Sony a7S II Field Test Review

Sony a7S II camera

Say Hello to Sony’s New and Improved Low-Light Monster!

 
Sony a7S II (Available Now!) is the sixth camera the rapidly growing Sony a7 Series line-up that was first announced with a7/a7R just two years ago. That’s about a decade of cameras for the other guys”¦

Improving upon the original a7S, which was designed for 4K video, but quickly earned a following from still photographers and photojournalists for its incredible high ISO capabilities, Sony a7S II maintains the same ISO range 100-102,400 (expanded to 50-409,600) but improves noise reduction by about a stop while improving dynamic range.

The combination of low noise at extremely high ISOs, great dynamic range to hold detail in both deep shadows and brightest highlights and 5-Axis Image Stabilization makes this an ideal camera for photojournalists working in difficult lighting conditions.

Sony a7S II includes a few totally new features many users asked for.

Sony a7S II adds Uncompressed RAW

Yup, you asked for it and Sony added an Uncompressed RAW as a menu option on a7SII

Menu > Camera Settings > RAW File Type > Uncompressed

Sony a7SII uncompressed Raw

  • Sony a7S II Compressed RAW are approximately 12.65 Mb
  • Sony a7S II Uncompressed RAW vary from 23.75-24.3 Mb
  •  
    Sony a7SII compressed uncompressed raw

    If you find compressed RAWs too small and uncompressed RAWs too big, you can run uncompressed RAWs through Adobe DNG Converter 9.2:

  • Sony a7S II DNG are approximately 14.3 Mb (No Preview)
  • Sony a7S II DNG are approximately 14.4 Mb (Medium Preview)
  • Sony a7S II DNG are approximately 17.3 Mb (Fullsize Preview)
  •  

    Sony a7S II adds S-Log 3 Picture Profile

    In addition to S-Log 2 from the previous generation, Sony a7S II adds S-Log 3 Picture Profile found on high-end Sony cinema cameras:

    Menu > Camera Settings > Picture Profiles > PP8

    169-point Contrast AF

    Sony a7S II Contrast AF has been improved from 25 to 169 point Contrast AF by segmenting the central contrast AF points into smaller sectors for smoother and more accurate contrast AF than a7S when shooting video. For those shooting stills this is still noticeably slower than a7II and a7RII.

    There are also a bunch of new settings from a7II and a7R II that are new for a7S users Including:

    Auto ISO Minimum Shutter Speed

    Select Fast or Faster auto setting for 1 or 2 stops faster than normal defaults or Slow or Slower auto setting for 1 or 2 stops slower than normal defaults. Or choose the exact shutter speed you wish to set as your default no matter the lens by selecting any full shutter speed between 1/8000th to 30 Seconds. This is particularly when shooting action if you wish to select a minimum shutter speed like 1/500 – no matter what lens you’ve selected.

    5-Axis Image Stabilization

    Last year, Sony a7 II became the first fullframe mirrorless camera with 5-Axis Image Stabilization, so it should not come as a surprise that Sony a7S II adds this to provide image stabilization for any lens you can mount on a7S II.

    More Bracketing modes and Self-Timer with Bracket

    Sony a7S II adds more bracketing modes than first generation cameras along with the option to select self-timer release of 2-, 5- or 10-seconds when shooting in bracketed exposures.

    Embed your Copyright

    As with a7R II, you can embed copyright information in the EXIF data.

    Menu > Setup > Copyright info

    Sony a7SII Menu copyright settings

    More Custom Key and Function Menu Options

    As with a7R II, you can program the Custom Buttons (C1-C4) for more options than previous models like a7S – including Movie Record and Silent Shutter.

    Sony a7S II RAW Support

    For these tests I shot RAW and processed in Lightroom CC 2015.2. Sony a7S II RAW files are also supported in Lightroom 6.2.1, Photoshop 2015.01 and Adobe DNG Converter 9.2.

    I had a chance to put a production camera to the test for a couple days and here’s what I found.

    The thing that I like best is how the combination of low noise at extremely high ISOs and great dynamic range allows you to hold detail in both deep shadows and brightest highlights at night allowing me to capture detail that I couldn’t see with eyes and see that in real time through the EVF and LCD.

    Sony a7SII New York high line at night
    Sony a7S II + Sony FE 35mm F1.4 ZA • 1/15 Sec Handheld • F4 • ISO 25,600

    Sony a7S II night in New York
    Sony a7S II + Sony FE 70-200mm F4 G OSS • 1/40 Sec Handheld • F5.6 • ISO 12,800

    Sony a7SII night time in SoHo New York
    Sony a7S II + Sony FE 35mm F1.4 ZA • 1/125 Sec Handheld • F5.6 • ISO 3200

    Sony a7SII New York firehouse at night
    Sony a7S II + Sony FE 35mm F1.4 ZA • 1/10 Sec Handheld • F5.6 • ISO 1600

    Sony a7S II in New York
    Sony a7S II + Sony FE 16-35mm F4 ZA OSS at 20mm • 1/20 Sec Handheld • F8 • ISO 1600

    New York night photography Sony a7S II
    Sony a7S II + Sony FE 55mm F1.8 ZA • 1/100 Sec Handheld • F4 • ISO 800

    Sony a7S II night time in New York
    Sony a7S II + Sony FE 16-35mm F4 ZA OSS at 35mm • 1/50 Sec Handheld • F4 • ISO 400

    Sony a7S II in New York after dark
    Sony a7S II + Sony FE 16-35mm F4 ZA OSS at 25mm • 1/8 Sec Handheld • F5.6 • ISO 3200

    Sony a7SII in New York night
    Sony a7S II + Sony FE 35mm F1.4 ZA • 1/25 Sec Handheld • F5.6 • ISO 1600

    Portraits at night with Sony a7S II in New York
    Sony a7S II + Sony FE 16-35mm F4 ZA OSS • 1/60 Sec Handheld • F4.5 • ISO 3200

    Sony a7SII New York at night
    Sony a7S II + Sony FE 35mm F1.4 ZA • 1/15 Sec Handheld • F4 • ISO 6400

    Sony a7S II in New York night
    Sony a7S II + Sony FE 16-35mm F4 ZA OSS at 33mm • 1/4 Sec Handheld • F54 • ISO 12,8000

    Sony a7S II in New York
    Sony a7S II + Sony FE 16-35mm F4 ZA OSS at 35mm • 1/8 Sec Handheld • F4 • ISO 6400

    Sony a7SII New York at Night
    Sony a7S II + Sony FE 35mm F1.4 ZA • 1/100 Sec Handheld • F2.2 • ISO 4000

    Sony a7S II Mark Weir in New York
    Happy Birthday to Sony Alpha Samurai Mark Weir!!!
    Sony a7S II + Sony FE 16-35mm F4 ZA OSS • 1/60 Sec Handheld • F4.5 • ISO 25,600

    Equipment List:

  • Sony a7S II Camera (Order from B&H)
  • Sony FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS Lens (Order from B&H)
  • Sony FE 35mm F1.4 ZA Lens (Order from B&H)
  • Sony FE 55mm F1.8 ZA Lens (Order from B&H)
  • Sony FE 70-200mm F4 G OSS Lens (Order from B&H)
  • Sony 64GB UHS-I SDXC Memory Cards (Class 10/U3) (Order from B&H)

    ORDER YOURS NOW


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    ‘Sony A7 Series: From Snapshots to Great Shots’ is available NOW from Amazon

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    45 thoughts on “Sony a7S II Field Test Review”

    1. Pingback: (Continually updated) First Sony A7sII reviews and image samples! | sonyalpharumors

        1. I own both cameras and to be honest, this is true only if you are keeping the A7r II files at full resolution. If you down-sample the RAW file to the same resolution as the A7s II and then apply noise reduction, there is very little in it.

          Yes, the A7r II is going to bottom out two stops under the A7s II (25600 vs 102400) but down sampled 25600 from both cameras are indistinguishable.

          This leaves the A7s II with an advantage for stills only at the super high ISO end of things…

          That and the uncompressed RAW files are 1/4 size and the buffer doesn’t get clogged as easily.

          1. Those comments are by no means meant as a knock on a7RII which remains my favorite camera.

            You have to get to crazy high ISOs before you notice any difference in noise but I do see more dynamic range in a7SII at ISO 3200 and up where the shadow detail is really incredible.

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    7. Hi Brian,
      I’m a photojournalist and am concerned about the slower autofocusing speeds compared to the A7RII but love the idea of such great low-light performance. I wouldn’t be using the camera to shoot hs sports action, but would you say switching focus between people on the move is a challenge?

      Thanks!
      Griffin

    8. Any improvement to the rear LCD screen? The a7s’ is not very clear. Also, how does the 120fps look? Lastly, any over heating issues?

    9. Thanks for your take on this new and exciting Camera. I have enjoyed the A7S and to think it can even get better is good news indeed.
      Question:
      Did you happen to notice if it’s now possible to shoot RAW in silent shutter mode?

      Great work there Brian!

    10. have you tried afs-c at higher iso’s? I do shoot sports in a dark gym (volleyball). The a7rii beats my old D3s and OM-D E-M1 in focusing and high iso. that said, i don’t need 42mp, but do desire even higher iso. right now i have to shoot with 55 1.8 and crop, because a 2.8 lens is too dark (1/800th, at 1.8, and iso 10-12k)

    11. Given the relatively low 12MP count but high quality sensor what would you say would be the largest one could print on this camera? I have a dilemma where I want to play mostly with video but also want to print some pictures along the line, ideally larger than the norm. The obvious is R vs S. I think the S for me the main advantage is the 120fps, it seems like the sensitivity is in the same ball park outside of the the slog 3 business

      1. I haven’t printed any of these yet, but I’ve made 30×40″ prints from the original a7S and I’m sure these will hold up just as well or better. You obviously will have less fine details than a7RII – but they should still look incredible.

    12. Pingback: Tech Talk: Sony a7RII & a7SII

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    15. Hello Brian,

      I read another review where the “sunspot” problem ( a black spot image when the sun or another strong light source was inframe) was detected while recording video and it was very noticeable.
      Did you happen to encounter the same issue while testing the camera?

    16. I am interested in buying this cam but have two concerns:
      – given it is not weather sealed, is there a higher risk given I film in various environments (humid, ice, hot). Is the cam as tough as Nikons and Canons?
      – given that Sony outsources it service repairs with all nightmare stories, what is your take on Sony after sale service?

      Thank you for sharing your experience.

      1. Weather-sealing and water-resistant are both marketing terms and neither ensures that you camera is water-proof!

        While I have friends in Portland and Hawaii who swear they regularly shoot all day long with their Sony a7 series cameras in a steady drizzle – I live in Miami where rain comes down in buckets – not a fine mist. So I don’t trust ANY camera without some sort of protection.

        My suggestion would be to simply man up and protect your camera when it needs protecting. I’ve got lots of friends who shoot NFL and college football who never go out without a rain cover for their gear. While the tried-and-true garbage bags with gaffer tape works fine, you might want to consider picking up one of these:

      2. Vortex Media Pro SLR Storm Jacket Camera Cover
      3. LensCoat RainCoat RS Rain Sleeve

        Either will keep your cameras dry as a new pair of socks…

        As for service, if you are in the USA or Germany, I HIGHLY recommend Sony Pro Support if you qualify.

    17. Hey Brian. Quick question about shooting with the SonyA7sii. When you set your ISO settings and what not…why doesn’t it show in the image? Mine just looks black. Is there a setting you can change in the camera?

      Thanks!

      1. I’m not sure what you mean. Shutter Speed, Aperture, EV Adjustment and ISO is displayed at the both of the EVF and LCD.

        If you mean that you want to see them during Image Playback, press the DISP button on the top of the control wheel to cycle through the Playback modes. Two of the modes display this info. One does not.

    18. Hi, there seems to be a problem with a7sii afc in wide mode as its struggling to get my subject focus…there have been youtube video posted and didt not have any solution to it yet..

    19. Hi Brian

      Ive been stuck for months now trying to decide between getting the Canon 5D mark III and the Sony A7S II. Ive been having headaches just trying to decide, because I am investing between two cameras which are in the $3k average range. So I have to make the right decision and not kick myself later.

      The camera I select is going to be used for my fishing brand company. I would like to get high quality videos for marketing online (VIMEO, Youtube, and TV), and also high quality stills for Web marketing (Sharp and crisp). Now and then I would like to print out the stills for our catalogues, but wont be printing large sized posters so much.

      Heres my dilemma:

      1. I understand that from a video stand point the Sony out classes the Canon 5D III, especially image quality, the low light, the 4K internal, 120fps HD and dynamic range etc. So from a video stand point I want to go for the sony especially because of the 120fps full HD.

      2. Regarding “stills” this is where my problem is with the Sony. I am not sure cause I havent shot with this camera. 12mp compared over the 22mp that the “REFELX 5Diii”…..So major concern is regarding the quality of stills and the Sony´s 169 AF contrast. I need the A7sii to have the ability to take great “Product Stills” for our online baits and product catalogue, I need to take great “Action shot stills” of our anglers casting or on the boat… 90% mostly outdoors with loads of light. I need to take good artistic landscape stills too. I would also need the stills to maintain a good dynamic range.

      3. I have also been seeing in other reviews that the A7S II´s AF takes long searching slowly until it pulls into focus in video and stills mode. Then I read other reviews saying that with native Sony lenses and EF Metabonse and canon Lenses the AF works faster and is not that much of a problem both in Video and Stills as long as you maintain the subject in the middle.

      Please help me come to a conclusion in your experienced opinion and put me in the right direction. I NEED TO MAKE THE RIGHT DECISION!!!!! hahahah

      Stills are important for me as I like to take artistic photographs that are sharp and crisp and are easily editable for color grading without losing quality once resized for the web, products or for magazines and catalogue prints.

      The big thing is that I WANT AND NEED GREAT VIDEO QUALITY AND GREAT SLOW MOTION TOO. I am also saving up to get a FS5 in future.

      So which camera will benefit me now and in future, given that the 5D has been out for a few years now and its technology is older. Its clear that I am more in favour to get the A7sii, the big thing is that I need good quality stills too. ARE THE STILLS GOOD ENOUGH FOR WHAT I WANT.

    20. By choosing the A7RII that means I would be sacrificing the 120fps……. I would really like to shoot in 120fps to get dramatics video scenes 🙁 This is why I was asking if the A7sII was good enough for taking good enough photos…

    21. Thanks Brian. Its so hard to choose because I do need slow motion shots for my video scenes but I would also like to take good pictures. Are the stills that bad on the A7Sii? Also does the A7Sii have the ability to take long Exposure shots in Bulb mode? 100-200 second shots with a remote?

      1. Yes Ken, a7SII still image quality is quite good – just not the same incredible detail that a7RII’s 42.4 mp sensor captures. So as I said if 120 FPS is the most important feature on your wish list – go with a7SII. And yes you can shoot time exposures in Bulb mode. I use Sony RM-VPR1 remote control to lock down the shutter when shooting in Bulb.

    22. Thanks so much again Brian, I will have to think hard about this or hopefully wait for a new model to come out as sony do release new models quite fast….. These cameras aren’t cheap so I have to make the right choice.

      Again thanks so much. I am definitely going to recommend your website to my colleagues.

    23. This is truly a great camera for its versatility when filming on tight budget. You instantly lower your budget on lighting and camera tech when using this camera on productions. We’ve filmed 2 features on this and have rented out to music videos and high end Subaru commercial. If you ever need one in Vancouver, BC Canada, we’ve got a great package. We can give you a studio and documentary rig as well

    24. Great info and pics, I appreciate your efforts. Question: I am looking to replace my Nikon D610 and Canon 70D with ONE camera. From everything I have read, the Sony A7s ii appears to be a camera that can do that. Are the photo capabilities of the Sony as good as full-frame Nikon?

      1. The ideal camera depends on your needs. Sony a7SII is a low light monster as long as 12mp meets those needs. Capture One for Sony will easily uprez 250% if you need to print big – but you don’t gain any detail that was not in the original file. Also bear in mind that a7SII is contrast AF so it will AF best with native glass. If you plan to bring any of you Canon or Nikon glass with you, I’d recommend a7RII instead.

        1. Thx Brian. I am also looking at the a7Rii which I believe might be a better option since I ‘normally’ do not find myself in low light situations. it’s probably better than the D610 in those situations anyway. I just don’t want to sacrifice any image quality from the D610 by moving to the a7Rii (I know the video will be solid).

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