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Sony's A7S II is a 4K shooter for your darkest moments

Chris Velazco, @chrisvelazco
September 15, 2015
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We already got a lovely, refreshed A7R II just a few months ago, and Sony's eager to keep the upgrade train a-rollin'. The company unveiled the A7S II just a few days back, and despite a spec sheet that reads a lot like its predecessor's, this thing seems poised to nab the low-light shooting crown. If you've seen the original A7S in action, you'll know that's no small feat -- let's explore together, shall we?

Gallery: Sony a7S II hands-on | 17 Photos

To give us a taste of how good this thing is in the dark, Sony set up a pair of A7S IIs in a poorly lit room festooned with flowers and a rotating tray of sushi. Despite the inky (and pungent) conditions, both cameras sucked up a pretty astonishing amount of light and the picture as portrayed on a wall-mounted television came without the snowstorm of noise some cameras produce at ISO 32,000. For the record, you can technically crank the A7S II up to 409,600, which isn't a huge improvement on paper -- the original A7S and Nikon's D4S could shoot at the same extended range -- but that's no great sin if the results are anything like what we got out of last year's model.

In fact, while we're talking about similarities, there are plenty to see here. Both versions of the A7S have a full-frame 12-megapixel sensor (the better to suck up photons with, my dear) and run with the same BIONZ X image processor tucked away inside. Meanwhile, the classic boxy aesthetic of the A7 line remains mostly untouched, and you'll feel right at home if you've played with the A7R II since they share a near-identical control cluster and weight. That also means they're built like tanks (you know, in a good way), and weigh noticeably more than the RX100 II I used for these hands-on photos.

I'd argue last year's A7R was a better video camera than it was a still shooter (seriously, look at this), so Sony went big with the video upgrades this time. The biggest addition? You won't need an external recorder to shoot 4K video. It's finally been built right into the A7R II, and Sony took this opportunity to ditch pixel binning -- long story short, that means clearer video in low light situations. Sony also announced today that the updated A7S can shoot in 14-bit compressed or uncompressed RAW, the latter of which should help keep those super low-light shots even clearer. Alas, it cheekily (and understandably) taped up the SD card slot door so I couldn't grab any worthwhile sample shots. Sensing a theme here? An updated 169-point autofocus and 5-axis optical image stabilization also did a fine job keeping things steady and crisp in the dark. All things considered, the A7S II is shaping up to be a terribly worthy buy, but only some hands-on time (and a few hours post-midnight) can confirm whether you should pick this up instead of the new A7R II. Stay tuned for a full verdict soon.

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