Sleep, eat, taste wine and relax! – A Sony A7s camera video review

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EDIT: New from Cinema5d!. As part of our commitment to our readers, the A7s is the first to be tested in our lab. What is the cinema5D test lab? cinema5D has established their own scientific testing facility to accurately measure and evaluate the performance of cameras. As a platform for reviews about cinematic cameras we strive to provide objective comparisons and share insights to help you choose the right camera for your projects. Test 1: Dynamic Range – Sony A7S vs. the others Test 2: Rolling Shutter – Sony A7S vs. the others

ORIGINAL POST: The Sony A7 camera family is constantly growing and the new kid on the block is dedicated for video filming. My respect to Sony for listening to professionals and advanced hobbyist alike by bringing to the market what I consider to be the best full frame HD “DSLR” camera released in a long time. Unfortunately when conducting this review no 4K external recorder was available for testing the 4K video quality but let me tell you, the HD footage coming out of this camera is shockingly impressive. For me, if it is to choose between the Panasonic GH4 or the Sony A7s, then with no doubt, it’s the A7s. The picture aesthetic in combination with full frame is simply more pleasant to my eyes then the GH4 footage. On the other hand, internal 4K recording is what we want (and sometimes need), so I guess we can consider the A7s as a “bridge camera” and it won’t be long before we will see a Sony camera that can do so for a hopefully attractive price. 

The direct competitor to this camera is naturally the Canon 5D Mark III. Personally, I think it is time to move on and say goodbye to the Mark III. The good thing is, you don’t have to invest in an all-new lens system. Simply use the excellent Metabones Sony E-mount to Canon EF adaptor (Generation III in order to cover the full frame sensor) and there you go. You now have an amazingly sharp looking video camera that records in a new robust codec (XAVC S), very small with a build in great OLED EVF and last but not least, also a lowlight king. I also have to had that the audio recorded directly to the A7s is much better then the one recorded on the Mark III because of better internal preamps. All in all, if you are looking for a working tool that is small enough to look “un-professional” yet one that records great looking video footage at a price which is not modest but affordable, look no further. The Sony A7s is your best friend. Sony also deserves compliments for its menu stricture and flexibility when it comes to assign functions to the Fn button. Simple, elegant and very useful. Almost every function you need in the tip of your finger. 

OK, it is time to take the “pink glasses” off and see some of the limitations this camera has:

– World camera. Please be aware that only the the model which intended to be shipped to PAL countries is a switchable PAL/NTSC camera. All NTSC models are only NTSC! – 30 minutes maximum recording length in all cameras regardless if they are PAL or NTSC – Sony S LOG 2. While this is not supposed to be a limitation the implementation of this feature is not entirely clear to me as the starting ISO point in this mode is 3200 (which is the native ISO). If you shoot outdoors and want to keep your aperture open you will have to look for stronger variable ND filters then the ones normally used. 

Firmware/menu improvements I would love to see:

– The ability to record higher frame rate in more then 720p – This camera has the ability to crop into the sensor (APS C mode). Assigning a short cut to this feature is a must (via the Fn button). – Another thing regarding the APS C mode of the camera: the indicator symbol which lets you know you are in this mode should not only be visible in the full “info” display, but also when “info” is turned off. It’s easy to forget that you are in this mode just to find out later it’s not what you intended to do.

Camera Settings for this review:

-Picture Profile – off -Picture style – NTRL (all settings on “0”) -Internal recording codec –  XAVC S, 1080/25,  50Mbps

About this video: By no means this video intends to be a “corporate video”. It is just me having fun for 2 days in a beautiful location together with an amazing camera. My aim was to see how it functions during real life production and see how little equipment I can take with me (in comparison to the amount of equipment I would have taken with my Canon 1DC)  and let me tell you, it is much less…

I can not even describe how dark it was inside the wine cellar. I’ve decided to leave it “as is” and add only 1 small LED light to enhance a spot I wanted. This camera can easily shoot in ISO 5000 for broadcast. Very well done Sony!

I also recommending downloading the original HD file from Vimeo for a better viewing experience!

Edit: As of readers request, here are the different Picture Profiles as described by Sony. Those can be modified if wanted by going to MENU-PP selection-Modify. Screen Shot 2014-07-06 at 11.40.35

 

Music: Themusicbed Artis: Tiny Houses-Cerulean

A special thanks to the people at Castello di Gabbiano

Federico Cerelli – Head Wine Maker Francesco Berardinelli – Executive Chef , Ristorante Il Cavaliere (del Castello di Gabbiano) Cornelia Reali – Director of Hospitality

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

Watch it on Vimeo

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Francisco
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Francisco

hi there,

I have a question … responsive to the high iso a7s 1dc the canon?

Bobo
Guest

well done – thank you Johnny
I think I will buy one ;-)

Bruno Detante
Guest

Nice work! The image quality is gorgeous. Can you tell use a little bit more about your workflow for this video? (lenses, what color grading software did you use)
Thank you!

Aron J Anderson
Guest

Who cares about the camera this is a great piece. Love the visuals, music and edits. Great job.

ErikNaso
Guest

Nice piece. Lovely location. As I continue testing the A7s and GH4 I really can’t make up my mind which one I like best. I’m afraid I’m going to keep both! They are so different and each one has it’s strengths. As for stills I prefer the A7s since its now the only full frame camera I have. I do wish autofocus with the Metabones adapter worked better on Canon lenses for photography. I think I need a few native lenses for that.

Chris Gibbs
Guest

That’s lovely Johnnie, many thanks!

Any chance you could give us a short blog post explaining the different profiles (S LOG etc). What settings that you’d recommend for different assignments etc?

Sony’s documentation is terrible………..

Cheers,
Chris

Oscar
Guest
Oscar

Really nice filming and edit.
…Thumbs up

Guest
Graham Parker

I know they’re not quite the same beasts and there wasn’t a way to test 4K yet, but can I ask how you think it will compare it to the Blackmagic 4K Camera? In particular the dynamic range. Thanks very much!

Andreas
Guest
Andreas

What about rolling shutter?
And how dows the dynamic range compare to the bmcc raw?

 Daniel Ridicki
Guest
Daniel Ridicki

Great job, as usual Johnnie.
Image looks impressive and I am surely switching from my old Mk II.
This Canon adapter you mentioned in the text – I have seen quite a few bad comments on the quality of it. Would be good though to keep Canon lenses…

Will Hazell
Guest
Will Hazell

Thanks for the video. So if I buy this camera in America there will be no PAL mode? (and no 25fps)?

Satva
Guest

Wow, nice video Johnnie! I want to both eat pasta and buy a A7s! 1080 footage looks quite amazing, and I can’t wait to see the 4K with the Shogun.

What is your viewpoint on 8bit vs 10bit? Even though this camera is only 8 bit the footage looks really pleasing to the eye.

Do you think it is possible for Sony to release a firmware to allow 10 bit out of the HDMI for Shogun?

Alessandro
Guest
Alessandro

Hi Johnnie and thank you for your review and for your availability to answer our questions. I’d like to ask you a few things, first of all the sound i hear in your video is taken directly from the camera? I guess there are manual controls for audio and vu meter is it right? Then I”d like to ask you if the “crop mode” allows the use of lenses (with an adaptor) like a EF-S, and in particular the sigma 18-35. And finally, when you talk about the use of filters ND stronger than normal, do you have any suggest… Read more »

Tim Pek
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Tim

So you don’t like 4K and fast frame rate as ur main features then?

Vania Rebel
Guest

I sincerely hope that this SONY 4K is not equal to what I’ve been fooled by Sony with the FS700. They said it would suffice small update, which I later found out was a hardware update that cost US12.000 and the camera doubled in size. As Phillip Bloom said a Bazuka! This time I will not be deceived. I’ll wait and see

Curso Fno
Member

:-(

Vania Rebel
Guest

look at that film https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YXBFb9gScms
That’s the way that SONY cheats his customers. Same aperture, same shutter speed, increments in ISO … the shadows open like magic and the highlight in the fire looks almost the same ! the movie is like a note of $ 3.

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 Daniel Ridicki
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Daniel Ridicki

So, where can we buy 25fps version? B&H only carry NTSC model. And at what price will it be available in Europe? I came across info that it will be round 2500 GBP in UK. Quite a difference…

Dmitry
Guest
Dmitry

Hello,
Thank you for sharing this beautiful video. Would you be so kind to tell few words about moire on this camera? I’m planning to buy this camera for one of the upcoming projects, but still hesitate, because sony 7r had problems with moire. And this characteristic is the most important for my shooting project.
Thank you in advance

MartinDoersch
Guest

Great review!
I totally looking forward to use this camera.
In my case I will use the high ISO for reportage work. 12MP are totally enough for most of the work – also for full bleed magazine images.

Thanks again.
Greetings from Austria
Martin

Clayton Moore
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Clayton

Cameras that shoot pretty pictures are becoming very ubiquitous. This camera, along with the Black Magic, and the GH4, represents yet another “affordable” camera that is narrowing the gap between a $60,000 camera body and a $2,000 camera body. We are about 90% there to when (image quality wise) it wont matter much what camera you choose, they will all be just fine in the pretty picture category.

Justin Arwood
Guest

Such a beautiful piece! Excellent work Johnnie and very informative. How do you feel the A7s 1080p holds up against the GH4 4k (downscaled to 1080)? And did you have any overheating issues with the A7s?

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Phil
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Phil

Johnnie, When they’re hiring for the studio remake of ‘Eat Pray Love’ you’ll be on the short list. And, are you sure you got your money’s worth out of that slider? Kidding aside, great work! Always appreciate that you put a camera through the paces while telling a story. Gives your comments greater weight (at least with me). I see you credit ‘FilmConvert’. How light/heavy was the grade? The skin tones in the fluorescent lit kitchen were impressive. If it’s not too late, when you get to the more lab related parts of the test, if possible, could we see/hear:… Read more »

Vivek Anand
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Vivek Anand

Great video as usual! Your DI is exemplary and therefore difficult to decide between this one and GH4 (Devine?).
The Panasonic film was better in content for me.But to ask again, I take it you prefer the A7S to GH4?
I am looking at both although my instinct always goes towards fullframe.
Is this also your opinion?

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[…] Johnnie Behiri reviews the video capabilities of the superb Sony A7S over on Planet 5D and is very impressed by the camera. I’ve been following Johnnie for many years, and he’s a very well respected BBC camera man and filmmaker. He’s done a lot of work over the years in examining the adoption of small format cameras for potential broadcast work. […]

V. Anand
Guest
V. Anand

Hi Johnnie
Thank you for your considerate reply, and yes it always helps to get the opinion of someone professional who has used both cameras. All the best for your new endevours!

Guest
Edm

Hello Johnnie,
As for broadcast purposes, how would you consider the in-camera codec (XAVC S, 50 Mbps and full-frame)? Not for feature-length documentary of course, but news or intermittent documentary scenes.
I’m really interested in this camera, so small, unobstrusive and sees in the dark, it would allow you to “go where no cameracrew has gone before”.
Any thoughts? Thanx in advance.
Eric

Colin
Guest
Colin

Hey Johnnie,

I’ve been able to shoot a couple of different times now with the A7s and have been roundly unimpressed with the dynamic range in bright situations. The highlights are so easy to blow out and there’s no bringing them back in post. I have shot with PP3 and PP5 to the same result. In the same situation, my Canon C100 has performed much better. Any suggestions?

Pascal Payant
Guest

Hi. Great video.
I’m preparing my low budget feature film. I’m debating to use the RED DRAGON but it cost me 6k in the budget or to go with the sony a7s. I save 6k.
would you recommend it for a feature film? the output will be for festivals and web ( itunes, VOD)

Erik
Guest
Erik

Hi Johnnie,
Thank you for this beautiful piece of work. No doubt the camera is great for video. But I would also be using it for stills, mainly because of the completely silent shutter in combination with full frame. I take pictures of classical concerts. Do you know if it is indeed completely silent? Can you please post a some raw stills for download?
Thanks,
Erik

James
Guest

Excellent work Johnnie! Looks like the Sony A7S is a very capable camera.

Colin
Guest
Colin

Hey Johnnie,

Can you recommend a program that can transcode the XVACs codec? For those of us that still edit occasionally in FCP 7, we need to be able to work with ProRes clips and unfortunately none of the old ways work (log and transfer, compressor, mpeg streamclip). I can’t find anything that will do the trick, except for the spammy apps PavTube, BroSoft, etc that clog up the forums.

Thanks!

axelkindermann
Guest

Hy Johnnie, thank you for this video, and all the answers about the A7s. I want to ask you, if you could upload some files of the raw footage that comes straight out of the camera, especially the slog2 footage?

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Finn Schäuble
Guest

Wow, this is so weird, I came here so see A7s footage and then I remebered:

I was at that Hotel before, it was AWESOME!!

Its so weird seeing that!

Carl
Guest
Carl

Thanks for the article! I’m reading a lot about the A7s, and the more I see/read the more I like it. One thing, though, still I’m not sure about is the compression. Forgetting for a moment about the HDMI & the shogun, internally can only record a 4:2:0 file. No matter how good the codec can be, my concern banding and patterns must be still a discrete issue. If there’s something that I love about shooting videos is doing editing and CC later on. Therefore I’m wondering if even with the good quality the camera seems to deliver, there’s enough… Read more »

Carl
Guest
Carl

That was fast! Thank you so much Johnnie.
I’ll look at the mp4, in case I’ll ask you the ProRes.
From your point of view, does the A7s and the xavc holds up banding better than other DSLR? (I currently have a 7D…)

Thanks again.

Carl
Guest
Carl

Thank you Johnnie,

that’s really encouraging!
I’ll drop your sample into Resolve tonight.

It seems a confusing moment to change gear, this A7s seems so promising but it might be the beginning of a better series (then better to wait).
Just wish Sony would fix a couple of quirks in a firmware update, then would be a simpler choice to make :)

J F
Member
J F

Beautiful work, Im looking into getting an A7s too. To be sincere when I was watching I was thinking: “looks a little like video, but I can always use Filmcovert to make it look more like film” but the I saw Filmconvert was used.. Can it be made to look a bit more like 35mm or red footage ?

Keith Williams
Member

Great work! I shoot on this great camera too.

I must ask do you use the on board metering for exposure, even if its just as a guide? I want to know if you shoot a little higher in the highlights to lower the noise floor in the shadows as I’ve found this works well for me.

Thanks

Curso Fno
Member

I love this camera. I love Sony