a7s2: the camera that didn’t need to happen – a7sii

today we saw the announcement of the a7s ii, a virtually identical camera to the a7s with the addition of ibis (sensor stabilizing), internal 4k, slog3, and 1080p/120fps
coming out only a year after its predecessor, it makes you wonder: “what is sony thinking?”

the a7r2 has built in 4k, ibis, full frame… so the a7s2 is just for low light?

more than a few of those upgrades definitely could have been firmware updates to the first a7s body anyways (slog3 and likely 1080/120). new hardware likely isn’t needed as the camera is capable of processing 4k (and sending it out) which requires a similar amount of processing as 1080/120, so if it isn’t able to record internally, at least externally it should be feasible.
but this isn’t anything new. within the past 4 years as sony has made great headway into the mirrorless market, it’s shown that instead of improving upon cameras, it would prefer to release new cameras, with a few upgrades, for a little bit more, and entice people to continually upgrade.

the problem it would then seem, is that consumers have little confidence that the product they purchase from sony will receive the type of attention that companies like panasonic give to the gh series, or that even samsung has given to the nx1.

i won’t be upgrading. there is no reason to move on from the first a7s… other than ibis, slog3 and 1080p/120fps, the latter two which could easily be added to the a7s via firmware update anyways. 4k internal recording is nice, but recording externally to a shogun, pxe, or odyssey will give you a better image (422 8bit vs 420 8bit, plus a better wrapper than xavcs). not to mention all the added benefits of an external recorder: like false colors, the ability to monitor with a lut, xlr inputs, proxies… the list goes on. will the sensor be more sensitive to light? maybe, but from all reports, it’s essentially the same one in the a7s, so probably not a big performance gain.

so no, i won’t be upgrading. i’ll probably be selling. i’ll probably sell my a7s, and all of its accessories in december. because sony keeps upgrading, there is no value in these cameras. i can rent an a7s for $25 a day locally. $25! why buy when i can rent and not worry about upgrading every year? and the truth is, most of my work requires an epic/f55/alexa equivalent camera, so the small body is pretty much reserved for corporate and low light gigs. but for people that shoot primarily on the mirrorless/dslr format, what does this tell you about how much sony cares about your experience?

i’ll probably get a samsung nx1 or its successor sometime early next year. sony is innovative… but samsung is right on its tail and it’s proven to actually care and listen to its customers.

if i get my hands on an a7s ii i’ll still probably love using it, and i’ll release some luts for everyone to use, but unless sony can convince me otherwise, i wont reward their disloyalty with my product purchasing loyalty.

am i wrong? are you going to upgrade?

take a look at specs and purchase here.

based on recent comments, i feel people are confusing the purpose of this article. the a7s2 is a good camera that does a lot of things well; it’s a better camera than the a7s. the point was that sony easily could have implemented virtually all of the ‘updates’ the a7s2 recieved to the original body via a firmware updates (minus ibis)… and thus, i feel that they have thrown customers under the bus. there is no sense anymore that you will receive extended support for your camera from sony (like you would from samsung, panasonic, red or even canon), you’ll have to shell out thousands a year for minor updates.

37 Replies to “a7s2: the camera that didn’t need to happen – a7sii”

  1. Thanks for voicing a potentially unpopular opinion. I agree that Sony has not demonstrated any real loyalty to its customers. Honestly, I’d rather see fewer new camera models and more firmware updates. I hate seeing my $2k or $3k investment fall behind after only 6 months. It’s true that my camera continues to produce the same quality it did when it was purchased… but it’s important to acknowledge that anyone generating income with this equipment needs to stay ahead of the curve to stay competitive. Requiring its customers to spend $3k every year to stay ahead of that curve is just greedy on Sony’s part.

    I think my A7s is a great camera with wonderful image quality for video. For my portrait work, I added an A7r but I’ve never been happy with the ergonomics or color rendition. I had very high hopes for the A7rii as an upgrade for both bodies and internal 4k recording… but the overheating issues are a huge disappointment.

    I just purchased a Samsung NX1 for a third of the price of a new Sony. It has beautiful image quality and a very ergonomic and refined interface. I use a collection of manual focus lenses with adapters so native lens selection isn’t a big issue… but the Samsung lenses are top notch in every way. I’m very impressed with the NX1 and very encouraged by Samsung’s firmware support and innovation.

    I was excited about the Sony gear in the past and I’ve recommended these cameras to dozens of my students. At this point, however, I have to say I’ve lost faith in Sony. I don’t feel like they care about long-term customer support. They release expensive products with serious operational flaws. Firmware updates are nearly non-existent. Lossy RAW files, poor menu structures, and other annoyances are no longer easy to overlook.

    I’m done buying Sony cameras. I’m selling the Sony gear I have and shifting my loyalty and support to a company that will appreciate it.

      1. I’ll be holding onto my a7s until the end of the year (going to wait to see if this hacking rumor holds any water), but then sell and maybe get the nx1 because its higher mp makes for better photos, its auto focus (for home movies) is top notch, and its 6k downsample to 4k looks pretty darn great. 3200 as an iso limit will take getting some getting used to, but other than the a7s/f5/55 i never break 1000iso on most cameras anyways.

    1. Ive been downloading footage like crazy from people who have shot with the a7s ii and comparing the “4k” footage to my 1080p from my regular a7s. I have determined that the a7s ii is not true 4k because when compared in a 4k timeline to my 1080 footage, there is no difference. I think they are simply wrapping a 1080 piece of footage into a 4k file. (Scaling up to 4k) i owned a red one and red epic and can tell you that the a7s ii’s claim to 4k is not sooo great. Ive seen better reaults from a shogun. Still a geat camera in low light and love the slog in my a7s. Prob wont upgrade

      1. Something with your settings, or maybe the files you’ve downloaded are incorrect.
        I’ve compared the same and it is definitely of higher resolution when upscaling 1080p to 4k and viewing the 4k file.
        A shogun WOULD look better of course as it’s a better feed and a better codec… and you really can’t compare to a red camera in this instance.

  2. I have to agree. I think the A7SII is the answer to a question that nobody asked. I like my A7S but I don’t like some of the things Sony is doing. I’m not buying it.

    -Given the overheating problems the A7RII is having via floating the sensor (and most likely also problematic on the A7SII) I was hoping the A7SII would not have the 5 axis sensor but add a faster processor and 10bit out via HDMI. That’s what I was hoping for. I don’t see the 5 axis stab as a plus in a camera that already has outstanding low light ability. I see it as a liability- something else to break as time goes on. Heat is the killer of electronics and floating the sensor while trying to pump more and more data out of it doesn’t make me feel like it’s a solid, long term design choice. Maybe the risk i acceptable for the A7RII in adding a couple of stops, but not for the A7S.

    -Play(Pay)memories system. I don’t like it at all (extreme understatement). Sony has had multiple, large databreaches over the last few years and the first thing they have you do is register online all your personal information (right alongside all the Playstation folks) just to get updates. ??? WTH ??? That’s ridiculous. Also, I don’t like that they nickle and dime you 10.00 for little patch programs that should have been part of the camera OS anyway. I don’t see Sony as “getting it” when it comes to software for their cameras. It’s a cheap, not well thought out system that has a very unprofessional, almost cartoon like feel to it. Add the fact that Sony can’t be trusted to keep your personal information secure and it’s just salt in the wound.

    -Perhaps Sony nerfed the A7SII to keep it from being too strong a competitor for the FS700?

    -For now, I’m keeping the A7S though as it’s paid for and it fits my needs. The lenses and assy’s for it can be applied to an FS700 or something like that later if I move up the food chain. I figure I can always use it for low light and as a “B” camera later. Sony should give us an OS patch that adds the sLog3, etc. but that will probably be something ridiculous, like a 100.00 program via Paymemories.

    1. Really good points! I hadn’t even considered the down sides of ibis. If it does indeed lead to increased heat, noise in the image will certainly increase as well. I guess that remains to be seen. Honestly $100 for a patch that adds slog3 and maybe some other features would still be preferable to the 0 attention it’s received so far.

      1. Very true. One look at the Black Magic cameras tells the story. They have cooled sensors (which is why they use more electricity than a normal camera of their size). One of the reasons their sensors perform so well and a price I’m willing to pay for (my other camera is a BMPCC).

  3. First off, this is a great post. Thanks Casey.

    Second, M25 I like a lot of your points. I agree with the Black Magic comment. Noise issues aside, the sensor performs extremely well, and I really love the image it creates. Also, I feel like Black Magic (and maybe Samsung, I need to look into the NX1) is doing what any tech company needs to do in order to be successful. They are 1) disruptive and 2) not afraid of market cannibalism.

    The reason that Apple became a smartphone powerhouse is because they weren’t afraid of killing their iPod sales with the introduction of the iPhone. They didn’t curb (or “nerf”, haha) their iPhone simply to keep the iPod relevant. The creation of the iPhone made their iPod, the single highest grossing mp3 player of all time, completely obsolete. And they did it without blinking because they knew there was an even bigger market to be had. I’m getting really sick of companies like Sony and Canon restricting certain models to “protect” higher up models. I think your comment about them being afraid of its impact on the fs700 is exactly right and it makes me really want to disregard the company.

    Why not make a phenomenal product, one that has every major selling point it can, and then let that product’s superiority take over the market? It seems like Black Magic is trying to do that for the most part. Their cameras (and track record) are far from perfect, but they make the best product they can at the cheapest price. But there doesn’t seem to be any restricting. If a product is physically capable of doing more, it’ll do it. And when their firmware becomes capapble of more features, they upgrade it for free.

    1. Bob,
      Locally (Utah) I have rented out an a7ss (body only) at that price a few times from individuals. Camera shops here rent out the a7s and shogun for $100. At Borrowlenses.com you can get an a7s for less than $20 a day if you’re getting one for a week.
      Other than convenience, I’m not entirely sure how fiscally beneficial it is to own a camera, particularly at this level, when the newer better version will be out in only a year’s time (and will then become the standard). At the end of the year I’m going to go back and see what my camera investment netted me, to see if it was worth it.

  4. I ask for it. Like me, many asked for it. We are talking FF (Full Frame!) here. For video must of us just want a main camera that does as much as posible. We all have a camera that we can use for B Footage. B-footage @ 1080 or 4k does not need to be full frame and is available even on smartphones. Sony A7Sii / A7Rii solves that.

    If you already have a great DSLR that you want to keep for photos and for B-Roll the A7Sii is for you. If you have a great video camera (including the A7S) the A7Rii is a great alternative.

    Check out Dugdale’s A7Rii review.

    We are talking Full Frame main video camera with great video for about the price of the 5DIII when it came out. It is not even about the 4K or 5 AXIS, its more about the tracking, color, features.

    You guys are trolling for the NX1, right? It is a great camera, but it is a different market. So is the GH4. We are talking FF lovers.

    1. You’re missing the main point. The a7s2 is essentially the same camera as the a7s, just with new firmware. The only hardware change seems to be ibis, a feature that some people wanted, but the community as a whole was hardly clamoring for.
      Instead of releasing a “new” camera, Sony could have perfected the a7s over the period of 2 years with firmware updates.
      The recent a7s hack has revealed a lot about how Sony apparently purposefully crippled the a7s.

      1. I completely disagree, and if the a7r2 is any indication, the mark2 for the a7s is a completely different beast, even if the sensor is the same.

        Having been using the a7s since launch, it’s a great camera no doubt, but it had some issues that the mark 2 fixes. I own a shogun and 7q+ and those are nightmares to work with unless you’re rigging out hugely… and the hdmi port wore out very, very quickly and was dropping signal so much that I have had to resort to gh4 for certain shoots as its more reliable. and i was using cages and hyper thin cables!

        i was on the fence at first, but after using the a7r2 extensively (especially while traveling), i never once had an overheating issue, so i have faith. My old 7D overheated more just shooting HD

        so 4K internal was something i definitely asked for. IBIS … just as important for me, turning my favourite canon fast primes into stabilized lenses.

        Slog3 we will see, no experience on that yet, but what I’ve seen is promising.

        120fps HD – already loving it from the a7r2.

        Of course we’re all entitled to opinions, but it’s very unfair to say its a camera no one asked for / didn’t need to happen.

        Not only unfair, but down right false.

        I DO agree on firmware updates… it’d be nice to have gotten some minor features (like rec button, assigning APSC mode etc), as those were extremely annoying to have missing.

      2. Casey, the community WAS clamoring for. We were clamoring for a full circle video DSLR style camera. It is not about ibis, it is not about low light. That is why people ran to the GH4 which has none of that but it is still a best seller. The A7s was a bit of a unfinished project, a concept camera. The A7sii is sony’s GH4, and its full frame and it has ibis.

        It is an important camera. At least for me.

        1. I think then you misunderstood my post, or I was not clear. The a7s2 brings a lot of features people wanted… And that the a7s could have delivered with firmware updates. It appears that virtually the only thing the 2 does that the 1 couldn’t is ibis. What this article for me was about, is that Sony chose to ignore the a7s in favor of releasing a new model. Like with their F5, they choose to cripple a camera unnecessarily so they can turn a quick profit by releasing something later. The F5 external module does allow raw recording, but they also made it the only official way to enable 4k, when the F5 body itself was fully capable of it the whole time. I feel the a7s sits similarly. There are features they could have added with firmware, but chose instead to charge there community for a while new piece of equipment instead. They don’t have customer loyalty, which is why I’m choosing not to give them my purchasing loyalty anymore.

          1. Interesting view but I think it’s incorrect.

            We were told from the start that the reason a7s doesn’t do internal 4k is because of overheating issues… which seems to still be an issue with the Mark 2s, despite the larger body AND having IBIS turned off. Slog3 is about the only thing I can think of that’s actually firmware capable to be added. In addition to the ibis and 4k internal, the overall design is more comfortable due to it it being larger as well.

            I don’t see this as going against customer loyalty… but you could argue the camera should have been like this as a mark 1, although then we’d have a whole year of not having used the a7s in it’s not quite ready state.

            And looking at the market, I don’t see any other hybrid camera that’s even close. If you want to talk customer loyalty, Canon and Nikon have simply forgotten we exist, and that’s much worse than being given a choice for products.

      3. you do know that the hack is false right? yea it works as a pretty UI design, but there are no devs willing to create an app for it. So what do you have? a dead “rumor,” also the person who leaked the hack was the same person who leaked the olympus om-d shooting in 4k internally, that turned out to be a fake too.

        1. I’m not sure your point. In terms of being able to get information about the camera workings, it’s not a false hack. It certainly doesn’t add any features, but I never said it did. But it’s generally agreed that the information released from the camera code is legitimate.

  5. Never said nobody wanted it, the closest I got was saying that the community wasnt clamoring for ibis. Certainly some people will want and need it.
    I’m glad that it’ll be a good camera for you, but from everything I’ve read, it’s a very similar beast hardware wise.
    Obviously internal 4k is important for people, heck I’d prefer it over the shogun if the codec was better.
    But my experience, shooting narrative which is a significant portion of my work, was that the a7r2 overheated frequently when shooting internal 4k, and not once when going out to a recorder.
    Did you not use your included cable clamp with your HDMI cable?
    I maintain it didn’t need to happen, it’s just a money grab nothing innovative like the previous cameras, and that’s fine, they’re a business. I just think it was bad business.

    1. I never found a cable that actually fit in the cable clamp! The stock one that is. And by the time I started using a cage for it, the hdmi port was already worn out (within 2 months). Typically it was a b-cam/ronin, while i was shooting on an fs700/7q as main, so putting the shogun on it and then onto a slider was very cumbersome.

      I just picked up the pre-order today, and some quick tests in low light already revealed how useful IBIS is. I was able to shoot at 1/6 and have a clear shot, whereas on the mark 1, 1/100 was always my minimum.

      (a few posts above someone said that they think no one asked for it, and your post title is very similar 🙂

      Most of my work is corporate, where speed and portability are my main concerns, so the m2 is a very welcome upgrade.

  6. Ok, I think this camera is a big step up from the A7s. In camera stabilization…now I can use my prime lenses on the fly and get better stabilization on my DJI Ronin M and get more shots off without being locked down. 4k at 100mbps quality looks as good or better than my Atomos Ninja Assassin – A7s combo. Who wants to lug that big 7″ screen around anyway?? By the time the Atomos turns on I missed the shot! SLog 3 with an ISO start of 1600 is way better then SLog2 at 3200 ISO. SLog3 has amazing dynamic range and clarity. I’m using it 80% of the time. The 120fps internal slow motion is a dream at full 1080p. Some of my 1080p 120fps shots look almost as good as the 4k up close. The pictures I’ve been taking with the Mark ii have an almost painted picturesque look to them and much sharper. It does perform better in low light. I can safely use 16,000 ISO where with the A7S I felt the limit was for me at 12,000 ISO. Best of all no overheating at 4k 100mbps. You all can keep your A7s’s, I’m loving my A7sii!

  7. The interest in the A2 will be the internal recording. Other people on forums have said the external recording is unreliable: using HDMI output & the expense of an external recorder. Full frame 4k recording internally is a big incentive

    1. Definitely that’s the biggest incentive. I’ve never had an unreliable external recording moment though, and frankly, occurrences reported on most forums are relatively far and few between. Used a7s=1400-1500, pxe recorder is $1000. So you’re sitting a couple hundred less if 4k recording is truly all you’re after. I imagine most people that want internal 4k are run and gun shooters, as I will agree, running around with a shogun on the hot shoe mount is a little cumbersome. For commercial or narrative work, I’d still prefer to shoot onto an external recorder to get the 422 (vs 420 internal).

  8. I would be very interested in buying some of your gear if you a jumping ship. As a very small studio I almost jumped at the 4K internal but now am more wary after reading your review. Any gear sti left?

  9. Interesting opinion, though a bit misguided… however some valid points…

    5 axis image stabilization, S-Log3 Gamma, new 65-Point CAF, internal 4K recording, body enhancements, ability to power via usb…

    All of the above are not possible through software/firmware updates. While you might assume some of the above could be, hardware decisions in the engineering of the original A7S made this impossible.

    These were not minor upgrades, but rather a significant advancement given the product and the size. Not perfect, but lets not try and say this should be the same level as the A7S. If you feel that the advancements are not worth the extra cash, that is your prerogative. If you know how to add the above features through software alone, you sir have super powers.

  10. Never said 5 axis, internal 4k or the 65 point caf were firmware possibilities. But slog3 easily could have been. The lack of support for the a7s was my issue, perhaps reread my article, or don’t, whatever.

    1. I feel the same way with Sony. I don’t agree that everything could have been added (4k probably would have overheated the camera too quickly, the a7s2 is bigger).

      But there are so many easy things to be fixed, the obvious one being the recording button. I don’t feel they are listening as well. Problem is there are no real good alternatives in the same space. Really hoping Blackmagic is going to do amazing things with the mini ursa and hopefully a new pocketcamera some day (with better battery).

  11. There is a fair amount of emotion in some of these comments, and i understand why. Some of you jumped on the a7s thinking it was perfect and now have a realisation that you should have waited . But that is the lot of the early adopter. There is never a good time to buy in this age of endless upgrades and innovation. And that brings me to my point that i wish to make. Thank god for company’s like sony who are driving innovation. If we were waiting for the canons and nikons to introduce a camera like the a7s we would be waiting a very long time.
    Sony with all its resources is leading the way down a path that we could only dream of 5 years ago. Bravo.
    Should we be critical of sony for wanting to drive innovation. I think not. The a7s is still the same camera that does the same things that it did when you bought it, its just that now, there is an alternative. Its called buyers regret. We have all been there. The alternative is the contrived upgrade cycle that apple has foistered onto the phone industry.

    1. Sure there is emotion, but I don’t regret buying the a7s. It did exactly what I needed when I owned it. The regret is that Sony gave no support to the camera afterwards. You can be a fanboy of Sony if you want, I have no brand loyalty so I buy what I need from whoever is offering it. But if they expect me to adore them like you seem to, for abandoning an entire user base, I’ll pass.

  12. I was one of the first kids on the block to buy an A7s. It was great. Paid itself off quickly and could do things no other camera could. About a year later I sold it to finance an FS5. Returned the FS5 after a week (noisy, artifacts, crappy IQ overall) and bought an A7s II.

    The improvement goes well beyond firmware. I’ve done extensive testing with it and cannot see the difference between internal and external 4k. That said, I rarely shoot S Log 2/3 as I find 8 bit and S Log just don’t make a nice combo. Instead I shoot primarily in the Cine Profiles as they give more accurate flesh tones and are far less noisy. You can also simulate log by lowing the contrast in the profile settings. The image stabilization is a god send for hand held with non IS primes. The user buttons have more assignability. They’ve also improved the sensitivity, LED/EVF, and frame rate.

    While far from perfect, it is a significant step up from the A7s I.

    1. I’ve had the chance to shoot a few things on the a7s2 as well now, and I will both agree and disagree with some of your points. IBIS is indeed amazing. For run and gun, paired with a long lens, it’s really fantastic. External to the shogun still produces a superior image in my opinion, but again thats using slog to get the full dynamic range of the image. 422 really helps those 8 bits stretch.
      While it is an upgrade, I still think Sony could have given a7s owners a few of the non-hardware related updates. Releasing new ‘flagship’ cameras yearly like they were phones is something we will have to get used to at this level it would appear. Thanks for your input.

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