Sony A7 second act

Categoria: English Pubblicato: Venerdì, 27 Maggio 2016 Scritto da Max Angeloni

Translation by Pietro Todaro

This is how I concluded the article on the Sony Cyber Shot RX1 in the beginning of 2013:

“(...) Its not a question of cost. With a handful of Euros one could add 3 batteries and its traditional battery charger to the kit. Together with a  small case in neoprene, a buyer of the Sony RX1 would be able to tour the world without having the need to carry any other photographic instrument. ...there... its the little things.
Just like that extra centimeter that would entitle the RX1 to enter photographic history. That extra centimeter in which the sophisticated Trufinder 2 OLED viewfinder, a battery with greater capacity, a more rational layout of the controls, in which the shutter speed dial would find space.

Who knows if all this has, in reality, has actually already been foreseen, who knows if the CyberShot RX1, in reality, is not but the first approach towards something new and revolutionary. Something that could  get pulses racing even in the roundabouts of Solms in Germany. In any case, if you love image rendering without compromises, then you must, at least once in your life, try the Sony RX1. A perfectible camera that is capable of taking pictures that touch the boundaries of perfection.”

Exactly three years have passed and re-reading what I written, I realized that I had been rather prophetic. In reality it didn't go exactly as I had thought.
That is, it didn't go as I had thought, right away.
I must be honest. As always.
I must confess that the first version of the Sony A7R was one of the few camera models that I refused to review. I didn't like it. I didn't like it and I was angry.
How was it possible that so much superficiality was lavished, for what... in my imagination...  should have been the first photographic system that should have represented an alternative to full frame reflex cameras.
I still remember the announcement. Two cameras and three lenses. I thought... here we go again. Just like what happened for the Nex, Sony will produce millions of camera models one after the other, with few lenses of scarce quality and/or professional interest.

Then... at its first use I was traumatized. As soon as the 7R arrived, I noticed that there was only one battery... the charger was not there.... (only a USB cable) and the atavistic problem of distorted and unintelligible menus  would sum up with ergonomic mistakes. For example the rearward position of the shutter button, that after a prolonged use, would force the photographer to use his or her thumb to avoid unpleasant cramps on the right hand. When I brought the camera to a church for its first job... that Sony ran the very real risk of being smashed against the wall of the central nave after the first click.
“Gosh”, I said... “but did I take along my old D3 as a back up body today?” I then took a look at the camera I had in my hand and saw the 7R. I asked myself... how is it possible that an object so small makes more noise than that of the loudest reflex? You may laugh. But I dismantled the lens and checked if perhaps I would find a mirror. I know... its illogical, but the sound that this mirrorless made appeared to be so exaggerated that I could not give it a plausible explanation.
Once home, I was still pissed off (excuse the term but I cant seem to find a more adequate term), and my mood was going from bad to worse while visualizing the shots taken by this camera. They were beautiful...
Then I asked myself... how is it possible that with all the potential that Sony has, it cant seem to  produce a system that can be defined truly complete? How is it possible that they don't realize that its useless to produce low cost FF if they are full of limits (I will not list them all, otherwise we would be here for days) and to add to this, these cameras are not even supplied with the proper accessories?
That day I decided that my experience with Sony A7R would be called to an end.

 
Sony A7RII - Sony Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55 mm F1,8 ZA (1/1000, f/2, Iso 100)


Years passed and new models came out, while the lenses to choose from became more and more interesting.
The A7RII arrives, I open the box... wow, there are two batteries... wow there is also a real battery charger. I take hold of the camera... “there”, I thought... “this is a photographic camera”.
This time I don't just have the  Sony Sonnar T* FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA, but have almost the whole set of lenses dedicated to this system. No adapters and no gimmicks. I can finally “take” and “shoot” with lenses designed for this system.
I mentioned both photo and video. In fact both activities are of equal importance to me, my interest for Sony was principally oriented towards a system that could unite these two worlds without excessively sacrificing one of the two. Till now, rather until yesterday, my choice was for Nikons and, I must admit, that the D800, D810 and the D750 would carry out this double function rather well. But once I brought the A7RII and the A7SII on a set, it was easy to find out which system would offer, as far as videos were concerned, the best quality, and most of all, greater creative possibilities.
I will discuss these aspects later on.
One last thing... when a new system comes out, I promise myself to jot down the first impressions right away. In reality I never do this. The reasons for this behavior are the usual ones. On thing is when a new model of a known system comes out, while another is to explain in a clear and detailed manner something that until then did not exist. Its a question of intellectual honesty, and to gain this honesty one must take necessary time to completely comprehend the system in its entirety.

 


Sony A7RII - Sony – Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55 mm F1,8 ZA (1/1600, f/1.8, Iso 100)

 

First contact and principal characteristics

As already mentioned the Sony A7RII has good ergonomics. At least for those who don't have huge hands like I do.
Ultra light cameras are a godsend for those who hold up a photographic instrument from morning till night. At the same time, an excessive lightness could be counter productive in certain photographic situations, for instance when using larger lenses or flashes mounted on the hot shoe.
From this prospective the weight and balance of the A7RII appealed to me right away, I found it to be a good compromise.
The controls, compared to the previous version were not revolutionized. The re-positioning of the shutter button and the on and off lever, have allowed the installation of a second “customizable” button. The shutter speed and aperture dials have undergone a restyling and the front one is finally positioned in the correct manner. Now one can shoot with a Sony for a long period of time without much effort.

That was the good news so far.

 

Sony A7RII - Sony – Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55 mm F1,8 ZA (1/1600, f/1.8, Iso 100)


The bad news however  falls on the menu. I don't want to ruin my day, nor ruin the reading pleasure, by listing, again, all the defects. But I repeat... it takes dedication... but really a lot of dedication to create such cryptic and complex menus.
Another thing about Sony that I will never understand is the visualization, through the monitor of the pictures taken. In the beginning I thought that it was due to the “too high” quality of the monitors used. Now, I am sure that this is premeditated by the designers. I will emphasize this, apparently secondary aspect, until boredom. If a camera is defined as “professional” what sense does it have to visualize, through the monitor, a picture that has been adjusted and retouched?  If one takes pictures in Jpg and decides to directly apply anti-noise filter, optical corrections, contrast masks and other alchemic solutions is one thing. But if one shoots in Raw, the monitor must deliver an image that is free from any artificial electronic intervention. A professional does not limit himself to posting pictures on social networks. A  professional very well knows what a Raw file is and what procedures must be implemented in order to print out his works. A professional prefers a more neutral on cam visualization, compared to what will eventually be seen on his computer, and not the contrary.

 

Sony A7RII - Sony FE 28mm f/2 (1/60, f/2, Iso 12800)

 

Sony A7RII - Sony FE 28mm f/2 (1/60, f/2.8, Iso 2000)


One last thing... halfway between a reproach and a plaudit... regarding the numerous options that the Sony A7RII offers; electronic, mechanic, hybrid options for the shutter, then for the auto-focus there are wide, center, flexible spot, expanded, narrow and tracking options etc etc etc.
One runs the risk to lose ones mind. And if, on one hand, all this means that electronics finally does not pose limits to the potential of our photographic instrument, on the other, one has the impression that Sony has thrown all its technology into this photographic instrument but at the same time, has transferred to the user the task of finding out how to best utilize it.  There's quite a lot of work to be done here to try to offer a clear and exhaustive guide on how to correctly use of all the potentialities that are at our fingertips.
I'll make an example. If I had decided to write this article after a month of use, I would have surely highlighted how the continuous auto-focus was good, but certainly far from the performance of a high-end reflex. But, by constantly experimenting, I not only understood how to make it perform well, but to learnt how to use it with ability in order to take professional videos when the A7RII (or A7SII) is mounted on a steady-cam or on a shoulder brace.

 

Sony A7RII - Sony – Zeiss Vario Tessar T* FE 24-70 mm F4 ZA OSS (1/250, f/8, Iso 100)

 


Sony A7RII - Sony – Zeiss Vario Tessar T* FE 24-70 mm F4 ZA OSS (1/800, f/6.3, Iso 100)

 

Sony A7RII - Sony – Zeiss Vario Tessar T* FE 24-70 mm F4 ZA OSS (1/20, f/4, Iso 12800)

 

Sony A7RII
Ready, steady, go... power on... 1-2-3-4... it switches on slowly... too slow.
Fortunately Sony has learnt the importance of quickly releasing firmware updates capable of solving problems that eventually come up. With the latest releases, not only has the power up become quicker (not extremely fast, but acceptable) but it has fixed other problems as well.
The most discussed issue was, for example, the possibility to shoot in Raw 14 bit without lossless.
I personally feel that other aspects have, by and by, been resolved with the updates, but most of them are issues that are not mentioned, much less announced. Its not rare that an update contains fixes that are not publicized. I don't know if its some kind of commercial or communicative strategy. But this is how it goes. This issue will be tackled more in depth in the paragraph dedicated to the lenses and in particular to the Zeiss Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 24-70mm f/4 ZA OSS.
Thus lets go on.
As anticipated, the ergonomics of the second version of the Sony A7 immediately transmit a positive feeling. Regardless of the lens that is mounted on the camera, a good balance is immediately felt, it doesn't matter if on the bayonet  one has a Sony FE 28mm f/2 Lens  or the more substantial Sony FE 70-200mm f/4.0 G OSS Lens.
Naturally, any mirrorless combined with a zoom will appear ungraceful. Actually, its difficult to imagine that the combination of a small body with a large lens can guarantee an adequate ergonomic equilibrium. Nevertheless, and I have always highlighted this aspect... when using heavier lenses one uses the left hand to wield everything. If one just uses the right hand it will take only an afternoon of intense photography to bring pains to the wrist and elbow. Its kind of like the shoulder strap... have you ever tried to keep a couple of kilos of glass and metal on your neck?
This issue is not only valid for Sony but for all the other CSC systems that have heavy and bulky lenses in their catalogs

 

Sony A7RII - Sony FE 28mm f/2 (1/60, f/2, Iso 3200)

 

Sony A7RII - Sony FE 28mm f/2 (10 sec., f/9, Iso 100)


Talking about weights and volumes, I would like to clarify an aspect that is oftentimes discussed in an inappropriate manner. In many occasions one hears criticisms or comments on one system or other, regarding the overall dimensions, and in particular, the small bodies of the CSCs that are apparently disproportionate compared to the sizes of some lenses.
In reality is all about the laws of physics. Laws that are tied to the focal range, the luminosity and to the dimension of the sensor. A 50mm f/1, for example has a light entry pupil that is equivalent to 50mm. This is unquestionable. Therefore, regardless of the fact that it is fitted on a camera that has a sensor of an inch or on a Full Frame, it will always be 50mm. What miniaturization can help with, is the equivalent angle of view and the surface of the sensitive support that must be “illuminated”.
Lets make an example. To have an angle of view equivalent to 50mm on a micro 4/3 one should, in reality, mount a 25mm. Therefore if we are talking about a 25mm f/1 the light entry pupil will be 25mm. If the sensor is an APSc we will be talking about a focal of (more or less) 33mm and a light entry pupil of 33mm. When talking about Full Frames, then the values are equal to 50mm. Moreover, the surface of the sensitive element present some complications. Lets imagine that given the same distance between the focal plane of the film or of the sensor and the line of insert of a lens on a camera, one must illuminate, in a homogeneous manner, a sensor that is 17.30x13.00 mm (micro 4/3), one that is 23.6x15.6 mm (APSc), and one of 36x24 mm (Full Frame). Its evident that the surface that the light must reach will be greater in the case of a larger sensor and narrower in the case of a smaller sensor.
In practice this implicates a great effort in the design and its not a coincidence that with larger sensors, in presence of very luminous wide angle lenses, the standard design that is adopted, provide for retrofocus. In a few words and in broad terms, a 35mm f/1.4 is in reality, not distanced from the focal plane by 35mm but by a lot more and adopts an optical scheme defined as retrofocus, that gives back an angle of view that is equal to the nominal value of the lens.
Now... this solution was born with the advent of reflex cameras in order to limit the lengthening of the flange focal distance due to the positioning of the mirror. Now that the mirror on mirrorless cameras is has disappeared,  we have noticed that sensors (especially the large ones with high resolution) are able to boast an increase in performance by keeping luminous wide angle lenses at a distance. In addition to this, with the increase in the dimensions of the optical groups of lenses, adequate motorization must be provided for to allow proper focusing, this explains why its difficult to foresee extremely miniaturized luminous lenses in the near future.

 

Sony A7RII - Sony Zeiss Distagon T * FE f/1,4 ZA 35mm
 (1/4000, f/1.4, Iso 100)

 

Sony A7RII - Sony Zeiss Distagon T * FE f/1,4 ZA 35mm
 (1/250, f/2, Iso 100)

 

Sony A7RII - Sony Zeiss Distagon T * FE f/1,4 ZA 35mm
 (1/80, f/5, Iso 200)


Fortunately, the market today, offers solutions for every necessity. With the micro 4/3, for example, we can truly enjoy great compactness and (compared to the same angle of view of that of larger sensors) a greater depth of field and a greater multiplication factor especially for telefocus lenses. On the other hand, the reduced dimensions of the sensors impose some limits (still with reference to the same angle of view compared to that of larger sensors) regarding bokeh and to the three-dimensional aspect of the images.
With the APSc we can obtain good compromises between performance and compactness. But as focal lengths become longer, the difference in bulkiness, with larger formats is reduced and its difficult to predict in the short run that resolutions will become higher than those reached up to now.
With FF, instead, we can appreciate “nominal” focal lengths, as we are accustomed to, giving the advantage of three-dimensional images and, above all, using wide-angle and normal focal lengths. We can opt for higher resolutions and generally sensors that offer greater performances.  On the other hand the we will have more bulkiness, the multiplication factor of the telephoto will be canceled, and in the case of very high resolution sensors ,  a greatly reduced depth of field that may cause important limits in certain fields of photography shooting in full aperture using very luminous lenses.
Therefore there is no better or worse... and a positive aspect for one may be a negative aspect for another and vice versa, depending on ones photographic requirements. I wrote all this just for clarity's sake.

 

Sony A7RII - Sony Zeiss Distagon T * FE f/1,4 ZA 35mm
 (1/500, f/1.4, Iso 100)

 

Sony A7RII - Sony Zeiss Distagon T * FE f/1,4 ZA 35mm
 (1/250, f/2.8, Iso 250)

 

Sony A7SII - Sony Zeiss Distagon T * FE f/1,4 ZA 35mm
 (1/125, f/1.4, Iso 3200)

 

But where were we? Ah yes... the Sony A7 “Mark 2”.
We were talking about the lenses  and lets immediately pass on to the stabilization system adopted by these Sony, and specifically, by the A7RII.
One of the inconveniences of high resolution and high density sensors is that they deliver images in which there is a strong perception of micro blur. In reality, oftentimes, micro blur is interpreted as imprecise focusing or the incapability of the resolution of the lens to match up with the exuberance of the sensor. In any case, with cameras such as these, the risk of micro blur is really something that should not be underestimated. In reflex cameras this inconvenience is limited by either by using stabilized lenses or working on the shutter-mirror system to limit the vibrations that these two elements transmit. On mirrorless cameras one has the possibility to use the electronic shutter.
We well know that this solution is not suitable for all photographic situations (rolling shutter, Banding). In the Sony A7RII a hybrid shutter has been implemented, that is, an electronic and a mechanical one on the second shutter blind capable of acquiring the best of both solutions and reducing to a bare minimum the inconveniences of these two types of shutters.
To add to this, a 5 axis stabilizer has been inserted directly in the camera body. In brief, a stabilizer that compensates any micro movement of the camera. Now... before diving into the ancient debate that, on one hand has some that feel that its better to have the stabilizer inserted in the lens and on the other that feel that its better to have it in the camera body, its best to specify that Sony has given both options. Rather... has integrated them and makes both options interact.  If one utilizes the A7RII with lenses that don't have a stabilization system then only the one that is integrated in the camera will function, if a stabilized lens is used then the system mounted in the lens will interact with the one in the camera. Fantastic.
For once I'll be impartial and say that not only does this system work marvelously well but the results that one can achieve are surprising. Obviously we are always talking about a 42MP and don't expect the impossible. But being able to safely shoot at 200mm even at 1/10 is no small feat.

 

Sony A7RII - Sony Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55 mm F1,8 ZA (1/125, f/1.8, Iso 200)

 

Sony A7RII - Sony Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55 mm F1,8 ZA (1/640, f/2, Iso 100)

 

Sony A7RII - Sony Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55 mm F1,8 ZA (1/1000, f/2, Iso 100)

 


As always with Sony,  there is not just one way to activate and deactivate this function. If one uses stabilized lenses then one must use the control on the lens. If instead the lens is not stabilized then one must act through the menu. Its not immediately intuitive but not so complicated either.
Speaking about the thousands of options of the menu that we have at our disposal, my suggestion is to immediately personalize both, the numerous function buttons and menu short cuts that are accessible via the “Fn” button.  Through the “Fn” button one has access to short cuts in which one can insert the 12 most commonly used functions.

As far as the photographic functions are concerned, my camera is set up as follows.

C1: Exposure reading mode

C2: Silent shooting (mechanical and electronic shutter)

C3: Focus mode (single, continuous, manual)

C4: Steady shot

From the rear dial with preset functions of the advanced mode and Iso, I added that of the focus mode. Not only do I find this solution really useful but with just the pressure of a fingertip I can choose the focusing mode and move around the focus area.
In the Fn shortcut instead, I inserted the options that I need, on a case by case basis, based on the type of job that I have to do. Generally speaking, I always keep the Flash mode, white balance and the Steady Shot adjustment just in case the lenses that I use are not able to electronically communicate with the camera or are used with an adapter.

Good... even the survival guide of the menu has been written.

 

Sony A7RII - Sony FE 70-200 mm f/4 G OSS
 (1/1600, f/4, Iso 200)

 

 Sony A7RII - Sony FE 70-200 mm f/4 G OSS
 (1/200, f/4, Iso 2000)

 

Sony A7RII - Sony FE 70-200 mm f/4 G OSS
 (1/400, f/4, Iso 8000)


Lets start shooting.

As I mentioned previously, the Sony AR7II is now quicker on start up. The important thing is to remember to format the card before its first use otherwise one must wait until the catalog is created with consequential loss of time.
With high resolution cameras, as I have always affirmed, in order to obtain good results, one must take pictures with discipline,  but with the Sony A7RII I had a diametrically opposite approach. I was curious to discover if all the innovations that were flaunted by the manufacturer were actually real or were only good to fill up web pages and catalogs with catch phrases.
First excursion with auto ISO fixed at 12.800. Here we go again... the menu. Usually, in cameras of a certain caliber, one goes in the auto-ISO option, chooses the sensitivity range and sets a minimum shutter speed, under which the camera must not go and in turn must increase the film speed. Not with Sony. You must access a second option that is hidden in the cryptic menu and decipher that “ISO AUTO Min. VO” is exactly what you were looking for. After breaking into sweat you hope to have reached your goal only to realize that you cannot select the shutter speeds but can only select between Slower, Slow, Standard, Fast and Faster!!! What does this mean... what do these descriptions correspond to?
As I am accustomed to doing in these cases, hoping not to offend anyone, I address this issue directly to the designers. How is it possible, I say, that you have never seen what kind of solutions other cameras adopt? Choosing the same procedures when it comes to something as ordinary as choosing the minimum shutter speed of the auto ISO is not something to be ashamed of. Its not necessary to be original at all costs, and one must remember that a photographic instrument, that is thought for professionals, must have both a high level of technology and at the same time be operatively simple and intuitive.  In any case I selected this option and made it accessible via the Fn button and now I am finally able to start shooting.
Hybrid shutter (electronic and mechanical secondary blind) and lets go.

 

Sony A7RII - Zeiss Otus 85mm Nikon F Mount (1/125, f/2, Iso 1600)

 

The auto-focus, once one gets accustomed to the various options, is fast and precise in every photographic situation. Naturally when one is indoors, in poor lighting conditions with low contrast and fast moving subjects, it may hesitate for an instant and at times may not be very precise. But to find something better one must look towards high or very high end reflex cameras matched up with lenses equipped with high performance motorization.

 

Sony A7RII - Sony FE 70-200 mm f/4 G OSS
 (1/800, f/4, Iso 640)

 

 Sony A7RII - Sony FE 70-200 mm f/4 G OSS
 (1/400, f/4, Iso 500)

 

Even the white balance in automatic mode, at times, seems to hesitate.
For example, passing quickly from one scene to the other with different light temperatures, there is a bothersome time lapse before the camera re-balances itself to the new light. Just a question of seconds not hours. But at times it may be annoying.
In any case, shot after shot, one realizes that the gap with reflex cameras is something of the past. The shots flow one after the other and once that the vicissitudes of the initial setup of the Sony A7RII are forgotten, picture taking becomes really pleasant.
We always try to discover what the limits of this mirrorless could be and each time we are surprised to find out that these limits are never reached.
The excellent XGA OLED viewfinder is extremely refined and does not tire the eye, even after a prolonged and intense use. This is certainly an advantage just like its an advantage to have a tiltable LCD display. I don't understand why they keep producing cameras without this useful accessory. Tilting the monitor not only helps the visualization in extremely disadvantageous lighting conditions, but offers a simplification in those situations in which one must raise or lower the camera.

 

Sony A7RII - Sony Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55 mm F1,8 ZA (1/1250, f/1.8, Iso 100)


Photo features, weddings, poses, landscapes, sport, still life... there is no photographic genre that this “small one” cant tackle. Obviously one must take into consideration some of its characteristics that call for a certain attention. For example the high resolution and the consequent result that  all the little technical imperfections of our shots will be exposed.
Another example... street photography lovers will find it extremely difficult to “shoot at sight” with full aperture using very luminous lenses and with very close subjects. That is, if one does not achieve very accurate focusing, one runs the risk of having the stomach of the person in focus while the face is out of focus. We must therefore review how to shoot in this situation and perhaps opt for a reduction of some f/stops.  
After all, a 35 f/1.4 mounted on a 42MP FF camera will give the inevitable result of an extremely different depth of field compared to a 23mm mounted on a 16MP APSc or to a 17mm mounted on a micro 4/3. It the usual issue, there are pro's and con's to each system.
Among the pro's of this Sony, we must highlight the fact that while it is true that the size of the sensor and the high resolution imposes lenses of certain dimensions, especially regarding luminous ones, at the same time one can either opt to travel light or to take on photographic situations in which a high image quality is required, making the volume of our equipment totally irrelevant.
Even though the range of Sony lenses is still being developed, the solutions that are presented so far  are enough for the vast majority of photographic needs.
Want to travel light?
Sony 28 f/2, Sony Zeiss 35 f/2.8 and Sony Zeiss 55 f/1.8. If we love manual focus lenses there are the Zeiss Loxia 21 f/2.8, 35 f/2 and 50 f/2. There are other models made by other brands that are slowly being added to the list.
As far as lenses go I will discuss them in depth in the specific section.
An important aspect is not to fall in the trap to think that any lens can be mounted on a 42MP camera and that it will always give results that are in line with ones expectations.
Its not a secret that I dont particularly love these solutions, but must admit that one of the most fascinating aspects of the CSC is, given the short flange focal distance, the possibility to adapt a wide range of lenses.
In any case make all the experiments that you wish, but in my opinion, if you wish to add these Sony cameras, in particular the A7RII to your equipment, you must never think that you can do without lenses that are especially designed for this system. Obviously all of this is valid when talking about professional use.

 

Sony A7RII - Sony FE 85mm f/1.6 GM (1/100, f/1.4, Iso 500)

 

Image quality

Sony has a great advantage compared to many other direct competitors. It develops and produces its own sensors. This offers unquestionable advantages. Naturally this does not necessarily mean that it always translates in superior quality image compared to other brands.
The sensor is just one of the numerous elements that compose the image that is seen on the monitor of a PC and eventually printed. But, it indisputable that Sony has always presented sensors with new technologies in advance. This strategy has, in time, given alternate results... at times we have the feeling that Sony tends to present new developments, not so much to generate real benefits to the quality of the image but rather to reaffirm its supremacy in this field.
In any case, the CMOS of 42MP that equips the Sony A7RII (known as Exmor R) surely represents a reference point of the entire digital photography panorama both for the present and future. Matched with  the BIONZ X image processor, Sony's retro illuminated sensor demonstrates not to have any weak points and  calls into question many certainties and commonplaces tied to the resolution and to the clarity of the signal. Dynamic range, details, signal clarity even in medium and medium high sensitivities are just some of the characteristics of the images that A7RII delivers.
Naturally all of this is majorly appreciated if one shoots in Raw. Jpg, on the other hand seem to suffer  from the invasive interventions that the image processor imposes. Excessive contrast mask and smoothing out by the anti noise filter, for example, in my opinion, compromise the naturalness and balance that this camera can offer. But this aspect will be dealt with in the chapter dedicated to the Sony A7SII. One important thing is to remember to deactivate the following commands when shooting in Jpg. So remove the anti-noise filter and lower the detail. What one can't deactivate is the optical correction of the lenses. Without generalizing, its evident that several lenses in the Sony catalog suffer from excessive distortion. We'll see which lenses have this defect further on.

 

 

 Sony A7RII - Sony – Zeiss Vario Tessar T* FE 24-70 mm F4 ZA OSS (1/30, f/4, Iso 1250)

 

Conclusions
Is the Sony A7RII the perfect camera? Has the dream of all photographers finally come true?
No one will ever be able to give clear cut replies to these questions. As highlighted in the beginning of this article, there are infinite alternatives in commerce that can fulfill all the needs of digital photographers. But... even taking into consideration this aspect, its difficult not to affirm that Sony A7RII is one of those models that is destined to becoming a reference point of the present and future.
Surely, if one wants to add this camera to ones equipment one must be prepared to set out for a very large expense. An expense that not always coincide, based on the type of photography that one habitually takes, with real benefits.  Once again I repeat myself. For some, a compact camera is more than enough, while for others even a medium format may be insufficient.
The fact that Sony has condensed in one instrument so much technology and so much quality both for the acquisition of images and for video making, is a factor that has attracted the attention of many professionals that divide their activities between pictures and video making.
For the pictures I will let the images do the talking, for the videos there is a link of some of my first works made with this instrument by “Riflessifotografici”, my production company.
I will not add anything else. After quite a lot of time I feel that I  must applaud Sony for a work well done. Still perfectible, still improvable, but the advent of this Full Frame Mirrorless camera marks an important step towards the real modernization of photographic systems that are still tied down to solutions that feel the burden of the years.
Reflex cameras, to some extent, can be considered a reference point, but one thing is certain, technology can offer more, a lot more, and personally I find that CSCs are photographic instruments that will be able to lead the way towards the future. Certainly, technology is not enough. Photography is not only made up of viewfinders, sensors and memory cards. Photography is culture and one must always remember that it cannot be treated in the same way as simple consumer electronics.
If we follow this path and give more power to photographers, to shop-owners, to printers, to specialized magazines and to websites that are prepared and properly structured, then photography, as we interpret it, will have a future. If, on the other hand, we leave it in the hands of generic communication then photography and photographic instruments as we know them will be swept away by those who have always used aggressive means of communication to promote and sell their general consumer products.
Lets now enjoy this A7RII and enjoy these innovations that the market has to offer.


Sony A7RII - Sony – Zeiss Vario Tessar T* FE 24-70 mm F4 ZA OSS (1/250, f/8, Iso 100)


Asking that extra centimeter is how I concluded my article dedicated to the Sony Cyber Shot RX1 in 2013.
Now that this centimeter has been added, just a few things are still missing that would make this system truly professional. A dual slot for the memory card should be added, just like a real and reliable tropicalization of the body simply should not be missing on high end photographic instruments.
Aside from the physical and technological aspects, there are others that determine the boundaries between a professional system and an amateur one. The first is surely the assistance that is dedicated to those who work with photography. Secondly the is the attention that must be given to its users in terms of constant firmware updates and, last but not least, a longer turnover of high end cameras.
These are the things that I request in this article. Lets see when the A7RIII will be announced if once again I will be gratified.

 

Sony A7RII - Zeiss Otus 85mm Nikon F Mount (1/125, f/1.8, Iso 320)

 

 

Sony A7SII

 

Sony A7SII - Sony FE 28mm f/2 (1/1000, f/5, Iso 400)

 

I was very curious to try the Sony A7SII. The “mega-pixellized” A7RII has already become a part of my standard equipment and I have used it to film my last three video productions.
Seeing that Sony, at least on paper, produced the A7SII with the video segment in mind, I wanted to discover what pluses this camera had.
In reality, day after day, I realized that I did not just have a simple video camera on my hands, but rather an effective instrument capable of capturing both fixed and in motion images.
But lets proceed with order. The 12MP sensor corresponds exactly to the resolution of a 4K video with a 3:2 aspect ratio. This means that all the pixels work during the image capture. There is no need for interpolation or gimmicks to reduce the resolution, as what happens with the 42MP of the Sony A7RII.
All of this should translate in a globally superior video quality image.

 

Sony A7SII - Sony FE 28mm f/2 (1/1000, f/5, Iso 320)

 

Sony A7SII - Sony FE 28mm f/2 (1/1000, f/4, Iso 800)

 

As a matter of fact, if the results that are obtained with the A7RII are of very high quality those obtained with the A7SII go even beyond that. Nothing that will make me regret my acquisition, but its evident that working with a native resolution, the sensor captures more light and is not subjected to interpolation so everything boils down to an extremely clean video signal even at high sensitivities.
Indeed, high sensitivity. As far as the Sony A7SII is concerned I should talk about very high and unthinkable sensitivity.
In practice however, and film makers will share my thought, its difficult to think of making a  professional product of very high quality with sensitivity that is pushed over a certain limit. This is due to the aspect tied to the clarity of the image which is a downright necessity. If we consider that at most, when shooting in Pal format, the minimum speed is 1/25, with a luminous lens its difficult to imagine a situation in which one would need very high sensitivity. Naturally if one shoots in slow motion at 100 fps, the situation can become more critical, but tell me, whats the purpose of such sophistication when the lighting is really bad.
The real plus of the Sony A7SII is its signal that remains flawless not only in low sensitivity but also in medium and high ones.
Another issue is oriented to journalists whose necessity is to recount events, this could cause the video quality to pass to secondary level.
Under this aspect I feel that Sony A7SII is a perfect tool.

And not only as far as videos are concerned but also for its photographic capabilities. Nowadays many look down upon a resolution of 12MP. Nothing can be more wrong. In reality the race towards the maximum resolutions only satisfy false user needs and is simply the wrong aspect of it all.
Don't get me wrong, there are certain photographic genres that benefit from very high resolutions. But these are few and well defined. For the most part of photographic needs 12MP are already an excessive resolution. Few pixels mean greater signal clarity and in low and high or highest resolutions, this also means less load for processing and archiving, less need to update lenses and  acquiring newer and higher performing computers.
The Sony A7SII is a sort of Nikon D700 with 7-8 years of evolution. This should be enough to understand what kind of image quality we can obtain.

 

Sony A7SII - Sony FE 28mm f/2 (1/1000, f/5, Iso 400)

 

Sony A7SII - Sony FE 28mm f/2 (1/1000, f/4, Iso 2500)


With such an abundance of quality I cant exempt myself from highlighting some of the negative aspects that could easily be fixed. Aspects that in part regard the 42MP version as well.
The first is tied to the automatic white balance. Its not rare that between one shot and another, even if taken at short distance, the white balance gives back completely different tones. It has happened that a moment before shooting both the monitor and viewfinder gave me cold tones and the picture ended up having warm tones. Then shooting immediately after the result was inverted: image before shooting was warm and the picture had cold tones. Even passing from two different frames with very different white temperature, one notices that the camera takes a few seconds to adjust its white balance.
The second point is the treatment of Jpgs produced by the Sony A7 cameras. In reality its a problem that is common to may manufacturers, but Sony seems to have put quite a bit of effort in complicating things. As soon as one takes hold of a Sony A7, one should immediately deactivate the Noise Reduction and lower the clarity. The results that these two functions produce are really detrimental with regards to the perfect balance that these cameras can deliver. The Noise Reductions tends to smoothen the surfaces thus creating a mud effect when printed. Up to 3600/6400 ISO the files of the A7SII are extremely clean and have a very fine and pleasant grain. There is no need for gimmicks of this nature.
The default contrast mask is perfectly in line with compact cameras and is so intrusive that its creates unnatural and moire effects on thinner details.
Obviously to deactivate these functions one must learn how to move within the one of the most complicated menus ever created.

Conclusions
In brief, I feel that the A7SII is a powerful and functional work tool that is capable of conciliating, without compromises, both video and photographic necessities. The flaws that I have highlighted can easily be solved via firmware and I am quite sure that these updates will arrive soon. Updates that will only increase the already very high level of satisfaction of users that have found in the Sony A7SII the perfect equilibrium. For everything else, what I have written for the “big sister” A7RII  are valid here as well.

 

Lenses

Sony FE 28mm f/2

 

Sony A7SII - Sony FE 28mm f/2 (1/1000, f/4, Iso 400)

 

I love the 28mm focal and adore this lens. It not a Zeiss, its not a Sony G and much less a G Master but its one of my absolute favorite lenses. Small, luminous and very light, the Sony FE 28mm F2 has a price/quality ratio that makes it indispensable to have among the Sony A7 equipment. Its clear already at full aperture and has the rare capability of adding three-dimensionality to images even if we are talking about a wide angle.  I very often use it even for videos. With the Super 35mm function of Sony's A7RII, I have both a 28mm and a 42mm. The auto-focus is truly reliable and its with this lens that I shot, using the continuous auto-focus function with the steady cam, for the first time.
The vignetting is quite evident at full aperture. But this is not an aspect that annoys me. I do however find a marked distortion in certain photographic situations that forces me to correct it in Lightroom.
In conclusion, if I must suggest a lens to start of with using this system, the Sony FE 28mm F2 would be one of the two options.

 

Sony – Zeiss Sonnar® T* FE 35 mm F2,8 ZA


Small and well built the Sonnar FE 35 is the first prime lens produced for the A7 system. Lets be honest. We all were mislead to think that in the future of this system there would only have been small and compact lenses. The reality of things is that this is obviously not the case, for the reasons that I have already mentioned.
From an optical point of view, we are at the presence of a generally good lens but without any particular strong point. In any case the performance of this lens absolutely does not justify the price, dealing with a prime lens that is not particularly luminous, distortion (not excessive) and vignetting are evident. With a lower price, its better to focalize ones attention to the Sony FE 28 mm F2. Even this is far from perfection, but its brighter and the price/quality comparison makes it quite inviting. Don't get me wrong... its not a bad lens, but seeing the price its legitimate to expect something a bit more refined and with greater performance.

Sony – Zeiss Distagon T * FE F1,4 ZA 35mm


 

Sony A7RII - Sony Zeiss Distagon T * FE f/1,4 ZA 35mm
 (1/200, f/1.4, Iso 4000)

 

The first thing that comes to our attention when handling the Distagon T * FE F1,4 ZA 35 mm is its size.
While the Sony – Zeiss Sonnar® T* FE 35 mm F 2,8 ZA is appreciated for its reduced dimensions, for its bigger bother the designers have proceeded in a diametrically opposite direction and making a more luminous version of this classic prime lens.
Now, dont ask my why to all all of this, and also dont continue highlighting that this lens is of extreme dimensions. This lens tracks back on the philosophy of those lenses whose goal is to deliver impeccable quality, or almost. Therefore it seems obvious that this lens is not suitable for photography genres whose priority is that to be “discreet”.
Lets get one thing clear. There is more than just street photography or “stealth”  photo feature photography. These represent a small and almost negligible percentage of all the photographic genres that are contemplated in professional photography. Again, don't get me wrong. Lightweight and reduced volumes are surely two aspects that are appreciated by everyone. But not always are they a priority. The principal priority is almost always that of obtaining the maximum quality and solidity. Under this aspect the Sony – Zeiss Distagon T * FE F1,4 ZA 35 mm does not let us down.
The quality of the tropicalization is perfect (pity that the Sony A7RII is not up to par with this).

Sony – Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55 mm F1,8 ZA

 

Sony A7RII - Sony Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55 mm F1,8 ZA (1/1250, f/1.8, Iso 100)

 


This is the second option that I would suggest as a starting point for the lenses “to have” for this system. Its my favorite lens to use with the Sony A7 and enters my closed circle of  absolute favorite lenses.
If you are among those who think that a “50mm” must “by definition”cost little, then stop reading and go beyond this point. If you are aware that even from a “normal” focal range one can obtain results that go beyond the norm the read on.
One must not stumble on the common mistake of categorizing lenses solely on the base of the focal range, nor limit oneself to taking into consideration the maximum aperture. This is, what I have said on my review of the Zeiss Otus 55mm and I will repeat for the Sonnar T 55mm.
Obviously, compared to its bigger brother Otus, the Sonnar T* FE 55 does not border on perfection and given the optical scheme used (Sonnar) the performance does call to our minds that of the 35mm mounted on the Sony RX1.
In any case the pictures taken with this lens deliver a quality that are immediately recognizable: extreme clarity, absence (or almost) of distortion and incredible three-diamentionalily of our images.  
The bokeh, may probably appear a bit abrupt at times, but I find it in any case, equally pleasant as it does add character to the image.
The vignetting with open diaphragm is visible... but I continue to repeat that this is rather normal in presence of luminous lenses for Full Frames systems. I don't dislike this.

Sony FE F2,8 Macro G OSS 90 mm


 Sony A7RII - Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS (1/100, f/2.8, Iso 250)

 

One can only hear good things about this lens. In fact... lets be honest... we hear or read only opinions of people who are enthusiastic of this lens. Personally I prefer to tackle this lens from another prospective. In many years of photography I have never tried a macro lens that has let me down. The point is exactly this. Resolving many MP, especially with Full Frame sensors, is an extremely complicated task. Therefore as soon as a lens-camera is paired up that can resolve the exuberance of a high resolution sensor we tend talk to talk about a miraculous lens. 
Now... its goes without saying, that Sony FE F2,8 Macro G OSS 90mm is a lens that has turned out really well.  Its well built and has a resolution of very high levels. The possibility to act directly on its dial to decide which focus mode (manual or automatic) to use is something that should not be underestimated.  Just like the very useful command (that is also positioned on the lens)  that allows one to decide the limit of the focal distance (m 0.28-0.5 / 0.5 – infinity/ without limits). The distortion is practically null and the vignetting is perfectly in line with other lenses of similar characteristics. We must also add that the bokeh is very pleasant even though we are talking about a lens that is not specifically designed for this.
We are in any case talking about a macro. For me, macro lenses mean taking pictures of objects and,  well... taking marco-photography. For all the other photographic genres I find that some of the characteristics of this lens are too in line with other models and models ranging from one manufacturer to the other.  I call these type of lenses “straight”, by this I mean of great resolution and geometrically perfect. But at the end of the day, from a general prospective,  its difficult to distinguish them. Moreover, macro lenses have a chromatic transition that I find rather rough.  Obviously... as always... do not misinterpret my personal tastes with global characteristics.
The Sony FE F2,8 Macro G OSS 90 mm is a successful lens. I continue to consider macro lenses only for certain types of uses. This may be the complete opposite for other photographers who may obtain from this lens great satisfaction when used in other photographic situations.

 

Sony – Zeiss Vario-Tessar T* FE 24-70 mm F4 ZA OSS
 

Sony A7RII - Sony SEL 24-70mm f/4.0 OSS Zeiss (1/8, f/16, Iso 100)

 

This is the most discussed lens in the whole A7 system. For most people this lens is horrible. I on the other hand, will go against the tide and analyze the pros and cons and try to give an explanation to such see-sawing performances of this lens. Lets start from the positive ones.
Its size is perfect. Just like its weight. The built is great and the most positive aspect of this lens are the transitions and tonal passages that are in perfect Zeiss style. I like them a lot.
And now the negative ones. Here it is... the real weak point of this lens is the distortion. It distorts regardless of the focal range. It distorts with subjects near or far. Distorts at 24mm, at 35mm, at 50mm, at 70mm. Hence, it always distorts and it does this in a very very evident manner.
This distortion inevitably causes a drastic reduction of the quality on the edges of the picture. Correction via software (or using the integrated one of the camera) will emphasize this defect.
This has inevitable repercussions on the real resolution capabilities of this lens.
Regarding the resolution, two things must be added. The first is tied to the internal image stabilizer. The Sony – Zeiss Vario-Tessar® T* FE 24-70 mm F4 ZA OSS, even though its has an integrated Steady Shoot system, it does not have a command on the lens to activate and deactivate it. Therefore this operation can only be done through the camera's menu. Now, I have more than once mounted the Sony A7RII on a tripod in combination with the  Sony – Zeiss Vario-Tessar® T* FE 24-70 mm. Even though I deactivated every anti-vibration system, the image delivered had the defects that the combination (Tripod + Stabilizer) create, especially among some stabilization systems.
The second is regarding some imperfections that the AF system of the lens has in precarious lighting conditions.  It does not have uncertainties... the focusing operation appears to be regular. But then, when visualizing the picture, one notices that is not perfectly focused. And with a 42MP even a slight out of focus becomes really noticeable.
From the analysis of these two factors we can come to the conclusion that some of the presumed defects of this lens can in reality be re-conducted to other factors and not on the lack of resolution that most have hypothesized.
With the new firmware the situation has been greatly improved to the point that this lens benefited quite a bit from this. Officially, from the improvements that are brought about by the firmware 3.00 one can read: “(…)Reduces the chance of the camera changing to front focus when shooting certain scenes (...)”.
Seeing that I never had any problems with other lenses I am quite sure that his improvement is specifically targeted to the Vario-Tessar ® T* FE 24-70,
In any case, there are still some certainties that persist. Minimal compared to before. But in scarce lighting conditions I am still very careful when focusing the camera.
So in just a few words, the Vario-Tessar ® T* FE 24-70 is a lens in which positive aspects and aspects that leave us rather perplexed coexist. Size, weight and construction are perfect. Noteworthy are the colors and tonal passages in perfect Zeiss style. Certainly the resolution does not reach top levels but at the same time its more that enough to resolve for the 42MP of the A7RII. The negative aspects are ascribable to the emphasized distortions on all focal lengths. A deeper look must be taken on its behavior using the integrated Steady Shot in certain photographic situations.

 

Sony FE 70-200 mm F4 G OSS

Sony A7RII - Sony FE 70-200 mm f/4 G OSS
 (1/125, f/4, Iso 2500)

 

I like this lens very much. It is extremely balanced throughout all its focal lengths and apertures. Its difficult to find defects, but on the other hand it does not have characteristics that are exalting (but lets keep in mind that we are talking about a zoom). I find it a perfect work instrument. The Sony FE 70-200 mm F4 G OSS is really well built and equipped with an auto-focus that is effective even in difficult situations such as sport photography.  Its clear and has little distortion. It has quite a good level of bokeh,  keeping mind that we are talking about a zoom.
Its really a pleasant surprise.
If I should use only one word to describe it? Reliable.



Zeiss Otus 85 f1.4 (Nikon F Mount)


Sony A7RII - Zeiss Otus 85mm Nikon F Mount (1/125, f/1.8, Iso 200)

Take the resolving capability of the Sony FE F2,8 Macro G OSS 90 mm, unite it with the capability of the chromatic transition that are near perfect (apochromat, means emphasizing this characteristic), an impeccable bokeh, and you will have an idea of what it means to attach the king of lenses on a Sony A7RII. I don't think that much has to be added to this. This is the only case (in my life) in which I will accept the compromise of using a ring mount adapter instead of using a native lens. This is the King of lenses. Obviously weight, dimensions and price limit it exclusively to very high level professional use.

 

Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM

Sony A7RII - Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM (1/100, f/1.8, Iso 200)

coming soon...