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Sony A7S Review Part 2 and Conclusion


Andrew Reid
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I think Roger Deakins would strongly disagree with you about mirrors. Which is one of the reasons why he chose Alexa over RED for Skyfall. And he has a few other films under his belt. Almost all EVF's , even on the cameras themselves have lag and poor resolution.  If you regulary do interviews you know what I am talking about.  More than ever you are looking at a video monitor, not reality and all the details that are as a result. 

 

Personally, I think the greatest problem with digital cameras is that they are less and less often coming with mirrors.  I work ten time faster with a mirrored camera when shooting photos for instance and I don't even have to turn on a camara if I just want to frame a shot.  I would much prefer to have an digital overlay on a mirrored image, than a pixellated monitor any day.  However, we are still a few years out on that one.

I don't really care about Roger Deakins.  He's got an entire crew to cary around his gear, light, and get him coffee and craft service.  In my case it's just me, walking around, trying to capture the best images I can.  The lightweight of the Sony bodies and the silent shutter option in the A7s is very intruiging.  I'm going to rent one in the next weekend to see if I can live with it as my main camera.

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Does anyone have any comment on the clipping in the blues that sometimes happens with this camera under LED lighting at concerts and such?  If so, is there a known workaround to this issue?  I know there are previous threads discussing this but it's worth mentioning again since this seems to be a major weakness in this camera for those who need it in low light situations like concerts or parties.

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Does anyone have any comment on the clipping in the blues that sometimes happens with this camera under LED lighting at concerts and such?  If so, is there a known workaround to this issue?  I know there are previous threads discussing this but it's worth mentioning again since this seems to be a major weakness in this camera for those who need it in low light situations like concerts or parties.

 

I guess you're referring to this, if so, yes it seems there's a workaround:

http://www.dvxuser.com/V6/showthread.php?327633-A7S-colored-highlight-peaking&p=1986476855&viewfull=1#post1986476855

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Hi Andrew . Great review. I have the same issue with having to use SDXC cards on my RX10. I got a chance to talk to a new card manufacturer at a recent photo show, who tells me that the issue with the SDHC cards and xavcs is the file system that the card uses, not the write speed. I didn't understand the full technical reasons for this, but understand that SDXC cards use a different system to the Fat32 file system on SDHC.

Steve

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Hi Andrew . Great review. I have the same issue with having to use SDXC cards on my RX10. I got a chance to talk to a new card manufacturer at a recent photo show, who tells me that the issue with the SDHC cards and xavcs is the file system that the card uses, not the write speed. I didn't understand the full technical reasons for this, but understand that SDXC cards use a different system to the Fat32 file system on SDHC.

Steve

 

 SDXC uses exFAT. SDHC  uses FAT32. You should be able to format the card that does not work to correct system. 

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Enough already with the slagging off on Roger Deakins. It's an embarrassing level of arrogance and ignorance. It's like saying as a painter you can't learn anything from Michaelangelo because he had all the Pope's resources at hand. If you think what makes him great are resources unattainable to you I suggest truly study how he does things. Composition, direction/shape of light, blocking are all tools he understands at a high level that are also available to the amateur. And he has the good grace to share much of  his trade with you on his site for free. 

 

But regarding his choice for mirrored shutter, I completely understand as quite often, the level of detail he needs (he is shooting for 20-40 foot screens), just isn't present on an EVF. I shoot with Alexa's quite often and though it has the best EVF in the business, it's still doesn't render the detail you need to see for big screen shooting. Now consider Deakins operates as well, running back to monitor isn't always practical.

 

That said, when it comes to a small camera like the A7s, I'm quite happy it's mirror less. It keeps the size way down. I also shoot a lot of stills with it, and the silent shutter has allowed me to get shots that I can't with the noise of a mirrored shutter. However, when I'm shooting more involved video work, I always use an onboard monitor because I find both its LCD and EVF insufficient for pulling / maintaining focus.

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Thanks Andrew for you posts on the A7s. Much of what I gleaned from this site, help me decide on buying it. Now having owned it for almost two months, I must say, I too love it. It's far from perfect and agree with most of your observations. But it's rolling shutter issues cannot be overstated. It's not pretty and the worst I've seen. Certain types of a organic action (with people, animals) look fine but things with straight lines (buildings, cars, etc) truly suffer. Much of my client work involves B roll of locations and product. For this we quite often break out the slider to add more taste to the "eye candy" shots. The moment you start sliding sideways on any type of telephoto, even at the slowest of speeds the rolling shutter artifacts with architectural or product elements become unuseable. APS-C mode still yields bad rolling shutter in this situation.

 

It's the one trait that truly holds this camera back from being great and relegating it to more specialized work with clients. My last job, it was used alongside an F55 as a "B camera" but perhaps comprised more than half the total shots in the final cut. If it didn't have the rolling shutter issue I'd have rather put the F55 to sleep and use two A7's. Clients get weak over full frame. The size and low light really made it indispensable. But for product / slider shots, we had to give it a rest. Sony came real close.

 

For stills however, this camera has revolutionized my world. The size, low light, silent shutter and articulating LCD has really enabled me to get the most candid of shots that I just couldn't dream of with my 5D. The moment you put a camera to your face and people hear the click, the magic often is gone. Also, for location scouts for my video work, the APS-C mode has been great for "photo boards" and pre-selecting focal lengths for super 35. Something I couldn't do with my 5d.

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Thanks guys for the Sony FS7 links. That last now from Pampuri may be the best I have seen in a real world setting.

 

No grading, but people and movement and street scenes. I'd like to see more from him.

I've played with Emanuel's footage a bit and I'm quite amazed with the grade I got. I tried first with Filmconvert(F55 profile) and it was good but not quite there, then tried Oziris Alexa Log C to Rec 709 profile and it was much better. Finally tried Oziris Log to Rec 709 and it was a lucky punch because I never use that. After that I adjusted highlights/midtones/shadows and saturation to my liking and balanced the colors with the RGB parade, all in FCPX. When I saw what I'm getting it felt like a professional colorist is sitting next to me. That SLog3 is jawdropping stuff and I think that Sony really got this one right.

Here is the download link for my grade of the footage(1080p ProRes LT):

https://copy.com/Yt6LWviuFZQJ8lPB

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Heres a short clip from a documentary i'm working on. This was shot probably 50/50 full frame and crop mode. The opening slider shot was in full frame mode. 

 

I am not finding the rolling shutter to be an issue at all

 

Why did you shot half in crop mode? (as you say rolling shutter wasn't an issue for you)

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Heres a short clip from a documentary i'm working on. This was shot probably 50/50 full frame and crop mode. The opening slider shot was in full frame mode. 

 

I am not finding the rolling shutter to be an issue at all

 

Try sliding on a  long lens (above 100 in FF) with architectural  elements in the foreground. Even in APSC mode it's pretty bad.

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I bought the a7s a few weeks ago and I'm now trying to sell all my CF 1000/1066x cards that I shot raw ML video with on the 5d3.

 

I realize Andrew is pretty excited about this camera, as am I, but when I read his views on the still side of the house I just have to shake my head - apparently he never shoots anything that actually MOVES.  The 61 pt AF and tracking of the 5d3 are light years ahead of this little A7s for stills.  I bought my a7s with the 35 2.8 FE lens - it was tiny and horrific - in continuous AF mode (which was horribly slow) it had a very strange pulsing in and out with the shutter half depressed.

Yes, you can punch in and use focus peaking.  Try shooting a fast moving erratic object with unpredictable movement that way.  Yes, for years people shot MF sports, but I'll bet they stopped down quite a bit and/or prefocued on certain spots.

 

I'm certainly not ready to give up the amazing stills (and compared to the a7s - resolution) of the 5d3 just yet.  4 second autofocus with even the Metabones IV just doesn't cut it for action.  Just the other day I threw on the 85 II L and shot my kids - that's about the slowest to focus lens in Canon's L lineup - and it felt like a racecar compared to anything + the Metabones.  Hell the 85 II L seemed more responsive than even the native 35/2.8 FE lens.  For speed - PDAF + slower to focus lens beats CDAF + "fast" lens.

 

Anyway, I digress.  I love my A7s, and for video / stationary stills it's great.  Action/sports?  Hell to the no.  It is what it is.

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The a7s was perfect for this - followed my kids around for Halloween last night. 

A7s + grip + Metabones IV + Canon 24-70 F/4 with IS on.

Shot all with default picture profile 6 and tweaked it a bit in Photoshop CC.

Had I been shooting raw with the 5d3 I still would be processing the raw files, and had a much heavier camera and had to worry about extra CF cards.

 

One thing that I'm not sure has been mentioned is the audio from the a7s is far better sounding that the 5d3.

Shawn

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Couple other things before I crawl into bed:

I wish Sony would allow us to not only map the APS-C toggle and electronic shutter buttons, but also:

 

Allow us to use the main scroll wheel for shutter or aperture.  Of the exposure triangle, it can only be ISO, at least in M mode.

Allow us to remap the record format to a button.  Sometimes I do want 60p

Allow us to assign a button for the finder/monitor.  I always have to "dive" for that.

Allow peaking to be passed through the HDMI port.  My 7" display doesn't have focus peaking - it'd be nice since Sony allows all the other annoying icons to be passed through.

The $9.99 timelapse app I bought - why in the $#$@# can I NOT use silent shutter with this?  Silly.

 

Of note:  I too shoot movies in "stills" mode - before hitting record I have 3 punch in levels.  After I hit record I only have up to 4x.  Why not the full monte?

I put my camera in Airplane mode and the battery life is much better.

Updated the firmware tonight to 1.10.  The start up time is faster, but I don't notice any buttons that can be remapped differently.  Goodnight all!

Shawn

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I just read the review and was surprised that it didn't mention the so called purple vignette problem. I've seen Philip Bloom's review and it doesn't mention it either. For someone who is interested in buying this camera for low light recording, this information must be considered vital. The important question must be: If I am to be certain to avoid any purple vignette, which is the highest ISO I can use?

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