First 4K full-frame camera – Hands on with Sony A7R II

First 4K full-frame camera – Hands on with Sony A7R II

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Today we got our hands on what is easily the most capable mirroless camera in the world: the recently announced Sony A7R II. This is the latest and greatest incarnation in Sony’s brilliant explorations into making a full-frame sensor camera without the usual SLR gubbins.

At its core is the world’s first full-frame, back-illuminated 35mm sensor. We’ve benefitted from back-illuminated sensors on samrtphones and compact cameras for years now, so it’s something of a surprise that they haven’t made it to the big leagues before. As with all back-illuminated designs the circuitry has been moved to the rear, allowing for better light capturing capabilities, with the maximum sensitivity soaring up a slightly ridiculous-sounding ISO102400.

The sensor design has also allowed Sony to beef up that circuitry, allowing it to increase the data rate from the sensor by 3.5x. That extra data means Sony has been able to include 4K shooting for the first time on a full-frame sensor camera. It does this by using a Super 35mm crop in order to capture data from 15 megapixels in a widescreen aspect ratio, which are then sampled down to 8 megapixels for the final 4K footage.

Sony A7R II video modes

If you’re shooting stills there’s a whopping 42.4 megapixels available, now that may not quite live up to the 50-megapixel Canon 5DS, but we doubt anyone will be complaining about detail levels. As with its predecessor, the A7 R, there’s no optical low pass filter, in order to keep things as sharp as possible.

The autofocus system is upgraded too, with a new faster Hybrid AF. This combines 399 contrast and 25 phase detection points, with a total coverage of 45% of the sensor, more than any full-frame sensor relying only on phase detection points. Sony claims the new system is 40% quicker than than on the A7R. It can also work with A-mount lenses using the LA-EA3 adaptor, rather than the EA4 adaptor that included its own focusing system.

The new system claims fast subject tracking around the frame, though we struggled to find anything moving quickly at our preview event. Plus whether you’re shooting stills or video, you get an upgraded five-axis stabilisation system to keep everything nice and steady – amounting to the equivalent of 4.5 stops. This felt brilliant in use, with the image holding rock-steady even in our hurried and twitchy grasp.

Sony A7R II top

Finally the new viewfinder maintains its 100% coverage but has a world-beating 0.78x magnification. Sony’s OLED viewfinders are consistently excellent and this larger example was just as impressive, rendering everything with great detail and minimal lag.

The camera feels superb in the hand, it’s easy to keep hold of, and all the controls have a really positive feel  and clear feedback. The mode dial has a new locking mechanism, with a release button in the centre, so there’s no chance of knocking it. Apart from that the layout is essentially unchanged.

Sony A7R II mode dial

Sony has made another superb camera here, though at [CORRECTED] £2,599 body-only from Wex Photographic it really should be something pretty special. And that’s only the start, aswe pointed out in our Sony A7 review, lenses for the company’s full-frame beasts are pretty steep too. We’ll bring you a full review as soon as we can prise a sample out of Sony.

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