Love Letters to Our Favorite Gear of 2015

Staff Pick: Sony A7RII

Gear is our job. It streams into and out of our offices in an endless tide of boxes and couriers; it gets photographed and catalogued and crammed underneath desks until we have time to test it. We quantify it as best we can, to share its essence: good and bad, peccadilloes and superlatives. We even pick the 100 best pieces of gear every year. But to close things out this year, we asked each staff member to single out their favorite piece of gear that was new to 2015. We hope you enjoy our little love notes to the gear that made the biggest impact on our lives this year.

On a recent flight to Europe, I bonded permanently with my Sony A7RII, the increasingly legendary new full-frame mirrorless camera. It happened over New York City, when opportunity scrolled slowly into view shortly after departing from Newark. Our trajectory that night took us over the Bronx, framing the southern half of Manhattan beautifully. The city glittered like diamonds on black velvet.

I’ve made photography from less-than-ideal airline flights something of a specialty. I have my methods: Use a coat or blanket to block reflections on the window; find the clearest part of the glass and shoot through that; use your hands and arms to steady the camera, not the persistently vibrating window you’re shooting through; opt for shutter-priority mode or manual, with fast exposures and higher ISOs. Then: shoot like mad, tweak your settings on the fly and hope for the best.

That night, I got it, with two or three frames that simply blew me away. They’re crisp, clear and gorgeous. Credit goes partly to my own tactics, but also significantly to the Sony’s sensitive, high-resolution sensor and the five-axis internal stabilization system within which it rests. That steady mechanical hand made Manhattan vivid and real. I’ve shot from open doors in helicopters and the tight cockpits of tiny airplanes, but that night, sitting on my ass in business class, set a whole new standard for me.

Sensor: 42MP, 35mm full-frame Exmor R CMOS
Viewfinder: OLED electronic
Focus: 399-point full-frame autofocus
Video capability: internally recorded 4K
Lens compatibility: E-mount
Weight: 1 pound, 6 ounces