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Sony ILCE-7M2 comparison review (featuring ILCE-7)

silvermoon1407 Pioneer 11459 points
silvermoon1407
02/01/2015 | 10:12:10 edited February 2015

The Sony ILCE-7M2 (A7ii) was recently announced as a successor to the first full frame AF mirrorless interchangeable lens camera, the Sony ILCE-7 (A7), and boasts many improvements and new features, such as the improved autofocus and the implementation of the 5-axis in-body image stabilization. But how do these features and improvements compare to the already-solid performer A7? Read on.

Before I move on, I would like to give you guys a short background about me. I started photography about 3 years ago with the Sony NEX-5, and now I shoot primarily with the Sony A7 with both native FE lenses as well as 3rd party manual lenses. Along the way, I’ve also shot with Canon, Panasonic, Olympus and Ricoh systems, as well as film. I shoot mainly portraits, landscapes and macro.

For this review, I will be comparing the A7ii with my A7, testing both cameras with the following lenses: SEL2470Z, SEL55F18Z, Voigtlander 35mm f/1.4

A7ii and A7

 A7 with SEL2470Z and A7ii with SEL55F18Z. Shot with A6000

 

Build quality:

The first difference that was apparent (when I mounted my lenses on the A7ii) was that whatever lens mounted on gave a tight fit. Most E-mount users would be familiar to the fact that the mount of E-mount cameras up to before the A7s was made of plastic and sometimes do no instill confidence to the user. There would be ‘play’ and lens felt loose when mounted (although it’s perfectly fine). The metal mount of the A7ii (and the A7s too, I think) on the other hand is awesome. No play or ‘wriggling’ with any lens. Even cheap aftermarket lens adapters fit snugly.

Another very obvious difference is the overall weight and the enlarged grip of the A7ii compared to the A7. The grip is now much more beefier (which feels more like that of a traditional DSLR) and while that fits my large hands better, the camera is also bigger and heavier than the A7 which makes it less like a ‘compact’ systems camera. I personally do not welcome the extra weight, but I guess it’s necessary to incorporate the IBIS system. The shutter button placement has been changed, one more custom button has been added, and both the front and rear dials has been changed from the metal clicky ‘NEX-7’ design to a more conventional rubber/plastic dial. I’m personally used to the A7 shutter placement so I don’t exactly feel the improvement in the change, but DSLR users would surely welcome the change as the layout would be more familiar to them. One more custom function button is always welcomed, although I felt 3 of them on the original A7 was enough for me. As for the redesigned dials, I have mixed feelings about it. While they appear to be more comfortable to turn, the dials are also much recessed into the body and it might take just a few more finger muscle contractions to reach for the dials.

 

Steadyshot test:

To test the IBIS, I tried the A7ii with 3 different lenses, the SEL2470Z (Native FE lens with lens-based OSS), the SEL55F18Z (Native FE lens without lens-based OSS) and the Voigtlander M-mount 35mm f/1.4 lens (3rd party manual focus lens without lens-based OSS, obviously). In my tests, I only managed about 1-2 stops of stabilization. 

Personal thoughts: I’m not impressed with the IBIS of the A7ii, partly because I don’t normally shoot handheld at such ‘critical’ shutter speeds where stabilization can make or break an image. Also, proper handholding techniques is more important. The above test is informal, and applies only for me. People with much shakier hands may benefit more from the IBIS. Also, I wasn’t able to try lenses with focal length more than 70mm.

I also found no visible handholding improvements with the SEL2470Z on the A7ii compared to on the A7. Sony claims the IBIS will complement the lens OSS, but at least in my opinion, I found no significant improvements.

I’ve not used the Olympus EM1/5, but based on a live demonstration in one of the trade shows some time ago, the Olympus does seem to have a better stabilization system (of course, the smaller sensor has more space to move.)

 

Image quality:

Compared to the A7, the A7ii has very very similar image quality. Click this link to see high resolution ISO test between the A7 and A7ii, shot with the SEL55F18Z lens. All the images are shot on tripod at f8, matrix metering, 10mp crop mode (because I forgot to turn it off), AWB. All images are raw files exported using Capture One Express 8.1 with no exposure editing, only WB synchronization.

In my tests, I found that the A7ii tend to underexpose slightly and the images appear to have a slight green/blue tint at same WB settings compared to the A7.

 

Autofocus:

The A7ii focuses significantly faster than the A7 in my informal testings. In AF-C and wide AF mode, you will see the familiar ‘dancing squares’ that was first seen in the A6000 in the centre area of the frame when you half-press the shutter button. However, when you stop down your lens aperture to f8 or smaller, the dancing squares disappear. I’ve no idea why.

 

Final thoughts

All in all, the A7ii is a welcome addition and an upgrade over the existing A7 camera. For DSLR users, the A7ii will appeal to most as a lightweight solution but yet retains the good ergonomics of DSLRs. For leica/manual shooters, the A7ii gives stabilization for all your manual lenses and with the superb focus peaking and focus-assist modes, you may not want to shoot with leica M anymore.

 

However, I would not recommend the A7ii to existing A7/R/S users, unless you have the extra cash to spare. The improvements of the A7ii over the A7 is marginal (to me), and it is not worth spending a huge sum to replace the A7 with the A7ii. For A7R/S users, you’ve purchased the camera for what it does best (insane resolution for the A7R, insane low-light capabilities of the A7S) and the A7ii is not going to outperform the R or S in those aspects.

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