While the A7R II may seem a bit beefy compared to other mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras (ILCs), it's significantly tinier than high-end/prosumer full-frame models from industry stalwarts like Canon and Nikon. The former's 50.6-megapixel 5DS DSLR is quite a bit larger in all dimensions and weighs in at 32.8 oz. with a battery inside -- more than 10 ounces heavier than the A7R II. That's not an insignificant difference, especially if you're considering which one you'd rather hang off your shoulder or neck for hours at a time.
That size advantage isn't without trade-offs, of course. The generous frame on the 5DS, for example, gave Canon room to squeeze in two memory card slots (one CompactFlash, one SD) -- a popular feature for photogs who want automatic backups of every shot, or the ability to save RAW files on one card and JPEGs on the other. With the A7R II, however, we've got just the single SD card slot to play with. Speaking of the 5DS, there's also more room for connections, including a faster USB 3.0 port, whereas the A7R II makes do with the more common micro-USB receptacle.
Then there's the battery, which comes in at a relatively tiny 1,020mAh (compared to battery packs from Nikon and Canon that sport capacities of around 1,800 to 1,900mAh). While I made it through several hours of shooting without worry, I do think picking up a spare battery would be a wise investment. You could also opt for Sony's VG-C2EM vertical grip, which adds a secondary set of controls for use when shooting vertically and support for two power packs at once. While you give up a bit of the A7R II's size and weight advantage with the grip attached, it may well be worth it if you plan on shooting for long periods of time.
The overall image quality is impressive and those 42.4-megapixel frames result in significant detail even at 100 percent zoom. Sony's recent announcement that 14-bit RAW support will come via a firmware update further sweetens the deal. It may not be the high-ISO king in the A7 lineup (that title belongs to the newly announced A7S II), but we do have a max ISO of 102,400 on offer here. I'd personally avoid those higher settings though. In fact, I probably wouldn't venture much beyond about ISO 12,800, which is still impressive.
I was very curious about the A7R II's focus performance, especially considering its high-end specs and high-end price. I've been a regular user of Fuji's X-series mirrorless cameras for the past few years and I've been impressed with the steady improvements to autofocus performance -- through both firmware updates and brand-new models. Still, they're a step or three behind the lightning-fast focus speeds you'll find on modern DSLRs. So, I was anxious to try out the A7R II's focusing chops, especially its highly touted "Fast Hybrid AF" system and its whopping 399 phase-detection focal points.
An MLS rivalry match between the Seattle Sounders FC and the Portland Timbers proved to be a solid test of the A7R II's abilities. The match also gave me a chance to try out Sony's FE 70-200mm f/4 lens -- part of a growing lineup of first-party optics. And while performance with adapted third-party lenses from Canon and others continues to improve, a wider variety of Sony-made options can only help the company's efforts to gain a foothold among the pro ranks.