Most camera manufacturers will milk a popular model dry, but not Sony! Just a year after releasing the first full-frame mirrorless cameras, the Alpha 7 and Alpha 7R, Sony has revealed their successor: the Alpha 7 II. Launched in Japan only, for now, the new model is Sony's first with 5-axis in-body stabilization for still photos and video, which helps reduce camera shake regardless of the lens used. Even with lenses that have no stabilization at all, the sensor itself is shifted in the pitch, roll, yaw, X and Y axis to counteract camera movement.
If E-mount lenses are used, however, the body will correct in just three directions and let the lens do the rest. The type of stabilization used is shown in the display, and you can even manually input the focal length for a better result. All of that will help reduce blur in low-light situations, even with a vintage lens.
Sony has significantly improved its hybrid autofocus system, which uses 117 phase and 25 contrast points, making it about 30 percent faster. Subject motion detection is also 50 percent quicker, helping ensure that fast-moving subjects remain sharp. The full-frame sensor itself appears unchanged at 24.3-megapixels, and there's no word yet on a possible "R" version of the updated model with more resolution. Last year, both the Alpha 7 and 36-megapixel 7R were announced at the same time.
The body is largely similar, with a slightly better grip. Other specs are also unchanged: it still uses the same BIONZ X image processor with 14-bit RAW support, has a max 1/8000 shutter speed, a 2.4 million dot finder and a 3-inch 1.2 million dot display. If you were hoping for some of the Alpha 7S's 4K video or 409,000 ISO light sensitivity mojo to trickle down to the base model, it's not to be: max ISO remains at (a still respectable) 25,600, and video capture is 1080P/60fps using XAVC-S or AVCHD.
The price for Japan will be ¥190,000 ($1,600), but the Alpha 7 II has not been announced for North America yet. If you just purchased the original Alpha 7, there's no reason to feel bad -- the new model brings some nice features, but isn't a huge leap over the last one. Still, by releasing a new version of a lauded camera after just a year, Sony is sending a strong signal to its more lackadaisical competitors.