In my photographic journey so far I have owned cameras from Panasonic, Fuji, Olympus, Canon, Ricoh and Sigma but I have never had such a love/hate relationship with any other camera manufacturer as Sony. I have owned many Sony cameras which include A99, A77 II, RX100 (2, 3, 4), A7, A7 II and A7rII and while technology wise they have been excellent cameras there was always “something” missing that made me sell them.
My latest foray in Sony land was with the mighty Sony A7rII and when Sony A7rII was announced, I was excited that finally Sony has made a FF camera with all the bell and whistles that anybody could want in a camera. Excellent sensor, outstanding high ISO performance, 399 Phase AF points promising best in class auto focusing and above all 5-axis in body stabilization. All packed in a compact weather sealed (if you believe Sony 🙂 ) body.
Just reading the specs can give a tech geek or photographer excited. So being the technology geek that I am, I had to get my grubby mitts on one and after putting down my first born as collateral (jk :)) and selling whole bunch of camera gear I acquired my most expensive camera ever and few FE lenses (FE 55, FE 35/f2.8, FE 90mm Macro, Batis 85) that can do justice to the sensor.
Having used A7 and A7ii before it I had a pretty good idea what to expect in terms of menus (worst in any camera !!) , battery life and buttons configuration etc but what I was hoping that in a $3K+ camera Sony would improve few things from previous A7 incarnations. First thing that struck me was the overall sluggishness of the camera. Like a kid on first day of school after summer vacations, when you turn on the camera for the first time, it would take its sweet time to come alive. Though things improved once you used the camera for some time but it would never wake up instantly as you would expect.
Similarly, viewing images on the back LCD was painfully slow and if you tried viewing picture at 100% magnification, you better go and make yourself a cup coffee while the camera zoom in the 42 megapixel picture. Granted that it’s a huge file, I would have expected Sony to put in a processor that can handle such things.
This sluggishness was also present when shooting multiple images in a short span of time. The camera would just lock up while it wrote the images to the card and you cannot do anything until that process completed. These issues made the overall experience a chore and if I ever had to go to menus to change something, it was another cringe worthy experience.
Other than the user experience issues, the camera body did not feel well made or weather sealed (despite what Sony says) and even though I am extremely careful with my gear, within few months the camera started showing signs of missing paint on the edges and scratches. I had never experienced such bad built quality in cheaper consumer cameras let alone in a $3K + “pro” camera.
Fortunately, everything wasn’t all bad, the IQ from the camera was simply the best that I’ve ever seen and IBIS made such low light shots possible that I would have never been able to get with any other camera (other than Olympus maybe). Also, high ISO performance was second to none. Shooting ISO 6400 and 12800 images was not an issue at all.
On the auto focusing front, it definitely wasn’t a DSLR killer that Sony marketed it as but it was very good. The continuous eye focus was amazingly accurate and made portraits a breeze. Also, focusing with Sigma and Metabones adapters made using Canon AF lenses not only possible but also the focusing was fast and accurate enough to make them very usable.
Overall, despite the drawbacks A7r II was a great camera but like other Sony cameras that I’ve owned before, I just never felt connected with it. It provided the IQ but lacked the “experience”. It felt like I’m using a gadget/computer instead of a camera. I enjoyed the final results but I did not enjoy the process of getting there, which took away most of the fun.
In the end, I decided that since I do not need 42 megapixels or any other benefits that Sony A7r II offers so I should be shooting with a camera that I enjoy which will keep me and my wallet happy 🙂 . So I said my goodbye to another Sony camera in a hope that next time we meet, it would be a long term affair.
Here are some of the pictures I took with A7r II while I owned it.