SONY Alpha 7S II Review – With the Alpha 7 and Alpha 7R now in their second generation, it was only a matter of time before Sony focused attention on the A7S again. The A7S II uses the same 12.2MP Exmor CMOS sensor as the A7S and while this pixel count may seem low today, it has a significant advantage over sensors with a higher pixel density in that each photosite (or pixel) on the chip is larger. The combination of a large full-frame imaging sensor and larger pixels equates to superior light-gathering capabilities, which is reflected in the camera’s astonishing ISO 50-409,600 (expanded) range.
The camera offers the option to shoot in the 14-bit uncompressed Raw format, which is alleged to offer improved quality of tonal gradation and its Fast Intelligent AF system provides 169 AF points in total. It relies solely on contrast detection, but tests revealed it is competent at acquiring focus when the light levels drop very low. The A7S II adopts the excellent five-axis in-body stabilisation system, too: crucial for shooting sharp stills and recording smooth video when the camera is used handheld. With silent mode deployed, it’s possible to shoot in complete silence, but the electronic shutter doesn’t permit a shutter speed faster than 1/8000 sec. Other improvements include a 2.36-milliondot EVF, 3in, 1.23-million-dot screen as well as a host of video features such as its ability to record 4K video internally and a 120fps Full HD recording option that’s ideal for videographers who’d like to create slow-motion movies. The addition of S-Log3 gamma is designed to offer better tonal reproduction, and focus peaking and zebra patterning are other useful features for video use.
The grip is much improved thanks to the relocation of the shutter button and encircled on/off button. The matte-black finish presents a smarter appearance and the top, front and rear magnesium alloy covers give it a solid feel in-hand.
In low light I had no difficulty capturing sharp images of static subjects with a 1/5 sec shutter speed at 70mm, courtesy of the superb five-axis stabilisation system. The camera excels with regard to its video performance, too. The only negative about its performance is the battery life, so you’ll ideally want to build up a collection of spares.
The dynamic range is fractionally better than the A7R II and, as the images opposite show, it’s possible to achieve acceptable results right up to ISO 25,600. There are signs of luminance noise and colour noise when you push the sensor to its extremes by entering its expanded settings, but provided that you’re vigilant and apply noise reduction carefully in post-production, it’s possible to shoot at the ‘mid-range’ of ISO 6400, 12,800 and 25,600 comfortably. Detail is a long way from the level of detail we’re used to seeing high-resolution full-frame sensors resolve, however it is on a par with the original Alpha 7S.
- Superb five-axis image stabilisation system
- Internal 4K video recording
- 120fps movie option
- ISO performance
- Silent shutter
- Responsive autofocus
- Battery stamina (300 shots per charge)
- Convoluted menu system
- Appeal is more limited than the A7 II and A7R II
- Only shoots at 5 fps
SONY Alpha 7S II Specifications
- SENSOR 12.2MP full-frame Exmor CMOS
- LENS MOUNT Sony E-mount
- FILE FORMATS JPEG, Raw
- DISPLAY 3in, 1.2-million-dot LCD
- VIEWFINDER 2.4-million-dot, 0.78x magnification
- EXPOSURE COMPENSATION +/-5EV in 1/3 or 1/2EV steps
- ISO 100-102,400 (50 – 409,600 extended)
- AUTOFOCUS 169 AF points (contrast-detect)
- EXPOSURE MODES PASM, Auto, Sweep panorama, Scene
- BURST 5fps
- MOVIE 4K and Full HD
- MEMORY CARD SD, SDHC, SDXC
- POWER NP-FW50 battery
- DIMENSIONS 126.9 x 95.7 x 60.3mm
- WEIGHT 584g (body only)
- PRICE £2499 (body only)