Sony a7S II Review – First Impressions & Footage

The new Sony A7s II is available now and definitely a best-seller mirrorless video camera. But what makes this camera so wanted and how does it perform compared to the already excellent Sony a7R II? I took the new camera out in the field and here are my first impressions.

I took the Sony a7S II for a short spin and thanks to the help of police officers Birgit Neuwirth and Thomas Lagler (not to forget Dinozzo, the 11 months old Belgian shepherd from the Austrian K9 unit) I came up with the short test video above. My “artistic” decision was to shoot everything with available light only and use two lenses, the Sony 28-135mm F/4 and Sony 16-35 F/4. Needless to say it was a “zero budget gig” and as a single operator I’ve tried to keep this production as simple as possible. 

I’ve tried to squeeze “normal footage”, “lowlight” and “slow-motion” parts into one video. The lowlight footage in this large office building was filmed with F/4 lenses in up to 8,000 ISO (mostly 6,400). The two short slow-motion sequences were recorded in 100p at 100Mbit/S and I used Adobe Premiere’s “Time Remapping” function to slow them down.

Sony a7S II

So what are the main advantages of the Sony a7S II over the original A7s? (in no particular order)

  • Internal UHD 4K recording
  • S-log 3 (in addition to S-log 2)
  • Gamma Display Assistant (allows you to monitor your flat S-log 2 or 3 image in a more vivid Rec 709 way)
  • Internal IBIS stabilisation system (5-Axis SteadyShot)
  • A possibility to charge the camera via the USB port
  • A possibility to assign “REC” to other buttons than the awkwardly placed rec button
  • 100fps (PAL), 120fps (NTSC) in HD quality
    Note:

You can record slow-motion in 2 different ways: HFR will give you an instant slow-motion (recording data rate is 16Mbit/s) or, you can shoot at 100/120 fps in full HD (100Mbit/s which spread between the up to 120fps) and then conform to 24/25p in post.
Also, when choosing to shoot in slow-motion note there is 2.2x centre crop of the sensor.

  • Higher OLED EVF resolution
  • ISO 1,600 is the “native ISO” (In 4K and full HD recording modes. When switching to Full HD 100p the base ISO is 3200 as on old Sony a7S).
  • Reduced rolling shutter effect especially noticeable in Full HD mode
  • Two additional Picture Profiles (PP8 and 9)
  • Additional Custom-Key button

We have yet to test how the HD quality coming out of the Sony a7S II compares to the original a7S.

When it comes to comparing the a7S II to the Sony a7R II, the most noticeable differences are: 

  • The addition of S-log 3
  • Up to 120fps in full HD (compared to 60fps)
  • Gamma Display Assist
  • Sony’s a7S II is cleaner in low-light situations compared to the a7R II
  • Because of its higher pixel count, the Sony a7R II can shoot in APS-C S35 crop-mode in 4K. The a7S II can not do that. Further more, any APS-C lens that will be attached to this camera will have strong vignetting at the edges in 4K-mode (APS-C mode is limited to HD resolutions).

So which camera I should get? 

As far as I’m concerned, there is not a clear answer to that question. If you are doing a lot of photography on top of your video productions, then the Sony a7R II is the way to go, otherwise personally I would consider the Sony a7S II as my preferred option because of the small refinements they put in over the a7RII. Also there is a price difference of $200 to consider.

DSC04384

Conclusion:

The Sony a7S II feels like a matured product. It is truly amazing to see how much technology is packed inside this little thing. As a documentary film shooter, this will become my preferred working tool. I treat those cameras like “a brain” that can be expend or minimise depending on the type of work I do. Additionally, I prefer internal 4K recording over an external device when ever possible or needed, so the Sony a7s II is the perfect working tool for me.

Last but not least, It is also worth mentioning that I did not have any overheating issues with the camera during the long shooting day. All was shot inside at normal room temperature. I would love to hear other user’s experiences and see if they had similar issues as reported with the a7R II.

Setting for the above video: XAVC-S 4K, 25p, Slog2. For the slow-motion sequences: XAVC-S HD 100p/100M

Music from musicbed:
Cedric Conti – The Hotel and Cultus – First snow
Graded with James Miller’s Deluts

Edit: As requested by some, here is the ungraded version of the above video. Please head directly to Vimeo and download the 4K version if you like to try it for yourself.

 

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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スペシャルな”α7” α7sII ILCE-7SM2【評価・作例】 | とるなら~写真道楽道中記~Top Video and Film Production Blogs, Vlogs and their Best Articles – Central Suiteแนะนำอุปกรณ์เสริมกล้องสำหรับถ่ายวิดิโอ - MF-EdgeJohnnie Behiri Recent comment authors
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Daniel Vuong
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Daniel Vuong

Hi Nino,
hab erst jetzt gecheckt, dass du tatsächlich aus Wien kommst! :D
Cooles Video übrigens. Kurze Frage, da ich ja schon mal vor kurzem beim first Impression der A7rII gefragt habe, wollte ich mal kurz fragen wie die f4 FE Objektive von Sony sind? Vorallem für Fotografen. Bin ja noch auf ner 7D und will den richtigen Moment abwarten das richtige für zu kaufen.
Gruß Daniel

Nino Leitner
Admin

Hi Daniel,
This is my friend’s Johnnie’s review! Sorry don’t have experience with the Sony f4 FE lenses, but actually that is something that Johnnie might be able to answer.
Nino

Daniel Vuong
Member
Daniel Vuong

Oh yeah, I totally overread who made this review post. :D
But thanks though!

 Ord Mantell
Member

Schickes Review, Danke :)

Val R
Guest
Val R

Hi Johnnie, this is really cool, what rig did you use to do the handheld shots at the end where the guy was sitting on the chair? Thank you

 Philipp Benedikt
Member

Just wanted to ask the same question about the rig we can also see in the picture above :) ?

Art Sanchez
Guest

Will you measure the DR in the next tests?

cinema5D
Guest

Sure! coming up during next week.

Marcus Gelhard
Guest

What day are they coming? Cant wait :-)

Ed Mahoo
Guest

Nice! :)

Luke Holley
Member

Nice review as always. Did you find that the Came-One and 16-35mm combo worked well? Personally I have had issues with Came-Mini 2 and the A7S with the 16-35mm with motors being stressed to the point that I cannot get a very stable image wall walking with the combo.

Yura Makarov
Member

Great review and great video! Thanks!
I have a few questions, I saw in the beginning of footage in the sky there were these visible gradients strips (when it goes from bright to dark.) Is it due Vimeo compression, post production or just because of 8-bit?
Also, have you tested usb power option? Is it possible continuously shoot with external usb battery and sometimes do hot swap?
Is there still 29 minute recording limit?

Philippe Claes
Member

Hi
1)Is the only 2.2x crop mode in 1080HD 120p or can we shot 1080p 25-50p in APSC or 2.2x crop too ? ( I don’t speak about the 4K APSC, I know there is not, but 1080p)
2)Can we put a Speedbooster adapter in HFR to have 2.2x 0.71= 1,56 (APSC) in HFR mode ?

Rob Migrin
Guest
Rob Migrin

Great review thank you! I am very curious about the overheating issue. If you have any addition information or run long recording overheating tests please let us know. I am considering getting this camera as a B-camera to my FS7 and a primary use would be recording second angles on long interviews in 4K. Overheating seems to be the big issue with doc work on the A7Rii and if this camera can do internal 4K with no heat issues then it would be the obvious choice for me.

 Peter Borrud
Member

I just got my A7sII this week and filmed a 35 minute interview this morning with my camera. I had the camera on for setup some before, but the camera shut down twice during the interview due to overheating. The temperature inside the hotel was about 75 degrees. I didn’t pull the screen out on the camera which is supposed to help, but I was really surprised to see it overheat like that especially when you need it to record continuously. Besides that I’ve been really happy with the camera, but this has a caused a real concern for me… Read more »

 Rodrigue Llado
Member

Hey thanks a lot for this review ! Just one question, the A7s is able to shoot 1080p 60fps in both full frame and APS-C mode, right ? Only the 1080 120fps is limited to APS-C ? Thanks !

 Steve Cosi
Member

for those who haven’t found this answer yet– yes, it is flexible between full-frame and APS-C (super 35) ONLY when 1080 60p/i or slower frame rates. in 4K it is fixed at full frame, and in 1080 higher frame rates (120p) it is fixed at a 2.2 sensor crop (hence cropped even more than APS-C crop). this causes some head scratching and physically moving the camera about, when using fixed zoom lenses and changing between regular and slow mo (unless of course shooting all in 120p and altering speeds in post– but there will be some iq loss with lower… Read more »

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[…] Cinema5D (Click here) reviewed the new Sony A7sII. They like the camera that much they should rename their website CinemaA7 This is their conclusion: […]

Aaron Danger Nathanson
Member

Hey Johnnie! Noticed you’re rocking the Altura eyecup- I’ve been using it with my A7S for months now, and it’s one of my favourite accessories. Glad to see it fits the updated A7 bodies! Definitely adds a good contact point, blocks out all the light, doesn’t interfere with eye sensor, and doesn’t block the screen when it’s pulled out. Awesome!

Cheers from Vancouver,

Aaron

Ehrin Macksey
Guest
Ehrin Macksey

Hi Aaron,

I tried googleing the eyecup you mention but can’t find anything for Sony. You have a link or tutorial to adapt to a Sony a7?

Thanks,
Ehrin

 Yannick Derennes
Member

Hi there, can you tell us how was the battery life during your test? This is a major flaw for all miroless cameras ’til there.

 Steve Cosi
Member

one thing sony finally did was allow the usb power to be plugged in while battery is inserted, to allow camera power for those shots when given access to power outlets. i guess when this process is used, the battery still supplements power to the camera when needed though. why it doesn’t just have full power coming in through the cable, i have no idea. i ended up getting the atomos power station– it DOES allow full continuous power direct to the unit when plugged in to wall (using a dummy battery in camera) and can last ultra long on… Read more »

Wintson Smith
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Wintson Smith

Did the base S-log ISO (800 for A7Rii vs. 1600 for A7Sii) or the better autofocus on A7Rii play into your decision?

Jonathan Rapoport
Guest
Jonathan Rapoport

SLOG in HD has a minimum ISO of 3,200 not 1,600 on A7SII?

 Craig Spirko
Member

“ISO 1,600 is the “native ISO” (In 4K recording mode only. When switching to Full HD, the base ISO is still 3200 as on old Sony a7S)”

I’m able to shoot ISO 1600 in S-Log3 HD on my A7S2. (24p NTSC, btw)

Javier Mollo
Guest

5D Mark III Raw, in my opinion, has better skin tones.

 Jason Brooks
Member

Sure, lovely images. The things I’ve shot in raw on the 5d3 are some of the most beautifully natural images I’ve ever caputered.

HOWEVER, it’s a complete PITA when it comes to the post workflow, not being able to playback properly in camera, etc., etc…

I’ve moved onto the FS-7, and trust me – I don’t miss the raw hack that much! Each to their own though – whatever floats your boat.

-jason

 Tanju Ture
Member

Hi Johnnie…
Great review and video. I have a question about the focus…especially at the end when you walk to the guy in the chair with the camera and stop at a closeup of his face. How do you do your focus…manually or does the camera do the adjustment by itself?
Greetings Tanju

 Andrew Ray
Member

Great video, thanks for sharing this.

One question about the video and one about the camera.

1) In the video skin tone turned green, is it camera’s fault or just personal choice?

2) So far I saw only 4k video around (which makes sense as this is new in the A7sii). Anyhow, I’m wondering if the more traditional HD shows improvement compared to the previous A7s model or if they are just the same.

Thanks for any info!

 Peter Borrud
Member

I just shot an interview this morning with my A7sII and my camera shut down twice from overheating and the interview as only 35 minutes. I’m now very concerned if I’ll be able to use this as a BCAM on professional shoots. I’m happy with the look of it, the latitude, the image stabilization, and a lot of other things about it. Does anyone know of a fix for the overheating issue? Will Sony release a firmware update that will help with this. Even just having some form of warning would help or a way to push the camera little… Read more »

 Cool Blake
Member

Sadly I think this guy doesn’t have the a7sii ….. He just wanna spark attention. No one yet has had overheating issues with this camera…..Except “this guy”

 Peter Borrud
Member

Sorry but “this guy” actually did get his A7sII on Tuesday and shot with it for the first time yesterday. I’m not trying to cause a stir, but I want to alert people that this is a real issue that needs to be resolved. I personally didn’t think I would have a problem with it when I pre-ordered the camera so I wasn’t concerned about potential overheating. I’ve never come across an issue quite like this with any camera I’ve owned or shot with. I’ve seen some Reds have occasional overheating issues but that was from extended use, a fan… Read more »

Torben Greve
Member

Erik Naso did a very thorough overheat test… This is a quote from his Facebook page: “Recorded full 30 min. no problem. When the clip stopped I started the recording again. Got a warning around 10 minutes in then it overheated at 15 minutes. So basically I got 45 minutes of continuous recording in 4K with IBIS on. After shutting the camera down then restarting it I was able to get around 4 minutes of recording before it overheated.” But as I commented on his page, if your need is to record continously why would you use a camera that… Read more »

 Peter Borrud
Member

Thanks for letting me know about this. That’s good to know what its benchmark is and now I’m wondering what length it can go to with IBIS off. This is good to know, but I’m still concerned. A lot of jobs won’t want to work with a camera that is unreliable like that, whereas the A7sI is still more reliable in that sense. So for them to upgrade the camera to version II with this issue is really unfortunate.

Jack McClintock
Guest
Jack McClintock

I gave up my Mark III and purchased an A7S II specifically to be able to have the capability of 4K interviews for smaller educational documentary shoots… and “this guy” has also had major overheating issues, with interviews that have only lasted 15-25 minutes… The problem with all these overheating tests that I keep hearing about is that they didn’t calculate runtime AFTER setup time like Peter mentioned in his original post… I don’t know if I just got a bad egg or what, or if everyone else can magically turn their camera on for an instantly lit interview, but… Read more »

 Peter Borrud
Member

Hey Jack, thanks for sharing! That is scary indeed to hear that you are having these problems. I really love the camera so far and I don’t want to lose it, but the overheating is my biggest issue/concern still. The camera has overheated/shutdown on me during an important interview with a CEO. Thankfully it was intermittent recording, but I don’t know what I would do if I had to film an hour interview or longer (especially after setting up for an hour with the camera running). I really wish that Sony would address this issue more, because its really ridiculous… Read more »

 Jack McClintock
Member
Jack McClintock

Yeah man! No good… I’m on the fence about what to do… I am excited about the Scarlet-W though and might consider that as well!

I feel like I read somewhere that people had still experienced overheating issues even with a Shogun though too… I would be really interested to see if that works, so please let me know if you get one!

 Peter Borrud
Member

Oh wow, I haven’t heard about overheating with the Shogun, I’ll have to look into that. I’ll let you know if I go that route and/or find another solution that helps. Please keep me posted too on your progress with overcoming the A7sII overheating problem.

Karoliina Salminen
Member

Looks great! Canon has lost it now completely.

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 Cezar Cheng
Member
Cezar Cheng

Hi! Do you have overheating problems with a7sII in 4k video capturing?

Guest
eduardo munoz

Hi Jhonnie!
Video looks amazing! The concept, the quality, being a single operator, and just using only 2 lenses and natural light. Really run and gun style for a proper corporate film with such a nice outcome
A couple of question about motion:
-did you use any tripod? or everything’s handheld with a7s internal IBIS and with came single gimbal? everything’s looks so cinematic
-how good it’s the came single when walking and running? any major bumpy issues?
thanks in advance for you time and for posting such a nice review!
edu

Anthony Salerno
Guest

I heard when shooting in 4K after 30 minutes of continuous rolling the camera will over heat. Can any one confirm or deny that?

James Winters
Guest

Sure thing. Any tools to help us shoot at night with minimal lighting should be celebrated.

 Daniel Ridicki
Member

Hi Johnnie, thank you for your review. I have a question: how good is the sound recorded with this camera? Do you use additional sound recorder or is built in sound good enough? I mean, my 5D sound can’t really be used for serious work
Thanks,
Daniel

 Peter Carroll
Member

What is the stabilizer rig you are using?
Thanks.

 Fab Chaundy
Member

No special thanks to the dog? :P

Kevin Gates
Guest
Kevin Gates

So how does the internal 4K compare to outputting via an Atomos Shogun as with the A7S? That’s the key question for me. Any thoughts?

Alex Cook
Guest
Damian Dodd
Guest

“If you are doing a lot of photography on top of your video productions, then the Sony a7R II is the way to go, otherwise personally I would consider the Sony a7S II as my preferred option” The A7R(2) is better for photography and A7S(2) is better for video. So what you do the most should drive which to get?

Brian Godsey
Guest

Any heating issues using internal 4K?

Paul Ward
Guest

No one’s mentioned how bad the rolling shutter is? Is it worse than the 5D mk3 or better?

Justin Ho
Guest

Great to hear there’s less rolling shutter!

 Emile Modesitt
Member

Just wondering: why did you shoot the test footage in Slog-2 instead of Slog-3? Since that’s one of the new features of the mark ii, I would think you’d want to test it out, no? Also, just a quick note: the A7s mkii shouldn’t have any overheating issues because it doesn’t do pixel binning like the A7r mkii.

 Alex Clear
Member
Alex Clear

Hi there, two quick questions:

1) What have you done for recording sound while using the A7S (or variations!) on this Game-TV gimbal? Especially while run ‘n’ gunning it! With your set up there … have you tried to add a wireless receiver or anything on top or is this too heavy as you have to be pushing it to the limits with the 16-35mm lens on there!

2) Run and Gun hand-held with the A7Sii while moving/adjusting your position … your thoughts on the built in 5-axis stabilization compared to the A7S ??

Thanks :-)

Ryan Lawrence Hinman
Guest

That’s because the A7S II is impossible to focus on the rear screen. Worst screen I’ve ever had on a camera.

Maury El Prooducer
Guest

mmmmmm ok great thas wha i was thinking thanks Ryan

Gj Castro
Guest

Getting mine tomorrow in the mail! Will post test footage soon as well.

 Tamir Platzmann
Member

Hi dear Johnnie!
How are you?

I’m thinking about changing my gh4 to sony.
I have the sigma 18-35 and the tokina 16-35 for super 35.
Do you think the A7SII worth to lose those lenses or maybe to buy the A7RII?
2. Can I change the place of the video record button in the A7RII as well?
3. There is an option to see in the viewfinder in greyscale like in the gh4?
4. Other option for me us to stay with the gh4 and use the sony A7II as a stills camera.

I will be happy to hear your thoughts.
Thanx a lot!
Enjoy, Tamir

 Giorgio Milone
Member

HI, A7sII with 16-35 isn’t in big overweight for the Came single tollerance?? thanks

 Manos Kokolakis
Member

Hi,
I have bought the Sony A7S II and I use it with the comlite adapter to attach my canon L lenses.But I get the light leak phenomenon every time I pass through a light source so It is useless to work with canon lenses. I search the net and I found that there is that problem and with more expensive metabone adapter. Does anyone have use canon lenses on Sony A7S II?

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[…] our Sony a7S II Review and our own productions we’ve been using a do-it-yourself eyecup already. The fact that […]

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

There is another issue. Red dot in blazing sun:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i18njoFhcag

 Daniel Wharton
Member

There is some beautiful footage here, but man, those frequent, jarring needle scratch sounds as transitions are not good. I had to mute it. I feel like they were really out of place with the subtle and otherwise very nice soundtrack.

Thanks for the review. I’m going to check out that gimbal for my a7SII

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[…] 3. Cinema5D. Cinema5D is a digital filmmaking news, reviews and community platform, covering the latest in cinematography, video DSLR & large sensor technology. If you want learn about equipment, this is a great source. Best Post: Sony a7S II Review – First Impressions & Footage […]

 Jack McClintock
Member
Jack McClintock

I have had big overheating issues with my new A7S II… I would love for someone to do an overheating test taking into consideration setup time (or shooting BROLL in 4K) before using the camera for an extended record…

What I have found is that my camera will shut down while recording after about 8-10 minutes if i have either been using it for a while before I do an extended record, or simply having it on for previewing during setup of an interview.

Pretty frustrated at this… Wondering if it’s just a bad sensor in my camera or something?

 Dan Hopkins
Member
Dan Hopkins

Hey Jack, I had some overheating issues also in 4k. I was shooting back to back 4 minute performances in a 75 – 80 degree room. After about the 5th song, I started getting the overheating symbol. This was before I did the firmware 2.0 upgrade. So far, I haven’t shot in any conditions like that again, but I’m wondering if you’ve tested it out again since the update? If this issue continues without a firmware fix, I’ll probably have to downgrade back to A7s..Can’t be having overheating during the ceremony of a wedding! Lastly, have you had any issues… Read more »

 Joel Boucher
Member

Can you use a speedbooster to reduce the 2.2x crop when recording in 1080p 120fps? As a wedding shooter I need wide slo motion shots during the reception. Speedbooster + sigma 24 art would get me there coming from a gh4 with speedbooster.