Sony A7S III, video review:
Let me put you in the situation before I start talking about this new camera. I have been a user of Sony cameras for 4 years. Several models of both the APS-C range and the Full Frame family of this manufacturer have passed through my hands. For this reason, when I took the new A7s III out of its box, I had the feeling of having my own vitamin A7 III.
Despite their similarities, it is obvious that the body of this new member is bigger and more robust. A body with a grip that allows us to hold the camera more firmly than previous generations. The button and dial layout is the same as on the Sony A7R IV. In this aspect, the only clear difference is found in the record button that is now much larger and is located on the top button panel. Something that those of us who dedicate ourselves to video greatly appreciate.
But if Sony users should be happy about a physical change, it is the monitor. Many, especially those of us who recorded ourselves, asked for a change in the screen so that it became 100% folding and not the solution proposed by cameras like the a6600. So it seems that the manufacturer has listened to our requests and now we have a monitor that we can turn, rotate and move practically to our liking. This also adds a point extra security since, now we can turn the monitor and place the screen inwards to avoid accidents due to bumps or possible scratches.
In the rest of the body we will not find major changes, at least with the naked eye. We will have to start uncovering the trays with sealing of the body of this A7S III to continue seeing news:
- On the left side we find the typical connectors for headphones and microphone, microUSB, USB-C and, as a novelty in this model, a connector Full HDMI. Something that will be essential for a detail that we will see in the video recording section.
- From below we will have access to the battery slot. Here we can place one of type Sony NP-FZ100, which give us much more autonomy than in the Sony NP-FW50 of previous generations. A battery that I have been able to test for a long time in my A7 III and that works incredibly well and allows us record and take pictures for several hours without much trouble.
- On the left side we have the tray for the memories that, in this case, we will have to move to open the tray. And, by doing this, we can see the new multi-card system since this A7S III is capable of using SD cards “Normal” like the new CFexpress Type A. Some absurdly expensive memories at the moment, but they have a write / read rate of up to 700 Mb / s.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this section, the changes that Sony has implemented at a physical level in this camera are just what I needed. An old acquaintance for Sony users, with better ergonomics, sealed in every way and that, finally, has that folding monitor that many of us needed.
A nocturnal “beast” from video
Regarding the sensor, a lot had been rumored in these 5 years in terms of specifications, frame rates, codecs and other parameters. Changes that predicted a possible 6K or 8K resolution and a large number of megapixels. And no, quite the opposite, we still have maximum 4K recording and a 12 megapixel sensor. Hit or miss? It depends on how you look.
This 2020 has been the year of mirrorless and high resolution recording. The example is clear to us in the Canon R5 with its RAW in 8K. And Sony may not bet on reaching a higher resolution but, without a doubt, it does not disappoint in what it offers.
Why only 12 megapixels?
You may be asking yourself this question at this point. The letter that accompanies the name of this camera refers to «Sensibility», that is, to the ISO sensitivity that it is capable of reaching, reaching values that go from 80 – 409,600 ISO.
This allows us to literally turn night into day. Reaching the maximum sensitivity values will make the image equally useless as many other alternatives on the market. But, what I can tell you is that with the A7S III you will be able to work without many problems at higher values than the rest.
The technical explanation that this is possible is that, thanks to the lower number of megapixels. The photodiodes responsible for collecting the light in the sensor are larger size and therefore their ‘noise resistance’ is higher.
An extra color for your recordings
This A7S III is capable of recording video in 4K at max 120fps and, importantly, with a color depth of 10 bits and a color sampling 4: 2: 2. These latest depth data will be a standard both in the new XAVC SI codec, which provides us with the highest quality of internal recording, as in the rest of the codecs and modes. Something that you should know is that, if we go down to resolution FullHD we can get to record in 240 fps if we needed an even slower camera.
As I had already mentioned, the fact that this model included a full HDMI in its body would benefit us mainly in one section. And it is that, through external monitor, this camera is capable of recording RAW video at 4K resolution and 16-bit color depth. Unfortunately, as we do not have one of these external recording equipment, we have not been able to test this section. But if the internal recording results are already spectacular, they can only improve further.
Without a doubt, what we can achieve by recording with this camera is incredible. That we finally have more color information along with Sony image profiles (Cine, Slog and HLG, among others) allow us to tweak our recordings a lot in post production, without the fear of spoiling it quickly if we make more forced modifications.
In my case, using the A7 III, I used to record in Slog2, HLG or Cine4 depending on what I needed in each situation. The Slog3 was something that I ended up not using, since the post-production work was much more complex and it was relatively easy to end up spoiling the image. However, now that with this model we have much more information, the Slog3 profile makes a lot more sense in cases where you prioritize obtaining a greater dynamic range and it is easier to work with it.
Vitamin stabilization and focus
Accompanying all this, the sensor of this camera has the 5-axis stabilization that we have already seen in other models of the brand. And, in addition, a Active SteadyShot mode. This is nothing more than a digital stabilization that performs a 1.1 sensor crop. Something insignificant but that greatly improves the final result. This improved stabilization can be activated from the menus of the camera that, by the way, have been reorganized and improved on the A7S III.
Another huge change with respect to video recording, compared to my A7 III, I have seen it in 2 small details that, in my case, give me life:
- Unlimited recordingLuckily, just like we saw on the Sony a6600, this model doesn’t have the annoying 30-minute limit on video recording. Therefore, the only thing that can “stop” us is the battery or storage.
- Continuous eye focus: This type of approach is something we already had in photography but, in video recording, it is a novelty in this range. Added to the lightning fast focusing speed of these cameras, make it a must for those users who self-record like vloggers. Or, of course, for any videographer who doesn’t want to lose focus in no time.
If you previously knew the S family of these Sony cameras, you will know that they do not stand out precisely because of the photographic section. This is mainly due to those 12 scant megapixels among other details.
Despite dedicating myself professionally to video, as a hobby
(and sometimes for work) I really like taking pictures. And, in this section, I have to say that using this camera gave me a lot of respect. But, after these weeks of testing, all those doubts have been completely dispelled.
The photos that I have managed to take with her are at a very high level, both during the day and when the light falls. That “extra” ISO sensitivity that we have in the video is also present in the photos and, therefore, the noise management is more than correct in bad light conditions.
Something that I have not told you about until now is about his viewfinder, which has nothing more and nothing less than 9,437,184 points. An element that, currently, ranks as the best electronic viewfinder created to date for mirrorless cameras.
If you are looking for a camera to take photos at the highest level, this may not be the most suitable option for you. However, it seems to me that we can take very good photographs that, for low-scale printing or for posting on social networks, is more than enough.
An incredible camera for an overwhelming price
It is time for me to tell you my conclusions after testing the Sony A7S III. This new member of the manufacturer’s family of cameras may not offer us the highest resolution on the market, so far we are all in agreement. But, within your means, we have the best options.
Large amount of color information, accompanied by image profiles to get the highest possible dynamic range and, of course, being able to record everything in 4K at 120 fps. All this makes it a great bet both for those of us who were already Sony camera users, and for those who want to take the leap.
But everything could not be ideal and, as in any option, there is a controversial point around this camera: its price. We can acquire the Sony A7S III currently on the manufacturer’s website for 4,200 euros. Is it worth paying so much money for this camera? In my opinion, yes. But I understand that it is out of the budget of many freelancers, especially in these times. In that case, my recommendation is that you wait a few months so that you can find an interesting offer that makes its price somewhat lower.