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. But it surely’s 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 gives some unimaginable capabilities, with specific focus for video and low-light efficiency. Somewhat than go all-out on the pixel depend, the A7S III opts for larger pixels on a top 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 fair smaller one, the scale of the A7S III makes it vastly sensible to hold round. It will 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 have 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 whole lot of the A7S III’s buttons are nicely positioned, together with the switch-ring across the shutter button on the prime of the grip. There is a devoted purple film ring for taking pictures 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 additionally frustration in the event you’re used to only turning the dial to rapidly change between film mode and one of many picture modes.

The opposite questionable determination is the place of the menu button. Most buttons on the again of the A7S III are inside straightforward thumb attain. However not the menu button. That is approach 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 operate buttons. 4, the truth is, that are tremendous helpful once you need fast entry to important features 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 deal with. Only for these instances when the tremendous good autofocus engine would not fast choose the suitable 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 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’ll be able to 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 obtainable – gives 4-channel 24-bit audio recording
  • 16-bit Uncooked knowledge 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 take a look at the A7S III straight away, particularly as the value 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 simple to see the enchantment. 

It could not appear like it from the skin, however there is a tonne of flexibility right here in terms of connecting further gear like microphones and displays. Not solely do you get a 3.5mm enter for microphone, the hotshoe with the suitable adapter hooked up (be aware: bought 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 document proxy information concurrently whereas capturing at your required decision and bitrate. Which means your laptop workflow load instances ought to be quicker, as a result of you have already got the proxies at hand, your desktop should not must generate them for you. 

That is with out itemizing all of the bitrate, color profile, decision and frame-rate choices obtainable. And there are numerous (it is price taking a look at Sony’s detailed breakdown in the A7S III’s full specifications). You’ll be able to shoot in S-Log3, S-Gamut3 or Cine gamut profiles, in order that your video matches the color profile in your skilled digicam and means that you can color grade it to your coronary heart’s content material, together with the flexibility 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 outfitted the A7S III with a 12-megapixel sensor, which is in stark distinction to the a lot greater decision 61-megapixel full frame sensor on the A7R IV.  The rationale: to function sufficient pixels to successfully seize full 4K decision video, but additionally to allow a lot better low-light efficiency. The larger the sensor diodes (in impact the ‘pixels’), the extra mild it will probably attract. And it really works. 

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Taking pictures in difficult conditions with little mild, utilizing principally avenue lights outdoors after sunset, nonetheless enabled us to take first rate, sharp photographs fully 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 digicam regular sufficient then some photographs nonetheless got here out with a bit of blur.

Switching the digicam into auto mode, the default in our night time time shoot was for the digicam to pick ISO 12,800 – which is relatively 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 would not consequence 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 the earth, 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 good 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 may be switched off for full-frame entry – it is simple sufficient to shoot handheld and maintain issues clean and regular. For the instances it will get a bit janky when our fingers weren’t as regular as we might like them to be, the ensuing shakiness was minimal and straightforward to repair in post-production with Closing Minimize’s one-click stabilsation device.

And for these instances the place we might 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 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 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 remainder may be recorded internally on UHS-II SD playing cards.

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

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Battery efficiency is powerful for a digicam this highly effective too. It makes use of one in every of 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 possibly can cost it through the USB-C port on the digicam, so you would 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, that means nearly the you possibly can 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 or not we left it to robotically deal with folks’s or pet’s eyes, or manually selected the spot we needed to deal with, 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 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 will probably 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 via the varied 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 up to now. Through the use of the suitable sensor, processing energy and warmth dissipation, Sony gives full-frame recording at staggering resolutions high quality. The worth may 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 a superb lens, you possibly can neglect the tripod and go shoot dimly lit scenes handheld.

Nevertheless, these stills photographers seeking to shoot ultra-resolute photographs must look elsewhere – however it’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 digicam of selection for years to return.

Options to think about

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Panasonic Lumix S5

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It is lower than half the value of the Sony, and whereas it would not fairly match its efficiency by way of video capabilities or low-light capabilities, in the event you’re wanting a powerful video-centric mirrorless with nice efficiency that will not value 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 is not as sturdy on the video aspect, although, however it will probably nonetheless shoot 4K. 

Writing by Cam Bunton. Modifying by Mike Lowe.

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