It was only 45 days ago when Sony held their last press event in Portland, Oregon to announce the release of the Sony a7r II and to give us the opportunity to shoot with it. We subsequently published a review of the Sony a7r II and how Sony listened to its customers and evolved the camera from its original release. There has been much press on Luminous-Landscape and elsewhere about Sony. Photographers are listening.
Sony A7s II
Recently Sony announced the A7s II and in the last two days Sony once again held another press event in New York where we had a hands on experience with this new camera. The event was held at the Carroll Place Bar and featured a number of presentations and then some set-ups where we could try out the camera. The Sony A7s II is a 12 MP camera with ultra high ISO capabilities, wide dynamic range, in-camera stabilization and internal 4K video recording. This newest release rounds out the version two release of the original Sony A7 cameras.
The presentations were impressive as a number of well-known DP’s (directors of photography) showed how they used the Sony A7s on some recent motion pictures. Without a doubt the primary focus of the A7s II is for video – filmmaking and high ISO still photography. After the presentations we were given an a7s II and a few lenses to try out for the evening.
I must say I am impressed with the Sony A7s II. In one of the demos we saw how well the high ISO was on this camera. For those that love street photography, this camera will be your new best friend. I took it out on the streets and not only shot stills but also some video that is combined into the short video take below. One of the things that bothered me when shooting videos is the placement of the video button. I found it awkward to turn it on and off. Placement is out of the way and the button is somewhat recessed and I found the beginning and endings of my captures showed the effect of hunting for the video button. I did a bit of research and I will be ordering the Cineeasy Touch. This looks like it would solve the problem and a few others at the event said that it works great.
While at this event I met up with Chris Niccolls and Jordon Drake from the Camera Store in Calgary, Canada. You may have seen one or more of their excellent videos on TheCameraStoreTV YouTube channel. They did a very detailed video on the capabilities of the A7s II while at the event and their video – Sony A7S II Hands-On Field Test (In New York!) They have shared their video below.
Setting up and using the a7s II is no different than any of the other Sony A7 cameras. Yes, the menus leave a bit to be desired, but by now I have become acquainted with them from extensive use and have adapted. Sony is a company that has proven it listens and I do hope they find a way to improve on the user interface. What is amazing though was an ISO range from 100 – 102400. I set my camera up to shoot RAW and JPEGs as well as 4K video. I played around a lot with ISO and the results are shown below in some of the photos from the event as well as from the streets of New York.
The bottom line is that so far is I am really liking the Sony a7s II. We had to give back our cameras this morning but we have been promised review units in the next week or so and when we receive ours we will give it a much more thorough review both with still and video shooting. To learn more about the Sony A7s II visit the Sony Website. Their web page goes into great detail regarding this new version of the camera.
There has been a lot of talk about Sony’s decision to use compressed RAWs with the release of the A7r II. Numerous sites showed examples of images affected by the compressed RAWs and Sony took the heat for their decision to offer RAW files this way. Once again, Sony was listening, and very soon after the release of the A7r II made an announcement that a firmware update offering uncompressed RAW files would be forthcoming. The Sony a7s II ships with the new firmware. The firmware update for the other Sony a7 cameras will be released on October 19th. They claim the uncompressed files will result in fewer artifacts and even more dynamic range. I know I’ll be in line for this update the minute it is available. The new firmware will allow you to choose the method of compression you want. Kudos to Sony for listening and reacting so quickly.
This morning we were invited to a presentation at the Sony offices in New York. The big news was the NEW Sony RX1rII. Wow, another camera from Sony. Before I get into the details the RX1rII is a compact camera with a fixed 35mm lens and a 42.4 megapixel sensor. All of this in a camera you can put in your jacket pocket.
Being invited to a lot of press events as a writer you fear the dreaded long-winded PowerPoint presentations and of course that is what you expect when you are ushered into an auditorium. I was pleasantly surprised by a number of things today not to mention a solid and concise PowerPoint presentation. I was even more surprised when the President and CEO of Sony Corporation, Kaz Hirai, came on stage and made the presentation. He got our rapt attention when he began by telling us that he was a passionate photographer. He told stories of the film days and used terms like indicator stop bath and photo flow. What became very obvious is the managers at Sony and especially the camera division are photographers themselves and these guys are making cameras that they want too.
There were a number of slides discussing the changing marketplace for consumer cameras and its decline mainly because of the mobile phones available today. Sony has seen this and thus developed higher end cameras for the serious enthusiast. Their offerings are such that a photographer may want an a7 series camera for their main work with the many benefits it offers but also round it out with a second camera like the Sony RX100 iv or Rx1 rII. Personally I happen to be their perfect target customer. I have the A7r II, a7 II and the RX100 IV.
The RX1rII has some very cool features jammed into a small compact unit. What stands out is obviously the 42.4 MP back illuminated sensor and pop up viewfinder. This is a full frame palm size camera. At first I was somewhat skeptical because it has a fixed lens but the more I thought about it, the 35mm focal length is ideal for just about any shooting I would do with this camera. It sits nicely between the 24mm wide angle and the 50mm normal focal lengths.
What is really interesting (and I am curious to see how they develop this technology further) is the world’s First Optical Variable Low-Pass Filter. I know that is a lot of words but for anyone shooting digital and watching the whole low-pass no low-pass filter debate over the years this is big news. The low pass filter in simple terms is used to eliminate moiré caused by the bayer pattern on the sensor chip and certain patterns such as may be found with tightly woven fabrics. In the last few years some camera makers were offering two versions of their cameras – one with a low pass filter or one without. If you were a landscape shooter you wouldn’t need a low pass filter as you most likely wouldn’t experience moire. However if you were a fashion or portrait shooter you would opt for this filter to down on moire that normally is seen in many types of fabrics. Now with the RX1rII you have a choice. Using a liquid crystal transparent filter you can choose if you want to use the low pass filter or not, plus have an option for lack of better words of a half power low pass. With the new camera you can even bracket the low pass filter and decide after you see your images. I really look forward to trying this out when we get a review unit. I would presume we may see this technology migrate to other versions of Sony cameras moving forward.
The bottom line with the RX1rII is it has some impressive specs. It will retail in the US for $3300.00 and 4200 CAD. Availability will be November. I strongly suggest you visit the RX1rII Website to learn a lot more about this camera. I didn’t even get into the specs of AF and such. We will be getting a unit for review soon and will put it through the paces for sure.
There is no doubt that Sony is on a roll. They have released new versions of their whole camera line in the last few months and have added lenses too. Third party lens makers are jumping on the A7 series E-mount lenses and offering a wide range of lenses. Let’s not forget that with readily available lens adapters the A7 series camera can work with many Canon, Leica, and other lenses. PhotoPlus is next week and I am sure that the Sony booth will be very busy.
In our upcoming reviews we will provide downloadable files and real hands on feedback from a much more extended review time than just the few hours we had at this event.