Life in the trenches of visual content creation can be messy and uncomfortable. But few things are more uncomfortable than finally making the decision, after several months of research and exploration, to buy the state-of-the-art camera body only to have a newer, quicker, brighter and more appropriate, upgraded version announced while your acquisition is in transit to you.
It just happened to all the people who waited for a month or so to read all the reviews and actually handled the Sony A7R2. When that camera was delivered less than two months ago the internet was on fire with hyperbole. That camera currently sits on top of the DXO charts for best overall still image quality while the video sites waxed euphoric about its wonderful, 4K in camera, video quality. With a generous nod to both its improved usability and also its graceful handling of high ISO settings. The only issue was one for videographers to grapple with, and that is potential overheating while using the in-camera 4K video settings. Apparently the problem is easily resolved by writing files to an external digital recorder. So, in sum: The best image quality of any current (non-medium format) consumer camera on the market today coupled with what might be the best 4k video solution for under $4,000.
What's not to like?
Welllllll. Here's the flip side of deal. While the A7R2 may be the best thing since sliced bread for still photographers who work with discipline and determination (i.e.: Not a Sports Camera!!!) most video aficionados would have preferred a camera that uses the full format for 4K while the A7R2 does a bit of a crop in. It's at its best when used in the "Super 35" crop. It also lacks the latest Log profile for video. And just last week Sony dropped an anvil on the feet of the early adapting video guys (the ones who threw down for the A7R2...) by announcing the imminent arrival of the replacement to the video-drool-worthy, A7S. That was a camera that brought a full frame, 12 megapixel sensor to market that was totally optimized for video. And is still the current king of low noise, high quality performance video. The current model (the A7S) can't record 4K video internally and it lacks in-body image stabilization but it's still the one to beat in the Sony line-up. At least it was until just last week...
The newly announced A7S-2 delivered the same great 12 megapixel, large sensel size, low noise dominance but now it uses much faster processors, records uncropped 4K video in-body and has the new and highly improved, 5 axis, in body image stabilization as well as the latest Log profiles. And it's about $300 cheaper than the much higher resolution (perfect for still photographers who like big hard drives....) A7R2. And the A7R2 was only the reigning champ for all of two months in the video world....
Why should we at VSL care? Well, I guess we really don't care that much in this situation. It's not like we're entirely video centric but the same thing seems to happen all the time on our side of the fence as well. We just get comfy with the Nikon D800 and the D810 comes along. The dust and oil problem of the D600 gets fixed in the D610 and we buy a couple only to have the somewhat superior D750 arrive hot on the heels of our purchase.
The products become obsolete so quickly now, or at least that's the way we've been trained to think about the process. The reality is that the Olympus E1 in the image above is still a highly usable camera IF you are still using it as you did when you bought it a decade ago. Portraits for websites? Small prints? Street art? It's a wonderful camera for all of that.
And the A7R2 is still the best big image camera on the market (well, we'll see when we fire up the comparison with the D810--- processing might count for something...) and that didn't change with the new arrival of the A7S-2. While some of the video features might be nice to have the difference in ISO performance will be of only mild interest to people who use the cameras for commercial production and the difference in frame crops is really kind of marginal.
The shutter in the A7R2 is rated for 500,000 shots. That's years of useful life for even a heavy duty shooter. We ought to look at its productive life in that measure and not by the features that are introduced on other cameras, after the fact. I gauge the useful like of the A7R2 as about 3 to 4 years of working production. Emotionally its useful life might be measured in weeks IF you are only keeping score of the features.
Should be fun when the older stuff starts to hit the used market. Sony is currently constructing a market filled with slightly used bargains. Better to look with happiness on the plethora of cheaply available, and good, back up cameras rather than to curse being T-boned by inevitable progress. ..
Just a few thoughts.