Sony A7RII and Sony A7S ISO Shootout
I have not typically in the past provided “In-Depth” reviews of camera systems although, I have been very intrigued by the Sony line of cameras and wanted to see what all the “Hype” is all about. The camera market is changing rapidly which makes it difficult to make an informed decision about what to purchase. As I currently own Nikon, Phase One and Hasselblad systems, I have been searching for a smaller form system for travel vacations and or long hikes. Weight and bulk are required for the ultimate image quality today but, that will no longer be an issue in the upcoming years, hopefully. I welcome your comments as this is the first review I have done of this kind but, keep it professional please.
(Scroll Down for Sony A7RII Results)
Overview – A7S
The Sony A7S was released on or about July 2014. It was/is marketed as the ISO beast and the best ISO performer of any camera on the market today. The ISO range is from 50 to 409,600 but, is the entire ISO range usable? The A7S uses a full frame 12.2 megapixel sensor and the camera is powered by a BIONZ X image processor. The Camera will also record 4K video but requires the Atomos Shogun External recorder to do so at the cost of around $1,995.00. I have one and will hopefully be able to review that in the future. You should know that buying the Atomos shogun is not your only cost to begin recording 4K video. You will also need an HDMI cable, solid state drives such as the SanDisk 480GB Extreme Pro Solid State Drives at a cost of $219.99 each. You will also need external power as the battery life is extremely short so add the XT Power MP-10000 at $ 50.00 each. In addition you will need the Atomos Hood if shooting outdoors.
Ergonomics – A7S
I would consider the ergonomics to be a solid 7 out of 10. There are improvements made in the A7RII which makes it ergonomically better. My only complaint as to both cameras is that the lens release button is on the right side of the lens instead of the left as most cameras. This is the only irritant but, if your left handed maybe you would like it better.
Test Environment- A7S
In order to run my tests I utilized a tripod and created a lighting environment of 4700K to 5000K and shot daylight white balance. I did create a color profile with the X-Rite Color Checker profiler and adjusted all images to that profile in Adobe Camera RAW. No other adjustments were made other that converting to JPEG in order to post to this article. I shot all images with the Sony 90mm f/2.8 macro lens and utilized aperture priority at f/8.0 at ISO from 50 to 409,600. Shutter speed was adjusted automatically per aperture priority. It should be noted that the Sony 90mm Macro f/2.8 lens is the second highest rated Sony lens behind the Sony Zeiss 55mm 1.8, per DXO Mark.
ISO Tipping Point – A7S
For me as a still image landscape photographer, the beginning of the ISO tipping point is 25,600. This is still very high but, I doubt I would proceed above that unless image quality is not paramount. Any ISO at or above 102,400 is definitely unusable for any suitable image quality although, it could be used for photography where image quality is not important but, low light capture is required. Of course these findings are of my opinion. Your results could vary. Please see all images below to draw your own conclusion. Or, perform your own test. If you would like to receive the original Sony RAW files email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you a dropbox link for the files.
Sony A7S Critical ISO Tipping point shots below: (Click on Image for 100% Crop View)
Sony A7S ISO Test Shots – Entire ISO Range (Click on Image, These are JPEGS 1000×668 created from original Sony .arw Raw Files)
(Scroll Up for Sony A7S Results)
Overview – A7RII
This camera is simply amazing both for the performance and the value. At 22 oz (625g) versus a Nikon D810 at 43 oz (965g) it’s alot of power in a small package! This camera boasts 42.40 Megapixels on a full frame CMOS sensor (35mm, 35.9mm x 24mm). This os Sony’s high resolution mirrorless flagship camera as of August 2015. This camera is intended to “Close the Gap” of the tradeoff of resolution and High ISO performance. The low pass filter has been removed and High ISO has been gained by back lighting the sensor and the powerful BIONZ X processor. Camera throughput has been increased 3.5 times therefore keep shooting shot after shot
Ergonomics – A7RII
As with the Sony A7S I would consider the ergonomics to be excellent! I would give this camera a 9 out of 10 as almost everything is right at your fingertips. There are only two items that bother me from an ergonomic standpoint, 1) The lens locking button is again on the right side of the lens as the A7S. I really wish it was on the left like most cameras. 2) The locking button on the mode selector is not a favorite addition. I have never needed a lock on the mode selector on any camera I have owned. I suppose it might be good for people who accidentally turn the wrong dial while shooting but, the placement of the aperture and shutter speed dials is excellent and would not be confusing. In addition the mode selector is more towards the center of the top of the camera away from your fingers so I doubt it would ever be mis-interpreted by fingers as another selector. In other words Sony, take the lock button off, just make it a little more difficult to turn than other selector dials. Sony changed the top of the camera back where the Menu button and the C3/LCD Zoom buttons are located to an angle versus vertical. I love this change! It greatly improves the ergonomics of the camera. The camera grip is also bigger which makes it easier to hand hold, even better if you add the Sony battery grip. I also greatly appreciate the additional custom button “C4” on the back, that’s 4 Custom Buttons!! Awesome!
Test Environment- A7RII
As with the Sony A7S above, I utilized a tripod and created a lighting environment of 4700K to 5000K and shot daylight white balance. I did create a color profile with the X-Rite Color Checker profiler and adjusted all images to that profile in Adobe Camera RAW. No other adjustments were made other that converting to JPEG in order to post to this article. I shot all images with the Sony 90mm f/2.8 macro lens and utilized aperture priority at f/8.0 at ISO from 50 to 102,400. Shutter speed was adjusted automatically per aperture priority. It should be noted that the Sony 90mm Macro f/2.8 lens is the second highest rated Sony lens behind the Sony Zeiss 55mm 1.8, per DXO Mark.
ISO Tipping Point – A7RII
Based on my tests (See 100% Crops below) I believe the tipping point on the Sony A7RII begins at ISO 6,400 but, still usable at ISO 6,400. At ISO 8,000 you are entering into the tipping point and at ISO 25,600 the image is beginning to be unusable in my opinion without significant noise reduction. With most noise reduction software you lose detail so I am not a big fan of applying much noise reduction. But let’s face it, how often do you shoot above ISO 25,600? If you would like to receive the original Sony RAW files email me at email@example.com and I will send you a dropbox link for the files.
Sony A7RII Critical ISO Tipping point shots below: (Click on Image for 100% Crop View)
Sony A7RII ISO Test Shots – Entire ISO Range (Click on Image, These are JPEGS 1000×668 created from original Sony .arw Raw Files)
In addition to ISO test I found both cameras excellent in every way. But, specifically the auto focus and internal 5 axis stabilization on the A7RII to be extremely good. I shot the X-Rite Color Checker card and created a color calibration profile for both cameras with the DNG X-Rite color checker color profile creator. I used that profile for both Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom and it made a huge difference. I highly recommend that you do the same to achieve optimum color results as it is worth your effort. Get it here: http://xritephoto.com/ph_product_overview.aspx?ID=1257&Action=Support&SoftwareID=986
I think what is to be focused on here is how well both the cameras perform at ISO’s below their tipping point. Most of us rarely go above ISO 6,400 so if we can achieve images below that with little or no noise we have gained so much than other camera systems marketed today. Knowing that I can shoot ISO’s comfortably from 50 to 6,400 (or ISO 25,600 on Sony A7S) without hesitation is so awesome. I believe Sony is on the right track by continuing to innovate, design/redesign and continue to achieve outstanding camera technology. Will I sell my Nikon D810, D800E, D4, Phase One IQ180 or my Hasselblad H4D-40? Probably not but, it is nice to have a smaller footprint light weight system in addition to those systems that achieves incredible results.
Copyright Robert Shreve Photography
email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org