09 Jul Sony A7s
So, after some wait the A7s arrived last week. My expectations for this camera were high and for most parts I was not let down. The reason I considered the A7s was primarily the size of the body as my luggage was getting a little too big carrying 2x Canon C bodies, the 5DIII and various lenses, audio and sliders. In addition I was looking to get a camera that can resolve wide shots with the same detail as the Canon C100/300, my 5DIII still works for close ups with shallow depth, but is a bit behind the curve for detailed wide shots. The ability to record 4K later to effectively get two perspectives for HD delivery exited me as well. The low light performance was not key to my decision. For some time I also toyed with getting a GH4, however, the absence of an active Metabones Speedboster for Canon EF made me not go down that path. With the A7s I have a full frame sensor in small, rigid body that can take my EF glass – perfect.
Let’s start that the image detail out of the camera is very impressive. In terms of resolution it is on par with the C300. The tonality is very neutral as well. Dynamic range feels like C300 like even when not shooting Slog. The codec for the internal recording is very good, I cannot see compression artefacts and it grades well. The image is very clean overall. Having the ability to go to high ISO to compensate low light or when one wants to shoot with closed aperture make the body very flexible.
The bit that does not work well is the autofocus. When using the Zeiss 55mm 1.8 lens the camera auto focuses in video mode on a centre spot, very similar to my C100 with the autofocus update. The A7s does this very smoothly, however, the focus point cannot be changed. I was hoping I could change the focus area to help with my one-man-band interview shots. When trying to focus the Zeiss manually I am having trouble to translate moving the focus barrel to effect a change in focus. The lens is fully electronic, there is no scale, no hard or soft stop and it seem to have a dynamic translation depending on how fast one is turning the barrel. When using the Metabones with EF glasses autofocus basically is not usable, but manual focus works pretty well with the build in peaking. In summary this is a manual focus video camera and to get best results one should use Canon glass. If you want to use this for autofocus for photos as well forget the Canon glass, native e-mount glass works well. So in that respect the 5DIII is more versatile.
The other thing to note is that battery life is very short, about 1 hour in my short experience. I immediately ordered the battery grip which should be fine as my interviews are normally not beyond 2 hours.
The overall build quality, menus etc are excellent. Having the start record button on the right is a little awkward, but not a big problem. The rubber piece on the EFV is very hard, I am sure we will get solutions soon to fit a custom eye piece like we have for the C100.
I am very impressed with the little camera and it does exactly what I wanted, a small full frame body that accepts by EF lenses and produces an outstanding HD image. Can’t wait for Atomos to release the Shogun. I can see myself shooting with the C100 / Atomos as the A camera and to record audio and 2 A7s as B/C both in 4K, so effectively I will be able to use 5 perspectives for HD delivery and carry the same as 2 EOS C bodies plus one lens more.
Just stopped on the way home at Westminster Tube station to try it out, one lens, one body, all handheld or resting the body on the floor: