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Let's talk about Sony A7S III overheating


Andrew Reid

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Only two reviewers have really tested the A7S III for reliability problems in direct sunlight.

This isn't surprising given Sony's canny knack of avoiding in-depth reviewers like myself, by giving the demo units to Paris Hilton types instead.

But still the truth leaks out...

The thermal energy from the sun on a hot day is absorbed by the black chassis meaning the heat sink in the camera acts as a conductor two ways, both from the CPU to the body and from the body to the CPU, the latter really hammers recording times and reliability outdoors.

Canon said it themselves in the recent Komodo style cine cam patent... Now that very fast processors are in the latest cameras, heat is becoming more difficult to manage.

Well, try again Sony and let's see how long their moral high-ground lasts over Canon!

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A comment on Hugh's YouTube video explains why the testing needs to be more thorough.

Most of the reviews were put out in a hurry and don't tell the whole story on the A7S III thermal limitations.

Hugh: I am an Electrical Engineer of 30+ years designing electronics for the automotive world which must maintain operation (NO shutdown) to 85C (185F) and without permanent damage over 100C (212F). The trunk of any car in Phoenix, Houston, or Florida (where I live) will easily exceed 140F for 6 months of the year. I contacted Dan and expressed my concerns with some test errors he made, his interpretations regarding heating/damaging of electronics in general, plus other variables reviewers continue to miss. It looks like you are trying to make some honest assessments here but there are a multitude of variables here that you (and others) are still missing. I don’t think Dan took my suggestions well so I will try you. As you noted, and I pointed out to Dan, internal heat generation (radiation) is outbound as well as thermal absorption (inbound). There are actually THREE thermal tests that must be made to determine if the camera is a net “source” or a “sink”; (1) standard room temp of 23C (73F), (2) outdoor/hi-temp under “sun-load”, but also CRITICAL is (3) which is simply outdoor/hi-temp in the shade! This shade reference is CRITICAL since this test will tell you if the thermal failure is absorption (inbound) vs. radiation (outbound) induced. You MUST do this third test or you cannot make ANY conclusions on thermal propagation of the camera. No reviewer is understanding this point since they are not Engineers. I get that but then they extrapolate conclusions which are simply wrong – some favoring Sony and Canon and some against both brands. Until you have a FLIR type camera showing thermal mapping of the body (AND the body/lens SYSTEM), you really don’t have any idea where the heat source/problem area is located. It is simply assumed to be worst on the back side since this is what Photographers look at all the time. It may be on the bottom or on the sides – no one knows until you look for it at least with some JK type thermocouples.

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As a Sony user, I can say that it has been pretty easy to overheat the last 3 Sony A7 cameras I have bought - particularly the A7r3 - when shooting 4k 30p video for any length of time. As such, the A7siii seems to be something of an improvement from what I have read even though it clearly does overheat in some instances. Sony were clearly asking for trouble though by stating that that it wouldnt overheat.

Overall though my theory is that Sony didnt really take the 'high road' but the Canon decided to take the 'low road'. Canon probably reasoned that if Sony can put out cameras that 'overheat' and still sell boatloads why cant they do the same?

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Time will tell with both of these cameras. If your in the sun shooting a interview it’s probably a no go. Add some shade and it sounds like the Sony will survive. Which is surprising leaps and bounds better than than the R5.

I prefer the R5 look straight out of camera. The Sony has better 4K120p. Honestly, if they fixed the R5 so it has faster recover times then it’s the better camera since it has excellent stills. If they add clog3 and get it closer to 13 stops DR. Even better.

The DR on the Sony is great for such a small mirrorless camera.

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4 hours ago, scotchtape said:

Stormtrooper a7siii?

Actually, that is pretty good.

Why are all cameras black (or silver?).

Canon make white lenses so in regard to these overheating beasts, out in direct sunlight, a white body is going to reflect more direct heat than a black body.

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12 hours ago, Robert Collins said:

As a Sony user, I can say that it has been pretty easy to overheat the last 3 Sony A7 cameras I have bought - particularly the A7r3 - when shooting 4k 30p video for any length of time. As such, the A7siii seems to be something of an improvement from what I have read even though it clearly does overheat in some instances. Sony were clearly asking for trouble though by stating that that it wouldnt overheat.

Overall though my theory is that Sony didnt really take the 'high road' but the Canon decided to take the 'low road'. Canon probably reasoned that if Sony can put out cameras that 'overheat' and still sell boatloads why cant they do the same?

Counter to your point, I shot regularly with the A7III and A7RIII on race tracks in full sun, and never experienced an overheat. (Corporate shoots for Subaru of America.) One day in Ohio we hit 120° and I just left the cameras out in direct sun (there was no shade) and no issues shooting a combination of photos and video non-stop. 
Historically, I have had issues with Sony cameras overheating: A99II, NEX7 and others, but the III generation cams were rock stars for me. 

That said, I switched to the BMPCC4K earlier this year and I like BRAW so much, I just bought an Ursa 4.6k G2. Lol. 

933DE123-FA22-4126-8FEE-E07740C8D7D7.jpeg

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8 hours ago, MrSMW said:

Actually, that is pretty good.

Why are all cameras black (or silver?).

Canon make white lenses so in regard to these overheating beasts, out in direct sunlight, a white body is going to reflect more direct heat than a black body.

They're black so they don't show up in reflections or cause color casts on set. Same reason I always wear black/gray on set.

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Funny how the camera buying internet has gone from "what are the most sick cinematic camera movements?" to "will my camera melt and burn my hands, and shall i buy a self generating ice pack to get 2 mins 8k recording on my year long trip to Africa?" 

FWIW, the A7SIII looks like the better video tool. I live in Manchester UK. Sunlight doesn't exist. Only rain. (besides today!) 

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23 minutes ago, Oliver Daniel said:

Funny how the camera buying internet has gone from "what are the most sick cinematic camera movements?" to "will my camera melt and burn my hands, and shall i buy a self generating ice pack to get 2 mins 8k recording on my year long trip

Its 2020, we have all the time in the World to bitch and moan.  Plus Canon finally embracing overheating as a camera feature was always going to generate more interest.

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Since Sony is using the camera body as a heat sink, putting on a cage should help since less of the body would be exposed to direct sunlight.

Will have to test it out once these cameras start being delivered. I have seen some people shooting video in the sun with no problems.

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It's always a good idea to shade cameras from direct sunlight not only because of overheating of the camera itself, but because I've also seen lenses become damaged from heat. Sometimes the bonding agent between elements can become cloudy after exposure to high heat. You should also not leave your equipment in the trunk of your car in extreme heat for this reason.

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40 minutes ago, Mandalorian said:

Since Sony is using the camera body as a heat sink, putting on a cage should help since less of the body would be exposed to direct sunlight.

Will have to test it out once these cameras start being delivered. I have seen some people shooting video in the sun with no problems.

I don't think a cage would make much difference, at least not the ones I'm using, I would think you need enough shade to actually block a substantial amount of the solar radiation, a few pieces of metal around a camera body probably isn't enough.

I'm just going to sit all of these camera bodies out and wait to see what's next. I live in FL, months out of the year the temps exceed 30C with plenty of days reaching 35C.  A normal part of my workflow is to leave gear in my car when I'm shooting with other gear (i.e. leave my video setup in my car while doing a photo shoot), no way will any of these cameras be reliable after pulling them from a 48C hot car.

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4 hours ago, Disgruntled Old PJ said:

Oh please, come on, last time I checked, laws of thermodynamics still hold...

Heat goes only one way - from hotter place to colder place.

And what's a "net sink" this guy is talking about? Would love something like that for my beer cooler 🙂 

Think again - guess what overheats sooner? A 80 °C chip inside an insulated box, or a 80 °C chip with heatsink inside a thermally conductive box?

Of course, any camera in direct sunlight would overheat faster, but that's not because heat "travels backwards" along the heatsink (unless the camera is hotter from the sun than the chip). Just because the temperature difference is smaller.

Yes and no.

 

As I have said before on this issue.

Think of two bottles one made of glass and the other an insulated thermos.      Pour boiling water into both of them and come back in an hour, the  water in the glass will be at room temp but the water in the thermos will still be hot.

Now put them both out in the direct warm sun and I will bet you the water in the glass bottle heats up again while the thermos will not be affected. 

Now if there was a heating source IN both bottles, AND in the sun, the glass would have the heat from the sun AND the heat from within while again, the thermos would only have the internal heat.

Think of the Sony as being the glass bottle and the canon as being the thermos.

The Canon will never overheat because of external factors but seems it WILL overheat due to internal camera generated build up.

The Sony seems  good at heat management at least from internal heat and maybe in part BECAUSE it can get out of the camera but that ALSO means it can get in in some cases.

That is why I think it is possible that the Tilta thing might actually work BETTER on the Sony but will also hardly be needed on it.

Remember too that all those peltier type coolers that are insulated boxes can be reversed to warm food as well as cool it.

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21 hours ago, Andrew Reid said:

Only two reviewers have really tested the A7S III for reliability problems in direct sunlight.

This isn't surprising given Sony's canny knack of avoiding in-depth reviewers like myself, by giving the demo units to Paris Hilton types instead.

But still the truth leaks out...

The thermal energy from the sun on a hot day is absorbed by the black chassis meaning the heat sink in the camera acts as a conductor two ways, both from the CPU to the body and from the body to the CPU, the latter really hammers recording times and reliability outdoors.

Canon said it themselves in the recent Komodo style cine cam patent... Now that very fast processors are in the latest cameras, heat is becoming more difficult to manage.

Well, try again Sony and let's see how long their moral high-ground lasts over Canon!

I read somewhere that the A7siii have also been pretty delayed. And that Sony is also trying to do a Canon and deny anything that might suggest recall, or alterations or coloring the body in a lighter shade. 

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28 minutes ago, Disgruntled Old PJ said:

Sorry, but you are totally wrong. Thermodynamics again. No thermos vs. glass bottle. Your "glass bottle" will always dissipate the same internal source heat (chip) much better than your "thermos", unless it gets way more heating from the sun than what the internals produce, or your "thermos" has a really massive internal heat sink. In the same circumstances, your "thermos" might negate some heating by the sun, but the internal heating would be bonkers (and no cameras are insulated like vacuum bottles anyway). Your "thermos" would have heat from internal source mounting up and not getting anywhere (melting the chip), while the "glass bottle" would just dissipate the heat outside, unless the external temperature was higher than the internal. Even if the heat might dissipate very slowly, if the temperatures inside and outside are almost similar, it will dissipate to equilibrium. 

Heat transfer is by conduction, convection and radiation, and convection is what is probably most important in camera bodies (temperature is not high enough for radiative transfer to matter that much, unlike what the article states, and conduction needs a solid mass attached). There is a reason there are fans for cooling in big cameras. 

There are plenty of other errors in the "article", like UV - most heating of objects from sunlight comes from the visible light and infrared. UV has minimum role (perhaps under ~10%?). The reason it causes sun "burn" is not heat, but chemical reactions. Just look up the energies and spectra of sunlight at earth level. Again, no understanding in the article at all.

Of course any camera exposed to direct sunlight will heat up and that will impede effective cooling, because the temperature difference between the chip and the heatsink (fan / camera body /...) will be much smaller. The more temperature difference, the more efficient cooling. But no way heat from solar heating would travel "backwards" to a hotter area like the article states. That would violate basic thermodynamics, unless the running camera produces less heat that the very small camera area gets from sunlight. Since cameras don't literally melt from sunlight exposure, that is quite unlikely. Less cooling, yes. Heat traveling backwards, no. 

My main gripe with the article is the physics. Most of it is just plain wrong.

Of course no cameras are insulated like a thermos.

And of course a glass bottle will allow heat out with an internal heat source but put it this way.

Which would have warmer water in it, a glass bottle with an internal heating element in a snowy winter environment or one in direct hot summer sun?     Cameras are NOT glass bottle and they are NOT a thermos but it seems to me that the Canon is closer to a thermos and the Sony is closer to a glass bottle (even if both only minimally so).

I would bet that if Canon just added a weather sealed door that could open up, the Canon would cool a lot quicker most of the time.

That Sony camera from a cold start left in the sun in a very hot environment WOULD be getting heat into it (the exterior could well be hotter than the internals so that means it CAN build up to the temp it overheats at faster).....Isn't that what they both said they did in those tests?

If heat can get out, it can get in.

 

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1 hour ago, Disgruntled Old PJ said:

"If heat can get out, it can get in."

Sure, that is true. But we are talking real-world circumstances..

Ok, Tell me what the internal temp of an A7s iii is cold?    Take it into the hot sun (still cold) and what is going to happen do you think?   Will it stay the same or will it drop (or as I think, warm up inside)?

How about taking it into a cold climate, will the insides stay the same or cool down if the exterior temp is colder?

I guess we should be talking about if it is European or African A7siii no?

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