Sony a7 has been selling so well since its release. It is loved by many photographers because of the great image quality and performance. However, the company has released Sony a7II not long after the original, with a considerable price gap. What are the differences between Sony a7II vs a7? Which model does give a better value for the money?
Continue reading below to learn further about:
- The design and dimensions of each camera
- The comparison of their image stabilization and auto focus performance
- The comparison of their image quality
- The distinctive features of Sony a7II vs A7
- Whether owners of Sony a7 should upgrade to Sony a7II or not
- Which camera that gives the best value for the money
Design and Ergonomics
If you are already used to the body of Sony a7, you will take just a very short time to get used to Sony a7II. Both of the two cameras have a lot of similarities in terms of design. The layout of the controls hasn’t changed, even though Sony a7II comes with one additional button. This button is useful for controlling the focal length when using a manual lens. Any customization can be performed easily.
Still, there are several notable differences. First of all, the body of Sony a7 has a shiny surface, whereas Sony a7II is matte. In general, both cameras are very good-looking. Which one does look better? It depends on your personal preference; however, Sony a7 seems to match the FE lenses better.
Second, Sony a7 is pretty compact, and it is certainly more lightweight than Sony a7II. It measures 127 mm x 94 mm x 48 mm with a weight of about 474 grams. The body is already weather-sealed, so it can withstand most environmental factors. However, the body is not fully metallic; which is fine, considering that Sony a7 is designed to attract lower-end consumers by offering cost efficiency and superior full-frame image quality. (Read also : Fujifilm X-T1 vs Sony a7)
Sony A7 already feels good and solid in the hands. The grip area isn’t really wide, though, so a user with large hands may find it a little tricky to handle. Still, for a portable mirrorless camera, this camera makes a very good option to consider.
Sony a7II, on the other hand, houses some more mechanical parts. As a result, Sony a7II is quite larger and heavier. It measures 127 mm x 96 mm x 60 mm, and the weight is about 599 grams. With such dimensions, Sony a7II has sacrificed a lot of portability. It is not easy as its predecessor to bring around. It may even be annoying when you want to travel light. But there are several big improvements that Sony a7II offers.
The handle of Sony a7II is more prominent, and the lines also have more contours. The wider grip area makes the camera easier to handle, and there is a big improvement in the gripping comfort.
The shutter release of Sony a7 has been criticized because it is placed on the top of the camera and feels very mushy; Sony a7II’s shutter release is placed on the grip and feels more precise. Overall, the handle and button layout of Sony a7II are more similar to those of a typical SLR camera.
Sony a7II boasts an all-metal body with bayonet mounts. The entire body is made of aluminum-magnesium alloy, while the bayonet has an integrated metal mount. So, the camera feels substantially more durable and reliable. The metal mount is especially awesome, because it doesn’t get loose at all. This is also a clever way of Sony to segment the market; with an all-metal body, Sony a7II is obviously not an entry-level model. Instead, Sony a7II is more of a midrange model.
The biggest difference between Sony a7II vs a7 is the image stabilization. The original Sony a7 doesn’t have any built-in image stabilization. This is not a big deal if you only do daytime non-telephoto shots or if you always use a tripod. When you need to freeze the motion from a close distance, such as in wedding or street photography, you don’t really need image stabilization – what you need is faster shutter speeds.
As long as you are able to shoot at a shutter speed that is above the inverse of your lens’s focal length, you don’t need image stabilization. For example, if your lens has a focal length of 50mm, you need a shutter speed of at least 1/50s in order to avoid blurry images. You can also increase the ISO to prevent blurs, but this is not always possible in some situations.
Sony a7II is amazing and very attractive because it is the first full-frame camera to come with the 5-axis in-body image stabilization. Other manufacturers of full-frame cameras such as Nikon, Canon, and Leica stick with optical image stabilization. This is incredibly useful for those who shoot without a tripod. Suddenly, every lens made for a 35mm camera that you use now has image stabilization!
The in-body image stabilization also adds incredible flexibility to Sony a7II. It allows you to push the shutter speed to 1/10s when in a bad lighting situation. Your lens selection also becomes significantly more flexible. You can now easily use the longer 85mm, 90mm, and 135mm portraits as well as telephoto lenses. This may benefit a wide range of users, including candid photographers, natural-light and low-light photographers, as well as amateur and general-purpose photographers.
However, keep in mind that the effectiveness of the in-body image stabilization is limited by the sensor’s maximum movement range. In other words, long telephoto lenses don’t work very well with Sony a7II. This is why professional sports and wildlife photographers almost always use Nikon or Canon lenses with their optical image stabilization systems. Some do use Sony SLTs. Also, note that some A mount lenses only have 3-axis instead of 5-axis stabilization when adapted to the E mount.
The next difference between Sony a7II vs a7 is the auto focus (AF). One of the biggest criticisms of Sony a7 is indeed the AF performance. Although this camera does have a hybrid AF system with 117 phase detection points, it only performs AF when the EV is above 0. As the effect, it will only use contrast-detection AF when in a dark or low-light environment.
Sony a7 is not fast, to say the least. The AF may take seconds, or even may fail to work at all when needed. As the effect, the AF is not reliable at all. This is probably not a big problem if you prefer to use manual focus, though.
With those weaknesses of the original Sony a7 in the AF aspect, Sony a7II seems very promising. The marketing materials come with some bold claims. They say that the AF performance on Sony a7II is 30% faster, and the tracking is 1.5x better. So, is the AF performance on Sony a7II really much better and truly reliable?
At least, Sony a7II is a proof that the company does listen to their users and is willing to make improvements to address the criticisms. Sony a7II has tried to solve the aforementioned issues by coming with slightly faster AF and better tracking. The improvements are noticeable. However, these improvements actually come from the processing unit of the camera instead of the AF unit. Yes, Sony a7II still uses the same hybrid AF system as the one on Sony a7.
The said improvements come from the newer, more powerful processing unit implemented in the camera. While the improvements are noticeable, they are not enough to actually make Sony a7II reliable. It is still much slower than the speed demon A6000. So, until Sony comes up with a new hybrid AF system that is at least as powerful as the one on A6000, the AF performance of Sony a7II will still lag behind the competition.
Again, the relatively slow AF performance becomes less of an issue if you mostly shoot with manual focus instead of auto focus. By the way, if you already have Sony a7, you do not need to upgrade to Sony a7II just because of the ‘improvements’ on the AF performance. It is not worth the money.
Nevertheless, a firmware update has allowed Sony a7II to have phase-detection AF for A mount lenses. Initially, this was only available for FE mount lenses. But now you can benefit from the faster and more responsive phase-detection AF when working with an A mount lens.
Sony a7II vs a7 actually come with the same image sensor. Each of them is equipped with a 24.3 MP full-frame Exmor CMOS image sensor. They also have a similar ISO sensitivity range, which is 100 – 25,600. The ISO range is expandable to 50 – 51,200 with the Multi Frame Noise Reduction (Multi Frame NR). This feature basically shoots multiple images and then combines them to reduce the noise before recording them into a single image.
You can activate this feature by heading to the menu, then choose camera settings, then choose ISO, and select Multi Frame NR. However, this mode is unavailable if the image quality is set to RAW or RAW & JPEG. Also, while in this mode, you can’t use the flash, D-Range Opt., or Auto HDR.
Nevertheless, you don’t always need to use the Multi Frame NR. The image quality is great at any ISO level. You can use whichever ISO level that you need to get a sharp picture. Interestingly, ISO 50 is even sharper than ISO 100, with very minimal noise. The high ISO performance is impressive. You may even let the Auto ISO goes all the way up to ISO 25,600, and the results will be superb.
There is one significant improvement from Sony a7 to Sony a7II in terms of image quality, which is the sensor reflection. Some users say that sensor reflection makes the biggest issue on Sony a7. Sometimes, the sensor reflection ruins the entire image. This is no longer a problem on Sony a7II. It does not have much sensor reflection, so it can shoot images with bright lights with better results.
Sony a7II has received new features from the latest firmware update. One of these features is the uncompressed 14-bit RAW shooting. This enables Sony a7II to capture higher quality image data. It doesn’t affect photographers who only shoot in JPEG, but it is a useful improvement for those who prefer to shoot RAW images to process them later.
Video Recording Features
Sony a7 is able to record videos in a resolution of 1080p Full HD, but it is never a popular choice among videographers because it doesn’t support the XAVC S codec format. It also suffers from some moire issue. As the effect, the video quality is not really impressive.
The maximum resolution for videos on Sony a7II is still 1080p Full HD, but it now comes with more professional features. It now supports the 50 Mbps high stream XAVC S codec format. In addition, it also comes with additional capabilities such as time code, picture profiles, user bits, and S-Log 2. So, if you need to work with videos but Sony a7S is way too expensive, Sony a7II makes an excellent alternative.
Sony a7 has a decent battery life. The camera can last for about 340 shots from a single charge. So, it is a good thing that Sony a7II comes with an even better battery life. Sony a7II can last for about 350 shots from a single charge. The difference is not very significant, but the 10-shot difference may be very useful when you are traveling.
Sony a7II vs a7
In general, Sony a7II is indeed a better choice. It comes with several advantages, including the better ergonomics, 5-axis in-body image stabilization, slightly better AF performance, reduced sensor reflection, and some professional features. A new user should choose Sony a7II over Sony a7 whenever possible. However, Sony a7 owners don’t need to upgrade to Sony a7II if they don’t really need the built-in image stabilization or additional video features.