Sony Alpha A7 II Digital Camera Review
Another small step for full-frame mirrorless.
By the Numbers
Given its pedigree, the A7 II brings a lot to the table. We ran this new iteration of Sony's full-frame mirrorless recipe through our labs, and the science bore out initial suspicions. The A7 II easily acquits its price nicely, except for a couple of missing features in the video category. And, moreover, the Sony software continues to aggressively crush detail with its high ISO noise reduction.
Color & White Balance
In our color tests, the A7 II did about as well as its FE-mount siblings. With its built-in JPEG engine tuned to please a bunch of different users, we found that the most accurate mode is its Standard mode. Of course, these modes don't apply to the camera's RAW shooting modes, but, since it has WiFi, we found the color modes to be a great way of doing in-camera edits for sharing over social media. The most accurate color mode we tested is the camera's standard mode, with a ∆C 00 Corrected of 2.33 and a saturation of just underneath our ideal, at 99.5%. We've also found that Sony's Deep color mode is very accurate, at least in past Alpha offerings.
When we tested it for white balance, we found that the A7 II did a decent enough job at recognizing the three main scenes we use in our test. Like many of its competitors, the A7 II found the tungsten/incandescent lighting scenario the most challenging, showing a noticeable cast on our sample photos. For the best results, set you own custom white balance when you're shooting under incandescent lights.
Sony's advanced mirrorless options are some of the best out there, but we generally find the noise reduction algorithm that Sony utilizes to be a little over the top. With this 24-megapixel sensor, you get very decent latitude up until high ISOs. That's when we found that Sony's default noise settings aggressively destroys chroma noise, crushing fine detail right along with it.
With the standard high ISO noise reduction settings turned on, we saw that images cross the 2% noise threshold at ISO 6400, whereas with no noise reduction applied, images will get past 2% between 1600 and 3200. In regular shooting, we preferred to keep the A7 II's auto ISO range limited to top out around ISO 800, bumping it up to 1600 when needed. Thankfully, the camera's new image stabilization system really picks up the slack here, meaning you can shoot at a lower ISO than you could without IBIS.
In our standard resolution test, the Sony A7 II passed with flying colors. Sony's on the top of its sensor game, and the 24-megapixel full-frame chip inside the A7 II is just as good as the one we saw in the original A7.
We tested the A7 II with its kit lens, the FE 24-70mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS. While it isn't the greatest kit lens we've ever used, it's a very decent option for the beginner, with quick autofocus. We saw very little in the way of chromatic aberration from this kit lens. Granted, it's a bit soft at full wide and at f/3.5, but stop it down a bit and the results should improve.
We've been spoiled by so many great modern still cameras that are also great at video. With the A7 II, Sony's put some pretty great video features in an already capable cameras, but it's missing a couple that we'd like to see in the future.
Using this camera's new XAVC S codec, we eked plenty of HD video content out of the A7 II. In our bright light scenario, we saw numbers of 700 LP/PH horizontal and 725 LP/PH vertical. Thanks to its full-frame sensor, the A7 II held it together in low light, resolving 550 LP/PH horizontal and 600 LP/PH vertical. In our low light sensitivity test, we only needed 5 lux to get a picture at 50 IRE, which is about as good as the other Sony A7 cameras we've seen, save for the über-sensitive A7S.
Perhaps the biggest shortcoming of the A7 II is its lack of 4K recording, either to a card or even via clean HDMI out. Sony has reserved that feature for the A7S, but since last year's Panasonic Lumix GH4 hit the scene, we've been waiting for another camera manufacturer to truly rival. As it stands, you'll be able to use an external recorder to nab uncompressed 1080/60p at 4:2:2 with 8-bit color, but that's as good as it gets for this little camera.
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