Sony’s A7S series cameras are renowned for their low-light performance and video capabilities, but it’s been five long years since we saw a new model. The mirrorless landscape has changed dramatically during this period, with many video-compatible cameras from rivals and Sony itself.
Well, the 12 megapixel A7S III is here and seems to be worth the wait. This is the first mirrorless camera that can compete with Sony’s pro video cameras in terms of 4K video specifications, while still retaining important functions such as a flip-up display. And it still contains the incredible high ISO performance that the A7S range is known for.
However, the recent Canon models initially looked impressive, just to have some annoying problems, especially in the area of overheating, when I was allowed to test them personally. To see if the A7S III managed to avoid these obstacles, I took it to Paris and around the Loire Valley before the blocking came into effect in France-here’s what I found out.
Bodywork and handling
The A7S III is almost identical to the A7R IV, which is good, because The A7R IV is Sony’s best manipulation camera to date. At 699 grams, it’s surprisingly light, given that all the technique is packed into it. Thanks to the beautifully contoured handle and the choice of logically placed manual controls, it is also natural to hold and use it.
These include rotation control dials for the shutter and aperture, a Joystick, a control wheel, a mode selector, an exposure compensation dial and several buttons. I’d like the mode selector to have a Push-to-Lock knob so you don’t have to clumsily press the knob when you turn the dial, and I also prefer the layout of Panasonic’s S5, as it has dedicated dials and a knob for recording and AF modes. Nevertheless, the handling of this camera is among the best.
Sony has finally fixed its horrible menu system and now uses cascading folders like Panasonic’s recent cameras. These make it much easier to find the settings and remember where they are, although some things like log functions are still a bit hard to find.
Best of all, the main and quick menus can be fully controlled via the 3-inch touchscreen. On all previous Sony devices, The touch screen was only useful for adjusting the touch focus. Now you can adjust things without buttons, which is especially useful when striking on yourself with The screen.
It also articulates completely what is really a must for a video-centric camera these days. It is now possible to use this camera for Vlogging or Solo recordings.
As Sony builds the electronic OLED viewfinders used in most cameras, it is not shocking that the A7S III is the first to receive its new EVF of 9.44 million points. It offers a huge 63% increase in resolution compared to the A7R IV, although honestly I didn’t notice a big difference in sharpness. (Oddly enough, the images seem to be sharper when playing than when recording.) It’s a little brighter but it’s still welcome.
Another first for Sony is the dual, dual card slot. They support not only two UHS II SD cards, but also Sony’s new fast but tiny CFexpress type A cards. For most types of records, You can stick to affordable SD’s, but in some situations you’ll need CFexpress-more on that soon.
The battery is the same as the A7R IV, and I was able to film the video for about three hours on one charge. In addition, it can process up to 600 photos according to CIPA standards. In other words, you do not have to worry much about the passed away of the battery during filming.
Finally, it has all the ports you need for a video-centric camera, including USB-C for powered and data transfer, as well as Mic and headphone ports. If you need more than two audio channels, you can use The hot shoe mounted Sony XLR-K3M audio adapter. The good news: it has a full-size HDMI port that causes far fewer problems when using an external recorder-and the camera even comes with cable protection.
This brings us to the strength of this camera, the video. Almost everything I’ve ever complained about previous sony mirrorless cameras has been addressed. You can capture 4K up to 120 fps, more than any other mirrorless hybrid camera except Canon’s EOS R5, which gives you some crazy creative options. When recording 1080p, the A7S III delivers the best HD quality of any sony mirrorless camera, as it can sample the entire sensor. It also supports 240 fps for super Slow-Mo effects.
If you want to pause on your computer, you can use the new “s&Q” motion mode (slow and fast) to record at 60 fps or 120 fps, with playback limited to 24 fps without Audio. The advantage of this is that you get the same smooth slo-Mo, but the footage is much easier to edit afterwards. Note only that data rates can reach 1200 Mbps if you record 4K 120 fps with S & Q settings, so you will need CFexpress cards for this.
In addition, it supports 10-bit Capture in all 4K modes. In combination with Sony’s Log and HLG modes, it provides high dynamic range video, perfect for HDR or post-production work. Keep in mind that 10-bit 4K video with high frame rate and maximum quality requires a fast and expensive CFexpress card-with 80GB and 160GB cards that cost respectively.
You can even record 4K 60fps raw images on an Atomos Ninja 7 recorder, even if the exposure is burned into the image, giving you fewer publishing options and negating some of the benefits of RAW videos. However, this could change with a future firmware update.
What about editing these files? Sony has a new choice here with its all-I compression (XAVC S-I) for 4K or HD up to 60 fps, with each frame taken separately. 4K files are large and require a CFexpress card at 60 fps, as data rates average 600 Mbit / s and can reach 1200 Mbit / s. However, I was able to edit them directly without transcoding in Davinci Resolve on an NVIDIA RTX 2070 laptop.
If you prefer smaller file sizes without losing quality, you can save XAVC S 4K or XAVC HS 4K files, but your computer will grind when you try to edit them. Therefore, you will probably need to convert them to ProRes or some other more editable format.
The A7S III is not 8K or even 6K like the Canon EOS R5 or the BMPCC 6K, but these resolutions are still for most gadgets. And while it can’t super-sample 4K like the A7 III (because it has half the resolution of the sensor), its 4K video is still extremely sharp. This is a nice bonus considering the extra low light capability and reduced rolling shutter effect.
Canon’s colors may be a little warmer and more human, but Sony’s hues are probably more accurate. This makes it easier to customize your images in the Post, especially with the very high dynamic range.
Stabilization in the body is very effective for video, especially with electronic stabilization that adds a small crop. As usual, it cannot replace a gimbal, but it is effective for smooth static or panoramic striking. And as I mentioned, Sony has accelerated the read speeds of the sensors, so that Rolling Shutter or Jello are now very well controlled – a major change from previous Sony mirrorless cameras.