Streaming Media

Streaming Media on Facebook Streaming Media on Twitter Streaming Media on LinkedIn

Sony a7S Full-Frame Mirrorless Camera, Part 3: Video Camera Review

In the last two articles in this 3-part series on the Sony a7S, we covered a lot of ground discussing what to look for in video lenses and lens adapters for the Sony e-mount that is native to the Sony a7S. Now it is time to take a deeper look at the Sony a7S as a video camera, with comparisons to the Canon 5D MKIII and Panasonic DMC-GH4.

Form Factor

I do like the small form factor of the α7S, especially compared to my Sony FS700 and FS100 Super35mm video cameras that, because of the top placement of the LCD monitor, cannot be used for handheld shots without an external monitor. The α7S’ rear LCD placement is better for handheld work, but you can tilt the LCD only in a very limited range. This means it isn’t as versatile in this respect as the GH4, although is betters the fixed 5D MKIII screen in terms of articulation.

The α7S screen was made not to flip around because of the inputs and outputs on the side of the body that it would interfere with, which is understandable, but frustrating. The α7S’ magnesium alloy body is solid and lightweight, but the E-mount is not centered on the body. When shooting, I found myself fighting a bit of torsional force in order to keep my orientation level.

I recently took my α7S ziplining and fishing--both activities I wouldn’t dare bring a larger form factor large sensor camera on. The best part is that I don’t attract too much attention as the α7S and its E-mount lenses are often much smaller than a typical Nikon and Canon DSLR setup. The flip side is that my α7S might not command the respect it deserves to replace a larger-form factor camera from a client’s perspective without first educating them.

The small form factor of the α7S means the HDMI output is a micro HDMI port and the audio input a mini-jack. This isn’t too surprising considering the form factor, but I already dislike HDMI over HD-SDI, and having to work with micro HDMI cables, a connection I do not currently own, is less desirable than the more common full-size HDMI connection.

Micro-HDMI output and mini-jack audio input on the α7s.

Recording Media and Custom Dial Options

Sony offers two recording media options: SD and Sony Memory Stick. SDXC and Memory Stick XC-HG Duo, the exFAT file format variants of SD cards and Memory Stick media, is required for video recording with the XAVC-S codec. The XAVC-S codec is a 50Mbps codec that supports 1080 60P/30P/24P and 720 120P. AVCHD and MP4 are also available for lower-bitrate recordings and when a non-exFAT memory card is being used.

In movie mode I have my α7S set up with iris controls on the front wheel, shutter speed on the rear wheel, and ISO on the control wheel. I programmed the top-mounted C1 custom button to act as a 4x zoom and focus check, the C2 button as the focus mode button, and the C3 button as the zoom button. Checking focus and changing between AF and MF while filming and without diving into the menu is a useful feature, but I’m really excited about the ability to digitally zoom on the sensor to provide a lossless 2x zoom. Sony calls this feature clean image zoom.

Related Articles
People are buzzing about the Sony a7S, so Streaming Media Producer is launching a comprehensive three-part review. In this first part, we'll examine lens options for the Sony a7S and related cameras, as well as what to look for in a video lens.
Shawn Lam compares key models in Sony's large-sensor camcorder line--the new shouldermount NEX-EA50, and the comparatively venerable handheld FS100 and FS700--with an eye to light sensitivity, image quality, and effectiveness with power zoom lenses, and reports on his epic, ongoing search for a viable parfocal 3x+ servo zoom lens.
DVEO HD Spigot converters feature dual outputs and are fully compatible with SMPTE-259M and SMPTE 292M; supported resolutions include 1080p, 1080i, 1035i, or 720p HD
Now that we have covered some of the important characteristics of lenses from a videographer's perspective, we'll discuss several of the lens-and-adapter combinations for E-Mount cameras, like the Sony a7S, that are also relevant for the Sony FS100 and FS700/R.