Second camera I picked up from Mike on the "want list" for a while now
As before I will lay out some impressions on the camera, in case anyone finds it of use.
As mentioned many times before the original A77 has mag allow front/back panels. The II has a single back panel, with a plastic top and front. Does the build feel bad? No, but it's not quite as meaty as the first A77. Sony have been quite careful to make the plastic look like mag alloy. The overall feel is fine, some could argue the cost was a little less than the first A77. Canon seem happy enough to put plastic £1000+ cameras (90D for example). I suppose as least part of the build is mag alloy.
So far a bit of a disappointment; I tried to pair it up to a phone using 2 Sony apps. Neither worked. Then I tried to use the Sony desktop software and hook it up to the PC. It saw the camera, and that's it. I've not been able to get it to transfer images from the camera to the computer, maybe I'll look at it again when I can be bothered. As far as I'm aware there is no way to tag images with GPS from a phone. Meantime I popped a Wi-Fi card in and it just worked
As I'm not likely to use remote shooting much - I think I'd rather have the GPS in there, something I do use.
I'll have to expand this over time as I use it more. There are a lot of modes, far more than previous cameras.
As far as AF speed goes similar to the A99/77, perhaps slightly faster. In low light the A77ii can lock focus, but it does slow down significantly. I'm talking really low light very dim. It outperformed the A77/99 with the AF assist turned off in these conditions. Neither could lock on targets the A77II could. With the AF assist on the A77/99 red bean pattern locks much faster. There are limitations to the AF assist, can't use it with AF-C and range. But it can lock on 0 contrast targets, white or black no texture. Because it beams the pattern to create the contrast.
So on that alone the improved AF doesn't quite make up for taking the AF assist out. It's a sign of the times, many makers don't bother, and the ones that do put an annoying single LED light that splats out light. For people shots it's annoying and distracting and I've always turned it off. The camera makers would want to up their game here. Pattern AF assist is far superior to not having anything or a single LED. This might not be an issue with a shoe mounted flash (or even the Godox radio triggers have AF assist), not as good a beam profile, but workable.
With more time I'll do some AF testing and real world use and go into more details. There is a far larger coverage on the frame, some lenses use all and some lose the far edges, either way it's a big improvement v the previous cameras on that.
Buffer: I don't use the 12fps much, but you can get into the high 20's with it on, and over 30 shots (both raw) in 8fps. I got over 50 shots in jpeg 8fps. For action shooters that's way better than the A77 or A99 could manage. Clearing times are better v the A77, of course you have more shots to clear if you run the buffer full.
Battery life: Seems to be better than the A99, but not quite as good as the A77. That's acceptable to me, and with over 10 batteries I'm not short of power. I'd rarely pack more than 1 spare for a days shooting with any of the cameras. A57 has the best batter life of the cameras I own.
Resolution: Bit more details v the A77, I believe it's a lighter AA filter. I've not shot enough to see if moire is a problem. The A57 suffers from it, a very light filter on that camera - hence you don't see a big difference in details A57 to A77. I'll have to see how it holds up comparing them. I'm not unhappy using the 16mp camera, so 24mp doesn't make much difference to me
High ISO: Some users claim about a stop better v the A77. I quickly looked at files, and the A77 is giving more exposure for fixed shutter speeds/aperture and ISO values v the A77II (more real exposure). A77II also gives slower shutter speeds in normal metering v the A77 by about half a stop it can vary. Taking into account the actual exposure I would say it's around half a stop better, perhaps a touch more - but a bit under the 1 stop some claim. I'll do some comparisons when I have time. Worthwhile, but not a massive jump - think you have to go to the A99 to see a notable improvement.
Don't bother looking at the DPR samples, many of them have been pushed heavily in post at high ISO (a def no no), sane users don't push low light high ISO shots that much! Hence they look terrible - not a good way to judge normal usage
Jpegs: Better than the A77/57 (but what isn't!) not as good as the a99
NR on normal is pretty heavy (as it is with the other 2), low is still to heavy NR for me. Only off gives the details you might want at high ISO, at the cost of some chroma noise. Low has a lot less chroma, but not as much details. I think off is the way to go with a light splashing of NR to get rid of colour noise. On the A99 off had chroma noise and lots of details, with low giving a lot less chroma and almost as much details. I go with low for the A99 most of the time
Dynamic range: Slightly better v the A77/57, not massive but an improvement. Not really field relevant as the DR has been quite good for some time, and all the cameras do a decent job. The A99 has a sensor which can be pulled around a lot in post, the others can't as much. If you pull shadows heavily the A99 is your camera - otherwise satisfactory for most shooting conditions
Controls/layout: Lot more customisation over the other cameras, most of the buttons can be reprogrammed, many more options for AF control. One odd thing is I can't find the menu setting to pick what you want for the EVF view, on the others you can. It will be familiar to anyone who has use the previous camera
Quick nav is back as it was on the A99, you also have your custom panel at the bottom. Pick what you want to put there - very convenient
EVF/LCD: Same EVF resolution as the other 2, better than A77 less plugged shadows and less noise in low light, similar to the A99 large and decent details, A99 has lower noise in low light (probably sensor) LCD seems to be the same white magic one the A99 got. All are usable and the articulation is something some folks like, I don't use it much - useful when you need to. Move button is recessed more compared to the other cams. Otherwise feel is similar, except the joystick which seems to want more pressure to push it. Unlike the A77/99 you need to push it from the side, doesn't seem to want to be used with your thumb over it
part 2 coming soon!