Sony A7   video reviewThe 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?

sony alpha7 top1 Sony A7   video reviewWhen 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.

moire Sony A7   video reviewsoft Sony A7   video reviewIn 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).

Pros:
-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
-Zebra, Peaking
-Good “auto focus” performance when shouting with dedicated Sony lenses

Cons:
-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.
-Micro HDMI

Music: www.themusicbed.com

Special thanks to:
Anna Jochum for her additional footage
Jan and the wonderful Wienerland team!

DSC04932 1024x575 Sony A7   video review

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

 
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Lee Evans Reply
Lee Evans November 21, 2013

make the 1dc shots look very nice indeed !

Reply
Dmitri Tsitelauri November 21, 2013

Yes, indeed- 1Dc looked amaizing!!!

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Johnnie Behiri November 22, 2013

The 1DC is my “swiss army knife” camera. There is so much it can do. I will take it ANY day over the C300.

Thanks

Johnnie

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Phil November 21, 2013

Thanks for the preview. Looks interesting.

Can you tell if it is truly 4:2:2 or just wrapped 4:2:0 ?

Reply
Johnnie Behiri November 21, 2013

Hi Phil.

Will check with Sony’s engineering and will come back to you.

Thanks!

Johnnie

Reply
Johnnie Behiri November 25, 2013

Hi Phil.

I can confirm that the 4:2:2 is pure and not a wrapped 4:2:0

Thank you!

Johnnie

Reply
Phil November 25, 2013

Great. Thanks!

Reply
Christof G. Dertschei November 21, 2013

Thanks, Jonnie! A really wonderful Video!

Reply
Johnnie Behiri November 22, 2013

Thank you Christof and hope to see you soon!.

J.

Reply
Tim November 22, 2013

The Canon 1DC + Atomos is great, without Atomos not so great.

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Johnnie Behiri November 22, 2013

Hi Tim.

What I do is recording simultaneously, 4K internally and ProRes 1080 externally to the Atomos. Besides the “back up” I am also gaining an APS-H “sensor perspective”. The footage from the 1DC in this video was shoot in C-LOG and edited from the ProRes version.

Thanks!

Johnnie

Reply
Will November 22, 2013

Do you know if the camera overheats? the NEX cameras had a lot of overheating problems. As a documentary-style filmmaker, an overheating sensor would be a dealbreaker (wouldn’t be able to shoot interviews, etc.)

Reply
Johnnie Behiri November 22, 2013

Hi Will.

I had the same problem with NEX in the past….So far I had no over heating problem when shooting with the A7 (or A7r) BUT, I will dedicate a test for it as so many people are interested to know the answer.

I will let the camera run in a warm room for a while…

Thanks.

Johnnie

Reply
Will November 26, 2013

Thank you, please let us know the results!

Reply
Johnnie Behiri November 26, 2013

Hi will.

I am happy to report that when experimenting with the camera I could not get it to “overheat”.

Please understand that experimenting was not done in a very hot outdoor location (snowing out here). What I did was letting the camera to work in a hot room for 2 hours (starting recording again as it got to the 30 min limit) and no problem at all!:

Thanks.

Johnnie

Reply
will November 28, 2013

Excellent!! Thanks so much for the info!! This certainly makes the A7 a desirable camera for videographers.

Reply
marklondon November 22, 2013

I think the Sony looked better than fine, very nice in fact, but the 1DC footage looked absolutely fantastic. The 6 months you’ve spent with it haven’t been wasted! Plus controlled shooting at night is pretty much its perfect shoot environment.
I hope you find the money!

Reply
Johnnie Behiri November 22, 2013

Hi marklondon
Thanks for taking the time watching the video and commenting.
As I wrote before, The 1DC is my “swiss army knife” camera as there is so much you can do with it!. I’ll take it ANY day over the C300.

Thank you!

Johnnie

Reply
Greyfus November 22, 2013

You guys should try our the A7R too :)
Seems to have better highlight rollout and no false color and lesser moire in video mode compared to the A7 according to EOSHD :)

Reply
Johnnie Behiri November 22, 2013

Dear Greyfus.

A7r is on my table.
RX10 test first, then A7r…

Thank you!

Johnnie

Reply
Vincent Pelletier November 22, 2013

Great test!
This new little Sony A7 looks really great!
I’m impatient to read your future RX10 and A7r tests!

Reply
Johnnie Behiri November 22, 2013

Hi Vincent.

Please take a look at our next test: http://www.cinema5d.com/?p=22118

Not sure how great the A7 is but I’m sure some people would like using it.

RX10 test coming soon!

Thanks

Johnnie

Reply
Steffen November 22, 2013

Hi
Thanks for a fine first look. Don’t you need a an adapter to use the Sony’s XLR-K1M with the A7? I thought the A7 only have jack connection for mic input.

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Johnnie Behiri November 22, 2013

Hi Steffen.

No need for an adapter. There is a direct connection through the hot shoe.

Thanks!

Johnnie

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Anders Berggren November 22, 2013

Thanks for the upload! I’m not a dslr-shooter myself, but this made me really interested in the 1DC. Amazing pictures!
The A7 was a bit of a disappointment though… Looking forward to your RX10 test, on paper that seems like the perfect hang around camera.
Cheers, Anders

Reply
Johnnie Behiri November 22, 2013

Hi Andres. Thank you for taking the time watching the video and commenting.
Indeed the 1DC is a great working tool!.

Regarding the RX10….Soon…

Thank you!

Johnnie

Reply
mike kobal November 22, 2013

thanks for another wonderful clip, Johnny! beautifully shot, very informative and it makes me miss Wien! looks like a great project you guys have going there, wishing you the best of luck with everything and all the funding you need!

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Johnnie Behiri November 22, 2013

Mike my friend. Good to hear from you again!!

Indeed Wienerland is a great project and what makes it so special is the people on set!.

Talk soon.

Johnnie

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Chris Gibbs November 22, 2013

Hi Johnny, love your reviews, very practical and informative for us still photographers who merely “dabble” with video. A couple of questions if you don’t mind.

1. As a Canon 5D3 shooter I can be running video AND trip the shutter button snagging a full resolution RAW still, then the 5D3 continues on with its video recording automatically with just a brief 1 second break in the video stream – can I do this with the R7?

2. Is the audio via the XLR-K1M approaching what I’m hearing with say a SONY NX70 camcorder (same mic I believe)?

I love the idea of recording video “whilst looking through the OLED viewfinder” and being able to “snag a RAW still.” Unfortunately, with the 5D3 and its optical viewfinder this process is cumbersome. The biggest selling point of the SONY A7 is the OLED viewfinder – I can live with “slightly” inferior video if I get that OLED VF. The audio on your test sounded great BTW. I’ll often reach for the SONY NX70 just for the better audio, but this means inferior video, but some subjects call for that. Hopefully the SONY A7 and XLR-K1M will offer a nice compromise?

Cheers, Chris.

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Johnnie Behiri November 22, 2013

Dear Chris, Thank you!

-Will check
-The K1M is a great handy device. Its only problem is, price. It is just over priced…I believe it is the same level of the NX70
-The OLED EVF is simply amazing!
. I wish that the video quality would have been better…:)

Thanks

Johnnie

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Chris Gibbs November 22, 2013

Thanks Johnnie, brilliant news on the audio, thanks! As to the video quality, for us stills guys, the ones without all the accessories or proper training – any half decent video trumps none. I think it’d be nice to be able to “more easily” capture those (seemingly unimportant) moments that crop on stills jobs. Right now, more often than not, I find myself saying “I cannot be bothered” about video whilst on a stills assignment. Anything to make it easier! (:-) ~Chris

Reply
Johnnie Behiri November 25, 2013

Hi Chris.

Sorry. I could not find a way to take photos while shooting videos with the A7/A7r and RX10. Will verify my findings with Sony engineering for safety…

Thanks!

Johnnie

Reply
Marco December 5, 2013

Hi Johnnie!
Have you tried to record from the hdmi output?
If yes can you share some footage recorded to an external recorder?
I’m wondering to buy an a7 and record the signal to a external recorder, my choice would be an odissey 7/7Q but they are taking ages to ship it!
…and I want to rig it all to my octocopter…
I’m just wondering if I can get better footage than a GH3 or 5dM2 and keeping the same weight from my actual setup.
Thanks in advance.
Marco

Reply
Johnnie Behiri December 5, 2013

Hi Marco!

Yes I did but only as an internal functionality test, “nothing to write home about”….

The aliasing/moire problems will not be cured when using an external recorder. Also, the micro HDMI is not a perfect solution for it. (btw, I would have gone with Atomos’s Ninja 2 which is cheaper and maybe even lighter then Odissey.

Hard question you are asking! Is there a way for you to try the camera before committing?

Thanks.

Johnnie

Reply
Leon December 19, 2013

Thanks for the first look. Could you do a test with the same lens on 1Dc?

Reply
Johnnie Behiri January 3, 2014

Dear Leon. Sorry for my very late response!.

I’m working almost daily with my Canon 1DC equipped with the 24-105mm and been happy with it.
Might do a specific test of that lens/camera in the near future but for now the priority is to test new gear.

Thank you and sorry again for my late response.

Johnnie

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