Sony Alpha A7R II Digital Camera Review
Sony's resolution monster puts the rest of the mirrorless pack to shame.
By the Numbers
It's tough not to whistle at this camera—it's an absolute knockout. Topping the charts in dynamic range, noise, and sharpness, this is the camera you get when you absolutely need to out-muscle every other camera body out there. Even its worst results are merely "good," which says a lot.
There are some notable issues—battery life chief among them—but in our lab tests we found the A7R II's resume to be almost unassailable. There's room for improvement, but that'll probably have to wait for version III.
Color and White Balance
Color performance is close to functionally perfect, given that the A7R II posts a ∆C 00 (saturation-corrected) error of merely 2.36, and an overall saturation of 107.7%. You can change this with advanced controls, and bump the color error down even further by sacrificing some saturation.
White balance is decent in auto mode, with the predictable shortcomings in tungsten (incandescent) light, and excellent performance in daylight. If you carry around a grey card, you'll nail white balance every time: the Sony A7R II has outstanding manual white balance performance.
Obviously, this applies to JPEG shots only, as shooting in RAW means you can nudge things one way or another without too much fuss.
As this camera sensor is ten kinds of crazy, it stands to reason that it's also great at dynamic range as well. With 8.63 stops of high-quality (SNR 10:1) dynamic range, this camera is a force to be reckoned with.
But the good news doesn't stop there: high-quality dynamic range doesn't hit 0 stops until ISO 25,600. That's insane. Even at ISO 400 (6.95 stops), the A7R II handily beats many cameras of the last two years at their base ISO settings.
The ability to deliver pro-quality images even at bumped-up ISO settings is a very useful tool to have, and yet another reason why photographers should consider mirrorless for professional work. While this doesn't have the best gross DR we've seen, it's among the best when it comes to using higher ISO settings.
When shooting in 4K, video is smooth and sharp when shot in Sony's XAVC-S codec. You're left with just 30fps capture so high-speed motion can look a little choppy, but it's razor-sharp.
In bright light, the A7R II is able to maintain between 1350 and 1400 line pairs per picture height, while that number drops to about 1200 in low light (60 lux). That's incredible, and among the best video sharpness results we've seen.
The real draw to shooting video with the A7R II is how well it does in low light. It's times like these where I'm glad the audio is stripped out of video tests if and when we release them. Because the performance here is expletive crazy.
When you toggle Auto ISO, you may notice some dropped frames here or there, but even at 1 lux you can record a scene that reaches over 90 IRE. In fact we weren't able to reach our fail condition (<50 IRE) in our labs without some extreme measures. That's not just impressive, that's almost unprecedented. Only the Nikon D4S and Sony A7S have been able to top that.
With a super-high resolution sensor with teeny tiny pixels, you'd expect noise to be a problem on the A7R II. However, that's simply not the case with this camera.
Though by default the A7R II applies its most aggressive noise reduction algorithm for JPEGs, even turning the feature off will allow you to shoot up to ISO 1600 without hitting the 2% noise threshold we typically look for to knock a camera. Obviously that's not all that great, but keep this in mind too: Because there are so many pixels to work with, Sony's noise reduction is much better equipped to deal with noise while maintaining fine detail.
I should also point out that having such an enormous image also lets you downsample to reduce the bad effects of noise as well. If you were to being the size of an image shot by the A7R II down to the same 12 megapixels of those shot by the A7s, you'd see about the same—or slightly better—performance. That's nuts.
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