A7II, Vivitar 70-150mm f3.8 on C/Y Adapter
Took the A7II out for a walk today, and I'm reminded how thoroughly competent a camera it really is.
That also prompted a few thoughts on it as compared to the two bodies I use the most, the D750 and X-T1.
X-T1 is the oldest of the three, announced in January 2014 for
$1299USD. It is in some ways the most pro oriented, being the top of
Fuji's line and coming in with the best sealing and the fastest
framerates of the 3 (at 8fps), although the RAW buffer is marginally
smaller than the A7II. At 16MP it features both the highest pixel
density of the three and the lowest pixel count. It's the smallest &
lightest of the three, in part from being the only APS-C body.
D750 was announced in September 2014 for $2299 USD, and thus was the
most expensive of the three new. It's the only body of the three with an
OVF and dual card slots. Naturally it's also the largest & heaviest
in large part due to being the only DSLR. At 6.5fps it's middle of the
pack for speed, but the buffer is both heavily card & setting
dependent, and the smallest of the three bodies by default.
A7II was announced last of the three, in November 2014 for $1999 USD.
It's the only IBIS-equipped model of the three and is an odd mix of pro
features (like the shutter) and consumer build (by far the worst build
of the three and the smallest viewfinder). At 5fps, it's the slowest of
the three by a solid margin, although that is offset by having the
deepest buffer (sort-of).
The D750 has the best combo of
button layout and grip. The X-T1 is a definite second, especially if
equipped with a grip extension, although the buttons are not pronounced
enough. The A7II suffers from a lack of finger clearance with some
fatter lenses and adapters and frankly lousy button placement.
terms of button assign-ability the X-T1 comes out on top and the A7II
dead last. The Fuji not only has the most flexible assignments, you can
change them on the fly as needed by long-pressing the button in
The A7II and D750 both get two custom settings banks
on the mode dial, which is nice. Fuji puts 7 in the Q menu, but with
reduced settings covered. Frankly 2 full banks beats 7 partial ones and I
only use the Fuji ones for managing Film simulations.
manages modes by selecting a combo of Aperture ring, Shutter speed dial
and ISO dial settings (A for auto on each). They've even figured out how
to do that when using a lens with no aperture ring (A is the setting
past minimum aperture, and changing aperture on the dial shifts back to
aperture priority). Nikon's never figured out how to make aperture rings
and dials seamless. Sony handles things like Nikon with a G lens,
unless you have a aperture ring-equipped lens, where it's controlled by
the lens's A setting (but Sony has real program shift). Fuji > Sony
> Nikon here.
Nikon's Auto-ISO is by far the best, respecting
manual focus focal length when set. Fuji's is second, as you can at
least set the shutter speed changeover..and assign it to a button for
easy access. Sony's auto-ISO is useless for most manual lens work, as
it's just on/off and defaults to 1/60th if a non-electronic lens is
Likewise Nikon's manual focus lens interface is the
best. It can be assigned to a button to select lenses, has 9 slots, all
of which are configurable, records data in EXIF and as noted above, is
used for Auto ISO. Fuji has 6 slots, only two of which are configurable
(the other 4 are 21mm, 24mm, 28mm and 35mm) and needs menu access, but
does record in EXIF. Sony's a single setting, which can be assigned to a
button but only affects the IBIS system, it doesn't record in EXIF or
feed Auto ISO. Nikon > Fuji > Sony here.
RAW files are a
mixed bag. Nikon's are both the most configurable (12 or 14 bit, lossy
or lossless) and the best quality. Fuji's are 12 bit uncompressed,
across the board. Sony's are 14bit uncompressed or pseudo-12 bit really
lossy (it's a terrible algorithm and delivers 10 bit data in a 12 bit
package) and silently switches on you if you select continuous advance.
That's both the source of the 28 RAW buffer on the A7II, and the reason
why you can get a deeper buffer from the D750 if you select 12 bit lossy
(maxing out at 33). The end result is the Nikon is the most efficient
on card space and buffer and Sony the worst on card space, but still
about 5 shots more than the X-T1 in buffer. 16MP and 12 bit means that
the X-T1 is not a major card hog unlike the A7II.
In terms of IQ,
sensor size matters and the X-T1, while excellent for APS-C, is just
not up to the much larger FF sensors. Fuji does deliver more pleasing
colour than Sony, but lacks in DR and ISO performance. The D750 tops out
on all 3 in RAW.
For JPEG, the sensor size matters much less
except at high ISO's and Fuji's JPEG's are IMHO the best of the three,
followed by Nikon. Sony's JPEG's are competent but suffer from Sony's
neutral colour rendering vs the less accurate but more pleasing Nikon
and Fuji colours.
In terms of ISO range, the Fuji is oddly
limited, with no extended ISO range available when shooting RAW (the
24MP bodies fixed this oddity). It also exposes about a stop hotter than
the other two, so it's really an ISO 100-3200 range (200-6400 on the
dial) when normalized to the other bodies (JPEG is 100-51200 on the
dial, 50-25600 normalized to the other bodies in exposure). The other
two both have 50-51200 extended ranges although Sony has an extra stop
of non-extended range at the high end (25600 vs 12800 on the D750).
Generally I find there's a real world 1.5-2 stops extra at the high end
on the FF bodies.
Battery life is a near-tie between the A7II
and the X-T1, although the X-T1 is a bit worse if you use the boost
functions, but you gain faster response and an improved EVF experience
from it. The D750 is wildy better, having 5-6 times the battery life in
the real world unless you use a lot of Live view, but even then it's a
solid doubling when only using LV.
Viewfinders are interesting,
the X-T1's is the biggest, and despite having the same spec panel as the
X-T1, the A7II isn't even vaguely competitive aside from one specific
area, as the A7II downrezzes the LV/EVF feed in a bunch of circumstances
and the X-T1 doesn't. Plus the A7II is only 0.71x and ~60fps vs the
0.77x and up to 100fps refresh on the X-T1. The D750 is 0.75x and
frankly mostly matches the X-T1 in all but the lowest light. The one
caveat here is the X-T1's focus peaking implementation is crap compared
to the Sony's, especially in magnified view. The D750 doesn't have focus
peaking of course, but does have AF confirm which works reasonably
All 3 have similar LCD implementations, with flip-out LCD
screens with a single tilt axis. The D750's isn't 1-finger adjustable,
but is also the most robust. Generally the LCD spec is similar although I
find the A7II is harder to view in bright light.
In terms of
quick-access to settings on the rear LCD, all three are good for
button-access items, but Nikon's quick-access/setting display is a bad
joke, with two different buttons giving 2 different UI's only one of
which can be used for settings access. Sony's is competent, Fuji's is
very good and also the most configurable (more settings displayed and
more can be chosen)
Image review is odd on mirrorless. Nikon sets
the standard, showing all the necessary info and allowing selection of
different display pages with tons of useful info. Fuji's is good, basic
shooting data is shown. Oddly Fuji doesn't show you how many images are
on the card. Sony's is mostly on par with Fuji, although for some reason
you cannot display the image's filename (which drives me nuts), but it
does tell you how many images are on the card. All can be configured to
not show images after shooting.
Controls are an mixed bag. The
Fuji has the most dedicated ones, with 2 control wheels, a dedicated
exposure compensation dial, dedicated shutter speed dial, dedicated ISO
dial, metering mode switch, dedicated viewfinder mode button and a drive
mode switch (which includes access to the canned modes). The Sony gets 3
control wheels, a dedicated exposure compensation dial and a mode dial.
Nikon gives you 2 control wheels, a mode dial and a drive mode switch.
Both the Sony and Nikon put canned modes and custom banks on the mode
dial. The Nikon has the most buttons by far, but the Fuji has the most
flexibility in assigning, the Sony is in between.
In terms of
shutter, the Sony has the best mechanical shutter, with 1/8000 max and
1/250 sync. The Fuji has the worst sync at 1/180, but while it shares a
1/4000 max mechanical shutter with the Nikon, it can go to 1/32000
electronic and can seamlessly switch between the two. The Sony also gets
EFCS, although there's no seamless switching and the Nikon is purely
mechanical with 1/4000 max and 1/200 sync.
The Nikon comes with a
built-in flash that can CLS command, the Fuji comes with a clip-on
body-powered flash, the Sony doesn't have any flash capability in the
box, you have to buy one separately.
Adaptability, well the Sony wins by a good margin. Basically everything is adaptable to it, including smart mount adapters for EF, Nikon F, Sony A, Sigma SA and Contax N mounts. Fuji is second, trailing due to the lack of smart adapters other than EF mount. Nikon F is basically not capable of having anything except MF lenses adapted to it, although it's a great source of lenses.
Cheap lenses, zoom AF category. Nikon wins by a mile, with plenty of cheap zooms available new or used, as long as you're willing to compromise a little on lens performance. Fuji is second here, as they have 3 cheap zooms (15-45, 16-50, 50-230). Sony is dead last, as it only has the 28-70 (For APS-C shooters there are options, but not on FF). Both Fuji and Sony can expand this via EF adapters, and Sony can also get some cheap AF zooms using the LA-EA3 & LA-EA4 A mount adapters.
Cheap lenses, prime AF category. Nikon wins by a small margin over Sony, thanks to the plentiful selection of older screwdriver AF primes and Yongnuo line. Sony comes in second thanks to the Samyang/Rokinon and Tamron primes. Fuji only really has the Viltrox selection and the XC 35/2.
Cheap lenses, MF prime category. Very close, but goes Sony > Fuji > Nikon largely due to adaptation.
AF performance, unsurprisingly the D750 takes it, especially for AF-C and tracking performance, but the Sony and Fuji both can limp in CDAF mode out to the edges of the frame. The D750 also might as well be manual focus only in LV mode (it AF's, but at a glacial pace). Fuji and Sony both have Face Detect, but it's not fast unlike the newer bodies. Fuji does beat Sony overall on this generation, so Nikon > Fuji > Sony
Wireless implementations here are all WiFi only, no BT, although the Sony can connect via a NFC tap. Nikon's software sucks the most, but 3rd party options are solid. Fuji's software works well and is reliable. Sony's is oddly limited, requires using the built-in Smart Remote App for control and has a collection of silly limitations, and is unreliable at basic image transfer. Fuji > Nikon > Sony here, with Nikon's base reliability and straightforward usage making up for the limited feature set.
Overall, all three bodies are great options for the user on a budget today. The Fuji is dirt cheap, while the Nikon and Sony will run you at least twice as much. But for a full kit you're looking at surprisingly similar numbers because lenses rapidly end up being your biggest expense on systems where you're under $1k for the body.