Review of SONY α7Rii

[THE SONY α7Rii]

So not too long ago, we reviewed the Sony α7ii and were largely delighted with the camera. This time round, we once again have the pleasure of testing the Sony α7Rii (henceforth written as a7Rii for greater ease). The stakes are higher though: magic tricks only work once, what was impressive before will naturally be less so now; the camera has much higher expectations to meet thanks largely in part to its older sibling a7ii. In short, this review won’t be nearly as forgiving towards the a7Rii as we were for the a7ii.
The Sony α7Rii
(shot with 5D3 | 1/100; f/8.0; ISO100)

There’s no shortage of reviews for the a7Rii out there. A quick Google search for “Sony a7Rii” will yield you about 723,000 results in as little as 0.4 seconds (only a mere 100 milliseconds longer than it takes for you to blink). These results cover a whole wide array of topics from specifications to technical reviews and even comparisons between similar cameras; but after scouring through a dozen articles, I’ve come to realize that a lot of these reviews are cold hard facts without much of a user touch. It’s for this very reason that I’ve decided to take a slightly more personable approach to the whole review! Those who want cold hard facts fast, you probably wouldn’t want to run through this; but for those who love a little storytelling with interweaved facts, I hope you’ll enjoy my take on the Sony a7Rii!

A little background before we move into point. I brought the a7Rii on a 16-day trip to Taiwan (alongside my Canon 5DIII) for review and that “extensive field testing” is what I’ll be basing the bulk of this article on.


No two reviews are created equal for the very simple reason that the equipment used in each review is almost always different. In order to allow you a fair gauge of applicable parts within the review, I’ve listed my equipment used on the trip as a reference.

The Sony α7Rii Front – note how there’s no indication of Mk 1 or Mk 2 up front
(shot with 5D3 | 1/800; f/2.8; ISO400)

·         Sony α7R Mark II
·         Sony FE 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS
·         Canon 5D Mark III
·         Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM
·         Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II

I listed the Canon equipment so you’ve an idea of what I’m comparing the a7Rii against throughout.

The Sony α7Rii Back – this is where Mk 2 is indicated
(shot with 5D3 | 1/400; f/2.8; ISO400)

A short little preamble before we proceed any further. In sticking with the article’s main point of reviewing the Sony α7Rii, most shots that appear are taken with the α7Rii (except shots of the camera itself). These shots are picked not for technical finesse or artistic quality, but rather to illustrate specific points or to stay in tune with the “storyline”, so please bear with those shots that may not look as aesthetically pleasing. Some shots have no bearing to the “storyline” and some parts of the story have no relevance to the capabilities of the camera; these are inserted so as to give you more sample images from the α7Rii and thus have a better gauge of its capabilities.

because there is a beginning to everything

>> 06 DECEMBER 2015
>> 1850 HOURS

D-minus-two days to my Taiwan trip and I’m walking (squeezing to be exact) through the Christmas Wonderland fair with the a7Rii in an attempt to familiarize myself with the controls, functions and capabilities of it.

            ME: *pushes*
STRANGER #1: *glares*
ME: “Ugh, excuse me!”
ME: *shoves*
STRANGER #2: *throws a withering stare*
ME: “Sorry!”
ME: *wrap hands protectively around a7Rii*

Fortunately for me, the a7Rii at 12.7cm on its longest side is so compact (WxHxD 126.9 x 95.7 x 60.3 mm) that I need not worry about the very expensive camera being knocked out of my hands by some rogue assassin running loose through the crowds. Holding it by the grip and pressing the base against my stomach while shielding the top with my other hand was more than sufficient to keep any Foreign Object Debris (FOD) from smashing into what would be my camera for the next 18 days.

Compact size of the Sony α7Rii, hand in shot for comparison
(shot with 5D3 | 1/640; f/2.8; ISO125)

At last though, we made it to a suitable distance from the central lighting piece where the crowd was less densely packed and I managed to capture a shot of the largest Luminarie, Spalliera. As I was reviewing my shot, my friends peeked over my shoulder.

FRIEND: “What ISO are you at?”
ME: “Ummm, 6400.”
FRIEND: “Seriously?! Woah, the Alpha 7’s noise performance looks really good!”
ME: (sarcastically) “Noise? What’s noise? Noise doesn’t exist in my dictionary.”
FRIEND: *rolls eyes* “Fine. Be like that.”

Okay, I kid. There’s obviously visible noise at ISO6400, but the a7Rii’s noise algorithm has it going so good that you can peg the image under the negligible noise category.

(shot with a7Rii | 1/2000; f/3.5; ISO6400)

As night slowly fell and we walked on through the yuletide fair, I experimented with various features of the camera including its 4K video mode. When all of a sudden…

ME: *places the a7Rii against my friend’s arm*
FRIEND: “Woah, it’s hot!”
ME: “Yeah, I know right. Feels like it’s running a fever.”

Yes, there we have it. The first flaw of the Sony a7Rii. Overheating. In. Prolonged. 4K. Recording. Mode. And when I say prolonged, I mean a matter of minutes. Really, I had all but turned on video recording to shoot a scene of the choir belting out a Christmas carol and by the end of just one song, the camera was overheating. Not good man, not good. But there was nothing to be done and I powered down the camera, giving it a good 20-minute rest before I dared switch it on again.

>> 06 DECEMBER 2015
>> 2109 HOURS

Time to wrap up the day’s shoot and start heading home. But as always, before dispersing…

FRIEND #1: “Hey, shall we take a group shot before we head home?”
FRIEND #2: “Yeah, isn’t it standard practice!”
ME: “Sureee, let’s try out the alpha 7R.”
ME: *fumbles with the power switch*
ME: “Shucks. I can’t get it to turn on. The battery’s dead.”
FRIEND #2: “What? After just 2 hours?!”
ME: “Yeahh, sucks.”
ME: *sad face*
FRIEND #1: “Oh well, I guess it’s the 5D3 then.”

And so we discovered the second prominent flaw of the a7Rii, horrendous battery life. Maybe others can live with short battery life and have the luxury of having sufficient spares on them, but bad battery life is a huge no-no for me (more on that later).

exploring unchartered territory, the stage of hooking up is always awkward, unfamiliar as you seek to understand each other

>> 08 DECEMBER 2015
>> 0802 HOURS

I was walking on the tarmac of HKIA, heading towards my transit flight bound for Taipei. Armed with the a7Rii in my right hand, I decided to take the rare opportunity to capture a shot of the not-so-big metal bird waiting for us (I mean, how often do you get to be out on the tarmac at huge international airports like Hong Kong).

Raising the camera up above the stream of people heading towards the plane, I had all but half-pressed the shutter when the Dragonair crew sought to block my shot with her hand.

ME: *raising the camera up*
DRAGONAIR CREW: *raises hand in front of my lens to block the shot*
ME: *finger already halfway pressing the shutter*
DRAGONAIR CREW: “Sorry sir, you can’t take pictures here”
ME: “Oh is it? I’m sorry.”
ME: (almost at the same time) *finger completes the press almost subconsciously*
ME: *lowers camera almost instantaneously*
DRAGONAIR CREW: (smiling) “Thank you.”

Dragonair plane on tarmac at HKIA *Lower part of image blurred extensively to protect crew identity*
(shot with a7Rii | 1/8000; f/5.6; ISO6400)

I wager she wouldn’t have been nearly as polite had she known in the split second it took for her to attempt the block, the a7Rii had already achieved focus, metered the scene and taken the shot. (probably would’ve demanded I delete the shot on the spot in front of her) Yes, that’s how quick it is. Sony boats of a Fast Hybrid AF system in their a7Rii that they claim doesn’t disappoint. With 399 AF points covering 45% of the image, you won’t be wanting for faster AF performance.

>> 09 DECEMBER 2015
>> 1450 HOURS

Dark clouds. Gloomy skies. Still windmills. Meh. Makes for bad shots. From the corner of my eye, I see some rapid movement high up in the sky. I pivot, raising the a7Rii to my eyes while rotating the lens to 70mm. I half press, and I shoot.

Flock of birds at Gaomei Wetlands
(shot with a7Rii | 1/1600; f/5.6; ISO640)

Ohh, a flock of birds. But they’re so far! Even at 70mm, they’re but just a tiny speck in the sky. And here’s where the full power of all the a7Rii’s megapixels come in handy!

FRIEND: “You were shooting those birds?”
ME: “Yeah”
FRIEND: “They’re so far away, don’t you need like a telescope or something?”
ME: “Telescope? Who needs a telescope when you’ve 42.4 megapixels!”

I zoomed in on the image above and was rather delighted to find sufficient details to still make the shot usable. Yeah sure, it’s not super sharp unlike if you had a 400mm lens; but let’s face the reality, how many actually go for travels with a 400mm lens packed in their bag?

Flock of birds at Gaomei Wetlands *the cropped version of the above shot*
(shot with a7Rii | 1/1600; f/5.6; ISO640)

Take a good look at the shot above, with some editing, sharpening and then zoom it out a little, I’m sure it could pass off as a reasonably usable shot.

the sweet dating phase when you’re almost always happy with each other, exploring each other’s strengths while seemingly blind to weaknesses

>> 10 DECEMBER 2015
>> 2308 HOURS

Lounging on the sofa out on the balcony of our splendid villa and attempting some star trial shots with my 5D3, I had a sudden impulse to try out some astrophotography with the a7Rii. Night skies and stars are arguably one of the most challenging scenes for cameras to capture, for such shots have high demands on cameras to possess great low light long exposure noise performance while being able to hold its dynamic range in these situations.
The a7Rii lounging out on the same balcony earlier in the day
(shot with 5D3 | 1/500; f/2.8; ISO100)

And so I mounted the a7Rii onto my tripod and commenced taking some long exposure shots. It’ll be useful for you to know in reviewing the shot below that I had all forms of in camera Noise Reduction turned off (because that’s my standard pratice on my own camera as well).

Starry Mountains at Cingjing Farm
(shot with a7Rii | 13.0; f/3.5; ISO3200)

The dynamic range of the a7Rii is stunning. It completely blows my 5D3’s dynamic range out of the water. In the shot above, the mountains in the foreground were almost completely pitch black, but the a7Rii managed to bring out the shadows without overexposing details in the sky.

But sadly to say, perhaps that’s as far as my satisfaction with the a7Rii’s astrophotography performance goes. The level of noise in the shot is a little fringing on unacceptable. For a camera that markets as having a maximum sensitivity of ISO102400, there really shouldn’t be so much noise for a sub 30 seconds ISO3200 shot. Granted, yes, I turned off the Long Exposure Noise Reduction, but to me that doesn’t begin to justify the extent of “damage” here. Moreover, low light performance isn’t just about dynamic range and noise, it’s about how the image looks; and the image above looks downright bland. The a7Rii loses contrast significantly when it comes to low light, resulting in a rather washed out image as is evidenced from above.

Some of the issues above have been attributed to the a7Rii’s hot pixel problem when shooting long exposures as well as Sony’s unique brand of lossy RAW files which brings about artifacts in high ISO shots that have high contrast scenes. But of course, Sony has recently fixed this issue by finally bringing about 14-bit lossless RAW in a firmware update for its a7Rii. Sadly, my review unit didn’t come with firmware 2.00 and I was stuck with lossy RAW files which potentially probably accounts for a good deal of noise in the shot above.

>> 11 DECEMBER 2015
>> 0645 HOURS

But dawn is upon us now, the sun is rising and the reign of the a7Rii shall continue once more! For now, let’s just leave the dark parts where they belong: in the dark; for there is a spectacle that is the Hehuanshan sunrise to behold!

Hehuanshan Sunrise
(shot with a7Rii | 1/2500; f/8.0; ISO800)

Give me a minute to rant about the Hehuanshan sunrise first. When they say this is one of the top destinations to catch the sunrise in Taiwan, they sure weren’t kidding. Admittedly, we aren’t at the ideal spot on the mountain, but I can imagine the scene were we further east, closer to that huge sea of clouds you see in the distance! It’s too late for regrets though and for now let’s just relish in the a7Rii’s performance.

Apart from shooting stars, shooting sunrises and sunsets are another category that demand a lot of a camera’s dynamic range. More often than not, on cameras with insufficient range, you tend to see a complete loss of detail in the shadows or blown out highlights. That is evidently not the case with the a7Rii. Look at how there is detail, colour in the backlit mountains without any blown highlights (well the sun doesn’t count ‘coz if you look at it with your naked eyes that’s what you would see too). The human eye is rated for about 14 stops of dynamic range; tests have put the Sony a7Rii’s dynamic range at about 12 stops. So we’re really close to the point where cameras can reproduce human vision as it were!
You know what they say, “A picture’s worth a thousand words”; so imma be quiet for awhile and let the pictures do the talking.

Hehuanshan Mountain Range
(shot with a7Rii | 1/3200; f/8.0; ISO800)

Hehuanshan Mountain Range
(shot with a7Rii | 1/2500; f/8.0; ISO800)

Hehuanshan Mountain Range
(shot with a7Rii | 1/1250; f/8.0; ISO800)

And so, as quickly as the a7Rii’s place in my heart was tarnished over the course of one night by shooting stars, it was just as quickly restored in the course of one morning’s worth of sunrise. But whether this place climbs higher, maintains level or slides down the bottomless abyss remains to be seen.

because there are arguments and disagreements in all relationships as you realize the extent of each other’s flaws; and at some point in time, both parties might walk away from each other

>> 11 DECEMBER 2015
>> 1659 HOURS

Ah, and we’re back at night again, when the Sony a7Rii is arguably both at its strongest and weakest. Strongest because of ability to impress through sheer dynamic range. Weakest because despite what the camera is touted to be, noise control and low light performance sometimes fails to meet the very high expectations we all have of it.

Despite last night’s meagre performance at astrophotography by the a7Rii, I decided to give it another try at night shots. This time shooting a city skyline. And so, where better to view the city skyline than the tallest building in Kaohsiung City?

ME: “Where on earth is that godforsaken entrance to the damned observation deck?”
FRIEND: “No idea man, let’s try that direction”
US: *heads towards a random entrance*
BELLBOY: “Evening Sir, we’ve available rooms for tonight”
ME: “This is the hotel dammit, wrong entrance!”
US: *turns around and heads in another direction*
ME: (evidently frustrated) “Gah, we’re going to miss the sunset at this rate”

No, but seriously, don’t get me wrong. The Tuntex Sky Tower’s observation deck is great and all, but the entrance is just too hard to find. There’s a lack of clear signs to point you towards the entrance. And when you finally reach the entrance, the ticketing counter opens right into a back alley that is the loading and unloading point for the tower. It’s so obscure that I almost thought it was a counter dealing in shady business activities.

>> 11 DECEMBER 2015
>> 1737 HOURS

But all that aside, after about 20 minutes of rushing around the base of the tower hunting for the entrance, we finally zipped up to the 75th floor in a high speed elevator, just in time for the sunset. I quickly found the side of the observatory facing West just so I could get a few quick shots of that elusive sunset (thanks to relatively heavy cloud cover).
View of Kaohsiung City from the Tuntex Sky Tower
(shot with a7Rii | 0.5; f/8.0; ISO800)

>> 11 DECEMBER 2015
>> 1743 HOURS

I waited a little longer for the city lights to come on and come on they did as the scene before me lit up in a stretch of brilliance. Using the window ledge as a makeshift tripod (for I made the mistake of not bringing mine up to the tower), I whipped out the a7Rii and tried to see if it could redeem itself.

The a7Rii sitting on the window ledge at the Tuntex Sky Tower’s Observation Deck
(shot with 5D3 | 1/125; f/2.8; ISO6400)

View of Kaohsiung City from the Tuntex Sky Tower
(shot with a7Rii | 1/4; f/8.0; ISO3200)

So, on first look, the shot looks alright? Or does it. Good colour reproduction, great dynamic range. But look closer and you’ll start to see the noise. Let me furnish a 100% crop as a reference.

View of Kaohsiung City from the Tuntex Sky Tower *the 100% crop version of the above shot*
(shot with a7Rii | 1/4; f/8.0; ISO3200)

So, is the noise manageable? Honestly speaking, thanks to the sheer resolution of the file, yes. Photos from the a7Rii measure 7952x5304 pixels, scale it down to a nice 2048x1536 pixels (which is a great resolution for general sharing and online publishing) and really, the level of noise goes down by quite a good deal thanks to pixel averaging. You won’t be sending the file for printing definitely but then again, if you had the intention of printing the shot in the first place, you probably would be doing a long exposure at lower sensitivities like ISO400 rather than having ISO3200 which is what people on travels without too much time do. But having said that, yes, the noise is manageable; but, do you expect this level of noise coming from the a7Rii? Honestly, no. I would expect a lot less noticeable noise.

>> 12 DECEMBER 2015
>> 1003 HOURS

Rise and shine; a brand new day awaits us and it certainly is high time to try some brand new things. I decided to give the a7Rii’s built in Sweep Panorama mode a go. It’s rare to find an in-camera stitching feature on pro cameras so I’m reasonably surprised that there isn’t much hype online about it. I quickly found out why though.

The Sweep Panorama mode on the a7Rii
(shot with 5D3 | 1/500; f/2.8; ISO100)

Let’s momentarily forgo the point that the Panorama mode on the a7Rii is so non-intuitive that even when it was staring me right in the face from the top mode dial, it still eluded me somehow. Having found the mode, I complied with on screen instructions by depressing the shutter button and pivoting rightward (this is another lament I have, what if I wanted to sweep leftwards instead of rightwards for reasons I’m unsure of but I’m sure the opportunity will arise; do I then turn the camera upside down?)

SONY α7RII : (shutter sounds)  “TSCH! TSCH! TSCH! TSCH! TSCH!”

“Woah” I thought while sweeping. The a7Rii executes its panorama mode by spamming a series of continuous burst shots over the course of your movement. And since that’s the case, imagine how disappointed I was to learn that the Sweep Panorama didn’t save any of the individual shots, not even as a simple JPEG file, much less in RAW. Your result from using the Sweep Panorama is simply a one stitched JPEG.
“Why are we waiting…”
(shot with 5D3 | 1/100; f/2.8; ISO1600)

And there we have it, the camera has finished its stitching.

Panorama of the Sizhiwan Bay
(shot with a7Rii | 1/200; f/9.0; ISO100)

Looks generally good, Sony has done a good job with the distortion control by correcting the standard centre bulge associated with panoramas, stitching looks good too, no visible seamlines nor mismatching features, so what then is the problem with the Sweep Panorama?

My answer to that is: the amount of detail available in the panorama. For reasons known only to Sony, all their stitched panoramas are a standard resolution of 8192x1856 pixels. In this day and age, what with the 5DS/D810/a7Rii megapixel war and all, I think 1856 pixels on the shortest side doesn’t cut it. By shooting individual shots on my 5D3 (which by the way only has 22.3 megapixels) and subsequently stitching the images in Photoshop, I regularly achieve panoramas of at least 3000 pixels on the short side. With very careful alignment and precise pivoting movements, I’ve even achieved panoramas in excess of 3800 pixels on the short side (short edge of a 5D3’s individual shot is 3840 pixels). For a camera with over 40 megapixels and individual images of 5304 pixels on the short side, I would expect panoramas from them to be at least 3000 pixels on the short side if not in the upper reaches of the 4000 pixels region, be it in-camera panorama stitching or not. Even if it were not possible due to some limitations of the algorithm or in camera processor, the least Sony could do would be to retain the original RAW files from the sweep so that the user can choose to reprocess it at a higher resolution in Photoshop subsequently instead of having to do the sweep a second time.

>> 12 DECEMBER 2015
>> 1700 HOURS

ME : (sprinting) “Faster! We’re gonna miss the sunset!”
FRIEND: (speeding up) “Why’re we always on the verge of missing sunsets?“

Chasing yet another sunset, seems like we’re making a habit out of this.

>>12 DECEMBER 2015
>>1710 HOURS

FRIEND: (panting) “Whew, just in time again!”

And so yes, we made it just in the nick of time again! And this is when I discover the joys of having 70mm worth of focal length.

Sizhiwan Sunset
(shot with a7Rii | 1/60; f/8.0; ISO100)

I mean, the Sun’s so far away that even at 70mm, I only managed to get it as a speck on the horizon. If you look at the image below which I shot at 35mm on my 5D3, you’ll see how far away and how small the Sun is. Yeah sure, the 2 photos have a different feel, but if you’re shooting sunset, my personal opinion is to have the Sun occupy a larger area in the image!

Sizhiwan Sunset
(shot with 5D3 | 1/400; f/9.0; ISO1600)

So apart from the slightly annoying Panorama issue, today’s been a relatively quiet day for our dear a7Rii, hasn’t really done anything horrible or outstanding to change its standing with me. But a big decision awaits the a7Rii tomorrow!

>> 13 DECEMBER 2015
>> 0933 HOURS

So today we head up to Alishan and I’m well aware of the decision that must be made by today. On 14th December, tomorrow, we’ll be heading out to climb Jade Mountain and I must decide if I want the a7Rii as my additional camera on this ascent to the peak, for any additional weight makes a big difference on the mountain and any additional piece of equipment to be used is an additional difference.

Chiayi High Speed Rail Station
(shot with a7Rii | 1/4000; f/4.0; ISO400)

But the day is young and we’ve already completed our first leg of the journey from Kaohsiung to Chiayi. Plenty of time to consider such heavy matters later in the day, for now it’s time to prepare for the next leg of the journey, a stomach-churning 2-hour bus ride up to Alishan!

>> 13 DECEMBER 2015
>> 1702 HOURS

The day has flown by and before long we’re basking in the glow of sunset as I seriously contemplate the matter at hand on making the final decision regarding the a7Rii’s fate for the next few days.

So over the course of the day, I’ve gone over various factors for and against myself bringing the a7Rii up for my bid to conquer Jade Mountain’s peak. I’ll put them out for discussion here so peeps looking for a little adventure like me can go through these considerations and make their own decisions as well! You might wish to keep in mind that I evaluated these factors not based on either the 5D3 or a7Rii, but rather on the fact that I would definitely be brining my 5D3 and whether I would like to bring the a7Rii as a secondary camera.

Sunset glow on Alishan
(shot with a7Rii | 1/50; f/8.0; ISO800)

Focal Length (+) Okay admittedly, this isn’t exactly something that’s a plus point as a result of the difference between the 5D3 and a7Rii as cameras but more of the set up that I have. I love shooting on Ultra-Wide Angle (UWA) lenses and that is why my primary lens is a 16-35, but at the same time, I also enjoy having some extra range in the form of the 28-70 that Sony provided for me to use with the a7Rii. Naturally, this is not for or against either camera manufacturer, it’s just the circumstances of the setup which led to this situation.

Compactness of the Sony α7Rii
(shot with 5D3 | 1/2000; f/2.8; ISO1000)

Compactness (+) The way I shoot while trekking is by using this awesome thingum called the Capture Pro by Peak Design. (it’s an awesome device that secures to your backpack strap or your belt; you can then clip your camera directly onto it, thus keep your camera handy while on the move and at the same time freeing both your hands from holding on to it. I use this instead of hanging it around my neck for the simple reason that it’s dangerous to have loose straps hanging around while trekking, and the dangling camera unexpectedly shifting the centre of balance could prove to be treacherous as well). But all in all, the compactness of the a7Rii means that the size of the object protruding from my backpack strap would be significantly smaller which equates to greater manoeuvrability on the trail.

Viewfinder (+/-) I’ve mixed feelings about the viewfinder. Sony has come a long way in designing Electronic Viewfinders (EVFs). The EVF found in the a7Rii is exceedingly good, but it’s still not to my taste. But frankly, the a7Rii’s XGA OLED Tru-Finder is truly amazing. Because it’s an EVF, it immediately shows you how your settings will affect how your images turn out and that saves the time you spend retaking a shot should your own estimations/the camera’s metering be off. Also, at night when you’re shooting in the pitch blackness, the EVF goes on long way in helping you compose your shot better since it attempts to brighten the scene but with a conventional optical viewfinder what you see with your naked eyes is what you get. That being said, the one thing I dislike about the viewfinder is its slight lag in low light conditions as well as when you focus. Not a major issue but it makes the difference if you ever need to shoot/track something fast.

Top view of the Sony α7Rii
(shot with 5D3 | 1/320; f/2.8; ISO3200)

Back view of the Sony α7Rii
(shot with 5D3 | 1/160; f/2.8; ISO400)

Controls (-) I don’t like the control layout of the a7Rii. Perhaps it’s after years of being on the Canon system. But I like having a vertical dial on top of the camera for adjusting shutter speed, I like having the scroll wheel on the back of the camera to adjust aperture and I like how the button to trigger the adjustment of ISO at the top has a little dot on it so I can easily find it without looking up from the viewfinder. The a7Rii doesn’t offer such conveniences. The top panel of the camera has no dial, instead, Sony has placed one dial at the front and one dial at the back for adjusting shutter speed and aperture respectively. I’m fine with the dial up front but to me, the dial at the back is a little awkwardly placed, a little hard to access while shooting. The scroll wheel at the back which by default controls ISO also feels a little loose, too smooth too little resistance, and so there’s sacrifice of precision control for minute adjustments.

Settings screen of the Sony α7Rii
(shot with 5D3 | 1/250; f/2.8; ISO1600)

Settings Screen (+) I love the settings screen on the a7Rii. More so then the settings screen on my 5D3. It’s so much more dynamic! I like how at one glance you can easily tell almost all the information you would ever need to know. The shutter speed, aperture, exposure compensation, ISO, shooting mode, drive, are all clearly displayed. And, I love having the electronic level balance (it’s right there on the left of the ISO box) on screen as well. To me the histogram (right there at the bottom) is a little unnecessary but a nice bonus to have. Anyways, the great design of the setting screen makes it a lot easier to get your shooting information at a glance at the same instance as when you raise the camera up to your eye, improving shooting efficiency.

The Sony α7Rii
(shot with 5D3 | 1/800; f/2.8; ISO100)

Ruggedness (-) I know I said in my review of the a7ii that it was a pretty rugged camera capable of taking a few knocks and scratches. Since the a7Rii is of a similar build, shouldn’t this be a plus point? Yes, what I said back in that review still stands true, but you need to understand the context for which that was said. For everyday general use, yeah sure, the camera’s quite rugged; but we’re contemplating trekking up a mountain here. This adventure involves clambering over rocks, possibly falling on or brushing the camera against extremely sharp and hard rock edges. In this context, the Sony a7Rii falls short of traditional DSLRs in ruggedness. I won’t deny that it’s made of very hardy material, but with its refined edges, smooth matte black surface and general attention to beauty, I’m certain it’ll be capable of taking many bumps less as compared to the majority of prosumer and above DSLRs.

The Sony a7Rii at 27% battery remaining while I stared it down on Alishan
(shot with 5D3 | 1/640; f/1.8; ISO1000)

Battery Life (-) But this was the big make or break it for me. Since flying off from Singapore, I had to almost consistently feed the a7Rii with power. I charged it from the wall sockets in hotel rooms every night. I charged it with my portable charger midday or during long commutes if the morning usage was moderately heavy. As I was contemplating the various factors affecting my decision, I happened to glance at the battery level while I was staring it down for a long time. 27%?! What?! It was 100% at noon. Just 5 hours and the battery’s down almost 70%?  This broke me from my “indecision trance” and I chose there and then not to bring the a7Rii up. Why? Reason’s pretty simple. Sony gave me only 1 battery, but even if they had given me more than one I would be reluctant to bring it up. Look at it this way. Up on the mountain, there’s no power supply, no way to charge it at night. I wasn’t going to bring my 18000 mAh portable charger up due to its bulk and weight. So if the a7Rii ran out of battery I would have no way of recharging it to bring it back to life. Going from usage statistics of the past few days, the a7Rii would burn through close to 2 batteries each day. My trek on the mountain would last 3 days; the way I see it, the a7Rii would be deadweight in my bag after slightly over half a day. This is a major no-no for adventure photographers. We generally don’t like to bring along too many batteries due to the additional weight, and so we want our cameras to last long. The a7Rii is a power monster, it eats battery for life. For comparison purposes, I brought only 2 batteries up to Jade Mountain for my 5D3 and only had to change battery in the late afternoon of the third day. The battery life of the a7Rii is a major stumbling block for a camera this good; not everyone has the luxury of charging the camera every day or bringing an unlimited supply of batteries.

Sunset glow on Alishan
(shot with a7Rii | 1/40; f/8.0; ISO800)

And so it was decided. I fell out with the lovely Sony a7Rii. I locked it up with the rest of my luggage and left it with the hotel reception for the next few days as I went to scale Jade Mountain. Goodbye a7Rii.

but in a good number of relationships, after a major argument or breakup, when both parties have had time to silently think for a while, they usually end up patching things up

>> 17 DECEMBER 2015
>> 1619 HOURS

I’m not Taylor Swift so I don’t believe in the whole “Never Ever Getting Back Together” concept. Up on the mountains, I’ve had instances where I realized I wanted the capabilities of the a7Rii, capabilities which my 5D3 and my 16-35 were not able provide a good enough substitute for; and so I was really overjoyed to have the use of the a7Rii again. So much such that I brought it on a relaxing honeymoon to Kenting, a top beach resort destination in Taiwan. (I kid; it was all part of the plan)

The buses out from Alishan don’t start early enough and it takes incredibly long to get to Kenting since it’s at the southernmost reaches of the island so it was late afternoon by the time we got to our first attraction of the day.

Sunset at Kenting Nanwan
(shot with a7Rii | 1/4000; f/8.0; ISO800)

Kenting’s famous for water activities and the beaches are usually packed to the brim with people chilling under beach umbrellas, having some fun in the water and all. But, it’s the dead of winter and no one wants to freeze to death so apart from 3 crazy wakeboarders with their wetsuits on, I didn’t exactly see anyone else in the water or even in the vicinity of the beach.

Big waves at Kenting Nanwan
(shot with a7Rii | 1/1600; f/8.0; ISO800)

I was strolling casually along the beach, when an idea occurred to me. What better place and time to test the 5-axis image stabilisation but in the face of whipping winds? And enduring the brunt of the gale as it swept up sand and sea spray around me, I tested the a7Rii at slow shutter speeds, I tested the video recording and like I was with the a7ii, I was blown away again by the awesomeness of Sony’s 5-axis image stabilization system which compensates for x-axis translation, y-axis translation, pitch, roll and yaw!

The shots came out steady without blur, the video was smooth and I was impressed yet again. The fact that this IS system is built into the camera means that you’ve image stabilization for every shot, even for lenses which have no organic stabilisation built in!

A couple enjoying the sights at Kenting Nanwan
(shot with a7Rii | 1/250; f/8.0; ISO800)

>> 18 DECEMBER 2015
>> 0922 HOURS

The wind is bellowing out of control here. If I didn’t know better, I would swear it’s a typhoon!

ME : (yelling into the wind) “Ooooohhhh! The force is strong here!”
FRIEND: *rolls eyes*
FRINED: (yelling back) “Less Jedi talk, I can’t even stand straight!”

And so we ending up carrying out what seemed to be a tactical military operation, hiding behind rocks, popping up to take a picture and immediately going back under cover lest we were blown away. Fortunately for us, the wind was blowing into the land from the sea so at least if the wind really lifted us a few feet it would be towards safety and not the sheer drop down to the rocks below.

In the end, I gave up ducking behind rocks and fought my way to the front of the rock line, back to the rock and allowing the wind to push me against the rock which really helped me to stabilize a little better. But still so strong the wind was that holding a camera still was almost impossible and that’s when a combination of high shutter speeds and the a7Rii’s 5-axis image stabilisation made the difference.

Longpan Park
(shot with a7Rii | 1/640; f/8.0; ISO160)

Send to smartphone through wireless network functionality of the α7Rii
(shot with 5D3 | 1/640; f/2.8; ISO3200)

Yet another thing I really really like about the a7Rii is its wireless functions, the ability to instantly transfer photos to your smartphone through the network created by the a7Rii. It’s a really convenient feature when you want to share photos on any social media on the go!

No more #latergrams, post the shot onto Instagram immediately after shooting it
(screenshotted with phone | no exposure settings available)

And in case you’re wondering, yes, I really did jump off from the top of the rock and experienced a few seconds of “flying” as the wind pushed me forward, up and away!

I ended up using this transfer to smartphone functionality quite extensively during my entire trip so I could share my adventures with my friends instantly! I mean come on, really, it’s tiring to be posting a 16-day backlog of #latergrams. For those of us who don’t bring along on our trips laptops or tablets with capabilities to read RAW files via SD/CF cards, this feature is a godsend! And speaking of RAW, by using Sony’s PlayMemories app (which you must if you want to successfully transfer any files from the a7Rii to your smartphone easily), the camera automatically exports the JPEG version of the file(s) you desire to your phone so no more hunting in the Play/App Store for a photo editor that supports RAW!

Longpan Park
(shot with a7Rii | 1/640; f/7.1; ISO160)

alas, things were never meant to be and after a brief period of being back together, the α7Rii and I must part again

>> 22 DECEMBER 2015
>> 1048 HOURS

Time flies and woah, it’s already my second last day in Taiwan. Tomorrow will be my last day with the a7Rii before it must be returned to Sony, its rightful owners. So, for today, I intend to fully treasure the use of my a7Rii which is unfortunately running low on memory space (my bad for having barely sufficient memory cards to support 2 cameras worth of photos).

Over the course of the past 4 chapters, I’ve illustrated, raved and ranted on the various good and bad points of the Sony α7Rii so at this point, I think I’ll just let a few more pictures do the final talking for me.

Yehliu Geopark
(shot with a7Rii | 1/640; f/8.0; ISO200)

Yehliu Geopark
(shot with a7Rii | 1/1250; f/8.0; ISO200)

>> 22 DECEMBER 2015
>>1649 HOURS

As the sun sinks lower and lower in the sky and paints the entire scene a radiant orange, I know this is it, the final sunset that I’ll be watching and shooting with the Sony α7Rii. I take it as much of the scene as I can, relishing in the brilliant memories that were forged here in Taiwan. The final project.

The Sony α7Rii at Tamsui shooting the final sunset with me
(shot with 5D3 | 1/640; f/2.8; ISO400)

The Sony α7Rii at Tamsui shooting the final sunset with me
(shot with 5D3 | 1/400; f/2.8; ISO400)

Sunset at Tamsui Fisherman’s Wharf
(shot with a7Rii | 1/400; f/8.0; ISO200)

Look, it’s a bird, no, it’s a plane!
(shot with a7Rii | 1/250; f/8.0; ISO200)

Over the past 15 days, I’ve grown to love the Sony a7Rii. Yes, despite all my complaints about the flaws of this camera, but its strengths have more than outweighed the weaknesses (well maybe apart from battery life, I’m still not going to bring it on a trek).

I’ve always felt that photography is a two-way relationship, you need to love and understand your camera and in return your camera will deliver the results you desire. Perhaps at the start I was a little apprehensive towards the camera due to slightly less than ideal initial impressions, but as I grew to learn more about the a7Rii, I began to appreciate it for what it was. No camera is perfect, a photographer is responsible for knowing the capabilities and limits of his camera and to exploit its strengths while circumventing the flaws.

I wouldn’t trade my 5D3 but I would most definitely love to have the Sony α7Rii as my camera too. Polygamy may be illegal in many places but hey, there’s no law against polycammy (the right to have & maybe marry? multiple cameras) right? During the time I served in the military, I was taught to treat my rifle like my wife; but truth is, we didn’t always draw the same rifle and hence we literally slept with multiple wives (rifles)! So, I really don’t see a problem with “dating” 2 cameras! I can easily see the Sony α7Rii becoming my everyday-to-go camera for its compactness, convenience and versatility! Sadly, my pockets and bank accounts disagree with me…

I’ll save you from any further melodrama and leave you with 2 final photos; I hope you enjoyed reading my review as much as I had fun doing it!

The Sony α7Rii at Tamsui shooting the final sunset with me
(shot with 5D3 | 1/1000; f/2.8; ISO400)

The view from Tamsui Fisherman’s Wharf
(shot with a7Rii | 1/80; f/8.0; ISO200)

If you enjoyed reading this article and would like to see more stuff like this, do check out my humble photoblog over at as well as my photostream on Flickr at!

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