Sony unveils α7S II - a major upgrade for a major camera

Written by Andy Stout

Sony/RedSharkAvailable in November...

In what is a busy morning for the company, Sony has also taken the wrappers off its α7S II camera and at least some of the rumours that have been swirling round about it are right.

“Out of darkness cometh light”* is the tagline on the press release that Sony has released about the new unit, and with Standard ISO 100 – 102400, Expandable to ISO 50-409600, and what is promised as low noise across the whole range, it is a fair point to make.

Indeed, the company is very much majoring on the fact that this is the camera for photographers that shoot in the most challenging light conditions possible. It says it also incorporates a lot of what it refers to as “pro-style movie functions” in the new unit, and happily one of those is the ability to shoot 4K UHD video.

Indeed, while the company is sensibly pitching it at both its core markets of photographers and videographers, it does seem to have a lot going for the moving image crowd. It records 4K UHD movies internally in the XAVC S format, and because information is used from the entire 12.2 megapixel full-frame sensor without line skipping or pixel binning, claimed image clarity is high and moiré negligible. Full pixel readout without pixel binning is also employed when shooting Full HD in 24p/30p, all of which means that it collects information from somewhere around five times as many pixels as are struck necessary and then condenses the info to produce high quality movies.

We’ve written many times before about the advantages of ‘over-formatting’ and the improvements in image quality you get as a result. The α7S II makes the decision for you automatically.

In a first for the α7 series, it can record 120fps at 100Mbps which can be edited into 4x/5x slow motion footage in Full HD. It also usefully has the ability to shoot 4x/5x slow motion footage internally which can be immediately reviewed on the camera screen.

The addition of S-Gamut3.Cine/S-Log3 and S-Gamut3/S-Log3 should help in post with colour correction (it also supports the popular S-Gamut/S-Log2 ). Gamma Display Assist will allow users to monitor images or check focus when recording S-Log movies and the Zebra function has been improved for even greater control.

Elsewhere, it steals the popular 5-axis image stabilisation system from the α7 II and α7R II cameras; the autofocus system has been upgraded and now offers 169 AF points for fast; the XGA OLED Tru-Finder in the α7S II has been upgraded and offers what Sony claims is the world’s highest viewfinder magnification of 0.78x (roughly 38.5 degrees in diagonal field of view) and has a nice ZEISS T* coating as well; and it features a number of ergonomic enhancements to make it more user friendly, reliable and intuitive.

All in all it’s a fairly major upgrade to a fairly major camera and will be released to the European market in November for a €3400 list price (possibly $3000 in the US in October - information is a bit conflicting).

*This is also the motto of the City of Wolverhampton in the UK, but we don’t think that’s relevant.

Full press release after the break.

Sony expands range of compact full-frame mirrorless cameras with the launch of the ultra-sensitive α7S II
Out of darkness cometh light
Ultra-high sensitivity up to 409600i with low noise across the whole range
• Wide dynamic range across entire ISO range delivering smooth tonal gradation from dark to bright conditions 
• In-camera 5-axis optical image stabilisation for expanded shooting possibilities 
• Internal 4K movie recording featuring full pixel readout without pixel binning in full-frame format 
• Wide range of professional movie functionality including S-Gamut3.Cine/S-Log3, new Gamma Assist Display, enhanced Zebra Function, Full HD 120fps recording and 4x/5x slow motion recording and full pixel readout without pixel binning in full-frame format 
• High-speed AF with enhanced accuracy in wide ranging scenes and advanced shooting functions

Sony today announced the latest addition to its award winning series of compact, full-frame α7 cameras with the introduction of the α7S II. Offering ultra-high sensitivity and wide dynamic range across the entire ISO range and 5-axis image stabilisation for greater shooting control, the α7S II delivers stunning image quality for photographers who shoot in the most challenging light conditions. Be it the brightest of mornings or darkest of nights, the α7S II enables new levels of photographic expression at whatever shutter speed you wish to deploy. The α7S II also incorporates a host of pro-style movie functions including the ability to shoot 4K video with full pixel readout and no pixel binning in full-frame format, making it an extremely appealing proposition for photographers and videographers alike.

The α7S II delivers an awe-inspiring sensitivity range of ISO 50-409600i, thanks to the combination of its 35mm full-frame 12.2 megapixelii image sensor and BIONZ X image processing engine. The sensor optimises the dynamic range across the entire ISO range and broadens the range of tonal gradation in bright environments and minimises noise in dark scenes meaning that it delivers impressive results even in the most extreme conditions. The upgraded image processing algorithm of BIONZ X maximises the sensor’s capabilities and improves depiction throughout the full sensitivity range with particular emphasis on the mid-to-high range. This means that the resulting stills and movies demonstrate extra-fine detail with minimal noise.
Video Master

The α7S II can record 4Kiii movies internally in the XAVC S formativ meaning that content is wonderfully detailed. Because information from all pixels is utilised without line skipping or pixel binning, the camera can maximise the expanded power of the full-frame image sensor and produce 4K movies with higher image clarity and negligible moiré. Full pixel readout without pixel binning is also employed when shooting Full HDv movies which means that it collects information from approximately five times as many pixels that are required to generate Full HDvi and condenses the information to produce extremely high quality movies.

In a first for the α7 series, the α7S II can record 120fps at 100Mbpsvii with full pixel readout without pixel binning in full frame format which can be edited into wonderful 4x/5x slow motion footageviii in Full HD. The α7S II also has the ability to shoot 4x/5x slow motion footage internally which can be immediately reviewed on the camera screen.

Video functionality has been further enhanced with new profiles; S-Gamut3.Cine/S-Log3 and S-Gamut3/S-Log3. These new profiles deliver wide dynamic range and colour correction is easier to perform. The α7S ll even offers impressive 14-stop latitude in the S-Log3 gamma setting. The camera also supports S-Gamut/S-Log2 which is very popular among cinematographers and videographers. Gamma Display Assist is a new function that allows users to monitor images or check focus when recording S-Log movies and the Zebra function has been improved for even greater control.

5-Axis Image Stabilisation
The new α7S II is equipped with the innovative 5-axis image stabilisation system that is proving extremely popular in the α7 II and α7R II cameras. The system corrects camera shake along five axes during shooting, including angular shake (pitch and yaw) which has the greatest impact on image quality and tends to occur with a telephoto lens, shift shake (X and Y axes) which becomes noticeable as magnification increases, and rotational shake (roll) that often affects night shooting or video recording.

Autofocus accuracy
The autofocus system on the α7S II has been upgraded and now offers 169 AF points for fast, precise focusing with greater accuracy.ix The power of the image sensor means that the absence of noise in images generated, enables the Fast Intelligent AF to detect contrast more easily and react speedily even in low-light situations (as low as EV-4), when it’s even tough to check with the naked eye. When shooting video, the AF performance is twice as fast as the predecessor model.x

Electronic Viewfinder
The XGA OLED Tru-Finder in the α7S II has been upgraded and offers the world’s highest viewfinder magnificationxi of 0.78x (roughly 38.5 degrees in diagonal field of view) and shows clear images across the entire display area. The use of ZEISS T* Coating ensures sharp reduction of reflections on the viewfinder and unlike an optical viewfinder, the OLED Tru-Finder can be used to instantly show how exposure compensation, white balance and other selected settings are affecting the displayed image.

User upgrades
A number of enhancements have been made to the look and feel of the α7S II to make it more user friendly, reliable and intuitive. Its magnesium-alloy body is both light and highly robust and the grip and shutter buttons have been re-designed so that the camera feels more natural in the hand. For situations when you just want to blend into the background, silent shooting mode can be activated for 5fps continuous shootingxii and reliability has been enhanced with reduced-vibration shutter movement.xiii The lens mount has been further reinforced to ensure greater resilience, particularly when attaching third party lenses and users can now charge the camera via a USB power supply whilst the camera is in operation, thus extending battery life. For greater comfort and safety, Sony is also launching the LCS-EBF; a new premium leather body case for the α7S II which is also compatible with the α7R II and α7 II.

The α7S II is also Wi-Fi® and NFC compatible and fully functional with Sony’s PlayMemories Mobile application available for Android™ and iOS™ platforms, as well as Sony’s growing range of PlayMemories Camera Apps, which add a range of fun creative capabilities to the camera. Learn more at www.sony.net/pmca.

The new α7S II full-frame interchangeable lens digital camera from Sony will be available in Europe in November 2015, priced at approximately €3400.
i Standard ISO 100 – 102400, Expandable to ISO 50-409600
ii Approximate effective megapixels
iii QFHD: 3840 x 2160. Internal recording and HDMI output, both at 4K resolution, are available in full-frame
iv SDXC memory card higher than Class 10 is required for movie recording in XAVC S format
v In 24p/30p
vi 1920 x 1080
vii UHS Class 3 memory card is required for recording at 100Mbps
viii 30p (25p) or 24p
ix Compared to α7S
x Compared to the α7S, when shooting Full HD movies.
xi Amongst digital cameras. The viewfinder magnification is approx. 0.78x (with 50mm lens at infinity, -1m-1). As of date of press release, based on Sony research.
xii Speed Priority Continuous mode. Focus and exposure settings fixed at first shot.
xiii 500,000-cycle durability. According to Sony internal testing, with the electronic front curtain shutter activated.
xiv Approximate. May vary depending on shooting conditions and media.
xv Configuration method/Access method: WPS or manually/infrastructure mode. When connecting to smartphones, the camera can always work as a base without a wireless access point. (Security: WEP/WPA-PSK/WPA2-PSK)

Tags: Production

Comments

Related Articles

25 September, 2020

Be careful how you pixel peep

Pixel peeping is a popular way to compare cameras, but is not a reliable method of comparison.                                                      ...

Read Story

25 September, 2020

The Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro 12K just got even better

This week Blackmagic Design released a new firmware for its Ursa Mini Pro 12K camera that gives it new frame rates.                                  ...

Read Story

24 September, 2020

Canon C70: A new 'baby' cinema camera with 4K up to 120fps

Canon has expanded its Cinema EOS line of video cameras with the introduction of the EOS C70 4K Digital Cinema Camera.                              ...

Read Story