This Sony a7 II vs a7R II guide is exactly what you need if you’re struggling to choose between these two excellent cameras.
Neither model is new – but both offer some fantastic image capabilities for ultra-low prices.
The Sony a7 II is a fairly well-rounded camera designed for professional photographers of all stripes, be it wedding, landscape, street, or still life photography.
The Sony a7R II, on the other hand, is more of a specialist’s camera, thanks to its high-quality low light performance and impressive megapixel count.
The a7R II also offers some excellent video capabilities, even a half-decade after its announcement, and is an excellent choice for still/video shooters looking for a relatively inexpensive full-frame body.
Now let’s take a closer look at how these two cameras compare, and which one is right for your needs.
Table of Contents
Sony a7rii vs a7ii | Key Differences
1. Size & Weight
The Sony a7R II and the Sony a7 II were intended as compact, lightweight cameras that are well-built and durable but also extremely small and light for full frame bodies.
In this, Sony was successful, producing two cameras with near-identical dimensions and weights:
625g for the a7R II versus 599g for the a7 II.
126.9 x 95.7 x 60.3mm for the a7R II versus 127 x 96 x 60mm on the a7 II.
Note that neither model is especially heavy, which makes them both excellent choices as high-quality travel cameras. You can slip one of these bodies into a backpack or suitcase, and you won’t be weighed down by a brick of a camera.
Also note that, while the a7R II is technically heavier, you’re probably not going to notice a difference of 26g. So I’d urge you to make your decision between these two bodies on the key factors discussed elsewhere in this article.
As for the dimensions, while neither of these models can be described as pocket-sized, they’re considerably smaller than most full frame DSLRs on the market today.
And that’s despite having a nice, deep handgrip (60mm on both bodies), as well as EVFs and plenty of useful buttons and dials.
Despite the subtle differences in dimensions, you’d be hard-pressed to pick out one camera over the other if you held them side-by-side.
But while neither stands out in terms of size and weight, both are impressively small, impressively light, and perfect for any photographer who is tired of lugging around a full-sized full frame body.
2. Rear LCD & EVF
Go back a few years in terms of mirrorless technology, and you sometimes find yourself saddled with unpleasant electronic quality that just can’t compete with optical viewfinders.
Fortunately, when it comes to the a7R II and the a7 II, this isn’t a problem.
Both cameras offer 2.36M-dot EVFs that produce clear, crisp viewing. It’s true that Sony has leveled up its EVF game in the Sony a7R IV, but the viewfinder on the a7R II and the a7 II is perfectly respectable and will give you an excellent shooting experience.
(Bear in mind that the Sony a7 III, which is arguably the best mirrorless camera around, offers an EVF with the same 2.36M-dot resolution.)
You do get slightly more viewfinder magnification in the a7R II compared to the a7 II (0.78x vs 0.71x), and this can make checking focus easier in the field. But both cameras are going to offer viewfinders good enough to satisfy most professionals.
The LCDs on these two models are essentially identical:
1230k-dot resolutions, three inches, and a tilting design. It’s unfortunate that you don’t get a fully articulating screen, but the tilting design allows you to get into some awkward positions when shooting architecture, macro, and more (plus, it can be helpful for many different types of videography).
Also unfortunate is the lack of a touch screen on both LCDs. But while this is common on recently debuted bodies, it’s not essential.
3. Ergonomics, Handling, & Build
In ergonomics, handling, and build, as in EVFs and LCDs, the a7R II and the a7 II are far more similar than different – though there are a few divergences worth touching on.
Let’s start with the similarities:
Both the a7R II and the a7 II feature well-built bodies that feel good in the hands. You get solid, relatively rugged exteriors that are topped off with weather sealing, so both cameras will function well in tougher situations (e.g., rain, snow, humidity, and more).
Personally, I’m a fan of the compact-but-still-tangible Sony full frame design, which offers the size benefits of mirrorless cameras but refuses to discard the DSLR form-factor entirely. The grip, for instance, is a sizable one, and this makes for excellent handling, especially if you spend hours on end holding your camera body.
For professionals, the lack of dual card slots is going to present something of a problem (and this is a feature corrected for in subsequent models), but serious hobbyists should be okay with just the single SD slot.
On the other hand, both of these models do offer in-body image stabilization. This feature alone makes these mirrorless cameras more appealing than their DSLR competitors, and while the promised 4.5 stops of IBIS isn’t exactly top-of-the-line, it’s going to give your low light shooting and videography a real boost.
As for camera differences:
The Sony a7R II offers a true silent shooting mode – a feature that event photographers are going to love, and street photographers are going to appreciate deeply. This means shooting with literally no noise and is perfect for situations where you don’t want your camera to be heard.
The a7R II also packs a more durable shutter. Sony rates it at 500,000 shots, which is on par with other professional models, compared to the 200,000 (but still respectable) shot-count on the a7 II.
One last feature worth noting:
While neither the a7R II or the a7 II offer especially impressive battery life, you can eke out a few more minutes of shooting on the a7 II with the LCD (350 shots versus 340 shots), though this is actually reversed when using the EVF (290 shots on the a7R II versus 270 shots on the a7 II).
4. Autofocus & Drive
Sony is known for its world-class autofocus system – and while the a7R II and the a7 II certainly don’t offer the same AF capabilities as the more recent a7R IV or the a7 III, neither will disappoint your standard shooter (though if you’re a professional sports photographer, then I’d suggest looking elsewhere).
Both cameras offer Sony’s hybrid system, which utilizes a combination of phase-detection and contrast-detection AF points for fast and accurate focusing.
But here, the a7R II does have an edge. It packs 399 phase-detection points and 25 contrast-detection points, compared to the 117 phase-detection points and 25 contrast-detection points on the a7 II.
In practice, this makes for faster AF on the a7R II, and tracking is going to be given a similar boost, even if neither model can compete with Sony’s most recent options.
If you’re an action shooter or portrait photographer, you’ll undoubtedly appreciate the eye-AF on either camera, which allows you to lock focus on your subject’s eye prior to taking the shot.
But here the a7R II wins once again:
It offers eye AF when set to the AF-C shooting mode, while the a7 II only allows for eye AF capabilities when set to AF-S. And for photographers dealing with action, this is going to be a far more useful feature to have.
Surprisingly, the a7R II and the a7 II feature identical continuous shooting speeds, at 5 fps. While not exactly poor, it’s thoroughly outcompeted by many other full frame models on the market and is going to be a frustrating limitation for anyone looking to do action photography.
Note that the a7 II does have the better buffer. You get 28 RAW photos or 52 JPEGs on the a7 II, compared to 23 RAW photos or 23 JPEG images on the a7R II.
This isn’t really a surprise, given the file sizes that the a7R II generates, and it’s going to give the a7 II a slight boost in the eyes of wildlife, sports, and street photographers.
When it comes to resolution, the a7R II is a true standout.
It sports a high resolution 42 MP sensor, offering nearly twice as many megapixels as the 24 MP a7 II, and crushes Canon’s much newer, full frame mirrorless cameras (at 30 and 26 MP).
While the 42 MP sensor on the a7R II has now been surpassed by the 60+ MP sensor on the a7R IV, it’s still quite impressive. And it resolves a huge amount of detail, making it perfect for landscape, commercial, and fine-art photographers who plan to make large prints or must satisfy demanding clients.
Assuming you have the glass to take advantage of this high resolution, you can also do some sizable cropping on the a7R II and still come out with more resolution than the a7 II, a fact that many wildlife photographers will appreciate.
Note that the a7R II doesn’t have an anti-aliasing filter, which means that you’ll be able to resolve a bit more detail than you might expect – though this does expose the sensor to problems such as moire.
Regardless, before you get drawn in by the megapixel count on the a7R II, I recommend asking yourself:
Do I really need that many pixels?
The truth is that the 24 MP sensor on the a7 II is quite enough for most applications, including professional applications. And you can still print large with the a7 II, even if you’re not going to get the same quality as the a7R II offers.
Yes, there are legitimate reasons to go for the huge megapixel count on the a7R II, but it really depends on the type of photography you like to do. Especially because more megapixels make for larger files, and storage space, while fairly cheap, isn’t free.
6. Image Quality
In general, you can expect high-ISO noise to increase on high-megapixel bodies, but the Sony a7R II still manages to offer very impressive image quality performance compared to the a7 II.
To my eye, the a7R II actually manages to surpass the a7 II’s high-ISO capabilities (by around a half-stop). This is probably thanks to the backside-illuminated sensor used in the a7R II, which helps reduce noise levels.
You can shoot at ISO 100 to ISO 25600 on both bodies, with the ability to extend your ISO to 50 on the low end and 51200 on the high end (though you can go to 102400 on the a7R II).
Now, your tolerance for high-ISO noise is going to vary depending on the type of photography that you do, but noise is very well-controlled on both cameras up to ISO 1600, and even at ISO 6400 images are usable. ISO 12800 is pushing it, however; you’ll be faced with significant loss of detail and dynamic range.
Both these low light performances are quite decent, even in 2020, though neither camera can compete with the likes of the Sony a7 III or the Nikon Z6.
Note that you are going to get a significant benefit from downsizing your a7R II images (i.e., down to the 24 MP size of the a7 II).
In terms of dynamic range, neither camera offers class-leading capabilities, but the approximately 13.5 stops offered by both bodies is going to be good enough for most shooters. This includes landscape photographers, who tend to be quite demanding in terms of their DR requirements.
In terms of video, the Sony a7R II is the better option, hands down.
While the a7 II does offer HD video at 60 fps, as well as mic and headphone ports, it’s thoroughly outclassed by the Sony a7R II.
On the a7R II, you get UHD 4K at 30 frames per second, which is competitive with many of the top mirrorless cameras today. Video quality is extremely high, especially in Super 35 mode, which downscales the recording to 4K and avoids pixel-binning (though it does come with an APS-C crop factor).
You also have the option to shoot full frame, though pixel-binning does reduce the quality somewhat.
Note that you also get S-Log to maximize dynamic range, and the in-body image stabilization helps create smoother, more professional recordings.
And while the a7 II does feature IBIS, the lack of 4K makes it a non-starter for many serious video shooters.
If you’ve been carefully following this article, you’ll notice that the a7R II has outcompeted the a7 II in nearly every category.
But the a7 II is more appealing in terms of its price, and it makes the decision between these two cameras far more difficult.
The a7R II is around $400 USD more than the a7R II. And while this isn’t a huge difference, it might be enough to make you stop and consider grabbing it over the a7R II.
As of right now, you can buy the a7 II for around $1400 USD, compared to $1800 USD for the a7R II.
So you have to ask yourself:
Are the extra features on the Sony a7R II – a higher megapixel count, silent shooting, better autofocus, and better video – worth the extra cash?
And only then should you make your decision.
Sony a7 II vs Sony a7R II | Final Words
To sum up this comparison, both the Sony a7 II and the Sony a7R II are very capable cameras – though the a7R does come out ahead in most areas.
You get 42 megapixels versus 24 megapixels.
You get faster autofocus, more AF points, and eye AF when continuous focusing.
You get better high ISO performance.
And you get far superior, 4K video.
Now, while the Sony a7R II is something of a specialist camera, it manages to do a decent job in most areas. I’d feel comfortable using the a7R II for its intended uses – landscape, still life, and product photography – but also for portraits, travel photography, even street shooting.
You can also use the a7R II for videography, and even serious video shooters will appreciate its 4K capabilities.
The a7 II is more of a mixed bag, offering less impressive AF and video shooting, in particular. Additionally, its high ISO performance is nothing to write home about and its sensor is of a lower resolution.
But it does offer great image quality and good dynamic range, plus it has the lower price tag, so it’s certainly not a camera to dismiss out of hand.
It’s also worth noting that, with both cameras, you’ll have the option of a wide range of Sony FE (full frame) lenses. So whichever one you go for, there’s little doubt you’ll be capturing beautiful images in no time.
Jaymes Dempsey is a professional macro and nature photographer in Midwest America. His knowledgeable insights on photography and gear have been published on several leading photography resources across the web.