Review: The Sony A7 Mark II; nearly there…(Updated, 21 Jan)

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We now have no less than four full frame mirrorless options from Sony; the A7R (previously reviewed here); the A7, the A7S, and now the A7II. This appears to be typical Sony strategy: rather than making a product that’s a definite improvement on the previous model, we get many attempts hoping that each one will find its’ own niche. The A7II brings one thing that makes me curious enough to give it a try despite an uninspiring experience with its predecessor: the first full-frame mirrorless camera to have in body stabilization.

I reviewed a production A7II with the Zeiss 55/1.8 and 24-70/4 OSS lenses, running firmware 1.10. Unfortunately, the 24-70 was either a poor sample or just optically a dog – very soft off-axis and with significant CA, so all of these images were shot with the 55/1.8. I will upload more to this flickr set in due course.

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Natural veiling

Arguably, each A7 variant serves a niche – high resolution, high sensitivity/ video, general purpose (perhaps not really a niche). The problem is, each A7 variant arguably also has some serious deficiencies: the A7R suffers from very visible shutter vibration at typical shutter speeds, meaning critical pixels can only be obtained at very fast or very slow exposures; the A7S is very resolution limited, and similarly low-noise results – with more detail – can actually be obtained by downsampling the A7R to 12MP; the A7 has an AA filter which is probably a video compromise, but not so good for stills. All three use Sony’s 11+7 bit lossy raw compression that can result in posterization at either end of the tonal range if any serious processing is required. Color accuracy also suffers a bit. I think there’s no clearer demonstration of this than the fact that the A7II’s raw files are always the same size; at higher ISOs, the OOC JPEGs are actually larger.

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Last one open

We still have a 24MP FF sensor that has PDAF photosites and EFC capability; it’s now suspended in a magnetic IBIS system that’s strikingly similar to that used by Olympus (and supposedly it uses both in-lens and in-body systems when a suitably equipped lens is mounted). I suppose it should be no surprise that Sony got some technology in return for the bailout funds they injected a couple of years ago. The body is weather sealed, as is the optional grip. It’s gained a bit of heft – about 20% – a new less slippery body finish, and some rearrangement of the buttons. Subjectively, it has a goodly amount of heft and perceived density, just feeling ‘right’ in the hand. For video shooters, it now supports XAVC-S and S-Log2. So far, very much the same kind of incremental changes we’re used to seeing. Not new, but it’s also worth mentioning Sony’s implementation of the ISO hotshoe: we have the standard trigger pin, no other pins to foul third party flashes, but a set of hidden pins upfront for communication with a much greater variety of accessories including microphones and even video monitors. Commendable.

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In practice, EFC + 5-axis stabilization is a Big Thing. Both literally and metaphorically – you can feel a little recoil as the system engages when you power on; it’s an impressive achievement given the amount of mass that’s being moved around. Philosophically, it means that your two main sources of camera shake are pretty much cut out: the high frequency front curtain vibration, and photographer instability. It means critical sharpness should be much easier to achieve more of the time; on top of that, you can lower your ISO by a stop or two. Note that all five axes of compensation require electronic lenses that transmit AF and focal length information to the camera; third party lenses without any contacts will get three axes, and you’ll have to tell the camera which focal length you’re using. But it still means that we now have a stabilized full frame solution for pretty much any lens.

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Skyline reflection

Sony’s raw compression is still inexcusable, however, the stabilizer goes quite some distance to making up the gap in practice: if I need 1/100s and ISO 1600 on a D750, the A7II can still produce a critically sharp image at 1/25s and ISO 400, and with a bit of care, 1/12 and ISO 200. In practice, it’s good for about 2-2.5 stops; not quite as effective as the Olympus system, but this is not surprising given how much more mass there is to move around. It’s certainly better than nothing, not to mention the extended [shooting envelope] and attendant creative possibilities opened up by being able to shoot much slower and without a tripod. Curiously though, I noticed that the stabilizer seems to be most effective when the camera is held horizontal or vertical; if at a significant tilt up or down, or rotation (or both) it seemed qualitatively less effective, by perhaps about a stop.

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Red step shadow

In my previous use of the A7/A7R, I found their bodies to be on about the lower end of what I felt comfortable using and holding; anything smaller feels fiddly and cramped. The A7II is a little larger, but the growth has been mostly in the grip – this is a welcome addition, in my book. The shutter release and front command dial are also in a much more comfortable place. EVF and LCD are both acceptable, but contrast is a little high and you’re going to need to tweak the settings a bit to get something that’s actually representative of the exposure/dynamic range the camera has captured. I think of this display as being optimistic: it looks better than the files actually do, so check your histograms for critical applications.

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Return to center

I think the days of the optical finder are numbered as resolution increases. This is for a couple of reasons: firstly, critical focusing (plus alignment and the other related issues) gets harder and harder; secondly, it’s easier to design some optics with a shorter flange distance and thus there’s not much space for a mirror; thirdly, I’d much rather have good manual focus ability for critical applications, and that’s much easier with finder magnification than the LCD for stability; finally, the ability to see the effect of sensor-stabilization in the finder for composition and precision of focusing should not be underestimated. In practical deployment, I’ve got to attach a Zacuto magnifying hood to my D810 for use with the Otuses and APO-Lanthars; this significantly increases size and bulk. Whilst the A7II really needs the battery grip to balance off an Otus, it’s still quite a bit smaller and lighter thanks to the EVF. And we haven’t even talked about stability yet. Handheld, I’m potentially either giving away quite a bit of dynamic range by upping my ISO, or detail lost in camera shake. There is no free lunch.

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Deep shadow tonality test – anything below about level 40 is rather ‘fragile’; the signal isn’t that clean and care must be taken if any significant tonal manipulations are to be undertaken.

We may have ever increasing and improving feature sets, but so far only Fuji and Olympus have really managed to make digital devices that feel like cameras; the others still feel very computer-centric and at times reinventing the UI for the sake of it, rather than any real improvement. Or, put another way, they’re still trying to figure out how to make all of the technology easily deployable.

It appears that Sony has (mostly) given up trying to force us into its UI paradigm and given us enough customizable buttons and dials that we can now make the A7II behave like whichever legacy system we’re used to; this is great because as I learned the hard way recently, it’s very difficult to reprogram twelve years of muscle memory into turning an exposure dial the other way. It just shouldn’t have taken this long to get to this point. Unfortunately, the menus remain as unintuitive as ever, but fortunately, you don’t need to spend much time there once you’ve set the camera up to taste.

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Beige patchwork

AF performance remains much like the A7: fast enough under most situations, but slowing noticeably when the light level drops, or with a slower lens. Accuracy is fine when there’s enough light, but again – when it gets darker, you’d better get a second shot for insurance. The camera has a tendency to pick a different distance every time you refocus, especially if the background and foreground distances aren’t that different. It has PDAF pixels on the sensor, but the reality is it still won’t track as well as a traditional DSLR. There are pre-focusing options as well as eye-sensor triggered AF start, but they don’t really speed things up that much and have quite a noticeable effect on battery life. Viewfinder and LCD refresh rates are both fast enough for most uses, but you might be aware of some lag if you’re shooting rapidly moving objects. On the subject of the EVF – both monitor and LCD use OLEDs; there’s nothing wrong with the panels themselves, but the optics used for the EVF could be better; a bit more magnification would help, and there’s too much distortion unless your eye is dead center. It’s not as bad as the GH3’s EVF, but nowhere near as good as the E-M1 or X-T1, either.

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Guide book lunch

No matter how much technology is packed into the rest of the camera, if the sensor does not deliver – then we might as well go home. I am still not happy with the crippling 11+7 bit raw compression: you can still run into posterization fairly easily in highlights and shadows, especially if adjusting color balance under mixed lighting. Watch carefully for clipping, too – it doesn’t roll off nicely in the highlights like the D810. ISO for ISO, lens for lens, the D750 delivers a better quality file – with about 1-1.5 additional stops of usable (i.e. clean, manipulable in postprocessing without artifacts) dynamic range – in addition to slightly more transparent color, and surprisingly, about a stop less noise. There seems to be a little more ‘bite’ in the A7II’s files, though – I don’t know if this is because Nikon is cooking their raw files to have less noise at the cost of fine detail, or whether Sony is presharpening with no NR, or whether the AA filter in the Sony is simply a bit weaker. Or perhaps it’s a combination of all three.

a7ii posterization

Update, 21 Jan: I have been challenged repeatedly on the file compression/ banding/ usable DR issue. Yes, everything looks good at web sizes, but then again you’re also oversampling by a factor of 20 or so, so deficiencies get averaged out. Here’s a 100% crop of an affected file (‘Skyline reflection’, from above) – this is an ideal exposure scenario; base ISO on a tripod and sufficient light. And there’s pretty clear purple/magenta banding/posterization in the sky, up to RGB luminance level 50+, which is visible in print and almost impossible to post process out. The D810 under similar conditions does not show this, and the D750’s response is identical. Neither file has noise reduction or exposure adjustment applied in ACR. It is NOT necessarily an issue for all types of photography, but as they say – you pay your money and take your chances.

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A unification of red

Color-wise, you’re going to have to do some light profiling to achieve a neutral balance, but since you should really be doing that on every camera anyway, it doesn’t really matter. Bottom line: it is not the best 24MP file I’ve seen – that still goes to the D750 for now – but I think it’s ‘good enough’ so long as you don’t push the processing too much. Does a stabilizer for every lens plus slightly worse high ISO win over slightly cleaner high ISO and files with a bit more tonal information? Very hard to say; in practice the advantage swings in both directions. I’d take the D750’s files if there’s enough light to stay at base ISO (and if there’s enough light…why not the D810?) but my hands are shaky so I’d rather have the precision/stability and ease of focus with the A7II in low light. Frankly, it’s frustrating because the D750’s sensor shows us what could have been.

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The eyeball

Sony has always been quite a video-centric company. Though I lack the expertise to comment meaningfully on the camera’s video capability, I do see that the ability to produce smooth, usable video handheld with some movements like we’ve been doing with the E-M1 in the past is now pretty much possible with the rendering of full frame. My camera came with 1.10 already installed, so I can’t say how much of an improvement that update made; but in practice, it’s really not so different to the Olympus. There is still some rolling shutter, however, so movements must be undertaken with care. What I do like is that my Otii now render with the focal length they’re supposed to have, and look fantastic. There is one catch, though: you need to be able to deal with the XAVC format in order to get the most out of the camera; unfortunately in in Mac-land, there seems to be very little support for this. You don’t even get a basic converter utility with the camera, we’ve got to resort to an (additional cost) third party solution. Sigh.

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Painted windows

Battery life and power management have me scratching my head. The first two charges were alarming – less than 100 shots with visible battery depletion of 1% every minute; after cycling the battery again, I’m looking at about 300 shots/charge, but with a distinct lack of linearity as the gauge falls. That’s to say your first 1% may get you 20 shots, but with the same style of shooting, the last 1% perhaps only one or two. I would certainly pick up at least a second and probably also a third battery if you intend to do an extended day with it. It’s clear that running that big sensor both suspended magnetically and with live view on all the time is a challenge; the 1020mAH battery probably doesn’t help, either. More concerning though is the slow charge time and the fact that you have to charge the battery in-camera; whilst it’s great to have this option to top off batteries in a pinch off a car or airplane jack, come on, Sony, you’re marketing this as a professional product. It’s also priced as such. Shame on you for not including an external charger. At least the charging cable isn’t a proprietary one, and I suppose you could charge it off a mobile phone power bank.

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In practical use, I’m used to charging my Nikons once a day, carrying a spare and rarely touching – and not having to wake up in the middle of the night to swap batteries on a charger. The next concern is weight balance: if you put a heavy adapted lens on the A7II, it’s physically uncomfortable without the vertical grip; and on a tripod, the thing is really not very stable at all, because the base contact area is fairly small and there’s a lot of torque off the mount. I suppose it’s somewhat academic since the A7II only comes into its own when being shot handheld anyway. But for future generations of A7R, this might be an issue.

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I admit my earlier concerns around system completeness and maturity are somewhat dampened by the continued emergence of new lenses; I’m frankly more worried that what we want feature-wise is only going to be dribbled out bit by bit, necessitating constant upgrades and making the older bodies depreciate unnecessarily quickly. Yes, the digital age is one of disposability, but this is a bit much. Right now, it’s the little things – like chargers, finder optics and tripod mounts – that Sony need to get right. A touch screen would be nice too, especially given how useful the flip screen is (and how well the thing is engineered – easy to use, sturdy, but also no size penalty).

One interesting piece of hardware I’d like to try is the Cambo Actus; it’s basically a miniature view camera built around the A7 as a digital back. It makes rise and shift possible, not to mention independent movements, plus easy shift-stitching, and a wide range of adaptable lenses; theoretically it should be possible to tilt an Otus, too.

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Anonymous stranger passing through

The disruptive players in the market are taking mirrorless seriously; the incumbents, a wait-and-see approach. So far, Canon and Nikon have been far off the ball with mirrorless offerings that are either incomplete and uncompetitive (EOS-M) or containing some impressive technology, but poorly priced and marketed (Nikon 1). Fuji, Olympus, Sony and even Samsung have jumped on this lethargy and used it to innovate, carving out bits of new market for themselves. However…it is clear that we’re still not really at the point of maturity, though things are getting ever closer.

I honestly enjoyed shooting with the A7II, far more than I thought I would. Probably because there was an amount of chance removed from the output especially handheld and in lower light or at marginal shutter speeds; where I’d have to take a second or third shot with the Nikons, I didn’t always need to with the A7II. Granted, the overall file quality is lower than the D750, and nowhere even close to the D810, but at least a larger amount of that potential is accessible more of the time. If I was to buy one of these, I’d probably pair it with the Zeiss 55/1.8 (and perhaps the forthcoming 28/2) and be done with it. The 24-70 can be safely skipped unless you really need the convenience; its optical stabilizer is no longer a good reason since it’s present in body.

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The frustrating thing is that most of the technology already exists in the Sony stable – not theoretical, but already deployed in cameras. The D810’s fantastic sensor – still the best of the non-medium format sensors – is a Sony part. It has an electronic first curtain in live view. Full-frame IBIS exists in the A7II. Zeiss is making more and more lenses that are both E mount native and have AF. I’m sure you can write a raw file without compressing or processing it. Why can’t these things be put together? It would open up so much more of the performance envelope to a wider audience, and once you’ve seen that, it’s really difficult to go back. One can only hope that there is some legitimate technical reason and not simply corporate greed; there’s only so much you can do of that kind of marketing before you start to really annoy your users. Having said all of that, I really do think mirrorless is finally coming of age. MT

The A7II is available here from B&H, along with the Zeiss 55/1.8, battery grip and external charger.

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  1. If the “clunky” A7 II -by today’s standards, was “Nearly There” back in 2014, then the A7 Mark III must be all the way there today, though you wouldn’t be you if you praised a Sony camera too much 😉 I’ll say this though, the A7 III might be the most influential camera of 2018 insomuch as the bar has been reset for both price and technology which is great for us gear junkies 😉

  2. Christopher says:

    Did you have a chance to test the firmware 2.0, which enables the 14 bit uncompressed RAWs?

    • Yes. It’s much better, but still has some issues – mostly around color accuracy. No difference to camera speed or battery life though.

    • I’m not sure why Sony felt it had to use uncompressed RAW, it could simply have used lossless compression like anyone else.

  3. Am I too stupid or what? There are no manual focusing aids with adapted lenses! No viewfinder magnification – no focus peaking! Not even with a Metabones Smart Adapter on FW .47 and the A7 II on FW 2.0. It even says so in the manual (whose German translation is an atrocity.)
    I think this camera is going back to the shop. Sorry, but I am not going to live with underdesigned, overexpensive Sony lenses and as good as the finder is, manual focus support is a must.

    • There’s finder magnification, you just have to assign a button to it.

    • Michael Jardeen says:

      It has amazing manual focus assist. The only issue is you need to remember to adjust the OSS to the focal length you are using. I own two A7m2 bodies, one converted to IR. I shoot with a bunch of different MF lenses and love the options. The 90mm can go from af to mf by simply pulling or pushing the focus ring. The new G Master lenses look to be a huge step forward and I would love to see Ming review the three.

      • Sorry, no plans to. Not at that price, not without local review loaners, and it doesn’t make sense to have a compact mirrorless system that’s no longer compact…

  4. Not only does Sony NOT supply an external charger: as soon as you stick on the vertical grip, you can’t even charge the two batteries it holds within the camera, by hooking it up to the supplied USB charging adapter.
    This ties in nicely with the extremely fiddly battery door which took me ten minutes to clip in place on the vertical grip.
    Maybe they should have taken a page out of a twelve-year-old Canon book because details such as these were solved MUCH better on my EOS 10D of old.
    Also, I am a glove size 8 and this camera is too small for my hands.
    Also, the shade of the kit zoom fits MUCH too losely on mine.
    The finder is great tho, even with glasses, love the artificial horizon. Maybe at last I finally learn to keep the camera straight 😉

  5. I’m struggling w the A7ii.. I shoot 5D3 and have lots of Canon lenses gear… Been using a lot of manual focus, like 50mm 1.4 Canon, w Metabones on the Sony… Really toying w buying the 55 1.8 Zeiss… nothing but native glass focuses auto any where near well on the Sony… It’s really pricey thou… Thoughts?

    • Never tried AF with adapted lenses on the Sony. Defeats the point of small size entirely to put an adaptor on and an even larger lens.

      • The point of buying an A7II might not necessarily be the small size though. As you so rightly pointed out: stabilised full-frame sensor. I’m seriously contemplating getting into Olympus MFT AND the A7II, and using Metabones adapters and Canon lenses on BOTH 😉

        If only Fujifilm had a stabilised sensor, I’d get that, because the bodies are much more appealing and I somehow detest that in-camera distortion correction of cheaply designed MFT lenses…

        • The stabilised sensor doesn’t seem to be quite as effective as in the M4/3 cameras; I suspect the greatly increased weight makes a massive difference…

    • Hi there Ming, if you have time, I have a question for you… I like to be able to shoot fast in single shot mode (i.e. when my finger and brain anticipate the picture through the VF), to catch a slight changing expression just after I fired off one and need to get another one or two quick shots in succession. I am not talking continuous drive, but single drive – I like to be the one to hit the trigger. With my Nikon D810 (and even my lowly D5500), I do this in single shot mode, whereby it continues to track a subject with 3D tracking and back-button-focusing, and as I see fit, I fire a shot, as many as 4-5 times a second if my finger can actually do it. Essentially, it allows me to shoot virtually whenever I want, with no perceptible delay between taking shots, an instantaneous response, and a tiny black-out time. If my brain and finger can translate what my eyes see quick enough, I don’t miss a shot, never waiting. According to Imaging Resource results, they clock the D810 shot-to-shot time at better than 0.3 seconds (in fact too short to be measured, so actually much less than this). For the Sony A7II, which I have not used unfortunately, Imaging Resource clocks it at around 0.74 seconds, which is a long time to wait between single shots. In that case, if I have taken a shot and instantaneously see an expression change, I would be left waiting. Can you comment on the complete shutter cycle time. Can I fire off at will, or is there a delay between shots? Many thanks for your time, Cass (sorry, the question got a bit long-winded)…

  6. Arnold Wexler, MD says:

    Hi: I have a technical “comment”: My A7II seems too have only two Aspect Ratios: 16:9 and 3:2. The minimum file size with these is 5.1 MB. I must be missing something; you don’t want to send emails or web pix with those large file sizes. Isn’t there an option for much smaller file sizes?

    • All of us use another program to resize them. I assume you wouldn’t want to shoot only tiny files and then find later you bought a 24MP camera but only kept 1MP of resolution…

  7. Is there a way to bypass that Sony RAW compression? Its really a pity because I´m on the mood to switch form Canon to something better. Thanks.

    • No, unfortunately not. Otherwise a lot of us would probably be shooting with one of these cameras. I’m not sure what the ‘something better’ might be, but it’s important to be very clear what’s missing before going hunting for a solution that might not really be a solution…or worse still, bring hidden problems of its own. Unfortunately everything has serious tradeoffs in the photographic world.

      • I´m tired of the Canon prices vs the lack of better quality or real improvements from body to body generation. The dynamic range is critical to me. The AA filter aspect too. I would gladly switch from a 5DMIII to a D810 but if a Sony A7R II solve that RAW problem… It would be a nice choice, cheaper and less heavy. With Zeiss glass; what a joy ,-) of system it could be. I guess theres a lot of people waiting for something like that.

        • Not much less heavy because the lenses are still going to be your limitation. And the ergonomics of an A7-type thing with an Otus are uncomfortable at best.

          • The A7 series cameras aren´t a case of good ergonomics (I mean the grip). Concerning lenses I was thinking about native Sony/Zeiss lenses and in particular the news Zeiss Batis family.

            So for now (May 2015) the best 36 mpx sensor is still the Nikon D810, with proper RAW files, big dynamic range and good ergonomics?
            The Sony A7 series are just “nearly there” ,-)

            • Jury is out on the Batis since they’re not shipping yet; the native Sony/Zeiss aren’t all Zeiss and aren’t all good (35/55 are exceptions, the 24-70 is very poor) and none of them are Otii. The tradeoff is of course FF sensors still require FF lenses…

              Yes, the best FF camera now is still the D810.

  8. Hi, today I fell over your website and I love it, excellent work congratulations. I have a FujiXT1 with the Zeiss Touit 32mm and also the kit zoom lens and the 27mm pancake.I also had a Sony A7II with the 55mm 1,8 and the 24-70 F4. Sold it due to focus reasons. Much to inaccurate and slow. I had it tested 2 times and they couldn’t find anything wrong. Fuji is much much better. Do you think that the XT1 is good enough for wedding photography? The Fuji flash ef-42 is not really that exciting. Other than that, one cannot take serial flash pictures with it. I love the Fuji for outdoor and architectural pics, but indoor it is not so great. Do you have any suggestions? I live in Vienna Austria. Regards

  9. Hi, thanks for the great write up. I have a question – I noticed on the D810 file, in the top right corner there is a sort of chunky block looking pixel type (not sure of the technical name). Is that on the raw file? What is that?

  10. Charlie Webster says:

    I suppose it is unfair, but I came in to your blog reading your M9 long-term review, and then happened on this review of the latest Sony. The M9 images are so much richer to my eye. I recently had a sensor modification done on my Sony A7. It’s much nicer with M glass since the sensor stack was reduced, but still not in the league of the M9 for me.

    • You could post process the differenced either way at this size output. The underlying hardware almost has nothing to do with it. It is also possible that your preference for the M9 is driven by subject/style/presentation rather than the camera…

      • Charlie Webster says:

        With respect, the underlying M lens hardware–the wide choices– gives a huge advantage to the M9 for me, and the pixel count does not really show till you hit huge sizes, or massive crops. The A7 RAWS are very lossy in LR as well, and it’s not so easy to give them the clean M9 color slide look. Having shot both A7 and M9 very much, and often in very low light, today I prefer the M9. But I have the glass to take it in to the dim, e.g. CV 35/1.2, CV 50/1.1, Sonnetar, and a 75 Lux. You do need the speed with CCD. For MF I now prefer the RF for focus in all conditions–of course 135 is as long as I go with the M9. So I think the Sonys punch the ball forward, but so far are no threat to Leica M for many shooters. Had they put a nice thin sensor cover in place, and allowed more features to be programed to buttons, and improved their RAW files, it would be another story. Just my opinion. TY for your comments and excellent blog.

        • Except at the price Leica is asking, you’re really looking at competition other than the A7 series – it’s a D810/Otus level combination, or even second hand medium format. And all of those frankly make the Ms look a little…well, expensive.

  11. Hi Ming, I’m glad I discovered your site and work for its honesty and incredible wealth of experience that you share.

    I’m a serious hobbyist, coming from Canon, and I currently own a 5Dmkii, 7D, 17-40L, 70-200F4L, a rokinon 85mm prime and a few other pieces. I had been considering the D750 or A7ii as I find it too expensive to get full frame and decent autofocus in Canon and the sensor tech further discourages me from looking st a 5Dmkiii. I shoot mainly landscape, portrait, occasional wildlife (not BIF) but have a beautiful dog and a baby coming. I will not be spending thousands on leica legacy lenses to use on mirrorless, although Canon FD etc. interest me; the Sony is in consideration due to sensor, compatibility with existing Canon lenses and size.

    If you can share, how is the AF speed on the A7ii vs a 5dmkii? There are no A7ii’s available in Toronto to check out before ordering, so would you say weight savings are relevant vs a D750? Given that I wouldn’t be sticking tiny leica lenses on the Sony, how would you judge handling on a D750 vs a A7ii with SLR sized lenses.

    Thanks again!

  12. Hello Ming 🙂

    I definitely adopted the DP merrill camera for high res images and super nice price. (Cf, previous comments)

    For low light and reportage, i actually would like to stay discret and light with reseaonable price. Therefore i was lurking around sony A7’s series or Fuji X series APS-C. Gonna test some of those camera soon but a quick test is never enough to discovers some crippling flaws.

    Thats where I’m asking your help and personnal opinion! I like to work on my images pretty much a lot, and since Fuji offers a nice and qualitative lens lineup close enough to match the FF dof, I’m considering… switching completely to APS-C Sensors with merrills/fuji (!), 2years ago i didn’t imagine to go away from 24×36…

    If size and weight wasn’t a problem i would go all the way to D750 but it is. So to avoid RAW files issues, get a good and wide DR, and decent low light performances, which of the fuji or a7 would you be more encline to recommand? I will mostly stick with an equivalent 50mm and a kit zoom. Ok maybe the fuji 56 1.2 later if I go Fuji…

    I usually don’t print above 50x75cm max.

    Thanks again, I always find the interesting points about what I need to know on your blog 😉

    • Neither file has a huge amount of latitude for PP. Toss up as to which you prefer ergonomically.

      • Huuuh that’s sad news. Same reserves abour a7r? heard that at least files were 14 usual bits depth against 12 for a7

        • No. All Sony cameras are 11+7 lossily compressed, which is even worse than 12.

          • f****…! That explains how they manage 35Mo from RAW files for a7r while D800 was 70Mo. with Fuji 16Mpix showing 33Mo i was hopeful there is something nice top get.

            In this case what would you recommend me as the lightest travel companion for critical work?
            Big thank you

            • No substitute for the D800/810, I’m afraid.

              • So this means the 11+7 bit raw files are worser than the 12 bit files lossless uncompressed from the olympus omd line or 12 bit apsc sensors e.g. ricohs gr etc…..only fulll frame look, better low light….??? Am I right?? And is it fixable via firmware update or is it a hardware issue due to sensor design, processor engine ( i know youre not an technical expert, youre a great photographer but what didi you think/guess when youre talking to your best friend digloyd about these issues and the sony a7 series in general……???
                would he still do not consider buying one despite gorgeous IS, focus peaking, 4k possibe via a7s and newly outrageous zeiss 35 1.4 and excellent 55 1.8 lens?? The upcoming a7rII will have ibis and at least the 36 mpx senosr if not a new 50 like canons 5ds/r

                And when does it really come into play/count??? Only in low light/nightshots or every time/allday use or only when made stronger PP??

                Thanks a bunch!

                Kind regards!

                PS: I am an hardcore enthusiast and still deciding to go/invest further in nikons dlsr system (upgrade from d600 to d810 and some lenses 20 1.8 or some art lens…) or goinng/switching sonya a7 series /fe mount system…..only havinf d600, 85 1.8 afs and sb 910 and some cpl filters, small carbon tripod….for me its a major investment and should be futureproof….so is the dslr era already over or only at the end??

          • I’m sorry but 11+7 bit is NOT worse than 12 bit. In fact, on the new A7rii there are hints on the web on how to avoid the 12 bit, for example in long exposures. Using the silent shutter brings the quality down to 12 bit, and that’s worse than the usual 11+7 adopted by Sony.
            Therefore, quality wise: 14 bit > 11+7 > 12

            • I never said it was. There’s one more problem: 12 bit with sony may well be 12 bit *lossy*, degrading things further.

              • Ehm, yes you said it was:

                Ming Thein says:
                March 7, 2015 at 7:55 AM
                No. All Sony cameras are 11+7 lossily compressed, which is even worse than 12.

                Also, this is a simple assumption, there’s no proof of that, the 12 bit Sony is a 12 bit, no more, no less: “12 bit with sony may well be 12 bit *lossy*”

  13. That purple cast in shot from Sony is… from clouds. ;] You can even see highlighted cloud edge.

    • No, it isn’t. I know what a cloud looks like, and it happens in other situations where there are no clouds (e.g. indoors in very dark rooms). This was just a convenient example.

  14. “rather than making a product that’s a definite improvement on the previous model” … wait, thats Canon today. Just look at 700D over 650D for example. 😉

    • I must be missing something here. Is it one of those ‘spot the difference’ puzzles? 🙂

      • Well you said that Sony is doing upgraded models like this: small improvements. But actually this is the way Canon does it since many years now. The difference between Canons 650D and 700D is the mode dial, on the 650D it has two stops, on the 700D it rotates 360 degrees. Yes, that is all 😀

        • I’m not sure I’d have noticed even if I’d shot with them. There is the different model number printing and price increment too, I suppose 🙂

  15. Hi Ming

    Thanks for your review, I also enjoyed your review of the Ricoh GR. Amazing little camera, wish it had an ovf though.

    Getting back to the sony a7ii. Could the posteriazation, or whatever problem it is, that we are seeing in your dark skyline images be avoided by using the camera’s noise reduction function switched to on?

  16. Use of a good mirrorless camera on a mini-view camera platform (Cambo) or on a specialized tilt shift adapter (Hartblei) sounds like a unique feature. Tiny technical camera that weighs next to nothing – clever. That would be quite something for some specialized uses, architecture, products.

  17. From 1/100s and ISO 1600 to 1/12 and ISO 200.

    Isn’t that 3 (shutter) + 3 (iso) = 6 stops of improvement instead of 2-2.5 stops?

    • No, because you’re double counting. Reducing the ISO reduces the shutter speed if the light level is constant, and the hit rate for perfect pixels doesn’t remain the same, either.

  18. Hi Ming: Curious, did you have an opportunity to take the Otis brothers for a test ride on the A7MKII? How did they perform? With an A7(R) MK II likely to be announced in the near term (with 5 Axis hopefully ;), the Otis lenses are sure to be on many A7R MKII early adaptor’s radar.

  19. Hi, Ming. Long-time reader, first-time commenter here. (I apologize for my first comment being on a gear post rather than a teaching post!)

    I shoot with a Pentax K-50. Unlike their flagship DSLRs, which produce 14-bit raw files, the K-50 produces 12-bit files. I was shocked when I saw the update above showing the posterization in the A7II files. I’ll have to do some tests on my own obviously, but since you understand the tech better than I: would you expect this sort of thing with any RAW file with lower bit-depth? Or is it a result of bad algorithms being used by the A7II? Or a bit of both? Thanks.

    Also, many thanks for all the work you do with this website. Your posts & videos have done more to help me improve as a photographer than any other resource.

  20. Your camera reviews always remind me that my photography skills are the limiting factor, not the gear.

  21. Your hardware reviews always lead me to the same conclusion…I’m just not a good enough photographer for the differences in gear to matter.

  22. Hi Ming,
    I read your review but I still have one open question….with regard to efficiency of IBIS vs. cleaner high ISO Files vs. lower base ISO number!
    You wrote:
    “Does a stabilizer for every lens plus slightly worse high ISO win over slightly cleaner high ISO and files with a bit more tonal information? Very hard to say; in practice the advantage swings in both directions. I’d take the D750’s files if there’s enough light to stay at base ISO (and if there’s enough light…why not the D810?) but my hands are shaky so I’d rather have the precision/stability and ease of focus with the A7II in low light. Frankly, it’s frustrating because the D750’s sensor shows us what could have been.”
    And that the IBIS has an efficiency of 2-2.5 stops (other reviews e.g. cameralabs mention 1-2 stops no problem its somehow subjective and how shaky are one’s hands and of one’s “treshold of sharpness”/test assessment etc. D750 as you mentioned round about 1-1.5 better high iso /stop advantages in comparison to A7II

    So if were using your results/number to sum it up (please leave out the 11+7 bit issues):

    IBIS 2-2.5 stops A7II
    D750 1-1.5
    It still seems that the A7II wins slightly if you not take into account the raw files issues…even for you…;)

    The A7II would still have the edge even in high iso files due to IBIS more efficient than the D750/Nikons advantage to tweak/squeeze more out of sonys sensors……on sunny places the A7II would also have an advantage due to 1/250 and 1/8000 for shooting wide open but thats just for the sake of completeness…

    But what if you take the D810 with its base ISO 64 as you already but only pointed out in brackets?? So 2/3 stops better /lower ISO than the A7II??
    Could the D810 fully compensate the advantage of Sonys A7II IBIS?? Or is it not enough due to higher noise (1 stop less than the D750 at high iso??) and because of its high resolution 36mpx sensor which needs higher shutter speeds/careful treatment/handling to avoid blurry images despite having EFCS???

    Kindly regards from Russia;)

    • There are a lot of issues you cannot ignore for academic purposes because they really do become a problem in practical situations. I think it’s easier to look at it this way: the 750 still produces a better file most of the time. The 810 is better still if you have enough light. You can’t ignore 11+7 because it does have practical bearing on the result, just as you can’t ignore lens performance/ availability, shakiness of a given individual’s hands etc…practical scenario comparisons are really the only way to go.

  23. Wow I read this morning that Sony will be rolling out, within weeks, a 50MP, A7R Mark II with 5 Axis IS. Lately they’ve been listing to their customers and giving us what we want, as is showcased in the A7 MK II. So, hopefully they read this article (or others like it) in time to include 14 bit raw and that the A7R MK II sensor will be a 750/810 variant, or better. Add 4k EVF and real battery life…a camera like that could all but obsolete medium format for anything but billboards 🙂

    • Billboards actually don’t require much resolution because of the viewing distance.

      Lots of rumours flying around. I’m not convinced their lenses can handle 50MP on 35mm…in fact I’m not convinced any but a very small handful of 35mm lenses for any mount can handle 50MP; a lot already struggle at 36.

      • Perhaps that is why the new, soon-to-be-released 35 1.4 FE is so large. It is possible, in fact even probable; that Sony built this lens with 50MP in mind…one can hope. The 55FE will handle the oversampling just fine IMO.

  24. Neal Spero says:

    Dear Ming. I love the review I have used the Sony with the 24-70 zoom.We just to Cancun with the Coolpix A. What camera would you use for photos at the dinner table . Remember two familys are shooting Neal

  25. Hi Ming, great blog, I love reading your reviews, more of a real life review then chart and lab tests. I was wondering what do you think of the new Samsung NX1? will you be reviewing one this year.

    • Looks interesting but difficult to justify spending the time since I doubt I’d buy one. It’s physically large, the lens system is limited, adaptors are scarce, and it isn’t cheap…

  26. I’ve said it elsewhere, but this review seemed fair to me. I’m much more impressed with the A7 Mk II than I expected to be. It definitely feels more like a real camera than the A7/A7r, and even to the extent it has deficiencies (image quality, AF speed) it also has benefits (IBIS, size) that make it more than suitable for street photography and similar purposes. The biggest weakness remains the lens range for me.

    The 35mm and 55mm are both excellent lenses (though the 55 focuses too slowly) and the 16-35mm is proficient to very good (depending on focal length) as well. But the rest of the existing lenses either don’t appeal (I don’t get why you would use a 70-200 with this kind of body with this kind of AF) or aren’t quite as good. Interestingly, the 24-70 I own seems to perform worse on the A7 II than the A7 I used to own. Not sure why, but the results, particularly at 70mm seem poor to me. I wish Sony would focus on the strengths of the system (size/convenience) and stop with these ludicrously sized F1.4 lenses (such as the upcoming 35mm) and zooms. Even the 28mm F2 seems overly large from the photos I’ve seen of it. What about some more dinky/optically excellent F2.8 primes?

    I do plan to keep the camera, but there’s an extent to which I look at the result sometimes and think the “D750 would give better results in that one”. Nevertheless, I’m struggling to see why one would pick a similarly priced M43s or APS-C alternative over this camera. I still think Sony have done well to move this quickly to a decent product though, but some focus on lenses, rather than bodies, should be their priority for the next 12 months.

    Very nice pictures too!

    • Thanks. As for why pick a smaller format – lens selection, and size. Depending again on sufficiency for output, you might not even need FF – why carry the excess weight and pay extra for the lenses?

      • Sure I agree – assuming the FF lenses are bigger and more expensive (back to my pet peeve with Sony going for faster designs…) but the likes of the 35 and 55 aren’t materially so when compared to APS-C lenses at least.

  27. With the exception of Ming himself, I am pretty sure that it is “US” behind the camera that IS the weak point, not the camera, be it the EM-1, XT1, NEX7 etc.. A larger sensor doesn’t make you a better photographer.

  28. Sergey Landesman says:

    Great review as always! I actually like Sony RX1R.I think it’s equal to Leica M+35mm Summilux Asph.I used to own.
    But I know you are not a fan of 35mm.

  29. Laxman Mestry says:

    Lovely photos, I liked Curvature and red steps

  30. I heard the sensor remains the same with the original a7, is it true? And a7’s sensor is the same as a99, so these 3 cameras share the same sensor?

    Also, a99 is it a 3-axis? Compared to the 5-axis of the a7 mk2?


    • Supposedly the same sensor but Sony isn’t releasing part numbers, nor do we know what changes have been made in the processing pipeline. A99 is not 5 axis.

  31. Thank you for your insights on the A711. Let me add to the storm. My reference comes from the late 70s and 80s on equipment tests and IQ widly published on new emulsions. So, 11-7 bit compressed file is the information that I was looking for. The 14 bit vs. 11 – 7 compressed file is not only an intentionally missleading statement, but also a qulifier for the intended user base. There is no point in loosing sleep over the qulity of the burnt taste of the coffee at 711, … a very special blend of dicarded pain tinner and flushed motor oil :)… Also, I share your insight on Sony’s design ethos. A linear, stagnant reinventing of each new camera, reather than increasingly user friendly tool incorporating the highest possible technology into a dependable concept that potential user can safely build a system around.
    I see the ML offerings as a mirage, and as a very immature product line. That is neither compact enough or innovating enough after the fact. One does not have to be a fanboy or a hater to come to the conclusion, that if the image quilty is compromised by the designed in limitations after one is made every effort to capture what was intended, it will be over looked by a serious user.
    It is quite possible that Canon and Nikon is staying out or the ML market because it is immature at this stage and really not an alternative for what DSLRs presently deliver for every possible use!
    Well, I for one staying with Education over replacing my D2xs… 🙂 Thank you for your hard work and enjoyable essays.
    Tony K

  32. I often read about “proper downsizing”. Is there more to it than telling Lightroom the desired output size?

    • Yes. There are a lot of ways to derive the new pixel data from old – if you try to do it in PS, you’ll see there are half a dozen different options. And they make a lot of difference to the output – you might choose one method that preserves detail at the expense of noise for something with a lot of high frequency detail (bicubic sharper), or something which averages out noise at the expense of detail for a tonally continuous subject (regular bicubic), for instance.

    • Read He features a more scientific approach to photography and has several posts comparing downsizing algorithms.
      Additionally, I want to add, that I really like your site, Mr. Thein, following your posts everyday. My wife and I use both mirrorless and DSLRs (A7ii, D610,D810, my wife is a professional photographer). As much as I like MILCs, I still don’t see them mature enough and for critical we rely on DSLRs. Could be because we grew up with Nikon and now every setting, tweak or behaviour. The D810 is the best camera we ever owned. I don’t care whether MILCs will bring out models surpassing it within the next years, as the quality of the files combined with good lenses (even more important) will deliver more than needed for what the clients want. But what is underrated in my opinion is handling. A D810, D750 is larger than a Sony or Oly, but for long stretches of shooting we find it easier to use (I hate my fingers hitting the camera body due to too small grips). Larger, more responsive buttons to do easily without taking away your eye from the VF, better balance with larger lenses, quick adjustment of focus points (although I like the joystick on the D4). Nicely damped shutter and mirror mechanism on the D810, EFCS, ISO64, just great. I really hope, though, for the rumors of true RAW histogram come true.

      • Thank you. It seems that a lot of people are reverting to the DSLR after trying mirrorless and finding something still missing. As for downsizing, a fair comparison should include work done after to optimize the image (both images, really) since we would use them in final output form, not raw.

        • Jon Parsons Guitar Workshop says:

          I just made the switch back to Dslr after a number of years shooting every mirror less camera I could get my hands on.
          There was always something missing, so after lots of testing i came to the conclusion I’d better served with a D750.
          Couldn’t be happier!
          On another note, I’ve never had much trouble with the XAVC video files on Mac. I thought I would to begin with, but the file is just buried in a series of folders. Root>clip from memory. Final Cut Pro x handled it well.
          Thanks for your great work Ming!

  33. I predict that this is the last mass-market camera review that Ming will ever do.
    Good heavens, what acrimony. 😉

  34. A few peoples had compared the A7R output, downsampled, to the A7S output. Their conclusions are different than yours. (same noise performance, but more details from A7R)

    The first comparison found downsampled A7R (and A7) output to have more noise. The person who made the comparison thinks A7R is ‘tuned for’ low ISO and A7S is ‘tuned for’ high ISO.

    The 2nd comparison found that when downsampling A7R output shot at high ISO, one cannot always recover image details that were lost in the noise, and shadow noise in downsampled A7R output are still 1-2 EV worse at high ISOs.

    Obviously, these results depend a lot on the downsampling algorithm involved. But I thought these are worthy observations to consider.

    • ISO 3200 looks usable on all those, and should cover many normal shooting situations most end users would encounter. ISO 6400 starts to reveal some differences. I know very few people who shoot much above that, other than those doing surveillance. While I think it’s tough to pick a bad camera today, people who regularly shoot at very high ISO settings may find the A7S, Dƒ and D4S to be good choices. Usually there is some ability to light a scene, but when there is not, there are a few usable choices on the market.

      Read enough White Papers on imaging sensor design, and you will see that noise is a function of pixel well depth and pixel well diameter. Smaller than 5.5 µm pixels have noise, especially as the ISO is pushed higher. A shallower pixel well can help a little, though heat removal is another factor. DXO and a few others noted a few years ago that companies are “cooking” their RAW files to do some noise processing to RAW. While some think that is a bad decision, I suspect most end users are okay with the practice, as long as the files are clean enough. Modern RAW files are not as RAW as they were in the past, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

    • Their conclusions are different because they actually took the time to “compare” them. They did not base their conclusions on supposition. In fact, there is very little (by way of reference images) to back any of the claims made in this “review”.

      • Surprisingly, I actually make photographs with the cameras. Which is what they were designed for, not measurebating test charts. Under real conditions under which “photographs” are actually taken, with my workflow, those are my findings. There are many ways to downsample and resize. There’s no need to discredit me because my observations disagree. And frankly, I’d argue that most of the other comparisons are useless because none of them show meaningful images that could have been composed and made independently of equipment as an image rather than a careless snapshot. An opinion is only as useful as the person’s qualifications, and in this game, the images count. Unless you’re missing the point of photography entirely, of course. But hey, what do I know. I’m not a blogger or a reviewer and I don’t shoot cats.

      • Actually, there is if you bring those images into Photoshop and look individually at each Channel. Do not view each individual Channel in colour, just look at the greyscale distribution of each Channel. If you understand how Channels function, this will be obvious.

  35. Great review Ming. Very informative.

    If you were to choose between the fuji x-t1 and the A7 II systems which would you prefer?

    • At this point, probably neither. Both are limited but in different ways, and both have their ergonomic compromises (which of course are highly subjective).

  36. John weeks says:

    Enjoyed the review becausee i have been interested in the camera…
    but Skyline Reflection blew me away…I really love that shot…
    Very nice shot Ming!!!

  37. Taildraggin says:

    So, it does nothing better than the DSLRs and still has many profound constraints. Nonsensical.

    • It’s smaller and brings stabilisation to every lens, and the EVF makes manual focus very easy. There is no current model FF DSLR that does this. I’m not sure nonsensical is fair…DSLRs too have their share of ‘profound constraints’ – paradoxically being unable to focus critically over the entire frame with any level of ease, for starters.

      • So I wonder how many Sony FE lenses, A7,A7r and a7s are already avaiable on the used market in photography forums….especially the lenses surprised me so one indication that the owners will probably not stay with the fe mount…16-35 f4 and 24-70 f4 fe mount zeiss lenses are performing worser than nikons old equivalents….35 2.8 is good but not excellent….the onyl very useful and excellent FE lenses are the 70-200 f4 but white colour not very stealthy 😉 and the 55 1.8 which is gorgeous 😉 best lens they made so far;)!
        One of my best friends has a camera store which is luckily still very successful despite the online shops destroying local dealers and the phenomenon of “showrooming” users that just have a look on the stuff in the local store and then buy later cheaper on the web….

        It has also to be said that these zeiss lenses are not real zeiss made lenses in Germany… maybe its no wonder why so many of them are not better performing or only mediocre in terms of the 16-35 and esp. the 24-70 f4 is not worth to be labelled as a zeiss and its price tag/overpriced….
        They are all actually made by sony (in japan it seems at least!!!), sony just paying zeiss money for licensing and use their brand tag on the lenses…so honestly it smells somehow like cheating as fuji did with their iso numbers…the cheaper versions and the longer focal lengths, tele lenses, macro above 55 mm are usually (former minolta) are labelled as Sony G lenses but it seems they change this with the introduction of the new 90 2.8 OSS Zeiss Macro Fe mount lens which will also have the zeiss label and wont have just the G….

        It could be that they wanna labeling as much as possible lenses with the zeiss tag in order to justify a higher price tag and that people think these lenses perform superb just because of zeiss knwon as a high quality company/ products made in germany….

        So be careful!!!! Zeiss labelled lenses are not always be automatically real lenses made by Zeiss in Germany!!!!!
        Just for clarification…..

        PS: By the way its strange if you look at the mockup of the new 90 macro lens its actually longer than the nikkor 105 2.8 despite being in reality 15mm less long focal length, it may has to do with sonys sensor/small mount diameter/short flange distance….lenses seems to have to be longer to serve the Fe Mount / sensor….and sorry for any typos ,)!

        • The 90 macro – or any macro – requires a certain distance from optical centre to image plane to generate a certain magnification without shortening the focal length (which would result in seriously reduced working distance). That might be why all macro lenses are roughly the same length, and those that maintain working distance tend to extend when focus closer.

        • Heru Anggono says:

          Yes yes Johnny, don’t shout too loud. Everybody who do some research know that Sony Zeiss lens is not manufactured in Germany. If they make it it Germany it might cost $2,000 upward. One example is the Zeiss 85mm f2 in M-mount which was released in 2007 and cost $2,749 but was discontinued later on.

          In 1975 Zeiss licensed their lens design to Yashica (Contax Yashica mount) and those lens are beautiful in craftmanship and optical quality.

          So it’s not at all peculiar if Zeiss licensed their design to Sony, perhaps Cosina does the lens elements, Zeiss does the lens coating (the famous T* coating), and put together in Sony assembly plant.

          • Made in Thailand, apparently – according to my lens mount. Frankly though, it seems the mass produced stuff seems to have better QC than ‘hand adjusted’ whether in Germany or Japan…

        • Jackson Jones says:

          FYI, 99% of ANY Zeiss camera lenses are not made in Germany. I think ONLY the 15mm lens is made in Germany and even that might still be made in Japan.

          Zeiss gave up making lenses in Germany decades ago. So in your book, most Zeiss lenses aren’t real.

          • The 2.8/15 ZM is made in Germany, the rest are in Japan. Even the Otuses. Better QC and cheaper, too – what’s not to like?

            • Jackson Jones says:

              I’ve got no problem with it. Johnny seems to think that Japanese made Zeiss lenses are fake. That’s an odd opinion to say the least.

              • I agree, it’s an odd opinion. By that logic, even the Sony bodies themselves are fake since they’re made in Thailand and not Japan…

              • No both of you misunderstood me, i am fine with that too no problem at all….i just wanted to point out two things:

                Firstly, it seems a lot of users/people still think that the zeiss labelled lenses are made in germany….thats not the case!!!
                And secondly, this was may main point, Sony knows this fact and use the Zeiss label in order justify a higher price tag just for the Zeiss label and to generate much more money than with just a Sony or Sony G tag on the lenses and it seems the quality/performance and Q&C is not as good as on other Zeiss lenses (for Nikon or Canon mount) as well which is valid imo with regard to the new 16-35 and especially the mediocre 24-70 f4 Fe lens at least….

                • @ Johnny
                  You are my man…..;)
                  Agree, I came to the same conclusion….sony is cheating and faking and abusing the zeiss tag to generate more money…shame & blame on you Sony!
                  I bought the 24-70 and the 16-35 f4 oss fe lens and they are already gone and I tested several samples….esp. the 24-70 as the standard zoom/”bread and butter lens” is a shame esp. for its price tag…try a tamron 24-70 2.8 vc this is good lens for its price tag also with vc and better in comparison to nikons 24-70 2.8 as well….would always chose two primes the new 28 2 or 35 2.8 and 55 1.8 over this lens….The 16-35 is a little better I agree but not much better than nikkors 16-35 f4 (the nikkor is even slightly sharper imo)! despite being much younger/newer….so second bummer/Sony failure!!!

                  Generally I would agree with a lot of users here better ergonomics, bigger buttons, AF tracking and AF in low light etc….DSLRS are not dead yet and wont for the midterm (up to 3 years i guess) so long live the KING: DSLR!!!
                  Focus Peaking/and Magnifier and some other advantages of the mirrorless can be built in the DSLR as well at least it could be implemented in the live view mode….so we will see what Canikon is doing….

        • Since this review talked about “Sony Zeiss” lenses it is worth understanding that “Sony Zeiss” FE lenses are results of totally different developement process than the Zeiss ZE/ZF/ZM lenses. Zeiss role in these lenses is more on the QA side, the FE lenses are designed by Sony in Japan, article below sheds some light to this.

      • This is the exact reason why I am interested in this camera. Light enough, stabilized, and m mount compatible to make its small body relevant. Good to hear that you like it enough. Now, I need to borrow this from a friend and try it out.

      • Taildraggin says:

        Ok, a smaller package, lose the tripod more often, and shoot Otii to get softer, but more quickly (manually) focused images that require more work in post is pretty narrow praise, Ming.

        Let’s hope Sony sells many of these and uses the proceeds to develop more better cameras (and lenses).

        • Well, everything short of medium format is going to have inferior image quality to the 810/Otus combination. But remember also that size/weight advantage swings hugely in favour of the A7II (and other mirrorless) once you factor in the 5-6kg tripod you’ll also need.

      • bluetwango says:

        Ming– many replies away from here, you wrote of the a7II: “It’s smaller and brings stabilisation to every lens, and the EVF makes manual focus very easy. There is no current model FF DSLR that does this.”

        If a camera has an EVF, doesn’t that take the R our of DSLR? I don’t know, but I do know that the Sony a99 FF SLT has an EVF and IBIS. The “smaller” part, not so much. But we ex-Minoltans learned to expect body stabilization many years ago, and were surprised when Sony forgot this feature with previous a7s.

        • I suppose it does if the terminology matters. In practice you’re going to use them the same way. The A99 is an odd beast in that you have an EVF, but the size of a DSLR.

  38. As I browse the photographs in this article, I’m astonished that I cannot tell the difference in image quality between this set and similar MT offering’s from the D810/Otis, even when viewing on my hi-def monitor. Colors are popping and the rendering is crazy sharp. Clearly any perceived IQ deficiencies in the A7MKII/Zeiss 55FE can and have been dealt with in post.
    For the very first time, I’m enjoying my 35 Lux and 50 Noc stabilized. In fact, much more so than on my M240 body, which is now for sale. At the present time, an A7MKII/Zeiss 55 1.8 can be had for around $2500 whereas the 810/Otis combo is $7200 and is GIGANTIC by comparison. You can’t autofocus an Otis so that leaves the RAW thing. I’d like to see Sony go to the 14 bit compression but mostly just to silence this kind of editorial belly aching (no offense Ming, I’m a big fan) but most of us wouldn’t recognize the perceived problem unless we were looking at a billboard or a Fancy Shmancy Ultra Print . You made some amazingly gorgeous photographs with the A7MKII…nuf said.

    • I disagree nothing comes close to the D810 for stills….thats full frame at its best!!!!!

      Its like a mini medium format camera! And with ISO 64 (or even expended to 32) you can compensate some of the IBIS stops advantages if youre using a unstabilized prime and not a longer tele lens with VR….maybe if they announce the A7rII with the performance/same features of the D810 EFCs, ISO 32/64 etc. with IBIS, uncompressed raw files then you might be right and we can speak again ;)…..

      The D810 will still be my camera for years and i dont want to defend my purchase/spent money ;)… would be wiser to spend the money on Education than switching permanently gear and systems…..Ming is calling and said this so often in the past anybody listened???

      Only for video the A7II might be excellent…..!

      • You missed the point. “Nothing comes close” is a bit over the top Florian but I do understand your enthusiasm. The facts remains that IQ is very nearly indistinguishable between the A7MKII/Zeiss 55FE and the 810/Otis (especially if you know what you’re doing in PS/LR), for most viewing mediums save huge prints or a billboard. The 810/Otis combo is GIANT compared to the A7MKII/Zeiss 55FE (I simply don’t enjoy large, clunky DSLR’s with mirror boxes and massive lenses attached-just my personal preference) and you simply cannot enjoy Leica primes on the 810…period. So for me to pay a $4,700 premium for the 810/Otis combo would be utterly absurd. The A7MKII is the PERFECT camera for me (at least until the A7R Mark II/A9 arrives 😉 So go out and enjoy your gear as it sounds very much like you’ve found the perfect camera yourself…for years to come.

        • It’s not indistinguishable. Not even close, sorry. Even at moderate print sizes. 1MP web JPEGs don’t count. Not being able to tell the difference suggests that perhaps you haven’t seen files which show the full potential of either camera.

          • I would tend to agree with Scott – the samples here certainly are very similar to a D810 at the 2mp web resolution presented here ;).

            What I don’t agree with earlier comments on the quality of the A7 lens line up. Most of these are great and the 35 2.8 produces images that are as sharp at 2.8 as the Sigma 35 at 2.8 nevermind sharper than the Nikon 35 1.4. I’ve also experience really great things with the 24-70 and 16-35. At least as good as my Nikkor trinity kit on a D800.
            However this review opening comments on the 24-70 and the comments in the discussion pain (pun intended) opens up an interesting discussion again about how lenses are reviewed – do we/can we/should we simply accept software corrections as part of the lens design.This is how many glass manufacturers want us to review lenses and how the manufacturers themselves intend to circumnavigate the law of physics with glass that is expected to be razor sharp in the center, resolve very high MP sensors across the frame and still be relatively small and compact. Sony FE, Fuji XF, Olympus and Panasonic are all guilty of this to some extent or another. As an end users I don’t really care because if the corrections work, no biggie and Sony’s work really well. The lenses themselves are not intended to be viewed uncorrected and if you do you can create your own custom lens profile and still get really sharp images end to edge! Fine art photographer Tim Ashley summed this up best as the ‘bisto’ effect Tim Ashley also had to try 3 copies of the 24-70 Zeiss when he reviewed it. Like yourself Ming, he has very stringent quality control :
            I suspect that your issues, like Tims were a question of quality control that should be shored up one year after initial introducion of the lens.

            Regarding the flurry on A7ii IQ vs D750 – perhaps there is some fanboyism? Perhaps people find your hardware posts more interesting and engaging than your photographic posts? Who knows really? I can only hope that those new here also read your interesting takes on technique. This review certainly is generating a lot of traffic for your site so that cannot be so bad when paying the bills 🙂 The second reason that I am commenting is that your review left me scratching my head…. your findings are somewhat different from other equally respected blogger/fine art protographers (Luminous Landscape, Brian Smith and even posters to Steve Huffs site) that found the A7ii IQ to be excellent and every bit as good as you would expect from the same sensor found in an A7, D610, D750 etc… Certainly you are the first to suggest that it is deficient with most praising Sony’s new color palette.
            It’s think it’s great to hear a different opinion and I welcome it. The A7ii certainly does sound noticeably different IQ wise if it trails a D750 by 1-1.5 stops dynamic range. That is a significant difference, I’d nearly go so far as to say a design flaw relative to the previous generation which had more dynamic range according to DXO. Yes nit picking possibly but when you are spending 2k of your own hard earned, it’s understandable to nitpick a little. According to DXO, the a99 comes in about half a stop behind the D750 as you would expect because of the SLT design. The original A7 is extremely close to the D750 (perhaps under 1/3) but again DXO finds a difference between A7 and A7ii of almost half a stop. Yet you’ve found an even greater 1 – 1.5 stops difference in your review sample. You also shoot real world images and not tech charts so, this makes the A7ii sound even worse! Could this be a result of preliminary RAW support in the convertor(s) that you tried, I know that trying a sample raw file from the latest ACR looks terrible in color fidelity – I found capture one does a much better job? Different glass stack on the sensor?
            I know this is a lot of work for you but if you could find the time, would you please do a quick follow up article such as with your EM1 review follow up. This review is full of gorgeous photos, but it’s hard to believe that you found the IQ subpar relative to the D750 when the results look so good. Perhaps with more mundane, side by side crops to illustrate real tangible points on the 1.5 stop dynamic range and noise differences that you are talking about. Your voice carries a lot of weight in the photographic community and adding your voice to the choir requesting uncompressed raw would only amplify the volume. Thanks for taking the time to share your beautiful photos and share your opinion with us.

            P.S. Off topic, I’d also love to see a follow up article from you on your take with film emulation in software, do you ever play with it (yes I know that you shoot film) but how close can you reasonably massage a digital file to give you a close film effect. Thanks and Happy New Year.

            • Traffic sadly has nothing to do with paying the bills. The fanboys certainly won’t support you, nor do they care about education. If anything, it’s a negative impact because the amount of time required to write/answer/collate means less time doing actual billable work.

              QC issues? Possibly, but unlikely. You tend to see decentering more than outright symmetric CA/softness especially in complex lens designs. My lens is symmetrically bad on all corners. It could of course be one really bad element that’s symmetrically misshapen, but that really seems unlikely.

              DXO tells you nothing about posterising in highlights or shadows. The dynamic range – i.e. tonal response – can be there, but how it is presented is quite something else. I even went to the extent of profiling the A7II in the same way as my other cameras; ACR support is final (and really shouldn’t bring any surprises since it’s not a new sensor anyway).

              Frankly, nobody cares what I say other than the fanboys who will find dissent anyway regardless of how the evidence is presented because it conflicts with their blind religious beliefs. I have better things to do like make images I’m actually happy with in every way rather than convince others what I say is right. I know I have pretty strict IQ demands, and judging from the files I’ve seen ranging from ‘fine art photographers’ to amateurs, a lot of the time the user is the limiting factor. Everybody is entitled to spend their money as they choose. Frankly I don’t put much weight into opinions which are based on unknown testing methodology, or bloggers like Huff who use such heavy PP you can’t tell anything about the original image quality.


              Here is an example of shadow posterisation and noise under optimal conditions. (100% crop, A7II, tripod, 6s, base ISO, no exposure adjustment in raw.) I see a green-magenta band that certainly wasn’t there in the sky, and you can induce similar banding on the highlight end – posterised false color. Original is here.
              a7ii posterization

              And here is an example of no shadow posterisation, under identical conditions (100% crop, D810, tripod, 6s, base ISO, no exposure adjustment in raw.) I see clouds and that’s about it. Original is here.
              d810 no posterization

              • Jim Owens says:

                First of all, thanks so very much Ming for taking the time out to do this. Sony, I hope you take note – I doubt it, but it would be nice if you did and did something about this.
                I see that in this setup obviously the D810 is shot with an 85mm 1.4 Otus at F5.6 / ISO64 versus A7ii with Zeiss 55 1.8 shot at F4 /ISO100. The D810 here looks amazingly sharp here as it should without an AA filter, 36mp, a fantastic lens and a good tripod. The A7ii looks good for what it is – a really good 24mp FF sensor that is targeted resolution wise at existing A99, A7, D610, D750 levels of resolution and IQ. In a different shooting envelope – reportage, no tripod, the A7ii may yet yield better IQ than any other FF on account of IBIS if not for Sony’s crippling compressed raw. I think like you implied (at least the way I read it), end users need to decide what to spend their own hard earned on and understand that there is no ‘best’ for every type of shooting envelope.
                This example isn’t quite comparing apples to apples (D750 to A7ii would come closer) but it still perfectly illustrates your point on the posterization effects that you encountered. Thank you. Thank you.

                I’d also hasten to add, that such night cityscape scenes are not an uncommon shooting envelope for many photographers. An A7ii *should* theoretically offer somewhat of a noise advantage here given the lower resolution and larger photosites (and assumed same technological generation as Sony’s 36mp process). I would imagine a D750 could produce a theoretical cleaner image than the D810 if shot with the same settings as the A7ii, obviously at the expense of resolution.

                Ming can I also compliment you in that you took a really thorough approach to evening out the exposure values here as best possible for both cameras, before anybody else comments that the D810 had an ISO advantage here, Ming opened up the aperture more on the Sony to account for this. The transmission rating from both lenses being virtually identical. It looks to me that there is at least a stop more noise in the sky on the A7ii relative to the D810. However the foreground images of the buildings on the A7ii, looks considerably cleaner than the sky. Ok you would expect this, but the part that I am surprised with is just how much cleaner it looks. Is it possible that the 11+7 truncating of raw data in extreme shadows and highlights results in less data to reconstitute a ‘clean’ sky?
                I.E. Could we hypothesize that if Sony were to open up to true 14bit RAW files they would potentially kill two birds with one stone, cleaner files in blank canvas areas of sky and also removing of posterization with cleaner tonal transitions – obviously with larger file sizes 😉 I suspect what most Sony users really want is both of this and compressed RAW using some type of bastardized diffie helman or other compression algorithm that is not lossy! I saw another reviewer – think it was Roger Cigala, who hypothesized that Sony are using a thicker CFA so resulting in slight differences in IQ and output. But Sony have apparently fixed the sensor reflection issue in the original A7 with a slightly thinner glass stack in this one, so if that’s the case why isn’t it performing better than the A7! Questions questions! Again thanks so much Ming for taking the time out of your evening and responding to me here. I really appreciate it and enjoyed chatting with you – I love science and trying to understand things so I hope you interpret my post as such.
                Good night 🙂

                • Thank you. What you’re seeing in the sky is the 11+7 doing it’s thing. For images without that much smooth tonal gradient, the 810 and A7II are roughly on par; the D750 is a stop cleaner at the pixel level. There’s no reason why the A7II can’t deliver similar quality to the D750 – minus a bit because of the area lost to PDAF photosites, but certainly not the delta we’re seeing here.

                  I’m not seeing any sensor reflections, so I suspect they probably fixed something between versions here.

                  • Ming,

                    Thanks for the two images, although I don’t believe they’re comparable based on the different color temperature and LV for the portions of the sky evaluated. I did a pretty intensive study of the IQ side-effects of the Sony compression, including writing a utility that will let you map out which parts of the raw image are heavily compressed ( I don’t believe the artifacts you’re attributing to the sky are the result of Sony’s compression, although I can’t be sure of that without evaluating the raw image. There are two aspects to Sony’s compression – global tonal compression, which is performed against the entire image above certain tonal values (the 14-bit to 11-bit compression) – and local tonal compression, which is performed against a 16×2 grid of adjacent pixels and which is most talked about online. For night skies you shouldn’t be seeing the effects of the global compression since the tones are below the threshold which are compressed. To check if the local compression is affecting your image you can either use the utility I wrote ( or RawDigger, which is easier to use (

          • “Not being able to tell the difference suggests that perhaps you haven’t seen files which show the full potential of either camera”.Well then, kindly indulge us sir. Let’s put this debate to bed once and for all. If you will provide us with a link to two “full potential” original files at full res, from both cameras (we would feel confident that you cook each with equal enthusiasm ;), I will view both on my Thunderbolt display and most assuredly acquiesce to the superior file.

            • I just did that in the reply above. The 810/Otus is better at the pixel level and has 50% more of them.

              • The examples above were intended to illustrate the problems you’ve identified with 11+7 v 14. I’m talking about a real photograph, fully processed in post and ready for enjoyment, not a screen shot. Your missing my point or being obtuse. Never mind, obviously this exercise has gotten on your nerves. I’m moving on 🙂

                • Those images WERE crops from two fully processed, ‘real’ photographs, which I’d consider good enough to present and are representative of a whole image and a typical photographic scenario (and have done here and elsewhere). I’ve explained for many reasons why I’ll never release full size files. I have enough problems with image theft as it is. At the same time, I won’t publish a substandard image that might be associated with me later.

                • Ming, thanks for posting those two files — they’re pretty illuminating. Besides the obvious sensor artifacts (which are also present in the 1500-pixel photo you originally posted), the difference in lens quality between two pictures is clear. Look at the point light sources, and the fine lines of the buildings.

                  FWIW, I saw the Skyline reflection picture go up on Flickr a few days before this review was posted, and was so incredulous at the blockiness of the night sky that I contacted Ming about it to confirm it wasn’t a Flickr artifact. (It isn’t.) So this limitation of the camera can be easily seen at web sizes.

                  To be fair, there is a minor bit of posterization in the sky in the D810 file too, in the upper right hand corner, which just goes to show how tough a normal scene like this can be, and therefore how the A7’s RAW compression may be more widely limiting than previously thought. The A7’s pixel quality is also quite a bit more ragged than the D810’s, which I’ve also noticed in some samples I’ve seen from the D610. I wonder if the 750’s improved on that.

                  • The 750 felt about the same as the 810 to me, but with less recoverability in the highlights. It has a tonal response more similar to the 800E (i.e. linear) than the 810 (highlight biased). So whilst you should tend to overexpose the 810 slightly relative to its histogram to maximise data collection, you should just ETTR the 750 (and 800E).

      • Nope, nobody listened, sadly. Look at the number of replies to equipment posts vs education ones, and worse still, the quality (or lack of) of a lot of those.

    • In addition to the purple fringing in “Natural veiling,” you may want to take a more careful look at the sky in “Skyline reflection” …

      Anyway, from looking at Ming’s review shots, what I get is that the A7 is a nice FF camera that’s OK to use, but nowhere close to the performance of the D810 with Otus-class lenses.

    • Billboards are actually low resolution. Even a 4k television is barely above 8 MP. You will not see much difference until you push files into print, either high quality offset or carefully controlled machine prints. The other factor is that when you shoot hand-held, the captured detail will be less than when you shoot from a tripod. If you’re going to carry a heavy and stable tripod, then a slight difference in camera size and weight may not be that big a deal, though obviously that depends upon each individual. Finally, everyone’s eyesight is slightly different, and some people absolutely will not see much difference.

      Ming has developed a very specific set of needs, based upon his final output requirements. He’s willing to work methodically and use a tripod to get the best results he can achieve. I don’t have the output and usage needs that Ming does, so I use a different set of equipment. Quite likely you have different requirements too. Outside of measurebating, results speak louder than what is in a bag of equipment. 😉

  39. Thanks again for your write up. Any thoughts on the Zeiss 55 versus Zeiss Touit 32

  40. After reading your excellent/detailed review, I guess the Sony A7II will not make it on the recommended gear list….maybe generation III….personally i would like to say that i am one of those exotic ones who switched back to a nikon dslr still d 600 but thinking of a d810…i had a em1,xt1 and a a7….m43 too bad IQ /low light issues, xt1 xtrans raw processing issues, lenses already nearly as big as full frame primes and let alone the retro controls…not for me ;), Sonys a7 well beside the most discussed raw issue, i missed +-5 exposure compensation on the dial, its only going to +-3 like fuji, only one sd slot….i simply prefer the ovf despite its disadvantages in comparison to evf and you have to use/carry a hoodmanloupe instead of 4-6 addional batteries using mirrorless cam 😉 and lose time to check your shots….but it has to be said that the best evf still cannot be as good as the human eye or wont ever maybe….best evf 2.7 human eye is 4.5 million just with regard to resolution…
    And maybe thats a personal thing but looking in an evf (like looking at the lcd/led screen on a computer!) the whole day, i was getting more tired and my eyes hurt much more than if i was using an ovf….

    So guys dont switch immediately it has to work for YOU… try the mirrorless, evf in the store or rent them for some days before deciding, i lost a lot of MONEY from “hopping through mirrorless world” with gaining Nothing would be better spent in EDUCATION….Ming…..

    So i will use a dinosaur again d810 with the 1.8 primes ( i know the 28 and 50 are not recommended but sorry Ming I use them my compromise!!!) to carry as less as possible and as a personal compromise. The sigma arts would be better from IQ alone but they are weighing too much doubel or triple the weight of the 1.8s…i am just an old school dslr user….so maybe the dslr users are the new retro users (like fuji/leica) ;)!

    • Isn’t it telling that for all of the people crying the DSLR is dead – myself included at one point – a lot of us haven’t found a better solution? Hmmm.

      But no, this one doesn’t make the recommended list. Just shy of it, actually.

      • I just wanna add that i used a lot of Sonys SLTs as well started on Sony…A850,A900, A99….the only Sony cam which offered really 14 bit uncompressed raw files was the A99 but only in AFS, not AFC….a99 has true 14 bit raw files, the new a7 series not its big bummer it may have to do with the internal workflow, bionix z processor and their used algorithms…maybe there are some technical limitations within the hardware which prevent them/sony for offering/implementing such an option…usually this could/should be already done quick and dirty via firmware update for the longest time if it is really possible!!! Just my own speculation thats due to technical/hardware limitations, algorithms/bionix Z processor and additionally because of implementing/designing it in is more costworthy (may need other better faster internal parts, time for implementing it appropriately etc.) but we will see if they gonna react/fix it via firmware update (or only with a new “pro model” A8 or A9 CP + is calling next month maybe..)
        Nevertheless it is widely discussed on the web similar to the d750 flare issues nikon already responded to…..fairly it has to be said that the olympus omds dont have 14 bit raw option either!
        So at least /additionally one big reason to stick with Canikons if it is important for you!
        On my personal recommended list the a7(II) series would not be included too until the 14 uncompressed raw files option is implemented at least….

      • Jackson Jones says:

        Funny how you proclaim the OVF almost dead, and then detail one of the main drawbacks of the EVF, which is heavy power consumption. Mirrorless cameras draw enormous power from the batteries and that will get worse and worse as resolution increases. I get 1200 shots out of my SLR battery. With a grip w/2 batteries, I can shoot for many days without any battery concern whatsoever.

        • Functionally, the OVF is inferior to a good EVF. But you’re missing the point. There is no reason why the power draw has to be high solely because of the EVF. There are other factors at work here, probably the sensor suspension mechanism. This is clear because other cameras that are live view only are capable of much better battery life, even with smaller batteries. A larger LCD panel uses more power than a smaller one (i.e. the one inside the EVF). My GR has more than double the battery life of the A7II, with a battery that has half the capacity – and that’s always got the LCD on because it’s the only way to frame, and has to extend/retract the lens with every power cycle, too.

          • A “good EVF” being defined as how closely it matches the output to the eye as rendered by a 40 year old reflex viewing finder.

    • @Leon
      Me too…i would add that even if youre having to carry a hoodman loupe for checking shots, you dont have to carry 3-4 additional batteries to get the same amount of shots when using a sony A7 and a lot of people do not take the little pop up flash into account which is quite handy and sometimes very useful e.g. as a trigger when discussing about dslr are larger and heavier…for sure but only slightly if you take a sony a7 480 gramms plus 3 extra batteries 150 gramms and a small/tiny flash 150 gramm at least…it comes close to the d750 or even d810 without the other mentioned issues dual card slot, uncompressed raw files, no exposure compensation going to +-5 big thing for me too, nobody mention this in reviews similar to the useful pop up flash….and let alone haptics/ergonomics often better on dslrs because they are bigger for some people a camera can be really too small if you have big hands (men mostly)…so you might have to buy an extra battery grip for your mirrorless cam ….end of story 😉

    • Stephen Nesbitt says:

      I made the mistake of jumping on the mirrorless bandwagon a little too soon as well. I tried a few models from e-m5, gx-7, x100, x-t1 and a friends a7. I am now back with a dSLR (Nikon D810) and I love it. Luckily I am still healthy and fit enough in my forties to carry around the D810 and a lens or two all day without any pain or discomfort. The feel of the D810 in hand, the familiarity of the layout and its responsiveness is what really counts to me. Of course, the image quality is more than I need, but I am happy, and because I am happy, I shoot more.

  41. I see what you mean about product review posts being the most popular, nearly three times as many comments as on your (really great) nautical photoessay 🙂 To me the best things about your reviews is that we get to see more interesting photos of KL street life.

    Personally I’d like to see Sony release a medium format A7+….. it seems like larger sensors, where the mirror boxes are huge and the demands for fast AF much less, are crying out for a mirrorless solution. I couldn’t afford it, but it would be interesting to see!

    • Sadly they also seem to bring out the fanboys and trolls.

      We’d be back to square one with another format – no lenses. And I doubt the MF sensor can be stabilised without some serious power drain…

  42. Hi Ming
    I think the a7m2 Sony sensor has been better optimised for Leica m lens. I know it’s the same sensor as the previous A7.
    I have tried it with the image stab off. Even my super angulon 21 which poor on a7 looks better.
    Have you noticed this?

  43. Oh, one more thing; can you quantify a bit what you mean by low light when you talk about AF getting unreliable? I routinely need to use something like ISO 1600, f2, 1/50 sec and would like to have reliable AF for people at close range. Tracking is not a big deal, accuracy and fast focus for a single shot is.

    • It doesn’t always focus on what you expect – sometimes behind, sometimes in front. I take a few shots just to be sure (and have been saved by this more than once).

      • I was trying to figure out how dark it needs to be in order for obvious problems to arise and whether the camera will work in my conditions, will work with caveats or will not work. I’m expecting I need to take a few shots to be sure and reasonable sharpness is better than none (e.g. I can make a small print if needed but not a big one).

        • It’s visible in both ‘Last one open’ and ‘Skyline reflection’. The former was handheld high-ish ISO; the latter base ISO on a tripod. Luminance levels 30-35 and below on large smooth areas are the most obvious.

          • Thanks, I see the issues. Will be a tricky choice for me: useful camera, but has several annoying drawbacks that should be fixed or reflected more on price.

            • That says to me: move on 🙂

              • Haha, I think you are correct. It’s just that D800+good lens is a bit big, E-M5 has its limitations and walking around with full frame and some M mount lenses while having a high quality video option would be tempting (and the Leica M is not my thing). But it’s probably best to be at least a little bit patient. Maybe the Sony 28/2 will make the cameras themselves more interesting…

  44. Thanks for the review! I’m seriously considering this camera since I need something smaller than my Nikon to carry around anywhere, ability to use M-mount lenses and improved video. The D750 does offer nice video and image quality, but is big to the point that I’ve been thinking the same as you, why not use an D810 then (or D800 in my case)? The sample images I’ve seen earlier from the A7II did not seem to be at the same level as the D750, which is disappointing. However IBIS, ergonomics and video improvements are quite tempting, despite the fact that it doesn’t seem to have full sensor readout for video, something which would really be a killer feature.

    Your review gives me a lot to think about… I really hope that Sony would come out with some statement on the compression issue, but I realize that it’s wishful thinking on my part. Maybe they fix it, maybe they don’t, but it’s still there and a completely stupid “feature” to have. Another improvement would be better handling of legacy lenses, though that seems to be squarely in the “wait and see” category, with no improvement expected soon. Still, it seems like a competent camera, if only they would at least fix the compression issue soon.

  45. Should I still get a D750 or D810 or getting already a A7II or A7rII which is probably coming soon / on CP+ next month?

    Its so difficult to make a decision…..stock exchange is calling, in or out….;)

  46. Hold on Ming!

    At CP+ next month there will be the Sony A7rII at least if not also an A8 or A9 with even higher reoltuion 46-54 ff cmo s censor….

    Maybe the A7rII will have all features of the d810 including efcs, more dampened shutter and without the problems of the first generation shutter shcok, vibration issues, loud shutter etc…..

    If there is not a hardware /technical limitaion of sonys algorithms, bionix z porcesso ror whatever what prevents them form offering/delivering the uncompressed raw option, they will definetely do this if its highely seeked/wanted from users….;)

    Lenses are coming, flashes will follow soon…..and the new pro service is on the way, still in its infancy stage though 😉

    Sony has a more glory future than Nikon if they do the right steps and more financial resources thats for sure….

    So the best solution is if your’e brave then switch now losing less due to higher sale values of Nikon DSLR stuff…
    If not now, wanna still wait one year or two then you will lose more money but having more security if you will do the right move/switch….

    And everybidy should limit and rationalize to the minimum DSLR gear he or she absolutely needs for his work/shots….in order to lose as less as possible money when switching;)!

    DSLR/Nikon is the past, Mirrorless/Sony is the future ,) Thats for sure valid!

    • Doug Rivers says:

      I would not rule out Samsung with its big resources if sony and samsung take the camera department/stuff seriously then….these two can be the new two leaders within 10 years or so….

      The NX1 is the best APS-C camera I’ve ever 28 mpx backiluminated sensor, better evf than sony, 15 fps best 4k implementation of any camera out there so far, better than gh4, a7s, af tracking is not bad either as good as sonys a6000…..they read the whole sensor out not just 1:1 crops….if they come out with more lenses and put their knowlegde and this unique technology into a fullframe camera with new lenses it will be outstanding…..the financial resources for a lot R&D for lenses, fullframe camera, flashes etc. are deep and definetely avaiable if they really want it….

      So I would say Canon and Nikon are the past, Samsung and Sony are the future on the longterm view!!!

      DSLRs are the new medium format niche camera thats utterly undisputable!

    • I still have jobs to do that cannot be done with the equipment of virtual speculation, and even if such equipment exists, I’m not taking the risk that I can’t do my job because it isn’t fully tested and has limitations in some way. I’d certainly add another body if it was justified, but taking risks is not part of being a professional.

  47. Well balanced review, Ming. Thanks.

    I have a Sony A7 body that I bought specifically to use as a DSLR surrogate with my Leica R and Nikkor AI-S series SLR lenses; it does very well for that purpose. The A7 also excels at doing pinhole/zone plate photography. The A7II poses an interesting possibility to add image stabilization for these lovely lenses, but I debate whether I really need it. For that reason, I’m sticking with the A7 body for the present.

  48. Ming, wanted to ask you a question, my apologies if you have answered this before (several times). What compact-size camera and lenses do you like for shooting in low light at say ISO 3200 – 6400, that focuses well and has low noise. I tried a GH3 and found the files too noisy. Nikon D810 great files but too big most days. Thought this Sony A7 II would be the way to go but seeing still not there (for me). Tried the Fuji XPro 1 files look better than the GH3 files but camera focuses so poorly in low light. Would appreciate some input. Thanks!

    • Probably D750. I don’t have it but heard it focuses fast, has good ISO capability. Combine with a small prime and you will be set.

    • If resolution matters, there’s only the 645Z. If it doesn’t matter, then there’s the D3S, D4, D4S and D750 and the 1.8G primes.

  49. Just a Misguided Sony Fanboy says:

    Always nice to hear from the Sony-hater perspective. Some of us incredibly manage to get superb shots from this clunky, dumb collection of off-handedly conceived features and stolen technology with garbage IQ. Keep on being amusing, though. I was entertained by the 2MP web shots. (Especially love the Phoblographer reference as ‘back up’ to justify slamming the camera – now there’s some serious photography & camera experts – LOL)

    • Sorry, you’re going to have to go somewhere else for your cats and naked women.

    • > Some of us incredibly manage to get superb shots from this clunky, dumb collection of off-handedly conceived features and stolen technology with garbage IQ.

      What an uninformed comment. Virtually all prosumer grade cameras currently on the market are capable of taking superb shots. Heck Ming’s iPhone shots are pretty superb. Some of us like Ming’s reviews because we like to hear other things you don’t read about in the spec sheet reviews most other sites offer.

      If anything I think Ming went a little too easy on the whole lack of RAW support issue. Sony’s RAW support is false advertisement. RAW is exactly the opposite term to use for a lossy compressed file. It’s either RAW or lossy compressed, it can’t be both.

  50. Ron Scubadiver says:

    Great write up, Ming. I am not ready to give up my OVF yet… If Nikon and Canon change, there is going to be a lot stuff being given away on the used market. Then there is the slowing sales of DSLR’s to contend with. Will an EVF really ever be better for fast moving hand held stuff like PJ and sports?

    • No, because there will always be lag. But the lag can get low enough (like on the E-M1/5) that you don’t really notice it in practice. I used the E-M5 for PJ and documentary work without any issues. Sports require better AF tracking, and for that – we’re probably not there yet.

  51. Good, balanced review, Ming. Not a camera for me though. I just went back to Nikon DSLR after 5 years with mirrorless (Panasonic GH1/2/3). The A7II was a possibility, but the weight saving vs. a D750 is insignificant, and if you add the necessary extra grip to the A7II, it’s actually heavier, since the D750 doesn’t really need the grip, neither for comfort nor for battery capacity. I went even further and bought the D810, shooting comfortably with AiS lenses (20/28/105, 50 to be added later). It’s like coming home, and I don’t want to buy cameras from a supplier that doesn’t include all of their knowledge and technology in the top model. With the D810, there’s no doubt.

    • I would disagree where is focus peaking, 4k, better live view, better focusing screens/split screens for manual focusing, better / higher ovf magnification to compete with fuji xt1s evf, wifi ac/n standard, gps built in, dual sd slot UHS II like fujis xt1 rather than old CF with pins easy to get dameged I and sd I slot, touchscreen, fully articulating screen as sonys a99 as a pro flagship got almost 5 years ago…..dont say pros dont need that or its due to durability issues…easiest answer to justify for not doing it…….its always good to have options if you dont use than you dont have to switch it on or use it…..and that gps and wifi could be not built in full metal construciton have a look at canon 6d…..and if its really impossible find a solution be innovative to implement it….

      • The A7II does not have native 4K without an external recorder, LV is just fine on the newer Nikons, focusing screens exist, there’s the DK17M magnifying eyepiece, the XT1 and 7II both only have single SD slots, neither has a touchscreen…I would suggest checking your facts first.

    • I followed your path too. After getting back into photography, I got a NEX-5N, and then an Olympus E-M1. I had a Canon 40D (and 35mm film SLRs decades before), but was lured by the promise of smaller bodies and EVFs. I just sold off my entire m43 system recently, and have gone back to a full-sized DSLR (a Nikon D810), and it felt exactly like I was coming home. Not only does it have superior image quality, but the handling and haptics are well-designed for photographers, and it has a support system of accessories and lenses that’s unmatched by anyone except Canon.

      Yes, it’s big, heavy, and demanding, but when everything lines up just right, it produces some of the most beautiful files I’ve ever seen, short of a 645Z. And I went on a 3-hour hike this morning carrying the D810 and Nikkor 24PCE mounted on a Gitzo 1227 tripod/A-S P0 slung over my shoulder, a Kinotehnik LCDVF around my neck, and a backpack with a Sigma DP3M, Voigtländer 180/4 Lanthar, and a few spare batteries. It was no big deal.

    • I pretty much came to the same conclusion: if you’re going to carry a 7II and need to have the grip and endure file compromises, why not a 750, and then why not an 810 and smaller lenses?

  52. Wind of change... says:

    You could do something for uncompressed 14 bit raw format files……

    Sorry Ming for using your blog but he is well known so it helps a lot to get voters….i hope you will participate and vote too ,)

    It helps to put pressure on sony and if they dont react/implement it …..well it would do no harm at least anyway to use the possibilities as a customer and of the world wide web…,)

  53. “All three use Sony’s 11+7 bit lossy raw compression that can result in posterization at either end of the tonal range if any serious processing is required.”

    Do you have an example RAW file where this is apparent? I’m a developer of open-source raw processing software and even knowing to look for it have had difficulty replicating these issues. Note that there are two different issues at stake:

    1) That the 14bit sensor output is mapped to 11 bits by a curve specific to the file. In practice this means that with a proper conversion once you reverse the process you get 14 bits back again with some noise in the least significant bits. If the conversion is properly done including dithering no posterization should result when processing. If you do the conversion but don’t dither then you are much more likely to get posterization. I don’t know if the Adobe tools do the dithering but I’d suggest trying out darktable[1] which uses rawspeed to read the raws and does indeed apply dithering.

    2) The 11+7 encoding of the 11bit pixels. This is only an issue if you have in the same sequence of pixels extreme changes in brightness. The star trails example linked somewhere is probably a pathological case of this. This is indeed a pretty crappy way to do the compression but should only affect a small subset of images.

    Manufacturers would do well to stop messing about with their own different ways of compressing raw files and just use lossless jpeg for everything. Moving to DNG while you’re at it would be nice as well.


    • Yes, I have several. It’s very evident in dark skies with luminance values up to about 30, and in clouds/highlights >240. Especially if you attempt to do any postprocessing afterwards. It isn’t noise, because it’s not random; it just turns into posterisation. I don’t see this on any of the other cameras that use full 14 bit uncompressed output.

      • I’d love to look at a few. What I mean by it being noise is that doing the 14bit->11bit->14bit process adds quantization noise. If the 11bit->14bit conversion is done properly (with dithering) posterisation will not happen and you will just get noisier images. So if you’re getting posterisation that’s the fault of the raw processing software. The 7bit delta encoding on the other hand can generate artifacts. I’m looking to see if there are better ways to hide those.

    • Mosswings says:

      Iliah Borg at rawdigger reported on this sometime ago in this post on his site:

      Read and cringe.

      • Yeah, that’s and example of the second issue. It’s a pretty braindead encoding scheme that only saves ~27% of space over just packing the bits. It’s very simple and fast to read/write which was probably why they picked it initially.

  54. So should we dump and already switch from Nikon DSLR to Sony Mirrorless Fe Mount….??? Is it the right and best time to do so due to still higher sale values than in the future?? Still THE remaining question that has to be answered…..maybe to ratonalize the gear as much as possible only what you are really need and use is the best mid term solution /compromise before/unitl the final switch is coming./being made……

    • Easy one: Nikon still in the present, near future (within 1-3 years)….Nikon is the present, Sony is the future ;)!

    • I never said that, and the only thing I’ve retained is a Nikon FX system. For amateurs and hobbyists, we’ve been there for a while. For professionals and those with very specific needs, not yet.

  55. Hi Ming,

    do you really need these extreme values/reserves this buffer for posterization…..???? I think it depends on everbodies purposes, photographic motifs/subjects how much you value (having the best) IQ etc…..

    Have a look at “Uncle Terry” (Richardson) he is mostly using /known to use cheap point and shoot cameras gf1, yashica t4, ricoh gr III…(its easier to handle otherwise he would get blurred images;)) rarely his d3x with 50 1.4….and this guy is horrible successful due to his uncommon approach using p&s cams and his unique own created style “Porn-chic”, low light in his studio one flash directly as a harsh light source (giving slight shadows on face /vignetting) into the face of an half naked girl (ideally a natural beauty) with red lips, and wearing a lumberjack shirt with provocative pose/posing standing at a white wall…

    And this even without knowing a lot about technique (his technical/educational limitations) or having the best equipment a lot of photographers have more knowledge about photography i guess….but he earns nearly 160.000 us dollars per day ,) per day its not a typo 😉 most others would be happy if get this money in 6 years with their photography or so…

    Fairly it has to be said he could use his father contacts/networks clients as his father was already a well known photographer and i guess he would not have it as easy to make such a career nowadays if he has to start….due to everybody can take pictures with smartphones, digital photography, globalization etc…

    This guy is a wonder somehow;) His style is so simple but nevertheless everbody knows it on the first look if he made the shoot and his “recognition value” unique stlye evn its primitive and not technically advanced: simplicity and recognition value onw stly is more important than education, gear etc.

  56. Enjoyed your thorough and candid review with images! I’ve been on the fence on these and this helps me realize I would have had issues with it if I bought one. Thank you!

  57. “the first full-frame camera to have in body stabilization”

    This isn’t actually the case. The A7II is the first full-frame *mirrorless* camera to have in body stabilization but the A-mount Sony DSLRs all have stabilization (A900, A850 and A99).

  58. Thanks for the review and the street photography, Ming. I miss living in that part of the world.

    I’m not sure if this is the place to ask, but how do you go about making color profiles for each of your cameras? I’ve noticed that the pictures you put up look very similar – color wise – regardless of camera.

  59. Ming, thanks for a very informative review. One question for you – with the maturing of the A7 system, are there still compelling reasons to buy the Olympus OM-D EM-1? I use a D800 most of the time, but I want a smaller system for daily use. I also use the video quite a bit. The Olympus seems to be the most user-friendly of the two. A line or two would be deeply appreciated, since I plan on buy the new camera as soon as possible.


    • Lens choices for one, battery life for two, and on the whole, usability and intuitiveness with the Olympus is just better.

    • They are different formats. m4/3 doesn’t really compete with FF, m4/3 competes with crop. For a compact system m4/3 is amazing. Huge collection of small and modern lenses, stealthy cameras, fast AF, great IBIS, great image quality for the format.

      m4/3 has another thing going for itself. Video. With Panasonic and Black Magic making great m4/3 cameras for video, you get to share native lenses across manufacturers.

      • And the supposed video-centric EM5II with even better stabiliser and higher bitrates – I wouldn’t have believed gimbal-free, rig-free or steadicam-free shooting was possible until we landed up shooting fifteen 3h videos that way, and recently, surgery at 600mm-e…handheld.

        • That’s awesome. The IBIS on these is almost magical. I am definitely eagerly awaiting EM5II, my e-m5 (I) is fine, but an improved EVF, focus peaking will be nice. Also not sure if true but this pixel shifting multishot tech they are supposedly adding sounds intriguing for landscapes, hopefully it’s not a gimmick.

  60. I’m gobsmacked, in “Ming Speak” this was a shockingly positive review of this Sony product. Looks like Sony is finally starting to get it right and I hope they read this article for advise on finishing it out properly. At first, I thought this photo set was shot with the Otis as I scanned the pics before reading. Gorgeous set Ming and excellent review. I shall buy one.

    • Well, nothing’s perfect, but there’s a lot to like here – the 55 is one of the highlights. Don’t get me wrong, Otus it is not (see purple fringing in building/tree image). But for the size/price…it’s better than most of the other fast 50 offerings other than the Sigma Art.

  61. Very nice review.
    I share your perplexity about the confusing set of options that Sony is offering.
    I am seriously thinking to move to olympus.

  62. Interesting observation about the FE24-70. This lens seems to be quite a controversy online, with most opinions slanted towards “a dog” category. I highly suspect your copy is perfectly fine, just not up to your usual high standards. Personally, I find the lens just adequate for regular vacation/family snapshots, it being the only convenient standard zoom available (I bought the A7R, so no FE 28-70 was available to me).

    • It’s seriously soft at the edges, doesn’t seem to improve much when stopped down, and has a boatload of CA. You might well be right – my copy doesn’t appear to be decentered, so perhaps this is par for the course. Rather disappointing at the price they’re asking, and especially considering how nice the other two Zeiss FEs are.

      • I have never found those problems with my copy of the 24-70, which seems to work very well on my A7s and A7II. I also have he 35 and 55 primes but use the 24-70 a lot. I assume there is a lot of sample variation.

        • Quite possible, but this would have be some rather strange sample variation as it’s not decentered – all corners are equally soft/ CA’d. Turning on the in-camera corrections helps, but the results are still pretty poor.

          • I saw a print from one at my local store, and would not buy it based on what I saw. Obviously soft off-center. I’ll just get the 55 and adapt my other MF lenses, I guess.

  63. As a keen amateur who is still shooting with a D700 I finally am at the point of wanting to upgrade and the market is filled with options. And yet I’m still head scratching on what to upgrade to. In many ways it seems a bit ‘backwards’ to upgrade to another DSLR as mirrorless in some guise looks to be the future (from an amateur point of view…) yet as you point out Ming they are still that bit behind the DSLR kings – albeit still beyond sufficiency.

    Logically the D750 would be the ideal upgrade as my main lenses are the 70-200/f4 and 85/1.8G, but dammit I want a good AF 50 ish lenses and its just not there for Nikon and I don’t want to have 2 systems!

    • Sigma’s 50mm 1.4 ART is a pretty good choice for those looking for a decent 50mm AF lens.

    • I feel you, because I’m much in the same boat. I do like the Sony quite a lot, but the price makes it too expensive as a second camera/ second system; the image quality makes it not good enough to be the primary. That said, all of your current choices are a significant step up on the D700 🙂

      • Indeed all are a big step up in everything from the ancient D700, but I’m hating the camera market turning into a real consumable market – cameras are too damn expensive for that. I want to upgrade properly now and have everything I want now!

        The issue with going the Sony route is it requires a sell off the Nikon gear, but maybe best to get out now of the DSLR market while still value to sell stuff on. If Nikon came out with a more serious mirrorless effort I’m pretty sure it will be with a new mount.

        Anyway I want a new toy and i think I’m gonna make a snap decision one way or another this week before i fly out Japan (probably D750 in the end….)

        On the Sigma, I concur. It’s massive. The whole idea is to get a bit smaller!

        • Prices in Japan are pretty good now, especially with the exchange rates being what they are. If you can find a good second hand anything, it’ll be a steal…

          • Remarkably even with a totally crappy Euro you are probably right. Time to do some investigating….

        • Blogs have been predicting the imminent death of the DSLR for going on 8 years now, yet the DSLR lines of business (don’t know about Ricoh) are still profitable and the mirrorless camera lines still have yet to be. The death of DSLR is trumpeted by manufactures that themselves failed in the DSLR market (Sony, Fuji, Olympus), so there is a certain amount of self-serving in such proclamations.

          If you are worried about the dwindling residual value of DSLRs, have a look at the second hand market for mirrorless… if anything it’s even smaller. That’s understandable, given the comparable customer bases.

          Make you own choice based on what you like today, not on what you can sell your stuff for tomorrow (it will be for far less than you like, whatever you choose).

  64. There has been indication from Sony that a III version is in the longer term product planning. Supposedly there is also a “pro” body line yet to arrive, probably with better weather sealing and yet another variation of buttons and controls. I’m not exactly sure of the logic of these releases, though what I know of Sony culture suggests rushed deadlines to make sure a revenue stream is maintained. Quite likely the video side of end users drives these more than stills photographers.

    I’m still waiting to see the true promised benefits of mirrorless. Agree with you that EVFs are the way forward for those of us who want/need to manually focus. Removing the mirror means thinner cameras, but not without problems. What gets me about almost all the current mirrorless designs, is that the battery sizes are also reduced. If the batteries were more like the size found in DSLRs, then the weight difference would not be as great. Also, the lenses are not much smaller from Sony/Zeiss, except the manual focus Loxias. Almost makes me wish someone other than Leica would make a full frame rangefinder. Come on Nikon, bring out that Digital S2 body. 😉

    • I bet the original A7 will remain on sale even when there’s a III for all of the -R -S and -normal variants; that’s the Sony way (look at the RX100!). It’s a bit annoying since a lot of these improvements should really have been included to begin with, or other critical things like sensor remain unchanged – the 7 and 7II appear to have identical image quality.

      Smaller bodies = smaller batteries, but if you’ve got to carry two or three extras anyway, what’s the point of the size reduction? Good battery life from a largish sensor and small body can be done. I got great longevity out of the E-M5 and E-M1, and surprisingly, the GR – it has the smallest battery with about half the capacity of the A7, but I routinely get 600-700 shots per charge with no real concessions to power management. No choice but to use the LCD there, either!

      • I look at the way Nikon packed a substantial battery into the V1 and wonder how Sony cannot do something similar. Even the small battery in my Coolpix A lasts for many, many shots. I have an extra battery for every camera, but like you stated these add up when you go through too many in a day. The other issue is traveling, because too many batteries can cause trouble at some airports.

        The small cameras with built-on lenses appear to be meeting the idea promised with mirrorless. The Ricoh GR and Nikon Coolpix A are very capable cameras, lightweight, small, and with optimized optics. I would include the Sony RX1 in that, other than that tiny battery (again). However, what I would really like is a built-on lens compact with fast 50mm (equivalent) and some way to get near 80mm to 90mm for portrait usage. I like not needing to clean the image sensor. 😉

        • That internal hardware is probably taking up most of the space. I don’t see why they couldn’t have extended the grip a touch further and increased the battery size, though.

          Back to the compact normal problem. The only >35mm fixed options we have are the Sigmas or the X100 with TC.

          • Definitely that article really hit on exactly the type of camera I wish was on the market. The crop mode on the Sony RX1 almost works, except it is only for JPEGs. I did get to try out a Fuji X100S with the 1.4x teleconverter recently. I think Fuji is close, but not quite there with that combination. The converter makes the camera front heavy, and manual focus is not easy with the combination.

            While I am not a fan of zoom lenses, a 28mm to 85mm (or 90mm) (equivalent) f2.8 compact would probably get my attention. The Panasonic LX100 is almost there, but I’m not so sure it would be workable for me. I’m very use to fast responding and fast focusing cameras.

            • The Fuji with TC becomes enormous – quite a bit bigger than the 7II/55, in practice. And no stabiliser. Plus the optical finder becomes useless – it’s blocked by the TC. The LX100 has very small files…

      • The Nikon 1 V1 uses the same large battery as the Nikon D800 and Nikon D750 and Nikon D810, a battery that lasts well over a thousand shots per charge on the D cameras. There’s no law of nature that says a small camera mandates a small battery.

  65. Interesting as always. I see the purple fringing on the leaves in the first image. Is this a failing in the lens or do most lenses create this to a lesser or greater degree. I just returned a Nikon 180 f2.8 because it was so very bad in this dapartment. I know it can be reduced in Photoshop but I would prefer not to have it at all. None of my other lenses have this issue. I now have my sights on the new 300 f4 which I hope will replace the old one if its as sharp. A 300mm f4 at 755g

    • In this case, I think it’s a lens-sensor (filter pack) interaction, but I’ve seen some longitudinal CA under other circumstances, so it might well be this. Short back flange mirrorless mounts are always going to suffer this to some degree, especially with relatively compact lens designs. I agree that CA can be removed, but doing so isn’t going to solve the loss in resolving power through the rest of the image.

  66. Fact is that SONY is eating not Leica’s lunch only! If it would be so easy for NIKON and CANON to change the flange distance of their mass of their lenses, both companies, would have jumpend into the mirrorless system already! But these changes are very costly! Result is, that both camera must be running behind in this technology race! Furthermore, many photographer are sick and tired to carry these heavy and bulky gear anymore, and I fully understand it! Further, why shall I drive an luxory car, when I can reach the hometown with an smaller and less expensive car! Many pro photographer must leasing their photo gear, because they don’t have the financial backgrougs to afford this high expensive. SONY is therefore an excellent camera manufacturer to cover all these problems, and what still counts, is the photographer behind the camera, and not these minor differences! I personnally care less to hold any once flag pole, and I want the best stuff for my money, and this is at the present time, sorry NIKON and CANON — SONY!!!

    • If it is a long drive, the smaller car might get you there, but you might not be quite as happy on arrival…

    • But it’s not a technology race (assuming for a minute that watching the scene through a tv monitor is some sort of high technology advance, and assuming that the DSLRs don’t have mirrorless live view anyway). It’s a market race.

      All manufacturers’ sales are falling. When your sales are falling but remain profitable, and around you you see all mirrorless manufacturers losing money, what is your motivation for investing a hundred million dollars to introduce your own new money-losing mirrorless line?

      The consumer as of now prefers DSLRs. That’s what Mr. Market is telling the camera manufacturers

      • DSLR production numbers are dropping about 25% a year, mirrorless is increasing a few percent. If this trend continues traditional DSLR makers are in world of trouble pretty soon. Source CIPA, here’s the stats from last November

        Quick look on manufacturer quarterly reports also indicate that everyone but Sony’s Imaging division is hurting, Sony is pretty much +/- 0.

        • I wonder if that includes proceeds from sensor manufactute. Since they supply a large portion of the market, they’re always going to be in a win-win situation..

          • To my understanding the sensor manufacturing proceeds are not included. This report lists imaging sensors in “Devices” category and from what I’ve seen/heard all imaging sensors (smartphone, tablet, camera…) are counted in “Devices” segment that is growing too. Imaging is all consumer and professional cameras. Cannot be 110% sure but thats how I read Sony quarterly report

            Pretty much everyone else (CAnon, Nikon, Oly…) is showing -10% or so decrease in their imaging divisions.

        • Jackson Jones says:

          If DSLR makers end up in trouble, they will join the mirrorless makers, who have not produced any profit at all since inception. Mirrorless, despite all the religious faith in them, has been a staggeringly unsuccessful business, losing millions upon millions of dollars quarter after quarter, year after year after year.

          You cannot point to a single mirrorless maker who has set up a successful business that has generated a profit stream to insure a long term future.

        • “DSLR production numbers are dropping about 25% a year, mirrorless is increasing a few percent”

          Mirrorless is steady at around 25% of the interchangeable lens market for the last couple years. This is interesting because it closely matches marketshare of non Nikon/Canon SLRs in their later years compared to the competition (Minolta, Pentax, Konica, Yashica, etc etc). Thus, consumers may not give that much a fig about mirrorless vs mirror, they just like the brand.

          Shipments of both have been plumetting, with mirrorless shipments down some 40% from just two years earlier. Yes, this is based on CIPA numbers.

          • The final numbers are out for 2014 and with them I cannot agreed with your analysis. 2012 was final year of growth for both, for 2013 both DSLR (16,2M => 13,8M) and mirrorless (3,96M -> 3,32M) dropped around 16%. The difference is that DSLR experienced similar drop in 2014 (13,8 => 10,5M) too while mirrorless made about +/- 0. This is based on worldwide units shipped. Mirrorless is not -40% from 2012, it is about -17% (3,95M => 3,29M). Full year numbers for 2014 shows mirrorless about 31-32% market share. 2014 numbers for mirrorless also show increase in mirrorless unit price as the value of shipments is 12% up.

            Numbers drawn from these sources, just cannot find numbers you suggest on them

            Click to access d_2012_e.pdf

            Click to access d-2013_e.pdf

            Click to access d-2014_e.pdf

  67. Great review. It seems like Sony is onto something potentially great here, but I’ll give it a generation or two before I’ll consider buying(faster AF, higher res EVF, touch screen ect.)

    • That’s what I’m thinking – but because of file compression and power management more than anything else…the rest of the hardware is competitive. At the prices they’re asking, it’s got to be able to stand as a primary system on all counts, not leave you wishing there’s a little something extra.

      • It sure is small and neat, but in the end I’m probably better of getting an EM-5(or it’s much rumored successor that will launch next month) which is smaller, faster, cheaper and has a more mature lens lineup.

      • The only really one is uncompressed raw files, maybe a second sd slot….shirt battery life is a bummer put its no problem to carry three or four with you if you have other advantages IBIS, focus peaking, 4k, bluetooth etc….lenses are coming more and more, flashes will follow i guess….sony is the only one with its resources, maybe samsung too if both mean it seriously with there cameras they can destroy nikon at least if not also canon on the long term view… olympus camera department and pentax for sure ….fuji and leica not for the retro and manual dials lovers….;)

        Canon has its adavnatage to be bigger tah nikon and not only producing cameras, lenses and binoculars as nikon do despite they have even a bigger lack of innovation in comparison to nikon sadly ….shame and blame on canon…

        • After two years we still only have a small handful of fast primes, and no native macro. I’m not so sure about the more and more lenses part; you’ll have to adapt, and the interaction between the sensor filter pack and optical design of non-native lenses creates some strange artefacts. 4K requires an external recorder.

          • 4K is only on the A7s as well.

          • I was under impression the filter stack interaction pretty much only effects wide angle lenses with short registration distance; this means mostly RF glass. I’m using Zeiss APO Sonnar ZE 135/2 on my A7R and it is as perfect as it gets, pretty much only things that manages to look better than FE55/1.8 I have. Several people running adapted Otuses on the A7 series are very happy about those lenses too; electronically adapted ZE models are supernice to focus with Sony EVF with automatic “focus wide open regardless of chosen aperture” being possible. So the question is: have you noticed or are aware of filter stack issues with normal/tele DSLR lenses too?

            • No, I haven’t seen any issues with longer lenses. It’s mostly when light comes in at a sharp angle of incidence that creates softness/ CA as perhiperal rays have to travel much further through the cover glass than central ones. That said, it’s possible to have this issue with any lens that has a very thick filter pack – the Otuses look pretty bad in the corners on M4/3, for instance, which has the thickest cover glass of all. And we know it’s not because they lack resolving power 10mm off axis 🙂

  68. “ISO for ISO, lens for lens, the D750 delivers a better quality file” …The final thought, in my opinion. I like compacity, I like stabilization, but EVF still don’t convince me and Sony files still lack “something” that I couldn’t define.

  69. Wonderful Series! Even though you have shot KL before these seem fresh to me. Also thanks for the review of the camera.

    I have been using these for my RX100 and GR:

    This one does not mentions the A7ii by name but does the A7…

  70. Gerner Christensen says:

    How nice to see your work from the streets in KL again Ming. Still you are able to dig out fantastic street photography. Love the images a lot. I fully agree to all your issues about Sony RAW compression. I have them myself. I hope Sony soon will open up the full envelope with the next iteration of their FF mirrorless cameras. Think that would boost their sales and strengthen their chances to become serious camera makers.

    • I was scraping the bottom of the barrel with this one, Gerner. Shot KL to death and it really doesn’t make sense to travel just for a camera review. At least the light was good!

  71. Mosswings says:

    I suspect the 11+7 RAW format was put there for video needs and to reduce the load on the CPU. SD card memory being as cheap as it is, there’s no reason to go for the relatively minor file size reduction that 11+7 provides. The odd thing is that lossless RAW should tax the CPU even less than 11+7, so why it’s not an option for stills at least is a total mystery. It still suggests that Sony hasn’t quite gotten what it means to provide a professional grade stills camera – even though they well understand how to provide a pro grade video camera.

    I also doubt that we’ll get to DSLR AF parity with the sort of OSPDAF now being employed. The optics and masks that give traditional PDAF its discriminative powers are missing, and OSDPAF doesn’t have anywhere near the sensing area enjoyed by each trad PDAF focus zone. On the other hand, various synthetic features are possible with full-array OSPDAF that trad PDAF can’t match, so you win some, lose some. I prefer having an AF system that can keep on ticking down to near-darkness to one that has hundreds of AF points, I guess. 51 points, at least with the frame coverage of a D7100, are just fine. Too bad that’s not possible with FX.

    Still, things are moving at breakneck speed in the mirrorless world. I will be interested to see if the NEX-7 followon materializes later this year, and if it addresses the EVF and low-light PDAF issues of the A6000.

    We are indeed close to the mirrorless tipping point. Not a singularity, but near-parity for most purposes.

    • Indeed. The paradox is that as more people feel the same, fewer cameras will be sold as people wait for the ‘endgame’ and there’s less R&D money in the pot…so it may take longer than we expect to get there. Another reason perhaps why Sony’s approach isnt necessarily the best from a long term system point of view.

      I really don’t understand the compression either, unless its hardware encoded upstream of the DSP/DAC – and thus reduces the CPU overhead because it’s dealing with lossy, reduced data at all stages of the process. That seems unlikely given it’d likely be easier just to put a more powerful CPU in.

      • mosswings says:

        Battery power, Ming, battery power. The CPU would have to be a smaller feature size process to get more processing/watt, and mfrs are having trouble advancing as fast as they used to. Plus the added demands of IBIS…

      • I presume lossy RAW compression allows them to have a smaller buffer, and write faster to the memory card.

        • But it would probably increase processing time, and there’s UHSII for more speed. Even UHSI cards will do 95mb/s, which means in practice I’ve never run into buffer limits on D750 or D810.

          • D750 and D810 have a decent size buffers.

            Sony must be using a hardware codec for compression, so processing time isn’t really a factor. Pushing data is a factor. Powering a larger buffer is a factor (fast memory is pretty energy hungry). Also writing at a faster rate are all factors in power consumption, far more than a hw codec.

            Even with hard drives, if you can compress data on the disk you end up improving your I/O throughput, since basic compression has a negligible penalty on today’s general purpose processors.

            From the sounds of it, being that sometimes these compressed RAWs take less space than even Jpeg on high ISO as you mention, might mean that there is a pretty big decrease in having to deal with big data transfers.

      • There is an online petition ongoing for putting pressure on sony….you hust have to google to get it….support it its the best we could do and cost us nothing only one minute….;)

  72. Gary Morris says:

    Skyline Reflection… one of your best yet. Superb!

    • Thanks!

      • You should have had take this shot with the d810 or your pentax 645z if you still have the latter…..could be a nice ultrprint for a wall print in an entry hall or for a loft…..i would call it a masterpiece!!! Sadly only 24 mpx for printing…..

        Not like the work or better say pics of “the mentioned Uncle Terry”….sadly the good ones earning so much less and can hardly making a living than the “limited ones”……but self marketing, contact, client networks as well as certain/some motifs e.g. fashion, beauty shots are more important and much better paid than others… time you gonna visit NYC and you are randomly meeting uncle terry in a cafe sitting on a street in SoHo or Little Italy again, sit down and have a discussion about photography will be exciting i guess….maybe a win-win situation….and dont forget to say uncle terry and raise your thumb!!!!;)

        • Yeah I agree superb shot Ming! One of your bests I’ve ever seen so far!

          @Kirk yeah he doesnt have to fear Terry because Ming is a male….otherwise it could be dangerous…..

        • No, it’s a simple rule of human nature. Semi-naked celebrities will always be more in demand than still life – if you respect the former more, then good for you.

  73. Thanks Ming for this treat of wonderful street and documentary images 🙂

  74. I think I’ll be getting one of these. That is, if the handling issues of the prior bodies have been resolved to my satisfaction. My local camera store must be low on Sony’s priorities, because I’m still waiting to try it. Thanks for the review!

    • Well, you could always order it from B&H or something and return it if it doesn’t work for you.

      • Seems to me there’s always a slight blueish hue to Sony’s files. Is this just me?

        • Yes and no – there’s definitely an odd cyan-magenta shift which has to be profiled out. I haven’t shot with it enough to make that profiling perfect, but these images look fairly neutral to me. Perhaps it might also be your monitor calibration?

      • mathomas1962 says:

        Under consideration, for sure, but I’d like to toss my local store some business (unless it takes forever to get the camera :-\)


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