GEAR REALWORLDTEST SPECIAL
After months of professional use, here’s what we learned about the latest mirrorless wondercam
WORDS ADAM DUCKWORTH T here is nothing quite like using a camera non-stop for months to get to know its strengths and benefits, or places it could be improved. And that’s what we’ve done with the most-hyped mirrorless camera of the moment, Sony’s A7S III. In the last issue of Pro Moviemaker , we reviewed a prototype of the camera that we’d tested for a fewweeks on a variety of controlled shoots –with the caveat that the image quality wasn’t finalised. Nonetheless, it was excellent. After buying one of the very first production versions to hit the market, it’s had non-stop use shooting everything, from sporting events to studio work for commercial and editorial clients, with a variety of very different lenses and in a range of lighting conditions. It’s been soaked and sprayed with dirt at an off-roadmotorcycle race, too. It’s safe to say we were hugely impressed with the prototype loaner camera we used for our first test. We gave it a 9/10 overall rating, and a full ten in pure performance. But there are definitely a few changes in terms of firmware as the over-the- counter version has managed to be even better. Of course, the headline figures remain the same outstanding specs that filmmakers are lusting after, which has ensured the camera is hard to get hold of and is sold out withmany retailers. It shoots full- frame 4K/60p, recording internally in 10-bit 4:2:2 with no time limits, and the advanced autofocus works at all settings. And it shoots 120fps 4K internally, and 240fps in HD. But let’s take a closer look at what we’ve learned about the £3800/$3498 Sony in our extensive time with the camera.
THAT 4K RESOLUTION
Most filmmakers already know the Sony A7S III doesn’t have the 6K or 8K recording that some of its rivals possess due to its resolution of just 12.1-megapixels. But this means the signal processing is faster, so there is high ISO performance, very low rolling shutter and it means the AF can work at all settings, plus there’s no excessive heat generation. It also allows a choice of colour- rich 10-bit 4:2:2 codecs that can be used at all speeds up to 120p in 4K. Go to HD and even the 240fps footage can still be set in 10-bit 4:2:2. But this is only in the S&Qmode that means no audio is captured, and the recording is only at 50Mbps. However, one oddity is that the non-S&Q 120fps in HD is limited to 4:2:0 8-bit, in all of the available codecs. It does record audio, though. For shooting dirt bike racing, my usual preference is 120fps in HD so it records audio, but it can be slowed down in post when needed, for some slowmotion. This being in 4:2:0 8-bit at 100Mbps, but from a 12.1-megapixel sensor, means the image actually isn’t as sharp as on the older-model but higher resolution Sony cameras I usually use, which is a disappointment. It means it’s best to use 4K at 120fps, which is slower to process without using proxy files and is the only setting where there is a 10% crop. It does allow you to crop even more on an HD project timeline, though, so there are big benefits.
BELOW There are a choice of frame rate settings but using S&Q means there is no audio recorded
“Outstanding specs that filmmakers are lusting after, which has ensured it’s sold out withmany retailers”
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