Sony A7S III overview: 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. But it surely’s videographers who’ve turned extra in the direction of Sony’s mirrorless full-frame our bodies lately – and it is simple to see why when trying on the Alpha A7S III.

Spec sensible, this third-generation ‘S’ mannequin affords some unimaginable capabilities, with explicit focus for video and low-light efficiency. Relatively than go all-out on the pixel depend, the A7S III opts for larger 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 go well with 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 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 Grasp lens, which is fairly cumbersome and weighty, however not a lot that we obtained actually drained from taking pictures with it handheld. 

A whole lot 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 purple 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 must be unlocked by urgent the button within the center earlier than turning, which provides a little bit of safety, but additionally frustration in the event 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 approach off to the opposite aspect, on the left aspect of the viewfinder, which means it’s a must to 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 occasions when the tremendous sensible autofocus engine does not fast choose the proper space. 

Like quite a lot 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 allows higher framing at awkward angles and – as importantly – makes taking pictures to digital camera simpler whether or not handheld vlogging or when taking pictures with the digital camera on the tripod. You may 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 out there – affords 4-channel 24-bit audio recording
  • 16-bit Uncooked knowledge output for exterior recorders
    • Proxy recording internally
  • Playing cards: Twin SD (UHS-II)

In the event you’re simply beginning out making video, it is unlikely you’d have a look at the A7S III straight away, 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 eager to up their sport, it is simple to see the enchantment. 

It could not appear to be 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 may join the A7S III’s output to an exterior recorder/monitor (with 16 bit Uncooked output), plus you have got the power to file proxy recordsdata concurrently whereas capturing at your required decision and bitrate. Which means your laptop workflow load occasions must be sooner, as a result of you have already got the proxies at hand, your desktop should not need to 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 value taking a look at Sony’s detailed breakdown in the A7S III’s full specifications). You may 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 permits you to color grade it to your coronary heart’s content material, together with the power to shoot in HLG for HDR workflows. 

Video and photograph

  • 12.1MP Exmor R CMOS sensor, Bionz XR processor
  • ISO sensitivity: 80-102,400 commonplace
  • 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 larger decision 61-megapixel full frame sensor on the A7R IV.  The explanation: to function 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 mild it may attract. And it really works. 

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Taking pictures in difficult conditions with little mild, utilizing principally avenue lights exterior after sunset, nonetheless enabled us to take respectable, sharp photographs utterly handheld. In fact, a part of that is all the way down to the in-built 5-axis stabilisation – which is nice, however not infallible, so if we did not fairly maintain the digital camera regular sufficient then some photographs nonetheless got here out with a bit blur.

Switching the digital camera into auto mode, the default in our night time time shoot was for the digital camera to pick ISO 12,800 – which is quite excessive – however the sensor nonetheless managed to seize a powerful 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 utterly image-noise-free, however the outcomes are extra grain-like, at a suitable degree, and does not end result within the destruction of element.

Testing with the 12-24mm G Grasp lens additionally meant we obtained to attempt one in every of Sony’s most up-to-date wide-angle lenses. It is not probably 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 wrestle 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 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. 

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

And for these occasions the place we would by chance over-exposed and ended up with highlights that have been overexposed, we have been capable of drop these brightness ranges down for to retain element and floor texture with none trouble. It is a very 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 very best bitrate and frame-rate recording does require you to make use of Sony’s new CFExpress Sort A card (also called XQD). The remaining might be recorded internally on UHS-II SD playing cards.

Whereas it may not be the proper digital camera for these trying to creat massive, high-resolution photographs which can be nice for cropping into, the A7S III nonetheless takes nice photographs in daylight too. Colors are beautiful, the depth of area on provide is elegant. Shut-ish photographs of vegetation revealed some beautiful easy bokeh. 

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Battery efficiency is robust for a digital camera 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 employ the viewfinder or LCD monitor. Plus, you may cost it by way of the USB-C port on the digital camera, so you possibly can take a Sort-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, which means virtually the you may choose to focus just about wherever throughout 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 robotically give attention to individuals’s or pet’s eyes, or manually selected the spot we wished to give attention to, it was actually fast and monitoring was so easy and responsive we hardly ever noticed it searching once 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 need to prioritise a selected eye, or to let the digital camera resolve (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 may nonetheless be a bit overwhelming at occasions. There’s simply a lot there to get a deal with on. You could possibly simply spend an hour simply going by means of the varied choices and making an attempt to recollect the place all of it is. 

Verdict

The Sony Alpha A7S III is probably the most spectacular video-centric shopper digital camera so far. By utilizing the proper sensor, processing energy and warmth dissipation, Sony affords 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 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 overlook the tripod and go shoot dimly lit scenes handheld.

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

Alternate options to think about

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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, in the event you’re wanting a robust video-centric mirrorless with nice efficiency that will not price you just about 4 grand, the Panasonic is a really robust 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 recordsdata that hey can current in large format or crop into closely. It is not as robust on the video aspect, although, however it may nonetheless shoot 4K. 

Writing by Cam Bunton. Modifying by Mike Lowe.

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