Last year, the Sony a7S II arrived as a solid semi-professional interchangeable lens mirrorless camera that fell short only because it tried to pack in 4k recording too early. Whereas the previous model required an external recorder to take 4k video, the new model announced today features internal 4k recording, along with some great features found in other cameras in Sony’s alpha line.
The a7S II looks like the same camera as last year’s model, but refined. It has the same 35 mm full-frame 12.2 MP sensor and BIONZ X image processor. That image processor has been improved for use with the higher end of the ISO scale, which still tops out at a very impressive 409600. That means you can expect even clearer pictures taken in low-light conditions.
An upgrade to the auto-focus system gives you 169 AF points to play with. Focusing is twice as fast, and is better at detecting contrast and sampling accordingly. The XGA OLED Tru-Finder electronic viewfinder now provides 0.78x magnification, and, as an electronic viewfinder, will show you the effects of your white balance and exposure settings before you take the shot.
Internal 4k video recording is now possible because Sony put in an XAVC-S codec capable of recording the video to an SD card (at 100 Mbps). It does this with full pixel readout and no pixel binning, or combining pixels into one when possible. Instead, every bit of data taken in by the sensor will be recorded to your SD card, making for the clearest possible video in the end. In addition to internal 4k recording, the a7S II can now record 1080p video at 100 fps for slow-motion playback. Dynamic range and color correction has also been improved with the S-Gamut3.Cine/S-Log3 and S-Gamut3/S-Log3 settings.
One of the great premium features from Sony’s other alpha cameras is also coming to the a7S II — 5-axis image stabilization. Introduced in the a7 II, this corrects for hand movement while taking video, essentially doing the job of an entire stabilization rig — a godsend for professionals who would love to carry around less bulky, heavy equipment.
There have been a few physical tweaks, too. The grip and shutter button have been better designed for a comfortable grip, while the lens mount is said to be more sturdy for use with third-party lenses. You can also activate a silent-shooting mode, which works up to 5 fps for continuous shooting.
The a7S II still features NFC and Wi-Fi connectivity, but adds one new feature that we’d love to see on all cameras — you now have the option to recharge the battery over a USB connection. That’s great news for any pro user who has been stranded with a dead camera and no backup batteries. We’re not sure how fast the charging process is, but anything is better than nothing.
This looks like a solid camera and a huge upgrade over the a7S, if not technically then in usability. But, it’s still definitely for dedicated hobbyists and professionals — the a7S II will set you back $3,000 when it hits stores in October.