I recently sold my D810 to get the Sony A7R II after it was announced by Sony, so I received it less than a week ago after ordering from Amazon. The specs were too tempting, especially with Nikon being somewhat stagnant in regards to innovation on the mirrorless front. Although I loved my D810 for landscape images, lugging the camera and tripod when going on vacation or hiking with a 20 month old child, has it’s challenges. The thoughts of a lighter set-up and the 5-axis image stabilization is what finally pushed me over; the 42MP BSI sensor was just the icing on the cake as I would have gone to Sony even if they stuck with 36MP.
It is hard to visit any photography website without noticing extensive fanfare being paid to the mirrorless camera niche. Some tout it as the savior of the mid-to-high end camera market. Others have dubbed it the “DSLR killer.” A number of prominent photographers have created videos and articles articulating how mirrorless innovations caused them to shed pounds from their bag and reintroduce them to the joy of photography. And why shouldn’t they? The market for traditional point-and-shoot cameras is in a free fall as smartphones increase in usage, quality, and capabilities. Traditional DSLR sales continue to fall as well. The industry certainly needs something to cheer about. And of course, photography websites need something to write about.
Without a doubt, one of the most anticipated camera releases this year is the Sony A7R II, a mirrorless monster with world’s first 42.4 MP BSI CMOS sensor and a slew of features, such as in-body image stabilization, electronic first-curtain shutter, completely silent electronic shutter, high-resolution electronic viewfinder and 4K video recording, to make it worth seriously looking into. We have written about this release last week and based on our readers’ feedback, many are excited about the Sony A7R II release. I have been personally waiting for this camera for years, because it brings pretty much everything I want in a compact mirrorless camera – Sony did a great job in addressing most of my concerns that I have expressed on previous iterations of the A7 line. Although battery life is still a concern and 14-bit lossless / uncompressed RAW support is only a promise by Sony at this time, I will still go ahead and order the Sony A7R II for myself for a number of reasons. First, the camera already has most of the features that I want in a mirrorless camera. Second, with Zeiss backing up Sony with their new Loxia and Batis lines of lenses, along with Sony’s own high-quality primes, I don’t have any more concerns about native lenses. Lastly, the A7R II will be my reference camera for evaluating Sony-mount lenses, which I am planning to test and review more of. Sony has been working hard on the A7 line and it these cameras have now reached the point of maturity, so I consider them safe to invest in. In fact, if the A7R II turns out to be as good as the specifications promise, I might start using it heavily for my landscape photography needs. Well, today is an exciting day, because you can pre-order your copy of the Sony A7R II!
Today is a big day in the photography world, because Sony has just unleashed a true monster, the Sony A7R II, something that will seriously impact the photography industry. This is the camera that I have been personally waiting for, this is the game changer. I know this sounds a bit over-hyped and potentially over-promising, but as I was reviewing the Sony A7R, I asked myself “what would be an ideal mirrorless system look like for landscape photography?”. Based on my experience shooting with the Sony A7 II and Sony A7R, the wishlist included: lower-noise shutter, vibration-free shutter mechanism with EFCS (electronic first-curtain shutter), electronic silent shutter, high-resolution sensor with superb dynamic range, in-camera body image stabilization (IBIS) and full 14-bit RAW support. Well, the Sony A7R II today not only includes most of the items from my wishlist (the 14-bit RAW support is unclear at this time), but it also comes with more – this camera will be the first to feature a full-frame 42.4 MP BSI CMOS sensor, which means better low-light performance. Sony claims an improvement of two stops, which is huge. Faster sensor readouts also allow the A7R II to capture 4K video at 30p/25p/24p (with Super 35 support), making this camera highly desirable for both digital photography and videography needs. On top of this, the A7R II will come with a much more advanced AF system with 399 AF points (based on on-sensor phase detection points) and will be able to autofocus with third party lenses. Its OLED electronic viewfinder has been refined with impressive 0.78x magnification. This is why I called this camera a “game changer”, as it has more to offer than anything else on the market today. It sets a new benchmark, setting a new challenge for not only Nikon and Canon, but also medium format camera manufacturers. After this announcement, Canon’s 5DS already sounds unattractive and the camera has not even hit the shelves yet (sorry Canon fans, but we weren’t that enthusiastic after finding out that Canon did nothing to improve the dynamic range on the 5DS). And with Zeiss backing up Sony with its amazing Loxia and Batis lines of lenses and Sony working hard on releasing high-quality lenses, the Sony mirrorless system is gaining traction quicker than anyone anticipated. The only drawback of this announcement is the price – the Sony A7R II will be Sony’s most expensive mirrorless camera to date, with its MSRP price of $3,200.
Sony unleashed the Sony A7 and the A7R in October of 2013. With the Sony A7 aimed for general use sporting a 24 MP sensor and hybrid autofocus, the A7R differs primarily with its 36 MP sensor, therefore making the A7R more suitable for specific types of photography that need high resolution such as landscape, architecture, studio and product photography. I had an opportunity to test both cameras in 2014, however, I did not have a chance to write detailed reviews for a number of different reasons. Hence, this is more of a catch-up type of a review showcasing some images from my recent trips, along with the usual analysis.
I will be traveling out of country in April and before I leave, I have a few days to try to work on some reviews. Whether I will manage to produce a lot of content before my departure or not, I am planning to finish up the task upon my return. Lots of gear came out during the last year and having started my Sony mirrorless camera reviews, I intend to complete a few of those as well. Below is the list of gear that I currently have, which I am planning to review as soon as possible:
While reviewing the Sony A7 II, I had a chance to test and play with every Sony FE lens made as of April of 2015. The list includes the following lenses: Sony FE 35mm f/2.8, Zeiss Loxia 35mm f/2, Zeiss Loxia 50mm f/2, Sony FE 55mm f/1.8, Sony FE 16-35mm f/4 OSS, Sony FE 24-70mm f/4 OSS, Sony FE 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS and Sony FE 70-200mm f/4 OSS. Since I also simultaneously had the Sony A7R and A7S bodies (reviews to follow soon), I decided to measure MTF performance of each lens using Imatest and see how they perform individually. While I am planning to review all of these lenses in detail within the next few months, I thought putting together some data for our readers might be helpful, perhaps for those of our readers who either already own the A7 system, or those who are planning to invest in it. The below numbers are based on two different samples of each lens (I always do my best to test at least two due to sample variation) and the numbers I present are for the lens that showed the best results. Unfortunately, due to the shutter shock issue of the Sony A7R camera, I was not able to reliably test the Sony FE 70-200mm f/4 OSS lens, particularly at anything longer than 100mm. I will have to retest that lens when Sony adds electronic front curtain shutter feature to the A7R, or releases a newer 36 MP+ body with built-in EFCS (yes, the shutter shock on the A7R is pretty significant). I have not yet tested the newly announced Sony FE lenses, so I will test those separately as soon as I get my hands on them.
Someone at Sony must be finally realizing cameras don’t make a system. As numerous and capable (crippled RAW format notwithstanding) the A7-series cameras are, the real pull of any system is the lens lineup. And so the Japanese manufacturer has announced four new FE lenses for full-frame mirrorless cameras. It is very much worth noting that just one of the lenses is a superzoom with a disappointingly slow aperture of f/6.3 at the long end – the other three are prime lenses of 28mm, 35mm and 90mm focal lengths. On top of that, Sony has also introduced two new lens converters, one for wider angle of view, the other – for fisheye effect. Let’s take a closer look at the new products.
October 16 of 2013 marks an important milestone in the history of photography, because it is the date when Sony announced world’s first full-frame mirrorless cameras, the Sony A7 and A7R. The Sony A7, being the cheaper model aimed for general use, sports a 24 MP sensor and offers hybrid autofocus, while the A7R with its high resolution 36 MP sensor is targeted at more specific types of photography including landscape, architecture, studio and product photography. Since the official release of these cameras, I had a chance to test both in 2014 as soon as they were available. However, I did not write detailed reviews for a number of reasons including native lens shortage and availability, all kinds of initial firmware bugs and lags, shutter vibrations (A7R), slow start up time, compressed RAW, terrible menu system, poor battery life and a number of other annoying issues. On top of that, 2014 was also a year of personal transformation for me, so I was incredibly busy trying to shuffle a lot of things at the same time. To put it short, my lack of time and my negative experience with these cameras contributed to reviews being put off for a later date. When Sony released the A7S a bit later, I did not see drastic changes aside from the camera sensor, so I put off reviewing that camera for a while as well. However, when Sony announced the second iteration of the A7-series, the A7 II, I immediately requested a review unit for evaluation. By then, Sony already had a few more native lenses to choose from and I had high hopes that Sony perhaps addressed many of the concerns from the original A7 in this new camera. In addition, the Sony A7 II came with in-body image stabilization (IBIS), which interested me a lot – with so many different adapters available for other lens mounts, the A7 II looked rather promising as a versatile tool that could stabilize pretty much any lens on the market. And that in itself sounded really good, so off I went with my journey to assess the new Sony A7 II.
Although Black Friday is supposed to be “the day” for great deals, I’ll admit that I was not all that impressed with what Nikon had to offer, aside from a couple of fine deals on lower-end cameras. Well, it is Cyber Monday today and things are looking much more interesting, with some great deals from Nikon definitely worth looking at. The Nikon Coolpix A did not sell all that well for $579 on Black Friday, but it seems like Nikon is either releasing a replacement, or just wants to clear off the shelves, since the price has been slashed even more – the Nikon Coolpix A is on sale for $499, for today only until the stock is gone (about 10% of the stock has already been claimed). At this price, the little camera with a large APS-C sensor is a great deal, so if you need a small pocketable travel camera, you might want to check it out! In addition to this, there are a few other deals like the Nikon 1 V2 kit for $499 that I found and picked for our readers. If I find anything else worth posting today, I will update this article.