In October 2015, Sony released the A7S.ii.
In July 2020, Sony announced the long awaited successor, the A7S.iii.
It's interesting how long the A7S.ii has kept a solid life-cyle in the hybrid world of content creation. It's been a fan favourite for many filmmakers across the globe, good auto-focus (AF), great ISO sensitivity and 4K shooting we're it's main draws when it was released, so in this third generation of A7S, what has improved, and how much of a big deal is it?
A 10-Bit workflow
When the GH5 released in 2017, it introduced 10 bit colour. Paired with the Micro 4/3rds sensor and the processor at the time, it turned the capability of shooting millions of colours into billions of colours, unheard of at the time for a consumer camera.
Some would argue, that this was the A7s.ii's achilles' heel. Shooting SLOG in 8-bit on the A7s.ii yielded some less that desirable results, forcing filmmakers to push colour grading above and beyond it's limit.
With the A7S.iii, 10-bit colour is now a reality. Having frequently visited user forums on social media, users and fans would argue that if the 2nd generation of the A7S had 10 bit colour, it would have been their perfect camera.
What's even better, is that the A7S.iii features intra-style codecs, albeit in a H.265 container, which in theory should push the quality of the image coming from it's 12mp full frame sensor.
The camera still shoots at a maximum of 4k across the whole sensor, so those shooting with APS-C glass will experience vignetting. It's not a dealbreaker for most, but the flexibility of cropping in either for length or to eliminate vignetting will yield sub-4K results.
120 FPS at 4k
High speed shooting is a frequently requested feature. Mirrorless cameras have usually capped at 4K 60fps, or even HD at 120 / 240fps.
The A7S.iii features High speed shooting rates now in 4K. The 120FPS will yield a slowdown of 5x if shooting 24p or 4x if shooting 100fps at 25p
The camera does this without losing any information from the sensor, and with Sony's great auto-focus, in 10-bit.
It's quite amazing to finally have this feature in a mirrorless system, and it seems like the desire for 120fps shooting might become commonplace, which can only be a good thing.
It's worth noting, that usage in this mode will yield a 10% crop.
Additionally, there's no reports of overheating (a la Canon R5)
Data. Lots of it.
With all that data flowing through the camera, and the limitations of the SD card. Sony have introduced a Dual-Slot-Dual-Purpose media bay for the camera. It could be argued that this setup should be made a standard across the industry for this type of camera.
The 2 media slots in the A7s.iii can fit either a UHS-ii SD card, or a CFexpress Type-A card. This gives users the ability to use the media they already own, in a very widely used format, but also utilise much faster media. Presumably, this would be to accommodate the higher framerates coming from the camera.
The CFExpress Type A cards aren't available at time of writing, however they will be available when the camera releases.
Even MORE data. Externally.
Not only does it feature a Full sized HDMI port, with external recorders capable of doing so, will allow to capture 16-bit RAW video from the camera.
Asuuming that the recorder would be from Atomos, this will be Prores-RAW or if from Blackmagic, Blackmagic RAW.
It's upto the manufacturers of those devices to decide how and what flavours of footage they can capture coming from the camera.
16-bit RAW though.
D y n a m i c R a n g e .
The dynamic Range (DR) from the camera Sony claim, is upto 15+ stops. With the pixels on the sensor being as large as they are, there may be some real validity to this. However, claimed range and actual range can differ dramatically depending on conditions.
Those with the camera performing tests to demonstrate will be along shortly, so it's worth keeping an eye out on the web for footage from the camera now it's in peoples hands.
The camera releases at the price of £3,800.
It'll be interesting to see the real-world usage of the A7S.iii, as it looks like a very competitive camera, and one definitely to beat.
Andrew McGovern is a Video Content Producer and DIT based in South West London. From big-budget feature films to commercial videos, 'Elvis' as he's known to his colleagues has experience in many types of filmmaking.
Instagram handle : @Andy_Elvis11