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Sony A7s comes to stay ‘in the dark!’

Well, it’s been a long time in the making but Sony have finally released the Alpha 7s mirrorless camera to the UK public, after being announced at NAB in April this year, and I’ve added one to my camera arsenal!!!

So, what is the A7s Mirrorless Camera?

The A7s is Sony’s answer to the 5D Mark 3 but with a few extras! First off the A7s can shoot both HD and 4K footage! Wow I hear you say, well yes! Although there is a slight caveat to that as to record 4K you need an external recorder, which is due out soon. The HD footage is fantastic (knocking on the door of the Sony F5 Cinema Camera!) and can shoot in Sony’s XAVC-S codec at 1080 50mbps, providing broadcast quality footage ‘in camera’.

Not only can it produce fantastic pictures, it makes producing those pictures easy with the functions and features you would only expect in the PMW camcorder range. This includes Picture Profile settings, video assist tools such as peaking and zebras and professional audio functionality to allow audio recording ‘in camera’ from XLR inputs via an adaptor, which is due out soon! (The days of the dual recording system are numbered! Along with the need for ‘syncing’ in post!).

Where the A7s really shines though is it’s low light performance. People say this camera is capable of shooting night for day!… well I’m yet to test this but I am very excited about the ability to use smaller lighting fixtures and be able to provide clean footage in less than ideal lighting conditions, such as at dimly lit events and conferences.

Think it can’t get any better? Well the A7s packs a final punch with its dynamic range, over 14 stops of latitude in Slog2 mode, that dynamic range is akin to the Arri Amira! Also the Slog2 gamma curve is a professional feature only normally seen in Sony’s professional cinema camera range! This huge latitude, along with it’s low light performance, lends itself to high contrast situations which other cameras would struggle with, including the 5D Mark 3!

The lens mount provided on the camera is Sony’s E mount. The E mount has a very shallow flange distance meaning it is very easy to adapt to mount other lenses to, such as the Canon EF mount and Canon’s well renowned L glass. As I have a collection of Canon EF mount lenses I have opted for a high quality EF – E mount adaptor to be able to use these lenses on the A7s. The mount allows full functionality of the lenses, including image stabilisation and aperture adjustment.

Finally, due to it’s amazing picture quality and it’s ability to manipulate the image, it provides a perfect match to my Sony PMW 200 camcorder, requiring minimal to no colour correction to make them match! Not only this, as it has the Sony colour science it also looks set to be a perfect match to the Sony F5/F55 cinema cameras, offering a very worthy B camera to those shoots!

Why the A7s over the 5D Mark 3?

I can hear you! We like to use the 5D. Well let me just give you a few good reasons to consider using the A7s over the 5D…

So.. the main reason the A7s excels for video (over the 5D) is that it has been built from the ground up by Sony for the professional video market, providing the small form factor benefits of shooting on a DSLR with the camcorder functionality you expect and require when shooting professional video.

Both cameras boast a full frame sensor, providing the same filmic shallow depth of field look, but where Sony have been clever is to taylor the sensor to recording video. Most stills cameras have a 22-32 megapixel sensor, this is great for high quality photos but when put into video mode all this picture information isn’t required (HD video only requires around 2 megapixels and 4K around 8) and so the ‘extra’ picture information collected by these pixels has to be ‘thrown away’. Depending on how the camera achieves this it can lead to moire, aliasing and other nasty picture artefacts (particularly prominent in the 5D Mark 2 and to a lesser extent in the Mark 3) which isn’t what you want…. The Sony sensor has just the right pixel count to provide perfect 4K video footage and an engine to provide high quality HD downsampling without those nasty artefacts found in many Canon DSLR cameras.

A final word…

Well, that’s my overview of the Sony A7s and my new camera in my camera arsenal! If you have any questions about using the A7s, or if you are wanting to consider using this camera on your productions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch! I’ve popped a quick ‘producers overview’ below to the key benefits and specifications of the Sony A7s!

A producers guide to the Sony A7s

– Full Frame 4K sensor
– HD and 4k recording (optional external recorder required)
– Over 14 stops dynamic range (akin to Arri Amira)
– Unbelievable low light performance providing clean video footage at 80,000 ISO!!!
– High quality HD XAVC-S Codec at 50mbps for broadcast quality footage
– Footage recorded in an .MP4 wrapper natively compatible with most edit systems
– Picture Profile settings and Sony colour science (inc. Slog2 and S-Gamut)
– Great second camera to Sony’s PMW range (including the F5/F55 Cinema Camera)
– All the usual ‘video assist’ functions (peaking, zebras etc.) found on professional camcorders
– XLR audio inputs for professional audio recording (Adaptor due out soon! No syncing required in post!)
– Metabones EF – E mount allowing high quality Canon L glass to be used on the camera.