Sony A7S III Review

September 16, 2020 | Tim Coleman |

News

The cinema industry is changing as it moves from Super35mm to full-frame.

Sony's one-mount strategy is focusd on E-mount, with 57 lenses in total, 37 of which are full-frame.

It's been 5 years since the launch of the A7S II, with lots of requests during the last 2 years for its successor.

Now Sony have launched the A7S III mirrorless camera, which they claim delivers “The best 4K Sony ever made”.

The whole concept of the product has changed to achieve this. With freelancers now working on their own more, the Sony A7S III is aimed at this new workflow for hybrid shooters.

12 Megapixels

Sony A7S III

The A7S III features the World’s first 12.1 megapixel Back Illuminated Exmor R CMOS sensor (the A7S II had a non-BSI sensor).

It has a 2x faster readout speed than a conventional sensor.

Sony believe that 12 megapixels is perfectly optimized for 4K video.

Bionz XR Processor

The new Bionz XR processor is 8x faster than the Bionz X model used in other recent Alpha cameras.

ISO Range

The expanded ISO range runs from 40-409,600.

Massive Dynamic Range

Sony A7S III

The A7S III achieves 15+ stops dynamic range when recording in-camera video in S-Log3 profile, which is the same as high-end camcorders.

Rolling Shutter

The A7S III has 3x improved rolling shutter compared to the A7S II, making it much better for panning.

In fact, Sonly claim that there’s almost no rolling shutter at all, which if true is pretty amazing for a full-frame sensor.

Best Ever 4K Video

The A7S III offers up to 4K 120p recording using full pixel readout without binning in all recording modes and 10-bit 4:2:2 internal in all formats.

It supports 4K 60p 16-bit RAW output via HDMI to an Atomos Ninja V external recorder and up to 4K 60p HDR via HDMI 2.1 (the specification of which imposes the 4K 60p limit).

    There’s also FHD 240p using full pixel readout without any pixel binning.

    There is no crop applied up to 4K 60p, but there is a slight 1.1x crop for 4K120p.

    New codecs include XAVC S-I (All-I) at up to 500Mbps/sec (the most technically demanding) and XAVC HS (Long Gop), whilst XAVC-HC can reduce the data amount up to 200Mbps/sec by H.265 compression.

    It uses a brand new CFexpress Type A card, although you can still use SDVX V60 cards for virtually all the video formats.

    Sony’s S&Q mode is now a viable option for professional work.

    Sony are touting the A7S III as the “Ultimate run and gun camera”.

    Here is the full list of codecs:

    XAVC-S (H.264)
    Normal: 4K 100/50/25p
    S&Q: 4K 100fps
    50/25/12/6/3/2/1fps

    XAVC- HS (H.265)
    Normal: 4K 100/50p
    S&Q: 4K 100fps
    50/25/12/6/3/2/1fps

    XAVC S-I (H.264)
    Normal: 4K 50/25p
    S&Q: 100p
    50/25/12/6/3/2/1fps

    Auto-focus

    Sony A7S III

    Auto-focus works exactly the same in all the video modes.

    Eye AF is 30% better at recognition and tracking than previous Alpha cameras, and it now offers human and animal AF too.

    The A7S III has 759 phase detection AF points that offer 92% frame coverage, along with 425 CDAF points.

    Touch tracking is available, along with an expanded range of AF sensitivity settings.

    IBIS

    Sony quote a CIPA rated 5.5 stops of IBIS, which is on par with other Alpha cameras.

    It also has the same active digital stablisation mode as ZV-1 compact, which introduces a slight crop but gets closer to gimbal performance.

    Taking the Heat

    The A7S III has a heat dissipating structure that allows the camera to achieve 4K 60p recording for up to 1 hour, with 4K 120p having a 30 minute recording limit.

    No data is currently available for how long the camera needs to cool down for after reaching these time limits.

    The A7S III has been tested in 25 degree temp, with the “High” temperature control set on the camera.

    Sony claim that it’s 5x more efficient than current models.

    Battery Life

    Sony A7S III

    The new model has 60% better battery life than A7S II, as it now uses the most recent Z battery.

    This equates to 600 stills and 95mins of video recording (370/60 on A7S II), according to the stringent CIPA rating, with even better real-world performance.

    The A7S III also offers USB-C fast charging, providing 3-4x faster charging than current Alpha cameras.

    Sound

    The A7S III employs the same Digital Audio Interface as the A7R IV, with 4 channel 24bit recording with the XLR-K3M.

    Profiles

    The A7S III uses the 10-bit HLG profile, improved from 8-bit on other Alpha models.

    10bit S-Log 2/3 support means that the A7S III can match professional camcorders like the FX9.

    As already mentioned, there’s 15+-stop dynamic range available when using the S-Log 3 profile.

    The native ISO in S-Log 2/3 is now 640 on the A7S III (it was 1600/6400 on theA7S II).

    This can be extended down to 160 with a loss of dynamic range, which is useful for avoiding having to use ND filters.

    Video Aids

    Sony A7S III

    A red record square can be turned on during video recording to helpas a visualaid.

    There are dedicated Main and Function menus for stills and video. They can both be fully customised, and the camera remembers both.

    Size and Weight

    The A7S III has a magnesium alloy body.

    It measures 129x97x70mm (WxHxD) compared to 127x94x48mm on the Mark II, making it ever so slightly bigger.

    It's also heavier too, weighing in at 699g including the battery, versus 627g for the A7S II.

    Improved Operability

    The A7S III now has a fully-articulated 1440k 3.0” vari-angle touch-screen monitor.

    There’s also a much improved menu system with full-touch capabilities (finally!).

    There are no plans to migrate this to previous Alpha cameras via a firmware update, impossible because it’s linked to the electronics inside the camera.

    Memory Cards

    Sony A7S III

    The A7S III has dual card slots, both of which are compatible with SD UHS-II and the brand new Cfexpress Type A format.

    Cfexpress Type A is currently only supported by Sony, no third-party cards are available yet.

    It offers 700Mbps write, 800Mbps read speeds, slightly slower than Type B, which Sony considers to be overkill for video.

    Crucially it is smaller in size than Type B, and can be used in card slots for either Cfexpress or SD cards.

    There’s also a new card reader – the MRW-G2 – which offers 2.8x faster transfer speeds for CFexpress.

    The CfexpressType A card will be released in September in 80 GB for 230 euros and 160 GB for 440 euros.

      Weather-proofing

      The A7S III has improved dust and moisture resistance, with better protection for the various ports and compartments.

      Improved Ergonomics

      Sony A7S III

      The A7S III has a bigger hand-grip, bigger buttons, and a new REC button on top. This replaces the C1 button, which has now moved to the rear.

      FTP

      There’s faster FTP transfer as the A7S III can now tether to 5G networks.

      Electronic Viewfinder

      The Sony A7S III has a class-leading 9.44 million dot QXGA OLED viewfinder with 120p refresh rate and 0.90x magnification.

      Not Forgetting the Photographer

      There’s also lots of improvements on the stills side of things, as well as video.

      The ISO range is 80-102400, expandable to 40-409600.

      There’s 14-stops of dynamic range when shooting Raw and 4 new colour profiles with 8 different parameters for image control.

      This is up from 3 controls on the A7S II, allowing you lots more control over tweaking creative profiles for both JPEGs and video.

      The A7S III can shoot a 10fps burst – same as the A7 III – but can do for over 1000 uncompressed RAW shooting if you’re using a Cfexpress card! The buffer clearance is also a lot faster.

      As well as JPEG, there’s support for the 10-bit HEIF file format for smoother gradations and more colour information than JPEG can offer.

      The A7S III can auto-focus at -6EV low-light (tested in AF-S mode at F2).

      Price and Availability

      With a September 2020 launch scheduled, the Sony A7S III is priced at 4200 Euros / £3800 / $3499 body-only.

      Sony Europe Press Release

      • Newly developed BIONX XRTM image processing engine with eight times more processing power[i] and a brand new 12.1-megapixel (approx., effective) back-illuminated full-frame Exmor R™ CMOS image sensor, significantly reduced rolling shutter effect[ii]
      • Ultra-high sensitivity with ISO range expandable from 40 – 409,600[iii], and improved image quality by approximately 1 stop noise reductioniv in the middle and high sensitivity ranges
      • Video recording capabilities include 4K 120pi, 10 bit 4:2:2 colour depth, All-Intra recording, XAVC HS format with H.265 codec and more
      • 15+ stop dynamic range for moviesii
      • 4K 60p 16-bit RAW video HDMI output for the first time in the Alpha™ series
      • Fast Hybrid AF system with 759 point phase-detection[iv] AF sensors covering 92% of image sensor
      • Enhanced Real-time Eye AF for movie recording[v] and still image recording
      • New heat dissipating mechanism and dual slot relay recording enables over one-hour long 4K 60p 10-bit 4:2:2 movie shooting until battery ends[vi]
      • 5-axis optical in-body image stabilisation supports handheld movie shooting, with added Active Mode [vii] to support especially difficult handheld movie shooting
      • World’s brightest[viii] and largestx new 0.64-type 9.44 million dot OLED electronic viewfinder
      • Side Opening variable angle LCD screen enhances shooting flexibility
      • Completely redesigned menu system with touch screen interface and touch operation
      • High-speed continuous still image shooting at up to 10fps[ix] for more than 1,000 consecutive uncompressed RAW images[x] with full AF / AE tracking
      • Dual CFexpress Type A card slots that enable high speed data processing while keeping the compact size

      Sony today announced the long-awaited addition to its acclaimed Alpha 7S full-frame mirrorless camera series⁠— the Alpha 7S III (model ILCE7SM3).

      Featuring a brand new 12.1MP (approx., effective) back-illuminated full-frame image sensor with ultra-high sensitivity and 15+ stop wide dynamic rangeii, a host of impressive video recording capabilities including 4K 120pi and 10-bit 4:2:2 colour depth, a new heat dissipating mechanism, dual slot relay recording enabling over one-hour of 4K 60p movie shooting until battery endsviii, a new autofocus system, and touch screen interface and side flip LCD screen, the new Alpha 7S III will become the ultimate creative tool for video professionals and all types of hybrid still/video shooters.

      “The Alpha 7S III is the ultimate representation of Sony’s passion to solve our customers pain points,”, said Yann Salmon-Legagneur, Director of Product Marketing, Digital Imaging, Sony Europe. “We are always listening to our customers’ feedback, pushing hard to deliver innovation that goes far beyond their expectations. There is no better example than this new camera. Combining classic S series sensitivity with a feature set, performance level and user experience that is simply unmatched in the market today — at any price level — the Alpha 7S III opens up a new world of possibilities for today’s creators.”

      The system architecture for the new Alpha 7S III has been completely redesigned to deliver exceptional video and still shooting performance. The new 35mm full-frame 12.1MP (approx., effective)back-illuminated Exmor R™ CMOS image sensor reduces rolling shutter by up to three timesiv and utilises a variety of advanced light-gathering techniques to ensure high-sensitivity with low noise, allowing users to shoot in low-light situations without needing large-scale lighting setups. In addition to improved image quality, this new image sensor includes a focal plane phase-detection AF system for the first time in an S-series camera. To compliment the new sensor, the Alpha 7S III also includes a new BIONZ XR™ image processing engine that provides up to eight times more processing poweriii, minimises processing latency, and enables many of the hallmark still and imaging features of the camera. The new system also includes the world’s brightestx and largestx 9.44 million dot OLED electronic eye-level viewfinder and is the world’s first camerax with dual CFexpress Type A card slots, enabling high-speed data transfer in a compact size.

      Professional Video Workflow Solutions

      The Alpha 7S III offers in-camera 4K recording up to 120 frames per secondi, 10-bit depth and 4:2:2 colour sampling, producing stunning video recording. The new camera offers a more flexible and efficient post-production workflow with a variety of advanced movie recording modes such as All-Intra[xi] and MPEG-H HEVC/H.265 coding (XAVC HS™)[xii]. The Alpha 7S III makes it easy to integrate video recordings with other professional camcorders by providing three colour gamut settings, S-Gamut, S-Gamut3, and S-Gamut3.Cine, allowing users to easily match footage shot on the Alpha 7S IIIwith footage shot on the professional camcorders, simplifying multi-camera post-production workflow. In addition to S-Log3 gamma curves, the Alpha 7S III supports an HLG (Hybrid Log-Gamma) picture profile with minimum post-production. The Alpha 7S IIIalso allows up to 4K 60p 16-bit RAW output[xiii] to an external recorder via HDMI Type-A[xiv] connector,offering additional post-production flexibility.

      Improved Image Quality

      The new CMOS image sensor and BIONZ XR™ image processing engine in the Alpha 7S III delivers legendary S-series sensitivity with significantly enhanced colour reproduction and texture renderings for improved overall image quality. The base ISO has been lowered to 80, resulting in a normal range of 80-102,400 (expandable to 80-409,600 for video and 40-409,600 for stills) to provide more flexible ISO plus wide dynamic range with low noise at all settings. It offers improved image quality by approximately 1 stop of noise reductioniv in the middle and high sensitivity ranges.

      The colours and textures of foliage, human skin, and more are ideally and consistently reproduced without dependence on light sources. Gradation rendering has also been refined for better looking skin tones and highlight roll-off in portraits. It also improves AWB (Auto White Balance) performance with a new “Visible light + IR Sensor” that helps to achieve more precise white balance under artificial lighting, including fluorescent and LED lights.

      Versatile Operability

      Advanced Autofocus Performance for Hybrid use

      For the first time in an Alpha 7S series camera, the Alpha 7S III offers Fast Hybrid AF by combining phase-detection and contrast-detection AF, giving it the ability to track subjects over a wide area with outstanding speed, precision and smoothness, even when using a narrow depth of field. Fine focus expression is possible with Sony’s E-mount lenses.

      For environments with a lot of movement, Real-time Tracking and Real-time Eye AF are available to maintain constant focus on the intended subject. Sony’s advanced Real-time Eye AF improves detection performance by 30% over the previous systemiii, thanks to the new image processing engine. It ensures accurate, reliable detection even when the subject’s face looks away. Real-time Tracking is initiated simply by touching the subject on the screen. Real-time Eye AF is automatically initiated when an eye is detected.

      Flexible Autofocus Settings for Movie Shooting

      Based on customer feedback, the camera includes several AF features for professional users including AF Transition Speed in seven settings, to easily create rack-focus transitions, and five AF Subject Shift Sensitivity settings, which allows the user to customise how easily AF will switch or stay with the locked-on subject. Touch Tracking allows user to not only initiate Real-time Tracking, but also compose and shoot while using a gimbal or while shooting solo. It’s now possible to Touch Focus during manual focus mode on the LCD screen or remotely from the Imaging Edge Mobile application[xv].

      New Heat-dissipating Structure

      The Alpha 7S III’s design has been updated to ensure effective heat dissipation and minimise overheating — even during extended continuous recording sessions at 4K 60p 10-bit 4:2:2 video lasting an hour or moreviii. A newly developed unique heat dissipating structure keeps the image sensor and image processing engine temperatures within their normal operating ranges, preventing overheating while maintaining compact body dimensions. The new heat-dissipating structure requires no fan or cabinet vents allowing Alpha 7S III to maintain dust and moisture resistance[xvi].

      Movie Assist Functions

      For video on-the-go, the Alpha 7S IIIis the first Alpha series camera to include Active Modeixwith 5-axis optical in-body image stabilisation to support especially difficult handheld movie shooting. It is also the first Alpha series E-mount body to feature a side-opening vari-angle rear screen, perfect for gimbal-mounted shots, complicated angles, handheld operation and more. The screen rotates sideways, up and down, and features a 3.0 type 1.44 million-dot (approx.) touch panel LCD monitor, for optimal visibility even in bright outdoor environments.

      In addition, the Alpha 7S III provides a selection of new Creative Look with 10 presets that can be used for both photo and video shoots, making it easy to create interesting moods right in the camera to be used as is or customised by the user.

      A digital audio interface has been added to the camera’s Multi Interface (MI) Shoe for clearer audio recordings from a compatible Sony external microphone. Used with Sony’s XLR-K3M XLR Adaptor Kit, the Alpha 7S III provides 4-channel 24-bit digital audio recording capability in an Alpha series camera for the first time. Like other MI shoe accessories, no cables or batteries are required, providing unrestrained freedom for Alpha system moviemaking.

      Additional movie assist functions include a redesigned monitor display with a bold, clearly visible red frame that makes it clear when recording is in progress even when mounted on a rig or gimbal, custom zoom settings, adjustable white balance while recording, display rotation, interval recording, still extraction from movies and more.

      Outstanding Still Image Photography

      The Alpha 7S III includes a fast Hybrid AF system with 759 phase-detection AF points covering 92% of the image sensor. The camera can also achieve high AF precision to accurately and reliably focus in light down to EV-6[xvii] where subjects are difficult to see clearly even with the naked eye. Users can continuously shoot more than 1,000 uncompressed RAWxiiimages at up to 10fps, or up to 8fps in live view mode, with either the mechanical or electronic shutter.

      The Alpha 7S III also includes the world’s firstx 9.44 million-dot (approx.), 0.64 type Quad-XGA electronic viewfinder with a high-definition OLED display. The Alpha 7S III viewfinder offers a 0.90x viewfinder magnification[xviii], 41° diagonal field of view, 25mm high eyepoint for clear, low-distortion corner to corner viewing. It is also dust, fog and moisture resistant, extremely responsive and has switchable modes for different subject types. Every aspect of the Alpha 7S III viewfinder has been designed and refined for a professional workflow.

      For the first time in one of Sony’s digital cameras, the Alpha 7S III includes HEIF (High Efficiency Image File Format) allowing for smooth 10-bit gradations and advanced compression technology to maintain image quality while significantly reducing file size and saving storage space. HEIF stills shot in this mode can be played back on a compatible Sony HDR (HLG) TV via a direct HDMI Type-A connection from the Alpha 7S III, delivering true-to-life dynamic range[xix].

      Versatile Design Made for the Pros

      CFexpress Type A for High-speed Data Transfer

      In Another world firstx, the Alpha 7S III features two CFexpress Type A compatible media slots, which also support UHS-I and UHS-II SDXC/SDHC cards, enabling high write-and-read speeds while keeping the camera body compact in size. CFexpress Type A cards are ideally suited to high-speed continuous RAW still image shooting as well as 4K 120pi movie recording at high bit rates[xx], providing next-generation write speeds that can quickly clear the buffers of cameras that generate high volumes of still image and movie data. High-speed data transfer to a PC is possible at about 1.7 times faster[xxi] than that of SD cards. The dual slots can be set to relay mode for extended continuous recording of even the highest bit rate data as well as simultaneous recording and sort by format type recording.

      Revised Menu System with Enhanced Touch Screen

      The Alpha 7S III also features a revised menu structure for easier navigation and touch-responsive menu operation for faster, more intuitive control. For creators who shoot both stills and movies, separate settings can now be stored for stills and movie shooting for quick transition between the two.

      High Reliability Gives Creators New Freedom

      Professional users need more than just refined features and performance. They also need the reliability and durability demanded of any professional tool. The Alpha 7S III features a redesigned grip for greater comfort and a secure hold, an improved dust removal feature, plus dust and moisture resistance that maximises reliability in challenging environments. It includes a durable, reliable HDMI Type-A connector, and is the first Alpha series camera to support USB PD (Power Delivery), allowing higher power to be supplied from an external source so that users can continue to record for extended periods with minimal internal battery usage.

      Advanced Connectivity for Professional Working Environments

      The Alpha 7S III has been designed and configured to support photo and video journalists and sports shooters who need to deliver stills or movies as quickly as possible with several advanced connectivity options. The camera supports 5GHz[xxii]/2.4GHz wireless LAN (IEEE 802.11ac) and offers MIMO (multiple-input and multiple-output) to improve communication quality by using multiple antennas, doubling in speed when compared to the Alpha7R IV.It also carries new USB tethering support[xxiii]. When connected to a 5G (5th generation technology standard for cellular networks) compatible device such as Sony’s "Xperia 1 II" smartphone via USB cable, it is possible to use 5G network for fast and stable FTP file transfer[xxiv]. USB to high-speed wired LAN connectivity[xxv] also offers stable and fast FTP transfer for both movies and stills. A USB Type-C™ connector that supports fast SuperSpeed USB 5Gbps (USB 3.2) data transfer is provided, enabling high-speed PC Remote (tethered) data transfer available for smooth handling of large image files.

      Pricing and Availability

      The new Alpha 7S III Full-frame Interchangeable Lens Camera will be available in Europe in September 2020 priced at approximately €4200.

      A variety of exclusive stories, videos and exciting new content shot with the newest cameras and other Sony products can be found at https://www.sony.co.uk/alphauniverse. Sony’s European photography hub is available in 22 languages and details product news, competitions and an up-to-date list of Sony events in each country.

      [i]When compared to the BIONZ X™ image processor

      [ii]When compared to Alpha7S II

      [iii] 40 to 409,600 for stills and 80 to 409,600 for movies. Sony test conditions

      [iv] When shooting full-frame still images. The number of AF points used depends on the shooting mode.

      [v] This function does not track animal eyes

      [vi] Sony test conditions. XAVC S-I 10-bit 4:2:2, 25 deg C (ambient, camera when recording started), Auto Power Off Temperature: High. The value will vary depending on the shooting conditions.

      [vii] In active mode, the shooting angle of view is slightly narrowed. If the focal length is 200 mm or more, it is recommended to set to standard

      [viii] As of July 2020, Sony survey. Among full-frame mirrorless cameras

      [ix] Up to 10fps in continuous “Hi+” mode, and up to 8fps in continuous “Hi” mode Maximum fps will depend on camera settings

      [x] Requires CFexpress Type A memory card

      [xi] When XAVC S-I 4K or HD is selected via the file format menu

      [xii] Requires compatible memory card

      [xiii]Atomos Ninja V HDR monitor-recorder support planned. As of July 2020

      [xiv] Sony’s Premium High Speed HDMI Cable DLC-HX10 recommended

      [xv] Imaging Edge Mobile Ver. 7.4 or later required

      [xvi]Not guaranteed to be 100% dust and moisture proof

      [xvii] ISO 100 equivalent, F2.0 lens, AF-S mode

      [xviii] 50mm lens, infinity, -1m-1 diopter

      [xix] Desktop application “HEIF Converter” for displaying and editing HEIF format is planned to launch in September 2020

      [xx] 4:2:2 10-bit All-I, when recording slow motion

      [xxi] Sony test conditions.

      [xxii] 5 GHz communication may be restricted in some countries and regions

      [xxiii] Power Delivery supported smartphone is required

      [xxiv] Does not guarantee connection with all smartphone. FTP file transfer by USB tethering that utilises 4G network is also possible

      [xxv] A compatible USB-Ethernet adapter is required

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