Sony continues advancing its innovative series of full frame A7 cameras, with the new Sony A7S, which is optimized for low light and video shooters. Is this camera the new king of the low light throne?
When I purchased my Panasonic GH4 for video shooting a month and a half ago, I did so with outright confidence, not withholding any kind of internal second thoughts or doubts. Having shot with it quite frequently since purchasing it I still have had nothing but love for that wonderful camera. Our relationship is built upon the steady rock that is trust and up to this point in time we’ve been in the midst of a torrid love affair, that is, until I heard more about the Sony A7s and started seeing the stunning capabilities of that camera.
When Chris approached me to help shoot a review for TCSTV I was eagerly willing to help out any way I could while we waited for Jordan to recover from being sidelined temporarily with unfortunate health complications (these things happen with time). When I found out the camera we would be reviewing was indeed the hotly anticipated Sony A7S I was both simultaneously excited and nervous. Excited because this is a very promising camera that I have wanted to check out myself, and nervous because I realized this review would have some weight in regards to people making a tough decision. I found sleep however, knowing that the responsibility of an informed opinion was not my task, but of Chris’. I just had to make him look good.
We shot the review on the Panasonic GH4 which seemed like the sensible choice for two reasons. One, because shooting with what you’re familiar with always makes your job exponentially easier and two, a lot of people, myself included, wanted to see how these two cameras stacked up against one another. The weather for the shoot proved to make things slightly more difficult, we were dealing with light rain. I grabbed two lenses to go out and shoot with, the Panasonic 12-35 f2.8, and the Voigtlander 42.5mm f0.95. The large majority ended up being shot with the Panasonic because it is a weather sealed lens and the Voigltander is not. Never under estimate the value of a weather sealed product, these things come in handy and can save a shoot as was the case here. The one time I tried to use the Voigtlander we got condensation on the rear element causing a total loss of contrast and making the shot completely unusable.
Now as for my thoughts on the A7s itself… Trying to avoid any type of bias sneaking into this post, I must admit, I’m a really big fan of this camera. First off the low light, I mean what can I really say that hasn’t already been said? It’s astounding and a critical upside for run and gun shooting where light conditions are rough. No matter what kind of work you do, everyone loves a good low light camera. Another feature that thoroughly impressed me was the 15 stops of dynamic range. Once again this is a feature that offers massive appeal for people who can’t always manipulate the environments they shoot in. The 1080p footage was quite impressive but not having 4K internally is a drawback no doubt. I mean sure, it can output 4K to an external recorder but your looking at a big investment in both money and memory storage if you do decide to make that leap.
The stills were nice, but that is all the praise I could give this camera as a tool for stills. Great low light which is sweet but other than that not much upside. Slow autofocus and lackluster resolution I think would do this camera in against the competition that is out there.
All in all, I would say there are many situations where I would be thrilled to have the Sony A7s in my tool bag. But I will say this, I can go to sleep at night knowing I have the GH4, but I could also catch some good shut eye knowing I invested in the Sony A7s. These days, we’re very fortunate to have access to such amazing cameras it’s really hard to make a bad choice.