A Week in Miami - My First Impressions of the Sony A7II
I received my Sony A7II just before Christmas and I’ve been itching to test it out. Two weeks ago, I left for vacation in Miami, traveling light with just the Sony and one lens (Sony Zeiss 35mm f/2.8). The was my first foray into the Sony system and I was considering, if it's as good as everyone claims, to make the switch altogether from Canon & Fujifilm. Here’s what I found.
I should probably start this review with a quick preface. I can nerd out about tech specs with the best of them, but at the end of the day, it’s not what makes a good photograph. Of course I want the best camera with the most updated technology (after all, the A7ii isn’t even a month old), but more importantly, I want a camera that inspires me to create good art. So while I will discuss some technical aspects, you’re probably better off reading Steve Huff’s review if you’re looking for something exhaustive. The main concern of this review was my first impression of the camera while traveling, shooting photos, and determining if I preferred it to other camera systems I’ve used.
First things first, I’ll say the A7II is the best feeling camera I’ve ever used. I love the grip and the metal alloy body, and personally I think the weight and size are perfect. It’s significantly smaller than my Canon 6D. Aesthetically, I think Sony killed it with the A7II. But there were also a couple things that required a little adjusting. I think there’s a certain bias in photographer circles towards a notion of a “pro” camera, and the Sony A7II showed me even I can be guilty of that at times (even though “pro” can be a vague definition...). When I first got it, the flip-out screen seemed a little cheesy. The ability to charge the battery via a cord into an outlet felt more like a cell-phone than a pro camera. No professional Canon would ever do that. Exactly! I began to love the flip-out screen (a new feature to me). It made shooting people way more discrete, and a couple awkward shooting angles far easier. And the charging cable was super convenient too. I left the outlet charger at home and could use the camera while it charged. These may seem like small features, but I realized they are indicative of a camera company that isn't afraid to add features that don't line up with an antiquated notion of a “pro camera.” (Though I can’t wait to see what Sony does with the A9).
As I started to take photos, I realized that even the previews I was seeing in camera looked more inspiring to me than the raw images I saw on my 6D, and the autofocus was nailing it pretty damn close to every time. I was on the beach and found myself in a swarm of seagulls, and the A7II had no problem keeping up with them divebombing around me. The manual focusing system on the camera was super easy with the 35mm too (focus peaking is another new feature for me). Even when I imported the images into Lightroom I found myself wanting more minimal edits on the images. They were laughably sharp and the colors from the camera/lens combo were unbeatable. (Unfortunately, there is still no filter that makes bad photographs any better...)
I definitely understand the complaint about the A7II battery life, but never found it to be a problem. In fact, I brought two additional batteries with me and never needed them, though I could see needing an extra for an entire day of shooting. Compared to Canon batteries though, they’re tiny and weigh practically nothing. And while I’ve heard the shutter is quieter than the original A7, I still found it to be prretty loud, making for a couple awkward moments shooting candids and street photos. Neither of these drawbacks was a deal breaker though, or even much of a concern at all.
Back to my original question though. Was it worth switching to the Sony system for me from the Canon or even Fujifilm systems? Honestly, without question. I’ve loved my Canon cameras (5DMII & 6D), but I echo those that are tired of Canon & Nikon’s seemingly unwillingness to evolve. I’m sure they will soon, possibly even this year, but Sony is already way ahead of the curve. They're constantly innovating, and that’s a company I can get behind. And something about the IQ from Canon cameras has always felt a little soft to me. I’ve yet to feel that way about the Sony, which produces way more keepers. And while I dig the Fujifilm X Series cameras, the plastic body of my X-E2 always felt like a toy to me, and was fairly uninspiring as an aesthetic tool (granted, the X-T1 feels much better).
So there it is. My experience with the Sony A7II has been phenomenal and the more I use it, the less nervous I get about not belonging to the old “pro” DSLR club. The A7II seems like it’s about as pro as it gets, whether traveling or in the studio, and I’m ready to make the switch.