In the past, I briefly owned a Sony A7. I wasn’t blown away by it. I thought Sony was (is) definitely on to something for sure…a full frame sensor in a small, mirrorless camera body…but at the price, I felt it wasn’t worth it.
I really didn’t like the AF performance at all, I didn’t like the high ISO performance (as far as a FF camera is concerned), I didn’t like the build quality very much, and I didn’t like the handling very much. Those are all pretty big marks against a camera IMO. But, the A7 was Sony’s first entry into this “new” type of camera, and I definitely thought at the time that they were really headed in the right direction. These issues I had were shared by others.
Since I got rid of my A7, I have had two Sony A6000’s. The first one was right around the same time I had the A7, and I ended up ditching it as well…at that time, I didn’t see a need to have it honestly. During the instant savings offer the A6000 had a couple of months ago, I ended up getting a second one that I pretty much use exclusively with legacy lenses which I have written about already. Rumors started floating around that the newer Sony’s would have in-body image stabilization and that sounded great to me – my legacy lenses would be stabilized!
The A7II was then announced and it had some serious improvements over the original A7 (as well as the A7r and A7s to a degree). The full frame, image stabilized sensor excited me and I ended up getting an A7II body with full intentions of falling in love with it for use with my legacy lens collection. I brought it home, went through the menus and setting the camera up for my preferences. The extra customizable buttons are great! There are C1 and C2 buttons right on the top plate near the shutter release…and a much improved shutter release it is. It is finally where it should be – where your finger wants to naturally find the shutter, not in the awkward placement on the original A7, A7r, and A7s. I programmed the C1 button to bring up Steady Shot On/Off…a necessity because leaving it on all the time hurts battery performance that is already fairly dismal, and I set the C4 button on the back for easily setting the lens focal length for Steady Shot. I set the C2 button for Focus Magnification. I also set it up to record RAW/jpeg Fine. I really liked the changes they made to the ergonomics, and also the beefier lens mount and beefier bottom plate. The camera on whole just feels solid and pro-level, though for me it would feel better with the optional battery grip…my pinky doesn’t have anywhere to go – and the extra battery power would also be welcome!
Next, I grabbed one of my Tamron 80-210mm f/3.8-4 zooms and proceeded to start testing out the Steady Shot. I purposely started out in my house, shooting random things because I knew the dim light would give slower shutter speeds. I’d shoot a few images and then run to the computer to look at them. I did this for about a half hour. I was really pleased to see the results…I was getting nice, sharp images with the Tamron zoomed out to 210mm at handheld shutter speeds as low as 1/15 of a second. That’s way better than I can get with the non-stabilized A6000.
I really studied the image quality of the images I shot…definitely good, but no better than the original A7, which makes sense…it’s the same sensor and Bionz processor in the A7II that is in the A7. Long story short, I personally felt that for my money, I wanted better performance in IQ as well as high ISO performance, so I returned the A7II.
There are LOTS of things to love about the A7II…the Steady Shot is fantastic, the new grip and ergonomics are great, the customizability of the camera is wonderful. Unfortunately, I personally need better IQ to justify investing my money into it and also the battery life is really bad…worse than the already bad battery performance of the other Sony’s I have had.
I am excited though…for the A6000 replacement which should be announced soon. I’m sure it will have Steady Shot and that will be reason enough for me to get one. I’m already planning on it. Of course it’s going to cost considerably less than the A7II and that makes it a much easier decision. As I am writing this, the Sony A7rII has just been announced and it looks like it could be a game changer. It has a much higher resolution sensor, early reports are saying the IQ is great, and it also has reportedly great high ISO performance…not quite as good as the A7s, but supposedly wicked better performance than the A7/A7r/A7II. It also comes at a pretty hefty price though. Like I said, I’m pretty much planning on getting the A6000 replacement and selling off my current A6000, but who knows…if the A7rII is as good in reality as it appears to be on paper…a lot of photographers, myself included, are going to be taking a strong look at it.
If you are more than happy with the A7 image quality as is, and could benefit from Steady Shot…by all means check out the A7II…it could very well be your dream camera!
Long story short – if the A7II was priced at $800 or I didn’t already own cameras and was buying my first, I’d be over the moon with it…but since neither of those scenarios are true, I chose to return it and wait and see what happens with the A6000 replacement. I still may end up with an A7II body though – depending on the price coming down some via an instant rebate or something, or if I happen to find a good deal on an open-box somewhere or a used one.
Image stabilization in a full frame body; much better ergonomics; customizable buttons; low ISO performance.
Same sensor as the original A7; still no external battery charger included (c’mon Sony – just put one in the box!); high ISO performance; battery performance is dismal.