New Sony Alpha A7 II Full-Frame Mirrorless Camera

Posted by on November 21, 2014

Sony Alpha A7 II Full-Frame Mirrorless Camera

Update: The new Sony Alpha A7 II full frame mirrorless camera, announced a few weeks ago in Japan, will be available in North America. This was confirmed a few days ago when Sony USA posted their own A7 II announcement. Read on to learn more about what’s new with the A7 II.

Sony made a surprise (at least for me) mirrorless camera announcement in Japan, earlier this week. The new Sony Alpha A7 II is a follow-up to last year’s groundbreaking Alpha A7 – the world’s first full-frame mirrorless camera and one of my favorite cameras of 2013. The A7 II appears to use the same 24.3-megapixel CMOS sensor and BIONZ X processing as the original so it’s more of an incremental update than a completely revised camera. But photographers who have been putting off buying, and those who use non-standard lenses should be excited about the new body. It adds built-in 5-axis image stabilization, improved the auto focus performance, Sony’s XAVC S video codec, and some ergonomic enhancements.

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Sony has been using in-camera, sensor-shift image-stabilization in their DSLRs from the beginning. But their mirrorless cameras have relied on optical image stabilization (OSS) in the lenses. That meant limited lens options for low-light and telephoto shooters who really benefit from image stabilization. That’s especially true for photographers who wanted to step outside Sony’s limited image-stabilized full-frame E-mount lens options. Now, with the A7 II, you can enjoy camera shake compensation no matter what lens you happen to be using. Not only is the A7 II Sony’s first mirrorless camera to benefit from built-in image stabilization, it’s also the world’s first full-frame camera with 5-axis image stabilization. Watch the Sony-provided video below to get a demo of how it works. Sony claims the new 5-axis system offers up to 4.5 stops of camera shake compensation. So in a situation where you might normally use a shutter speed of 1/60th of a second, you could, theoretically, get sharp photos as slows as 1/8th of a second. The new Steady Shot system also means you get the camera shake compensation even if you’re using Sony’s A-mount full-frame lenses, or more exotic glass from Zeiss, Leica, etc.

New Sony A7 II - 24-MP CMOS Sensor

The new A7 II has a 24.3-megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor that handles image stabilization duties as well as image capture. The A7 II is the world’s first full-frame camera with 5-axis image stabilization, accomplished by moving the sensor to compensate for camera shake.

Sony Alpha A7 II Main Features & Specs:

  • 24.3-megapixel Exmor CMOS sensor
  • New, SteadyShot INSIDE 5-axis sensor shift image stabilization
  • BIONZ X image processing
  • Sensitivity: ISO 100 to 25,600 (expanded: ISO 50)
  • 30% faster wide-area Fast Hybrid AF system
  • 1920×1080 video at 60p
  • Video formats: XACD S and AVCHD
  • Uncompressed HDMI video output
  • 5 frames per second burst
  • Built-in Wi-Fi with NFC
  • 2.4-million-dot OLED electronic viewfinder
  • 3-inch 1.2-million-dot tilting LCD display
  • Memory compatibility: SD and Sony MS Duo

Like its predecessor, the new A7 II has a hybrid auto focus system that combines a wide area contrast detect system with embedded phase detect pixels. Sony says the A7 II’s auto focus is 30% faster than the A7, with significantly improved focus tracking. I thought the original A7’s hybrid auto focus system was very good when I tested it last year (read my Sony Alpha A7 review). At that time, it had the best continuous auto focus and tracking I’d experienced in any mirrorless camera. So I expect great things from the A77 II’s AF system. It would be nice if the burst rate was a little faster than 5 frames per second. On the other hand, the A7 II wasn’t really designed to be a professional sports camera.

Sony A7 II - New Grip, Controls & Shutter Button

Other updates to the A7 II are an improved grip Sony says gives the user more confidence, and a relocated shutter release button that further helps to steady the camera and decrease shake. The new A7 also gets Sony’s professional XAVC S video codec, which offers 50 Mbps 1920×1080 full HD video and PCM linear audio recording for better quality video and sound. To address criticism about play in the original A7’s lens mount (a problem I never noticed), Sony says they’ve made the A7 II’s magnesium alloy body stiffer and increased the strength and rigidity of the lens mount.

I was very skeptical about Sony’s full-frame mirrorless cameras when they were first announced. In my mind, a mirrorless camera should have a smaller sensor to keep the body and lenses small and easier to travel with. However, after using the original A7 and A7R, I found they were smaller than I expected and I loved using them. They may not be as travel-friendly as the Micro Four Thirds cameras or Sony’s APS-C sensor mirrorless bodies. But they’re much smaller than full-frame DSLRs and provide serious travel and event photographers professional image quality and performance in a very portable and inconspicuous package. So in spite of my doubts, after I actually used the A7, it ended up high on my list of coveted cameras. And the A7 II sports all the features, performance and characteristics that made the original one of my favorite full-frame cameras (yup – the A7 isn’t just one of my favorite mirrorless cameras, it’s one of my favorite full-frame cameras, period). The A7 II has the same compact travel-friendly body, excellent electronic viewfinder, tilting LCD display, built-in Wi-Fi, and excellent full-frame image quality – plus better video, built-in image stabilization, and improved auto focus. Although the A7 II upgrades are sure to annoy photographers who already invested in the original A7, they show Sony means business with their full-frame Alpha A-Series mirrorless camera line. Sony is way ahead of the curve with the A7 camera line, which now boasts 4 camera bodies. No other camera company makes anything like it.

3-Inch Tilting LCD Display - Sony A7 II

The Sony Alpha A7 II has been added to my list of must-have cameras. Unfortunately, the A7 II was, to the best of my knowledge, a Japan-only announcement. It’s not listed on Sony’s US Web site and it’s hard to say whether it will actually be available in North American. That doesn’t stop me from wanting Santa to bring me one for Christmas, though.

The Sony Alpha A7 II is scheduled to be available in the next week or so (mid-December). The list price is US $1999.99.

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