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Sony’s A7 full-frame mirrorless cameras: Which is right for you?

best sony a  series camera alpha r mkii
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Sony has proven itself a leader in mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras with its full frame A7-series, but when it comes to buying one, things can be a bit confusing. In the current, second-generation lineup, the A7 Mark II, A7R II, and A7S II are all capable cameras (all have received either a Digital Trends Editors’ Choice or Recommended award), but each has unique advantages that may make it better or worse in any given situation.

The most obvious difference in these cameras is the sensor resolution, which varies considerably from the A7R II’s 42 megapixels (one of the highest-megapixel full-frame sensors you can currently buy) down to the A7S II’s 12 megapixels. The A7 II takes up the middle spot with 24 megapixels.

The numbers alone may lead one to think the A7S II is the entry-level model, but this is not true. It is actually the A7 II, at $1,700, that holds down the low end of the range (although, “low end” is probably an inaccurate description here). The A7S II is a niche camera, targeting professional photographers and filmmakers who work in low light, and its $3,000 price tag reflects this. The A7R II tops the range at $3,200. (All prices listed are body-only.)

But just because one camera costs more than the other doesn’t mean it is necessarily better. The cameras share several features, including a burst rate of five frames-per-second and terrific five-axis image stabilization. But each also has its strengths and weaknesses, and which one will work best for you depends on what you plan to shoot, so let’s take a closer look at each.

A7 II

sony-a7-ii-body

The A7 II is a great choice for enthusiasts and amateur photographers moving to their first full-frame camera. Its 24MP sensor shoots up to ISO 25,600 and is sufficient for all but the most demanding applications. It also strikes a good balance between file size and resolution. It won’t quite match the image quality of the A7R II or the extreme low-light capabilities of the A7S II, but for most situations, it will perform admirably.

The A7 II boasts a hybrid autofocus system that uses 117 phase-detect focus points and 25 contrast-detect points. This means AF performance is relatively quick and snappy, and will do a decent job of tracking moving subjects.

Where this camera fails, unfortunately, is with video. It is the only one out of the three to not offer 4K resolution, and it also lacks some higher-end features like Sony’s S-Log flat color profile.

If video isn’t a primary focus for you, however, then the A7 II is likely the best camera on this list. Even if your budget is $3,000, getting the A7 II will leave you room for at least one really nice lens, and the lens will make the most noticeable difference in image quality. 

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