20) Sony A7 II vs Canon 7D Mark II
Let’s take a look at how the full-frame Sony A7 II compares to the recently reviewed Canon 7D Mark II. For this test, I had to down-sample Sony A7 II images to 20.2 MP in order to match Canon’s resolution:
Although both cameras look pretty clean, the difference in performance is already evident at ISO 100. The Canon 7D Mark II produces a bit more noise at pixel level in the shadows.
The same pattern can be observed at ISO 800, with the Sony A7 II showing the full-frame advantage.
As ISO is pushed higher, you would expect the 1.6x crop factor Canon 7D Mark II to show visibly more noise in comparison. However, the smaller sensor camera actually looks pretty impressive, producing similar amount of noise up to ISO 6400.
The Canon 7D Mark II loses more colors at ISO 12800, but its noise performance is pretty impressive.
For the final comparison, I put ISO 16000 on the Canon 7D Mark II (highest ISO) against ISO 25600 on the A7 II. As you can see, the Canon looks better in comparison.
21) Sony A7 II vs Fuji X-T1
Now let’s take a look at how the Fujifilm X-T1 compares to the Sony A7 II. The X-T1 also features an APS-C sensor, although it is a bit larger with a 1.5x crop factor. For this comparison, I had to down-sample Sony A7 II images to 16 MP to match Fuji X-T1’s resolution. As previously noted before, the Fuji X-T1 exposes differently, which resulted in darker images, so I had to expose it a bit longer:
Both cameras look very close at up to ISO 800.
The same behavior can be observed at ISO 1600, with the X-T1 looking pretty darn good in comparison.
At ISO 3200, the X-T1 produces larger grain, but it looks very clean compared to the A7 II.
Surprisingly, ISO 6400 looks better on the Fuji X-T1. Take a look at the bottom of the ship, where it is pretty clear that the Sony A7 II loses out in retaining colors. Fuji does not allow shooting RAW at higher ISOs than 6400, so there are no other comparisons to show. Overall, the Fuji X-T1 held up nicely against the Sony A7 II.
In regards to exposure time (shutter speed) for the above ISO comparisons, please note that if I use Nikon as a reference, the Sony A7 II results in 1/3 brighter exposure, while the Fuji X-T1 results in 1/3 darker exposure. This translates to roughly 2/3 of a stop difference between the Sony A7 II and the Fuji X-T1. If we compare the cameras at the same shutter speed and adjust ISO, this would mean roughly comparing ISO 800 on the Sony A7 II to ISO 1250 on the Fuji X-T1. Now if you compare the cameras at different ISOs, the Fuji no longer looks better at very high ISOs – it looks slightly worse. But the difference is not drastic as one would expect to see. To be honest, considering that the A7 II has a full-frame sensor, it should have done better…
22) Sony A7 II vs Nikon D7100
Another interesting comparison would be to see how the 24 MP A7 II fares against the 24 MP Nikon D7100, which has a smaller APS-C sensor. I did not down-sample anything for this test, so you are looking at 100% pixel-level performance:
Both cameras perform very similarly at low ISOs, with very slight differences at ISO 800.
As ISO is increased to higher levels, we see smaller grain on the D7100, but the overall image looks pretty comparable again – similar to what we have seen on the Canon 7D Mark II and the Fuji X-T1.
Even at very high ISO 12800 we see the same grim picture for the A7 II – the Nikon D7100 looks very similar, if not better!
It is pretty clear that Sony is not doing as good of a job at suppressing noise, since the Nikon D7100 looks pretty darn good overall.
22) Sony A7 II vs Nikon D750
The last, more meaningful test, is to see how the Sony A7 II compares to its full-frame counterpart, the Nikon D750. Since both cameras have the same resolution, no down-sampling was performed:
Ouch, the Nikon D750 clearly looks better at ISO 800.
The same pattern is observed at ISO 3200, with the D750 showing visibly cleaner images, particularly in the shadows.
And at very high ISOs above 6400, it is again pretty clear that the Nikon D750 leads the game not only in terms of noise, but also in terms of retaining colors.
23) Sony A7 II Comparison Summary
I will be honest, I expected to see better performance from the Sony A7 II in my lab tests. As you can see from the above comparisons, Sony is clearly falling behind in dealing with noise at high ISOs when compared to the Nikon D750. In fact, its noise levels are visibly worse, similar to what one would see with APS-C cameras. How can that be? When I first saw these results, I thought that I did something wrong with my tests. I went back and re-shot the studio scene several times with custom white balance set on every camera, making sure that the lighting conditions were consistent from camera to camera. Every test was showing the same result – the A7 II did not do very well, period. Next, I looked at the results from DxOMark, which showed a very different picture: in their tests, the Sony A7 II did quite well, showing a consistent advantage in SNR than the Nikon D7100. I could not understand where the differences were coming from, but my last check was to see what folks at DPReview measured. When I saw their studio scene tool comparing A7, A7 II, D7100 and D750 (change to RAW and select these cameras from the drop-down), I realized that DPReview was showing very similar results as mine! So despite what DxOMark is showing, both DPReview and my tests reveal that the Sony A7 II is visibly worse in ISO performance than the Nikon D750, looking similar to the output of the Nikon D7100. I am not entirely sure why the A7 II performed this way in the lab. Perhaps the A7 II sensor does not react very well to poor lighting conditions? And why is DxOMark showing a very different picture? Your guess is as good as mine…