What are the Pros and Cons of the Sony A7S III from a Filmmaker’s Perspective

If it hasn’t been said enough already, the Sony a7S III is actually for real here! It’s been a long five-year wait and now the question is whether or not it lives up to its lofty expectations. Sony, to their credit, got plenty of preproduction cameras out into the real world with tons of influencers, filmmakers, and reviewers able to put it through its paces.

Max Yuryev was one of those reviewers and is one that I’m sure you’ve seen both on 4K Shooters and just perusing the camera/filmmaking side of YouTube. He takes a nice and deep dive into the biggest questions about the a7S III, putting together a solid list of pros and cons for the just-announced camera.

Right off the bat, Yuryev does say that the a7S III addresses many of the concerns and asks of filmmakers in the five years since the release of its predecessor.

Things like a fully-articulating rear touchscreen are very nice to finally have and unexpected changes such as the use of dual CFexpress Type A/SD UHS-II slots are super nice.

Also, the Record button gets better placement on the top while the port covers are much nicer. The big one is the use of a full-size HDMI port that can sent a 16-bit linear raw 4264 x 2408 image at up to 60 fps!

For core specs, the a7S III will record 4K up to 120 fps without any binning and with autofocus and audio. Plus, you can do Full HD at 240 fps.

These were things that many Sony shooters put on their wishlist, but not their mandatory upgrades and it is very nice to see them added with this release.

A world’s first aspect to this camera is the new electronic viewfinder. The EVF has an incredible 9.44m-dot resolution and a huge 0.91x magnification. I can even add from my own personal experience that it is super nice to use.

As for the touchscreen, it is much more responsive and will work in the menu for a more intuitive experience. Jumping off of that, the menu has been completed redesigned and Photo and Video settings have been split up so that you don’t have a mess of settings to change every time you switch.

Looking at potential cons, the first Yuryev mentions is the relatively low resolution of 12MP. This may make is less ideal for hybrid stills/video use, but makes video shooting excellent.

It is a brand-new backside-illuminated design  with three times faster readout. Combine that with the new BIONZ XR processor that is eight times faster and you have made huge improvements to rolling shutter and overall speed of the camera, for example with high frame rate recording.

Back to pros, the upgraded Wi-Fi with a 5GHz connection allowed Yuryev to send a minute-long 4K clip in just 2 minutes, compared to 10 minutes with an a7 III. USB-C is faster and has support for Power Delivery, meaning it can keep the camera powered up without burning through the batter. Yuryev tested with a dead battery and it ran for over an hour.

Moving on to battery life, the a7S III uses the NP-FZ100 to get about 2 hours 40 minutes in 4K 24p, an hour 50 minutes in 4K 60p, and and hour 5 minutes in 4K 120p. This is very usable. Also, the new efficient codec allows for 4K 24p recording for up to 9 hours on a single 256GB SD card with even better quality.

How about overheating? Well, Sony came right out and said you can record 4K at 60p for over an hour. Yuryev’ s tests in a relatively controlled environment allowed for an hour 53 minutes of recording without overheating. That’s when the battery died. He reports that others have burned through three batteries without seeing any warnings.

The new passive cooling seems to work well. Even in 120p it was able to hit 45 minutes before overheating, and then a quick minute break got another 15 minutes out of the camera. Practical usage will probably mean that most people won’t see any overheating.

One other con of 4K 120p is that you lose the new Active SteadyShot image stabilization mode. This is likely a result of the slight 1.1x crop in 120p.

However, you don’t actually lose the 1:1 sampling because the sensor does have some room to crop in before you go under 4K resolution. The Active mode is a very nice addition for mobile setups as otherwise the stabilization system doesn’t seem too much better than other Sony cameras.

Autofocus is massively improved, basically putting it on par with the a7R IV. It’s even better in low light and has more controls for adjusting speed and responsiveness. Rolling shutter now negligible, still there but not an issue.

As for the 12MP sensor, it does mean that sampling is practically 1:1, so very little artifacting in the images. However, compared to a camera like the a7 III with oversampling, it doesn’t look quite as detailed. It’s not that dramatic, but something to be aware of when you shoot. Quality does remain consistent across all settings and frame rates.

Low-light performance was always a huge selling point for the a7S series, and this is even better. Maybe not by much over the a7S II, but is it noticeable over the a7 III.

Codecs is where things got a major overhaul. Prior Sony mirrorless cameras had the same XAVC S IPB 8-bit H.264 compression. Now, we get 10-bit options in All-I H.264 or the newer H.265.

You can essentially choose between all these modes as you want. H.265 weirdly doesn’t offer 30p though. At the higher modes you will need the faster V90 SD cards or CFexpress, but most average 24p modes are just fine with SDs.

S-Log3 and 10-bit help the a7S III hit maximum dynamic range up to a Sony-stated 15 stops. Really this means closer to 13-14, which is still excellent. S-Log3 now has a more reasonable base ISO of 640, though extended ranges mean it is perfectly usable down to ISO 160 if you need it. Compared to ISO 800 on the a7 III and ISO 1600 on the a7S II this is huge.

Final things to note are it will support 24-bit 4-channel audio recording with the optional XLR-K3M XLR Adapter and the Creative Looks. Colors have also been tweaked to better match their cinema cameras, though it does not have S-Cinetone specifically.

Wow. That is definitely a lost of positives with very few cons in there. I personally found the a7S III to be exactly what most people need and very good at its job of delivering high-quality 4K video. No 8K here, but who really cares about that right now.

Are you going to get an a7S III?

[source: Max Yuryev]

Order Links:

  • Sony Alpha a7S III Mirrorless Camera (B&H, Amazon)
  • Sony 80GB CFexpress Type A TOUGH Memory Card (B&H, Amazon)
  • Sony 160GB CFexpress Type A TOUGH Memory Card (B&H, Amazon)
  • Sony XLR-K3M XLR Adapter (B&H, Amazon)
  • MRW-G2 CFexpress Type A/SD Card Reader (B&H, Amazon)

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