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The A7II Teardown: A Look Inside Sony’s New Camera

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A while back we did a teardown of the Sony A7r, and were very impressed with its clean modular design. Now that Sony has released the A7 II we thought a similar teardown would be worthwhile. There are certainly going to be some differences. First among them, of course, is that the new camera has 5-axis, in-body image stabilization, which is definitely going to create some differences. There also is a more robust magnesium alloy shell and lens mount, and perhaps (or perhaps not) improved weather resistance.

For anyone who isn’t aware of my cynicism regarding weather sealing, I’ll repeat my quote from The Cynic’s Photography Dictionary:

Weather resistant – A term that consumers falsely define as “weather proof” and camera companies accurately define as “the warranty doesn’t cover water damage.”

Just looking at the cameras from the outside, though, it’s fairly apparent the A7II is larger and heavier than its predecessor.

All images Roger Cicala, Lensrentals.com, 2015

All images Roger Cicala, Lensrentals.com, 2015
All images Roger Cicala, Lensrentals.com, 2015

 

So let’s see what all Sony has crammed into that extra space and how it’s put together.

Some Outside Niceness

A couple of minor, but very nice, points are apparent just looking at the camera. One is what Aaron called “the world’s most impressive battery door.” The spring-latch not only pulls in the posts to remove the door if you put on a grip, it locks them in so they can’t break off (you probably haven’t seen broken battery door posts, but we sure do). It also has a rubber cable opening (in case you want to run the camera from an AC adapter when one becomes available). And finally, it has weather sealing gaskets around the edges, except for one corner between that cable opening and the hinge. By the way, don’t be looking for more rubber gaskets. This was it.

All images Roger Cicala, Lensrentals.com, 2015

 

One other thing that you probably won’t care about but repair techs will is that the flex connection between the LCD and the camera body is now exposed under the LCD.

All images Roger Cicala, Lensrentals.com, 2015

 

The time it takes to change out a scratched LCD screen just got reduced 75% — remove two screws, disconnect the flex and the screen is off.

All images Roger Cicala, Lensrentals.com, 2015

 

This isn’t exactly the outside of the camera, but it’s pretty close. The bottom plate/tripod mount has also been beefed up a bit. When the bottom cover is removed, the plate is obviously thicker and more solidly anchored than the first generation A7 cameras were.

All images Roger Cicala, Lensrentals.com, 2015

 

The increased stiffness and thickness is more obvious when the plate is removed.

All images Roger Cicala, Lensrentals.com, 2015

 

While we’re looking at the outside attachments, removing the viewfinder cover shows no weather sealing. It’s possible the plastic fittings are so tight and smooth that they are water resistant, of course, but there are certainly no rubber gaskets like we’re used to seeing.

All images Roger Cicala, Lensrentals.com, 2015

Let’s Look Inside

We can get our first glimpse at that in-body image stabilization by looking at the area where the tripod mounting plate was removed.  The thick metal sandwich (red bracket outlines the left edge) contains the sensor plate, which is floating on a number of permanent magnets (green lines show the bottom two magnets).

All images Roger Cicala, Lensrentals.com, 2015

 

Continuing the disassembly, the back comes of with just a few screws.

All images Roger Cicala, Lensrentals.com, 2015

 

Revealing a thick electrical shield protective plate.

All images Roger Cicala, Lensrentals.com, 2015

 

Sony states that the buttons on the new camera are sealed, and this is definitely the case for the back push buttons – they are rubber within the back plate, matching up with the pressure sensitive buttons on the board above.

There is no such seal around the mode dial, though. Speaking of the mode dial, it comes off by just disconnecting its flex.

All images Roger Cicala, Lensrentals.com, 2015

 

With that out of the way, remove a couple of screws and the electrical shield comes right off . . .

All images Roger Cicala, Lensrentals.com, 2015

 

. . . exposing the SD card board (the small blue circuit board above), which gets removed next.

All images Roger Cicala, Lensrentals.com, 2015

 

Then we disconnect the WiFi antenna and a couple of flexes.

All images Roger Cicala, Lensrentals.com, 2015

 

Which lets us remove the circuitry around the battery box,

All images Roger Cicala, Lensrentals.com, 2015

 

and gives us access to the last screw holding the grip on.

All images Roger Cicala, Lensrentals.com, 2015

 

The next part to come off is the top. The EVF is a one-piece unit that just slips out after you disconnect its flexes.

All images Roger Cicala, Lensrentals.com, 2015

With it out of the way, the last screws holding on the top assembly can be reached. Once those are out and the top flexes disconnected, the top assembly comes right off.

All images Roger Cicala, Lensrentals.com, 2015

Top assemblies are amazingly complex things. We follow the service center’s example and don’t mess with disassembling them. If a top switch breaks, the entire assembly usually gets replaced.

All images Roger Cicala, Lensrentals.com, 2015

 

I Know, I Know, You Want to See the Lens Mount

There’s been a lot of discussion about the lens mount in previous A7xx cameras being a bit flexible. There was a plastic spacer in the previous mounts and we all wanted to know if changes had been made in the newer models.

All images Roger Cicala, Lensrentals.com, 2015

 

And they have. The mount is now directly screwed into the magnesium frame of the camera with no plastic spacers, all metal to metal, with just the metal lock spring in between the mount and camera frame.

All images Roger Cicala, Lensrentals.com, 2015

 

 Now the Good Stuff

Ok, with all the external doodads disconnected, we can get down to the meat of the camera. The heat sink comes off next, exposing the main circuit board below.

All images Roger Cicala, Lensrentals.com, 2015

 

All images Roger Cicala, Lensrentals.com, 2015

 

To give you an idea of the electronic complexity of the new camera, there are a total of 16 flexes (not all visible in this image) connecting to the main board now, a marked increase from the earlier A7s. Most of these new flexes are concerned with the IBIS system.

The bottom side of the board is nearly as densely etched as the top, and contains the date-time battery, so changing that is not going to be something you can do at home.

All images Roger Cicala, Lensrentals.com, 2015

 

There is yet another electrical shield to be removed after the circuit board is out.

All images Roger Cicala, Lensrentals.com, 2015

 

And now we can finally see the shutter and sensor modules.

All images Roger Cicala, Lensrentals.com, 2015

 

What you see above is the back plate of the metal sandwich we saw in the first image in the Let’s Look Inside section above. The green circuit board with three large flexes is the back side of the image sensor. Notice the red arrows pointing to three screws. These are the mounting screws for the entire sensor image stabilizing system. The shims that are used to make the sensor parallel to the lens mount are under those. (In this camera the shims were 40, 35, and 30 microns thick respectively, so not a huge amount of correction was required.) To the right of the sensor assembly, you can see the Copal shutter mechanism.

Removing those three screws lets us remove the entire sensor – IBIS assembly.

All images Roger Cicala, Lensrentals.com, 2015

 

Here’s a close up of the shims, obviously custom made for this camera, not off-the-shelf shims.

All images Roger Cicala, Lensrentals.com, 2015

 

The sensor – IBIS assembly is a big, heavy piece. You can compare it to the sensor assembly in the A7r in our previous teardown of that camera.

All images Roger Cicala, Lensrentals.com, 2015

 

While we can’t demonstrate all five axis at which the stabilizer functions, I was a bit surprised at just how much range of movement the sensor has. If you don’t notice the movement in the two images below, look along the right side of the sensor.

All images Roger Cicala, Lensrentals.com, 2015

 

All images Roger Cicala, Lensrentals.com, 2015

 

A lot of the magnets in the image stabilization system are permanent, rather than electromagnets. I assume this is to help prolong battery life. Looking from the side you can see the robust rubber-over-metal posts that keep the sensor from moving too far.

All images Roger Cicala, Lensrentals.com, 2015

 

Finally, with the sensor out we can remove the shutter assembly. Again, like the earlier A7s, there is a lot of modular construction in this camera.

All images Roger Cicala, Lensrentals.com, 2015

 

All images Roger Cicala, Lensrentals.com, 2015

 

With all of the modules out, you can see how robust the chassis is. That’s the lens-power flex going from the battery compartment to the electrical pins in the lens mount.

All images Roger Cicala, Lensrentals.com, 2015

 

This was a much more complex disassembly than the A7r was, largely because of the increased electronics used by the image stabilization system. There were a lot more flex connections and a few more screws, but the overall modularity of the design is still very apparent, especially when we lay out the disassembled parts.

All images Roger Cicala, Lensrentals.com, 2015

 

Summary

It’s not surprising that the inside of the A7II is more complex than the previous A7 cameras. The in-body image stabilization takes up space and adds circuitry. The camera does largely retain its modular construction, but clearly is more complex to assemble and disassemble.

The A7II is clearly more robust than its predecessors, too. The lens mount seems designed to eliminate any wobbling or looseness that was noticed in previous models and the chassis seems stronger.

We don’t see any real increase in weather sealing, except around the battery door, and even that is incomplete. However, it is certainly possible that Sony has such tight plastic-on-plastic seals that they don’t think rubber gaskets are necessary. Like I said at the beginning, though, I’m pretty cynical about manufacturer’s weather sealing claims.

 

Roger Cicala and Aaron Closz

Lensrentals.com

February 2015

  • Tony

    Roger, do you guys have a Sony repair site you’d recommend (or do you work on them yourselves)? I dropped my original A7 in the river last weekend. It was in a dry bag, but I didn’t seal the bag properly, and the A7 was exposed to a couple of inches of water when my kayak dumped me and the camera. I immediately removed the battery, and brought it home and sealed it in a Tupperware container filled with rice and desiccant bags. I pulled it out this evening and tried turning it on. The camera actually went through the time/date setup routine, then flashed the “overheating, please allow camera to cool down” message, and turned back off. I put it back in the sealed container without the battery in it. I don’t know if my camera is toast, or if there’s hope for it, and I don’t have the $$$ to buy a new one. Any suggestions?

    Tony

  • Mari

    I have an A6000 with a scratched LCD screen. Do you know if its easy to change like this camera? Would you gave any details?

  • Really nice job and thanks for sharing all the detailed photos!

    Jay

  • Mk.82

    @Romano Gtti

    ” Is it possible to simply clean this sensor at home or you need to send it to the shop to do it? I read scary things about the one in Olympus…”

    Do not even consider cleaning Olympus sensor. You don’t need to do that. If you see there is something, dust, hair or even spit, just do not touch it. It will clean itself in good time.

    On Olympus DSLR cameras (4/3 mount) the mirror and shutter protected the sensor more between lens swaps.
    But since I have gone to m4/3 there is nothing than SSWF protecting the sensor. I would not even think about placing anything on that sensor. So far I have in three years swapped E-M5 in most dustiest locations you can imagine, like at spring work time on field when the ground is crunched after winter and fall ground turning. You get very small and fine mud dust everywhere. Still didn’t worry at all swapping lenses in that environment, just didn’t do it exactly when the machine goes by me (you don’t even want to breath at that moment). Or after summer when you collect the grain and harvester blows such amount tiny splices of dust and everything all around. Still no problems or worries when swapping lenses in such conditions (and the whole air around field is full of it).
    The only thing that I worry is when swapping lenses in rain. That is where I want to get lens and camera under cover so the water doesn’t get inside.
    And for that it is better to have a pouch with leaves so you can place camera and lens in and then swap. Unless you have umbrella etc.

    It is fancy thing that I have never even heard from actual Olympus camera users to suffer from SSWF not working. Sometimes if dust particle is semi-wet, it can take couple days in normal shooting style to get it off. But thats it, worst case scenario.

    As said, I am worried about water, and I am worried about how lenses that are not weather proofed last until there is enough dust inside lenses that I need to send them to service. Or how well current Pro line from Olympus is protected from around mount, can dust get inside trough there? Not seen anything, yet.

  • George S.

    Thanks for the great information!
    How long will that rather deeply embedded date/time battery typically last?
    If this battery is depleted, will the camera still work (without date/time memory) or stop being operational?
    An answer/educated guess would be welcome, since i typically use cameras 5+ years. Thanks!

  • Geoff

    What is the total part count including all sub parts and PC board components?

  • Carol Teater

    Gee, I wish they had just built an a7II with the improved build and ergonomics and no IBIS, which adds that whole new level of complexity. Sony has to always do something different, though.

  • Roger Cicala

    Matt,
    We don’t have a clean room — dust is not that big of an issue.

    Roger

  • Matt

    Do you guys have a cleanroom type setup for repair work? Or is dust not that big of an issue?

  • Roger Cicala

    Ronald,
    1) Nothing is a keeper item until it’s 6 months old, this is 1 week. If it becomes a keeper item, a dozen people will have used it and found it just fine before then.
    2) We disassemble things to repair things all day every day. We do it really well – 10% of what we fix just came back from factory service not fixed and we’re refixing it.
    3) It will spend the next few weeks as a test camera. I’m really certain our techs will notice if it has a problem, taking a few hundred shots a day testing it.
    4) Most cameras never get sold anyway. Unlike lenses cameras are less likely to be in good enough shape to sell at the end of their rental life. We generally part them out.

    Roger

  • One of the thing I am a bit scared about the five axis stabilization system is when it’s time of sensor cleaning – because it will happen. Is it possible to simply clean this sensor at home or you need to send it to the shop to do it? I read scary things about the one in Olympus…

  • KeithB

    Wit of the staircase:
    It’s not like he damaged the weather sealing!

  • KeithB

    A Ronald Gallant:
    Why?
    It was at that stage of disassembly at least once before, and I bet Roger cares more about getting it together correctly then the less-than minimum wage factory worker.

  • My concern is that I’ll end up with a turn down item as a keeper purchase.

  • Brian

    Thanks for the effort! I’m seriously looking at the A7 II in the next couple of months. I have both the A7S and A7R, both full spectrum modded, for astrophotography. Looking at the A7 II as an unmodded daytime camera. I’m glad to see the A7 II has a good solid mount. I use lots of old heavy Canon EF & FD, Pentax, Sigma & Tamron lenses.

  • Very cool Roger! Thanks again for taking the careful time to do this. I literally just got this camera today and I like seeing this teardown to confirm my skepticism about weather sealing. Seems like the a7II is still just like the previous a7 cameras. I took my a7S to Burning Man and the two main areas of dust incursion were around the eyecup/EVF housing (which started screwing with the IR eye sensor) and through the lens release button, directly onto the sensor (not too happy about that one). Any detailed information about the a7II lens release button and if that would allow dust to enter the camera?

    I do not believe that tightly fit plastic is a good excuse for sealing especially in the case of water where the narrow space acts like a capillary and sucks water into it. The only real solution is rubber seals and gaskets. I think if I wanted a genuinely tough camera, the Canon 7D Mark II, OM-D EM5, or maybe even the Fujifilm X-T1 would be a better candidate. but by George I want a full-frame camera that’s submersible.

  • Roger Cicala

    Rob, we haven’t done a tear down on the A7s, so I’m not certain.

    Roger

  • Roger Cicala

    Eric, we didn’t disassemble the IS unit to measure it, this wasn’t a sacrifice camera, it got put back together and is now a test camera. But it certainly seems to be the exact same sensor assembly as the A7 as best we can tell.

    Roger

  • Dalibor Mrkic

    There is AC power adapter, Sony ACPW20

  • Lee Saxon

    I’m one of the guys who’s still furious at Nikon for putting the D750 in a D6xx body instead of a D8xx body (or at least not properly naming it the “D650” and releasing something else as the D750).

    Anyway, as far as I can see from the outside the D750 has this same abysmal level of weather sealing (battery door gasket yes, card door gasket no). Please do a D750 teardown demonstrating that buttons and important stuff are all gasketed so my rage will quiet somewhat.

  • Rob

    Thanks. One thing I am interested in is whether the heat sink to cool the sensor is different on the A7s to the A7ii. You would think that 4k video on the A7s would generate quite a lot of heat and adding ibis – with the sensor suspended and therefore more difficult to cool – might not be possible.

  • NancyP

    Thanks! Lots of interesting stuff in there.

  • That Micron controller and the shims look really nice!

  • John

    That’s some impressive engineering. Especially if you can get it back together again!

  • Damodara

    “in case you want to run the camera from an AC adapter when one becomes available”

    There is an AC adapter available, the AC-PW20.
    http://goo.gl/QK3yVV

  • Eric

    Thanks for the impressive teardown.
    Is the sensor glass as thick as before (A7/A7r)?