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Cameras

Next-gen Sony A7S II now does 4K on the inside

Sony's full-frame Mark II hat trick concludes with an update to its low-light and video-optimized mirrorless model.

Bringing its line of full-frame interchangeable-lens mirrorless cameras up to six models, Sony launches the last of the Mark II updates: the A7S II. The upgrades to the video-focused A7S II mostly bring the design and features introduced with the A7R II , but they're pretty important -- some might say essential -- changes for this model's intended user. At its core, however, the A7S II retains the same large 12.2-megapixel, high-sensitivity sensor.

The A7S II is slated to ship in October for $3,000, about $500 more than the still-available original A7S ($2,500, £2,050, AU$3,300). There's no official UK pricing yet, only €3,400 (which is relatively high, since the US price translates to less than €2,700), nor does it seem to have made it's way to Australia. Direct conversion of the US price, though, is £1,945 (or £2,490 converted from the Euro value) and AU$4,245 (or AU$5,426).

What's new

  • New autofocus system. Sony finally updates its slow, old 25-area contrast autofocus with a new 169-point AF. In the new system, the center nine AF areas are composed of 16 subsegments. Hopefully, it will provide faster and more precise focusing than the previous system, though it doesn't sound like it provides more scene coverage. Moving to a superior hybrid phase-detection/contrast AF system poses a technical challenge; that would mean sacrificing some surface area on the sensor to the autofocus system, which would result in reduced light sensitivity -- a trade-off that's probably not worth it for this model.
  • Updated design. As far as I can tell, the A7S II has the exact same body as the A7R II. Notable changes from its predecessor include a locking mode dial, higher-magnification electronic viewfinder, more substantial grip and 500,000-cycle rated shutter.
  • Internal 4K recording and High Frame Rate video. As with the 4K recording introduced in the A7R II (as well as the RX100 IV and RX10 II ), it can now record 30fps UHD/QFHD (3,840 x 2,160 resolution) video to an SD card at 100 megabits per second, as long as its a UHS-3, Class 10-or-higher, and 64GB-or-more card. Sony also added the high-frame-rate shooting mode for slow-motion playback from the two RX models, though in the A7S II it's at a higher resolution: it can do 120fps at full 1080 HD. The new camera gets new PIcture Profiles for video, S-Gamut3.Cine/S-Log3 and S-Gamut3/S-Log3: the new S-Log3 curve is supposed to deliver better reproduction in the 0-18% gray range (making the most of the camera's claimed 14-stop latitude) for the new S-Gamut3 color gamut options.
  • Stabilization switcheroo. The A7S II marks another step in Sony's welcome march toward forgoing optical stabilization in favor of sensor-shift, which removes the burden of stabilization from lens manufacturers by allowing stabilization to work with any lens. This model incorporates the company's latest 5-axis system.

My take

For the most part these are all welcome updates. The switch to a new body means not all your existing accessories will work with the camera -- possibly some cages and rigs or grips. And the battery life actually gets worse; I hope that rating already factors in the extra drain of image stabilization, but that's not part of the CIPA-rating specification, so it could be even lower.

Comparative specs

Sony Alpha A7S Sony Alpha A7S II
Sensor effective resolution 12.2MP Exmor CMOS
14-bit
12.2MP Exmor CMOS
14-bit
Sensor size 35.8 x 23.9mm 35.8 x 23.9mm
Focal-length multiplier 1.0x 1.0x
OLPF Yes Yes
Sensitivity range ISO 50
(exp)/ISO 100 - ISO 102400/ ISO 409600 (exp)
ISO 50
(exp)/ISO 100 - ISO 102400/ ISO 409600 (exp)
Burst shooting 2.5fps
(5fps with fixed exposure and focus)
2.5fps
(5fps with fixed exposure and focus)
59 raw/100 JPEG
Viewfinder
(mag/ effective mag)
OLED EVF
0.5-inch
2.4 million dots
100% coverage
0.71x
OLED EVF
0.5-inch
2.4 million dots
100% coverage
0.78x
Hot Shoe Yes Yes
Autofocus 25-area contrast AF 169-point contrast AF
AF sensitivity
(at center point)
-4 - 20 EV -4 - 20 EV
Shutter speed 1/8,000 to 30 secs; bulb 1/8,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/250 sec x-sync
Shutter durability 500,000 cycles 500,000 cycles
Metering 1,200 zones 1,200 zones
Metering sensitivity -3 - 20 EV -3 - 20 EV
Best video XAVC S 4K UHD 2160/30p/25p via HDMI; XAVC S 1080/60p @ 50Mbps; 720/120p XAVC S 4K UHD 2160/30p, 25p, 24p @ 100Mbps; 1080/120p @ 100Mbps
Audio Stereo; mic input; headphone jack Stereo; mic input; headphone jack
Manual aperture and shutter in video Yes Yes
Maximum best-quality recording time 29:59 min 29:59 min
Clean HDMI out Yes Yes
IS Optical Sensor shift
5-axis
LCD 3 in/7.5cm
Tilting
921,600 dots
3 in/7.5cm
Tilting
921,600 dots plus extra set of white dots
Memory slots 1 x SDXC 1 x SDXC
Wireless connection Wi-Fi, NFC Wi-Fi, NFC
Flash No No
Wireless flash No Yes
Battery life (CIPA rating) 380 shots
(1,080 mAh)
310 shots (VF), 370 shots (LCD)
(1,080 mAh)
Size (WHD) 5.0 x 3.8 x 1.5 in
127 x 94 x 60 mm

4.7 x 2.7 x 1.9 in
127 x 96 x 48 mm

Body operating weight 17.2 oz
487.6 g
22.1 oz (est.)
627 g (est.)
Mfr. price (body only) $2,500
£2,050
AU$3,300
$3,000
Release date June 2014 October 2015

Where to Buy

Sony Alpha A7S II

Visit manufacturer site for details.

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