My Sony A7 II as back up for my Nikon D810… and why I sold it after all

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Disclaimer: This A7 II impression was written prior to the announcement of the A7R II and A7S II. I have edited some content based on some of my experiences with the newer cameras, but please still keep in mind of this article’s time-frame.

I’ve been a Sony user from the start, ever since I first bought the RX1R about 2 years ago. I dove into the DSLR world on Nikon’s side when I purchased the Df and then the D810 last year. After selling my RX1R, I’ve always been thinking of buying a backup-cam for my everyday use (because let’s be honest, the D810 is a chunk of a camera).

 

That’s how it started.

 

It looked like it was a good timing for me to buy the A7 II after seeing mostly positive reviews online, and with me going more hands-on in camera shops, I decided, “Yeah, why not.” I was always jealous of the A7 II’s 5-axis IBIS and better ergonomics, coming from using the IMHO ergonomically-poor RX1R. The auto-focus was for me, apparently faster and more accurate than both the RX1R and the A7/R/S even in single point AF. Therefore, in the end, it was the A7 II for me.

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Thoughts on the A7 II:

There is quite a design change ergonomically for the A7 II compared to the A7R. Although it’s not a whole overhaul of the body design, it is pretty apparent once one grabs onto the grip on both cameras. The plastic dials are easier to turn IMO, and my middle finger finally has a comfortable place to rest on the grip. Overall, I enjoyed the ergonomics of the A7 II more than the A7R.

As for the lens, there was no other choice for me at the time than starting out with the Zeiss Sonnar T* 55mm F1.8 ZA (keep in mind this was pre-Distagon 35mm F1.4 announcement). This also deterred me from buying the Sigma 50mm F1.4 Art for my D810, with the Sony-Zeiss being smaller, demonically sharp wide-open, and free from needing focus micro-adjustments at all times.

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The single point AF on the A7 II, IMO, has reached the level of ‘capable’ in comparison to the D810. Although my D810 trumps the A7 II when it comes to continuous tracking AF, with Nikon’s AF-C 3D tracking being almost god-like in real life usage, A7 II tracking ability is quite fine in the area where the PDAF points lie.

Single point AF is a pain in low-light situations, but at least the camera doesn’t pretend to grab focus when it is actually out of focus like my previous experiences with the Olympus E-M1 and E-M10.

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A7 II pairs fine with my Yongnuo 560TX + YN56-IV combination. This is a great news. I sometimes even thought of replacing my D810 and making my Sony the main-cam. However, it’s only after real usage of both in shoots that I started to realize how difficult it’s for me to balance both cameras’ RAW files in post to have similar colors and tonality. Even with the help of Lightroom and Photoshop, I found that both cameras/lenses combination produce quite different color rending even with RAW files.

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Apart from my Sony-Zeiss 55mm, I also borrowed my friend’s Zeiss FE 16-35mm F4 ZA OSS and Leica SUMMILUX-M 50mm f1.4 ASPH. for some of my shoots. I have to say the 55mm is still my favorite of all. Sharp, compact, satisfying bokeh-rendering and fast in AF performance. I could not complain more. 

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Nikon Lenses:

After two-weeks in use of my newly bought A7 II, I decided to try mounting my Nikon lenses on via an adapter. However, IMO focus-peaking isn’t the most reliable option to check MF without the help of magnification. Sure, in most situations focus-peaking is great, but I found that magnifying the focus point is the best way to grab my focus dead-on. (Especially when it comes to adapting more telephoto lenses where the DoF is so thin that focus-peaking is nearly invisible)

Here I want to share a few shots adapting some of my Nikon lenses to the A7 II, mostly shot wide-open and without correction of distortion nor chromatic aberrations.

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(α7 II + AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G)

 

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(α7 II + AF-S Nikkor 35mm f/1.4G)

 

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(α7 II + Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 AI)

 

Lastly, my conclusion and why I decided to go back on using only my Nikon gear:

AF performance  – Pretty good in single point without tracking. Tracking? Nah, I’ll go back using my Nikon.

Ergonomics – Not bad with native lenses, but really awkward when adapting SLR glass.

Operation – THAT “CHANGE AF-POINT” MECHANISM MAKES ME WANT TO CHOKE SONY SOFTWARE DESIGNERS.

Lens options – 55mm F1.8 is a dream. I’ve also bought the 35mm F1.4 from Sony-Zeiss, but I found my experiences unsatisfying due to its heavy weight. I would like to see some more faster glass on this system if I come back in the future.

IBIS – Effect is apparent and positive, but not too surprising for me coming from the Olympus E-M1 and E-M10.

EVF – One of the best in its class (only recently superseded by its bigger brother A7R II and Fujifilm’s X-T1).

Tilt screen – YES. But please, Sony, make it a touch screen also in the future.

High ISOs – I don’t see too much of a difference when I compared it to my Nikon D810.

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In the end, I went back to only shooting Nikon because the AF-point changing issue nagged me very often. You may say that I am overreacting a bit, but that’s just hindering my workflow, and my shooting style is hard to change after enjoying my Nikon gear for a period of time. I also found it difficult to balance colors in post, taking me extra hours just to check that the results were similar coming out from the A7 II and the D810 in similar situations.

This impression of Nikon lenses on the A7 II of mine may not seem much, but it’s the most I can offer to Nikon shooters who are looking at the A7 II.

 

Thank you for reading! See you guys with the next gear purchase, and happy shooting!
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