Sony a7S

Main Features Of The Sony a7S

Full-frame image sensor (35.8×23.9mm)
Wide ISO sensitivity (ISO 200-409,600) for movies
Captures 15.3 stops of latitude
Captures XAVC S files at 50 Mb/s
S-Log2 gamma expands dynamic range by up to 1300%
Can output UHD (3840×2160) to third-party recorders

For photographers, mirrorless cameras have come a long way. Cameras like the Panasonic GH4, Sony a7R, Olympus OM-D E-M1 and a few others have taken some shine away from DSLRs due to improvements in EVFs (electronic viewfinders), as well as their compact size. But for video shooters who don’t necessarily need a mirror box, mirrorless cameras contain cool features such as peaking, zebras and phase-detection AF, which will enable you to capture motion more like a professional video system.

After its announcement at NAB 2014, I can’t think of a camera that has garnered more attention than the Sony a7S (MSRP: $2,499.99), especially among indie filmmakers. The a7S is the latest from Sony’s Alpha line of full-frame mirrorless cameras following the a7 and a7R. The 36.4-megapixel a7R was released to acclaim last year, as the world’s lightest interchangeable-lens, full-frame camera. But instead of the high-megapixel count of the a7R, Sony implemented a meager 12.2-megapixel, full-frame sensor into its a7S. Are you kidding me?

In 2014, why would photographers buy a 12-megapixel camera when their mobile phone cameras soon will surpass this? But photographers worth their salt know that with digital imaging sensors, the smaller the megapixel count, the larger the photosites. Because of this, the a7S sensor gives it unparalleled low-light performance and supreme latitude. And for the majority of cinematographers, latitude always trumps resolution. Don’t believe me? Just look at how the ARRI ALEXA has dominated the professional digital cinematography world without offering a 4K system.

The a7S is a flawed, yet powerful beast of a camera. Sony sent a review unit of the a7S, as well as a Sony/Zeiss FE 55mm ƒ/1.8 ZA prime lens and an FE 24-70mm ƒ/4 ZA OSS zoom lens. The a7S has an identical body to the compact a7R (approximately, 5×33?4?x115?16 inches) and weighs a little over a pound with battery and memory card. The camera feels comfortable in your hands, and you can pretty much handhold it all day. For video shooters, one minor annoyance was the positioning of the movie record button, which is kind of awkward.

The 3-inch tilting LCD is decent, with 921,600 dots of resolution, but the biggest advantage in using a mirrorless camera over a traditional SLR for video is having an EVF, which lets you monitor shots in bright locations, as well as employ peaking and zebras for focus and exposure. (On traditional SLRs, you’re not able to monitor via the camera’s optical viewfinder.) For me, this is one of the strongest reasons why you should think about making the switch to a mirrorless system, especially if you’re using your camera primarily for video.

The a7S contains an E-mount, and in the past few years, there has been a growing base of excellent E prime and zoom lenses, in particular, the Zeiss Vario-Tessar T* lenses. Zeiss has also recently announced (at press time) a couple of manual-focus full-frame prime lenses, the Loxia 2/35 and 2/50. But because E-mount lenses tend to be much smaller than Canon or Nikon still lenses, the barrel diameter is also smaller, making the focus throw a bit shorter and more difficult to achieve critical focus when working manually. If you don’t own any E-mount lenses, there are a number of adapters available that will allow you to work with Canon, PL, MFT and Nikon lenses.