These Sony Cameras Helped Create a Cult, and They’re Still Great Today

These Sony cameras may have a few years on them, but in the right hands they can still produce magic.

Sony has been blazing a trail, marching to the beat of their own drum since they purchased Minolta in 2006. Since then, Sony has released some cameras that started a movement, or some might even say a revolution, in the camera world. Sony’s technology made their cameras leapfrog offerings from Canon and Nikon, and those two are still playing catch up today. After the break, we will take a quick look at some older Sony cameras that packed features some manufacturers have only just started adopting in 2020.

Captured with the Sony RX100

The Sony cameras listed below were true trendsetters. Sony knew the future of cameras would look very different from the bodies Canon and Nikon kept pumping out. As soon as they could, Sony began introducing technology that would bridge the gap between DSLR and Mirrorless cameras. Translucent mirror technology led to EVFs, and early image stabilization systems led to the IBIS we know and love today. If you want to own some very capable cameras which pack features that some new cameras today don’t even have, you need to check out these older Sony cameras.

Sony A77 II

The Sony A77 II is a 24.7MP APS-C based camera that really started putting the fire to Canon’s and Nikon’s feet. This camera, along with its bigger a99 brothers featured technology such as a translucent mirror that allowed the camera to use an OLED EVF, built-in Wi-Fi and NFC, 70 phase AF points, 12fps burst mode, and a native base ISO of 25,600. It’s cameras like the A77 series that enabled Sony to push the technology envelope, and the A77 II redefined what APS-C DSLR cameras could be. Today, you can still get your hands on great A mount lenses, and if you pair that glass with this camera, you will be floored at just how good of a job Sony was doing with its DSLR bodies before they went all-in on Mirrorless. Here are the pros and cons from our full review:

Pros

  • Big, bright viewfinder and stellar focus peaking
  • Superfast AF
  • Crisp JPEGs and versatile RAW files
  • If you buy the bundle, it comes with a fantastic 16-50mm f2.8 kit lens

Cons

  • Articulating LCD has an awkward construction
  • Fairly pricey (at the time of review)
  • The focus dial on the front can be a bit clunky to adjust in a pinch
  • The menu system is dense

Buy now: $1,198

Sony a99 II

The Sony A99 II was a beast of a camera that honestly still eclipses many high-end pro cameras available today. The a99 II was a mash-up of DSLR and Mirrorless technology, released a full year after the Mirrorless Sony a7r II hit the streets, and was probably done so to cater to those who still didn’t believe in Mirrorless cameras for professional work. This DSLR packed a 42.4MP sensor, 5-axis image stabilization, GPS, 12fps burst modes, and more technology than you could shake a stick at. It was a tank of a camera that went neck and neck with the best offerings from both Canon and Nikon. Here are the pros and cons from our full review:

Pros

  • Incredible autofocus
  • Very versatile RAW files
  • Nice feeling in the hand
  • The best battery life of any Sony camera ever made
  • Ergonomic controls are really nice
  • 4K video is a nice addition

Cons

  • Why the hell isn’t Tungsten white balance a thing on this camera but is on the RX100 V? For studio work: it’s critical
  • Sometimes hard to see the autofocus points in the viewfinder. It would be nice if you could change their color
  • Big and heavy. Not recommended to be stored with lenses in a messenger bag

Buy now: $3,198

Sony A7

The Mirrorless camera that started a revolution; the Sony a7. The camera market shifted when this Full-Frame Mirrorless camera hit the streets. Photographers from all over adopted this camera as their own, and it sent Sony on their way to being the powerhouse camera company we know them to be today. The gorgeous LCD and the excellent EVF set this camera apart. Mix the 24MP Full Frame sensor, the Bionz X image processor, a decent 5fps burst rate, and a pretty stellar AF system together in a body that was smaller than similarly spec’d DSLR cameras, and you can see why this camera took off the way it did. Now, you can pick up one of these cameras on the used market for under $600 if you’re lucky. The great thing is that, if you get one, it will still do an excellent job for you today. Here are the pros and cons from our full review:

Pros

  • Beautiful image quality
  • The most satisfying shutter on the planet
  • A crisp LCD
  • A large and bright viewfinder
  • Weather sealing
  • Vintage aesthetic with contemporary sensibilities
  • Focus peaking

Cons

  • We haven’t found any

Buy now: From $550

Sony A7s II

The a7s was an incredibly interesting camera when it hit the market as it completely backed away from what was becoming the Megapixel race and started a new ISO performance race instead. Still, to this day, the original Sony a7s has only been bested by its successor, the a7s II. The A7S II advanced what the a7s had done by allowing photographers and videographers to shoot at insane ISOs without much detail loss. In fact, you can shoot at ISO 80,000 with this camera and still have very usable images. Sony was far ahead of the times with the technology in this camera that launched in 2015. We have eagerly been awaiting the a7s III to see just how far Sony can push low light boundaries, but if you want a camera that will allow you to shoot in the dark right now, the a7s II is the camera for you. Here are the pros and cons from our full review:

Pros

  • Incredibly film-like high ISO results once you kill all the unsightly noise; and they convert to black and white well
  • Only missed the focusing twice during our review, and that was during surely impossible situations
  • Below ISO 80,000, some of the best dynamic range anyone could ask for
  • Incredible highlight detail retention
  • The overall excellent dynamic range basically lets you screw up and fix it later
  • Uncompressed RAW photo option

Cons

  • With the exception of dynamic range, not as major a step forward in the technology as could have been possible. Just imagine the A7r Mk II’s processor in this camera and what could have been capable

Buy now: $1,998

Captured with the Sony A99 II

Pro Tip: The Sony cameras listed here are packed full of great technology, which means that they are still relevant today despite them being a good few years old now. Nevertheless, to make sure these Sony cameras will be around for many more years, you need to take care of them. A simple cleaning routine can make your camera last years longer. Make sure you clean the contacts and the sensor and make sure you eliminate dust as often as possible. Do these things, and you’ll find that these Sony cameras will just keep going. You don’t need to spend a fortune on a cleaning kit either. This one will do just fine.

Sony A7 Mk II

Sony Cameras

The Sony a7 II didn’t have quite the impact that the original a7 did simply because the wow factor of Full Frame Mirrorless had gone. But, the a7 II did build upon the foundation the original a7 laid. The a7 II added image stabilization, and autofocus performance was improved by roughly 35% over the original according to Sony. The camera startup time was a full 40% faster too. The Sony a7 II featured the same 24.3MP sensor, which is no bad thing as this sensor is capable of producing gorgeous images. The A7 II was a much more refined Full Frame Mirrorless camera compared to the first version, and it is still capable of keeping up with some of the newer cameras on the market today. The best part is that you can get one with a lens for under $1,000! Here are the pros and cons from our full review:

Pros

  • Image stabilization is pretty effective
  • Improved grip, though there wasn’t much of a problem with the first
  • Improved battery life performance with the same batteries every other Sony mirrorless camera uses
  • Better autofocusing than we’ve seen in previous versions in that it acquires a subject faster than before

Cons

  • The startup time is better than the a7 but is still quite slow
  • Not a whole host of differences from the A7

Buy now: $898 for body only, $998 with 28-70mm lens.

Sony RX100

Sony Cameras

The little Sony point and shoot that could. The RX100 was a feature-packed pocket powerhouse from Sony that was aimed at the crowd who would buy a DSLR but who would never upgrade from the kit lenses. The RX100 featured a Zeiss 28-100mm f1.8 lens, a very capable 20.2 MP 1-inch sensor, you could shoot at 10fps, and you could get some pretty great low-light shots too. Back in 2012 when we reviewed this camera, we were impressed with it. And honestly, for the price you can pick one up for today, we would still be pleased to have one in our pocket so that we can snap whenever we wanted. Here are the pros and cons from our full review:

Pros

  • Pretty great ergonomics, and the excellent control ring
  • Plenty of function buttons for customization
  • USB battery charging, and great battery life
  • The lens is very sharp
  • The image quality is tremendous
  • You can shoot up to ISO 6400 with no problems

Cons

  • The LCD can be hard to see in bright sunlight
  • No 24p for video

Buy now: $398

Sony a7r Mk II

Sony Cameras

The Sony a7r II is a high megapixel, full-frame mirrorless camera that can still do an outstanding job today. Originally released in 2015, this 42MP camera has become a firm fan favorite with landscape photographers everywhere thanks to the sheer amount of detail it can capture. This model may not have the improved ergonomics of the a7r III or the a7r IV, but in terms of pure performance, this camera is hard to beat, especially as you can now pick one up for under $1,400. Here are the pros and cons from our full review:

Pros

  • The best image quality we’ve seen from a camera yet
  • Surprisingly good high ISO results
  • Very good RAW file versatility
  • Feels great in the hand
  • Fastest autofocus of any Sony ILC camera body
  • Improved battery life over previous generations
  • 4K video is a nice addition

Cons

  • We really wanted a direct joystick of some sort to move the focusing points, rather than pressing a button and then moving them around
  • Sony could use better weather sealing

Buy now: $1,398

Sony A6000

Sony Cameras

A Mirrorless camera for the masses. The Sony a6000 broke the mold of entry-level APS-C cameras when it launched in 2014, and the camera is so good that it is still one of the best selling Sony cameras today. For under $500, you can get performance that only used to be found in the best prosumer and even some pro bodies. This compact camera can use any of Sony’s E mount lenses, it can fire off shots at a brisk pace (11fps), and its 179 AF points makes it easy to capture pretty much anything you want. This camera single-handedly stole the entry-level APS-C markets from both Canon and Nikon, and honestly, those two companies still haven’t caught up. Here are the pros and cons from our full review:

Pros

  • Excellent autofocus that is very intelligent. In some ways, it is the greatest autofocusing system we’ve seen
  • Great image quality
  • Very useable high ISO output at 6400
  • Great feeling in the hand
  • Excellent EVF

Cons

  • Really wish there was a thumb stick for quick AF point selection
  • Tracking a subject as it moved back and forth requires you to stop down to at least f4 to mantain focus

Buy now: $398 without lens, $494 with 16-50mm lens