Sony a7S II vs a7R II vs a7 II – Which One to Get?

Last year I, like many video shooters, switched to the Sony a7S for its amazing low-light abilities and its “Pro” video features such as focus peaking, zebras, S-Log2, high frame rates, broadcast acceptable bit rates and 4K recording (albeit to an external recorder). It also takes pretty decent photos.

We would dream about the a7S II…Well, the wait is over

Rigged A7s

Then, earlier this year, we saw the announcement of the a7 II and the a7R II and we got excited. We would dream about what the a7S II would look like and what features it would have. Well, the wait is over. Last week, at the IBC show in Amsterdam, Sony announced the a7S II and even though its only shipping in November, I thought I would take the opportunity to compare it to it’s older II brothers and see how it stacks up on paper.

a7S IIa7 IIa7R II
Sensor12-megapixels24-megapixels42-megapixels back-illuminated
Sensor Size35mm35mm35mm
ISO Range (Expanded)100-102,400 (50-409,600)100-25,600 (50-25,600)100-25,600 (50-102,400)
Continuous Shooting5fps5fps5fps
AF System169 AF points117 phase detect AF points399 phase detect AF points
Anti-Aliasing FilterX
5-axis Steadyshot
Video4K @ 100Mbps, Full HD 120fps1080 @ 50Mbps4K @ 100Mbps
Price$ 2,189.00$ 1,029.00$ 1,499.00

I’ll follow up with another article as to how it really stacks up once I get my review unit or I go out and buy one myself, because I really, really want this camera. REALLY.

Sony a7S II from the front…
…and behind

So what have they improved or added with the II? Firstly, the body is the same as the a7 II and a7R II, which is to say a bit bigger than the first versions. I’ve used the a7 II and I really like the feel of it in the hand. It’s still small, but fits in well.

The a7S II gets the same crazy low light sensor as the I. It gets S-Log3 as well as S-Log2, which you had in the I. A really great change is that now the native ISO of the camera is 1600, whereas before, with the a7S, if you wanted to shoot in S-Log2, you couldn’t go lower than 3200 ISO. The addition of in-built 5-axis stabilisation will be a very welcome development for video shooters as well as still photographers.

Sony has also made it possible to shoot 4K internally without having to use an external recorder. Whether there will be overheating issues like we’ve seen in the a7R II will be interesting to find out.

Another welcome change that we saw in the a7R II is that you can assign the “Start video recording” button to one of the custom buttons and you don’t have to only use the really awkwardly placed record button on the side.

So that’s what’s new but how does it stack up to It’s slightly older brother the a7 II and a7R II?

The “entry-level” a7

The a7R II is the best marriage of all the best features of the a7 line

This isn’t the fairest comparison as all these three cameras are meant to serve very different masters. The a7 is the entry-level camera, the a7R is the high megapixel beast and the a7S is the low light monster.

Shot at 11pm in a field an hour away from city lights

That said, if you are looking for the best of both worlds, I’d tell you not to get the a7S, but rather go for the a7R. Sure you miss out on the S-Log3 and the ability to see in the dark, but the a7R II is the best marriage of all the best features of the a7 line at the moment – it is extremely capable at producing amazing stills, with all those megapixels and the back-illuminated sensor and is no slouch with video either. The R is a real beast of a camera. Despite the high megapixel count, it performs well in low light also.

Unless you’re like me and your main focus is video, in which case the a7S II is a camera that I think we are all going to like and get much great use from.