The Sony Alpha a6300 is a new pocket-sized mirrorless camera that has some serious video potential on a budget. Johnnie reviewed the camera a few days ago and earlier today Nino published a lowlight test video. We’re currently looking at the strengths and weaknesses of the camera in our test lab and have decided to compare the Sony a6300 vs. Sony a7S II. For less than $1,000, we definitely weren’t sure what to expect from this camera. For the price range, decent 4K recording and an acceptable low light performance would have been great. However, numerous reviewers—ourselves included—have actually found that the Sony a6300 is performing brilliantly; in fact, it plays in the realm of cameras like the a7S II! Comparison: Sony a6300 vs. Sony a7S II Of course, no camera is without its flaws. That’s why we decided it is time to take a look at what the tradeoffs are when choosing to use the a6300, in an attempt to get an idea of just how good it is. For that, we needed a comparison point. Time for an exclusive a6300 vs. Sony a7S II article! Dynamic Range An often overlooked and a difficult attribute to quantify, I’ve decided to start by looking at the dynamic ranges at play in the a6300 vs. Sony a7S II debate. More often than not, we find that this is where many camera sensors fail to amaze—after all, a good dynamic range rating allows us to capture more shadows and highlights in hgh-contrast scenes. We’re testing with a DSC labs XYLA-21 transmissive test chart (more on how we test HERE). Our software measured about 11 stops on the Sony a6300, compared to about 12 stops on the Sony a7S II. Above you can observe the two shots subjectively. 11 stops is a good rating for a camera. Most professional cinema cameras nowadays get between 10-13 stops in our tests. Additionally, we see that the two cameras have very different noise characteristics. The Sony a6300 was shot at iso 800 (native) and there a stronger base noise than on the very clean A7S II. In this a6300 vs. Sony a7S II test, it is apparent just how clean the A7s II is, giving it the edge over the a6300. [Update:] However, the noise at base ISO on the Sony a6300 is no reason for concern. You should simply know, that you have less room for pushing the dark areas during grading. Another point to note is that, unlike the A7S II, the Sony a6300 has no difference in dynamic range between S-log2 and S-log3. However, the a6300 uses an 8-bit codec so we’d recommend avoiding S-log3 altogether; use S-log2. Lowlight and Noise Before we go any further, I have top say that we were very impressed during this stage of the test. So far, the a7S II is the camera which has shown the best low light capabilities of any camera that we have tested—and the Sony a6300 gets surprisingly close! The shots below are 100% crops from a dark area in our subjective test chart. We can see that both cameras retain detail at high ISOs. While the Sony a6300 is a bit grainy and has some minimal noise reduction artefacts, there is actually very little noise in the traditional sense—especially when the price is taken into consideration! Left: Sony a6300 Slog 2 | Right: Sony a7S II Slog 3 It seems as though there is intense noise reduction going on in the Sony a6300. Maybe this is how they managed to get such good lowlight results with this camera, even though the super35mm sensor used is much smaller than the Sony a7S II full-frame sensor and should be much more noisy. When we look at a moving image, the noise reminds me of the results of temporal noise reduction, which can be found in software like DaVinci Resolve. This algorithm calculates the difference in noise between adjacent frames. I’m not saying this is what’s happening here, but lowlight images show a kind of unnaturally slow moving noise, which might be an issue for some. Overall the lowlight behaviour is really impressive on this camera. It gets close to the performance of the Sony a7S II, though at ISO 25600 the Sony a7S II clearly retains more detail than the Sony a6300. Keep in mind that due to the sensor size you can use a Metabones Speed Booster and a full-frame lens with the Sony a6300 and win another stop in lowlight. This is what Nino did during his Sony a6300 lowlight test. Image Quality Here is a blown up shot of a tube test chart. On this chart fine lines get closer and closer together. This way we can see when aliasing kicks in or, in other words, when detail can no longer be correctly resolved on the vertical axis. What we see is that the Sony a6300 resolves similar fine detail as the Sony a7S II. The Sony FS7 obviously produces a cleaner image in terms of aliasing but that is to be expected. Codec Compression Artefacts on the Sony a7S II What we also noticed in this chart, however, is that the codec compression on the Sony a6300 is much better than on the Sony a7S II which eventually leads to a much cleaner image on the a6300 (look at the number “25” above). The Sony a7S II image falls apart and doesn’t resolve contrast details very well. Images like the one above look mushy and clouded due to some problem in the compression algorithm of the camera. The Sony a6300 doesn’t have this problem and is the winner in the a6300 vs. Sony a7S II comparison in this regard. One thing to note though is that there is a slight in-camera sharpening on the Sony a6300 even though “detail” was set all the way to the lowest number and there is a slight magenta tint in all shots. Rolling Shutter As mentioned in our initial review, unfortunately the rolling shutter effect (also referred to as “jello”) is quite terrible on the Sony a6300. In fact, with a readout speed of about 34 milliseconds from top to bottom, it is the most severe rolling shutter we have ever measured on a camera! Even worse than the Samsung NX1’s 30ms. In comparison, the Sony a7S II has about 25 milliseconds and the Sony FS7 has 14. Less is better. HD Images and Slow Motion 100% crop | Image Resolution in Full HD Sadly, this is another point where the Sony a6300 fails. The camera can shoot in full HD resolution, but the image is very soft and dirty in terms of aliasing. The Sony a7S II is much closer to the quality of the original a7S. The Sony a6300 can shoot slow motion up to 120fps in full HD. A crop of about 80% of the sensor is used in this mode. Unfortunately, the quality is almost identical to the one observed in HD mode at normal recording speeds—and in both modes, low light performance isn’t great. Sony a6300 vs. Sony a7S II Conclusion All in all, the Sony a6300 is a truly surprising camera. Who would have thought that a budget camera would perform so well when compared to the quality of the highly recommended Sony A7S II? When we compare the Sony a6300 vs. Sony a7S II, we see that the latter has slightly better quality in terms of dynamic range and low light capabilities, but the Sony a6300 certainly excels when it comes to fine image details and sharpness. Only the rolling shutter of this camera is below expectations and the HD quality is, for all intents and purposes, not recommended which makes the camera less suited for broadcast use. Overall, we’d say: Stay away from this camera if you are looking for a good HD mode and if you do lots of fast handheld shots, as the rolling shutter may become too apparent. Besides those two points, if you are looking for a camera that shoots great 4K with a quality that matches the Sony a7S II, at a much lower price-point and the form-factor of a small pocket camera, then the a6300 is a great pick. In combination with a Metabones Speed Booster, this is probably the best affordable 4K camera on the market right now—highly recommended! [UPDATE:] Note that we have not tested NTSC 30p mode. Other testers report that in 30p the camera will crop the image and give you more noise and worse lowlight performance, but better rolling shutter. If you require 30p we recommend you test the camera before you buy.Read more
The Sigma 20mm F/1.4 Art Lens is one of the fastest wide angle full-frame lenses available today, and certainly the most affordable in its class. I took the new lens for a spin at night and shot in near total darkness with a Sony a7S II. I was really excited when the Sigma 20mm F/1.4 Art Lens was announced last month and released just a few days ago. It is easily one of the most intriguing lenses I have seen. Why? Because for me 20mm is a stunning extreme wide angle focal length and this lens brings us great image quality, worthy of 4K video and at the same time it is exceptionally fast. With an open aperture of F/1.4 and with great performance the seemingly high price of $899 is surprisingly low and for me competes with the most professional lenses available. Right click, open this image in new window to see it in full 3840pixel resolution. With the introduction of the new Sony a7S II, we can now shoot brilliant 4K video in extreme lowlight conditions. As we found out just recently, this new Sony mirrorless camera is even more powerful in lowlight than its predecessor, the original a7S. So there was no question when this lens arrived at our office I went out and shot the whole evening just with this lens and entirely at F/1.4. You can observe the result in the video above which I hope you will enjoy. For me it was a pure enjoyment I can tell you, to realize that I needed to get far out of the city in order to push this camera/lens combination to its lowlight limits. I walked through forests, empty parking lots and ended up at a castle and many times the only light source was the moon. I could not see what the camera saw, it was my “night vision device” and the sky was not (!) blue, as it appears to be in the video. Coming back to the editing table I was very happy to find out that the Sigma 20mm F/1.4 Art Lens indeed performed very well at its lowest aperture. I pushed the camera to 25,600 and 51,200 ISO max, as in my tests I felt those were the breaking points when it comes to noise for an HD result. In terms of exposure I tried to expose “bright”. In lowlight it is important not to use the dark side of the spectrum too much, because this is where the noise is and it has to be cut off. I shot everything in the Slog2 Gamma and graded the film with a “lowlight” LUT I created for this project, that retained most of the spectrum, lowered the dark areas and accented the highlights only slightl. I wanted to go for a low contrast look and I’m pretty happy with the result. I’ve heard otherwise, but personally I do recommend shooting lowlight in Slog2 as this for me is the perfect starting point for a balanced grade. One thing I did notice about the Sony a7S II in lowlight is that there’s apparently some kind of “trick” going on in extreme lowlight. When I filmed my feet walking on grass I realized that there’s some ghosting introduced at ISO 51,200. In the shot below you can see multiple frames in one frame. Ghosting effect at high ISO speeds on the sony a7S II Either this is a result of some kind of internal “temporal noise reduction” (this is how it looks to me) that appears on fast moving objects and patterns OR it might also be a result of the low temperature I filmed at (-1 C°). I did not notice the effect in any other shots but this one. How Good is the Lens? Sigma 20mm F/1.4 Art Lens For this Sigma 20mm F/1.4 Art Lens Review I used the EF version of the lens together with a Metabones Adapter on the Sony a7S II in both 4K video and stills mode. This is not a scientific lens test, because of the lack of reference lenses, but there are a few important things I could observe and want to show you about this lens. While this lens / adapter / camera combination is really not ideal for stills photography I took photos with our high resolution test chart in order to see how good the lens performs on a quality 4K photo / video image. Left: Sigma 20mm Lens @ F/1.4 | Right: Sigma 20mm Lens @ F/8.0 The image above is a shot of our test chart in two different F stops. We can see quite a strong vignetting at F/1.4 in comparison to F/8.0. Personally I like vignetting and I often apply it to my shots in post, but it certainly also darkens your image further than you would like. This means that when you shoot wide open you must know that you are losing about half a stop of light due to vignetting. Here we can also observe distortion, which, for a 20mm lens seems very low. These two attributes (vignetting and distortion) can be corrected in post, but sharpness and chromatic aberration is something that cannot be fixed with plugins, so these for me are the most important factors when it comes to lens quality. Top-Left corner of the test chart to observe chromatic aberration and sharpness Here’s a crop of the top left corner of the test chart shot at F/1.4 with the Sigma 20mm F/1.4 Art Lens. We can see of course that the leftmost edges of the shot are softer, yet at the same time the kind of sharpness to me is unlike other lenses I’ve seen shot wide open. Certainly a kind of sharpness absolutely pleasing and mostly sufficient for 4K. If you want a totally clean image, the softness goes away gradually when the lens is stopped down until about F/5.6. In terms of chromatic aberration there is very little of that. Again absolutely stunning performance from this lens in comparison to other lenses I’ve seen. In my video I did not notice any chromatic aberration in any of the shots. Build Quality One thing you should know: This lens is not lightweight. With 960 grams it is lighter than your full fledged cine lens, but it is double or triple the weight of other mirrorless prime photo lenses you might use for video. That said, the build quality is very nice. The lens feels solid and well made with no flimsy parts. The focus can be set to manual and the lens has an analogue focus ring (unlike most Sony photo lenses). Unfortunately there are no hard stops making it hard to use the lens with any focus gears or focusing tools. Also the focus throw is very narrow and considering the lens has a thin depth of field it can be hard to focus manually at times. The lens is clearly design for the photographer in mind. This is a drawback we’re already used to as mirrorless and DSLR video shooters, but it’s not ideal for some applications and doesn’t provide the best ergonomics. Conclusion This lens kept its promise offering superb quality and while it is made for photography with some ergonomic drawbacks for video it is still among my favourite lenses of all time. The kind of shots I could achieve with this lens, without any noticeable quality loss is amazing and opens up new possibilities for people who like lowlight shooting. Furthermore this lens opens up your path to shallow depth of field at wide angles, which is rarely seen outside of high end professional productions. The biggest highlight about the Sigma 20mm F/1.4 Art Lens for me is its price though. At $899 the value for money you get is very high and makes it an affordable option for shooters working with a Sony a7S II. I hope you enjoyed this review. You can download the source video from Vimeo to take a closer look at the shots in HD. Let us know your own observations and thoughts about the lens in the comments.Read more
The Sony a7S II is shipping and many filmmakers rejoice as it is one of the best low cost video cameras out there right now. Last week we took a really close look at the differences between the Sony a7S II and the old Sony a7S. But how does this new camera compare to the Sony a7R II that was introduced just a few months ago? Here is the ultimate Sony a7S II vs. a7R II Test. Just like in our a7S II vs. a7S test we went to the test lab and compared all the camera’s capabilities in detail. In this review I’m going to give you all the unbiased results as quickly and to the point as possible and conclude with our recommendation. On the Outside Unlike the original a7S, the two cameras on the test bench share the same body design. The major difference here is the sensor itself. Both have a full-frame sensor, but the a7S II uses Sony’s 12.2MP Exmor CMOS Sensor while the a7R II houses the 42MP Exmor R BSI CMOS Sensor. Obviously this makes the Sony a7R II the better choice for photographers who need lots of megapixels. But let’s look at the video test results now, shall we? Sony a7S II dynamic range tested with a XYLA-21 transmissive chart. Dynamic Range Dynamic range is important for us filmmakers, it gives us the ability to capture high contrast scenes without over or underexposure, highlights and shadows are saved resulting in an organic, filmic look and in theory gives us more leeway in post production. In theory: The dynamic range on a7S and a7S II was identical in Slog2. The a7R II could surprise us though as it has a different sensor. In reality: At 4K resolution in Slog2 gamma mode the Sony a7R II (ISO 800) had half a stop more dynamic range than the Sony a7S II (ISO 1600). This is interesting. However the Sony a7S II now also features Slog3 gamma which wins back that half stop. We determined a maximum usable dynamic of slightly above 12 stops on both cameras. We use a a DSC labs XYLA-21 transmissive chart and IMATEST evaluation software with a crisp Zeiss 50mm CP2 T/2.1 makro lens. Dynamic Range Conclusion: Set your Sony a7S II to Slog3Cine (PP8 under Picture Profile Settings) in order to match the a7R II dynamic range. However Slog3 is not an ideal gamma mode as the camera is limited to 8-bit color, resulting in banding issues, so Slog2 (PP7) is the preferred gamma setting. The a7R II wins this first point, but not by much. Rolling Shutter The so called “rolling shutter” is a phenomenon that skews a camera image when fast moving objects are recorded or during fast pans and handheld camera movement. In theory: Users have reported severe rolling shutter on the a7R II, but then again the a7S II doesn’t hold up too well also. Let’s see how they compare. In reality: In 4K the Sony a7S II had the same rolling shutter performance as the original a7S. Using the best image quality mode on the a7R II (4K super35mm crop mode) we can indeed see that the rolling shutter effect is about 12% more severe on the Sony a7R II. However in 4K full-frame mode, which is slightly softer, the a7R II has about 50% better rolling shutter performance. Rolling Shutter Conclusion: Both cameras have a strong rolling shutter effect in their best quality modes, just like most other cameras that use a large CMOS sensor. The a7S II performs slightly better here. To improve rolling shutter you can use full-frame mode on the Sony a7R II. Resolution / Quality The resolution comparison between the Sony a7S II vs. a7R II is quite interesting. Both cameras can record a beautiful 4K image internally with a variety of different crop and HD modes. Let’s see how this one turns out. In theory: The cameras share a lot of similar specs in video mode, like the 100Mbps XAVC-S codec, 4K (UHD) internal recording, but the recording and crop modes differ as follows: The Sony a7S II records: 4K Full Frame: up to 30 fps HD 1.6 crop: up to 60fps HD 2.2 crop: up to 120fps The Sony a7R II records: 4K Full Frame & 1.6 crop: up to 30 fps HD Full Frame & 1.6 crop: up to 60 fps 720p: up to 120fps In reality: Left: a7R II (crop) 4K | Right: a7S II (FF) 4K On the left you can see a comparison (100% crop images) between the Sony a7S II vs. a7R II in their best 4K modes. Overall the image looks really really similar. But I can see two things: 1. There is some slight sharpening happening in-camera on the Sony a7R II. If I add slight sharepning in post to the a7S II image it looks pretty identical. Left: a7R II (crop) 4K | Right: a7S II (FF) 4K 2. The a7R II seems to resolve a tiny bit more detail, but it is not affecting most regions of the image as they get washed out by some internal processing. This is only apparent in the danes-picta sector star chart and the actual difference is minimal. Left: a7R II (FF) 4K | Right: a7S II (FF) 4K When we switch the Sony a7R II to full frame mode, the image gets a little bit worse, but is still beautiful. It resolves a bit less detail and there is some more aliasing / moiré introduced than on the crop mode. Still very usable. HD Modes: We found out that the a7S II’s HD modes pretty much match the quality of the original a7S. What about the a7R II? In crop mode the a7R II is softer with some aliasing and not really recommendable. In full frame mode however the Sony a7R II gives us acceptable results that are comparable to the quality of the original a7S and are very similar to the image of the Sony a7S II. We took the following shot comparing the a7R II crop mode to the original a7S in crop mode: Left: Sony a7R II (crop mode HD) | Right: Sony a7S (crop mode) As we’re currently in Japan for InterBEE (tradeshow next week) the large Japanese symbols reveal how strong the aliasing in HD mode really is. Resolution / Quality Concsluion: The images on both cameras look remarkably similar in terms of quality and resolution. Especially a7R II crop mode vs. a7S II full frame mode are hard to differentiate. The a7R II in full frame is slightly worse, but still very usable. In HD only the full-frame mode is usable on the a7R II. Lowlight Here’s an interesting part. Can the a7R II match the lowlight capabilities of the a7S II? The short answer is: No. In theory: The a7R II has more pixels on its sensor than the a7S II, hence the a7S II pixels can be larger and capture more light resulting in better lowlight performance. Let’s see the results: I compared ISO speeds of both cameras up to ISO 25,600. Surprisingly the a7R II doesn’t hold up so bad in lowlight at all. It can almost match the a7S II detail in low ISO modes. What I can always see is the a7S II having better noise performance. The image is cleaner. Anyway, with a little bit of noise the a7R II looks ok up until ISO 12,800 and does resolve details in the shadow areas. When we switch to full frame mode on the Sony a7R II though, the results are quite unusable. Even at very low ISO’s it is not nice. ISO 6400 is already quite noisy. Lowlight difference between Sony a7S II (top) and Sony a7R II (bottom) at ISO 25,600. Shot brightness was matched. Lowlight Conclusion: In lowlight and noise the Sony a7S II is clearly the winner with an edge of about 2 stops. However the Sony a7R II in crop mode is a pretty good performer. It can retain good shadow detail up until ISO 25,600, but there is clearly more noise than on the a7S II. If you want the best and cleanest lowlight camera go for the a7S II. Which One Is Right for You? Each of the two cameras has some strengths and weaknesses. Let’s summarise this now: The Sony a7R II has the following advantages: It can produce 42MP still images, a resolution almost 4x higher than the a7S II. The option of a great crop mode in 4K besides the full frame (FF usable if you have sufficient light). Good lowlight in crop mode. Note: Many readers commented on the overheating issues they experienced with this camera. Apparently some units are shutting down during long takes in warm environments. Keep that in mind when you make your buying decision. Price: $3,198 (LINK) The Sony a7S II has the following advantages: Slog3 Gamma Mode (not always recommended) & gamma assist feature. Slightly better quality full frame mode in 4K. Slightly better rolling shutter performance. Better lowlight, cleaner image. 120fps slow motion mode in Full HD. According to user reports less prone to overheating on long recordings. $200 more affordable. Price: $2,998 (LINK) Conclusion There’s really not a big difference between the two cameras, both on the outside as well as on the inside. The video colors are very balanced on both cameras and they produce a good internal 4K video. There’s no way you could tell the images apart without deep analysis and even in lowlight the cameras are not so far apart. If you would like to use your camera for high resolution photography the Sony a7R II is clearly your preferred choice. It is also more versatile as it offers crop mode which can be used with APS-C lenses or a SpeedBooster to get an extra stop of light out of full frame EF lenses. On the other hand the Sony a7S II could be your choice if you’re only doing video and lowlight and a clean image is important to you. You’re restricted to full frame lenses for best quality, but you get Slog3 (if you need that) and somewhat usable 120fps slow motion. Which is your camera of choice? Let us know your arguments in the comment section. I hope this comparison answered all your questions. If it helped why not get your gear through the links to our sponsor. Thank you and good light for your shoots.Read more
The Sony a7S II is the latest and greatest in Sony’s mirrorless video camera lineup. But since its release last month several users have been reporting a bug where overexposed areas are displayed as black instead of white pixels, also referred to as the “Sony a7S II black sun” bug. Sony have now issued a statement to the press saying they acknowledge the problem and they are working on a firmware fix: “We have confirmed this phenomenon and are now analyzing it to develop a firmware solution to solve it.” Apparently the a7s II black sun bug only appears in Slog 2 & 3 mode and when the camera is set to PAL framerates, so NTSC shooters and those using 24p are safe. Looks like filmmaker Ben Walton was one of the first to discover the issue in his a7S II article. At this time there is no release date for the firmware in question, but Sony will keep us up to date and we’ll keep you up to date… For a detailed analysis of the Sony a7S II check out our Ultimate Sony a7S vs. a7S II Test.Read more
[UPDATE]: Check out our extensive Sony a7S II / a7R II Cage Review At IBC 2015 we saw a lot of camera cages made specifically for the Sony A7R II and Sony A7S II. The Varavon Zeus caught our eye with its very modular design, snug fit and cable clamp options. If you’re looking for a Sony A7S II cage you’ll soon have a lot of choice. Many manufacturers are designing Sony A7R II and Sony A7S II cages. At cinema5D we recently looked at the best cages for the Sony A7S and Varavon’s Armor II a7S Cage was our favourite. We’ll soon undertake a similar comparison for A7S II cages. For now the Varavon Zeus looks like a great option. It is very modular, felt very robust yet lightweight and the new cable clamp system looks promising as well. The Varavon Zeus is available for pre-order for $312 or $367 with a second handle at HERERead more
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