Up until now, I’ve owned Nikon crop-sensor cameras: the D5200 and then the D7100. I picked up the Sony Alpha A7II as a full-frame upgrade. At first, I found the camera gimmicky. I was so used to my Nikons that using the A7II felt odd and slow.

However, as I used the camera more and more, I started to fall in love with it. Image quality is great. Even jpegs straight from the camera look amazing. You can’t go wrong here in terms of image quality; the sensor is wonderful. *UPDATE: the kit lens is optically respectable, but the build quality is poor.

The body is plastic and the metal mounting plate is connected by four very small screws surrounded by plastic. I actually dropped the camera from about three feet onto the lens, and the mount shattered (the camera body was otherwise fine). I’ve since got the FE 1.8 55mm Zeiss lens, which is all-metal and definitely feels sturdier if not a little heavy.

I’ve dropped my D5200 from greater heights with greater force on concrete (bouncing quite a bit), and neither the camera or my 35mm prime Nikkor suffered any damage* The auto-focus is somewhat inaccurate and inconsistent in low light (even at levels my D7100 wouldn’t have any trouble.

However, I found that I could easily compensate with the zoom-assisted manual focus on the A7II, whereas in on the D7100, I would not be able to adjust focus manually due to my eyesight. That said, the A7II’s auto-focus is respectably quick, both on the kit lens and the FE 1.8 55mm Zeiss.

The live-view screen is gorgeous, and the electronic viewfinder is crisp and fast. I hardly noticed any lag at all using the viewfinder. The live-view screen does not have touch controls, but that’s not a problem since there are so many customizable buttons that are fairly easy to get to. I found switching settings (as far as drive mode, ISO, aperture, and shutter speed) fairly easy once as I got used to the default button layout.

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Sony Alpha A7 II reviews
Sony Alpha A7 II reviews

I would still say that it’s easier to change settings on the fly with my D7100 thanks to fewer button presses, but once you get used to it, the A7II can change settings easily and quickly. As for continuous shooting, the A7II has a deep buffer, so I can maintain 5fps for much, much longer than my D7100. However, it takes a long time for the buffer to empty into my SD card before I can take another shot.

Long exposure shots are equally as bad because the A7II processes the image for a long time before dumping the RAW onto my card (I am using a class-10 Sony SD card that touts 94MB/s write speeds). In this regard, my D7100 can get more shots in the same amount of time.

Otherwise, interval from one shot to the next is respectable. Menu navigation is straightforward, but there are so many options it’s hard to keep track of certain things from the get-go. I’m sure as I become more familiar with the camera, it’ll be easier to change settings. And as other reviewers have pointed out, the camera is very customizable, so that’s great. I tried out video recording briefly, and even though I couldn’t use XAVCS (I didn’t have an SD card that could support it, yet–you need a 64GB card), I was actually blown away at how good the video and audio quality is. The on-camera microphone is very good.

Definitely outclasses my D7100, so that was a pleasant surprise. The ability to connect my camera to my phone and send images is a neat novelty. As I post my photos regularly on instagram and facebook, it’s nice to get images published instantaneously–so long as they don’t need major post-processing. I like this feature. Battery life is… miserable. Thankfully, I got two extra third-party batteries that work pretty well, but going from 900+ shots on my D7100 down to 300 on the A7II is a real bummer.

Still, I can take a decent amount of shots for my purposes on a single battery. One of my niggles is the noise this camera makes. It might be more excusable if the shutter snap actually sounded nice, but it’s a subdued, whiny whir. Even with the electronic first curtain, it’s fairly loud. As well, I cannot find an option (stock firmware) to turn off the beep when the image is in focus. Since I shoot a lot at church, it is high on my list of wishes for Sony to include a silent mode (or even a way to make the beep softer).

The A7II also feels decently hefty… perhaps a little dense. In my hand, the A7II with the kit lens feels about as heavy as my D7100 with a 35mm f1.8 prime. The A7II is not difficult to hold, and the ergonomics are different, but I feel the denseness could have been spread out a little more. Definitely front-heavy because of the lens. The boxiness of the design and weight does get some getting used to in order to press multiple buttons simultaneously.

Other than that, it feels nice to carry around and shoot. If my review sounds a bit negative, it is only because I am being picky. Honestly, after getting to use this camera for just about a week, I found that I won’t even go near my D7100. The A7II produces beautiful images and the camera is a joy to shoot with. There are only a few things I am truly bummed about: the slow write speed to the SD card, the loud shutter, and poor battery life.

Otherwise, this is a solid piece of hardware (apart from the kit lens) loaded with features that is easy to shoot and takes gorgeous pictures. If mirrorless is the future of photography, the A7 series is the vanguard.

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