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Sony a7R II: A Brief Review

Published August 5, 2015

I’ve been a fan of the Sony a7 series bodies for a while, and I’ve been incorporating them into my paid work slowly but steadily. I was lucky enough to already try the new Sony a7R II at a wedding I was second shooting for Well Worn Co. I figured that would give me a good idea what I could do with the improved AF system, high ISO noise performance, and higher resolution. And I have to say, I was not disappointed.

Image quality was great, exactly what I was hoping for out of such large files. Candids and portraits look fantastic at 100%, and making prints should be a breeze. Here are some samples from the wedding day, before the ceremony:


1/640 f/2 ISO 800, Leica 90mm f/2 APO Summicron


1/400 f/2.8 ISO 800, Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro


1/40 f/2.8 ISO 800, Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro


1/250 f/4 ISO 400, Leica 21mm f/1.4 Summilux


I was most intrigued by the AF system. It was supposed to be much better than the bodies that came before, and it seem to be living up to the hype. I left it in AF-C for most of the wedding and reception. I don’t know if I’d trust it for a sporting event, but walking, dancing, and the chaos of a wedding reception were all easily handled by the a7R II.


1/100 f/2.8 ISO 3200, Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro


1/125 f/2 ISO 12800, Sony FE 28mm f/2


1/80 f/2 ISO 12800, Sony FE 28mm f/2


1/80 f/2 ISO 12800, Sony FE 28mm f/2


Those last three are at ISO 12800, which I thought I was going to have to convert to b&w to keep them usable, but even at 100%, they’re grainy but really not bad at all. And then when you realize they’re 42MP, well, I’m impressed, to say the least. You can click on that last image to see it full size.

As an added bonus, the new AF system even improves performance with A mount lenses on the LAEA3 adapter, and Canon lenses on the Metabones adapters. Here’s a video showing the AF speed using a Canon 24-70 II on a Metabones IV:

Sony A7R II Auto-focus speed from on Vimeo.

If you’ve ever tried using your Canon lenses with the previous generation bodies and the Metabones IV, you’ll see right away how much faster things are now. Do note that in AF-C with either the Metabones or the LAEA3 there is no lock-on tracking option, only wide, center, and flexible spot. To get the full advantage of the improved AF, you have to use native E mount lenses.

I really think Sony nailed it with this one. Maybe I wouldn’t shoot roller derby with it yet, but for pretty much everything else, I think this is going to be my go to camera, especially once the lens line up is filled out more. I absolutely love the Sony FE 28mm. The Sony FE 90mm macro is nice, but it’s slow. I had good luck with M mount lenses, though, with the Leica 90mm APO-Cron and Leica 21mm Lux really knocking it out of the park on this high res sensor. If you’ve been waiting for a better alternative to your big, bulky DSLR, this might finally fit the bill. I’ve been hesitant to say that for the a7S, a7R, and the a7 II, even though I love those cameras, but the a7R II, I think this is the one. Try it out ASAP!

Sony a7R II

Sony FE 28mm f/2

Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro

Leica 21mm f/1.4 Summilux

Leica 90mm f/2 APO-Summicron

Voigtländer VM-E Close Focus adapter

Sony LAEA3 adapter

Metabones Canon EF to Sony E adapter IV

Author: Joey Miller

I’m Joey. I love cameras, especially old film cameras, and I can’t remember the last day I didn’t take a photo. Digital cameras are great, and they keep me employed, but I also still like processing my own film. I’m stuck somewhere in the middle. I shoot every single day, no matter what.

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  • Joey Miller

    Peter, either the 28 f/2 or 35 f/2.8 should be just fine. I prefer the 28. The 35 f/1.4 is interesting. If you need 1.4, it’s great, but has some heavy field curvature. I wouldn’t use it wide open for groups. If you’re going to stop down for group shots, there isn’t much advantage anymore. The focus on the 70-200 is faster than the 90, if that matters to you. It’ll be fine for portraits and such.

    Rob, those Metabones adapters are finicky. Have you updated the Metabones to the latest firmware? Have you checked the Metabones site to see if your lenses are on their list of tested lenses? You may also try this:

    1. Attach lens to Metabones, but leave them both off the camera.
    2. Turn camera on.
    3. Hold down the button on the Metabones while mounting to the camera.
    4. With the button still pressed on the Metabones, turn off the camera, then release the button.
    5. Turn camera back on.

    This is supposed to return the Metabones to default mode. It should restore aperture control. If AF doesn’t work after that, sometimes unmounting and remounting the lens while the Metabones is still on the camera and the camera is powered on can help. If none of this helps, I’d look at contacting Metabones and/or exchanging the Metabones adapter.

  • Rob

    Hi Joey, thanks for the review. I was wondering: you’ve tested the Canon EF 24-70 F2.8 MII with the Metabones adapter. So I did in the store, and it worked well. After having bought all the stuff, the A7RII and the Metabones, it now appears when arriving home that none of my other lenses are functioning! (70-200, 135, 100). Did I receive a bad copy of adapter/camera or can this be a serious issue?
    I’ll be interested in your thoughts! Rob

  • Peter

    Joey, which lens would you go with for wide angle/group shots on the a7/s/r2 for a wedding- 28 f/2, 35 f/2.8 or 35 f/1.4? Also you mentioned the 90 2.8 is slow, I have the 70-200 f/4, could it do as well since it’s only a stop difference but has the benefits of zoom? Shooting casually at a friend’s wedding coming up. Thanks for any insights.

  • Zlatko

    Joey, thanks for all of the replies!

    You guys complaining about the color should note that weddings often have color lighting effects, either just on the band, or for the whole room. Notice the cyan-blue color on the singer in the photo of the couple dancing. One moment it’s blue, the next it’s magenta, the next it’s red or green, etc. That’s the ambient light.

  • Joey Miller

    sdchew, when using the LAEA3, you’ll have to use lenses with internal focusing motors, but it’s an improved AF experience over the LAEA4 in just about every way, speed being one of them. It’s not much faster, but there’s a difference, as far as I can tell.

    Art, I didn’t use flash at all. Low light AF was good enough for that reception, where I was pushing ISO 12800. Would it be fine in even lower light? I don’t know, yet.

    Joe, I shoot lots of roller derby, usually with a 1DX, so I’m spoiled there. I don’t think the tracking on the a7RII is quite fast enough for faster moving games, but slower, more physical play it would probably keep up with just fine. I know guys that use m43 cameras and are getting great images, so depending on what system you’re coming from, the new Sony could either be a great improvement, or a slight step back. I’ll probably be trying out the a7RII at champs this year, so we’ll see.

  • Joey Miller

    Brendan, sorry, I don’t use flashes for my wedding work, so I didn’t test with them. I have used the other a7 bodies in the studio before, and I had no issues using radio triggers with them, but I haven’t tried any of those cameras with on-camera flashes, unfortunately.

  • Joey Miller

    Raichu, yep, looks like imgur resized it. I’ve changed the link to ImageShack, which seems to be preserving the full size.

  • Joey Miller

    Gregory, I love using M mount lenses on these Sony mirrorless bodies, so I’ve spent a lot of time figuring out which ones work best. Above 35mm I haven’t found any lenses that have corner issues. It’s the wider ones that have problems, and I’ve developed a short working list of lenses I like that I know I can use on these bodies. The 21 Lux is one of the best. The Tri-Elmar is also really good, as is hte Voigtländer 21mm f/1.8 Ultron (my backup when we’re out of stock of the 21 Lux). I haven’t used it in a while, but I’m pretty sure the 24 Lux is also good. The rest of my preferences include the Zeiss 35mm f/2 Biogon and 50mm f/2 APO-Summicron. I’d take that 50 APO over the Noctilux any day.

  • Joey Miller

    Terrible, you mean the second image? Right before that we were in deep shade, where I needed a moderate ISO, and I didn’t change it for this shot.

  • Joey Miller

    Zlatko, the last three images are of moving subjects in low enough light to need ISO 12800, and AF kept up just fine. Low light AF is better than the a7II, as far as I can tell. The a7RII wasn’t frustrating, and that made all the difference.

  • Joey Miller

    Rob, sorry, let me clarify. Under AF point selection, the options for Zone, Expand Flexible Spot, and Lock-on AF:Expand Flexible Spot are all greyed out. The only options available are Flexible Spot (S, M, and L), Center, and Wide. Once you are locked on in AF-C and one of those three point selection options, the camera will only track within the bounds of the points selected. If you’re in Flexible Spot, you’ll have to keep that spot over your subject. Center isn’t any larger than large Flexible Spot. Wide covers most of the frame, and it will track throughout the wide area, but you don’t get to select where it acquires focus. As far as I can tell, eye-AF only works with native mount lenses. There is no eye detection when using lenses on adapters. The only real takeaway is that previously, lenses on adapters weren’t really worth it for stills, especially when using a Metabones, but now they’re actually usable, just not full featured.

  • Joey Miller

    Lee, I didn’t have much issue with shutter lag or EVF performance on the a7S or a7II, so they weren’t huge concerns for me. I will say the a7RII is better in both respects. Shooting dancing couples in low enough light to merit ISO 12800 didn’t seem to phase the camera much. I normally shoot weddings with a D750, but I didn’t feel the need to use that camera for the reception this time. The a7RII didn’t slow me down at all.

  • Joey Miller

    Martin, that was the color of the lighting at the reception, and I generally try to keep the images looking more or less the way things really were. I agree it’s rather pink, and sometimes I convert to b&w just to avoid things like that, but I figured showing the color version would be more helpful for a review.

  • Joe Vahling

    You mentioned you wouldn’t shoot roller derby with it, which ironically is what I shoot. Was it pretty much the low light auto-focus in continuous a deal breaker?

  • Art

    Thanks for commenting on your experience with the A7RII. Did you try low light autofocus, perhaps when using flash? Was the low light autofocus snappy or sluggish? That’s the gateway problem for me to rely solely on Sony mirrorless, and others from what I can tell as well.

  • photoboom

    dude the last photo is so pink

  • sdchew

    Nice article! Could you comment if you use an a-mount glass, is it faster using a LA-EA3 with the new AF system or it is still faster with a LA-EA4?

  • Anand Narayanan

    Thank you for the crisp, to-the-point review. Would you mind elaborating on the shooting experience with Leica M lenses? This is the one big reason I am considering getting the a7r ii.

  • Hey Joey, did you get much chance to use it with flashes in an event setting? A lot of love is given for the low light performance, and I’d love the 28mm on the wedding dance floor, but very little is ever said about flash combos, triggers etc. I’m told that for some reason mirrorless camera’s AF does not function well with flash assist beams.

  • Just curious Lee do you own an A7? I admittedly haven’t used the A7R much but I own an A7 and A7S and shutter lag has never been an issue. Low-light EVF is an issue in the A7 because it doesn’t handle low-light well at all. I can see better with the A7S EVF in low-light than I can an OVF! One reason there is so much focus on noise and video is that these camera use video to feed the EVF. So better noise performance means a better viewfinder experience.

    Meanwhile I find the AF-C lacking on my A7 so I found this review very helpful. I think most owners of the 1st gen A7 cameras would agree that AF is a major concern.

  • .

    You really should test AF tracking before coming to any conclusions. I just did my tests with a7RII and LAEA-3 and LAEA-4 adapters with Sony SSM and Screwdrive lenses.

    Bad news…

    AF tracking only works with “Low Continuous” motor drive setting, about 2fps. It does not work with “High Continuous” motor drive. First frame locks focus and camera NEVER even attempts to readjust. This is regardless of being set for “Release” or “AF” priority.

    And even when it does track with “Low Continuous” motor, it does it at the pace of an old a200. Far less capable than an a99, a77, a77II, a900, or a700.

  • Brian

    I noticed that too. What’s up with the heavy pink tint?

  • raichu

    You said the last shot was 43mp, but it’s only 15.2mp. Imgur resizing? Either way I’d love to see the full image because the current one is lower than standard M4/3 resolution…

  • The two leica lenses that you mentioned (that knocked it out of the park).
    Did you notice any color fringing, smearing, shifting of softness?

  • Tuco

    During an exceedingly short ownership of last summer’s model (or was it last month’s?), I realized that I do not like systemless cameras.

  • Terrible

    Why such a high ISO outdoors?

  • Zlatko

    Thank you for the review! Very interesting and helpful.

    Is the A7RII’s autofocus noticeably better than the A7II’s autofocus? I wonder whether there is a noticeable difference, especially in low light.

  • Rob

    Hi Joey, thanks for posting your experience with the A7R II. Can you elaborate on this part:

    “Do note that in AF-C with either the Metabones or the LAEA3 there is no lock-on tracking option, only wide, center, and flexible spot.”

    So when using the Metabones IV, Canon lenses will do continuous autofocus, but cannot lock onto a subject as it travels across the frame? You would have to keep the AF point on the subject and pan with the subject’s movement in order to keep it focused? What about the eye-AF? Can you lock onto a subject’s eye and then have the AF point move to keep the eye in focus?

    If third-party lenses can’t do those things, then the ability to use third-party lenses isn’t as exciting as I thought. I shoot people 99% of the time, including candids, so being able to lock focus tracking on the subject or the subject’s eye is very important to me (My Olympus E-M1 does this and I love it. But too bad the sensor is small and more noisy compared to full-frame).

  • Lee Saxon

    All you talk about is noise and AF, which were not at all the main problems with the previous generation. It’s great that they’ve gone from “okay” to “very good,” but the previous generation had things that were not “okay” but “deal breaker”: Shutter lag and EVF low light refresh rate (and detail level) in particular.

  • Don’t think much of the white balance – rather pink!

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