Sony A7S III evaluation: The low-light video champ

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Sony A7S III review: The low-light video champ

(Pocket-lint) – Sony has grown a legion of followers for its rising variety of Alpha system cameras. Whether it is the extremely compact A6000 collection or a full-frame A7 collection, there’s one thing for everybody. But it is videographers who’ve turned extra in the direction of Sony’s mirrorless full-frame our bodies in recent times – and it is simple to see why when trying on the Alpha A7S III.

Spec sensible, this third-generation ‘S’ mannequin presents some unbelievable capabilities, with explicit focus for video and low-light efficiency. Rather than go all-out on the pixel depend, the A7S III opts for greater pixels on a high quality sensor. But does that restrict its attraction?

Design

  • Dimensions: 128.9mm x 96.9mm x 80.8mm / Weight: 699g (with battery)
  • 3-inch, 1.44m-dot vari-angle LCD touchscreen
  • Moisture- and dust-resistant design

Sony was among the many first producers to place a full-frame sensor in a compact mirrorless physique (the unique A7, from again in 2013, was revolutionary for its dimension). And whereas many producers have since adopted swimsuit and Sony – with its personal A7C – has made a fair smaller one, the scale of the A7S III makes it massively sensible to hold round. It’ll match into most digital camera carriers, even with a lens on it. 

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The physique weighs about 700g with a battery and reminiscence card in it, however – after all – that weight goes up when you connect a lens. We have been testing with the 12-24mm G Master lens, which is fairly cumbersome and weighty, however not a lot that we acquired actually drained from capturing with it handheld. 

Plenty of the A7S III’s buttons are properly positioned, together with the switch-ring across the shutter button on the prime of the grip. There’s a devoted crimson film ring for capturing video, plus an publicity achieve adjustment ring, a customized operate button, and the shoot mode choose dial. 

The shoot mode dial must be unlocked by urgent the button within the center earlier than turning, which provides a little bit of safety, but in addition frustration for those who’re used to only turning the dial to shortly change between film mode and one of many picture modes.

The different questionable determination is the place of the menu button. Most buttons on the again of the A7S III are inside simple thumb attain. But not the menu button. That’s manner off to the opposite aspect, on the left aspect of the viewfinder, that means you need to use your different hand to dive into the menu system to regulate and alter options and settings. 

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There are loads of customisable operate buttons. Four, in reality, that are tremendous helpful whenever you need fast entry to important capabilities like altering the autofocus space or altering the white steadiness. Having that autofocus choice mode is tremendous helpful, particularly if you wish to use the joystick to manually decide a small space to give attention to. Just for these instances when the tremendous sensible autofocus engine does not fast decide the correct space. 

Like quite a lot of Sony’s current cameras, the A7S III has a correct flip-out touchscreen too. It makes that little monitor far more helpful and versatile. It allows higher framing at awkward angles and – as importantly – makes capturing to digital camera simpler whether or not handheld vlogging or when capturing with the digital camera on the tripod. You can focus and body with out having to go behind the digital camera or having your view obstructed like on the older fashions. 

Videographer’s multi-tool 

  • Ports: HDMI, 3.5mm, USB-C
    • XLR adapter obtainable – presents 4-channel 24-bit audio recording
  • 16-bit Raw information output for exterior recorders
    • Proxy recording internally
  • Cards: Dual SD (UHS-II)

If you are simply beginning out making video, it is unlikely you’d have a look at the A7S III immediately, particularly as the worth level is sufficient to make your eyes water (it is a number of thousand at launch – and we doubt that’ll drop a lot). But for the seasoned professional or somebody eager to up their sport, it is simple to see the attraction. 

It might not appear to be it from the surface, however there is a tonne of flexibility right here in the case of connecting extra gear like microphones and screens. Not solely do you get a 3.5mm enter for microphone, the hotshoe with the correct adapter hooked up (word: offered individually) can be utilized to energy an XLR adapter for plugging in ‘correct’ microphones too.

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Using the HDMI you may join the A7S III’s output to an exterior recorder/monitor (with 16 bit Raw output), plus you could have the power to file proxy information concurrently whereas capturing at your required decision and bitrate. That means your laptop workflow load instances ought to be sooner, as a result of you have already got the proxies handy, your desktop should not should generate them for you. 

That’s with out itemizing all of the bitrate, color profile, decision and frame-rate choices obtainable. And there are various (it is value taking a look at Sony’s detailed breakdown within the A7S III’s full specs). You can shoot in S-Log3, S-Gamut3 or Cine gamut profiles, in order that your video matches the color profile in your skilled digital camera and lets you color grade it to your coronary heart’s content material, together with the power to shoot in HLG for HDR workflows. 

Video and picture

  • 12.1MP Exmor R CMOS sensor, Bionz XR processor
  • ISO sensitivity: 80-102,400 normal
  • 4K video (4:2:2 as much as 10bit)
  • Full-frame 4K at 120fps
  • S-Log2 and S-Log3 

Sony has geared up the A7S III with a 12-megapixel sensor, which is in stark distinction to the a lot greater decision 61-megapixel full body sensor on the A7R IV.  The motive: to characteristic sufficient pixels to successfully seize full 4K decision video, but in addition to allow significantly better low-light efficiency. The greater the sensor diodes (in impact the ‘pixels’), the extra mild it might attract. And it really works. 

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Shooting in difficult conditions with little mild, utilizing largely avenue lights exterior after sunset, nonetheless enabled us to take respectable, sharp photos utterly handheld. Of course, a part of that is right down to the inbuilt 5-axis stabilisation – which is nice, however not infallible, so if we did not fairly maintain the digital camera regular sufficient then some photos nonetheless got here out with a bit of blur.

Switching the digital camera into auto mode, the default in our night time time shoot was for the digital camera to pick out ISO 12,800 – which is moderately excessive – however the sensor nonetheless managed to seize a formidable quantity of vary (at f/4 and a 2/5-second publicity), revealing the clouds within the sky and even silhouettes of hills miles within the distance. It’s not utterly image-noise-free, however the outcomes are extra grain-like, at an appropriate stage, and does not consequence within the destruction of element.

Testing with the 12-24mm G Master lens additionally meant we acquired to strive one in all Sony’s most up-to-date wide-angle lenses. It’s not probably the most versatile lens on this planet, however we discovered it greater than usable for our common close-up product capturing for our YouTube channel. It did battle to focus when too shut, however in any other case is a superb device to have within the studio. 

Being ready shoot virtually limitless 4K/50p footage meant we by no means needed to fear that the digital camera would overheat. The redesigned warmth dissipation contained in the physique means the A7S III by no means struggles – which is a step change from earlier Sony video-focused cameras. The result’s easy, sharp and detailed video with nice color. Rolling shutter appears to be a factor of the previous too. 

Further helped by that stabilisation – which introduces a 1.1x crop, however could be switched off for full-frame entry – it is simple sufficient to shoot handheld and preserve issues easy and regular. For the instances it will get a bit janky when our arms weren’t as regular as we might like them to be, the ensuing shakiness was minimal and straightforward to repair in post-production with Final Cut’s one-click stabilsation device.

And for these instances the place we might unintentionally over-exposed and ended up with highlights that have been overexposed, we have been in a position to drop these brightness ranges down for to retain element and floor texture with none problem. It’s a really forgiving digital camera. 

For these of you who do not shoot a lot past 60 frames per second, however want 4K for element and 10 bit for color grading and element, the A7S III is greater than succesful, though the best bitrate and frame-rate recording does require you to make use of Sony’s new CFExpress Type A card (also called XQD). The relaxation could be recorded internally on UHS-II SD playing cards.

While it may not be the proper digital camera for these seeking to creat massive, high-resolution photos which are nice for cropping into, the A7S III nonetheless takes nice pictures in daylight too. Colours are beautiful, the depth of subject on provide is elegant. Close-ish pictures of crops revealed some gorgeous easy bokeh. 

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Battery efficiency is powerful for a digital camera this highly effective too. It makes use of one in all Sony’s new FX100 batteries – which is nice for about 510 pictures or 80-95 minutes of video recording, relying on whether or not you employ the viewfinder or LCD monitor. Plus, you may cost it by way of the USB-C port on the digital camera, so you can take a Type-C cable and a battery pack to refill whereas on the transfer.  

Autofocus and monitoring

  • 759 phase-detection autofocus factors (PDAF) & 425 distinction detection factors
  • 9.44 million-dot viewfinder
  • Real-time monitoring

Sony’s energy for the previous couple of years has been autofocus and monitoring and – till the lately introduced A1 – the A7S III was the epitome of that effort. It has 759 phase-detection AF factors, that means nearly the you may choose to focus just about anyplace throughout the body. What’s extra, it combines with 425 distinction detection factors, making focusing actually fast and correct. 

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Whether we left it to routinely give attention to folks’s or pet’s eyes, or manually selected the spot we needed to give attention to, it was actually fast and monitoring was so easy and responsive we hardly ever noticed it searching after we took video footage into the edit suite. It does it with such effectivity just about on a regular basis. 

Digging into the settings you may select whether or not you need it monitoring a human eye or an animal eye, or whether or not you wish to prioritise a selected eye, or to let the digital camera resolve (it is truly fairly intelligent and can select whichever is closest by default, and does so with out fail). 

There are much more choices within the settings menu, and whereas color coding and reorganising issues has made Sony’s software program simpler than it was once, it might nonetheless be a bit overwhelming at instances. There’s simply a lot there to get a deal with on. You may simply spend an hour simply going by means of the assorted choices and attempting to recollect the place all of it is. 

Verdict

The Sony Alpha A7S III is probably the most spectacular video-centric client digital camera up to now. By utilizing the correct sensor, processing energy and warmth dissipation, Sony presents full-frame recording at staggering resolutions high quality. The value may make you wince a bit although. 

While the sensor and efficiency lends the digital camera to skilled video work, it additionally makes it excellent in low-light conditions for each stills and video. With a great lens, you may neglect the tripod and go shoot dimly lit scenes handheld.

However, these stills photographers seeking to shoot ultra-resolute photos must look elsewhere – nevertheless it’s not as if there is a lack of selection within the Alpha vary. But for these invested in Sony for video work, the A7S III would be the mirrorless digital camera of selection for years to come back.

Alternatives to think about

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Panasonic Lumix S5

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It’s lower than half the worth of the Sony, and whereas it does not fairly match its efficiency by way of video capabilities or low-light capabilities, for those who’re wanting a powerful video-centric mirrorless with nice efficiency that will not price you almost 4 grand, the Panasonic is a really sturdy selection. 

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Sony A7R IV

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Sony’s A7R IV has a a lot higher-resolution sensor, making it a extra appropriate selection for photographers chasing these super-sharp picture information that hey can current in enormous format or crop into closely. It’s not as sturdy on the video aspect, although, however it might nonetheless shoot 4K. 

Writing by Cam Bunton. Editing by Mike Lowe.



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