Steady As She Goes – Sony introduces the α7II, the first full-frame camera with 5-axis image stabilization

One after another, Sony continues to build a juggernaut in their Alpha line of professional cameras, especially the a7 lineup. Each a7 has an outstanding feature: the a7 ($1,299) is an affordable all purpose full-frame camera; the a7R ($2,099.99) strong suit is resolution (R) with its 36.4 MP sensor; the a7S (2,499.99) has incredible latitude (15.3 stops). Now, Sony is releasing a a7 camera whose main feature is image stabilization.

The a7II is the first full-frame camera to feature 5-axis image stabilization that will excel in counterbalancing camera movement in five different directions for better handheld images. Specs-wise the camera contains a 24.3 MP full-frame sensor and adds 30% faster AF responsiveness, better video shooting capabilities, redesigned ergonomics and more.

The α7II model is equipped with a 24.3 effective megapixel 35mm full-frame sensor.

Stabilization Sony’s new 5-axis image stabilization technology on the α7II detects and corrects camera shake along five axes during shooting, including angular shake (pitch and yaw) that usually happens with a telephoto lens, shift shake (X and Y axes) which becomes noticeable during magnification, and rotational shake (roll) that affects night or motion shots. The a7II’s sensor moves to handle these types of movements, with stabilization that offers up to 4.5 steps faster shutter speed correction.

The 5-axis stabilization works with Sony alpha lenses with optical steady shot, and performs well with A-mount and 3rd party lenses without on-board stabilization.

Here’s a video explaining the new 5-axis stabilization technology.

Sony a7II – 5 Axis Image Stabilization Explained from HDVideoPro Magazine on Vimeo.

Focus With new algorithms for detecting subject distance and motion prediction, the a7II contains a 117-point focal plane phase detection AF sensor with 25 contrast detection AF points that gives you roughly 30% faster AF performance and 1.5 times more accurate subject tracking than the original a7 model. Also, AF and automatic exposure (AE) is offered while tracking subjects during high-speed continuous shooting at up to 5 fps.

Video The a7II has the same BIONZ X processor as many of Sony’s professional cameras and adds pro video features such as the XAVC S codec, which records video at a data rate of 50 Mbps with advanced compression. The a7II adds better picture profiles for in camera tone adjustments and also includes S-Log2 gamma function like the a7S to give you more dynamic range. (It’s not clear if the a7II delivers the 15.3 stops that the a7S delivers.) The a7II also provides Time Code, Rec Control and dual video recording.

In terms of ergonomics, the α7II model has a larger shutter button than the a7 and the button has been moved closer to the front of the camera for better finger position. The a7II’s body is constructed with magnesium alloy on the top, front cover and internal panels, and has nearly a 40% faster start-up time.

The α7II has a larger shutter button that has been moved closer to the front of the camera for optimal finger position.

New Lenses Sony is also releasing a new telephoto zoom lens for it’s α A-mount line, the 70-300mm F4.5 – F5.6 G SSMII. The zoom is designed for outdoor sports and wildlife photography but can be used for cropped portraits. It features approximately 4x faster AF tracking than the current lens model 70-300mm. The lens also has Nano AR coating to bring down flare and ghosting and improve rendering. It’s also dust and moisture resistant.

Sony is also developing α A-mount Vario-Sonnar T* 24-70mm F2.8 ZA SSMII and the Vario-Sonnar T* 16-35mm F2.8 ZA SSMII lenses. This second generation of lenses will improve upon the speed of AF tracking, reduce flare and ghosting and incorporate a dust and moisture resistant design.

Pricing and Availability The Sony α7II will be available on December 9th as body-only for about $1700, or as a kit with the FE 28-70mm F3.5 – F5.6 OSS zoom lens (model SEL2870) for about $2000.

The new 70-300mm F4.5 – F5.6 G SSMII telephoto zoom lens for α A-mount cameras will be available for about $1150 in February 2015.

Pricing for the Vario-Sonnar T* 24-70mm F2.8 ZA SSMII and the Vario-Sonnar T* 16-35mm F2.8 ZA SSMII lenses has not yet been determined, however target ship timing is Spring 2015.

For $1700, the a7II should be a great solution for low budget filmmakers who can’t afford the $2500 a7S. Although I’m guessing it won’t have the same low-light performance and dynamic range of the a7S, you do get a higher megapixel count for high resolution stills.

All in all, the a7II will be a monster hit for Sony during the holiday season.

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