Autofocus / Manual Focus Performance and Metering
The Sony A7 II comes with an improved version of the hybrid autofocus system found on its predecessor, offering up to 30% faster autofocus performance. This hybrid AF system is a combination of phase and contrast detect AF, which allows for much quicker AF acquisition than only contrast detection, which is found on both Sony A7R and A7S. The difference in AF performance between the A7 series cameras is quite noticeable, particularly when shooting in good light – the A7 II acquires focus much faster in comparison with phase detection engaged. When light levels drop, the camera switches to phase detection, slowing down autofocus operations.
With a total of 117 phase detection AF points and 25 contrast detection points, the A7 II features a fairly complex AF system. But how much faster is the A7 II compared to the A7? In Single Focus mode (AF-S), it certainly feels a bit snappier than the A7. But it is still a somewhat mixed bag: in some situations, AF acquires very quickly and takes no time, while in other situations, the camera probes for focus first, as if it switches to contrast detect (with plenty of ambient light). Continuous AF certainly got a boost and the A7 II feels more like the A6000 (which is pretty decent for continuous AF), but not as good as OM-D E-M1 and certainly not anywhere close to what a full-frame DSLR can do. If you are into photographing fast-moving subjects, the A7 II will disappoint you, so you will be much better off with a DSLR instead. Plus, aside from the 70-200mm f/4 OSS, there are no native telephoto lenses for the A7 II anyway and you certainly do not want to use third party prime lenses with adapters, as AF will be completely unusable for fast action. Still, things are moving in the right direction and I hope Sony continuous to develop continuous AF to make it even more usable and practical to be able to compete with DSLRs in the future.
Manual focus is the mirrorless stronghold, since EVF can offer such handy capabilities as instant zooming in and focus peaking. Sony did a great job integrating these capabilities into all of its cameras, which is why so many people love shooting with third party lenses. Being able to zoom in inside the viewfinder and seeing highlights in the focused areas allows for ultra-fine focus precision, which results in tack sharp photos. With a DSLR, you are forced to switch to live view mode and you have to look at the rear LCD screen to be able to identify whether your subject is in focus or not, and most brands do not even offer focus peaking in live view. With the Sony A7 II and other mirrorless cameras, you look inside the EVF and focus, which makes it really easy to use manual focus. If you use a native Sony lens, the moment you start moving the focus ring on the lens, the camera will switch to magnified view to assist with focusing. If you use third party lenses with dumb adapters, you will have to zoom in manually, as the camera won’t know what you are trying to do. But what’s great about the A7 II, is that it now has IBIS, so focusing gets even easier – the viewfinder does not look as jumpy anymore as it did before.
As for exposure metering, the Sony A7 II behaves similarly as other A7 series cameras and its predecessor – exposure accuracy is usually very good, even in tricky lighting conditions. In most cases it provided good exposure, minimizing the use of the exposure compensation dial (I primarily shot in Aperture Priority mode).
Just like its predecessor, the Sony A7 II is equipped with a fast processor that is capable of capturing high definition 1080p video at up to 60 fps. The Sony A7 II is not crippled like many other cameras are and you can easily change all exposure variables. The camera can take advantage of the IBIS And the hybrid AF system for video as well, although to get the best out of the camera, I would recommend to upgrade to the latest firmware (which addressed a number of issues when using IBIS for shooting video). You can connect external microphones and you can also hook up a headphone for audio monitoring. Sony added a couple of new features to video recording on the A7 II: you can now shoot in flat picture profile (S-Log2) and you can now pick XAVC S for encoding (you will need an SDXC card though). Similar to other Sony A7 cameras, the video recording button is still located on the side of the camera.
Back in 2009, Sony was the first to release a WiFi-capable camera. Since then, Sony has been pushing Wi-Fi hard into its devices, including every A7 camera. The Sony A7 II retains the same Wi-Fi capabilities as the A7 and allows transferring pictures directly to a smart phone or a computer. You can set the camera up as a wireless access point and once you install Sony’s PlayMemories app and connect, transferring and sharing photos is very simple. I connected my iPhone with the A7 II and I was able to transfer images effortlessly. I am glad that Sony has been pushing Wi-Fi into its cameras, because it challenged Nikon and Canon to do the same. Being able to take pictures and share them immediately should be a built-in feature in every digital camera.
Let’s see how the camera does in ISO performance and how it compares to others. Choose the next page below.
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