Late last month, Sony silently launched the latest full-frame mirrorless camera A7II. I can’t help but admire how well Sony kept this innovation confidential before its release. Sony is perhaps one of the few companies that could afford to launch a new model of a full-frame camera at a yearly rate. Actually, it’s no wonder that the A7 series has been selling so well. Their integral market performance since their release is surpassing Sony’s expectations. The latest A7II may have caused some confusion for those planning on purchasing one– Sony α7II and Sony α7, which model is better?
Before that, we all regarded the three models of A7, A7R, and A7S with different positioning as the three brothers of the full-frame SLR cameras in the Sony A7 series. However, the latest A7II is the brother with the closest kinship to A7. Even so, between these two brothers, which one should we choose? This is a question we need to ponder. Since the A7II was just launched, currently its single body price is $1698. The A7 has been marketed for more than a year and features a higher performance price ratio, but its current price on Amazon is only $1298. With that price difference of $400, we can almost buy another Sony A6000. So what justifies this gap of $400?
Sony A7II and A7 both have：
- 24.30 million full-frame Exmor CMOS
- Bionz X Imaging Processor
- ISO sensitivity range: 100-25600 (expandable to ISO 50-51200 with multi-shot NR)
- Continuous shooting speed: 5 FPS
- Shutter speed: 30 to 1/8000s
- 2.36 million pixels XGA OLED Tru-Finder electronic viewfinder
Features possessed by A7II but not A7：
- 5-axis image stabilization system
- Faster AF system
- Better video shooting capacity
- More rugged full metal body
- A handle similar to that of an SLR camera
5-axis image stabilization system
The 5-axis image stabilization function is most helpful in situations where you’re using the telephoto lens, macro shooting, or in a low-light environment where the shutter speed is insufficient. With this function it is possible to correct blurred and unclear images caused by the camera’s shaking, with up to 4.5 stops of stabilization correction.
The working mechanism of 5-axis image stabilization technology is that in addition to the traditional anti-shake technique of correcting the up-and-down and left-to-right motion, this technology also compensated for rotational movement along the X, Y, Z three axes. This is why it is called 5-axis image stabilization, and it can greatly correct for the motion of your body. Furthermore, 5-axis image stabilization can also be used when shooting video. This video function is unmatched by other types of anti-shake. In addition, this is also good news for those who favor the use of manual lens, since the 5-axis image stabilization function still functions even when a third-party manual lens is used.
However, since the sensor of Sony A7II is larger than A7, the needed shake compensation magnitude is also greater. It requires higher sensitivities, accuracies and magnitudes on shake compensations, and therefore a bigger space must be reserved within the body for the image stabilization system to conduct relevant actions. This is also the major reason why A7II is bigger and thicker than A7.
Handle design featuring a better sense of grip:
As mentioned just now, due to the addition of the 5-axis image stabilization system, A7II is bigger and thicker than A7; however this change also bestows upon A7II sufficient space to readjust the button layout on the body top, achieving a better feeling of control. The previous A7’s control wheel had the smooth metal impeller exposed on the position of the body handle, but for A7II an impeller design similar to that of a gear was adopted and embedded into the handle. There are two benefits to this design: it will not ruin the integral beauty of the camera and it is more convenient to adjust the camera during use. Meanwhile the A7II’s shutter button is independently placed on the camera handle. This is a more ergonomic design is more ergonomics than the previous A7, and the pressing of the shutter is more comfortable and convenient.
From the side the A7II’s handle is not only prominent, but its lines also feature concave-convex contours. The integral feeling is that the newly designed A7II’s handle and button layout is more like those of an SLR camera, with a considerable improvement in gripping comfort. However, as a mirrorless SLR camera, the decision to sacrifice portability still bewilders me. At times we can only say that different people have different views.
All-metal body and bayonet mounts:
In terms of body material, Sony A7II has finally reached the same level as the A7R and A7S. The new A7II is made of all aluminum-magnesium alloy, and the bayonet applies an integrated metal mount design like A7S, enhancing the durability and reliability. On the surface, it feels like Sony has generously upgraded A7 to all-metal body but actually this is a very clever move made by Sony in order to segment the market. We all know that generally the entry-level camera can not include all-metal material, then. But has the upgraded version of A7, as the low-end entry, broken this market convention? In fact, the answer is no.
With reference to the approach of RX10 series, the old model is not discontinued as the new model is released to the market, but both will be sold in parallel. A7II actually is not an entry-level model, but is more like a mid-range camera, mainly responsible for the mid-range full frame camera market. The purpose of A7 existence is to compete against the thousand-dollar APS-C frame SLR as well as to attract lower-end consumers in the pursuit of cost efficiency and the high image quality of full-frame. Coupled with the dominance of Sony’s APS-C in full-frame mirrorless models, these units have the chance to lead trends in the interchangeable lens camera market.
Enhanced focus and video recording features:
In addition to these relatively large changes, Sony A7II shows many improvements in shooting performance. While A7II is still a hybrid AF system with 117-point phase detection + 25-point contrast detection, as officials said, with optimization its focusing speed improves 30% and focus tracking capacity increases by 50%. Although we cannot say that there is a qualitative leap forward as with the A6000, it is certainly faster than the A7. In terms of video performance, the A7II 1080p Full HD video capture feature finally supports 50Mbps high stream XAVC S format. It also has professional video capabilities such as picture profiles, time code, user bits, or even S-Log 2, etc. Users with high requirements for video but without the ability to purchase A7S may consider A7II as a relatively good solution.
Which to buy in the first purchase of a full-frame mirrorless camera?
First of all, if you exclude the price as a factor, then A7II is naturally, the best choice. However, on a $1700 budget, one needs to carefully consider more than just the body. From my perspective, if you have never used an interchangeable lens camera and you want to delve directly into the full frame, or perhaps you are used to more entry-level cropped frame cameras such as Canon t4i, Nikon D3100, etc… and intend to replace with a higher-order model, then the A7 is an appropriate choice in terms of price and performance. Although the overall strength of A7II is stronger, both models have a high level of picture quality, and the focus speed of the A7 is not too slow. In addition, such features as 5-axis image stabilization, all-metal body, etc… are really not necessary elements for entry-level users. A small portable full-frame camera in the $1300 price range was unthinkable a few years ago. A similar price, at most, would be sufficient for only a medium-end APS-C camera.
Do A7 users need to upgrade to A7II?
If you already have an A7 and are considering an upgrade, the newly launched A7II may look tempting if you aren’t interested in the A7R with higher pixels (but lower focusing) or the A7S with its high sensitivity. In that case, you have no choice except the A7II. If you are an A7 user then I would suggest that you confidently upgrade to A7II. Although the two are brother models, the overall hand feel is completely different. Whether it is the feel of the handling or the operation, or even the workmanship, the A7II is more solid and more ergonomic than the A7, not to mention the 5-axis image stabilization. All in all, the two models are not interchangeable, but the A7II is an upgrade to a higher level from the entry-level A7.
On the other hand, some users may have previously chosen the A7 because it has a more reasonable number of pixels and is suitable for switching over to old lenses. Because of this convenience, many people purchase A7 in order to allow the reuse of the old lens on a digital camera. But the absence of image stabilization is a very distressing thing. So if you appreciate lens conversion, Upgrading from an A7 to an A7II is very worthy of your consideration. The A7II can manually set lens focal length through the menu; so that the camera ensures those old lenses without electronic adapter Rings can enjoy 5-axis image stabilization on A7II according to the focal length information. This is a great boon for those users who value lens conversion.
When considering different models, a lot of people might think that the newer digital product is the better choice to buy, as the new will certainly eliminate the old. Having said that, this belief is not at all applicable to the Sony A7 and A7II, because the A7II does not emerge in order to eliminate the A7. Instead it was introduced to give more reasons to buy the A7, such as higher cost efficiency after the price adjustment. So there is no need to worry over which to buy between the two full-frame mirrorless models, as you should only consider what your need is. It is most appropriate to buy from the perspective of your own actual needs and budget.