#Review | Sony a7SII first impressions
Let's call this a functional review. If you're looking for a deep-dive into the technical specs then look no further than the great Philip Bloom's video about its predecessor (found at the bottom of this post). The a7SII of course has some significant improvements, but that will give you a strong baseline for what makes the Sony a7S line so unique.
But for those looking for a more bass-tax understanding , here you go.
The big takeaway: It's amazing.
I've used the Sony a7SII on several different types of shoots now, and I've found a plethora of benefits to using it over a Canon 5DmarkIII and even a c100markII. So let's dive right in.
- Internal 4k: At first I thought shooting 4K was somewhat of a gimmick. But I've come to really appreciate it. Take our USO 75th anniversary video, for example. We used the a7SII as our A cam. The final product was in 1080 so we were able to punch in beautifully without any loss of quality. That means we had two "safe" shots in the bank, allowing our second camera to get a more creative angle.
- 5-axis stabilization: It's pretty robust. Obviously it won't replace a tripod, shoulder rig, or gimbal, but in a pinch if you have to go hand-held the shots are very, very usable. There's also a financial benefit. With lenses you pay a premium for image stabilization. With Sony's internal stabilization you can save your money.
- Low light capabilities: It's simply ridiculous. No affordably-priced camera can come close. Here's a little taste from Sony:
- Slow motion: I love my C100markII, but it is unfathomable that Canon did not include 1080p slow motion. The most it offers is 60i. With the a7SIi, I can shoot 120 fps in full HD. One point of note however, is that when shooting in 1080 it crops the sensor. This will lose some resolution, but should be fine for most situations. For reference, the opening of our reel was shot with the a7SII.
- S-Log 2 and 3: There are several color profiles that are built into the Sony, but for projects that don't require same-day turn around, there is no replacing S-log 2 and 3. You can get much richer detail in highlights and shadows. For our latest series, The Elders Project, all video portraits were shot in S-Log3 and then color corrected by creating basic LUTs in photoshop (If that last sentence didn't make any sense to you, email me and I'll throw up a quick tutorial).
- Great walk-around camera: Lately I've found myself leaving my 5DmarkII at home when I go out. Instead, I'll bring the a7SII for several reasons. 1) The Sony is lighter and slimmer, which makes it easier to lug around all day (see picture below) 2) It's got a great WiFi function, which allows me to send images and videos straight to my phone. Pair that with Lightroom for mobile and I can kick out some high-quality images on the fly. 3) the low light abilities lets me bring it into environments I'd have simply given up on in the past. That all being said, I'm not in love with it for still images. With a mirrorless camera you get a slight delay on the trigger and because I'm using a Metabones adapter for my Canon glass, the autofocus isn't terribly responsive. I still use my Canon in situations where I need professional-grade pictures. If you're looking for a Sony primarily for stills, I'd look to the Sony R7II instead.
- Storage and Processing: the flip side to 4K shooting is what you do with the footage once its captured. The files can be enormous, which can cause a headache for archiving (especially when using sites like box.com that have a 5gb/file limit). The other issue is editing. Most video journalists I know use 15" Macbook Pros. Normally the base model is fine for everyday editing. But with 4K, it will clog up your machine. You'll either need to use proxy files, which means another step in your workflow or put up with choppy playback - even at a reduced rate.
- Canon glass: Sony just announced it's latest round of glass. However, if you're like me (or many people in the industry), you're probably switching over from Canon or Nikon, which means you've got incompatible lenses. You'll need to buy an adapter - We're using one from Metabones. First, it's another $400 minimum you'll have to spend. Second, it slows down autofocus to a point where I simply don't use it. Thankfully there are several focus assist functions that help.
- Battery life: Simply put, it's not great. If you're using it for video then expect about an hour per battery. But the batteries are light enough and small enough for you to carry several in your pocket if needed.
All that being said, I'd buy the camera again tomorrow. As we plan for the future, I'll be taking another long, close look at the FS7 and FS5.
Ok that's it for now. Feel free to leave a comment or question below. Otherwise, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.