Sony a7R II Review for Photography and Video

Review rating: ***
List of sponsored/free gear:
Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 loaned from Carl-Zeiss, India for two days
Did I get paid for this review? No

This is the complete review of the Sony a7R II camera pertaining to photography and video production. Let’s get started.

Goals

Before reading and watching the review, it is important to first understand the goals of the review. There are three classes of shooters:

  • Those who shoot only photographs
  • Those who shoot only video
  • Those who need both in equal measure (this group is increasing by the day)

Most camera companies see a huge growth in the third market, and this is probably what’s on Sony’s mind as well.

For photography only, the goals are:

  • How big can you print?
  • Are the colors good enough?
  • How good is internal image stabilization?
  • Can you handhold and manually focus accurately?
  • How good is the autofocus?
  • How good is the weatherproofing
  • Photojournalism, event and street photography
  • Wildlife photography
  • Portrait, studio and fashion photography
  • Fine art landscape photography
  • Macro and product photography

What kind of photography is it suited for –

  • For video only, the goal is to check whether this camera is an (or the) ideal choice for the following kinds of productions:
  • Features films
  • Short films
  • Corporate videos
  • Documentaries – feature length
  • Documentaries – short length
  • Wedding videos
  • Music videos
  • Commercials
  • Sports
  • Wildlife
  • ENG/EFP
  • Live events

For those who need both, the main questions I’ll answer are:

  • How does it compare as a photo-video tool to its competitors?
  • Is there an alternative at this point?
  • Is it a good strategy to invest in this camera platform for the short term (2-3 years)?
  • I will be comparing the camera to the a7S, especially with respect to video features and S-Log2. I’ve already stated earlier why it won’t be a replacement to the a7S for video work, but that might change for photo-video shooters.

Lastly, I’ll also look at ISO performance and ergonomics.

One important thing I’m leaving out: I’m leaving out S-Log2 workflows since I’ve covered that extensively elsewhere for the a7s.

Why did I buy the Sony a7R II?

I bought the Sony a7R II for the following specific use scenarios and conditions:

  • Family, travel and street photography with manual focus
  • Backup to the a7S without having to buy another external recorder
  • Silent shooting
  • Personal documentary and video projects in 1080p and 4K, without resorting to RAW recording
  • To use my existing Nikon manual prime lenses, and not be platform bound
  • A ‘review’ camera for future wolfcrow reviews and videos!
Exclusive Bonus: Download my free guide (with examples) on how to find the best camera angles for dialogue scenes when your mind goes blank.

Review of the features of the Sony a7R II, and footage

Here’s my review of the Sony a7R II:

To see the fashion film [001] in 4K, click here:

The following is a summary of whatever I’ve covered above as it pertains to each feature:

APS-C mode vs FF mode

It’s the exact reverse of the a7S – image quality is better in APS-C mode, but rolling shutter is better in full frame mode.

You get a crop factor of 1.5 and an “f-stop factor” (DOF and bokeh only, not true aperture, which remains the same) of 1.5 as well. E.g., a 50mm f/1.2 lens becomes a 75mm f/2 approximately. A 24mm f/1.4 becomes a 36mm f/2.4, and so on.

Audio quality

Really good and clean.

The ‘blue’ channel clipping problem

It appears again, even with this new sensor. This is probably a result of Sony’s lossy compression at the raw level. Something weird is definitely happening.

Rolling shutter

As bad as the a7s. Better in FF mode.

Resolution

Resolution is razor sharp, as you can easily verify from the fashion video, which was shot in both full frame and APS-C modes. The camera has maximum resolution in full frame mode at 24, 25 and 30p.

In 100p and 120p, the resolution drops to 720p.

HDMI quality and options

Excellent options. Clean HDMI, full resolution.

Weather protection

It is not weather-proof, but is weather resistant. I have shot in a light drizzle, and the camera has gotten wet, no issues.

Manual Focusing

Excellent in both video and stills mode. Still, I wouldn’t recommend it for stills at 42 MP while handholding (as I did in the fashion video). Even the slightest mistake will result in blurred images.

Aliasing and moire

Almost non-existent. A non-issue.

Posterization

Exists. One of the banes of this camera.

Skin tones

Excellent. Filmic and organic, but you must know how to shoot and expose correctly.

Codec

Unacceptable. Internal XAVC S 4K cannot be graded without a visible loss in quality.

Poor battery life

Buy more batteries. Batteries drain out like there was a leak or something. Thankfully cheaper batteries exist.

You need a 64GB SDXC U3 Card for 4K

These are more expensive, so watch out.

AF with video

I don’t use it and I don’t recommend using it. Rudimentary at best.

Dynamic Range

I get a good usable 12 stops and that’s all I want. It’s filmic.

Low-light and ISO performance

Not very good, I’m afraid. Too much color noise above ISO 1600.

Exclusive Bonus: Download my free guide (with examples) on how to find the best camera angles for dialogue scenes when your mind goes blank.

Results for photography

To answer my questions:

How big can you print? As wide as 42″ at 180 ppi with stunning results.

Are the colors good enough? Yes!

How good is internal image stabilization? Brilliant, really.

Can you handhold and manually focus accurately? No. At 42 MP, it’s suicide.

How good is the autofocus? Excellent, but this is no Canon or Nikon.

How good is the weatherproofing? Hard to tell, but sufficient enough I guess.

What kind of photography is it suited for –

    • Photojournalism, event and street photography – Yes, but only with autofocus lenses.
    • Wildlife photography – Definitely yes!
    • Portrait, studio and fashion photography – Definitely yes!
    • Fine art landscape photography – No. I prefer the Nikon D810.
    • Macro and product photography – No. I prefer the Nikon D810.

Here are the two images I printed:BoatMorninga7RIIPrinted on:

  • 300 ppi – Novasign Artist Matte Canvas
  • 180 ppi – Hahnemulle Photo Matte Fibre (200 gsm)

Girl2

Printed on 300 ppi on Epson Archival Matte paper. All prints on an Epson 9900.

Results for video

Here are my suggestions for video, based on my personal knowledge, history and usage of this camera:

Type of production Recommended? Alternative* Better option?*
Feature films No a7s a7s
Short films No a7s a7s
Corporate Videos Yes a7s Sony FS7
Documentaries No Panasonic GH4 Sony FS7
Wedding videos No Canon 5D Mark IIIPanasonic GH4 Sony FS7
Music Videos Yes a7s a7s
Commercials No a7s a7s
Sports No No N/A
Wildlife Yes Canon 1DC Sony FS7
ENG/EFP/Run n’ gun No Panasonic GH4 Sony FS7
Live Events No No N/A

Results for video+stills

This is where the a7R II belongs. To answer our questions:

  • How does it compare as a photo-video tool to its competitors? It stands alone.
  • Is there an alternative at this point? Nope.
  • Is it a good strategy to invest in this camera platform for the short term (2-3 years)? Yes.

Well, that’s the end of the Sony a7R II review.

I hope you have found it beneficial for the kind of productions you’re doing.

If you need any clarifications, let me know in the comments section below.

14 replies on “Sony a7R II Review for Photography and Video”

  1. Sareesh Sudhakaran AminViraniElchie with a good cage external battery source and IS lens it works just as well. People even say crazy things about BMCC 2.5k as a docu camera I used it once in Lamu Island it worked well in most situations although I hated lugging the nearly 4kg package for the whole day. Went back to A7s and you method of exposure along with your lut on premiere cc 2014 lumetri makes the workflow for slog simply amazing.

  2. Hi Sareesh Sudhakaran Great review! Decided to get the A7RII because of its decent photo/video shooting capabilities. Can we get a decent quality footage if we use an external 4k recorder such as the Atomos Shogun, discounting the internal 4K recording of A7RII? I’d probably get an A7s to supplement this although I’m leaning more towards the Blackmagic URSA Mini. If only Sony could address the rolling shutter but I guess it’s probably asking a lot from them! Thank you in advance for your tips!

  3. Eh.. I wonder why you don’t rank the A7s for documentaries & weddings where low light performance is critical?

  4. A great review Sareesh. Your reviews are consistently among the very best being done online, intelligent, free from jargon or sponsored hype. Thanks.

  5. Thank you so much Suresh. That’s incredibly helpful. I really think that it’s better to keep stills and video separate. An FS7 for video and your personal choice of Canon, Nikon, Sony for stills. And an A7S for low light in both  Ok 3 cameras.. at least…

    Best wishes

  6. Sir i was planning to buy a7R ii but am not gonna buy thank you,, Sir any suggestions for a 4 camera setup for weddings, should be not expensive but still give cinematic feel… its a hard ask but sir i believe u have an answer
    thanks for the review

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