02 Jul 2014

The Sony A7S 4K camera is a gamechanger. Here's our first hands-on report

  • Written by 
Samantha Bjornsson-Hill Samantha Bjornsson-Hill David Shapton

Index

Never has so much usable resolving power been packed into such a small device. From the minute you pick it up, you realise that this is an astonishing camera

Ever since Sony bought Konica Minolta in 2006, they have been surprising and delighting customers with their cameras.It was a tough market to take on. Canon and Nikon had pretty much dominated the DSLR scene for some time and to break into that needed commitment and innovation.

Well, we've seen both of these from Sony, in abundance. Possibly because, as we know very well, they know a thing or two about making images.

And - you can't underestimate the importance of this - they make their own sensors, which are so good that they crop up all over the place, in other company's products.

Not only that, but they now have all the processing power you need to deal with up to 4K video, and all the other stuff that will probably always remain hidden, but which is the essential hidden layer between the raw sensor and whatever form the camera's outputs take.

Very proud engineers

Sony's A7S is just arriving on the scene. The last time I saw it was in Las Vegas, in a small room, under very strict conditions. There were three or four journalists in there (including two from RedShark) and about seven, very proud engineers and marketing managers from Sony.

We were shown a non-working A7S, and some really very impressive 4K footage from what was presumably a very early prototype.

Now that I have an A7S in front of me, I can't help but feel excited about it, especially given its build up. I've also seen a couple of other early reviews and people are already talking about this camera as being "the best one you can get".

So there must be something very special about this little technological wonder. And we all know what that is already: its low-light capabilities.

 

Fireplace_ISO_12500.jpg

A black wood-burner shot hand-held in very dull evening light - ISO 12,500

Now, I have to say that I'm on record about being skeptical about the need for ultra low-light cameras - only in the sense that I don't want to see them being used in the absence of conventional lighting skills.

But I have to say that having "played" with this camera for only a couple of hours in the fading UK July evening light, I am almost speechless with the resolving power of it in circumstances that would defeat almost every other camera in the world! The low light pictures have a visceral, engaging, painterly quality that is exactly the opposite of what you would expect in this sort of illumination.

 

Sam_inside.jpg

Shot indoors in daylight at 8:50 PM on July 2nd in the UK. ISO 12,500

And that's before we get to its ability to output 4K over HDMI! It's very easy to get carried away with the idea that the A7S can shoot at over 400,000 ISO, but remember that the amount of noise in a picture is subjective and while there are some circumstances that justify including more than the usually acceptable amount of noise (like a news story), to get relatively noise-free shots you may have to stay under 100,000 or even 80,000 - but those are still remarkable figures.



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David Shapton

David is the Editor In Chief of RedShark Publications. He's been a professional columnist and author since 1998, when he started writing for the European Music Technology magazine Sound on Sound. David has worked with professional digital audio and video for the last 25 years.

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