It’s been about a year since Sony shook up the mirrorless industry with the release of the full-frame A7 and A7r. They followed up with a low-light king, the A7s, in the summer, and now the original A7 sees a refresh with the A7II – a camera that is largely about refining the A7 brand, but adds one key feature to the mix: the world’s first full-frame 5-Axis in-body stabilization. The A7II slots in at the exact same spot its older brother occupied, at the same $1698 price point as well. Is the addition of in-body IS along with some ergonomic changes enough to up Sony’s game? Let’s find out in our Sony A7II Review.
If you’re not familiar with my reviews, I review from a real world shooting perspective. You won’t find lens charts or resolution numbers here. There are plenty of other sites that cover those. I review products on how they act for me as a photographic tool. I am not a videographer, so my reviews concentrate on the still imaging capabilities of a camera.
Construction and Handling
One of the nicer changes from the original A7 to the new A7II is the tweaking of the exterior design and an upgrade in construction quality. While the original A7 featured a composite and metal hybrid build, the A7II has upgraded the exterior construction to an all magnesium-alloy construction with a durable matte finish. While this has the great effect of making the camera feel incredibly solid and decidedly like a true professional tool, it has the down side of increasing the weight of the camera body substantially. In fact, the A7II is nearly 35% heavier than its predecessor, and it can definitely be felt.
However, Sony also changed the main ergonomic complaint of the A7 and have provided a very comfortable hand grip with the shutter button moved forward onto the grip itself. As a result, the A7II handles beautifully in the field, despite the heavier weight. The grip on the A7II is the best ever on a Sony mirrorless camera, and is perfectly contoured with a wonderfully textured rubber grip. The dials on the camera are redesigned as well from the A7 series, and these unfortunately are a bit more fiddly than the original broader dials. The dial that sits under the shutter button is the worst offender, especially when shooting with gloves, but the redesigned hand grip is worth it.
It may seem odd to go on at length about a simple grip change, but for me, it made all the difference in the world, and made the A7II significantly more fun to shoot than the original A7. The other controls are very similar to the other A7 series cameras, and this is a good thing. I also have to remark on the feel of the exposure compensation dial. This is smaller than the EC dials on many other cameras, but the resistance is absolutely perfect. It is just firm enough to avoid accidental movement, but not so firm as to prevent easy use of the dial with just the thumb. It simply feels fantastic to use. The overall ergonomics and handling of the A7II are big reasons to consider diving in with this body vs. the other full-frame Sony mirrorless cameras.
Operation and Controls
As I mentioned above, the general control scheme of the A7II is largely similar to the original A7. The controls are laid out almost identically to those on the A7 with two minor changes. First, with the shutter button now moved forward on to the grip, there is additional room on top of the camera, and Sony has added a second customizable function button on the top plate. C1 and C2 buttons sit in front of the exposure compensation dial, and while they do require a slightly uncomfortable bend of the finger, they are both within easy reach during shooting. What was the C2 button on the A7 is now the C3 button, and it still sits up and to the left of the AF/MF/AEL button. This button location was one of the few ergonomic problems I mentioned in my review of the original A7. However, the simple act of angling the back plate has made this button location significantly easier to access. Thanks, Sony!
The only controls that sit outside of the main area that can be accessed by the index finger and thumb are the movie record button, which sits on the outside of the right grip and the menu button that sits on the left side of the camera. The menu button location is a bit odd, but it’s not a major issue. I like Sony’s positioning of the movie record button, which provides easy access while making it difficult to press accidentally. A standard PASM mode dial sits on top of the camera and has great resistance to prevent accidental changing of this important setting.
As one who’s been shooting with the a6000 for the past 6 months, I fell naturally into the control system of the A7II. Sony continues use of their excellently implemented 12 item Function Menu, accessed with the Fn button on the rear of the camera and providing quick access to all the settings you could wish for during shooting. Especially nice is the ability to place quick access for the in-body stabilizer settings, which comes in very handy when shooting with adapted manual focus lenses. I’ll get more into the in-body IS a little bit later in the review. Sony also hasn’t changed their tabbed menu interface, which puts a huge number of options into a well organized interface. Frankly, I think it’s great that they didn’t make any changes here.