Sony A7S III assessment: The low-light video champ

(Pocket-lint) – Sony has grown a legion of followers for its rising variety of Alpha system cameras. Whether or not it is the ultra compact A6000 series or a full-frame A7 collection, there’s one thing for everybody. However it’s videographers who’ve turned extra in direction of Sony’s mirrorless full-frame our bodies in recent times – and it is easy to see why when trying on the Alpha A7S III.

Spec smart, this third-generation ‘S’ mannequin gives some unbelievable capabilities, with explicit focus for video and low-light efficiency. Relatively than go all-out on the pixel rely, the A7S III opts for greater pixels on a high quality sensor. However does that restrict its enchantment?

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 original A7, from back in 2013, was revolutionary for its size). And whereas many producers have since adopted swimsuit and Sony – with its own A7C – has made a good smaller one, the scale of the A7S III makes it vastly sensible to hold round. It’s going to match into most digicam 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 had been testing with the 12-24mm G Grasp lens, which is fairly cumbersome and weighty, however not a lot that we acquired actually drained from taking pictures with it handheld. 

A number of the A7S III’s buttons are properly positioned, together with the switch-ring across the shutter button on the high of the grip. There is a devoted pink film ring for taking pictures video, plus an publicity acquire adjustment ring, a customized perform button, and the shoot mode choose dial. 

The shoot mode dial needs to be unlocked by urgent the button within the center earlier than turning, which provides a little bit of safety, but additionally frustration should you’re used to only turning the dial to shortly change between film mode and one of many photograph modes.

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

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There are many customisable perform buttons. 4, the truth is, that are tremendous helpful if 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 choose a small space to give attention to. Only for these instances when the tremendous sensible autofocus engine does not fast choose the proper space. 

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

Videographer’s multi-tool 

  • Ports: HDMI, 3.5mm, USB-C
    • XLR adapter out there – gives 4-channel 24-bit audio recording
  • 16-bit Uncooked information output for exterior recorders
    • Proxy recording internally
  • Playing cards: Twin SD (UHS-II)

For those who’re simply beginning out making video, it is unlikely you’d have a look at the A7S III instantly, 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). However for the seasoned professional or somebody desirous to up their recreation, it is easy to see the enchantment. 

It could not seem like it from the surface, however there is a tonne of flexibility right here on the subject of connecting further gear like microphones and screens. Not solely do you get a 3.5mm enter for microphone, the hotshoe with the proper adapter connected (notice: offered individually) can be utilized to energy an XLR adapter for plugging in ‘correct’ microphones too.

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Utilizing the HDMI you possibly can join the A7S III’s output to an exterior recorder/monitor (with 16 bit Uncooked output), plus you’ve got the flexibility to report proxy recordsdata concurrently whereas capturing at your required decision and bitrate. Which means your laptop workflow load instances needs to be quicker, as a result of you have already got the proxies at hand, your desktop should not should generate them for you. 

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

Video and photograph

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

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

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Capturing in tough conditions with little gentle, utilizing largely avenue lights exterior after sunset, nonetheless enabled us to take respectable, sharp pictures fully handheld. In fact, 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 digicam regular sufficient then some pictures nonetheless got here out with just a little blur.

Switching the digicam into auto mode, the default in our evening time shoot was for the digicam to pick ISO 12,800 – which is quite 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 is not fully image-noise-free, however the outcomes are extra grain-like, at an appropriate degree, and does not outcome within the destruction of element.

Testing with the 12-24mm G Grasp lens additionally meant we acquired to strive one in every of Sony’s most up-to-date wide-angle lenses. It is not essentially the most versatile lens on this planet, however we discovered it greater than usable for our common close-up product taking pictures 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. 

Having the ability shoot virtually limitless 4K/50p footage meant we by no means needed to fear that the digicam 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 clean, sharp and detailed video with nice color. Rolling shutter appears to be a factor of the previous too. 

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

And for these instances the place we would by accident over-exposed and ended up with highlights that had been overexposed, we had been capable of drop these brightness ranges down for to retain element and floor texture with none problem. It is a very forgiving digicam. 

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 Kind A card (also referred to as XQD). The remaining could be recorded internally on UHS-II SD playing cards.

Whereas it may not be the right digicam for these seeking to creat large, high-resolution pictures which are nice for cropping into, the A7S III nonetheless takes nice photographs in daylight too. Colors are beautiful, the depth of subject on supply is classy. Shut-ish photographs of crops revealed some beautiful clean bokeh. 

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Battery efficiency is robust for a digicam this highly effective too. It makes use of one in every of Sony’s new FX100 batteries – which is sweet for about 510 photographs or 80-95 minutes of video recording, relying on whether or not you utilize the viewfinder or LCD monitor. Plus, you possibly can cost it through the USB-C port on the digicam, so you possibly can take a Kind-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
  • Actual-time monitoring

Sony’s power for the previous couple of years has been autofocus and monitoring and – until the recently announced A1 – the A7S III was the epitome of that effort. It has 759 phase-detection AF factors, that means nearly the you possibly can choose to focus just about wherever inside the body. What’s extra, it combines with 425 distinction detection factors, making focusing actually fast and correct. 

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Whether or not we left it to mechanically give attention to folks’s or pet’s eyes, or manually selected the spot we wished to give attention to, it was actually fast and monitoring was so clean and responsive we not often noticed it looking 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 possibly can select whether or not you need it monitoring a human eye or an animal eye, or whether or not you need to prioritise a selected eye, or to let the digicam determine (it is really 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, it might nonetheless be a bit overwhelming at instances. There’s simply a lot there to get a deal with on. You might simply spend an hour simply going by the assorted choices and attempting to recollect the place all of it is. 

Verdict

The Sony Alpha A7S III is essentially the most spectacular video-centric client digicam to this point. By utilizing the proper sensor, processing energy and warmth dissipation, Sony gives full-frame recording at staggering resolutions high quality. The value would possibly make you wince a bit although. 

Whereas the sensor and efficiency lends the digicam to skilled video work, it additionally makes it superb in low-light conditions for each stills and video. With an excellent lens, you possibly can neglect the tripod and go shoot dimly lit scenes handheld.

Nonetheless, these stills photographers seeking to shoot ultra-resolute pictures must look elsewhere – but it surely’s not as if there is a lack of alternative within the Alpha vary. However for these invested in Sony for video work, the A7S III would be the mirrorless digicam of alternative for years to return.

Options to contemplate

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Panasonic Lumix S5

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It is lower than half the worth of the Sony, and whereas it does not fairly match its efficiency when it comes to video capabilities or low-light capabilities, should you’re wanting a robust video-centric mirrorless with nice efficiency that will not value you just about 4 grand, the Panasonic is a really sturdy alternative. 

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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 alternative for photographers chasing these super-sharp picture recordsdata that hey can current in large format or crop into closely. It is not as sturdy on the video aspect, although, however it might nonetheless shoot 4K. 

Writing by Cam Bunton. Enhancing by Mike Lowe.

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