Sony a7R II Review – First Impressions & Footage

Sony’s new A7rII is the first in the A7 family to record video in a 4K (UHD) quality internally. My colleague Sebastian Wöber already preformed a preliminary LAB test to the camera and found the quality in APS C (super 35) mode to be sightly better than in the full frame mode (exactly like Sony predicted). In this video I used both shooting modes and I dare you to spot the different between them….(1:45 to 1:51 is a good example).

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EDIT 1: Interested in a lowlight footage and review? Please check my latest review here: https://www.cinema5d.com/sony-a7rii-lowlight-footage-nighttime-shots/

EDIT 2: Interested in a lowlight comparison between the Sony A7rII and the Sony A7s? Check out our latest review by clicking here.

EDIT 3: Interested in a rolling shutter test– Compared to Sony A7s, Samsung NX1, Canon 1DC, Panasonic GH4Check out our latest review by clicking here

Now, if you are in a rush and have no time/patience to read my full Sony A7rII review, let me summarise it for you in two sentences:

– Sell your A7s (or any other photo camera that shoots video you currently have)
– Buy the new Sony A7rII ….

Sony’s engineers did a remarkable job getting it right. I can’t remember myself having so much fun shooting and then looking at the footage with any other photo camera that shoot video since starting reviewing those cameras. (I currently own the Sony A7s and Canon EOS 1DC).

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Ergonomically, this camera is thicker to hold than the Sony A7s and to my opinion it is just right. (Please not that most if not all Sony A7s cages will note fit the new camera). Sony also improved the shooting mode rotation wheel by adding a press lock button. It’s not that on the A7s this wheel was constantly twisting but undoubtedly for some this is a useful feature.

For us shooters, the EVF and LCD screen are one of the most important components in any camera let alone a 4K one, so I’m very happy to report that Sony took a step forward by improving the one found in the new A7rII in comparison to the EVF and LCD found on the A7s. The build-in EVF is by far the best I’ve ever used in any Sony camera up to date.

Camera menu and assign buttons. If you are a Sony user, you will feel immediately at home. The most noticeable changes over the A7s are:

– The recording file format and record setting are now on the same menu page5S6A0794
– You can now assign the movie record functionality to other buttons. I assigned mine to the AF/MF button so it was VERY easy to start recording with my thumb when holding the camera.
– Additional button (C4) was added, allowing even greater flexibility when assigning functions.
– What was not addressed is the possibility to assign an external button to the APS C/full frame mode. My solution is to have it ready in the menu, so by clicking twice (menu, then the desired crop mode) I can access it fast and easy.

SD cards: Like with ALL of Sony’s latest 4K photo cameras that can shoot video (RX100IV, RX10II), you can use an SDXC card which is larger than 32 GB, 90MB/s, U1 (class 10) standard in order to be able to record in 4K mode.

Light sensitivity: Sony’s A7rII native ISO is rated 800. I find it to be a perfect balance between sensitivity and the ability to use it when shooting in SLOG 2 outdoor. The big question is, “how good is it in low light in compression to the A7s”?. The day shoots in my review are all taken in ISO 800 but the ones in the first 23 seconds. Those are done in ISO 3200 up to 6400. We will publish a separate video within the next days to help determine how good the camera’s lowlight performance is.

Battery life: Same as with the A7s. For extended recording time I turn the camera to “flight mode”. Alternatively you can use the excellent Varavon TPower 7412 battery pack solution.

Picture quality:  I can easily say that this is currently the best photo camera that shoots video in the market. As a documentary shooter, Sony continues its tradition of introducing a “complete solution” rather then a “camera only” device. The XLR-K2 can accompany the new camera for a better audio. In my video review, most of the footage was take with Sony’s FE/PZ 28-135mm G lens which proved to be a perfect fit.

Downsides: 
-As this is my first encounter with the camera, the only major downside is its lower resolution when shooting high speed / slow motion (100/120fps in 720p). It looks like Sony wants us to buy an additional camera like the RX10II or RX100IV for enhanced slow motion performance …

-Rolling shutter on the new Sony A7RII is both good and bad. If you need a camera with good rolling shutter performance in 4K (UHD) you can either resort to the Sony A7RII Full Frame Mode or avoid this camera altogether and go with the Panasonic GH4 instead. The Sony A7s performs better, but the difference is not huge. (to read our full rolling shutter article. please click here)

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All in all, Sony, very well done!

Music used in this review: Always by Shawn Williams curtesy of themusicbed

Edited on Adobe Premiere CC2015, graded with James Miller’s LUTs

For those who are interested in the ungraded version: (download in in 4K)

Watch it on Vimeo

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