A few early comparisons between the A7Rii and the E-M1

Discussion in 'Sony Alpha E-Mount Cameras' started by pdk42, Mar 26, 2016.

  1. pdk42

    pdk42 TalkEmount Regular

    81
    Nov 26, 2014
    OK - a bit of a long post (and no pics - sorry), but I thought some of you might find it interesting anyhow... If it's TLDR, then the exec summary is that I'm astonished by the A7Rii's IQ, even if it's not as polished a camera as the E-M1...

    I've been shooting Olympus m43 for some years now and have been very happy with the system. However, there are times when its smaller sensor just doesn't cut the mustard - low light, high ISO, big crops, heavy PP, narrow DOF on wider lenses - that sort of thing. As an ex Canon 5dii user, I had no delusions about the compromises that m43 would bring, but the IQ of the Oly system is more than good enough most of the time and the liberation that a compact mirrorless system brought me was more than enough to compensate. I've produced some very satisfying images with the Oly gear. No complaints!

    But time moves on and I've cast an occasional look at the A7 system. Despite its compactness and big sensor, the relatively clunky nature of the bodies and the lack of lens choice has held me back. I even tried an A7R a couple of months ago but despite the stellar IQ, the usability and compromises of the body just weren't enough to convince me. I knew that the A7Rii was a step on from the A7R, but the price kept holding me back. However, I weakened last week and decided to throw caution to the winds (and my credit card to the wolves) and bought one; complete with a 35mm f2.8 FE lens.

    Initially I suffered some buyer's remorse - what had I done? All that cash! To make matters worse, quick comparison shots in good light with the E-M1 didn't seem too different. What a fool I'd been. I was close to selling it with less than a hundred shots on the counter and having never left the house.

    But I decided to persevere just a little longer and a trip to family in France this Easter weekend seemed a good opportunity take the A7Rii and the E-M1 along to do some comparisons. I put the 17mm f1.8 lens on the Oly to make things comparable from an FOV perspective. Both cameras fitted nicely into a small ThinkTank Mirrorless Mover bag. There was even room for an old Oly OM 50mm f1.8 lens too.

    I'm only a day into the trip, but I've put a few hundred shots onto the Sony now and I have to admit that the IQ is a significant step up from the Oly. In no particular order, these are the things I'm noticing:

    - The noise handling is much better (duh). I knew this of course, but it's the practical impact of it which isn't immediately apparent. I took quite a few street shots today and being able to set the ISO at 1000-3200 without worrying about noise was a big confidence builder. I could set the lens at f5.6 and still get fast enough shutter speeds to freeze motion. With the Oly I'd have been concerned going over 800 which would have resulted in slower shutter speeds. Of course, the Oly IBIS is fantastic, but whist this is great for handheld landscapes, it does little for street or other work where the subject is moving.

    - The Sony's colours are much more reliable. I've thought for some time that the Oly can tend to give orange/yellow casts, needing some messing about in PP to fix (and sometimes not entirely fixable). I took a bunch of shots today at a family event and the Oly colour cast came across quite noticeably. In comparison, the A7Rii produced great colours without much messing. I always shoot raw and process in LR BTW - so I accept this might be a LR issue, but in my defence I've played around A LOT with LR in the past to fix this problem.

    - The 35/2.8 is definitely a better lens than the Oly 17/1.8. It's sharper across the frame wide open and even with both stopped down the resolution is notably higher. Some of that is probably the sensor resolution, but it's not the whole story since other m43 lenses (e.g. the 75/1.8) do a better job. The 35/2.8 is a lot of money for its spec, but it definitely performs.

    - Many of the shots at the family event were strongly backlit - the light coming in from outside via net curtains. This actually gave some nice diffuse light inside, even if the background was quite a bit brighter than the subjects. Thanks to both cameras having nice EVFs, I got the exposure mostly right, overexposing the background with the people nicely exposed. Looking at the photos afterwards, I was amazed how much "blooming" the Oly was showing. Light bleed from the light background over the subjects was very noticable whilst the effect was almost non-existent on the Sony. I was quite surprised by this and didn't really expect to see it at all.

    - Finally, in the Sony's favour, the shots from it are just very pleasing - great tonality and depth and just very easy on the eye. And needing very little PP. The Oly shots are great too, and in isolation I would be very happy with them, but they lack something that the Sony has. Call it "bite", "tonality", "depth" - I dunno, but it's there. I also have to work harder on the Oly files to get an end result I'm pleased with.

    - I took some shots in the Cathedral in Lille. As usual in churches, it was pretty dark in there with huge DR between the stained glass and the interior. Even at ISO 1600, I was able to push shadows and pull highlights in PP without losing significant details, introducing excessive noise or suffering colour shifts. Very impressive. The Oly in comparison just struggled. This sort of shooting just isn't the Oly's forte so it's really an unfair test - but it just proves the old adage of the need to pick the right tools for the job.

    OK - so I'm sort of sold on the IQ. In the usability department though, the Oly is still the winner by a long way. Without labouring the point too much, I'll just put all these in the Oly's favour:

    - Battery life (the A7Rii is really bad...)

    - AF is faster and more reliable in poor light

    - Controls and finesse in the camera's operation is just so much better with the Oly. This point needs a good few paragraphs to elaborate, so with a Fermat-esque flurry, I'll just leave it at that as a sort of metaphorical note in the margin!

    - The E-M1's LiveTime and LiveComposite features are missing on the Sony and I personally find these so good that they're almost deal breakers. It would be great if Sony could add them via firmware.

    - The Oly is just faster and smoother to operate. Part of this I guess is the smaller files, but it's not the whole story.

    - Although the Sony EVF is theoretically higher res, I still find the Oly more usable. It's certainly got a faster update rate and is smoother as a consequence.

    The one usability feature where the Sony wins is with focus peaking. On the A7Rii it's faster and more accurate than on the E-M1. I used the OM 50/1.8 on both to compare.

    So, I'm now in quite a dilemma. I love the Sony's IQ and although the E-M1 is the more polished camera I could probably live with the Sony - but the lack of LiveTime/LiveComposite would be a real bitter pill to swallow. I could just run two systems, but I really don't want to do that. I'd forever be vacillating about which to take and frankly I really can't afford the cash to own two lens ranges let alone the bodies.

    Then of course there's the cost and size of the Sony lenses to worry about. Where the hell are the reasonably-priced FE lenses? OTOH, I've built up a too-large collection of u43 lenses and I could really do with returning to sanity and perhaps a smaller Sony system with just one m43 body and one lens for that LiveComposite mode might be the answer. I'll let that thought turn around in my head for a little while!

    So, a long post - and one missing pics (shame on me), but if you want to see some of the pics I took on the A7Rii, go to my Flickr page - Paul Kaye.
     
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2016
    • Like Like x 3
    • Informative Informative x 1
  2. nidza

    nidza TalkEmount Regular

    120
    Nov 1, 2013
    Serbia
    You seem to have Oly for a while, but in Sony you're just briefly. For such an equipment, it needs good serious usage in variety of situations to see how it performs.

    I have to Google for LiveTime/LiveComposite, you mentioned it several times. I come from Nikon FX, owned almost a decade, so from my point of view A7ii was an upgrade beyond any expectation.
     
  3. pdk42

    pdk42 TalkEmount Regular

    81
    Nov 26, 2014
    Yes, I agree. It takes time and usage to get comfortable with a new system. Do take a look at Livetime/LiveComposite - it's a remarkable feature IMHO.
     
  4. adwb

    adwb TalkEmount Regular

    128
    Sep 30, 2015
    Bristol UK
    Alistair
    Lifetime/live composit would be nice but given the there are already Sony playmemories aps that work on every version apart from the A7rII I would not hold my breath
     
  5. ggibson

    ggibson TalkEmount Regular

    154
    Sep 1, 2011
    Thanks for your thoughts. I too came from m4/3.

    On the topic of Live Composite--I haven't used it personally, but Sony has an app "Light Trail" for $5 that seems to do what Live Composite does.

    Also while you're looking at apps, SkyHDR and Smooth Reflection apps are worth checking out--they can replace Grad NDs and ND filters (respectively). Both output RAW files. SkyHDR lets you blend two back to back exposures across the screen and customize the angle/softness of the transition in real-time. Smooth Reflection does in-camera averaging of multiple shots to achieve the effect of an ND filter. Awesome tools to have if your lens isn't filter-friendly, and much cheaper than buying large square filters and holders, etc.
     
    • Informative Informative x 2
  6. WT21

    WT21 TalkEmount Top Veteran

    611
    Aug 7, 2011
    Yeah, the reasons I left m43: color at higher ISO, DR. I also like the 1" sensor (RX100), crop, full frame spread, all using the same controls.

    But m43 still has a lot going for it, especially affordable lenses. But the new FE 50/1.8 gives us hope!!
     
  7. JonathanF2

    JonathanF2 TalkEmount Veteran

    258
    Aug 16, 2014
    I'm in the same boat as you! I've been shooting the A7 for the last 2 months with adapted glass and finally received my first native lens today (which happens to be the 28mm f/2). I pretty much agree on all the points you mentioned. I actually prefer the handling of my E-M5 II over the A7, but in terms of pure sensor output and processing raws, the Sony files just look better. I also don't want to run two systems, but like them both for different reasons!
     
  8. pdk42

    pdk42 TalkEmount Regular

    81
    Nov 26, 2014
    Yes, I like them both too but I've decided that I'm not going to run two systems. So either I quit with the Sony now or I go fully in with a decent lens range (probably 16-35, 35, 50/55, 90 and 70-200) and sell the u43 gear. The cost and size (esp the 70-200) concerns me, but I could offset a lot of that from the u43 sale.

    Decisions, decisions...
     
  9. Nexnut

    Nexnut TalkEmount Top Veteran

    Sounds familiar.
    Shooting two different APS-C systems in tandem for the last two-and-a-half years has taught me a thing or two. I've also got an E-M5 some weeks ago (second try), did some comparative shootouts and have sold it again - as much as I like the camera, the files (noise, tonal transitions) didn't cut it for me. As long as there's no single system that covers my needs, I'll stick with Fuji X (X-Pro1, X-T1, compact fast glass) for the documentary stuff and Sony/Zeiss for some long-term projects (large prints). I thought long and hard about getting an A7II to replace both APS-C systems or at least my Fuji X gear but looking forward to some upcoming projects (large prints again) replacing the NEX with an A7R (no need for speed) makes a lot more sense.
     
  10. pdk42

    pdk42 TalkEmount Regular

    81
    Nov 26, 2014
    I got quite excited about the Light Trail app - it seems to do exactly what I want. Unfortunately it only works with the A7S and the A5100. What???
     
  11. adwb

    adwb TalkEmount Regular

    128
    Sep 30, 2015
    Bristol UK
    Alistair
  12. ggibson

    ggibson TalkEmount Regular

    154
    Sep 1, 2011
    Ahhh sorry to get your hopes up. That is really strange. Must be some hardware limitation? Well, guess I'll go search ebay for an A7s...

    Well, I definitely think the execution leaves a lot to be desired. But I'm pretty happy to have SkyHDR and Smooth Reflection on my camera so that I don't have to carry (or buy) as many filters now. And the Smart Remote app has been decent for taking the odd family picture at Christmas.
     
  13. Kiwi Paul

    Kiwi Paul TalkEmount Veteran

    343
    Feb 14, 2016
    Aberdeen, Scotland
    Paul
    I'm a long time m43 user and a fairly new Sony A7Rii user. I have both systems ATM (see my signature for what I have).

    Maybe I'm not as discerning or haven't looked close enough but the difference to me is not as night and day as PDK has found.
    I've never had any real issues with noise in m43 and happily shoot at whatever ISO is required for a shot and use anything up to 5000 ISO on m43 without a second thought, I find LR CC can clean up any residual noise without compromising the IQ too much. I've can't recall any regular WB colour shifts with either system, but if the WB is out I find it correctable in LR without too much hassle.
    Certainly the Sony files do have less noise and are more malleable but not to the point I'm blown away compared to m43.

    To be honest I've not really done any side by side comparisons, just used each system on it's own and thinking any real differences will show up through general use, but I may well have to take both systems out and do some like for like shots.

    For the time being I'm happy to use both systems until I decide to keep both and use the strengths of each or to go one way or the other, time will tell.

    Paul
     
  14. pdk42

    pdk42 TalkEmount Regular

    81
    Nov 26, 2014
    I agree actually Paul and TBH, I'm now seriously thinking of letting the Sony go (anyone up for a great deal on a very little used, 3-week old A7Rii ?). It's a very fine camera, but I'm not sure it adds enough to the end result for my photographic needs. It's a lark this photography thing isn't it!!
     
  15. Kiwi Paul

    Kiwi Paul TalkEmount Veteran

    343
    Feb 14, 2016
    Aberdeen, Scotland
    Paul
    At least you have given it a decent try and now know from your experience that m43 suits your requirements. I'm in the same boat, I had to try the ff Sony to see for myself and still happy to keep both systems for now.

    Make sure you join the Mu-43 forum on the header on the top of the page.

    Paul
     
  16. elandel

    elandel TalkEmount Regular

    145
    Mar 7, 2012
    Milan
    I'm giving the Sony FF a try. I'm also a m4/3 user.