Mirror Less Finally Goes Full Frame Professional. Sony Might Have Just Trotted Out the First Real DSLR Killer. The A7r.2

They fixed the one thing I hated about the previous model, the howitzer style, ultra-loud, shutter. And then they started adding the good stuff.

I know, I know, I just got settled in with my Nikon cameras and now look what Sony trots onto the market. Why --- it's the camera they should have released back in October 2013 when they brought out the A7 line. A high resolution, full frame camera that's also fun to use and won't scare children and small pets with its cacophonous shutter banging and rattling. And bonus: Professional quality 4K video. In camera!

The new product (yet another "point" two) is, on paper, a remarkable machine for universal image making. It features a brand new sensor which is the world's large (and first full frame) BSI technology sensor. The advantages of the sensor, coupled with faster processors, gives the camera about a stop and a half to two stops of noise advantage over its previous model. The faster processing chain also makes possible the first full frame camera on the market to deliver 4K video that is written directly to the card in the camera!!! No need to buy an Atomos Shogun digital recorder to suck out the 4K as you
had to do with the A7s. This means that you can get into full frame 4K for about $1500 less than you would  have to pay to do so with the A7s + recorder.

The camera is loaded up with features for filmmakers and video producers and that's the thing that should scare the crap out of the product managers at Canon and Nikon. The video features are the differentiators for the most part. All three camera makers will have high resolution products out this Summer but only one will have great still photography performance and the ability to hit a button and record much better video. Future proof video. And as photographers struggle to find new markets who can blame them for considering the upgraded video performance as a "must have" in the competitively priced product range?

According to Sony the A7r2 has ben ruggedized and features things like a more robust lens mount and a 500,000 cycle shutter mechanism. But the wonderful thing for discerning photographers will be the new, much quieter and 40% less vibratory shutter mechanism which now comes complete with an electronic first shutter curtain for even quieter performance.

What Sony has done is to take the best of everything they know how to do and shove it into one nice body and then topped it off with a feature that I miss every time I pull out one of my Nikons, the high resolution EVF that shows me what I'll be getting while I have the camera to my eye, not later while chimping. To me the EVF is the break point between the past, and the present and future.

But I am being careful with this one. Sony has beguiled me with specs before. I remember how crestfallen I was at the 2013 Photo Expo when I finally got my hands on the A7r at the trade show. I'd read about the camera and at the time I was also shooting with their flagship digital camera, the a99. I was ready to buy the camera unseen but it was fortuitous that I was able to handle one first. The shutter noise was so awful I thought the demo model had been broken. In dismay I looked through the menu to find the electronic first curtain setting only to find it not available on that product. I could imagine shooting with it in social situations. Actually my ears couldn't imagine shooting with it anywhere outside of a loud nightclub or while doing documentaries on jack hammers....  I nearly ran from the exhibit and haven't looked at the A7 line since.

Instead of my usual breathless anticipation I'll wait until I have opportunity to use one of the A7R2s in person and see if they got two things right. The focusing speed and the shutter noise. If they've been able to do those things right I'll happily overlook the short battery life and think about getting one along with a Nikon lens adapter. Not a complete system overhaul but a new tool for monster shallow, full frame, 4K video production. Could be really nice. Plus it would look cute next to my new RX10.2 (which I will buy sight unseen).

It's strange times for Nikon and Canon in consumer camera land.  The very feature that old duffers cling to and demand is the same feature that seems to be dooming the progress of these established brands in the new space where good video and good photography are expected to go hand in hand. Canon knows better, that's why they are making hay in the pro-video sector. All of their pro video cameras are EVF enabled and do away with the mirrors that make shooting DSLR video much more complex and less fun. For them to compete they will have to give up the duffer market and embrace the new markets that will open up with new professionals who must shoot in both video and stills.

Holding on to a dying market might be a good short term marketing strategy but it may ultimately cost Canon and Nikon the market share they so desperately need. Brand names are powerful but that didn't save Kodak.

Sony seems to have designed and brought to market a camera for professionals based  on the day to day needs of working professionals rather than one based on nostalgia for the recent past of digital cameras. It will change that end of the market (pros)  for everyone----for better or worse.

And before you write and tell me all about how you can only use EVF cameras because of their clear view of reality please take a day to use a new, state of the art, EVF endowed camera and not just for five minutes at the counter of Best Buy. You'll quickly change your mind. I almost guarantee it.

Here's the best video review of the new Sony cameras I've found: http://www.eoshd.com/2015/06/finally-something-worth-talking-about-sony-a7r-ii-with-internal-4k-rx10-ii-with-980fps-slow-mo-watch-the-sample-footage/


dasar photography said...

one more breakthrough is the fast AF performance with A-mount and third party lenses ...

Dalibor Mrkic said...

Kirk, don't forget completely silent, fully electronic shutter.

Dr. Nick said...

This is looking a like a killer body. If it really functions so well with my SLR lenses, why not keep the Nikon lenses I like and combine with native lenses that Sony will hopefully build out soon.

The writing may be on the wall, for Nikon, at least. Canon has their competitive video stuff to fall back on....

JereK said...

This seems to be like a real DSLR killer, that is a fact. Hopefully Nikon and Canon will now really have to start innovating, which is a good thing for us consumers/photogs. And also maybe a nice thing for the used camera buyer if the bail-out starts :D

I hope Sony has really really fixed the shutter-sound. . Two things I think they should have still done, a) two memory card slots. Most pros I know would love that safety net if /when the sd card fails. b) Bigger battery. Although of course there is the grip which adds a second battery but still, would be nice if the battery really lasts a bit longer. Of course the A7R.2 can be much more efficient than its predecessors, but IBIS+EVF +huge files.. Makes me wonder. We shall see.

Anonymous said...

I, like you, am wary of Sony. Too many new products, too many changes, investments that later peter out. I think at some point that Nikon and Canon will go the route of mirrorless full frame. And I have a lot of Nikon lenses that you cannot get anymore. So, I will wait . . . but hopefully not too long!

James Weekes said...

I believe that you mean OVF in your closing paragraph, referring to CaNikon.

Graham Smith said...

This post might interest you? http://blog.planet5d.com/2015/06/atomos-shogun-fully-supports-new-sony-a7rii/

William Beebe said...

I agree about the sound of the shutter. Too loud for me (an Olympus OM-D user here). I also agree with JereK on one point: a bigger battery in the body. The grip could be made even larger, giving a more comfortable hold. And that larger size would allow for a bigger battery. I'm assuming the a7RII will use the NPFW50 (same as the a7R), 1020mAh battery. By comparison the Nikon EN-EL15 is 1900mAH. Even the Olympus BLM-1/5 (E-3/5) was 1800mAH. If I'm going to spend pro-level cash on a new camera aspiring to pro levels, then I want a pro-level power source bigger than what was introduced in the original E-Mount NEX-3 and NEX-5 over five years ago.

Michael Reed said...

some observations

Sony has put a huge amount of money into the A7 series FF cameras and lenses more so than their smaller sensor E mount cameras

and FF IBIS. IBIS in camera results in reducing lens complexity and cost.

Sony sells sensors it seems to everyone except Canon

The A7 series mount: I thought the mount diameter too small and depth was too shallow and Sony made a mistake. Maybe not. The advantage is it does allow for smaller and lighter FF lenses than the larger mounts in Nikon/Canon FF cameras

In film days, a typical person used something like a Kodak instamatic. Today its a cell phone. In film days some people upgraded to an SLR. Today, maybe Sony is positioning themselves so when the selfie generation grows up some of them will upgrade to Sony FF

Sony has a financial stake in Olympus

Sony concentrates on FF. Olympus on m43. Both have 5 axis IBIS. The two types of sensor sizes have pros/cons, which I think complement each other.

Dave Green said...

I want this camera! I thought the Leica M would be my 'ideal' full-frame camera but this looks totally awesome ;-)

Anonymous said...

If I was trying to make a living with my cameras I know I would want this camera. However, I am retired and it would take a lottery win to assemble a new kit. No problem, though, as I have both Fuji and Olympus cameras with some nice lenses. That said, I will look forward to hearing all about it if you wind up with one.

Anonymous said...

Lets all wait till a production camera is in the hands of an unbiased tester (if such a thing exists). At this point its just Sony PR hyperbole. Best thing since sliced bread....


Michael Reed said...

dpreview article mentions Sony demonstrating autofocus of Canon lenses with a metabones adapter

what I find interesting is the Metabones website for this adapter says "Disclaimer: we are NOT licensed, approved or endorsed by Sony or Canon"

and no autofocus adapter for Nikon lenses!

then again Nikon buys Sony sensors

At this rate Canon will be eaten by the time they wake up.

Noons said...

YES! About time CaNikon got some real competition.
Maybe now they'll get off their "rinse and repeat" marketing fixation of 60 year old designs and get on with the business of true innovation.
Unfortunately, I fully expect them to come back with a 100Mpixel dslr in response.
Conveniently and completely ignoring the simple fact the mirror is the problem nowadays!
Looking forward to watch the fireworks. I've been a m4/3 man since they first came out: it simply makes total sense. But I am soooo tempted by this Sony...
Let's hope the first reviews confirm the true extent of the features of this camera and its promised capabilities.

Wally said...

11 bit color?????? needs to be 12 and 14!

Kirk Tuck said...


William Beebe said...


This issue with 11 bit RAW (or what Ming Thein refers to as 11+7 bit raw compression) is how it can create posterization in highlights and shadows of images. Ming explains it best in a review he did earlier this year on the A7 Mark II:

No matter how much technology is packed into the rest of the camera, if the sensor does not deliver – then we might as well go home. I am still not happy with the crippling 11+7 bit raw compression: you can still run into posterization fairly easily in highlights and shadows, especially if adjusting color balance under mixed lighting. Watch carefully for clipping, too – it doesn’t roll off nicely in the highlights like the D810. ISO for ISO, lens for lens, the D750 delivers a better quality file – with about 1-1.5 additional stops of usable (i.e. clean, manipulable in postprocessing without artifacts) dynamic range – in addition to slightly more transparent color, and surprisingly, about a stop less noise. There seems to be a little more ‘bite’ in the A7II’s files, though – I don’t know if this is because Nikon is cooking their raw files to have less noise at the cost of fine detail, or whether Sony is presharpening with no NR, or whether the AA filter in the Sony is simply a bit weaker. Or perhaps it’s a combination of all three.

Update, 21 Jan: I have been challenged repeatedly on the file compression/ banding/ usable DR issue. Yes, everything looks good at web sizes, but then again you’re also oversampling by a factor of 20 or so, so deficiencies get averaged out. Here’s a 100% crop of an affected file (‘Skyline reflection’, from above) – this is an ideal exposure scenario; base ISO on a tripod and sufficient light. And there’s pretty clear purple/magenta banding/posterization in the sky, up to RGB luminance level 50+, which is visible in print and almost impossible to post process out. The D810 under similar conditions does not show this, and the D750’s response is identical. Neither file has noise reduction or exposure adjustment applied in ACR. It is NOT necessarily an issue for all types of photography, but as they say – you pay your money and take your chances.

You can read all about it, and see what Ming is complaining about, here: http://blog.mingthein.com/2015/01/19/review-sony-a7-mark-ii/

While I can see the problem if it's pointed out to me, most of the time I can't. For someone like me this would be a non-issue. But then again, for the kind of money that Sony is asking for their A7 series, compared to both Nikon and Canon at the same price points, if you're concerned about the issue they you're better off purchasing from them.

Mark Davidson said...

While I love my EVF in my GX-7 and wish for one in my Canons I have to say that I will not be buying this camera soon.
I believe that it is wonderful. I also believe that it would make my life a bit easier and that the final IQ would beat my Canons.
However, as a business decision it would get expensive to switch for no visible difference to my clients. The bulk of my work goes to the web. Some goes to double page spreads and a few go to 60x 72 inch display prints in architects offices. The latter being the most demanding application that my 5DmkIII carries off very well. I know the Sony would be slightly better but my client would not notice.
So maybe my next upgrade cycle but not this year.