buttons do.   So now you have 4 quick access buttons to just about any set of functionality on the entire camera. That is a very cool feature.

Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB)

I am a landscape photographer who frequently takes bracketed images.  This means I take multiple exposures of the same image and I used those as I merge the images into my final product.   I was very happy to find that the a7 ii did indeed have multiple different configurations for AEB.

Sony Alpha 7 II camera Review From Yosemite National Park
Sony a 7 II Camera Review From Yosemite National Park ~ Tunnel View

I could use my normal configuration and take 3 images that are each two full stops apart.   That would be the middle “normal” exposure, then two stops darker and also two stops lighter.  I could also decide to use five images AEB that are each one stop different.

The odd thing that I discovered here, was that you could not use AEB and use the camera’s timer function at the same time to kick off those shots.   So I quickly purchased a manual firing mechanism.  That way,  I could kick off the process by hitting this little button and it would fire all 5 shots.   You don’t have to touch the camera to manually press the camera trigger button, thereby risking causing vibration in the camera and therefore getting blurry images.

I love both the three image AEB setting and the five image AEB setting.  If the memory on your card is not a limiting factor use the 5 image AEB each with 1 exposure differential for best results.

Lenses for the Sony a7 II

Remember I told you I was a Canon user. With this camera, I was able to get an adapter to allow the camera to use all of my Canon lenses.   That alone is a huge reason for me to consider the Sony.

Image Quality

I was blown away by the image quality.

With the same 24.3MP full-frame sensor and BIONZ X image processor as the original A7, it’s no surprise that print quality results are the same. The A7 II delivers excellent results in the print quality department, as expected. At base sensitivity and up to ISO 400, 30 x 40-inch prints look outstanding indeed (with larger prints certainly capable until you run out of resolution). And while not of the super-crisp caliber of the 36MP big brother A7R, they’re still world class and among the best for the 24-megapixel resolution.

Check this full review of the Sony a& ii Image Quality 

 

Very Low ISO Settings

Love the ISO down to 50.  That low ISO setting allows you to have some very long exposures without ND filters in relatively bright conditions.

Battery Life

I had 3 batteries for this trip. It seemed a bit odd, but one of them got used up pretty quickly.  I knew this camera uses up batteries pretty quickly so I made sure the two place battery charger could be used in my vehicle.  That way I always had fresh batteries. I also have a ROOP 20000 mAh battery bar that I constantly carry with me for that emergency charging situation!

Dirt Spots on the Images

One thing I noticed on this camera was a serious problem with dirt spot on the images.   This is a condition where you see all kinds of small circles on your images that are taken at high f-stop settings. At Yosemite, I was shooting most scenes at F22 to attempt to get everything in focus. When I was editing the images I found many examples of dirt spots like this.

Example of Dirt On Sensor
Example of Dirt On Sensor

I had never seen this much dirt on a sensor before.   Keep in mind, this is a used camera so it is possible that the previous owner was not very neat and tidy.  It is possible that the owner did not keep a lens on the body and did not keep it well sealed.  It is also possible that being this camera produces such large files that there is just some much more detail so very small dirt spots create a pretty large effect on the image.  These dirt spots are easy enough to remove in post processing but I would rather not have to deal with that.

If I was going to keep this particular camera I would get the sensor professionally cleaned.  I do have a blower for cleaning sensors and I also have a solution for cleaning sensors but for some reason it just makes me a bit nervous.  I let professionals do what they do.

Weather Sealing

While out at Yosemite, some of the days in the park were frankly miserable.  Perfect for photography right?  It was raining pretty hard at first and then that changed over to snow. These conditions were off and on for much of the week that I was there.   So basically it was a huge challenge to keep the camera dry.

One particularly wet day, I started having intermittent failures while I was attempting to capture a shot. What that means is, I would get an error message on the camera monitor stating something like “that function is not supported at this time”.   Generally, all I had to do was refocus and shoot again, so it was not a catastrophic failure or anything.  But it did become a bit annoying.  That evening I made sure the camera was thoroughly dried out. and the next day was a dry day and I had not intermittent failures while shooting. I figured it was the moisture.

While on the trail that day I ran into a fulltime professional photographer Brian Hawkins who had prevsioulsy used Canon gear but he had also made the switch to Sony. He shoots both the A7S and the A7R.  He commented that the cheaper Lens adapters seem to have all kinds of issues in the weather and he recommended using the Metabones Canon to Sony Lens Adapter

The takeaway here is, The a7 II is not great with weather sealing so do your best to keep your camera dry.

Conclusion

Well, I have decided to buy a new version of this camera if that is any indication of what I think.  It is a great bang for your buck.  If this particular camera is completely discontinued by the time you read this review, I strongly encourage you to check out the replacement Sony A7 III.

I want to thank the good people at Hunt’s Photo and Video who helped make this trip possible by making it easy to get my hands on this camera for my Yosemite National Park trip.

Until next time, get out and capture the adventure! ~ Sony Alpha 7 II camera Review

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Sony Alpha 7 II camera Review

Written by Wayne Moran - Visit Website
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