It seems like eons ago that Sony released the original A7S, a camera that left most of us with our jaws on the floor. Its lowlight was something none of us had ever even dreamed possible in our lifetimes and nobody thought it could get any better. Sony hadn’t just surpassed every other camera, they had created something that could see better than any human being can in the dark.
The A7S III continues on this legacy of amazement with even better low light performance and 10-bit 4:2:2 video internally too. Filmmaking has always been limited by what the camera can see, and film lighting was born out of the necessity to merely make the scene bright enough to get a proper exposure. Hours were spent crafting lighting setups just to simulate natural light, and to set the mood for the narrative.
But the A7S III is so light-sensitive that it opens up the night sky and allows us to see unimaginable clarity, exposing the scene with nothing but light from the moon.
Most of us aren’t running off into the darkness of night to make a movie, but it is sure nice to know that we can! I talk a lot about how 90% of the projects I filmed in college required insider tricks to know how to fake natural lighting.
The practical lighting just wasn’t bright enough for the not-so-sensitive cameras from my early days, and I’m completely in awe of what cameras can do now.
Sony A7S III Key Specs
- ISO Sensitivity 80 – 102,400 ( Extended: 40 – 409,600)
- Full Frame Sensor
- 4K H.265/XAVC HS 4:2:2 10-Bit Internal Recording
- 23.976fps to 119.8fps in 4K
- 4.2K RAW 16-BIT @ up to 59.94p
- Fast Hybrid AF System
- Price: $3,498 (Body Only)
The low light sensitivity from the Sony A7S line has always been impressive with a usable ISO upwards of 80,000 – most camera’s images start to fall apart around 6400 ISO or lower.
What gives the Sony the ability to resolve an image in almost pitch black darkness are its large photosites, which are spread across its full frame sized sensor. The drawback is that with larger photosites, it becomes difficult to cram in pixels to produce larger resolutions. This is the reason why the Sony A7S III is limited to 12 MP stills and 4K video.
But those ‘low resolutions’ don’t stop this camera from capturing stunning images; just have a look at everything the A7S III can see in the moonlight.
The camera team was able to leverage this mind-boggling sensitivity to document their process in taking this complex photograph of a man walking free solo across what looks like the moon’s surface.
The moon itself is actually pretty bright and not at all difficult to capture with most cameras. The shot would have been easy to capture with a Canon R5 or a Red Komodo but not at 16,000 ISO with an F45! That f-stop is crucial to have the tight rope walker and the moon in focus at the same time.
More importantly, without 14 stops of dynamic range, it would have been impossible to see anything other than a silhouette. It was great that they were able to use the A7S III to give us a glimpse into their artistic approach. Sony told them to push this camera to the limits and they sure did!
The nighttime footage really stands out with this camera, and even the daytime footage is completely stellar – my jaw hit the floor right at the start, seeing all that dynamic range in the cliffs.
You are an artist, a creator. You aren’t the sum of the tools that you use. Your work is the completion of the abilities and ideas that you bring to life through your actions. Regardless of what camera you use to make your art, the approach you take is what makes your creation unique.
Seize the day. Don’t sit around waiting for Sony or Canon or RED to make the tool that will finally allow you to bring an idea you had to life. This team didn’t need this camera to make this shot a possibility, but it sure was great getting to see how they did it thanks to the A7S III’s fantastic lowlight.
If you’re attempting to land the perfect shot with the moon (or sun) aligning in your frame just right, pop on over to the App Store and pick up the Moon Seeker or Sun Seeker apps (though, they may not work in the middle of nowhere).
They tell you exactly where it will be and when, which can help a lot with shots like these and also timelapse photography.
[source: Sony I Alpha Universe]
Sony Alpha a7S III Mirrorless Digital Camera (B&H)
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