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Sony A7SIII - Did it live up to the Hype?

The Sony A7SIII is the best vlogging camera up to date with specs to make feature films. It is has a small build and offers quality to price ratio that is unmatched. Sony's A7S series cameras are meant to cater to videographers and filmmakers with its low megapixel count for low light video capture. If you're planning to use this for photography, you might not reap the many benefits it offers for the price. Now let's talk about the new Sony A7SIII.





Specs:

  • 12MP BSI CMOS sensor

  • Bionz XR processor

  • On-sensor phase detection

  • ISO 80-102,400 (expandable to 40-409,600)

  • 4K video at up to 120p, 60p for 'at least an hour'

  • 16-bit Raw video output at up to 60p

  • 10-bit 4:2:2 internal capture (in codecs including H.265 and All-I H.264)

  • Fully articulating LCD

  • 5-axis in-body stabilization with Steady shot active mode

  • Twin card slots that each accept either SD or CFexpress Type A


Key Upgrades from A7SII


Bionz XR Chip

This new processor is twice as fast as that of the A7sII. This means it can process data much faster. Faster processing speeds mean better color subsampling, better bit-depth, and faster and more reliable autofocus. It also offers 4k resolution at 120fps and better codecs.


4:2:2

An upgrade from the A7SII's 4:2:0, the Internal 4:2:2 color subsampling recording of the A7SIII means there is better color reproduction since more color information is being captured. 4:2:2 is also achievable in the A7SII through an external recorder. This upgrade would eliminate the need for an external recorder. It allows a smaller camera footprint with more flexibility in color grading.



10-Bit

10-bit means there is more information in total being captured, so you won't get as much camera banding in similar colored areas of the frame. This is especially helpful when color grading as you eliminate some of the digital artifacts as more information is present on the video.



Autofocus

The Sony A7SIII may have the best autofocus system in all of mirrorless or DSLR cameras. It has better face detection, eye detection, and movement detection. The best upgrade is its ability to maintain focus on a moving subject from the foreground to the background. The focusing options are also more refined, giving focus duration options for smoother or faster refocus. For a run-and-gun production or vloggers, this faster and more accurate autofocus technology is a deal maker.


Better Rolling Shutter

Action Films were always a challenge when shooting with the old Sony A7SII. The rolling shutter is mostly unusable. Filmmakers had to work around the camera's deficiency to get usable videos. With the better processor of the A7SIII, the rolling shutter is less noticeable. It is possible now to have a moderate tracking shot. It does not eliminate the rolling shutter, it just makes it less obvious.


Codec

The new H.265 codec (XAVC HS) in the Sony A7s series provides improved quality but more strain on editing. If your computer can handle the workload, definitely use the XAVC HS option for improved video quality. More compressed files mean harder for your computer to read. It is better to edit bigger files with less compression. The Sony A7SIII does, however, offer the new XAVC S-I, which is an H.264 Intraframe compression. Intraframe compression means every frame is being encoded, which results in higher file size but better editing handling.


XAVC HS 4K

XAVC S 4K

XAVC S HD

XAVC S-I 4K (intraframe)

XAVC S-I HD (intraframe)



Full HDMI port

One of the main problems with the A7SII professional workflow was the micro HDMI to HDMI connection to an external recorder. The shallow micro HDMI port always breaks the cables or much worse, the socket altogether. Now with a full HDMI input of the Sony A7SIII, it is more reliable and it can offer better file transfer to the external recorder. 16bit 4K Raw files are now able to be extracted through the HDMI port to an external recorder. Now we just have to wait for external recorders to accept the 16bit 4K Raw from Sony cameras. Hopefully, we see one from Atomos soon.


Longer battery life

A7SII battery life has always been one of the main problems for video use. You need multiple batteries on hand and shooting for long durations is a risk. There are ways to supply extra battery life either through a portable phone charger or a more expensive route, Anton Baur D tap power. In higher-end production, battery life is not a problem because we never the in-camera battery alone. With the improved battery life, it is possible to have a smaller footprint camera. This means less weight for the camera operator and can get into tighter places.





Best Vlogging Camera

The flip screen is one of the main upgrades from the A7 lineup. I vlog on the A73 now and it always bothers me that I can't see what I'm vlogging. We could have bought other Sony compact cameras, Canon rebel series, or Nikon D5 series DSLR if we knew we would be vlogging initially. Now that a high-end Sony has a flip screen, it makes this camera more versatile from in-studio production to casual vlogging.


Its starting retail price is around $3,500, so it might not be practical to those who strictly vlogs. In combination with the advanced autofocus technology similar to the A7RIII, the improved in-camera stabilization, the lightweight body of the Sony mirrorless cameras, this makes for the best specs for vlogging.


As a casual video shooter, this is the dream camera because of its's high exposure latitude shooting Slog, fast and reliable autofocus, better video stabilization, and battery life long enough for half a day worth of shooting. It offers slow motion 4K which would make amazing montage shots when traveling.


What this means for Indie Filmmakers

As someone who has experience filming indie short films in a professional workflow with the A7SII, I am aware of the shortcomings of the A7SII. The A7SII is usually paired with an external recorder for an increase in color sub-sampling and better codecs. It was already a good system to have for a very small budget. The picture quality can pass for a professional look. It can come close to the quality of the Alexa, or Sony Cinealta cameras. With A7SIII's better processor, it seems like external recording wouldn't be necessary since the camera can already achieve 4:2:2 and 10 bit internally. Paired with the new CF Card's read and write speed, it can achieve internally what the A7SII achieves with an external recorder.





I still think an external recorder is still needed since the A7SIII does not come with waveform and vectorscope. The small built-in monitor does not suffice the professional film production workflow. Some cinematographers or videographers still prefer a ProRes codec on external recorders for easier editing experience with Premiere Pro. The main upgrade for filmmaking is the 120 fps 4K recording, stabilization, and improved video quality with the new processor. There is a boost in quality but does it make sense for the price? Luckily for you, there are many cameras cheaper or have better film production settings than the A7SIII. We'll talk about A7SIII's main competitor soon.


The compact size of this camera can now be used to its full extent in action movies paired with less rolling shutter and higher frames per second at 4K resolution. Now with the A7SIII, it is possible to run and film or do moderate whip pans with little distortion.


Shooting Log-3 SGamut 3 probably means you still need to overexpose your video two-stop over. The autofocus improvement isn't a big upgrade for a professional camera crew workflow since the 1st AC will do the focus manually. The autofocus upgrade will however benefit the documentarians and the solo filmmaker.


The full HDMI port upgrade will tremendously avoid any headaches that were caused by the micro HDMI from the A7SII. I know some productions losing connection to their external recorder due to the unsecured micro HDMI port.


The increased battery life will be a lifesaver for many productions since the battery life of the A7SII seems to only last for five minutes. Now you can have workable battery life when shooting documentaries, or solo, low camera footprint productions. You only need two batteries to have a productive shooting day.


The flip screen can help filmmakers who don't have wireless video monitoring when the camera is in an unreachable angle. This upgrade is probably the most underrated upgrade for this camera. The amount of help the versatility of a fully articulating LCD screen improves the camera's ergonomics significantly.


Worth Buying?

It depends on what you need from a camera. Do you really need the 120fps 4K on your videos? If you have the funds and are fully immersed in the Sony ecosystem, Yes this camera is worth the price. The versatility that is camera offers is better than most mirrorless cameras. However, it is important to know what your projects will need so you don't spend on unnecessary perks. If you are considering cutting on the budget and know exactly what specs you need from your camera, then consider other options. If you want to stay in the Sony brand, the Sony A7III is a great alternative if you're a casual video shooter to an indie filmmaker for half the price of the Sony A7SIII.




Competition: Panasonic Lumix S1H

The Panasonic Lumix S1H is the closest competition to the Sony A7SIII with 10 bit and 4:2:2.


The Lumix S1H has better filmmaking qualities than the A7SIII.

• 24 megapixels, twice that of Sony A7SIII's 12.1 Megapixel

• 6K 10-bit option at 4:2:0

• Dual base ISO (Base 640 and Base 4000), can even beat Sony's low light capabilities

• Has vectorscope and Waveform monitoring

• More advanced monitor flip-screen

• Can conform with Anamorphic lenses and other aspects ratio

• It is the ONLY approved mirrorless camera for Netflix using Vlog


Sony A7SIII has a few advantages that cater more to causal videographers.

• 4K 120fps with minimal crop and 240p at (HD S1H only shoots up to 60fps with 35mm crop.)

• Small body, lighter weight

• More superior autofocus

• Better image stabilization

• Less Rolling Shutter

• $500 cheaper

• Better lens ecosystem


Lumix S1H is best for serious filmmakers on a budget while the Sony A7SIII is best for casual videographers with high-quality video capabilities. Both can shoot movies very well, even though Sony might need external help. I honestly can't wait for this camera. Although I won't buy it yet, it is my main option when I need to upgrade later in the future.





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