The New Sony A7s II is Great, But Is It Awesome Enough To Get You To Upgrade?

by Bret Hoy13 Comments

Sony has been releasing new technology as fast as you could dream it up in the recent months and you had to wonder, “when will this massive outpouring of tech begin to slow?”

I think that we’re seeing that incredible flow stutter somewhat with the release of the Sony a7S II.

Before you get onto me too much, just give me a minute to explain. The camera looks fantastic. It has the gorgeous and solid updated body, 5-axis sensor stabilization, internal 4k and updated frame rates. Last but most definitely not least, Slog-3. All of these are amazing upgrades and they do take the camera up a notch.

But what are we missing?

At first glance it didn’t feel like anything was missing. That 4k that was just an external recorder away is now conveniently placed into the camera. How much money does that save you? A great deal, that’s for sure. So what’s missing?

The awkward rolling shutter that the original a7S was burdened by will be somewhat relieved with the addition of 5-axis sensor stabilization. This helps to alleviate one of the biggest problems with the a7S. As an a7S shooter, I can tell you that this will help so much. That little tiny bump you have in your slider? It’ll smooth that right out.

So really, what’s missing?

All of these upgrades come as somewhat of a let down when you consider it’s recent predecessors. The Sony a7II showed what the Sony NEX series could feel like. The body upgrades showed Canon and Nikon shooters that Mirrorless cameras aren’t toys. They’re made for pros. The a7RII did the rest, showing massive megapixel power, and 4k options.

a7SII front

So what has the a7S II done that hasn’t been done already? Slog-3, is an upgrade from Slog-2, and also, 120fps at 1080 will be very useful for cinematographers out there. There’s no doubting that. But what we’re seeing right now is more like a trim, or haircut, rather than a full makeover.

The a7S II doesn’t feel like a new camera. We’re still dealing with generally the same hardware minus the obvious upgrades and similar software. The updated bitrate aside, we’re still looking at a relatively similar image.

Sony Alpha A7s II Roundup

See our roundup of the Sony A7s II here – it includes all the latest news and videos

I’m not one to say that I don’t want Slog-3. I’ve worked with Slog-3 images and I think that they’re incredibly flexible, forgiving and just downright gorgeous, but it’s not what I wanted. I wanted a more stable and sturdy codec (updated bitrate somewhat accomplishes this) and most importantly, I wanted better external options.

a7SII back open

I’m sure many of you out there will complain about this, and I totally get it, but it just hasn’t convinced me to upgrade. When I upgrade cameras, I not only want new options, I want to have the ability to do what I’m already doing, better. The a7S II just isn’t making a strong argument for me.

When I first shot with the a7S, the flexibility absolutely stunned me. I could take advantage of almost any time of day, and environment with the sensor. The 59.94fps footage wowed me, and we don’t even need to discuss the low light. But before I even hit the, “buy” button on B&H, I hesitated and thought, “You know, the GH4 has that 10bit out.”

Almost a year later, I’m still always wishing that I could get those two extra bits out of the a7S. Despite the frustration of dealing with the body, rolling shutter and menu system of the a7S, the only thing that I TRULY wished was updated was that. With the announcement of the a7S II, I’m still wishing for this.

The a7S II has taken all of the tech we’ve seen that Sony has and combined them into a very strong, video centric camera. What it hasn’t done, is wowed us with something new. In many ways, the option for internal 4k feels like it belonged in the original a7S.

How do you feel about the Sony a7S II? You can’t deny it’s powerful. But is it in any way unexpected? And most importantly, will you be buying one?

(cover photo credit: snap from B&H)

Bret Hoy

Bret Hoy

Bret Hoy is a filmmaker, photographer and writer based out of St. Louis, Missouri. Mainly focused on documentary and experimental film, he has produced, directed, shot and edited many short films and a few long form works.

He shoots a lot and often.
Bret Hoy

Comments

  1. Well, sony could have introduced 10-bit into their camera. It wasn’t a lot to ask in 2015. But I wonder if 10-bit slog3 4k internal/external would be stable, if they even introduced it. They would have to probably switch of faster media slots, this for sure. Their codec algorithms won’t allow so much bandwidth of data.

  2. Ah no, I am not ready to for it.  There are some issues that I keep reading about, one of which is the overheating issue.  The GH4 has it’s own set of issues or cons.  The thing is that 4K is not absolutely a must yet, and at the same time technology and price points are changing rapidly.  So why dive in right now?  We still have the Canon 5DIV coming out, so we need to see what specs it has.  The one option that I keep thinking about is the Canon C500 (yes, the C500 not the C300 II).  It is coming down in price fast and it has all the bells and whistles.  It is the real professional deal.  Maybe I will just wait for a year and fetch one of those.

  3. I would go for a camera which has a an inbuilt cooling system. And I’d honestly look at the C300II because of the way it handles consistent noise values and canons new color filter. It’s just beautiful. 4K has already caught up with most streaming websites and players. It’s only a matter of months if not weeks before it’s the new streaming hype around most websites. It’s really essential to deal with the newer standards of the industry because that’s what is gonna be pushed by the distributors. Just like large format is the new upcoming way to watch movies. It would take a few months but its coming. The C300II has a great color filter. Comparable to the the Sony F65. And a unique singal to noise ratio per voltage increment. Have a look at it before you consider the C500. Just a tip. :)

  4. I cannot answer if I would upgrade from an A7S, as I do not own one. That would be a tough question. I do know I can’t wait to get my hands on an A7Sii, and I’m now happy I waited and didn’t get the lame-o, old news, worn out, antiquated A7S like you have, Bret ;)  My opinion, if you already have an A7S with an external 4K recorder, don’t look back and keep makin’ film!

  5. I wanted to see hybrid PDAF/CDAF  to help the camera AF/ Tracking speed and low light, and help with Canon- Sony adapters which support decent AF using PDAF.  We didn’t get a big upgrade on the camera side,  Sony only mentions better video performance 

    We hear 14 bit raw is a possibility as is the addition of Olympus’s sensor shifting offering higher resolution than 12mp  this would help with the disappointment that Sony didn’t use BSI  to come out with an 18mp sensor with the same noise and sensitivity at a higher resolution.

    Lastly, the menus should separate video settings from still photography.  So many only use this as a video machine why not make navigating the menus for video easier with dedicated menus, and this would also give Sony a chance to make still camera menus better organized.

  6. AdityaAkash The official reason is Bionz X processor is limited and can’t do 10 bit. The next generation of Sony FFs should be able to with new X1 or Y processor.

  7. I definitely feel you in terms of color depth. 8bits just absolutely have their limits especially in terms of sky shots, and skin tones. It’s the problem of just about every dslr video you see. Skin looks like plastic or milk. As funny as it sounds I think the 5D2 was the only one that got skin right out of all of them. I think though, you’re not going to see anything other than 8-bit from this price point unless you go to blackmagic. The gh4’s 10-bit made me feel cheated to be honest.. It was the concept they used in the latter part of the AF-100’s run where they took 8 bits and cheated the gradients as a sort of 10-bit simulator if you recall that update. i could not push gh4 10-bit near as far as I could a pocket camera’s pro res. If Sony put a true 10-bit option in the A7S2, it wouldn’t destroy their high end. F55’s yield 14-bits. That’s a hell of a lot more than 10-bits still. The whole 8-bit thing is the last thing that we should be talking about 7 years post 5D Mark 2. It’s the only thing they haven’t really changed.

  8. JeremyWoods  I entirely agree. Now if only we could get Sony to see that putting 10 bit in their a7SII wouldn’t ruin their chances with the F55!

  9. Samarjith147 AdityaAkash Here’s hoping for next a next generation upgrade. Considering what we’ve seen so far, it may not be too far in the future.

  10. zenjitsuman I love that idea about separating the Video and Photo settings in camera. That would help immensely. Also being able to more efficiently map function buttons on the camera. I wish I could change my frame rate and picture profile from a function button rather than navigate through a menu.

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