Sony a7S III Review

Renee Young

Renee Young

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August 29th 2020

On July 28, Sony updated the Alpha 7S series  and officially released the new product Alpha 7S III. This is also a camera that photography enthusiasts have been looking forward to for four years. Sony’s Alpha 7S series has been officially called "Video "Expert"; the main focus is high-performance video shooting and excellent high-sense performance. Compared with the previous generation Alpha 7S II, Sony’s Alpha 7S III has the highest video recording specification upgraded to 4K/120p, which can achieve a dynamic range of more than 15 files, and can record 4:2:2 10bit internally. This camera is very suitable for videographer, especially for videographers who have professional requirements for video upgrades and post-processing.

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During our evaluation this time, we also felt that it is indeed a camera "born for video." Alpha 7S III is Sony’s first digital camera that uses intra-frame compression. At the same time, Alpha 7S III has no pixel binning when shooting video samples, which has better shooting quality, and has a higher compression rate and higher sampling. Precision has brought it even better video quality.

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In the actual test, the video painting of Sony Alpha 7S III brought us a surprise. The range of high-sensitivity is very wide. Below ISO 12800 is highly usable. At ISO 12800, the details of the picture are basically not lost, only very slight noise appears. For users who like to shoot professional  videos, Alpha 7S III's  high-sensitivity performance is very practical. This Camera can cope with the shooting environment of complex light, which will save a lot of money for videographers. We all know in professional video shooting, the cost of lighting is very high. And with  pure picture quality with lesser cost, you can reduce the burden of a lot of manpower and material resources.

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Source: Sony

Sony Alpha 7S III supports 4K/120p video shooting at the highest specifications, allowing users to upgrade to 4K video quality. Under S-log 3 and 4:2:2 10bit, Sony Alpha 7S III can reach a dynamic range of 15 stops or more, which brings excellent latitude to Alpha 7S III, and the picture is under exposure to 5 stops. , After adjusting to normal exposure, the image quality is still in the usable range.

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Source: Sony

In terms of focusing, Sony Alpha 7S III still performs well. Including the accuracy of human eye recognition and excellent low-light focusing performance. Sony Alpha 7S III adopts the newly developed Exmor RCMOS image sensor with 12.1 million pixels full-frame back-illuminated. The sensor is changed from the front-illuminated type of Sony Alpha 7S II to the back-illuminated type. The pixels are still 12.1 million pixels, with low pixel band. Here comes a high-quality high-sense performance. Sony Alpha 7S III is more suitable for users who like to shoot videos, especially those who have professional requirements for video specifications and post-processing. 

Our Evaluation

Taking into account the positioning of the Sony Alpha 7S III video camera, this evaluation is  mainly focused on its video shooting performance. Mainly involving appearance design, video quality, video focus, and real shooting test. Let us look at the detailed test of the camera.

Appearance design: newly designed menu, full touch screen

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Compared with the previous generation product, it is slightly heavier and larger than the Sony Alpha 7S II. The main unit of the Sony Alpha 7S III weighs about 614g, but as a video machine, the weight and volume are still maintained at a relatively lightweight level.

In terms of appearance design, the biggest change in Sony Alpha 7S III is the use of a rollover screen. This is also the first full-frame mirrorless camera in the Sony family equipped with a rollover screen. When shooting videos, the convenience of framing and monitoring is A great improvement. Moreover, the rollover screen adopts a full touch design, and the parameters can be modified directly through the touch screen, making adjustment settings more intuitive and efficient.

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Sony Alpha 7S III also simplified the operating system, redesigned menu, and you can see the three-level menu, Which improves the readability of the operating menu; and also improve the efficiency of control. In addition, Sony Alpha 7S III uses the newly developed BIONZ XR image processor, which increases the processing performance by about 8 times and can improve the response speed of the camera interface.

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Source: Sony

Sony Alpha 7S III uses dual card slots, both of which are compatible with CFexpress Type A and SD memory cards. CFexpress Type A cards are required when shooting high-level videos. Sony also released the CFExpress Type A memory card and card reader specifically for Alpha 7S III. Video shooting users often have higher requirements for data writing and reading. When shooting high-spec CFExpress Type A memory cards, it can provide up to 800MB /s read speed and 700MB/s write speed.

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High-output video cameras are a great test for the battery life and heat dissipation capabilities of the equipment. According to official data, the Sony Alpha 7S III can take 600 photos. It can record more than 30 minutes in 4K/120p and more than one hour in 4K 60p. The Sony Alpha 7S III body does not have a heat vent. It uses a passive cooling method. In our actual measurement, we recorded at 4K/120p. After shooting for about 15 minutes, we can feel the body heat, but good enough to use steadily.

The video recording button is located on the top of the fuselage, behind the shutter button, the red button is eye-catching, and the button area is large, effectively reducing the operation of accidental touch.

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In addition to the eye-catching video recording button, the Sony Alpha 7S III interface is also well-designed for video workers. It has a common HDMI interface, a multi-function micro USB port, and a headphone monitor interface. It also supports USB charging and power supply. In the charging state, the camera can still be used for shooting.

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The electronic viewfinder has also been improved, using the 9.44 million pixel electronic viewfinder with the highest resolution currently available.

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High-spec 4K video recording: convenient for upgrading processing, excellent color reproduction, excellent anti-shake performance

As a video machine, Sony Alpha 7S III has many highlights in 4K video shooting performance. First of all, the highest video recording specification of Sony A7S III has been upgraded from 4K 30p to 4K 120p, achieving high frame rate shooting under 4K, leaving a lot of room for later upgrades.

The picture below shows the 4K slow motion adjustment of the picture after shooting with 4K 120p, it can be seen that the picture is still smooth, and, at slow speed, we can more intuitively feel the process of water droplets falling and the splashes that arouse. This performance technique can make the picture and video more vivid and impactful.

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Sony Alpha 7S III supports log mode recording. Under S-log2, the initial sensitivity of Sony Alpha 7S III has been reduced from ISO 3200 of the previous generation to ISO 640. The initial sensitivity of Sony Alpha 7S III can be achieved under S-log3. Expand to 160. In the log mode, a lower initial sensitivity can still be used, which is a significant improvement of the Sony Alpha 7S III compared to the previous generation.

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Professional videographers will also have a very high requirements for storage space. Sony Alpha 7S III uses the H.265 encoded XAVC HS format, which has a higher compression rate, which is twice that of AVC/H.264 encoding, which can reduce the volume of the material and also provide excellent image quality.

Sony Alpha 7S III also supports five-axis anti-shake in the camera. In the real shooting, we held the lens during the whole process, and the picture could be kept stable and usable.

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The Sony Alpha 7S III body can also record 4:2:2 10bit video inside. Compared with 4:2:0 8bit, it can accommodate more colors. Especially in environments with large color contrast, the picture transitions are more natural and also Expanded the space for video color correction in the later stage.

Excellent video quality: excellent performance in high-sensitivity control noise, excellent tolerance provides space for post-processing

Users who often shoot videos must know that slow shutter speeds cannot be used during video shooting. It depends more on the aperture and sensitivity to adjust the exposure, so the pure image quality performance under high sensitivity is important for maintaining the normal exposure of the picture. Plays an important role. Moreover, the cost of lighting equipment for video shooting is also very high, and the wider the range of high-sensitivity available, can reduce the dependence on external lighting equipment and reduce the burden of manpower and material resources.

In the test, we feel that the picture quality of Sony Alpha 7S III under high sense can be said to be very good. In 4K video, from the starting ISO 80 to ISO 102400, by gradually increasing the sensitivity, to test the high-sensitivity image quality of the Sony Alpha 7S III. We saved the current frame of the video and captured the central area of ​​the screen. The picture below shows the 4K video quality performance of the Sony Alpha 7S III under progressive sensitivity.

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It can be seen from the test chart that the Sony Alpha 7S III has excellent noise control performance, a wide range of sensitivity, ideal picture sharpness, and complete preservation of details. For example, numbers and letters are rich in details, and Sony Alpha 7S III can fully present them. Below ISO 6400, the picture maintains extremely high sharpness, with almost no loss of detail. The watershed appears at ISO 12800, there will be very slight noise in the picture, but it will not affect daily use.

Compared with photo shooting, when video shooting, the requirements for high image quality are actually higher, because it is difficult to make adjustments in later stages. The following is a picture we shot with ISO 3200 in a complex light scene.

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Under S-log 3 and 4:2:2 10bit, Sony Alpha 7S III can reach a dynamic range of up to 15 stops, which brings excellent latitude to Alpha 7S III. We set the sensitivity ISO to the initial sensitivity ISO 160 in the S-log 3 mode, and tested the central area of ​​the Sony Alpha 7S III when the image was brought back to normal exposure under overexposure and underexposure conditions. Picture quality performance.

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Source: Sony

In the case of five levels of underexposure, the picture quality will be slightly lost if the picture is pulled back to normal exposure through the later stage, but if it is used as a daily upload to social networks, it will not have much impact. Therefore, when shooting a video, if there is an overexposure within three stops or underexposure within five stops, based on the excellent tolerance performance of Sony Alpha 7S III, it can be adjusted to a normal level in the later stage without affecting the image quality. 

Upgraded video focus: dark light focus, human eye focus is accurate and stable

Sony Alpha 7S III uses a fast hybrid autofocus system for the first time, built-in 759-point phase detection, covering about 92% of the viewfinder. Moreover, the Sony Alpha 7S III uses the newly developed BIONZ XR image processor to optimize the processing capabilities of the camera. In actual tests, we feel the stability of the Sony Alpha 7S III real-time eye focusing and low-light focusing performance.

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We tested the accuracy and speed of the Sony Alpha 7S III's eye tracking in a dim environment. Real-time tracking can be started by tapping an object on the screen, and then by half-pressing the shutter, the human eye can be accurately identified and tracked. When the eyes are detected, real-time eye focusing is automatically activated.

In dim light, the Sony Alpha 7S III can still accurately identify the human eye, and with the movement of the human eye, the Sony Alpha 7S III can also track, and the tracking speed and accuracy are satisfactory.

Camera performance: high-sensitivity available in a wide range

Sony Alpha 7S III uses a newly developed approximately 12.1 megapixel full-frame back-illuminated Exmor RCMOS image sensor. As a video camera, we also tested the image quality performance of Sony Alpha 7S III's photo quality through gradual sensitivity. 12.1 million pixels, although the parameters do not sound eye-catching, but because of the excellent noise control performance of Sony Alpha 7S III, it does not affect the use of it to shoot high-quality works. The picture below shows our progressive sensitivity test chart.

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Regardless of the central area or the edge area, the Sony Alpha 7S III's high-sensitivity down-control noise performance is very good, especially the image quality performance of the central area. Below ISO 25600, the sharpness of the picture quality is excellent regardless of the center area and the edge area of ​​the picture.

The picture below is a work taken with Sony Alpha 7S III. It can be seen that even though the pixels of Sony Alpha 7S III are not high, the image quality is still remarkable.

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summary

Overall, the Sony Alpha 7S III is a very practical and easy-to-use video machine. This ease of use is mainly reflected in the excellent high-feeling image quality, leaving a lot of room for post-processing, focusing and focusing performance under low light are still stable, and good anti-shake performance.

Although we have already understood that the characteristics of Sony's Alpha 7S series are high video shooting performance and excellent image quality, the Sony Alpha 7S III still surprises us. Regardless of whether it is a video or a photo, the resolution of the picture under high sense is super strong, and the details of the picture are still intact under ISO 25600. For professional videographers, excellent noise control performance allows them to cope with more complex light environments and save lighting equipment costs.

Sony Alpha 7S III supports and is very friendly to post-processing. Whether it is 4K video or full HD video, it can be shot at a high frame rate, which is convenient for upgrading the picture in the later stage, and the picture can be more impactful. Support log mode recording, internal recording 4:2:2 10bit, dynamic range of 15 files or more, these are convenient for the later adjustment of hue, color, and exposure, which can make the video picture more creative and personalized.

The focusing performance of Sony Alpha 7S III can also meet the needs of professional video users. The first is the excellent low-light focusing. In our test, the Sony Alpha 7S III can also accurately recognize the human eye at night or in a dimly lit environment, and track the human eye steadily. The excellent video focusing performance can improve shooting efficiency and make The shooting process is smoother. Sony Alpha 7S III also supports five-axis anti-shake in the camera. It can also maintain the stability of the picture when moving the lens by hand, reducing the burden of carrying a tripod or stabilizer.

In short, for video workers, Sony Alpha 7S III can meet the needs of professionals whether it is video specifications, high sense, focus, or anti-shake.

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