When will we see a refresh of the Sony A7xx series? Here's what I think we'll see in the next revisions.
Every working photographer has his or her own favorite camera system and most of them are pretty loyal. Once you find a brand you are comfortable with it takes a lot for most people to abandon the known and comfortable for the supposedly greener grass next door. I bounced around from system to system until I landed squarely in the Sony camp and I couldn't be happier. So happy that I've been able to give my credit cards and bank account a vacation for the last full year. And most of that warm, fuzzy feeling about the Sony system is due to the big lifeguard in the Sony pool, the A7Rii.
The "big" Sony flagship combines very high resolution (cherished by some clients) with near industry leading dynamic range (making photographers and videographers smile) to make it a great still camera for a large swath of users. While I would not recommend it as a sports camera or a fast action camera those of us who make portraits, shoot products, produce lifestyle shoots, make landscapes, photograph food, etc. have embraced it for its exemplary image quality.
On the video side the ability to shoot high quality full frame, and even higher quality APS-C cropped 4K video, and to write that 100 mbs video directly onto the camera's SD card makes it the top of the current full frame cameras, mirror-free or DSLR, for shooting video. In fact, it's only real competitor in the full frame (35mm) range of cameras, for shooting video, comes from its own sibling, the Sony A7Sii.
Just knowing I've got this camera in the case makes me confident that I can photograph pretty much whatever a client throws at me and that I'll be satisfied with the results.
In the Sony camera line there is another full frame camera
that looks almost identical to the A7rii but has a trimmed down feature set and a lower resolution sensor. That's the A7ii. It's a 24 megapixel camera that doesn't shoot 4K and has a few other operational shortcomings. The reason I'm discussing these cameras in the same blog is that when upgraded models come to market they seem to hit the stores at about the same time. Both were launched in July of 2015 and delivered near the end of August 2015. I suspect that this Summer will see the announcement of two refreshed models to replace (or supplement) the current models. I'm looking forward to seeing what Sony has in store for us but I'm also going to make a few comments about what I'd like to see in the updates. From a user perspective.
I'll start with the A7ii, the 24 megapixel body. I want Sony to share the nicely damped shutter from the A7Rii with the A7ii. The A7ii has the same noisy shutter that I disliked so much on the initial product, the A7, back in October 2013. I can't use the current A7ii to shoot in the theater with an audience because it's just too loud. The shutter in the A7Rii is quieter in normal mode and also offers a wonderful, silent mode. Totally silent. Anechoic chamber quiet. I'd upgrade from my existing camera just for that.
I would also like to see Sony use the same viewfinder optical system for the EVF between the two cameras. The optical system of the A7Rii's EVF is visually better.
While we are on the subject of EVFs I'm hoping to see both new Sony cameras adopt the same kind of EVF screen that debuted in the Leica SL. It's nearly twice the resolution of the ones in the current Sonys and it looks incredible. You can actually, accurately manual focus with that EVF. It's just beautiful to look at. If OVF fans would relax for a moment and trial that finder they'd never buy another pentaprism-hobbled camera again...
The A7ii is ready to be upgraded to a BSI sensor and take the needed jump into 4K video. With the updated shutter and the same kind of 4K video we've enjoyed in the A7rii for the last 18 months the new A7iii would rock; especially for all those photographer who have no need for 42 megapixel raw files! The new camera would represent a really great sweet spot...
On both cameras I would love to see an upgrade to the HDMI ports. Right now we have those nasty little micro-HDMI connectors with all the uncertainty you can imagine from such a vulnerable connection. I'd be happy with a mini-HDMI port but what would be really cool is if they could tightly electronically integrate the camera body and a battery grip (ala Olympus and Panasonic) and offer users a full size HDMI plug on that device. And while we're taking advantage of the additional real estate of the battery grip it might be cool to supply it ready to take either two of the NP50 batteries or one much larger, high capacity battery.
There's not much I can think of to improve the photographic performance of the A7Rii. Faster processors could make operation quicker, and a new sensor with 60+ megapixels would take the wind right out of the sails (sales) of the Fuji and Hasselblad medium format offerings. No, I'd concentrate on operational improvements like battery life, fixing the tendency of the camera to overheat when shooting in warm environments while using 4K video, etc.
With the faster processing the time may be ripe for some features we've seen gracing Olympus and Pentax cameras lately. Super high resolution modes and focus stacking modes would be a good start.
While the camera (A7Rii) already has killer resolution the focus stacking on a full frame camera would certainly come in handy when dealing with limited depth of field in product and landscape shooting.
One more thing that would be nice to see as an additional feature of the battery grip. That would be a high speed internet connection that would allow wireless transfer (and wireless tethering) of uncompressed raw files. It would be nice to be able to shoot the big raws at their highest sustained frame rate with no slow down in transfer. But please, stick this feature into the battery grip; we already have enough going on in the camera body to elevate the heat load!
I'd love to see these upgrades. Would I rush out and replace my A7Rii? Maybe. But if you fix the shutter noise and add good 4K video to the more affordable (and ultimately more usable) A7iii then I'd pull the credit card out of the freezer and head to my local dealer with all reasonable dispatch.
The price of the A7Rii has dropped from $3300 to $2900 in the last few weeks. Clearing inventory?