Sony’s A7 series cameras include the A7, A7R, and the A7S. The A7 line is the more affordable model while the A7R cameras like the Sony A7R II are the high-resolution models. The A7S III is a camera system with more video capability than its predecessors.
The Sony A7S III has a full-frame sensor of 12.1 million effective pixels. Holding the resolution down lets it maintain its low-light capability.
The Sony A7S III has a high-resolution electronic viewfinder and is the first Sony A7 series camera to have a vari-angle screen. According to Sony, video and photo practitioners have requested it.
Sony Alpha A7S III: Price
Sony Alpha A7S III: Specifications
- Camera type: Full-frame mirrorless
- Announced: 28th July 2020
- Sensor: Full-frame 12.1Mp BSI CMOS
- Processing engine: Bionz XR
- Sensitivity: Video: ISO 80-102,400 expandable ISO 40-409,600. ISO base in S-Log is ISO 640 but it can be expanded down to ISO 160. Stills: ISO 80-102,400 expandable 40-409,600
- Autofocus system: Hybrid with 759 phase detection points and 425 contrast detection points, Real Time Eye AF (Human and Animal for stills, Human for video)
- Stabilisation: 5-axis IBIS and digital, up to 5.5EV shutter speed compensation
- Video resolution: 4K at up 120fps and 1080p at 240fps, 10-bit and 4:2:2 colour, 16-bit raw video over HDMI
- Video file formats: XAVC S,XAVC HS
- Video compression: XAVC S: MPEG-4 AVC/H.264, XAVC HS: MPEG-H HEVC/H.265
- 4K Video details: XAVC HS 4K 3840 x 2160 (4:2:0, 10bit, NTSC): 120p (200Mbps), 60p (150Mbps / 75Mbps / 45Mbps), 24p (100Mbps / 50Mbps / 30Mbps); 3840 x 2160 (4:2:0, 10bit, PAL): 100p (200Mbps), 50p (150Mbps / 75Mbps / 45Mbps); 3840 x 2160 (4:2:2, 10bit, NTSC): 120p (280Mbps), 60p (200Mbps / 100Mbps), 24p (100Mbps / 50Mbps); 3840 x 2160 (4:2:2, 10bit, PAL): 100p (280Mbps), 50p (200Mbps / 100Mbps) XAVC S 4K 3840 x 2160 (4:2:0, 8bit, NTSC): 120p (200Mbps), 60p (150Mbps), 30p (100Mbps / 60Mbps), 24p (100Mbps / 60Mbps); 3840 x 2160 (4:2:0, 8bit, PAL): 100p (200Mbps), 50p (150Mbps), 25p (100Mbps / 60Mbps); 3840 x 2160 (4:2:2, 10bit, NTSC): 120p (280Mbps), 60p (200Mbps), 30p (140Mbps), 24p (100Mbps); 3840 x 2160 (4:2:2, 10bit, PAL): 100p (280Mbps), 50p (200Mbps), 25p (140Mbps) XAVC S-I 4K 3840 x 2160 (4:2:2, 10bit, NTSC) (Approx.): 60p (600Mbps), 30p (300Mbps), 24p (240Mbps); 3840 x 2160 (4:2:2, 10bit, PAL): 50p (500Mbps), 25p (250Mbps)
- Gamut: S-Log2 and S-Log3, S-Gamut3.Cine and S-Gamut3
- Slow and Quick (S&Q) mode options: NTSC: 1fps,2fps,4fps,8fps,15fps,30fps,60fps,120fps, 240fps4, PAL: 1fps,2fps,3fps,6fps,12fps,25fps,50fps,100fps, 200fps
- Still File formats: Raw, JPG, HEIF
- Screen: 3-inch 1,440,000-dot vari-angle touchscreen
- Viewfinder: 0.64-inch type 9,437,184-dot OLED electronic viewfinder, with refresh rate up to 120fps, adjustable magnification up to 0.9x
- Maximum continuous shooting rate: 10fps with mechanical or electronic shutter for up to 1000 uncompressed raw files when a CFexpress Type 1 card is used
- Storage: Dual: SD/SDHC/SDXC (UHS-II) and CFexpress Type A
- Dimensions (W x H x D): 128.9 x 96.9 x 80.8mm / 5 1/8 x 3 7/8 x 3 1/4 inches
- Weight: 699g / 1 lb 8.7 oz
Sony Alpha A7S III: Features
The new 12.1Mp full-frame CMOS sensor inside the Sony A7S III is an upgraded variant of the sensor in the A7S II. It allows the photodiode to collect more light than a typical CMOS sensor, which improves low-light efficiency.
Sony also believes that using a BSI design doubles the display speed, making it more sensitive. Sony has also merged the new sensor with a new processing engine that supports up to 8x faster processing.
As well as improving the low-light efficiency and allowing a sensitivity range of ISO 40-409,600 for video, using this sensor and processing engine combination allows the A7S III to record video with up to 15 stops or more dynamic range at low ISO settings and in S-Log.
The dynamic range of the A7S III’s stills is 14EV. With the quicker readout and encoding, the A7S III suffers from little or no rolling shutter.
Any filmmaker understands that audio is as important as the photographs, which is why a high-quality camera with a native cinema look is required. The audio on the A7S III is perfect, with four linear PCM channels. They’re fine with the buttons.
It can only be a 12.1MP sensor for stills, but it is a full-frame camera, so it has major low-light advantages. And for up to 1000 frames, it can fire compressed or uncompressed raw files at 10fps. Those kinds of specs would have made it one of the top choices for sports photographers until very recently, particularly as it is linked to the swift and accurate AF system of Sony.
Don’t write off the camera as a gadget for stills. The resolution for large prints or croppability of four-fold resolution cameras can not be provided, but many magazine covers and spreads have been printed from 12MP cameras. It’s much more capable than either taking snaps or web-resolution pictures behind the scenes.
Sony Alpha A7S III: Build and Handling
Sony’s cameras begin to evolve, and the A7S III takes and expands the experience from the A7R IV. Better keys, a deeper handle, a separate mic jack, a completely articulated monitor, and a full-size HDMI port with a screw-on cable cage are available. The REC button was made bigger and shifted to the top plate. And the Movie and S&Q buttons are on the dial next to the standard PASM settings, instead of the custom buttons on the other side. It just makes it easy to change things.
And, as many do when using manual camera focus, clicking the AF button now gives you one-shot auto focus.
With the latest bump on the top plate containing one of the finest electronic viewfinders we’ve ever seen, the sensor is marginally bigger than most A7 cameras. The camera uses the same battery as other later Sony cameras and is weather-sealed and sturdy.
This lasts well, but if you use 4K 120p settings with IBIS at high bit-rates, you get eaten up. It’s something that their younger siblings just can’t do.
Sony has really scored in terms of storage as there are two UHS-II card slots that also take on the new CFexpress Type A cards. These are good enough for most codecs if you use fast SD cards. Use the most intense settings, though, such as 4K/120p, S&Q, All-Intra, and you need Type A CFexpress cards.
And you can do hot card switching as the card slots are paired, unlike other cameras that have two separate cards. And the camera’s USB-C port will now accept the supply of power from a power bank, for example. But you can carry on shooting for a very long time with hot-swap cards.
The rear panel of Sony is a flip screen that is a touchscreen where the much updated menu system can be navigated. Or you should, if you want, use the dials.
One minor difference is that it is now possible to mark video files, instead of only defaulting to a static format.
A gallery of still photographs shot at a variety of different ISO settings is below. They are not seen here at maximum resolution because this is a pre-production camera, but even at ISO 102,400, you can still get an understanding of how well the Sony A7S III does.
Sony Alpha A7S III: Performance
While we only used a pre-production version so that it is not precisely how it would be shipped to consumers, it was clear to see that the consistency of the 4K and HD files is impressive. The colors are vivid and real, there is a lot of dynamic variation and the output of the high-ISO is off the charts. Sony reports a dynamic range of up to 15 stops, and we found nothing to disprove it.
It wasn’t just the 4K codec files with a high bitrate that was amazing. Equally remarkable were the findings using the Sony H.265 format, and the HD was still beautiful. The basic colors are some of the finest we’ve seen from Sony, and for more hardcore grading, log shooting helped get even more dynamic range. The files are full of color detail, so this is finally a mirrorless Sony camera that works in Log perfectly.
Though Sony doesn’t say so, we assume that there is a dual ISO circuit feature based on ISO 640 and 16,000 again. Files taken at ISO 16,000 is cleaner than, for instance, at 12,800. We found that we were more than satisfied with the findings before we hit ISO 6400. Turn up to 16,000 as it becomes darker than that. The camera goes up, of course, to ridiculously high numbers that will get you out of a pit. Such as being with no light within a dark hole.
Thanks to its customisation for video use, the AF device is still second to none. Depending on the AF focus settings, it can be used for rack focusing seamlessly and organically. So quick AF is fine for stills, but you typically want something more regulated for video use. Focus speed can be changed from fast to slow over seven increments, and transition speed in five steps. Except in a very low and bright sun, it works.
It’s Sony’s best yet, with great target detection, assisted by touch-to-focus on the screen and then tracks the target as it travels.
Sony’s IBIS, which has two modes, normal and active, is also fine. Active is best for recording, but aside from 4K/120p, where it is already cropped, crops are 10 percent better. It’s fine, but on the market, it’s not the best. And honestly, our only grips were pretty much around the equipment for filmmakers. Moving the shutter speed to the shutter angle is not feasible, because there are no waveforms to track the footage. But on an otherwise excellent camera for making videos, those are pretty minor problems.
Sony Alpha A7S III: Conclusion
If you are on the lookout for one of the newest mirrorless wonder-cameras but are puzzled by the choice, it might be easier to tell who is NOT a better fit for the new 12.1MP Sony A7S III. It’s certainly not for you if you want one camera to record footage and extremely high-resolution stills. If you’re a filmmaker who absolutely wants 6K or 8K or would like to shoot internally captured raw video files, then it’s not for you either.
But if your task is mainly 4K or HD recording, and you use the stills option to take pictures for online or medium-sized printing, then this is the camera that suits your needs. And that’s what the vast majority of filmmakers right now want from the camera.
This is the only camera that can film 4K at 60p full frame with no crop, internally recorded, in 10-bit 4:2:2 without capturing time constraints and with all the sophisticated AF functions still running, aside from a huge and costly cinema camera. And 240fps in HD, as well as very little rolling shutter. Such are the specs that count in the real world and that’s what makes it a star.