So the A7s is gone and I thought it was time to try out the opposite end of the spectrum. From 12MP to 50MP!. The A7rii promises a lot and for me the main interest was the new focusing system which is meant to let the camera work with Canon lenses (significantly better). Obviously as this was my main concern I tested this first. Now it seems to me if you use the good lenses (24-70 f2.8 etc) then the focusing actually works very well. It's still slower than the Canon but it is actually useable. My first shoot with the A7rii was a shoot of a La Ferrari and the main thing I took away from that was the detail advantage with shooting with this sensor. Normally when I zoom into a photo to adjust some stuff there is only a certain amount I can zoom in before it goes all blocky and black and white, with the files from the A7rii I can zoom in so much further before everything gets pixelated and I have never needed to zoom in more that you can see.
Usability - Now I don't really care about all the fancy pants features of a camera if it can't get the job done. After a bit of an adjustment period and some googling required to do things I can no problem with the Canon. One of these is when shooting with flash I quite often put the camera in manual and plug in settings that would render the photo black without the additional light. Now because the Sony gives you a preview of what you would see rather than what you actually see this means I could not do this photography and had to grab my Canon until a bit of googling showed that you can disable "Live view display setting effect" and voila.
My first main test of the camera was the Supercars Club Arabia rally "Omanya". A week of non stop run and gun photography where capturing the moment really counts. Rather than take three cameras I ditched the 7D and just took the Sony and my trusty 5DMkiii. When taking photos with lots of sand and dust around it is good practice to not be changing lenses frequently, thus limiting the opportunity for dirt to get in your camera. Using 2 cameras gives you multiple lens options and a wider variety of shots.
Funky features - The Sony has a few features right out of the bat that I really wish were in the Canon:
An adjustable screen means you can hold the camera up super high or super low without having to guess the framing or lie on the floor, couple this with the very fast app that lets you control the camera from your phone and it makes these kind of shots much much easier. Now can someone please tell me why these features are in the cheapest consumer model cameras Canon makes but not in the "Pro" models. It's as if they think less features is better... MORE IS MORE. Being able to ping photos from your SLR straight to your phone to upload to social media avoids the stupid situations where you have to double shoot with your phone just to upload something. There is a downside to the screen though and that is that it's actually not that adjustable. You really can't rotate it that much and that seems like a missed trick to me.
5-Axis Stabilisation - Now this feature is pretty cool, you can now use lenses that are not natively stabilised and shoot at much lower shutter speeds, couple this feature with fast primes and your ability to shoot in low light really gets increased letting you get shots you otherwise wouldn't have been able to. With 5-axis turned on (I leave it on) I have managed to hand hold shots with a 50mm f1.4 down to 1/10th and some down to 1/3rd. Now with 5-axis off I can probably only shoot down to 1/20th so that's a stop and a half more light which ain't bad.
1 - Massive files give you lots of detail but you then have to deal with these files when editing etc. An uncompressed 5D file is 125MB in photoshop..open up one of these bad boys and it's 250MB..that's per layer, if you stack multiple shots up you very very easily create massive files that take ages to save and process. I don't think the A7rii can actually deal with these file sizes very well either. If you take a picture you can't immediately hit play and review the file..there is a bit of a delay whilst it processes. Now this doesn't seem like it should really be a problem but it feels like you are going back to dialup from fibre optic broadband when you want to quickly check a photo and there is a delay. Now if you shoot a burst of photos this problem gets exasperated greatly. You can't shoot many photos before the buffer gets full and your camera is out of action till it's finished. This particular fault got in my way a lot on the trip. If you pre-empt the shot and fire a bit early you may fill the buffer before the car has actually got to where you want. I tried to predominantly shoot with the canon when on the road if I could help it because of this issue and the better focusing. For static shots it was A7rii every time.
2. Battery Life - It sucks, you can smash through a bunch of batteries before the Canon would even think about running out. This is and isn't a problem. The batteries are super cheap and pretty small so it isn't an issue at all carrying spares. Couple this with the ability to charge via usb in your camera and I can suddenly charge batteries in the car on the road. If you are really desperate you can now plug in a portable battery pack via usb (any rechargeable usb jobby will do) and run the camera powered from that (super helpful for long time lapses where changing batteries isn't really an option)
Sony are seriously breaking ground in the small amount of time they have been making these cameras. Features such as silent shooting are amazing for shooting when the sound of the camera can interrupt the scene (speeches, weddings, small group situations etc). I feel that probably in 6 months time sony will introduce another significant update and that might then be the perfect camera. I did not try shooting in 17MP mode with this camera but that could be an option when you need to take more photos faster. I hope Canon make a big leap with their replacement to the 5Dmkiii because if they keep missing out helpful features and only doing incremental updates they really could lose a lot of customers.