Sony A7S Review

July 2, 2014 | Mark Goldstein | |

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this review were taken using the 12 megapixel Fine JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 5Mb.

The Sony A7S produced images of outstanding quality during the review period. The Sony A7S has a very extensive and usable ISO range of 50-409,600. ISO 50-3200 is noise-free, whilst ISO 6400 and 12,800 produce more than acceptable results, and even ISO 25,600 and 51,200 are OK for emergency use. The fastest settings of 102,400, 204,800 and 409,600 are very noisy, but they do let you shoot in virtually complete darkness. The RAW samples illustrate just how much processing the camera does by default, though, as they're much noisier at all ISO values than their JPEG counterparts.

The 312megapixel images are a little soft straight out of the camera using the default creative style and ideally require some further sharpening in an application like Adobe Photoshop, or you can change the in-camera sharpening level. The night photograph was excellent, with the maximum shutter speed of 30 seconds and the Bulb mode offering lots of scope for creative night photography.

The effective Dynamic Range Optimizer function extracts more detail from the shadow and highlight areas in an image, without introducing any unwanted noise or other artifacts. The High Dynamic Range mode combines two shots taken at different exposures to produce one image with greater dynamic range than a single image would produce. It only works for JPEGs and for still subjects, but does produce some very effective results. Sony's now tried-and-trusted Sweep Panorama is still a joy to use. The various Picture Effects quickly produce special looks that would otherwise require you to spend a lot of time in the digital darkroom, while the Creative Styles provide a quick and easy way to tweak the camera's JPEG images.

Noise

There are 10 ISO settings available on the Sony A7S. Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting for both JPEG and RAW formats:

JPEG RAW  

ISO 50 (100% Crop)

ISO 50 (100% Crop)

 
iso50.jpg iso50raw.jpg  
     

ISO 64 (100% Crop)

ISO 64 (100% Crop)

 
iso64.jpg iso64raw.jpg  
     

ISO 80 (100% Crop)

ISO 80 (100% Crop)

 
iso80.jpg iso80raw.jpg  
     

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

 
iso100.jpg iso100raw.jpg  
     

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

 
iso200.jpg iso200raw.jpg  
     

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

 
iso400.jpg iso400raw.jpg  
     

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

 
iso800.jpg iso800raw.jpg  
     

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

 
iso1600.jpg iso1600raw.jpg  
     

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

 
iso3200.jpg iso3200raw.jpg  
     

ISO 6400 (100% Crop)

ISO 6400 (100% Crop)

 
iso6400.jpg iso6400raw.jpg  
     

ISO 12800 (100% Crop)

ISO 12800 (100% Crop)

 
iso12800.jpg iso12800raw.jpg  
     

ISO 25600 (100% Crop)

ISO 25600 (100% Crop)

 
iso25600.jpg iso25600raw.jpg  
     

ISO 51200 (100% Crop)

ISO 51200 (100% Crop)

 
iso51200.jpg iso51200raw.jpg  
     

ISO 102400 (100% Crop)

ISO 102400 (100% Crop)

 
iso102400.jpg iso102400raw.jpg  
     

ISO 204800 (100% Crop)

ISO 204800 (100% Crop)

 
iso204800.jpg iso204800raw.jpg  
     

ISO 409600 (100% Crop)

ISO 409600 (100% Crop)

 
iso409600.jpg iso409600raw.jpg  

Sharpening

Here are two 100% crops which have been Saved as Web - Quality 50 in Photoshop. The right-hand image has had some sharpening applied in Photoshop. The out-of-the camera images are a little soft at the default sharpening setting. You can change the in-camera sharpening level if you don't like the default look.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)

sharpen1.jpg sharpen1a.jpg
   
sharpen2.jpg sharpen2a.jpg

File Quality

The Sony A7S has 3 different image quality settings available, with Extra Fine being the highest quality option. Here are some 100% crops which show the quality of the various options, with the file size shown in brackets.

12M Extra Fine (7.81Mb) (100% Crop)

12M Fine (3.87Mb) (100% Crop)

quality_extrafine.jpg quality_fine.jpg
   

12M Standard (2.71Mb) (100% Crop)

12M RAW (12.4Mb) (100% Crop)

quality_standard.jpg quality_raw.jpg

Night

The Sony A7S's maximum shutter speed is 30 seconds and there's also a Bulb mode for even longer exposures, which is excellent news if you're seriously interested in night photography. The shot below was taken using a shutter speed of 30 seconds at ISO 100.

Night

Night (100% Crop)

night1.jpg night1a.jpg

Dynamic Range Optimizer

D-Range Optimiser (DRO) is Sony's solution to improve shadow detail in photos taken in contrasty light. There are 5 different levels and an Auto option.

Off

Auto
drange_01.jpg drange_02.jpg
   
Level 1 Level 2
drange_03.jpg drange_04.jpg
   
Level 3 Level 4
drange_05.jpg drange_06.jpg
   
Level 5  
drange_07.jpg  

High Dynamic Range

High Dynamic Range Optimiser (HDR) is Sony's solution for capturing more contrast than a single exposure can handle by combining two exposures into one image. There are 6 different EV settings and an Auto option.

Off

Auto
hdr_01.jpg hdr_02.jpg
   
1EV 2EV
hdr_03.jpg hdr_04.jpg
   
3EV 4EV
hdr_05.jpg hdr_06.jpg
   
5EV 6EV
hdr_07.jpg hdr_08.jpg

Creative Styles

There are 13 Creative Style preset effects that you can use to change the look of your images.

Standard

Vivid

creative_style_01.jpg creative_style_02.jpg
   

Neutral

Clear

creative_style_03.jpg creative_style_04.jpg
   

Deep

Light

creative_style_05.jpg creative_style_06.jpg
   

Portrait

Landscape

creative_style_07.jpg creative_style_08.jpg
   

Sunset

Night Scene

creative_style_09.jpg creative_style_10.jpg
   

Autumn Leaves

Black & White

creative_style_11.jpg creative_style_12.jpg
   

Sepia

 
creative_style_13.jpg  

Picture Effects

The Sony A7S offers a range of thirteen creative Picture Effects.

Off

Toy Camera

picture_effect_01.jpg picture_effect_02.jpg
   

Pop Color

Posterization

picture_effect_03.jpg picture_effect_04.jpg
   

Retro Photo

Soft High-key

picture_effect_05.jpg picture_effect_06.jpg
   

Partial Color (Red)

High Contrast Mono

picture_effect_07.jpg picture_effect_08.jpg
   

Soft Focus

HDR Painting

picture_effect_09.jpg picture_effect_10.jpg
   

Rich-tone Mono

Miniature

picture_effect_11.jpg picture_effect_12.jpg

Sweep Panorama Mode

The Sony A7S allows you to take panoramic images very easily, by 'sweeping' with the camera while keeping the shutter release depressed. The camera does all the processing and stitching and even successfully compensates for moving subjects. The main catch is that the resulting image is of fairly low resolution.

Standard
panorama1.jpg
 
Wide
panorama2.jpg