Two years ago Sony released the game-changing A7, unleashing the world’s first full-frame mirrorless camera into a market previously dominated by bigger, more expensive DSLRs. The A7 II isn’t a re-invention of the wheel, but it adds on several exciting new features, especially when it comes to shooting video.
When I was asked to review the A7 II, I hesitantly accepted. I’ve been getting a bit nervous when hearing of colleagues switching from the big players (Canon, Nikon) to brands such as Sony, Panasonic and Fujifilm. What if I test this camera and fall in love? How could I then continue to feel superior to all those who use smaller, more affordable, mirrorless cameras?
The A7 thrilled everyone with its E-mount lens system, allowing photo and film enthusiasts the freedom to use pretty much any lens that’s ever existed on their new digital camera. However, mixing old technology with new produces its fair share of frustrations, and with image-stabilised lenses being essential to hand-held video, your grandfather’s old Leica lenses suddenly weren’t that great.
This is where the A7 II comes into its own. With its new in-body image stabilisation, the A7 II opens up a whole new world of filming opportunities. Gone are the wobbles and shakes that made hand-held videographers avoid older manual lenses.
For the first test, I hit a popular dog beach, packed full of fast-moving objects. I began by following a few dogs, filming hand-held with the Sony FE 16-35mm lens, then changed to the FE 70-200mm, holding some tight shots from a distance. Whether moving, shaking, or zooming, the A7 II’s image stabilisation produced results just as impressive as what you’ll find in expensive IS lenses.
The following day, I headed out on a powerboat in order to really put it through its paces. Having spent months at sea photographing and filming, I know just how essential stabilisation is when pitching and rolling on the waves. I clicked on the Sony FE 16-35mm lens again, and hit full speed. The results were impressive, removing a lot of the short, sharp jerking that would normally accompany an unstabilised wide-angle lens being thrown around at sea. Pulling into dock, I thought about a few moments over the past few years when this little beast would have come in handy for me.
Using the new XAVC Codec, and with the ability to shoot at 60 fps at 1080p, the A7 II produces a smooth picture that’s as clear and crisp as popular DSLR cameras. Add to this the quicker autofocus—according to Sony, the A7 II is 30 per cent faster than its predecessor—and you’ve got a brilliant camera for motion picture.
A couple of days with the A7 II was a joy for me, and gave me an insight into the ever-growing market of smaller, powerful cameras. If I wasn’t so invested in my gear, you might just find me jumping ship.