The Ultimate Sony a7S II vs. a7S Test – What’s the Difference?

sony-a7s-vs-a7s-ii

The Sony a7S II is finally shipping and en route to filmmakers. It offers a few nice upgrades over its predecessor the Sony a7S. We shot a review with the new 4K mirrorless camera for some hands-on experience. But how do the cameras ACTUALLY compare in the lab? Here is the ULTIMATE Sony a7S II vs. a7S Test.

The two cameras have a very similar design, very similar functionality and a very similar if not identical sensor. Still there are a few enhancements Sony built into the new Sony a7S II, the biggest improvement is 4K internal recording. Let’s see how the two cameras compare in the lab, we will look at the specs in theory and then in real life.

Sony a7S II dynamic range tested with a XYLA-21 transmissive chart.

Sony a7S II dynamic range tested with a XYLA-21 transmissive chart.

Dynamic Range

Dynamic range is important for us filmmakers, it gives us the ability to capture high contrast scenes without over or underexposure, highlights and shadows are saved resulting in an organic, filmic look and possibilities in post production.

In theory:

Apparently the Sony a7S and a7S II share the same sensor and thus should have a very similar dynamic range.

In reality:

At 4K resolution in Slog2 (a7S via Atomos Shogun, a7S II internal) both cameras have the exact identical dynamic range slightly below 12 stops in our scientific lab tests.

Interestingly in Slog3 Gamma the a7S II gave us about half a stop more dynamic range.

We use a a DSC labs XYLA-21 transmissive chart and IMATEST evaluation software with a crisp Zeiss 50mm CP2 T/2.1 makro lens.

Conclusion:

Set your Sony a7S II to Slog3Cine (PP8 under Picture Profile Settings) in order to get the most dynamic range.

Rolling Shutter

a7s-vs-a7s-rolling-shutterThe so called “rolling shutter” is a phenomenon that skews a camera image when fast moving objects are recorded or during fast pans and handheld camera movement.

In theory:

Due to the same sensor the rolling shutter could be similar, but the internal processing could speed up sensor readout and improve rolling shutter on the new a7S II.

In reality:

In 4K the Sony a7S II had the same rolling shutter performance in our tests as the a7S. Both in 4k as well as HD the a7S took about 20 milliseconds to readout the picture from top to bottom.

Same goes for the HD crop mode. Both cameras have the same rolling shutter performance in HD crop mode.

Conclusion:

No difference in rolling shutter performance.

Resolution / Quality in 4K

Obviously the Sony a7S II has the internal 4K advantage, but how does it compare to the Sony a7S recording 4K via hdmi to the Atomos Shogun?

In theory:

The quality of the images should be virtually identical with the only difference that the a7S II records to the XAVC-S codec in 8-bit and the Shogun will record the a7S data in a better codec like Apple ProRes HQ also in 8-bit color.

In reality:

Left: Sony a7S (4k via Shogun) Right: Sony a7S II (4k internal)

Left: a7S (4k external) Right: a7S II (4k internal)

Here’s a comparison crop image between the Sony a7S II vs. a7S in 4K. The only difference I see is that the 4K hdmi output does its typical Gamma change and slightly raises contrast and saturation. When matched the internal footage from the Sony a7S II looks virtually identical. I can definitely see more noise on the a7S though at its base ISO compared to the new a7S II. It’s nice to see also how well the XAVC-S 100 mbit codec preserves the image.

Concsluion:

In 4K the images look almost identical. The a7S II has a more accurate representation of Slog2 and less noise at the base ISOs (ISO 1600 & 3200). The image looks very similar to that of the GH4 as well.

Resolution / Quality in HD

Here’s where it gets complicated. The new a7S II has a lot of new format options. The original a7S had a full frame mode and a crop mode. The crop mode had slightly worse quality but was still acceptable.

In theory:

The new a7S II has the following options to record HD:

  • Full Frame HD
  • 1.6 crop HD
  • 2.2 crop HD
  • 2.2 crop HD slow motion 120fps

How do they compare to the original a7S HD modes?

Left: Sony a7S II 1080p Crop mode (1.6x) | Right: Sony a7S 1080p Crop Mode (1.6x)

Left: Sony a7S II 1080p Crop mode (1.6x) | Right: Sony a7S 1080p Crop Mode (1.6x)

Left: Sony a7S II HD crop (1.6x) | Right: Sony a7S II HD Slow Motion Crop (2.2x)

Left: Sony a7S II HD crop (1.6x) | Right: Sony a7S II HD Slow Motion Crop (2.2x)

In reality:

  • Full Frame HD looks virtually identical (best in HD)
  • 1.6 crop HD also looks virtually identical (see image above) (slightly worse)
  • 2.2 crop HD / Slow Motion looks worst of all 3 modes, yet still provides an acceptable image. We can see some aliasing / moire happening in this mode and the sharpness is slightly lower. Also there is more noise. Clearly a smaller portion of the sensor is used and blown up to HD.

As you can see on the danes-picta sector stars above (crop from full HD image, zoomed in), the images look really really similar between the a7S II and old a7S in Slog2.

The Slow Motion Mode degrades the image a little further introducing some aliasing / moire (see tie image above).

Concsluion:

2.2x Crop Mode is new and offers Slow Motion. The rest of the HD modes on the a7S II are virtually identical to the ones on the a7S. Keep in mind though, that a 4K recording, downscaled to HD in post production will definitely look nicer, but require more processing power and storage in your workflow.

Lowlight!!!

Yes, I kept the best for last. Is the a7S II EVEN better in lowlight than its predecessor which made big headlines as being the best lowlight camera available today. The short answer is: Yes.

Let’s go straight into reality on this one:

I compared all ISO speeds of both cameras. I used Slog3 on the new Sony a7S II and Slog2 on the a7S. Surprisingly the a7S II is better in lowlight and I would say it’s roughly a full stop if not more across the whole range as the footage is much cleaner. Very good news indeed. Below is a shot of medium to very low light levels compared at ISO 25,600. I felt the difference was most striking at this ISO:

Lowlight difference between Sony a7S (top) and Sony a7S II (bottom) at ISO 25,600. Shot brightness was matched.

Lowlight difference between Sony a7S (top) and Sony a7S II (bottom) at ISO 25,600. Shot brightness was matched.

Conclusion:

In lowlight the Sony a7S II is even better than the old a7S. Especially in terms of noise the annoying shadow noise of the a7S is gone and the images are cleaner and provide more dynamic range all the way.

Note that the camera has lowest noise levels at ISO 1600, ISO 2500 and ISO 3200. At ISO 2000 there is slightly more color noise in the shadows.

Overall Conclusion

There’s a small dynamic range increase for the a7S II with the new Slog3 Gamma Mode, but noise and lowlight is about 1 stop better overall. Rolling shutter is virtually identical as well as quality in HD and 4K, though the old a7S cannot record 4K internally.

Problems on the Sony a7S II

  1. We can see a raised amount of shadow noise in Slow Motion Mode in comparison to normal motion.
  2. There are some issues in HD Crop Mode when Slog3 is enabled (see image below)
There are issues in HD crop mode with Slog3

There are issues in HD crop mode with Slog3

Should you get the Sony a7S II?

This is the big question. Does it makes sense to go for a Sony a7S II? Here are some arguments:

The Sony a7S II is definitely the better camera. Noise performance is improved making also the lowlight behaviour even better. Many people complained about noise on the a7S even at its base ISO 3200. For really professional jobs the step up in quality to the a7S II makes sense.

On the other hand the a7S II quality is more like the honey on the bread. The cameras are really very similar overall and the old a7S gets you very far already, with the option of external 4K that looks almost identical. So for the camera enthusiast who is on a budget the $800 price difference might not be worth it eventually.

That said if not only the added convenience of internal 4K, but also the option of

  • “ok-quality” 120fps Slow Motion mode
  • a 50% quicker autofocus in video mode
  • the sensor-side image stabilization (for unstabilised lenses)
  • and some small ergonomic improvements

are useful to you, then you should definitely consider the Sony a7S II. It’s a powerful little camera and at the end of the day $2,998 for a tool that delivers such good quality and so many options is just the best you can get at this price-point at the moment.

 

Recommended read: Sony a7S II vs. a7R II Test – Which One Is Right for You?

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Ashley Bernes
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Ashley Bernes

Interesting information here but kind of bizarr to me that you wouldn’t also compare apples to apples and draw a comparison of images recorded externally from the A7sii father than just the internal. If you need to use an external monitor for its waveform/better focus for example you might already own the shogun anyways. The codec into the atomos is far better than the internal a7sii and so this would hVe been interesting to see

Michael Hammar
Guest

Good read…

Chris Gibbs
Member

Thank you, I bet that was a great deal of work to produce! I’d be interested to see a similar test between the A7Sll & A7Rll. As a stills guy (coming from an A7S & A7R background) I opted for the A7Rll as a generalists hybrid camera. I’d appreciate (even pay for) a good article /tutorial on setting up an A7Rll for hybrid “multi-media” photography, stills and motion. Something that explains the inner workings of picture profiles would be extremely helpful too. As stills guys LOG profiles are very difficult to work with as they tend to peg minimum ISO… Read more »

 Ashley Bernes
Member
Ashley Bernes

Chris, I can recommend this. Have a read

http://videoproduction.training/sonya7riiguide.html

Chris Gibbs
Member

Thanks Ashley, I’m going to have a good look over it. ~Chris

 Tim Foster
Member

Andrew Reid discusses both cameras on EOSHD.com. His consensus seems to be that there is no advantage to the A7SII over the A7RII. I purchased the A7RII for both stills and video as well. As for the S-log, many overexpose it by two stops, so you can rate it for ISO 200.

 Keith Forman
Member

Though somewhat unrelated I am curious about the image stabilization of the A7S2. Does it work well enough that it will this save me thousands of dollars on lenses?

Farhad Shams
Member

yes i think many people are waiting to know the exact difference between a7sii and a7rii
Noise in photo and video ( there seems to be a difference …a7rii seems not to be great at higher iso’s in photographs compared to canon ?!)

Thanks

Otto Haring
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Otto Haring

I have the 7s I am ordering the new version for sure. It is worth for me to spend the extra $800.

 Otto Haring
Member
Otto Haring

I really hope that I can achieve the same color saturation and depth as I achieved with the a7s:
http://www.haringphotography.com/south-east-asian-weddings/innisbrook-resort-tampa-wedding-photos/

 Παναγιώτης Σκορδίλης
Member

very nice work my friend.u correct colors with photoshop?

James Coe
Member

You didn’t mention the a7sii internal 4k is 4:2:0 and so using an external recorder you’re getting twice the color information – good for heavy grading and for greenscreen. I wonder if you can verify the noise differences mentioned here if you output the a7s and a7sii BOTH to an external recorder?

Let me know what you think! Thanks

 Ashley Bernes
Member
Ashley Bernes

Could you elaborate on getting twice the color information James?
+1 though id love to see this

Jim Phillips
Guest

Nice article. Well done!

James Coe
Member

Just Google 420 vs 422 there are some images which show it – 420 has color info for 1 pixel spread over 4 pixels (bad) . 422 spreads it over just 2 pixels – (and for reference 4:4:4 is each pixel has its own data) – 420 isn’t really a problem for most – but if you want to do some heavy grading or greenscreen for pro film purposes 420 doesn’t cut it

James H
Member
James H

Great post. But no one has done a single auto focus test yet. No one. Yes they said it’s twice as fast in video mode but I haven’t seen one review that’s tested this claim. Otherwise, this was a good review overall. If you can, can you go into a bit of detail about the issues you mentioned seeing (in lab and in real life) when shooting crop mode using slog? Thank you so much!

 Amir Kh
Member

Funny the article nowhere mentions IBIS, a huge advantage, anywhere in the article.

James H
Member
James H

it does in one of the last bullet points at the end. However, that and the AF improvements aren’t really discussed or tested which was disappointing.

Gerardo Campos
Member

nice comparision, but please never do low light shots in S-Log2, of course you will ended up with noise; all S-Log curve are designed to work in Hi Lights, so most of the increased DR is in the lights adding 4 to 6 stops in that area; in low light you are just droping that info to the trash and leave to little room in the codec to write the rest of the image information, so you are using about 4 to 5 stops to write all the data and the rest is useless, so you get noise all over… Read more »

 Markellos Plakitsis
Member

50% better AF performance?? Only in your dreams. Its hardly a 15% on studio, and in real life, almost identical.

 Markellos Plakitsis
Member

The most important in video af, is not the speed. Is all about the reliability and the iq. Comparing to the old a6000, a7s mkii is as stupid as the a7s. Dont ask me how i know. I have them all.

James H
Member
James H

Markellos, would you mind elaborating on your findings of the AF performance of the A7sII and the A7s? In Sony’s A7sII press release they touted that the AF performance is twice as fast in video mode vs the A7s. Do you see any improvement at all? How about tracking (or center lock AF)? Is that improved at all? Do you have any samples that could show the difference or the lack thereof?

 Markellos Plakitsis
Member

Hello James. Sorry for the delay, I do not login often. To me, the autofocus of both cameras, feel and look almost the same. 10, 15 or 20% of speed improvement says nothing. The fact is that the autofocus iq of both cameras is still the same. (almost) stupid. A7s and a7sii are GREAT cameras. But the truth is that Sony has already invented the perfect autofocus, and it is not on any of them. It’s funny, but a 500€ camera has it, and it’s called a6000. Unfortunatelly, all of us have to live with any manufacturer’s marketing “tricks”… Im… Read more »

 Charles Bergquist
Member

The last test that you guys performed on the A7S last year gave it a rating of 14.1 stops in SLOG 2. What’s going on with your lab results? I’d like to believe them but you’re now posting that it’s at 12 stops in SLOG2. Makes me wonder about the C300 MKII tests.

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 Rudolph Lagarrigue
Member

thanks for sharing your analyse!

Member
Kaster Troy

Killer article as usual, keep up the good work!!

Balder Akermo
Member

Thanks for all the info, greatly appreciate it! 2 questions; Is the fullframe HD mode the same in both camera for rolling shutter? And are the 2.2 crop the same in quality in 25p and slowmo?

Cheers

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[…] here are some more A7sII tests: The Ultimate Sony a7S II vs. a7S Test – What’s the Difference? (Cinema5D). Sony A7S II Review After Real World Use – Tom Antos (Vimeo) The New King of Lowlight — […]

James Coe
Member

Just thought I’d mention as well the internal codec is only giving you 100mbps – the original is 50mbps so you get 4x the resoltion but only double the bitrate so again its an improvement but half the colour info of using external and half the bit rate. Good for most – but I’m planning on shooting a short film using some heavy post colour processing and for this I’ll need the extra info to get the effect I’m after

 Lyubo Yanev
Member

Thanks for the comparisson, do you know how the 60fps and 120fps modes compare in dynamic range and sharpness? Thanks

Bgd Videography
Member

Whoe. Hold the phone, the little A7s ii is equal to the mighty C300 Mark ii in dynamic range!

Bgd Videography
Member

Is this 12+ stops of ‘usable’ dynamic range.

Kris
Member
Kris

Have you considered putting the Canon XC10 through the same battery of tests?

I’m not trying to run this thread off the rails, but, believe it or not, I’m deliberating between a first-gen A7s and external recorder, versus the XC10. But empirical testing for the latter is nearly impossible to find, given all the hate that camera engendered.

Marcos Avlonitis
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Marcos Avlonitis

I just wanted to thank you everyone at Cinema5D for an excellent comparison. There is so much talk about the features and specifications of new cameras on the internet that it’s often hard to tell what’s real, what’s marketing hype and what’s public misconception. These tests are exceptionally useful and I hope you continue to provide this information so professional cameraman like myself can make informed decisions about future purchases or get to grips with a new camera. Thanks again!

 Andrew Ray
Member

How about a fair comparison like A7s HD vs A7sii HD?
That would be truly 100% apple vs apple and would really show the differences between the two cameras.

Joachim Richter
Member

There is an important function that I am missing. If working with several cameras it would be very helpful to save all settings in a file on the sd-card to import this file in another camera. Maybe this would be a proposal for a further firmware update to report to Sony by Cinema5D?

 Ash Tailor
Member

Hey guys Thanks for the great article. If you could, and im sure others will find this very useful is a video based comparison between the A7rII and A7sII. Why? I know you have something similar up but a technical run through the video capabilities would be excellent. The A7rII is proving very popular, especially in the super35mm mode in regards to 5K downsampling and great low light capabilities too. Just wondering what is actually the better video camera when you consider SLOG3 isn’t really that great. So my choice is A7rII with speedbooster (to the better video capability in… Read more »

 Παναγιώτης Σκορδίλης
Member

is better to create jpeg from a video? or just snap as raw?

Franklin Quinten
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Franklin Quinten

How do you think the A7Sii stacks up as a documentary camera? What would be the best zoom lens option considering that? A Sony lens or using an adapter such as Metabones + ?

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[…] like in our a7S II vs. a7S test we went to the test lab and compared all the camera’s capabilities in detail. In this […]

 Timothy Adèr
Member

You did not cover the horrible blue color event LED par clipping on the A7S, being fixed on the a7sii which made the deal for me.

 Paul Gayagay Ballola
Member

Did it get fixed?

Wesley D
Guest
Wesley D

I’m a little late to the party but thank you so much for this! Makes me extra happy that I went with the a7S II. The part i was most intrigued by was your note about ISO increments for low noise: “Note that the camera has lowest noise levels at ISO 1600, ISO 2500 and ISO 3200. At ISO 2000 there is slightly more color noise in the shadows.” As someone who frequently shoots in low light situations I was wondering what the next low noise ISO increments would be if you were to keep listing them at higher ISOs.… Read more »

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[…] One of the major differences between the two cameras is that the A7S M2 shoots 4k video! Check out this detailed comparison on Cinema5d […]

 Ernie Prieto
Member

Thanks for the tests! If i own an a7s and shogun, do you think its worth selling the a7s for the mk2?

Or should i just hold onto that combo i have now and keep saving up for the fs5? I do wedding videos atm but im trying to transition to more narrative work in the near future

 Dan Hopkins
Member
Dan Hopkins

Great article. However, being someone who upgraded from the A7s to the MarkII, it would be good to note that 4K overheating does exist. I believe the new firmware update helps, but doesn’t fix the problem completely. Also, I was surprised to see a good amount of aliasing on a tennis net when shooting 1080 60p on a wide lens (24mm and 35mm). I was lead to believe that due to a full-pixel read out on this camera, that moire and aliasing would be gone, but there is still some in certain conditions. Still an awesome camera!

 Amazonia Beats
Member

thank you, very clean and instructive!!

Member

So compared to the a7s, is 50/60p on the A7s2 clean now? Or still got that minimal aliasing due to line skipping compared to 25/30p?

 Dan Hopkins
Member
Dan Hopkins

It’s pretty damn clean, same with 120fps. However, under the right circumstances I was able to get a bit of aliasing to show up in 60p. I was shooting with an aperture of between f/9 – f/10 on a 24mm lens. Shooting at 50mm with an aperture around f/4 – f/5, I haven’t seen any moire or aliasing.

 Gary Marsh
Member

Great info. One thing I noticed when comparing the two side by side. In the silent shutter mode thE A7sII shoots bursts but the A7RII does not.

Member

Thanks for the interesting article. My main issue is the rolling shutter problem, as I shoot with handheld / moving camera.

My question is: Shouldn’t the RS problem have improved by the 5-dimensional image stabilizer? With the A7s the RS only came up for me when you did quick shaky movements in wide angle. I never had a problem with shooting out of the car window, I dont care if the trees are slightly vertical ;-).

Thank you !!

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[…] One of the major differences between the two cameras is that the A7S M2 shoots 4k video! Check out this detailed comparison on Cinema5d […]

 Gary Rush
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Gary Rush

Great article, we used the Sony A7sii this past weekend & was amazed at the low light quality, not to mention picture quality of photographs. The lens used was the Sony 55 f/1.8 Zeiss FE Sonnar T*. We did noticed the rolling shutter in quick moves/pans. The axis stablizartion built into the ASii didn’t seem to replace the use of our Glidecam, which was a let down. The internal 4K recording was helpful but at $800 difference above the as7 it’s truly up to you. We found no over hearing issues & battery life was a little over an hour… Read more »

 Franck Bernard
Member

Thanks Sebastian. I recently acquired the A7SII and your tests have been very informative. One question on the log profiles vs Cine2 or Cine4: I inderstand we may be gaining a little dynamic range with the log profiles, but aren’t we losing some of it when grading, in order to reduce the noise ? In Slog3 in particular, the details are indeed better in the shadows, but it is so noisy that you need to crush everything in post to ge something usable, so what’s the point in the end ? For shadows the Cine4 looks so much cleaner that… Read more »

Joachim Richter
Member

Hi Franck, during the last days I figured out this question a lot on my a6300. Maybe my experiences are of value for you. For low contrast situation Cine4/S-Gamut gives very pleasing results. For higher contrast situations Slog2/S-Gamut handles the highlights better than Cine4/S-Gamut. Slog3 is for highest contrast situations where highlights and shadows are blown out in Cine4/S-Gamut. I use Premiere for post production. Here it is very simple to adjust the different profiles. To make a Slog2/S-Gamut sequence look natural in a low contrast situation I set the Lumetri/Simple Correction/Contrast value to 80. Now it looks the same… Read more »

 Franck Bernard
Member

Many thanks for your inputs Joakim. Much appreciated.

Joachim Richter
Member

I forgot to mention that you need to overexpose Slog +2 stops to compare Cine4 with Slog2.

 Franck Bernard
Member

Thanks Joachim. Indeed, I’m always overexposing both Slog2 and Slog3 by about 2 stops. We’re in line here !

Member

Hi Sebastian! I’d like to know how the low light comparison was done. Because what really matters to me is how much better A7sII is in extreme (above 25,600) high iso.. but only in HD mode, because I really don’t care about 4k and I don’t want to invest much money in a new computer at this moment just to edit 4k and downsize it to HD. So, using only HD, do you think the difference in shadow noises still as pronounced as it is in your test? (which I suppose that was done with an external recorder on A7S)