The new Sony A7 mirrorless camera will soon be here and we had a chance to test its video features in the field. Is this a worthy pocket camera that can shoot good looking video or not?
When director Jan Woletz asked me to join his team as a DP and help create a teaser for his (hopefully) upcoming web series “Wienerland” I immediately said yes!
Beside the fun of realising someone’s dream it was a good chance to test the new Sony A7 as a making-of camera that had landed in cinema5D’s office a day earlier (together with the A7r and the RX10) and give it a run for a “low light” test.
Sony themselves are looking at the A7r as superior in image quality when it comes to video. For that reason a dedicated full length A7r review is coming soon. Daytime Sony A7 footage will follow soon too.
First, I would like to applause Sony for bringing a new interesting camera line to the market. It doesn’t matter how you look at it, the A7 (and A7r) are amazingly well crafted creative tools. Having a full size sensor in such a small body is truly a remarkable achievement.
Now, in practice, how are the A7’s wonderful new technical/electronic inventions which were presented to us by Sony’s technical marketing manager translated to video picture quality?
As you might see in the video above, the quality of video indeed improved over previous models. The “soft” look (out of the box) that bothered me with the A99 is now a bit better. Also, the low light capability of the camera is better. All the clips in this video were shot at ISOs between 800-1250.
Sony recommends dialling “0” at any picture profile for best “out of the box” look. That’s the first thing I did after choosing “Netural creative style” which to my eyes seemed to have the most dynamic range.
In a way it feels like “going back to VDSLR basic shooting” as this camera with its wonderful OLED EVF doesn’t need an external monitoring device so you can stay “really small” in your video configuration.
With so many superlatives it’s important to remember that Moire and aliasing are still present and at times quite extreme.
Codec wise, it’s time for Sony to consider moving forward and improve data rate with a more advanced codec. It will further improve the video quality of this camera (and others in the line).
Only Sony can benefit from such a move as more professional users will consider changing their gear and use a new “Sony brain” with their exciting lenses.
For this video I used the following equipment:
-Metabones Canon EF Lens to Sony NEX Camera Lens Mount Adapter III (please make sure you are using version III with Sony’s full frame cameras).
-Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Lens
-Sony’s XLR-K1M (all interviews were recorded with this mic/configuration).
-Camera feels very robust
-Low light capability
-Clean HDMI output (8 bit, 4:2:2)
-Clear menu structure
-Easy accurate way to focus the OLED EVF
-Extremely customizable “custom keys” feature! You can assign any button you need for very easy control
-Can use magnify while recording and move zoom field for accurate focusing
-Can monitor and control audio while recording
-Compatible with Sony’s XLR-K1M for professional audio connectivity and improved overall sound
-Excellent EVF and LCD allowing minimal camera setups
-Good “auto focus” performance when shouting with dedicated Sony lenses
-Moire and aliasing are still there
-Location of REC button on the camera body
-Only x4 possibility to zoom into the picture for accurate focusing.
Special thanks to:
Anna Jochum for her additional footage
Jan and the wonderful Wienerland team!
Johnnie Behiri is a freelance documentary cameraman/editor/producer working mostly for the BBC and other respected broadcasters. He is also co-owner of cinema5d.com